Exclusive: Joseph Farah explains what kinds of ‘authorities’ are implicit in Romans 13 passage
By Joseph Farah
Published August 4, 2022 at 7:20pm
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” – Roman 13:1-4
What is Paul saying in this most misunderstood of passages?
In Romans 13, he is not establishing any new principles, creating new laws, or telling anything new at all.
He’s most certainly is not issuing any new laws from God.
What is he doing?
He’s merely summarizing what God expected people to have figured out from the laws of nature.
What are the laws of nature and nature’s God, written about by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence?
Nothing in the grant of civil power, or the creation of nations and the formation of civil governments, nullified, superseded, or altered the authority God previously gave to individuals and to families or what we call today “the private sector.”
In the beginning, God gave mankind everything people need to survive and thrive.
The mission of civil government is therefore two-fold – to punish wrongdoers and to commend what is right to secure individual rights. As to punishing wrongdoers, this includes not only punishing criminals, but also providing a means of redress for private litigants who have disputes over breaches of contract, property claims, injuries to persons, or other damages. These are essentially the same means used for protecting individual rights.
The same principle is found in 1 Peter 2:13-14: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.”
Nations were created, and civil power was granted, to provide a stable society for the safety, prosperity and happiness of the people in their private capacities. God did not create nations because individuals inherently need to be ruled, nor to superintend families, nor to exercise a superior dominion over the earth. Nations and civil government are merely facilitators for the private sector, not its replacement.
To “commend what is right” does not mean to do good things, to dole out special favors, or to enforce any alleged rights of the government against the people. Civil governments are not the creations of God, and as such, they have no “rights.”
The legitimate role of civil government is very specifically limited to wielding the sword to carry out wrath on a limited class of wrongdoers. Nowhere do the scriptures commend civil government either to punish evil thoughts or to punish merely moral wrongs that are not also crimes as God defined them. The chief evil of civil government is not that it does too little, but that it seeks to do too much.
What we need to understand is that Romans 13 is not a command to obey all purported authorities people have created – it only applies to authorities instituted by God. And there is no presumption that merely because some form of human government exists, it was made by God. It is the laws of God, which define and restrict all institutions of human authority, that people are to obey and respect.
Once upon a time, the U.S. government was the envy of the whole world. It presided over the greatest freedom the world had ever known. But as Washington’s power and reach grew well beyond its constitutional restrictions, something happened. It started to supplant God.
Government became man’s object of worship – its idol. Government wants to be your one and only god.
I admit that I’ve become “obsessed with the Constitution.” Our leaders are a judgment on us. We’ve got to get our spiritual priorities straight. We’ve got to recognize our government is either a blessing or a curse on us.
The day is coming when not only individuals will be judged by God, but nations as well. That’s not going to be a pretty sight, and if America were judged by those standards, it wouldn’t fare well – unless, of course, we as a people change our ways in accordance with God.
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