Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honour you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.Romans 13:1-5
These verses raise all kinds of issues and discussion points. No problem submitting to a godly Christian leader or a leader we agree with. But what about a Hitler, Stalin or Saddam Hussein? What about when you don’t agree with the leader and yet he/she is the one in authority? It all depends on the word “authority”.
There are two Greek words for “power”. The first is kratos. This is naked, raw power. It is this word that appears in our ____cracy words.
- Like democracy. Demos means “people” or the “public”, the people gathered or assembled. Kratos means “rule” or the “power of rule”. So from this combination we get the concept of “rule by the people”.
- Theocracy – Theos – God, kratos – rule or ruling power. Thus Theocracy is the rule by God. But it can be delegated power by God. (See below)
- Plutocracy which is the rule of wealthy or the landed gentry. In Greek thinking kratos can be either legitimate or illegitimate power.
The other word for “power” or “authority” is the word exousia. This is not pure raw power, it is legitimate power. Power that has been delegated or given to one person or a group of people by someone else or by another group of people. Thus the raw “power” becomes delegated power or authority. This power or authority is totally legitimate. Those who wield this kind of power, the exousia power, are responsible to those who have given it to them. There will come a time when their use of the power or authority they have been given will be evaluated and they will be called to account for the way they have used it. It is this word exousia that Paul uses in Romans 13. It is a recurrent word. He uses it 6 times in short space of time in the Greek text. The number of occurrences can vary version to version. It is a significant word for Paul. In Paul’s mind God is sovereign and all power or authority comes from Him.
If someone comes to rob you at knife point or with a gun, they have a power but it is not legitimate, it is not a delegated authority. In a situation like that we would want to look for a delegated power to come to our aid, like a policeman. That would be a legitimate power. Am I making sense to you? Is this helping to solve the dilemma for you?
God expects us to obey the delegated authority set over us but He does not expect us to stand back and obey illegitimate power that has no authority. When that power which was delegated and was legitimate changes and becomes illegitimate He expects us to stand up for what is right and of God, is Godlike. But He does not expect us to use force or do things in ungodlike ways. We are children of our Father; we ought to behave like Him. To achieve His ends through non-violent protest and resistance but not to resort to violence or force. That is the way of the enemy of our souls. This is why when Peter took the sword and cut off the ear of the High Priests servant (Luke 21:50) Jesus said, “That’s enough”. “No more of this kind of talk”.
The encounter between Jesus and Pilate is an interesting one.
Pilate says “Don’t you realize I have power to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus says “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” .John 19:10-11
The word used in this passage is exousia authority. God is sovereign; allow Him to work it out. But you may protest peacefully. In fact God expects you to stand up for your rights and even fight for them in the right way when the issues in question contravene God’s law and purpose.
When we view the issues of power and authority correctly in a biblical sense the debate begins to sort itself out.
Christ’s Kingdom is extended ONLY THROUGH HIS CHURCH – the only organisation he gave his authority and the keys of the kingdom to!Rick Warren
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.Ian Vail
Courage is fear that has said its prayers and decided to go forward anyway.Joyce Meyer