There are several scriptures that, to me, seem to send mixed messages to the faithful as to the status of the world’s secular rulers and what our attitude and response to them should be. Given that, from past research, I do not believe the bible contradicts itself, this paper is my attempt at making sense of those rulership scriptures.
There is little doubt that we are in the end-times. There is chaos in almost every nation today, either on the streets, in every parliament (or what passes for one) or in any of today’s war zones. Everywhere governments are being exposed as incompetent, self-aggrandising and corrupt liars. This is becoming so clear to the bulk of many nations’ populations that civil unrest is becoming the norm. Today’s politicians do not even seem to be bothered to cover their tracks anymore; they almost seem to be flaunting their sinful ways to the people that put them in power (or not!). Whilst I have never really trusted politicians, I cannot remember such a time when such global dissension was so visible.
This is also true of large corporations where CEOs of many large companies worldwide are being shown to also be corrupt liars. In today’s world the large pharma, tech, energy and manufacturing corporations wield such financial muscle that their CEOs must be counted as world leaders even though (or because) they know no national boundaries. Those CEOs are also increasingly and openly demonstrating their propensity as liars and fraudsters, often acting in concert with relevant government regulators or departments. None of these show any regard for their populace, customers, employees or the state of the planet. Their only interests are in their maintenance of power and in their personal greed at any cost. This must all clearly be the work of the demons who have possessed these national and corporate leaders.
Just in the unlikely case that any of my readers do not share my views on this topic, you might like to have a look at these examples. I have deliberately picked a large selection so we can all fully appreciate the scale of the problem we are facing: https://www.hoover.org/research/lies-politicians-tell-us; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/feb/12/lies-lies-and-more-lies-a-government-built-on-lies-is-incapable-of-anything-else; https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/greta-thunberg-calls-out-lying-27327853; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/30/europe-populist-lie-shamelessly-salvini-johnson; https://finance.yahoo.com/news/11-companies-caught-lying-public-003658933.html; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jun/30/climate-crimes-oil-and-gas-environment; https://www.commondreams.org/views/2021/11/05/big-pharma-lies-about-vaccine-patents-protect-profits; https://www.bbc.com/news/business-34324772; https://www.business.com/public-relations/business-lies/; https://www.bbc.com/news/business-65814031.
Apart from that there are many nations that ban Christianity and persecute practising Christians. This is typically those in Muslim or other non-Christian nations or communist countries: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/january/christian-persecution-2021-countries-open-doors-watch-list.html. Are we really supposed to believe the rulers of these states have been put in place by God for their citizens' benefit?
My first stab at this topic was made in my earlier Nations paper. The nub of that paper was that God would destroy all the worldly nations and their rulers come His Kingdom on Earth. You might like to have a read of that first as a warm-up for what follows in this paper.
So, given this backcloth, how are we supposed to respond to Paul’s plea to the Roman congregation? This is a scripture that has always given me an issue and clearly this has become even more pointed in recent years and represents my rationale in writing this paper at this time. So let us examine that scripture in some detail:
1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the [powers] that be are ordained of God.
2 Therefore he that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment.
3 For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And wouldest thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same:
4 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 a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore [ye] must needs be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
6 For this cause ye pay tribute also; for they are ministers of God's service, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute [is due]; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Romans 13 ASV)
Verse 1 entreats us all to be subject to ‘the higher powers’. Whilst this verse taken alone could be referring to the heavenly powers, it is made clear in the later verses that it is referring to the earthly ruling powers. This verse tells us that those in power are effectively put in place by God Himself. So, what are we to make of the likes of the many evil Roman Caesars and latterly of Adolf Hitler, Stalin etc?
Verse 2 goes further by warning those resisting the ordained powers that they would face the penalty of Gehenna, the second death! So, the Christian resistors of the Roman leadership and Jewish resistance fighters of the Nazi regime face suffering God’s worst punishment! I think you can see why these scriptures have given me so much concern over the years! This seems like very harsh judgement, particularly that it appears in the New Testament that otherwise presents the qualities of love and mercy as transcending even God’s Law!
Verse 3 tells us that the powers, that are in place, promote good works and that only those working evil should be afraid of them. Well, I suppose that even Rome and wartime Germany generally supported secular law abiders? However, both nations showed ungodly behaviour towards God’s people nonetheless: https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1671/romes-response-to-the-spread-of-christianity/ and https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zp3p82p/revision/4. So, perhaps Paul is telling us to abide by the secular laws of the land insofar as they do not compromise our spiritual lives?
Verse 4 is further confirming that the rulership of the day is carrying out God’s wishes. Worryingly the use of the word ‘minister’ suggests a spiritual as well as a secular rulership!
Verse 5 confounds this further by saying that we should not only be afraid of the punishment meted out by these earthly rulers but also from compromising our own consciences sake. Really?
Verses 6/7 take us into rather more familiar territory in confirming we should pay our taxes as due to the administration of the land.
One observation in all this is that Paul’s letter was written by a Roman to the Roman congregation. Consequently, although they were Christians, they would also likely have been made up largely of Roman citizens. So presumably they would have been treated somewhat differently to non-Roman Christians so long as they followed the secular laws of the land without causing meaningful dissent to their leaders. No doubt they also would have felt some loyalty to their home nation so Paul’s message to them would not have seemed as counter-intuitive as it might seem to us today? However, refusal to worship the Caesar of the day would have been treated harshly regardless of citizenship.
The Book of Acts tells us something of all this. It confirms that Paul, himself, was a Roman citizen and that, despite being Christians, he and his followers were released from jail when it became clear to the authorities in charge that they were Romans:
37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast [us] into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
38 And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.
39 And they came and besought them, and brought [them] out, and desired [them] to depart out of the city. (Acts 16 KJV)
In reviewing what previous commentators had made of Romans 13, I found the following analysis helpful in putting these verses into a proper context: https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/romans-13.html.
Scriptures Supporting Romans 13
While Romans 13 contains the main scriptures related to a Christian’s required submission to his earthly rulers, it is certainly not the only text that conveys this message. The first item I pick up on is in Paul’s letter to Titus. Here he talks about obedience to the rulership but ‘in every good work’. Presumably in government works that a Christian would not consider ‘good’, i.e., those that would transgress God’s Laws such as in idol worship, then civil resistance is acceptable?
1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready in every good work, (Titus 3 GLT)
Next up we have the significant first epistle of Peter that provides much insight into the matter of submitting to the government. The first key point is that Peter recognises that not all rulers are ‘good and forbearing’. The second key point is that he recognises that in suffering under harsh rulers whilst keeping one’s faithful ways in Christ, one is following in the very steps of Christ Himself. Peter recognises that being punished for doing right by God is a glory. Bear in mind this epistle would have been addressed to many who were 1st New Covenant (1NC) Saints and therefore the context becomes more understandable:
13 Then be in obedience to every creation of men because of the Lord; whether to a king, as being supreme;
14 or to governors, as through Him having indeed being sent for vengeance [on] evildoers, but praise [on] well doers,
15 because so is the will of God, doing good to silence the ignorance of foolish men;
16 as free, and not having freedom as a cover of evil, but as slaves of God;
17 honor all, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
18 Servants, [be] obedient to [your] masters in all fear, not only to those good and forbearing, but also to the perverse [ones].
19 For this [is] a grace, if because of conscience [toward] God anyone bears grief, suffering unjustly.
20 For what glory [is it] if you patiently endure [while] sinning and being buffeted? But if you [are] suffering [while] doing good, and patiently endure, this [is] a grace from God.
21 For you were called to this, for even Christ suffered on our behalf, leaving behind an example for us, that you should follow His steps; (1 Peter 2 GLT)
In a slightly different but nonetheless relevant context, Paul entreats the servants amongst his congregation at Colossus to obey their masters in their service to God. We are being told here that men should serve their masters/leaders obediently, subject to God’s requirements of us all:
22 Servants, obey in all things [your] masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
23 And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; (Colossians 3 KJV)
A stricture is also placed upon the masters of servants to also follow what God requires of them:
1 Masters, give unto [your] servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 4 KJV)
It is a that pity we do not see very much of that at national or corporate leadership level today, which is the reason that I decided to write this paper in the first place. Paul repeats this message to his congregation at Ephesus also thereby emphasising its importance:
5 Servants, be obedient to them that are [your] masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;
6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:
8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether [he be] bond or free.
9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him. (Ephesians 6 KJV)
Paul, in his letter to the congregation at Colossus, states that all things on Earth were created through Christ including the worldly rulers. This thereby acknowledges that the secular rulers of our world, like them or not, were put in place by our creator:
16 For all things were created in Him, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth, the visible and the invisible; whether thrones, or lordships, or rulers, or authorities, all things have been created through Him and for Him. (Colossians 1 GLT)
Scriptures Not Supporting Romans 13
Probably the best-known scripture on this topic is, ironically, from Paul’s own letter to the congregation at Ephesus. Here he confirms that the Christians’ battle is against the dark forces, including those of our world leaders. This is seemingly at odds with Romans 13 and thereby, again, represents my rationale for writing this paper:
12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenly [places]. (Ephesians 6 ASV)
In looking at other scriptures that appear not to support the message in Romans 13, I think we find ourselves not so much with scriptures that dissent so much as scriptures that put Roman 13 into proper context. This verse from Acts is a case in point, I think. Here obeying God before man is the message, but this is not to say that man should be disobeyed when man's requirement is not against God’s commandments:
29 Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5 KJV)
One of Israel’s wisest kings, Solomon, ought to know a thing or two about the good rulership of a nation. In the following scripture he acknowledges the difference in a nation’s behaviour and longevity dependent on the quality of that nations ruler(s):
2 For the transgression of a land many [are] the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding [and] knowledge the state [thereof] shall be prolonged. (Proverbs 28 KJV)
This might seem to go somewhat against what we read in Romans 13, since here we are seeing that God puts bad leaders in place as well as good. Is this intended as a test upon that nation’s inhabitants? The answer to that question is probably ‘yes’. For the rationale on that response, please check out Addendum 1 in my earlier paper on Psychopathy. The interested reader may also find another previous and related paper (Heroes and Villains) to be of some interest.
Paul’s letter to his congregation in Ephesus helps further to clarify the matter by making it clear that Christ has ultimate rulership over all of mankind. So, if we are left in any doubt as to who to obey when we perceive a conflict between the two, then Christ gets that call over and above any earthly leadership:
19 and what [is] the surpassing greatness of His power toward us, the ones believing according to the working of His mighty strength
20 which He worked in Christ [in] raising Him from [the] dead; yea, [He] seated [Him] at His right hand in the heavenlies, [Psa. 110:1]
21 far above all rule, and authority, and power, and lordship, and every name having been named, not only in this age, but also in the coming [age];
22 and He "put all [things] under His feet" and gave Him [to be] Head over all [things] to the church, [Psa. 8:6] (Ephesians 1 GLT)
And then we have the famous Gospel verses that tell us that we must give Caesar his due but also to give God His due:
19 Show Me the tribute coin. And they brought a denarius to Him.
20 And He said to them, Whose image and inscription is this?
21 They said to Him, Caesar's. Then He said to them, Then give to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God. (Matthew 22 GLT)
15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why make ye trial of me? bring me a denarius, that I may see it.
16 And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's.
17 And Jesus said unto them, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. And they marvelled greatly at him. (Mark 12 ASV)
24 Show me a denarius. Whose image and superscription hath it? And they said, Caesar's.
25 And he said unto them, Then render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. (Luke 20 ASV)
Again, the meaning here must be to follow Caesar’s statutes insofar as they do not contravene any of God’s Laws.
Let us look a little further into the Book of Acts Chapter 5 following on from the earlier verse from that source, these words of a wise Pharisee, named Gamaliel:
38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten [them], they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. (Acts 5 KJV)
Now the council, being spoken of here, is that of the official Jewish synagogue of the day so, strictly speaking, this is not the secular arm of rulership. However, it does represent the official spiritual rulership of this world. The apostles went straight out from the council hearing and flaunted the request of the council to stop preaching the gospel of Christ. This demand they blatantly and immediately disregarded. So, I think, this is confirming that if one’s worldly leaders require one to go against God’s statutes then one is totally at liberty to ignore that requirement.
A similar message is delivered to the Apostles by Christ in warning His followers of the then current holders of worldly authority:
16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in [the] midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
17 But beware of men. For they will betray you to sanhedrins, and they will flog you in their synagogues.
18 And also you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them and to the nations. (Matthew 10 GLT)
Delving back into the Old Testament, we are reminded how Jehovah treated the enemies of His people, Israel. He destroyed the fabric and effective rulership of the Egyptians over His people. Whilst Israel, by and large, met the secular requirements of Pharoah, that ruler did not meet the spiritual requirements of Jehovah. I think this will set the scene for modern day events yet to come at the time of my writing of this paper, i.e., the Great Passover to come:
4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.
5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine: (Exodus 19 ASV)
There are a couple of verses from Paul’s letter to the Colossians that paint an interesting picture of Christ’s headship over the worldly powers:
10 and having been filled, you are in Him, who is the Head of all rule and authority, (Colossians 2 GLT)
15 having stripped the rulers and the authorities, He made a show of them in public, triumphing [over] them in it. (Colossians 2 GLT)
Subsequent to His resurrection, Paul is telling us that Christ is ruling over all the earthly powers and, in doing so, has removed that power from the earthly authorities in an open display to all. And in similar vein from Peter’s first epistle we have:
22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. (1 Peter 3 KJV)
This was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah who prophesied that God would punish the world’s rulers and imprison them in the end of days:
21 And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones [that are] on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.
22 And they shall be gathered together, [as] prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited. (Isaiah 24 KJV)
Taking this a step further, the New Testament makes it clear that faith and love will transcend the keeping of God’s Law. This is just one example from Paul’s letter to the congregation of Galatea:
11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, [it is] evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (Galatians 3 KJV)
18 For if the inheritance [be] of the law, [it is] no more of promise: but God gave [it] to Abraham by promise.
19 Wherefore then [serveth] the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; [and it was] ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. (Galatians 3 KJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5 KJV)
If that be the case, then even more will faith transcend man’s laws no matter how just that law may seem. Interestingly this all stems back to the human father of us all, Abraham, who did not have the Law but had faith in Jehovah’s promise which ultimately manifested itself through Jesus Christ.
The Shape of Things to Come
So much for the current situation that we find ourselves in. Soon, however please God, we will find ourselves subject to the just rulership of Jesus Christ our King over all the nations. Here is a selection from the many verses on the subject, just in case of any doubt that we shall be ruled by Jesus Christ in His Kingdom on Earth instead of all of today’s worldly leaders:
15 Which in his times he shall shew, [who is] the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; (1 Timothy 6 KJV)
8 But unto the Son [he saith], Thy throne, O God, [is] for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness [is] the sceptre of thy kingdom. (Hebrews 1 KJV)
4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for [thou] only [art] holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest. (Revelation 15 KJV)
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (Matthew 25 KJV)
13 And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies [which were] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.9
15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And he hath on [his] vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19 KJV)
(Check out my earlier Nations paper if the above scripture is of particular interest to you)
15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: (Revelation 6 KJV)
5 Lo, days are coming -- an affirmation of Jehovah, And I have raised to David a righteous shoot, And a king hath reigned and acted wisely, And done judgment and righteousness in the earth.
6 In his days is Judah saved, and Israel dwelleth confidently, And this his name that Jehovah proclaimeth him, 'Our Righteousness.' (Jeremiah 23 YLT)
2 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
3 Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she who travaileth hath brought forth: then the residue of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel.
4 And he shall stand, and shall feed [his flock] in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah his God: and they shall abide; for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. (Micah 5 ASV)
This paper started out with the concern that the scriptures are sending us mixed messages about our current worldly masters. On the one hand we are being told to obey them, since it was God Himself who put them in power. On the other we are being told that we are in contention with the dark powers that rule this world. This latter is clearly manifest from current world events. The resulting conclusion is that these differing positions provide a pecking order for us to obey. Obey your earthly leaders up to the point that their requirements contravene God’s requirements, then feel free to disobey them without fear.
Date of Publication: 6th July 2023
Rulers of This World
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