As I told readers some weeks back, my son, Tim Baldwin, and I have collaborated on a brand new book that deeply analyzes the teaching of Romans chapter 13. This book is an in-depth study of the full teaching of scripture relevant to the subject of submission to civil authority from both the Old and New Testament, and from the writings of Christian philosophers throughout history. At no time in our nation’s history was a book of this nature more necessary! The book is entitled Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission. In fact, my four-part DVD message series on Romans 13 is but a thumbnail sketch of the exhaustive amount of information contained in this book.
The following paragraphs are the introductory paragraphs of a few chapters (without the citations and footnotes).
Chapter 2: ‘Higher Powers’ Superseded by ‘Highest Powers’
Higher powers necessarily do not equate to the authority of God--Who is the Highest power--but only serve as God’s limited agent on earth for a limited purpose. Within that purpose, those “powers that be are ordained of God.” That all persons who wield power are ordained of God as His ministers mocks sound rules of construction and interpretation, as well as common sense, and results in treachery. Even God’s power alone does not necessitate an internal obligation to submit to His power. Rather, it is His power in conjunction with God’s wisdom, power and goodness, which creates an obligation in humans to submit to His authority. So it has been observed, “if to the idea of Creator we join . . . the idea of a being perfectly wise and sovereignly good, who has no desire of exercising his power but for the good and advantage of his creatures; then we have every thing necessary to found a legitimate authority.”
Scriptures state the same, “[the people of Israel] bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, ‘For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever’.” God ordains government in that its function is to serve His purpose of good; just as when God created all there is as recorded in the book of Genesis, He looked at His creation and declared all to be “good.” God did not create all there is and declare it to be good, only to subject all of mankind to the strongest tyrant capable of enslaving them. He created “good” for His glory and for man’s benefit. His ordinations can be no different. In whatever form the government may be, higher powers are always “under” or “below” God and never possess God’s approval when it contradicts the good purposes for which God ordains government.
Chapter 4: That God Commands Unlimited Submission to Unjust Government Contradicts God’s Nature
God’s word reflects His nature: “For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering.” That God sanctions any persons in government to enforce any acts as His ministers—thus demanding unlimited submission to the same without regard to the standards of God’s established justice--contradicts God’s nature, God’s laws, the prophecies concerning Jesus and His ministry, and the plain reading of Romans 13. God is the author of justice for all nations in every generation: “[God’s] judgments are in all the earth”; “his truth endureth to all generations;” and “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.”
In fact, Scriptures reveal that God’s laws of justice were created to last forever, saying, “[God] laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.” And in fact, when God created these laws for mankind, these laws already existed as a part of God’s nature. The foundations of God’s laws, justice and righteousness cannot be removed by His ministers with His ordination.
Chapter 7: Submission to the ‘Higher Powers’ Standard May Require New Persons
A genuine recognition of submission to a God-ordained government may require new higher powers. Replacing bad government with good would be necessary to comport to God’s command for submission to government in Romans 13. One’s duty to God, self, family and neighbor sometimes requires this. It is this duty that creates obligation, and out of obligation comes power, or ordination. Put differently, “every action, contrary to the ends which God has proposed, is not agreeable to the divine Majesty; and that he approves, on the contrary, those which of themselves are proper to promote his ends.” Upon this principle, it has been rightly noted concerning the power of people to replace governors,
“This power [of governors] [the people] can limit, modify or recover at pleasure; for the alienation of such a right is incompatible with the nature of the social body, and contrary to the end of association.”
The people can limit this power because it is for their benefit that God ordained the power in the beginning. Where the power contradicts this benefit, God’s ordination rests with those who would resist and replace. For this reason, God rhetorically asks, “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?” Truly, tyrants and those who seek fellowship with God do not mix.
Chapter 11: Submission Must Consider the Merit of ‘Higher Powers’
God’s creation teaches nothing more clearly than this: no human authority deserves or is entitled to unconditional submission. In essence, all earthly submission is limited and conditional. In Romans 13, conditional submission is described as such: for this cause do we pay tribute; render, therefore, duties, custom, fear and honor. Our submission is based upon the merit, or end, of the higher powers, which is described in the verses prior to Romans chapter 13 verses 6 and 7. Submission, and thus, rendering duties, custom, fear and tribute, regard the benefits of government. So it has been said,
“Civil rulers are not mere tax gatherers . . . There is a service rendered--a work done--benefit received; and on the common principles of equity which regulate all matters of a pecuniary kind.”
Merit is a consideration of the authority, purposes and jurisdiction of “higher powers,” as well as what is best for that particular society.
Chapter 13: Submission Must Consider One’s Duties to Others
The Old Testament and New Testament summarize the duty man has towards God and other men. They are found in the following Scriptures:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 (KJV).
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12 (KJV).
God imposes a duty upon all mankind relative to others and to God, and these duties transcend all other duties and eternally exist in principal regardless of whether government exists in society or not. Upon this truth, it was correctly stated: “[t]he origin of your duties is in God. The definition of your duties is found in His law. The progressive discovery and the application of His law is the task of Humanity.”
A proper understanding of one’s submission to the higher powers must strongly take into consideration one’s duty to God, his fellow man and family. Scripture exhorts us to love our neighbors even as ourselves and strongly commands that we take care of our family. Such a command to love our neighbors is actually described in similar nature as our love for God and is even described as a fulfillment of the law of Moses. Such a love takes priority over any sort of submission to a higher power that contradicts God-ordained limitations and attempts to destroy or hinder those higher duties. Accordingly, our love and duty to our neighbors requires that we practice self-government, self-responsibility, justice and equity; and that we ensure good government is practiced. For out of Christ’s death, we are to live life more abundantly on earth, not to be sacrificed to those who steal, destroy, and conquer.