Who are the "higher powers" of Romans 13?

I know people are tired of this discussion, but I did promise to bring up the Romans 13 problem, and here it is in a nutshell. The Greek word translated "powers" is "exousia". This word is used many times in the New Testament and mainly translated "powers". The word basically means the permission, authority, right or power to do something. It is not just the authority to do something but the ability to do it.

The particular definition of the word must be determined by context. The broad category of definition in Romans 13:1 is that of power over persons and things, dominion, authority or rule. Jesus spoke of having such authority in heaven and earth in Mark 13:34. Satan has this authority according to Colossians 1:13. Archangels, demons, princes, potentates and angels all are called by or have this power.

In three places this word is used in relation to those invested with power such as the powers of rulers. In Luke 12:11 the word "powers" is this word "exousia" and would be better translated either "rulers" or "authorities". In Titus 3:1 exhortation is made to be subject to "principalities and powers". Isn't it interesting that the same term used to describe the devil's hierarchy we war against in Ephesians 6 is used to describe something believers are to be subject to?

In both Luke and Titus as well as in 1 Peter, the word "magistrate" is another Greek word. It is NOT "exousia". Now let us look at Romans 13:1 from the King James Version:

"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."

To begin with we see a word before "powers" which is "higher". The word "higher" is the Greek word "huperecho" which is combination of "huper" which means above or over, and "echo" which means to have. In the New Testament, the figurative meaning of the word is simply to hold one over, superior or better than another. Specifically here it means to be superior or higher in rank.

Let every soul be subject to those "exousia" which have a superior or higher rank. Contrary to what most theologians believe, my feeling is that these "superior authorities" are not the world's rulers but is referring to those entrusted with the oversight of the Church. Logic would dictate that the ordained leaders operating within the Body of Christ would be superior powers to those in the world.

If the "powers" of Romans 13:1 are looked at as being the leaders of the church who are entrusted with the oversight of fellowships, assemblies and activities relating to the gospel; the next six verses take on a whole new meaning. Instead of urging believers to be subject to the governments of man, I believe this verse is exhorting believers to be subject to those who are entrusted with their oversight.

Please read closely the following verse in Hebrews 13:7:

"Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation."

If the "higher powers" of Romans 13 are indeed those who have the rule over you, then that puts them in the category of being exactly what it says in Romans 13:3 and 4:

"For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power (exousia)? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same;
For he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."

1 Timothy 3 lays out specific qualifications for a "minister of God-diakonos". Someone please tell me how a government official who does not even believe in God can be a "minister of God-diakonos"? Yet, if this section is referring to government authorities, that makes THEM the ministers of God whose responsibility is to serve God's people. When is the last time some government official "served" you as a minister of God?

It is the authorities within the church who bear the sword of the spirit-the Word of God and are revengers, executing wrath upon him which does evil. We are not talking here about a speeding ticket. Since when does a government official have the right to take out his sword and behead a Christian for going 75 in a 65 mph zone? I beg of you to think logically about what is being said here in Romans and how illogical this section becomes if it is referring only to worldly governments and their various officials.

Romans 13:6 specifically speaks of "paying tribute" to these people because they are God's ministers-diakonos who are attending continually upon this very thing. What very thing is he talking about? Context dictates the answer being that they are serving God's people as ministers of God-diakonos. Those who work full time serving God's people, ministering to their needs, watching over them and fighting for them are deserving of compensation.

The word "tribute" is the same as the Old Testament poll tax. This was a "tax" due from every adult Jew for the maintenance of the temple services. Paul is simply saying that those who labor among the believers full time as their ministers of God are worthy of at least what used to be paid to keep the temple from falling apart. 1 Timothy 5:17 states:

"Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine."

Those who are ministers of God, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine are to be counted worthy of double honor, or double poll tax. God does not expect those who serve Him full time to receive nothing for their labor. God is fair God and that is what is being explained in Romans 13. Romans 13:7 acts as a bridge between the first six verses dealing with ministers of God and the next section dealing with love. Verse 7 reads:

"Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."

Render to each what is due them. Those ministers of God which serve well, are due compensation at least equal to the poll tax Jews paid yearly. Those who work for the government are due taxes (custom) for Jesus stated to render unto Caesar the things due him. Render unto God fear or reverence for He is due that from our hearts. Render respect to civil servants who serve and protect the population.

Regardless of whether you agree with anything I have written, I beseech you to ponder this possible explanation of Romans 13 and how much more sense it makes contextually in Romans. Why and how Paul would suddenly switch from talking about service, the renewed mind, ministries within the body and humility and love in chapter 12 to being subject to and obeying worldly government authorities at the beginning of chapter 13 makes little sense. Especially when starting in verse 8, Paul goes right back to teaching about love and finally purity in the walk.

Tossing aside all arguments for or against the ordination by God of civil authorities, I leave you with a couple of questions which are: Why would God demand his people be more subject to and obey more completely civil authorities enforcing man's laws than He would His own ministers who taught His Word? Why would God threaten His own people with such dire punishment for not obeying civil government authorities and then say spiritually it was the age of grace?

There is no profit in beating God's people over the head with threats that if they don't obey everything a government official tells them to do they will face the wrath of God. There is no profit in trying to explain how thugs in boots that would come in and rape and kill civilians on the spot were the "ministers of God". As for me, I will carry out the instructions of Romans 13:7 and render unto the appropriate parties that which they are due.

1. Ministers of God are due tribute compensation

2. Governments are due customs (taxes)

3. God is due reverence and fear

4. Civil servants are due respect

 Kirk M
I have been a member of ChristianBlog.Com for 10 years, 9 months and 2 days.
I have published 2,287 blogs and 1,779 comments.
Kirk M (@blessings2you)

As a point of comparison, here again is the same section of Romans 13 from the "New Living Bible".

"Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God.

So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow.

For the authorities do not frighten people who are doing right, but they frighten those who do wrong. So do what they say, and you will get along well.

The authorities are sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for you will be punished. The authorities are established by God for that very purpose, to punish those who do wrong.

So you must obey the government for two reasons; to keep from being punished and to keep a clear conscience.

Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid so they can keep on doing the work God intended them to do.

Give to everyone what you owe them.; pay your taxes and import duties, and give respect and honor to all to whom it is due."

Grant Withers (@bimonics)

Well, here i am camping out again on your writings. This is THE issue of our present day.

Any rulers that are a terror to good works lose their classification as 'ruler' to the extent that they practice evil. So verse 3 ("For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil" ) qualifies verse 1 ("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." ) no matter how absolute and universal it sounds.

Now you stated, "Contrary to what most theologians believe, my feeling is that these 'superior authorities' are not the world's rulers but is referring to those entrusted with the oversight of the Church." This is a most unusual view and i am not persuaded about it yet, however it has prompted me to consider that maybe 'superior authorities' may also have reference to and include the positive Angelic powers that are operating beyond and behind the Church and the nations?

If you keep this up you will set many of us free not only to sigh and cry for the abomination in our land but to identify, warn, and rebuke those tyrants and oppressors over us who practice evil.

Keep up the good work.

bimonics

Francisco J Zubia (@tohimbeglory)

Well let's focus on a more practical issue. When the anti-christ the ruling power of the time to come, comes, he will be a ruling power under the ordinance of God. But what will the Christian life be like? If you will not be able to purchase a bag of groceries with out his knowledge and approval? The fact of the matter is that no authority or power, here or to come can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

I don't believe in the rapture and there will be believers when he comes. How will you be able to handle this coming 'power' that will rule the world and your most intimate life, like your basic necesities? Is our faith surely grounded on God or on what 'power' are we trusting? Human power? Will power? Military power? Perhaps eccleistical power? Will the church have any 'power'? Unless we understand that God has already made us holy, we will have a severe trial with the onset and coming of the anti-christ power. May you have a good day. Amen.

thbg

Kirk M (@blessings2you)

Nothing more I could say will make any difference on this matter. I have studied the Bible, Greek and other languages for nearly 40 years. I am not a theologian nor am I an expert on Greek grammar or the such. What I do know is the heart of God as revealed in His Word from Genesis to Revelation. I know the way God thinks and I know the way God acts by reading and re-reading and reading again His glorious Word nearly everyday since 1969.

Knowing what I know about God, I cannot believe He would order His children to blindly place their trust and obedience in worldly governments when He time and again warned against doing such a thing in the Old Testament. I cannot believe God wants His children to walk with fear toward those who wield the sword.

Of course we are to obey the laws of the land. That was never the issue in these posts. The issue comes down to blind obedience to governmental officials because they are allegedly the "ministers of God".

I did not expect to change anyone's opinion in writing this post, but I have written all I know and to argue over specific points is fruitless for I have stated what I believe regarding this section of scripture. I am not anti-government but I am pro ministry. Perhaps these verses may be dealing in part with attitudes toward civil authorities, but there is no way these verses should be translated as they are in a version like the New Living Bible.

I am not afraid to defend my position, it is just that I have stated my position the best I know how and if it is not persuasive enough to convince anyone to think it through, then so be it.

Thank You for reading anyway,
B2Y

Kirk M (@blessings2you)

The problem lies in the modern translations insistence on turning this section of scripture into a blanket condoning of ALL Governments and governmental officials whether they are working for God or not. This is a very dangerous avenue to go down since everyone should know that not all government workers are ministers of God and are to be obeyed. Yet, many modern translations which are read by newer Christians lead them to believe they are to obey everything said by every governmental official at every level of government.

I passionately feel that this section of Romans along with countless others in God's Word probably have dual meanings and those meanings become clearer as one matures in their understanding of God's Word. I would assume, which is all any of us can do, that Paul was addressing governing authorities BOTH within the church and within the Roman government in this section.

Again, my entire point in bringing all this up was my extreme apprehension that young believers are being led to believe through modern NON TEXT versions (paraphrased editions) that every government is an extension of God and every government official from the President down to the office worker at the DMV is a minister or servant of God. This kind of misinformation breeds confusion in the minds of believers for they KNOW that it cannot be true, yet the "bible" says it is.

Sorry for all the peripheral and misunderstandings. I really want this to end where it started, which is a statement of warning regarding what is written in many of the modern paraphrased versions of the Bible. However helpful they may be at times, they must be compared to text based versions to test what is being said to the original.

Thanks
B2Y