• What’s the Real Ultimate Authority All Men Must Obey?  God or Government?

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    Surge Summary: This writer takes issue with the traditional interpretation of  the New Testament book Romans 13: To what authority is the Apostle Paul referring in the passage? Are Christians obliged to obey the government in all circumstances? What does the Bible show about disobedience to some government edicts?

    by Dominic MacAulay

    A problem many Christians in America struggle with when contending with the unconstitutionalities of our Government officials is text of Romans 13. This particular passage written by Paul to the church in Rome reads as such:

    “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 

    Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

    Now, according to this passage, one would be easily led to the conclusion that Christians are commanded to obey those in governmental positions because those in the government have the same power and authority essentially as God. Furthermore, this passage would also seem to dictate that any person who would disobey those in the government are punishable by God.

    This inaccurate translation from the original Greek to Modern English has resulted in a skewed view of which authorities we are unconditionally commanded to obey.

    But what is the truth? Is the government all powerful? Should we as Christians adhere to their every command because they have been given God’s authority? Of course not. This was never the intended meaning of this passage, and the understood principle provided by this translation was never a truth to begin with.

    If, say, I were to take this principle to the extreme and say that if the ruler of the world in which you live commands you to deny God’s authority and disgrace his name to all who can hear you, would you be morally inclined, under the punishment of God, to follow suite in this command? Or if a person in governmental authority were to command you specifically to commit a sexually immoral sin, would this principle described in modern translations of Romans 13 signify your duty to comply?

    Of course, any person with some sort of sense would immediately answer no to this sort of horrendous idea. Yet, according to these modern translations, you would be led to believe that, even in a minuscule sense, this is the will of God.

    So, where is the evidence that Paul was not speaking of the government in this passage, and, moreover, what authority did he intend to be adhered to?

    Well, a simple answer can be derived when examining the earlier translations of the Greek to English Bible. The exact same verses from Romans 13, when read from the King James Bible identifies:

    “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

    Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

    Now, aside from a few of the older english words, there is only one difference between the two texts. This difference is, in fact, the defining term of the passage.

    In the modern translation, the term is “governing authorities,” however, the elder English translation reads “higher powers.”

    This difference, although small, shifts the meaning to be much closer to the original context of the passage. Governing authorities is a term most every person in America would associate with the officials elected into civil office, and though it can also mean the governing authorities of God as the ultimate ruler of the world, this phrasing often confuses the meaning.

    Higher powers can have the same effect on both sides, but it resounds differently when read in with the rest of the verse. The phrase, “There is no power but of God,” is a very clear one that, when coupled with the beginning phrase, leaves little to no room for debate.

    This, although building a case against the commonly misunderstood meaning, does not provide any concrete evidence that shuts down entire argument in the first place.

    So let’s look at the original, word-for-word greek passage of this phrase. Since both, and in fact all, translations are based in this original text, the true meaning of the greek words Paul used will be indisputable fact. The term “governing authorities” when reverted to greek, directly translates to the words, “uperechousais exousiais.” These, therefore, are what we know to be the direct and exact words Paul wrote in his letter to the disciples in Rome.

    Each word, when translated to english individually, interprets as such:

    uperechousais – surpass, superior, beyond, above

    exousiais – power to act, authority

    As you can see, the transliteration from the greek words themselves directly to the tethered english words produces a phrase like “surpassingly superior power to act.”

    Now, I don’t know about you, but my studies of the Bible as a whole have concluded that there is no such surpassing authority ever given or acknowledged to that of a human government. In fact, the Christian apostles of the day, including Paul himself, never adhered to the government when it violated their adherence to God.

    Never, even in the secular world, has the authority given to or taken by a governing leader been surpassing and unattainable. In America, most anyone can attempt at any position of governmental power. In ancient or even modern dictatorships, the strongest ruled. If there was a leader above you, they could be killed and replaced by anyone who dared succeed.

    So, since a human government is not the power referenced in Romans 13, what exactly is this governing authority we are bound to submit to? What kind of power is surpassing and beyond anything we can attain?

    The simple answer is clearly God. God is the governing authority. God is the higher power. Only God holds a surpassingly superior and unattainable power. And as the rest of the passage concludes, there is no true power outside of God’s. Other human authorities only exist because of God, and will only continue to exist under God.

    That is the true meaning of Romans 13. That is what abides parallel with the rest of the Bible before and after it. When Potiphar’s wife commanded Joseph to act contrary to God, he disobeyed. When the Israelite kings demanded the prophets’ compliance against God’s will, they refused. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were ordered to bow down and worship a golden image, they remained standing. When Daniel was told to pray to Darius the king alone, he prayed only to God. When the Disciples were told to renounce Jesus by the Jewish and Roman authorities, they proclaimed the gospel all the more. When Jesus himself was ordered to stop teaching contrary to the pharisees, he looked them in the eyes, and preached his love.

    Just as it did in the times behind us, and as it will in the time ahead, when faced with the choice of following God, or following man, never neglect to choose God.


    NIV Translation

    KJV Translation

    Greek Translation

    Uperechousais Translation

    Exousiais Translation

    The views here are those of the author and not necessarily Daily Surge

    Originally Posted here.

    Image: Picture of Dik Laan on Pixabay .

    Dominick MacAulay writes for Institute on the Constitution.

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