Obedience to Civil Authorities

 By Brant  Bosserman - Posted at Gentle Reformation:

It seems that there is rather widespread confusion about whether Paul, Peter, and the Scriptures in general require unconditional obedience to civil leaders. A surface reading of the relevant texts would appear to require submission without qualification—“…there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God” (Rom. 13:1-2); “Submit yourself for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors” (1 Pet. 2:13-14); “My son, fear the Lord and the king” (Prov. 24:21). Yet, every historic expression of Christianity has recognized that there are situations in which believers may lawfully disobey civil powers—e.g. for the emancipation of slaves; the advancement of civil rights; the protection of the Jews from genocide; etc. etc. How is this possible? The straightforward answer is that upon a careful reading, the passages in view require general submission to governing officials, except for when their orders come into conflict with God’s commands.

ROMANS 13:1-7

Perhaps the simplest way to establish that Paul is not requiring unqualified submission to authority in Romans 13, is by observing that the Epistle to the Romans is itself an expression of civil disobedience, replete with admonitions to Christian citizens in the imperial city to engage in the same.


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