The eighth Sunday of Pentecost – July 30, 2023

Holy Trinity Church – Tom Mount


Romans 13:1-7

Let everyone be subject 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, whoever 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 you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents 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 as a matter of conscience.This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Three observations

  1. We are to “be subject” to our governing authorities as a general rule (see also 1 Peter 2:13-14; Titus 3:1; Mark 12:17). The verb “be subject” is hypotasso (hypo – “under”; tasso – “align, arrange, line up”), “to align oneself under another.” The same verb is used of other relationships: Christian/Christian, wife/husband, child/parent, church member/leader and slave/master. Certain of these are also commanded to “obey”. See Eph 5:21-6:9; Col 3:18-25; 1 Peter 2:13-3:7; 5:5; Hebrews 13:17.
  2. We are to be subject to governing authorities for two stated reasons:
  • God has instituted government as a means of accomplishing his purposes of maintaining order, rewarding good and punishing evil in human societies (vv. 1, 4). God also is said to be instrumental in causing certain individuals to gain and lose political power (v. 1). For these reasons, to refuse to be subject to government authority is to work at cross-purposes with God and will cause dissonance in our “consciences” (vv. 2, 5).
  • Order and stability are blessings from God
  • Paul taught we should pray for these blessings: 1 Timothy 2:1-4
  • What is it like when chaos, anarchy and lawlessness rule? Judges 17:6
  • God sovereignly chooses leaders: Isa 40:23-24; 45:1-7; Dan 4:17, 34-35; 5:21
  • God responds to our prayers: 1 Timothy 2:1-2.
  • God has given government the “sword” to enforce order, reward good and punish evil (v. 4). For this reason, to refuse to be subject to government authority is to hazard divinely sanctioned punishment (v. 3-4).
  • When government does not impose sufficient deterrents to criminal behavior, people will do bad stuff. See Ecclesiastes 8:11.
  1. The rule to “be subject” to governing authorities is not absolute. There are exceptions. When the authorities demand that we deny truth, violate our consciences or otherwise require things that conflict with biblical teaching, we must respectfully resist those demands and be prepared to pay the price (cf. 1 Peter 3:14, 17).
  • Scriptural examples of “submissive” resistance: Ex 1:17, 21; Daniel 6:10; 3:1-18; Acts 4:19-20; Matthew 2:8-12; Revelation 13:15-17.
  • A few contemporary examples of government abuses that might warrant our “submissive” resistance involving parents, business owners, educators, law enforcement officials, doctors, public servants, homeowners, all of us.
  • “Submissive” resistance (MLK) vs. “non-submissive” resistance (Malcolm X)
  • The special case of constitutionalism (modern covenantalism)
    • Who were the governing authorities in imperial Rome?
    • Who are the “governing authorities” in America?
    • If an elected official (or appointed bureaucrat) violates the Constitution then they have become an outlier to these “governing authorities,” and we should resist them.


  • Pray for our leaders, especially President Biden, Governor Newsom, our Supreme Court and our Congressional representatives. Pray for believers in government, especially those who represent us: Rep. James Gallagher, Sen. Brian Dahle and Rep. Doug LaMalfa.
  • Make time to be a good citizen: prayerfully study the issues, the party platforms and the candidates. Talk with your friends. Speak up on the issues. Register and vote. Be salt and light!