Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Servants of God
The President of the United States was recently visiting various countries around the world. As he arrived in one country, some citizens carried out violent protests against him, American flags were burned, and pictures of the President were defamed or destroyed. As he arrived in another country, some of those citizens hailed the President as a hero. Two very different attitudes toward the same person.
Scripture urges one consistent attitude toward all those in positions of authority. Whether or not we like them or agree with their policies, we must treat them as we would treat any other servant of God.
The apostle Paul says very clearly, “The one in authority is God’s servant.” Some rulers may or may not believe that they are God’s servant. The Emperor in Rome, at the time Paul wrote this letter, certainly did not believe in God nor see any value in those who did. Yet a ruler’s unbelief does not diminish or negate God’s promise to use human authority to serve his divine purposes.
We see that promise kept on Calvary, where the governing authorities, to whom Paul urges Christians “to submit,” killed Jesus. They killed him because they hated him and his message. Yet God used their hatred for the Son of God to serve his divine purpose of saving the world and forgiving our sins. It is the clearest example we have that human authorities are limited in what they can accomplish. God’s good plan and purposes will always prevail.
When we subject ourselves to the governing authorities and are active in helping to improve our system of government, when we treat our leaders with respect and encourage others to do the same—we honor God by obeying his Word and place our confidence in his loving purposes through Christ.
Dear Lord, thank you for establishing our governing authorities, and for promising to use them as your servants for our good. Be gracious to them as they carry out difficult tasks. Lead us to honor you by honoring them. Amen.
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