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Romans 13:1

ESV Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
NIV 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.
NASB Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
CSB Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God.
NLT Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
KJV 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.

What does Romans 13:1 mean?

In Romans 12, Paul described what it means to be a living-sacrifice Christian. In short, it mostly has to do with setting ourselves aside to serve the Lord, each other, and even our enemies in love.

Now Paul turns to the issue of how Christians who are saved by God's grace should interact with our present governments. He describes the biblical doctrine of submission to human authorities, something Peter also teaches (1 Peter 2:13–17). Again, those in Christ are called to set themselves aside and to trust God to provide what is needed through those in authority, whether good or evil.

Paul is clear that this applies to every person. He calls for us to be in submission to government authorities, though he does not say that we must obey them in all cases. Paul and the other apostles refused to obey commands from people in authority to stop preaching the gospel, for instance (Acts 5:27–29). They did, however, submit to those in authority in all matters that were not in contradiction to the will of God.

Why should we submit? Paul is clear: Every authority in the world was established by God. This would include, of course, good leaders, evil leaders, and everyone in-between. Paul's instruction here, then, is not about blind nationalism or absolute obedience to men. Rather, it is a recognition that human government—in general—is a legitimate authority, and that Christians cannot use their faith as an excuse for civil lawlessness. God puts all leaders in place for the specific reasons Paul will describe in the following verses.

We should remember that Paul is writing this letter to Christians in Rome. The government of Rome ruled much of the known world at the time. It was led by the Emperor Nero from AD 54–68. Nero is famous for his cruel and unfair treatment of Christians, among other groups. We must not assume that Paul is writing these words lightly. He was aware of the implications of his teaching.
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