“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.” Rom 13:1-4
“Governing authorities” is in Greek, exousia, Strong’s G1849, from the Hebrew Strong’s H4475, dominion. We go on to read that there is no dominion except from God, and every dominion that exists is appointed by God. This distinction is key to understand this verse. If we go back to the beginning (of Scripture, the Torah is the foundation and dictionary of the whole Bible) and read what dominion was appointed by God, we find first of all, that all dominion is in God, for He is Creator of all. Because He is Creator, He is also Ruler. This is why He and only He can establish or appoint dominion.
In Gen 1:16, God gives dominion to the sun and moon, to rule over the day and night. They do this by emitting light to see by! Think about that for a moment, as we try to understand the nature of the dominion which is from God.
Then He gives dominion to Adam and Eve (man and woman), over every animal on the earth, and the earth itself (Gen 1:26). This dominion carries with it the charge to subdue it (them), and to tend and keep it (them). Gen 1:26 and 2:15.
The next dominion is found in Gen 3:16, “To the woman He said, “… your husband … shall rule over you.”
Then as we get deeper into Torah, God establishes the dominion of fathers and mothers over children (Deu 5:16), judges over the community (Deu 16:18), priests over the congregation of the believers (Deu 17:8-10), prophets over His people (Deu 18:15-22), and lastly kings over the nation (Deu 17:14-15). These are the different dominions which have been established by God. Would it surprise you to learn that there are seven different types?
- sun and moon over day and night, i.e., the celestial bodies are the “gears” by which the universe marks time;
- mankind (male and female; human beings) over the earth and its creatures;
- man (male) over his household, his wife as husband and children as father;
- judges over the community, to uphold God’s Law;
- priests over the congregation;
- prophets over the congregation;
- kings over the nation.
These are the governing authorities. Only because we have been infused with the world’s way of thinking, from which we need to have our minds renewed so that we may prove what is the good and perfect will of God, do we think that dominion only applies to political authorities. Political authority is one of the authorities established by God, but not the only one. Each of the different kinds hold their authority for a reason, having to do with imparting a blessing to those under their authority. In God’s way of doing things, authority is given so that the strength of that authority can be a help to the weak under their care.
Each of the different kinds of authorities not only have responsibilities toward those under them, but also boundaries or limitations that they must not transgress. Fathers are to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (responsibility), and are not to provoke them to wrath (boundary, Eph 6:4). No delegated authority is absolute. When authorities begin transgressing their boundaries, that is when God starts taking them down.
Now this does not mean that every different style of political government is godly or of God. Think about this for a moment. The Nazis had the political authority over most of Europe, and they used that authority to kidnap, imprison, and murder Jews. There were people in the countries they exercised control over who resisted them. And God helped them supernaturally in many cases, in their resistance. If every political authority is from God, then God was working against Himself by helping people save Jews from the gas chamber! Read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom!
In this passage in Romans, Paul explains that political authorities hold their authority in order to bear the sword to punish evildoers, and to praise those who do good (vs. 3-4). Good and evil as God has defined it in Scripture. So when a political authority transgresses their boundaries, and breaks God’s decrees instead of enforces them, the people have the right to re-establish godly authority over themselves again. In fact in Torah, when a prophet begins to speak false prophecies which are not from God, in order to corrupt the people from worshiping God, He commands the people to remove that prophet from his office (by death, Deu 18:20).
The founding fathers, being very Scripturally literate, saw these principles running through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, and much of the literature of the founding era in America is devoted to discussing the righteousness (or not) of obeying, resisting, and removing the British from authority over the colonies, because of their transgressions of the boundaries established for a political authority by God.
Now the Roman authority under which Jesus and Paul lived was corrupt. Jesus did not spend His life trying to change that authority. I cannot find one place in the Gospels where He preached revolution against Rome. This is because the seed that He was planting would grow and produce its own fruit. The small stone of Daniel, which strikes the statue of the kingdoms of this world in the feet of clay, will grow to a great mountain, and will topple the statue (Dan 2:31-35).
Likewise, we can spend our lives, living under the kingship of Messiah in our lives, so that His kingdom will come beginning in our households (Mat 6:9-10). And from there His kingdom will spread, like leaven leavening the whole lump. But we have to start with our own lives, with removing the log from our own eye and getting our own life subject to the kingship of Yeshua Messiah.
I am studying the ancient Hebrew right now on dominion and authority. What I am learning is blowing my mind! I will post that when I have it completed. God is so awesome and amazing!