A Servant of God for Good.

Romans 13 must be read in the context of Romans 12. Great Commission living characterized by love includes our lives as citizens. God has graced us with human government, and every person is influenced by it. Our interaction should be marked by righteousness.

Many synonyms are used to describe leaders of human government in these verses. The words authority, minister, servant, ruler, and avenger all denote paid officials who are elected or appointed over us in civil matters.

Our Resolve (Romans 13:1)

Every believer should resolve to stand under the authority of human government. The verb used in verse 1 does not mean complete and total obedience without question. It literally means "to stand under," not to sit. We live with wisdom under every civil authority from the local to national level.

Our Reasons (Romans 13:1b-5)

Verses 1b-2 make very clear that God has appointed authority. Many passages throughout the Old and New Testament reiterate this truth. (See Daniel 2:36-38, 4:17, Isaiah 40:23-24, 45:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-14, Titus 3:1-2, and 1 Timothy 2:1-5.) God established the institution of government in Genesis 9:1-7 and continues to establish human authorities across dispensations. It is natural to revere our authorities and thank God for them.

Verse 2 gives a further reason: rejection of God-appointed authority brings judgement. Authorities' purpose is to promote good and punish evil. The word for "minister" in verse 4 is the same one translated "deacon" elsewhere in Scripture. Civil servants are servants of God attending to the physical, financial, and material matters of society. They are authorized to exercise wrath – not immediate, explosive wrath that is sinful, but a patient wrath that is just. In other words, God's intends for them to exercise due process.

Our Remuneration (Romans 13:6-7)

Simply put, civil servants deserve to be paid for their work. The word "servants" in verse 6 was also used for those working in the Temple in the Old Testament and is used of Paul, of ministers in the church, of angels, and of Christ. (See Romans 15:16, Philippians 2:25, Hebrews 1:7, 8:2, and 10:11.) Whether officials recognize it or not, government work is a sacred honor.


"Paul could not more strongly have shown that civic leaders are, in fact, God's servants for God's purposes." We are to honor them with financial means and an attitude of respect. (See Matthew 22:21 and 1 Timothy 2:1-5.) This principle still holds when believers find themselves under tyrannical governments. If life is threatened, there is an option to remove oneself from the situation and escape to safety. We don't know God's omniscient reasons for placing various authorities in power. We must always stand up wisely, remain respectful in our disposition, and show Christ before broadcasting any political position. We can always appreciate government that generally does what is right.

Application Points

  • What is your attitude toward human government? Do you thank God for what He has instituted? Are you respectful of civil leaders? Do you pay taxes and other financial duties?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 2:13-20, Colossians 3:19-25, Ephesians 5:21-33 – Other applications of the authority-submission principle.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Bow the Knee"

What a privilege to come into God's presence,
Just to linger with the One who set me free.
As I lift my eyes and see His awesome glory,
I remember who He is and bow the knee.

Bow the knee; bow the knee.
He is King of all the ages; bow the knee!
God alone on His throne -
See Him high and lifted up and bow the knee.
Kneel before Him; all adore Him.
As you live to love Him more, bow the knee.

In His hands He holds the power of creation.
With His voice He spoke, and all things came to be.
Yet He hears each simple prayer I bring before Him
When I humbly seek His face and bow the knee.