In Chapter 12 the apostle taught the duties, responsibilities, and proper attitudes incumbent upon believers with respect to one another, with exhortation in reference to our conduct in the world and our attitude toward all men. In this chapter he deals with our duties and attitudes as members of an ordered society. This chapter has to do with our attitude toward ALL AUTHORITY, especially civil authority.
Some of the reasons why Paul had to deal with this subject are: (1) The early Christians were charged with sedition and thought to be enemies of the government. Christ was accused of being Caesar's enemy. (2) Some of the early Christians were Jews, the seed of Abraham, who resented any Gentile ruler. (3) Some of the early Christians had the idea that since most rulers, magistrates, and people in authority were wicked and profane men, therefore children of God's kingdom should not obey or be subject to them.
(Vs. 1) "Let every person be loyally subject to civil and governing authorities." These kings, presidents, governors, policemen, or whatever are called higher powers because they are vested with authority over others. To be subject unto them is to show respect, obedience, and honor suitable to their stations and to obey their lawful commands with submission. It is also to pray for them rather than to rail against them (Titus 3:1-2; I Peter 2:13).
"There is no authority except from God." God is the fountain and source of all power. All authority is by His permission and appointment. This verse refers mainly to civil authority but is true of all authority, such as husbands, parents, employers, eldersthey all get their right to rule and lead from God. Evil men may abuse, misuse, and corrupt authority; but government and leadership is necessary and must be obeyed.
(Vs. 2) The person who resists, rebels against, or sets himself against proper authority in any of these places is resisting the order and ordinance of God. Authority resisted, in the faithful and right discharge of office, will bring God's judgment on the offender. However, this does not include those officers who set their rules and laws ABOVE the Law of God. The Scripture says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord" (Eph. 6:1). When men set themselves in defiance of God's Law, they are to be resisted (Heb. 13:17).
(Vs. 3) Authority in any area is not a terror to people of right motive and good conduct. Authority is only hated by those whose works are evil. Would you have no dread or fear of those in authority? Then do what is right and you will have their approval.
(Vs. 4) Persons in places of authority (whoever they are) are the servants of God for the general welfare of all. What would a home, school, office, factory, city, or country be like without authority? Think about a game without a referee. What chaos would reign if there were no laws and no power to enforce them!
If we are NOT WILLING to follow God's order and His proper chain of command, if we are NOT WILLING to submit to authority, then the authority is designated by God to deal with us by his own hand, and in so doing he is God's instrument of wrath and judgment.
(Vs. 5) Therefore, believers are subject to authority not only through fear of punishment or to avoid wrath, but the believer APPROVES OF AUTHORITY and respects it as a matter of conscience, wisdom, and principle. Our consciences not only tell us that God's way of rule and order is right, but we approve of and love His way.
(Vs. 6) "For this cause." It is ordained of God, it is for the general welfare and good of all, and we understand and agree with the need for leadership and authority. We are to pay our taxes and that which is required of us for the support of governing officials and magistrates. Leaders in government, such as presidents, senators, city and county officials, policemen, firemen, teachers, etc., promote the general welfare of the society and are to be supported by the taxes of the people. They, too, are God's servants in full-time, continuing work.
(Vs. 7) "Render to all men what is due unto them." Whatever authority a man has entrusted to him is a sacred trust for which he shall give an account to God. That is his business. But our responsibility is to obey, respect, and submit to them as unto the Lord. Pay taxes to whom taxes are due, give respect to whom respect is due, and give honor to whom honor is due.