Romans 13 – Must Christians Submit to Government?


I keep hearing well intentioned Christians claim that we must fully submit and obey our “earthly rulers”. As evidence, they almost universally quote Romans 13:1. For example, a fellow Christian recently wrote in a commentary (after listing four years of criminal acts and abuses by the current administration) that:

“I for one am going to take (the Apostle) Paul’s sage advice from Romans 13 and abide under the rules established by our government.  Joshua Boston (retired Marine) states an often overlooked truth in his interview with CNN that “unconstitutional laws aren’t laws”.  He is correct in that just because the Obama Administration has ideations about this and that, it does not trump the Constitution.  But if a day comes when the 2nd Amendment is abolished and owning a firearm is as illegal as owning heroin or Cuban cigars, we have to respect our earthly rulers.”

That last sentence absolutely makes me cringe. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong and countless other hard left authoritarian butchers, on the other hand, would warmly smile and readily agree with his statement.

So, must Christians “submit” to our “earthly rulers”, even if they are tyrants? Must we fully submit to government?

To answer these questions, we need to read Romans 13:1-7 in context, but first notice the passages which bookend it. Romans 12:9-21 concerns Christian behavior. It says that we as Christians should abhor evil and only do what is good:

“…Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:9,21

Roman 13:8-10 also concerns Christian behavior. It says we should love one another:

“…’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 13:9-10

Now in context, carefully read Romans 13:1-7:

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” – Romans 13:1-7

Notice, Romans 13 is not saying: “Submit to all in authority – no matter what!” Rather, it is saying: “Obey the law and those who are in authority who use their authority in a good and godly manner, so you can live peaceably.”

Romans 13 clearly “limits” the role of civil government. Those in authority are only given authority by God to do “good”:

“For rulers are not (to be) a terror to good works, but to evil…  for he is God’s minister.”

Rulers are to also only given authority by God to judge justly and righteously:

“[F]or he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

We are never told anywhere in the Bible to fully submit and obey those who abuse their power and authority for evil purposes.

To fully test whether anyone must “submit to those in authority – no matter what” just substitute the word “authority” in Romans 13 with an evil murderous tyrant like Adolf Hitler. Does the following make any sense?:

“Let every soul be subject to Adolf Hitler. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists Hitler resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For Hitler is not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of Adolf Hitler? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For Hitler is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for Hitler does not bear the sword in vain; for Hitler is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject to Hitler, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for Hitler is God’s minister and attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

Clearly, history has shown that a madman like Adolf Hitler who sanctioned the murder of 11 million innocent people, started World War II, and was hell bent on creating his own Aryan master race was not a minister of God, nor was he doing God’s will. Hitler was not governing in a good godly manner, nor should he have been obeyed or followed by anyone (let alone by Christians) for any reason. Romans 13:1-7 is not a “command” by God for unlimited submission to government. Rather, it defines the role of “proper” government.

Pastor Greg A. Dixon writes:

“Romans 13 is a treatise by Paul and the Apostles on the institution of model government. As we rightly divide the word of truth and take this passage in its total context, we will discover seven truths:

1) Good government is ordained by God.
2) Government officials are to be good ministers who represent God.
3) We the people must obey good and godly laws.
4) As we relate Romans 13 to America, our Constitution is the higher power.
5) Good government is not to be feared.
6) In America, we are to pay honor and custom constitutional taxes to whom it is due.
7) Government is to protect the righteous and punish the wicked.

The Bible is filled with godly individuals who defied authority when they were commanded to do acts of evil. Daniel disobeyed Darius and went to the lions den. Moses’ parents hid him from Pharaoh as a baby. Rahab lied to protect the Hebrew spies. Paul was constantly being jailed, beaten, and scourged because he would not stop preaching the Good News. Jesus himself also repeatedly defied the powerful political and religious leaders of his day. So much so, that Jesus finally got nailed to a Roman cross for it!

Sadly, Romans 13 which is a wonderful passage of scripture has been purposely abused and twisted by numerous authoritarian tyrants throughout history to dupe the masses into submitting to tyrannical government. If you want to see modern evidence of this just watch the following mind-boggling news cast by KSLA News 12 of Louisiana to learn why the United States Federal Government currently trains “Clergy Response Teams” to purposely spout Romans 13:1 out of context to people. They do it so that the feds can go door to door and illegally confiscate (i.e. steal) legally owned firearms (or anything else) from law abiding American citizens during an emergency without a fight. Clergy Response Teams, the police, and the U.S. Army did this in America right after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and left law abiding citizens completely defenseless:

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To quote reporter Jeff Ferrell in the above news cast: In an emergency, “Clergy Response Teams will walk a tightrope between the needs of the government versus the wishes of the public.”

Wishes of the public? What about the God given “rights of the public” and the U.S. Constitution?!

Mr. Ferrell continues: “For the Clergy, one of the biggest tools they will have in helping calm the public down or obey the law, is the Bible itself. Specifically, Romans 13.”

Then they cut to SFD & CSO Chaplain Dr. Durell Tubberville who trains clergy for the Clergy Response Teams. He says Christians must submit to government “because the government is established by the LORD. You know? And uh, that is what we believe in the Christian faith. That’s what is stated in the scripture.”

Chaplain Tubberville is doing exactly what the clergy in NAZI Germany did to make the German Lutheran church willingly submit to Hitler. Meanwhile the Jews were disarmed, then stuffed into boxcars, and given one way tickets to Auschwitz.

Any Christian who doesn’t understand Romans 13 needs to be swiftly corrected. I have even read accounts of non-Christians who absolutely refused to accept that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God, simply because they heard some well meaning Christian spout Romans 13:1 out of context and say: “We must always submit to government, because it’s ordained by God.” That statement is just non-sense and is not Biblical. The LORD alone is the only power that deserves absolute obedience.

Besides that, as Pastor Chuck Baldwin rightly points out: “[W]e in the United States of America do not live under a monarchy. We have no king. There is no single governing official in this country. America’s ‘supreme Law’ does not rest with any man or any group of men. America’s ‘supreme Law’ does not rest with the President, the Congress, or even the Supreme Court. In America, the U.S. Constitution is the “supreme Law of the Land.” Under our laws, every governing official publicly promises to submit to the Constitution of the United States…

“This means that in America the ‘higher powers’ are not the men who occupy elected office, they are the tenets and principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Under our laws and form of government, it is the duty of every citizen, including our elected officials, to obey the U.S. Constitution.” 

For Americans in our Constitutional Republic here is how Romans 13 applies to you. Replace the word “authority” with “U.S. Constitution”:

“Let every soul (in America) be subject to the (U.S. Constitution). For there is no (Constitution) except from God, and the (Constitutions) that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever in America resists the (U.S. Constitution) resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For the (Constitution) is not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the (Constitution)? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For the (Constitution) is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for the (Constitution) does not bear the sword in vain; for the (Constitution) is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject to the (Constitution), not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the (U.S. Constitution) is God’s minister attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

Please explain this the next time you hear a Christian say we must submit to our corrupt elected officials. Remember, our elected officials swore an oath to Almighty God to defend and uphold the U.S. Constitution. Politicians, law enforcement, military personnel, and judges which break their solemn oath are by definition “criminals” and deserve neither submission nor respect from the citizenry which they are attempting to lord over, plunder, and abuse. God’s will is not for Christians to submit to tyrants, rather that we do not become enslaved by them:

“You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.”  – 1 Corinthians 7:23

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Have a blessed day!

.Sean Kirkpatrick

Recommended reading:


“Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission”

by Timothy and Chuck Baldwin

Sean Kirkpatrick posted at 2013-1-18 Category: America, Discernment