Submitting to AuthoritySubmitting to Authority

In this verse, we tackle a tough subject – submission. Submitting to Authority brings up visions of dictators and abusive husbands because we hear more about them than we do the good leaders and the husbands who understand biblical authority. Submission is a concept to be embraced, not feared. The responsibility on the entity or person being submitted to is huge – to be like Christ!

Every person must submit to and support the authorities over him. For there can be no authority in the universe except by God’s appointment, which means that every authority that exists has been instituted by God. So to resist authority is to resist the divine order of God, which results in severe consequences. 

For civil authorities don’t intimidate those who are doing good, but those who are doing evil. So do what is right and you’ll never need to fear those in authority. They will commend you for your good citizenship. Those in authority are God’s servants for the good of society. But if you break the law, you have reason to be alarmed, for they are God’s agents of punishment to bring criminals to justice. Why do you think they carry weapons? You are compelled to obey them, not just to avoid punishment, but because you want to live with a clean conscience.” Romans 13:1-5 TPT

Evil Leaders

At the time Paul wrote this letter to the Gentile Christians in Rome, their ruler was a totally corrupt and depraved man named Nero. He succeeded Claudius who had just been poisoned, quite probably by his, Nero’s mother! In addition, the Jewish Christians, who had formerly been the authorities (leaders) amongst the Christians living in Rome, had been banished and were now just beginning to return.

Submitting to Authority Q1

I read a lot of commentators to see what their opinions were about the ‘authorities’ Paul was asking the Christians to submit to. It would be hard to believe that he was asking them to submit to Claudius and Nero, but no one knows for sure. It is widely believed that he was actually talking to them about the Jewish Christian leaders. Why would it be them? Because they were fighting with each other. The Gentiles had appointed their own leaders when the Jewish Christians were run out of Rome. Now, the Jews, who were accustomed to being in leadership, tried to come back and return to their positions of authority. The Gentiles were not having it. So, they were fighting with each other.

Fighting Over Who is in Charge

The Gentile Christians had probably begun meeting in homes rather than synagogues and the Jewish Christians undoubtedly want to return to the synagogues. The new leaders wanted to maintain their leadership.

Submitting to Authority Q2

I believe it is quite possible that Paul was addressing submission to all authority, In other places, Paul himself submitted to the ungodly leadership which put him in jail! In the Old Testament, we see multiple examples of Jewish leaders like Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel working under the authority of rulers who worshipped idols! Yet those leaders trusted and relied upon their Jewish assistants.

Christians Submitting to Unbelieving Authority

How can Christians submit to authority when the person may be ungodly and evil? Claudius had enacted a set of heavy taxes on all people in Rome. Did the Christians have to submit to the taxation along with all the others? Yes, they did. Claudius, while personally living an evil life, was not requiring the Christians to live as he did. Later, all of them were persecuted and they fled in order to stay alive.

Submitting to Authority Q3

Paul tells us that God puts people in leadership to maintain law and order. They actually represent a system of safeguards. Paul himself would not have obeyed had he been told to commit a sin. This was not what was happening. Yes, there was hardship inflicted on him and others and some were not able to practice their faith openly. Yet, they still had to submit to all the other laws enacted by the rulers.

God Has a Purpose for Submitting to Authority

In this way, they kept a clear conscience. Paul isn’t saying you have to like the person in authority. He is saying that you respect the position without violating your own conscience and to keep a clear conscience. Unlike the Romans, we at least have the ability to elect new officials if the current ones are not upholding their position as they should. However, while they are there, we submit to the authority placed on that position. In America, we are not dealing with people like Claudius and Nero. While the officials who represent us may or may not be godly, as long as they are upholding the laws of the land and not requiring us to break God’s laws, we submit to them and obey the law ourselves.

Submitting to Authority Q4

This is what Paul is saying. If Christians all decided they no longer had to obey the speed limit, there would be chaos. Police officers, lawyers, and judges are there to make sure that this does not occur. Christians may be ‘free in Christ’ but we are not free to be lawbreakers, So, Paul says we must submit by obeying the laws of the land.

What About Church Leaders?

Same in church. There are leaders put in place so that we have order. Think what it would be like if everyone decided to preach at the same time. First of all, not everyone is capable. Second, even if they are, there should be order. So, there is a chain of command. We are not forced to stay at one certain church, but, while we are there, we should submit to the authority over us, showing respect, and encouraging others to do the same.

Submitting to Authority Q5

I have left a church before. There were things happening in leadership that violated my personal conscience. It was not up to me to judge what was happening or to spread dissension in the membership since no commandment was being broken. However, my moral standards were at odds with leadership and I could not continue to submit to their authority. Instead, once I knew that things would never change, I left and went to a place where these things were not happening. We will never agree with every decision or action of leadership in a church. However, we need to respect the fact that God has placed leadership for the purpose of order. It is not for them “Lord” it over everyone else.

Submission is Voluntary

The same is true of the husband in marriage. The husband is submitted to Christ and the wife to the husband as He submits to Christ. Christ submitted to the will of the Father when He died on the cross. It was voluntary, That is the element of submission we seem to leave out. It is NOT demanded. Rather, it is willingly, freely given. Respect cannot be demanded – it is earned. So is trust. Submission has limits. If a husband tells his wife to go rob a bank, she does not have to submit because this violates God’s laws. If he asked her to do that, it would clearly demonstrate that he was no longer submitted to Christ.

Submitting to Authority Q6

My view of leadership, after having been in multiple positions of church leadership, is that it is a position of servanthood. For Christians, every single aspect of our lives is about servanthood. This is the example Christ set for us. He was a servant leader who demanded nothing for Himself even though He had every right to. He laid His rights aside and served. This is what we are to do. Even government officials are referred to as servants of the people. However, the power which comes with a position of authority can cause the person to turn into a tyrant of sorts. First, we serve Christ. Second, we serve our families. Everything else comes after that.

Humility in Submission

Power corrupts. This is why it is vital for us to submit for the sake of our consience! Power can corrupt our thinking, our conscience, and our lives. Submission and servanthood keep us humble. Christians should be the very best at handling power because our view should always be that of a servant to others. We can and should be in positions of authority. We must be servants no matter what our position or authority is. It’s a principle for life – community, church, and family.

Submitting to Authority Q7

And pray for every political leader[a] and representative, so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts. It is pleasing to our Savior-God to pray for them. He longs for everyone to embrace his life and return to the full knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:2-4 TPT

How to Handle Authority

Paul and Timothy were both men of authority. They were leading and teaching hundreds and hundreds of new Christians who believed what they said. If you notice, Paul spoke continually of being a servant. He had been a man who held great power, authority, and wealth and he had abused all of it as he ruthlessly had Christians murdered. He knew what it meant to be in authority, also knowing what it meant to be under the authority of Christ.

As you read about submission, realize that it is a voluntary position and that we are never asked to submit to anyone who demands we violate God’s laws. However, we may have to submit for a period of time to someone whose lifestyle is nothing like ours. Why? We are an example. Maybe your boss is a drunk and mean to his family. You have a chance to be an example to him, to love him (not what he does) and to submit to his authority in the workplace. There might come a time when you know you need to leave, but you can do it with a clear conscience knowing that you followed Christ’s example.

Submitting to Authority Q8

Clck Here to download the devotional for today and be sure to answer the questions and journal, if you can. It will help you to see your progress along the way.

**We use verses from different Bible translations.
To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit our Scripture Citations.

Here are links to each day in case you missed one:

Day 1  – 24 Day Challenge – Renewing Your Mind and Conscience
Day 2 – Living By the Golden Rule
Day 3 – Being Falsely Accused
Day 4 – A Personal Testimony of Salvation
Day 5 – Knowing Right From Wrong
Day 6 – What is the Power of the Holy Spirit?

**We use verses from different Bible translations.
To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit our Scripture Citations.

Fleda Bennie