The Church And State In Romans 13

The proper relationship of the Church to the State has been discussed for centuries. Reading through history you can see the actual relationship has evolved over time. When the Church first started, the Roman State was their adversary with chronic and acute persecutions. From the time Constantine made Christianity the official religion of his empire through the Reformation, the relationship could roughly be characterized as a series of alliances. By the time the United States of America was founded, the relationship was no longer an alliance. In theory, churches were free to conduct their business without disturbance by the State, but the State no longer supported a particular religion or denomination. The purpose of this situation was to promote peace between the increasing number of different groups within Christianity and between each of them and the State.

However, through the 20th Century to today, the government and culture has become more and more secular. The safeguards set up to provide a space for churches to operate and even exert authority have dwindled considerably. Then we had the corona virus pandemic this year. The government at several different levels has made pronouncements about what religious observance is allowable and what isn’t. It has differed from state to state and city to city, but the situation has created the need for the Church to once again discuss the subject to determine how God wants Christians to respond..

Inevitably the conversations in the Church, quickly turn to Romans 13. It is commonly used as a throw away statement to say that churches must obey whatever the government says in light of the pandemic. Close the churches. Reduce the size of gatherings. Require social distancing and the wearing of masks. All of these commands are justified by church leaders and obeyed because “Romans 13 tells us to obey the government.”

But is that God’s will? They speak. Christians salute. Now, as much as ever, it is critical that Christians and church leaders think through Romans 13 and similar passages. We need to improve our understanding in order to make wise decisions during the corona virus pandemic lockdowns of today. I suspect that will become even more important in the future as we see crises coming at us more frequently and the government’s using them as justification to become more and more powerful. It is concerning to see the State’s view of the Church shifting while the Church is still operating under the assumptions of previous generations.

Defining Subjection To Authority

Romans 13 starts with the statement, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God.” The word authority or the idea of authority is central to the subject. Therefore, we must be clear on the meaning of the words translated “governing authorities” and the other Greek words in chapter 13 that are synonyms.

The word “governing” is huperecho. It means “to be over, extend over or beyond, superior or higher in rank”. It doesn’t mean government or state specifically. It applies broadly to rank or order in society.

“Authorities” is exousia. It means “capability or right to do a certain action, permission, authority; right, liberty, power to do something”. It refers to people invested with the power to make decisions. Again, not government per se, but broadly the word describes those given authority in different areas of society.

In verse 3, the word “rulers” is used, translated from archon. It means ruler, chief, prince, or magistrate. In the Bible it refers to the Sanhedrin, the Messiah, Moses as ruler of Israel, civil judges, or someone who temporarily acts as leader with no inherent right.

Following in verse 4, “avenger” is translated from ekdikos. It means one who executes justice, punisher; literally one outside of that which is lawful, lawless, mischievous; he who brings to pass what he believes to be his right; in secular Greek used for an office of an official legal representative.

So “governing authorities” means those who are placed at a higher rank over us who are given the right to make decisions for those underneath. In each case the words have a broad meaning of leadership. In other places in the Bible they refer to government officials, religious leaders, tribal authorities, and even spiritual beings. That is an important point to reflect on. Romans 13 is not specifically telling us to obey modern nation state governments. There are different centers and levels of authority in our world. Even within families there is authority. It is assigned throughout human society: to husbands, parents, employers, teachers, pastors, church elders, HOAs, mayors, legislatures, Presidents, Constitutions, etc. Paul refers to this in verse 2 when he writes that authority is, “the ordinance of God.” Ordinance there is the word diatage, meaning a proclamation, but also making an arrangement or setting up order.

Paul is instructing us in Romans 13 to accept the order of society and operate within it. Do not rebel against it as a rule. Do not seek to overthrow it out of hand. Do not seek to dissolve it into chaos. Even Jesus operates according to this principle with the Father. In similar language in 1 Corinthians 11:3, it says, “God is the head of Christ.”

At the same time, Paul does have government in mind, specifically men with swords dishing out violent punishment. Of Authority Paul says, “it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. (13:4)” He also mentions the paying of taxes and tribute to Authority which is associated with the payment to kings and governments throughout history. Paul also mentions owing fear and honor to Authority. They can be due to the government, but also to any type of societal Authority, “honor your father and mother” is a good example.

There is no way to honestly deny that Christians are to be in submission to authority, including governments in a broad sense. That is the plain language of Romans 13. But what does that mean? Does that mean the Church, itself a locus of Authority, is to do whatever a secular government should tell Chrisitians? Did the apostles treat the government of their day as an absolute authority that had to be obeyed in every written law or king’s command?

Bounds on Subjection to Authority

In Acts 5 there is a clear example of the apostles relating to some of the “governing authorities” of their day. Out of that example springs a principle we can apply to the “governing authorities” of today.

Acts 5: “27 When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

The high priest of Israel and the Sanhedrin were religious and political leaders for the Jews in the 1st Century. They were not the ultimate power. They were under the Roman government, but they had political authority as a kind of Supreme Court over Judea. The Sanhedrin commanded the apostles to stop telling people about Jesus’ teaching, death, and resurrection. They imprisoned and flogged several of the apostles to intimidate them to convince them to stop. However, their answer by Peter was:

“We must obey God rather than men.”

Peter spoke those words to the Jewish civil leaders. He spoke those words through the Sanhedrin to any law or edict made by a man. The apostles in this situation did not submit to governing authorities, and their statement said they would not submit to any authority commanding them to stop doing anything that God had told them to do.

Therefore, Paul’s command in Romans 13:1 is not absolute. It is in the context of all of God’s other commands found in Scripture. If there is a disagreement, the commands of human authority are inconsequential.

God’s Commands Found in Scripture and Nature

God gives many commands in Scripture, too many to cover in this article. But it is important to give some examples in order to build a framework to think through.

First, look at Biblical moral law like the 10 commandments in Exodus 20:2-17. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol… you shall not worship them. You shall not murder. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. You shall not commit adultery. Any Authority that leads away from these commands or commands you to do the opposite should be ignored and even opposed.

Jesus regarded the greatest commandment in Matthew 22 to be, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:5)”. Each person will have a different idea about how to carry that out in their lives. It will be up to every individual conscience. Each individual must think through the Authority’s command and whether he or she can obey it without disobeying God’s greatest commandment.

A Biblical command that more directly addresses this article’s topic is found in Hebrews 10, “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).” The author is writing in the 1st Century AD. There was no way to assemble but physically. According to an historical grammatical hermeneutic, the command is to gather physically. Now in the 21st Century we have the ability to use telephone or video meetings to gather. But does that change what Hebrews’ author meant? It is hard to be precise or dogmatic. But it should be clear that physical gatherings are preferred, and that each person must follow their own conscience before God in carrying out that direction in real world situations like a viral pandemic.

God has revealed His will for us in Scripture, but it is also revealed by looking at His Creation. There are important things we discover about “being in subjection to governing authorities” when we observe human nature and spontaneous order in human society. Christian philosopher Thomas Aquinas wrote about these things in his description of Natural Law using a framework of Aristotelian metaphysics to help order his thoughts. While it isn’t Scripture he makes important observations about the created order of the God of the Bible.

Aquinas’ Natural Law theory briefly says that God designed Natural Law so humans would operate by God’s eternal Law. There is an objective good a person should pursue and evil he or she should avoid. This is the purpose of mankind. It is the telos of Aristotle where a human finds full satisfaction, true happiness. Ultimately that telos is found in following Jesus Christ. According to Aquinas, following Natural Law doesn’t save you. Instead, it leads you to a point where you are open to the gospel, to the Bible, to God’s Eternal Law.

Natural Law is usually described as obligations that an individual must satisfy in order to experience purpose and true happiness in life. Alongside those obligations are also protections. The protections are called Natural Rights, like the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence. John Locke included the ownership of property which an individual needs to use in support of that pursuit.

The obligations in Natural Law are applied to all persons, including those in Authority. There are overlapping obligations or duties between all people. So from the perspective of each individual there is the Natural Law containing your purpose and obligations. However, each individual must relate to all others in a way that frees them to pursue their purpose according to their personality and conscience. This is where the idea of Natural Rights comes into play. Each individual has the right for others to not interfere with his pursuit of purpose or his carrying out his obligations. The ideas relate to how God created human nature. We all have a purpose to our lives and a need to be able to pursue it. The happiness described in Natural Law is not simple pleasure, experienced through selfish desires, but other oriented action. It describes agape love.

Enforcing Natural Rights protects individuals from those in Authority (family, kings, governors, majority voters) from preventing them from pursuing their moral, spiritual happiness by means of physical confinement, physical harm, or taking away their resources.

Two English political philosophers of the 17th Century wrote about these subjects, John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. They didn’t agree on Natural Law and Rights, but their disagreements help to explain what they are.

“Hobbes and Locke agree that individuals have a right to property in the state of nature, but Hobbes denies that individuals have any duty to respect the property of others. This makes property more or less useless in Hobbes’s state of nature. Locke says individuals have a duty to respect the property (and lives and liberties) of others even in the state of nature, a duty he traces to natural law. Natural law and natural rights coexist, but natural law is primary, commanding respect for the rights of others. (”

For those living in the US, the most recognizable description of Natural Rights is found in the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution. To summarize them, they say people have rights to freely speak or publish communication, worship their god, assemble together, and protect themselves and their property through violence. They have the right to keep the government from using their homes to store military personnel and resources. They have the right to privacy. The government can’t go through their possessions or communications unless there is a documented reason to investigate a probable crime. People have the right to due process of law when suspected of a crime which places restraints on government regarding how they carry out investigations and criminal prosecutions. The Bill of Rights also states that people have other rights that are not written down but are just as real.

The Bill of Rights is included to give an example of the type of rights people possess when reflecting on Natural Law and Rights. It is how the founders of the United States of America applied those abstract theories onto the specific need of their time for the citizens living under the Authority they were designing. For those of us who live in the US this has even more relevance because the ultimate governing authority for us is the US Constitution including the Bill of Rights. Laws and orders from politicians that are Unconstitutional are not legitimate. They are to be invalidated, not obeyed, because they prevent an individual from obeying God’s commandment through Created order and instilled in them through human nature to pursue purpose and meaning, culminating in worshipping God with their whole being. Individuals today have the same right to disobey those kinds of laws as the apostles had to disobey the Sanhedrin in Acts 5.

Subjection in the Context of Authority’s Character

In addition to properly defining the words Paul uses for Authority in Romans 13. There are other words translated as Authority in other parts of the Bible that Paul does not use. Paul was being intentional with his language. To understand what kind of Authority Paul had in mind when writing Romans 13 we need to contrast that with the kind of authority he did not have in mind.

The first word is the verb katexousia which appears two times in Mark 10 and Matthew 22, both parallel passages. It means having authority over. Jesus uses it to describe the kind of authority Gentile rulers exercise over their subjects. They lord it over them. It is a negative description, used as a contrast to the godly authority He directs James and John to pursue, becoming great by serving others. The point is that Paul is not describing the Authority we should submit to in this way.

The next word Paul doesn’t use is baros, which means something that is burdensome, heavy, or bringing pressure. He says in 1 Thessalonians 2:6 that even though he had authority over the Thessalonian church he didn’t assert his authority, meaning he didn’t throw his weight around or pressure them or become burdensome. Instead he was gentle to them using the metaphor of a nursing mother taking care of her children. He further contrasts his leadership of the Church to those who seek glory, use flattering speech to manipulate the hearers, and have an ulterior motive of greed. Which sounds more like people in government positions today?

One type of authority in the Bible is described as taking your own authority or having inherent authority over others based on your own will and power. This ruler is an autocrat who is domineering. The word authenteo has this meaning. It literally means a self-appointed killer with one’s own hand. It is applied to one who desires to take control, but for whom God has not appointed that role. This is not the Authority Romans 13 describes. The thrust of Romans 13 is to define Authority as those who are not carrying out authenteo.

Finally, there are 2 words which are related, hegemon and hegemoneuo, that are not used in Romans 13. These words are most commonly used for Roman Imperial officials like Pontius Pilate or governors that were set up by Rome. This kind of Authority most closely aligns with the government officials of today’s modern nation state. Paul doesn’t use either of these words in Romans 13. However, Peter does use the word in 1 Peter 2:14 in a parallel passage.
But there like in Romans 13, Peter says they are sent by God to punish evil doers and praise those who do right. Seeing that both Peter and Paul agree on this point means we should pay particular attention. Paul describes Authority in Romans 13:3-4 below.

Romans 13: “3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”

According to Paul, God ordained Authority does not cause fear for good behavior, but causes fear when you do evil. This Authority praises what is good. It serves the people for the cause of goodness. It brings the sword, meaning violence to evil doers.
Are all kings or governments or legal systems, ordained by God? That is a complicated question with no black and white answer. On one side, what human being or human system is good? Jesus said there are none good but God. On the other side, we can also recognize when a person or organization performs well and satisfies the function they are given, even in an imperfect way. So what should Christians do? Observe. Analyze. Think logically and critically about the actions or qualities of the Authority they are under.

In chapter 4 of City of God, Augustine of Hippo made a great observation about State authority:

“Chapter 4.—How Like Kingdoms Without Justice are to Robberies.
Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”

To summarize Augustine, a government that does not support justice is a band of thugs. In his eyes the difference isn’t that greed doesn’t exist within governments but that there is no one above them to punish them for their greed. He actually assumes they are greedy. To follow his logic and apply it to Romans 13:3-4, the less a government supports justice the more it is simply a band of robbers and thugs. It changes from God’s minister bringing wrath to evildoers into evildoers themselves who should receive wrath from God’s minister.

Does a band of robbers, whether they are fleeing from a king or whether they are themselves a government, sound like the group whom Paul commands us to be subject to in Romans 13? If the idea of justice is informed by Natural Law and Natural Rights, the answer comes into clearer focus. What is the Church in the US to do before a government that ignores, suppresses, or violates the Bill of Rights, which as a part of the US Constitution is the ultimate legal authority?

How To Apply Be Subject To Governing Authorities

It should be clear that the two ends of the spectrum, obeying everything and obeying nothing, are not what Paul is commanding in Romans 13. The apostles themselves did not obey everything they were told to do by the Authority of their day. Rejecting the Authority structures God has placed in the world is also clearly wrong as seen in Romans 13:1 and 1 Peter 2:13.

The framework for applying Romans 13 is structured around several pillars. First, Paul describes the purpose of Authority in verses 3-4, to bring justice. Second, justice is properly defined when informed by the Bible and incorporates the ideas of Natural Law and Natural Rights. Third, the Bill of Rights is a clear, legal example of Natural Rights. Finally, the highest governing authority in the United States is the Constitution.

When a law or order or any kind of command comes from the government and it is burdensome, unethical, or illegitimate what should a believer in Jesus do?

The first step is to think clearly and logically about the specific order. We should do that in every circumstance in life. This attribute is listed in the requirements of an elder in 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 1. The word Paul uses to describe this attribute is sophron or sophrosune. It means to have a sound mind, be rational, and self-disciplined in thought. Critically analyze the situation.

Paul also gives similar direction in Ephesians 6:14 when talking about putting on the full armor of God. He writes, “gird your loins with truth.” That means prepare yourself for action by acknowledging what is true and aligning your thoughts with truth. Think through relevant Scripture. Understand the law and your context as well as possible.

Then, pray that God would give direction through the Holy Spirit. He leads into all truth (John 16:13). He empowers Christians to carry out proper actions (Ephesians 5:18). You know that the Holy Spirit is leading to a particular direction when it produces the peace of Christ in you (Colossians 3:15). Take notice of your conscience. Is it supporting that action or opposing it (Romans 2:15, 9:1, 13:5, 14; 1 Corinthians 8 & 10).

Romans 14 teaches that believers can think and act differently in areas where the Bible does not offer specifics. In it Paul appeals to believers to follow their consciences and show grace to others who are doing the same. He doesn’t use the word, conscience, but says a person’s faith should lead them.

In that framework, it could be appropriate for individual Christians or the Church as a whole to ignore a law and continue living as if it didn’t exist. It could be appropriate to speak out against the unjust Authority publicly and loudly. It could be appropriate to defend yourself or others physically and violently in the face of government enforcement. It could even be an organized attempt to replace an unjust government with one you believe will be more just.

The appropriateness of specific decisions will be based on each situation. Any law is illegitimate if it does not conform to the Bible, Natural Law, Natural Rights, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Worldly authority is frequently harmful to the Church’s safety, health, conscience, and obedience to God. Even with minor laws, the government enforces disobedience with violence and confinement. As a State slides down Augustine’s spectrum, it transforms from the minister of God for good to a band of thugs and robbers. The Church has no responsibility to obey thugs and robbers, or at some point it participates in the injustice.

Romans 13 and COVID-19
The Church is in the middle of a situation where understanding Romans 13 and applying it properly is urgent. The government has made orders in response to COVID-19 that are very problematic. However, I have read statements from Church leaders and talked with a few personally who immediately invoke Romans 13 as a reason why we must do whatever the government says. The logic is that the US and State governments have not suspended worship altogether, having allowed virtual and small gatherings. Also, the government has said the purpose of lockdowns and other rules is to protect the health of citizens.

To be clear, there is no problem with the government educating people about pandemics. Government health organizations provide important services by presenting guidelines about how to minimize your exposure to the virus. The truth about disease outbreaks is impossible to understand without someone studying its every aspect and communicating it to the public. Even with basic education, people need someone with expertise and experience giving recommendations of action. However, there are 3 things governments around the world have done that are illegitimate in that they violate either Biblical command, Natural Law, Natural Rights.

First, governments have declared some businesses “essential” and others “non-essential”. They have no authority to make that declaration and even less to use force of law to shut down “non-essential” business. There is no business which is unessential because there is no human being that is unessential. Each job is performed by a human being trying to provide a good or service to other people. Each job is relied upon by that human being to provide for themselves the essential things of life: food, clothes, shelter, etc. In the US alone, 40 million people have lost their jobs due to government edicts. In less developed countries there are tens of millions of people who will die from starvation by most estimates, more than will die from COVID-19. Each non-essential business owner and employee has a decision to make, but they all would be justified to ignore the business shutdowns and continue to provide for themselves. According to the First Amendment the government has no right to shut down businesses or religious practice. The shutdowns of businesses at the very minimum violate Natural Law, people pursuing lives of purpose according to their created human nature. Further it is unclear that the US or State governments even have the right to shut down private organizations of any type in light of the US and State Constitutions.

Second, some State governments have locked down people in their homes or otherwise made it illegal to go outside of their homes except for so-called “essential” activities. There are multiple cases of people being arrested for being in public places even when there was no one else in the area. Some would justify this based on the need to enact quarantines. There could be some legitimacy to enacting quarantines in the case of a health emergency. Obviously, COVID-19 is a health emergency. But the problem is that these lockdowns are not quarantines. Quarantines are when sick people are isolated from the general public to prevent the spread of the disease. It is not a quarantine when healthy people are kept in their homes by force. That is closer to house arrest. Treating the healthy as if they were sick does not protect the public. It treats the healthy with suspicion and confines them for no reason. Again it violates Natural Law and the Natural Rights of people to move freely as long as they don’t pose a threat to anyone else. Treating a healthy person like they have COVID-19 is the same as treating a member of a minority as a suspect of a crime simply because others in that minority commit crimes at a higher rate than other sections of society. They are both unjust. It is defensible for people to ignore the lockdowns and move freely around as long as they aren’t breaking some other law. The police have no right to arrest those who do that.

Third, social distancing requirements are being enforced in public spaces. For example, the City of Austin closed multiple public parks over Memorial Day weekend because people were not obeying social distancing guidelines. Public spaces are owned by taxpayers, so legally they should have the ability to use those spaces. Local governments have the right to manage those areas and give recommendations, but they don’t have a right to bar entrance to people who are otherwise obeying the law and not harming others or property. Presuming that those people are harming others presumes that they are sick, which I addressed in the previous paragraph. Further, the 1st Amendment in the Bill of Rights gives citizens the right to freely assemble and associate. Shutting down public parks or buildings violates the First Amendment. Banning sick people as part of a quarantine is defensible, but not everyone. Even enforcing social distancing is illegitimate. What makes 6 feet allowable and 5 feet unallowable? Is it true that standing 5 feet away from someone else is unethical, immoral, or harmful? Even if you could prove that it was, the police would have to verify through measurement that people weren’t distancing properly. That isn’t happening. It all sounds like one arbitrary rule placed on top of another arbitrary rule with law enforcement acting in an arbitrary manner. Legitimate law is not arbitrary. It is based on Natural Rights for the protection of peoples’ freedoms so they can pursue God’s Natural Law. I for one don’t see any reason to outlaw standing 5 or 4 or 3 feet from another person. That may be the wise thing to do, but it shouldn’t be required by force.
It is important to apply those considerations to society at large because they affect our understanding of the proper relationship between Church and State. In order to obey God fully we must not forget the force of Romans 13:1, the Church needs to support the order of society that God created from families to the Federal Government. But at the same time, in order to obey God fully, the Church has a right, even an obligation, to worship God together in the same room when the State commands otherwise. It does not matter if there is a viral pandemic or those in Authority simply wish to change public policy. Individually, Christians have the same right and further obligation to pursue lives of meaning tailored to who God made them personally and directed by their conscience before Him.


  1. ~~ So what do we do with Acts 16:19-40 ?
    When the magistrates sent the sergeants to release them, Paul & Silas showed them the error of their ways, and the magistrates feared -- when they found P & S were sovereign citizens of Rome, and the magistrates came down from their lofty perch and besought -- beseeched, intreated, prayed, them to depart, which they did -- AFTER spending time at Lydia's house praying and comforting the brethren, which I must assume involved a considerable period of time, since Paul continues for another chapter or two in some of his letters after saying: "Finally,".
    And I think so should our servants fear and tremble when we Sovereign CItizens confront and correct them -- that's why stocks were invented and the act of pilloring ill behaviored servants replaced the more proper discipline of stoning to death.
    "It seems to have been imagined by some that the returning to the mass of the people was degrading the magistrate. This he thoought was contrary to republican principles. In free Governments the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors & sovereigns.
    For the former therefore to return among the latter was not to DEGRADE but to PROMOTE them -- and it would be imposing an unreasonable burden on them, to keep them always in a State of servitude, and not allow them to become again one of the Masters."
    (Emphasis per original)
    Benjamin Franklin; (Remarks in Framing Convention, 1787, s summarized by Madison in his record.)
    a minor prophet....

  2. Thanks for the comment kenn. You bring up an interesting passage in Acts 16. It is one I am familiar with but hadn't considered it in the original article.

    Paul and Silas calling attention to their Roman citizenship shows that they had rights before the Roman government. The idea of natural rights did not exist at that point in history though . Romans thought themselves superior and so non-citizens could be beaten, jailed, and even killed any legal constraints by Romans. At the same time it shows that even in Rome in the time of the Empire, the authorities saw the value to restraining the State from doing anything they wanted to do.

  3. The word "governing" authorities is NOT in the Greek as you basically pointed out. It means higher, rise above, or superior. The word does not mean "governing". So the KJV was a good translation, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers" or higher authority which can be other authorities besides government as you plainly wrote and said. But people get that first verse in their mind that God says we must obey all government rulers because all are authorities only because of their job. But Paul really says we should obey authority that is higher than us (and only if their commands are authoritative, ie in harmony with God's laws since God is the highest authority and all law comes from God.

    1. You highlight well the importance of being able to study the Greek words of the NT or at least compare English translations to see the breadth of meaning that exists.


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