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Gospel Conduct: Submission to Authority


God is sovereign over all. “The kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted” (Ps. 47:9). “Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you” (Jer. 10:7). “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14).

Paul put it this way: “There is no authority except that which God has established.” Submission to political authority is one example of how to live out the gospel (vv. 1–4; cf. 1 Peter 2:13–17). Since God has established all authorities, to rebel is to declare that we think we know better than God.

Note that in Paul’s day, the Roman government was thoroughly pagan and had already unleashed persecution against God’s people. But the God-given purpose of government is to maintain order and justice for the good of society. In that sense, civil leaders are “God’s servants,” empowered to control and punish as warranted.

Therefore, submitting to such authorities is generally the right thing to do, not only from fear of just punishment but as a matter of conscience or integrity (vv. 5–7). This means, for example, that citizens should pay their taxes and give proper respect to their leaders. Jesus had said the same: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:13–17).

Other passages in Scripture address the question of what to do when governing authorities overstep their bounds (see Acts 5:29–32). In the context of our study of Romans, it’s clear that our respect for God’s sovereignty is manifested through our respect and obedience for the laws and rulers that God has placed over us.

Apply the Word

Paul urged that “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:1–2). Pray today for national, state, and local political leaders. Whether they acknowledge God or not, they bear God-given responsibilities and need our prayers.

BY Brad Baurain

Dr. Brad Baurain has worked as a writer and editor for Today in the Word since 1993. Currently, he serves as associate professor and TESOL program head at Moody Bible Institute. Brad has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has also taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Brad and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Munster, Indiana.

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