Rom 13:1  Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God.
Rom 13:2  So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment
Rom 13:3  (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation,
Rom 13:4  for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be in fear, for it does not bear the sword in vain. It is God’s servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer.
Rom 13:5  Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience.
Rom 13:6  For this reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants devoted to governing.
Rom 13:7  Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Romans 13 is a cornerstone passage in covering theology.  It is cited as the biblical backing for the following concepts:

  • Everyone should submit to those in authority over them whether it be a husband, pastor, employer or apostle
  • Everyone who is in authority is God’s delegated authority
  • Those who resist God’s delegated authority are resisting God

Bevere writes:

"Since God has appointed all authorities, we refuse the authority behind them if we dishonor or refuse to submit to them.  Whether we know it or not, we resist the ordinance or rule of God.  When we opposed God’s delegated authority, we oppose God Himself. (Bevere 88)"

There are several ways in which the proponents of covering theology misinterpret this passage.

  • Paul is clearly referring to the government not the church, family or workplace
  • God instituted government, but that doesn’t mean we should always follow it
  • Resisting God and resisting what God has ordained are two different things

1) Paul is clearly referring to the government

The New Living Translation renders v1 this way. "Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God."  The nature of the NLT is that it translates concept for concept rather than word for word and that often paints a more accurate picture of what is going on.

The Good News Bible is similar in its approach.  It renders the verse this way: "Everyone must obey state authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God."  The phrase "state authorities" makes it clear Paul is referring to the government.

In is argument Paul refers to three things that are applicable to governments but not to churches.

  • It bears the sword
  • It administers retribution on the wrongdoer
  • It collects taxes

None of the terms used in this passage refer to any church office (Harsville, 204).  Although the words used in Romans 13 most commonly refer to government functions, there are times when they are used by the church to describe similar roles.  For example, a diakonos in the government was a servant of the king;  a diakonos in the church took care of the poor and distributed money.

huperecho "governing" v1 to have or hold over one, superior
archon "rulers" v3 a ruler, commander, chief, leader
diakonos "servant" v4 one who executes the commands of another, especially of a master, a servant, attendant, minister
leitourgos "minister" v6 a public minister, a servant of the state

One thing item of note the word huperecho is used a few other times in scripture.  Paul used it three times in Philippians (2:3, 3:8, 4:7).  It is interesting to see how he uses it in 2:3.

Php 2:3  Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important (huperecho) than yourself.

The manner in which a word is used will change its intended meaning.  Paul isn’t talking about the exact same thing in Rom 13 and Phil 2.  He isn’t calling the Phillipians to treat one another as if they were governing authorities.  In Philipians Paul calls us to consider each other as the ones who have hold over us, our superiors.  However it is another beautiful example of mutual submission in scripture.

Some have put forward the argument that leitourgos is a religious or spiritual term.  It isn’t at all.  It is used in non-biblical Greek writings and meant "render service to the people." Leitourgos was commonly used to describe people who dealt with financial tasks and taxation.  It is used in a Christian context where individuals are rendering service to people.

Jesus instructed the apostles to be nothing like the Gentile rulers in the way they exercised authority (Mat 20:25-26).  The very same gentile rulers Jesus was referring to are the ones Paul is referring to.  I can understand how Paul then would instruct people in Rome to respect the authority of the government.  There is a huge difference between doing that and equating the function of church leadership with the role and methods of state government.

In all the commentaries on Romans I’ve looked at no one even hints that this passage is applicable to the church.  There is debate but not about whether this applies to the church, but whether we should accept a corrupt evil government. In David Barlett’s commentary on Romans he wrote:

In the New Testament itself there is a striking contrast between the understanding of government power as found in Romans and in the book of Revelation, where John of Patmos claims that imperial power comes from Satan, not from God.  In the bible as a whole we have Paul urging that we respect authority; we also have Elijah and Jeremiah condemning authorities.  Christians looking for an easy answer to the question of how to be good citizens will not find such answers in the bible.  Different biblical writers bring different insights to different situations.

2) God instituted government, but that doesn’t mean we should always follow it

When we consider whole counsel of scripture we see many examples where authority is deemed illegitimate or in rebellion against God’s divine will.  We can reconcile this with Romans 13 by acknowledging God has a ordained governments to fulfill a role in society, but these authorities can be in rebellion against God.  Paul doesn’t say authorities represent God, just that they have an appointed role in God’s plan. 

Not everyone in authority is legitimate.  Jeremiah gives us an excellent example in Jer 5:30-31:

Jer 5:30  "Something horrible and shocking
is going on in the land of Judah:
Jer 5:31  The prophets prophesy lies.
The priests exercise power by their own authority.
And my people love to have it this way.
But they will not be able to help you when the time of judgment comes!

The priests definitely held positions of authority, even "spiritual authority" if there is such an animal.  But they exercised their power on their own authority.  It puts to bed the whole notion that everyone who is in authority is God’s delegated authority.

For the sake of consistency and to avoid the all too common method of cherry picking translations I’ve used the New English Translation throughout this website.  The NET, NIV and the NASB are the only common translations that use the word authority when translating v31.  Most other translations convey that the priests rule at the direction of the lying prophets.  Either way the passage still conveys God’s disdain for the priests abuse of their authority and how the people “love to have it this way.”  The NET notes explain some of nuances of the translation.

What did Jeremiah think of the leadership of the nation in his day?

"Jer 5:5  I will go to the leaders
and speak with them.
Surely they know what the LORD demands.
Surely they know what their God requires of them."
Yet all of them, too, have rejected his authority
and refuse to submit to him."

The leadership of Judah was in open rebellion against God.  In order to be faithful to God and follow His authority Jeremiah had to speak against the secular and religious leaders of his day.

Covering theology often speaks of leaders being God’s delegated authority.  If everyone in authority represents God to the people they are in charge of how can:

  • Satan offer Jesus the kingdoms of this world (Mat 4:8-9).
  • Satan be the ruler of this world (Joh 12:31).
  • The apostles decide to disobey their rulers (Acts 4:19-20).
  • Jesus warn his disciples to be discerning in how they follow the instruction of the scribes and Pharisees (Mat 23:23)
  • God give a prophet the authority to uproot entire nations (Jer 1:10)
  • The government be a tool of the anti-Christ in the Book of Revelation

3) Resisting God and resisting what God has ordained are two different things

Paul has chosen to be very precise in his wording in Romans 13.  If he meant to say people are resisting God if they resist authority he would have said that.  Instead he said that those who resist authority are resisting what God ordained or put in order.  God may have established the leaders of Judah but they rebelled against God.  At that point people must resist that which God ordained because people corrupted it.  For Jeremiah to be submitted to God’s authority he had to speak against the authority of his government, the government which God instituted.

The word translated ordained or instituted in this passage is Tasso.  According to Thayer’s lexicon tasso means to "put in order" which is why English translators would use institute or ordain.  A parking lot manager may be appointed/ordained/instituted to be in authority in the parking lot but that doesn’t mean they directly represent the CEO of the company.  Someone who is appointed to a specific position walks in the authority of that position.  If the parking lot manager exercises his or her authority to command a parking lot worker to break company policy a worker may end up in total rebellion against the manager but still completely respecting and following the wishes of the ultimate authority.

19 comments on “Romans 13: 1-7

  1. This is very useful information. My own church is embracing Mr. Bevere’s works and I have been taking a stand opposing and refuting this false doctrine. It is refreshing to know that I am not alone in contending for the faith as it was once for all delivered to the saints.

  2. I have only been going to this church for a few months and I was instructed by my church leadership to read the book Undercover. After reading the first chapter I felt something wasnt right. I began researching what true Biblical submission was, I came across your website and was blown away..all my questions were answered and I thank God that I found it. I had no idea what all this undercover theology meant because I had never heard of it. I now know that the feelings Ive been getting that something wasnt “right” in the leadership were very real. I was told at one point that I shouldnt go on a womens ministering weekend because our pastor said I shouldnt go and that I had to submit to him because he prays for me. That was my first red flag. They called me in to the church at 9pm to tell me this acting as though it was an emergency. I have been going to “counceling” for 3 mos. and it consists of reading and going over this book 2x a week. I told them that i couldnt come one week and I got told that i was being unsubmissive and controlling because I dont have the authority to cancel counceling. I dont know how to handle this just yet and am waiting on the Lord to direct me in this. Thank you so much for showing the truth and Im sooo greatful I found it. God Bless Ya!

  3. I believe God ordains governments to carry out a specific role in society. How would you interpret Rom 13: 1-2?

  4. My queston for, why do question Gods word, as I look many church big and small, Christ will have somthing against them all. The point I want to make is that, what is wrong with a covering, yes God is our authority and covering, is there not a high arch in heaven or is everything just running rampid, God is a God of order and not disorder, God want us to trus and obey. If you are in a curch, then what and who is your converin? If you are not in a Church them who and what is your covering? Allow me to say this some people do not beliveing going to church bcause they say they are the Chuch! however it is the Word of God and faith the Jesus say he will build His church and the gates of hades will not provail.
    just my thoughts.

  5. Charles, I’m not sure if I understand what you are saying. My quick response might be.

    All authority has been given to Jesus and he instructed us to be servants, not to use our authority over others. The bible doesn’t teach us that we are covered by human authority.

    There is biblical leadership described in the bible but the style and approach of leadership doesn’t fit with covering teaching.

  6. Thank you so very much for explaining what Romans 13 DOES NOT mean. I will be referencing you in my upcoming piece on “Touch not the Lord’s anointed”. You have been of immense help.


    Sarah of the Collage

  7. You have been answering all the questions I have been having and have been disturbed about for a long time. The body is in great need of the biblical truth concering this subject in this hour.Thank you very much.

  8. After reading some of Bevere’s writings on authority ie. what he refers to as authority, I can see that he is ‘colouring outside of the lines’, producing some erroneous & dangerous teachings.
    He is confusing ‘authority’ with ‘power’; however making this statement does cause a problem to some degree as different dictionaries have different definitions for ‘authority’ & ‘power’, & some dictionaries tend to equate these two words to some degree.
    Authority (true authority) comes from God, whereas man can produce & exhibit power, for example, by force (eg. physical force), threat (eg. at the point of a gun), coercion, deception (where people confuse man’s power for authority ordained by God) etc.
    In Romans 13, with regards to authority, Paul is not referring to someone in the church such as the pastor (or head deacon etc.), someone in the family such as the husband etc., or someone in the workplace such as a boss or the owner of workplace, but Paul is referring to those people with ruling authority from God ie. specific people who (ad)minister God’s laws over the people/general-population.

    Leighton, you stated, “1) Paul is clearly referring to the government”, and “2) God instituted government, but that doesn’t mean we should always follow it”.
    Can you please be specific on what YOU mean by ‘government’.
    Let me explain the reason for my question. You stated, “Paul is clearly referring to the government not the church, family or workplace”. You use the word ‘church’ where I would use the words “someone in the church such as the pastor (or head deacon etc.)”

  9. The original greek word that we have equated in to power or authority in our english translations is exousia.

    It is one of 7 words in the greek language for power.

    Exousia is the word most often used in the greek language for “liberty” and is even trasnlated in the bible as liberty.

    I wonder if this pastor has been breifed on this scripture by the holy spirit or mammon…..

  10. Thanks, I think The church (you and I) need to be set free from this wicked doctrine of human covering, God alone is our covering! All I can see that this doctrine leads to is control, manipulation, bondage & most seriously – aborted spiritual growth as these leaders don’t believe that we can hear from God for ourselves, but have to submit everything through them to judge if it is from God or not. A 2 year old that has the truth has more authority than a Pastor of 10000 who preaches rubbish. I believe that truth holds real authority and lying church leaders we do not have to submit to and Paul would have told us to leave and have nothing to do with them anyway.

    No i do not have a issue with government authority, but pray for the wicked ones to get saved or God to put the right person there (Hosea 8). God wanted Samuel to rule but the people (not God) wanted a king like the other nations. The authority is put there by God, but the person in place is not always put there by God.

    Hope this helped, God Bless!

  11. Does God appoint or give us governments to bless us or correct us ? Does our voteing count or does god really appoint our leaders

  12. Praise God for Saints like yourself who would rather clarify the word of God based on context and application not emotion. It is very difficult to be in a leadership position when the Ordained has replaced the good news of Jesusyou Christ with this theology. I will continue to pray for you and your ministry in the name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!

  13. God bless you for your insight.

    However, it is good to have a balanced understanding on authority and power. We have to always remember that since the fall of Adam we have that rooted problem of resistance to power and authority. This is one of the personality of our FLESH that we need to yield ourselves daily under the power of the law of the spirit. I believe and have faith that the root of resisting power/authority is destroyed by the power of the cross and we need to keep submitting ourselves under the spirit of God DAILY.

    I believe we can USE this chapter (Romans 13:1-7) for church and family authority/power for the very reason of the word mentioned “the ordinance of God” or “God’s ordinance” on verse 2. Here we need to focus, pay attention and ask “what is God’s ordinances in regards to authority and power”. The ordinance is universal. There are 2 God’s ordinance we read in this chapter.
    1. One is is noted on verse 1 that God establishes authority! Authority is from God. Pay attention to the next verse. In verse 2 it talks about resisting God’s ordinances.
    2. God ordinances in authority and power is simple. Be a servant to your followers. SERVING is the second ordinance. Jesus showed us that and he preached that, as you mentioned. Yes, God gives authority to government and pastors, husbands, managers, or in general men to SERVE HIS PLAN/WILL in this world. Being a servant is also mentioned in Romans 13, right?We can also take the example of the relationship of the Father, God and The Son, Jesus Christ. They are in equal terms but look what Jesus did. Authority is not all about your capability because Jesus has the ability to do anything but he submitted to The Father and became a slave, emptying himself even to the death of the cross. That’s what we need to understand about authorities.

    If anyone, whether government, family, or church has an authority (has the number one) then they MUST also need to have the second one which is SERVING the WILL of GOD. Just look…Jesus has a conversation with Pilate. Pilate said “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” and Jesus said “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” See the problem here is most Christians/people don’t think that in killing one there is no “Will of God” but it was the will of God…and Pilate was the Servant of God to do the Will of God. No body will argue that. Pilate was cruel but God used him as a servant to accomplish HIS WILL. AND Jesus submitted to this WILL of GOD not to the WILL of Pilate or Jews.

    So, let’s ask this…are those who are in authority (government, family, church) use their power to SERVE the WILL of GOD or are they serving their own will or somebody will? In order to SUBMIT yourselves to authorities, everyone MUST know and answer with a “RENEWED MIND” what the will of God is (Romans 12:1-3) for a nation, personal life, church, etc. Otherwise you may seriously “resist the ordinances of God” (Rom 13:2) which also has its consequences because it says “who resist will incur judgment” on verse 2.

    My conclusion: let’s not only read/hear the word of God with our mind but also with our hearts. If whoever is in authority and power is SERVANT who works towards the ultimate PLAN and PURPOSE of God, we are obliged to SUBMIT. Whether we like the way and personality of their leadership, ideas, decisions, and attitudes or not, make sure that they are SERVING the WILL of GOD because everything we see and hear may not be acceptable or good to our feelings and logical minds.

    Whoever is around us, who is also in authority and has power – are they SERVING the WILL of GOD? If not, use one or more of these three options:
    1. Pray diligently and
    2. Try to open a loving conversation because we speak the truth in love. (Just be like Natan – a messenger from God who spoke the truth in Wisdom”. As a Christian we should act like Christ and take care not involve in such actions as “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy” Gal 5. If you do, you are no better than the person whom you want to talk and has authority.
    3. If there is nothing to talk or discuss about, separate your ways in PEACE and it will keep you from gossip and slander.

    God bless you all.

  14. i agree with a lot of things you said brother. its a shame that some of your opinions are stated as facts and could lead people astray. though i totally understand the points you are raising i think it is important when writing such brave, bold and in some cases TRUE statements that you display what is opinion and what is fact backed up with scripture.

    the main problem i have with what you’ve written is that in ‘1) Paul is clearly referring to government’ you state that Romans 13 is referring to being under subjection to government. i strongly disagree. Then in your next argument ‘2) God instituted government, but that doesn’t mean we should always follow it’, you contradict yourself with a passage from a time that was in a completely different dispensation to your original statement made in 1). if God ordains a governing body in any realm or structure my opinion is that we follow it unless a DELIVERANCE comes or THE HOLY GHOST tells us otherwise.

    i will put a group of scripture at the end that back up my argument, so we can study the whole situation instead of lifting verses out of a full package

    Are we talking about COVERING or governing bodies? i will explain more detailed.

    In your second argument about Jeremiah i believe you are correct in the belief that God did not want the people to follow the governing body set over them at the time. So just like with Moses in egypt, like the prophet Samuel with Saul, like David and Goliath and like David and Saul he sends a man of GOD to fix the governing bodies. This is known as DELIVERANCE.

    Now in KJV Romans 13v1 it states nothing about governing authorities. it reads ‘Let every SOUL be subject unto the HIGHER POWERS. For there is no power but of GOD’. which leads me onto Jeremiah, (also known as the weeping prophet). When God ordered him to go before the people in the name of the Lord, he became the higher power for GOD that Romans 13 is referring to, so the people should have taken heed, but their flesh got involved (Romans 8v1 explains why we must not walk after the flesh). Romans 13 is a warning that we should take heed to the leaders GOD sets in place OVER us because he has sent them to COVER us. No man harkened unto Jeremiah (who was Gods chosen messenger, therefore giving him AUTHORITY to COVER the people) and those who were leaders in the flesh were destroyed. but what happens next is where we see Romans 13 truly comes alive.

    Jeremiah 51 mainly verse 20 till the end, and Jeremiah 52 this is the vengeance that comes against those who don’t hear Gods chosen authority. Daniel 1-3 and finally Daniel 4 read it for yourself and you will unlock the true meaning of Romans 13. God often delivered israel into the hands of their enemies for their disloyalty to him and many other reasons (Nehemiah 9v27, Judges 2:14). this is all wrapped up in Romans 13 v1, i havent even managed to stretch to the other verses yet.

    let me know what you think.

  15. Corey

    The KJV/AV isn’t a credible translation for interpretive work today. The ESV, NASB, NIV and NRSV, and NLT all use “governing authorities” rather than “higher powers.” The context clearly points in that direction. This is why every modern translation renders the passage this way. In v6&7 Paul sums up his main point. Christian’s should pay their taxes.

    To take a conversation about taxes and apply it to the church really isn’t a faithful application. You are ignoring hundreds of years of solid Christian interpretation to be able to read “covering” in to this passage.

    I don’t see how cross referencing Paul with Jeremiah on the topic of government somehow crosses “dispensations.” I don’t know how Christ’s death on the cross would have changed how we relate to government.

    I can also cross reference Paul with Paul in Galatians 2 where it is pretty clear Paul didn’t follow people just because they were the recognized leaders.

    There is a very tangible problem in claiming Rom 13 is about the church and government and then accepting that Jeremiah was a God appointed rebel against the government. The idea that God rises up a deliverer who is now the new authority that everyone should submit to could create an amazing amount of chaos in the church. How many self-appointed deliverers will rise up in church claiming God made them the new deliverer and the new authority over the established corrupt church leadership?

  16. LT

    thank you for your response. I cannot agree that the KJV is not a clear translation, but each to their own.

    The cross reference was not about government, it was supposed to be about covering, which is why i made a clear point to make it known that biblically covering changes over the dispensations. Jesus himself had already said Render unto Caesar what is Caesar and unto God what is God’s. Making it clear that we should render unto BOTH, church do not call it taxing but we contribute to the Lord. Research Tithing in Old Testament and first fruits in the New Testament.

    The main point i was making is that when we speak of covering that can only be ordained by God, and we do not submit to the deliverer, we submit to God. Do you know the story of when the deliverer David numbered the people LT?

    Our Holy Ghost will tell us if we are being led by the right people or not. those who dont understand that will not understand my point.

  17. Corey

    Your comment affirming the KJV is an indication that we approach the authority and interpretation of scripture very differently. The KJV is very old, the english is outdated and sometimes misleading to contemporary hearers. It was translated in part from Latin and the greek text it is translated from is much younger than the ones we’ve used for the past 100 years. While the bible was being copied some scribes added words and they accumulated over the centuries. In more recent times we found much older texts which we can safely assume are more accurate copies of the original documents. Most modern translations are based on the older copies of greek texts.

    In my approach to scripture I believe is absolutely necessary to understand the words written the way the author would have understood them in their context. When that is established then we extract a universal principle that can then be applied and understood in our context.

    The KJV is inferior to other modern translations in three major ways:

    In part it is a translation of a translation which is big jump from understanding the original words in their context.
    The rest of the New Testament was translated from copies that had some alterations, which again takes me away from the original words.
    The language it is translated in is archaic and some words in english have changed meanings in 500 years. So it isn’t great to apply in our context either.

    When doing the work of biblical interpretation we can’t just pick and choose the bible translation that fits our thinking the best. That isn’t respecting the text.

    Now in this particular passage did the KJV error grievously. No, it didn’t. It renders huperchero as “higher” which is very literal but understandable and “exousia” as powers which isn’t as a good as the more common rendering of “authority” but it is certainly within the range of meaning. The reason why modern translations say “governing authorities” is because of the greater context of the letter.

    If I’m at the bible school I work and I’m talking to a student that is getting in trouble and I say “you need to submit to higher authority” is pretty clear in context I’m talking the school authorities. If someone were to translated what I said into another language they would use my use the equivalent of “deans”, “staff, or “teachers” because they are the higher powers.

    Lots of people could say the very same thing and not believe in a covering. The church traditionally accepts authority, but the authority people have is conditional based on their character and faithfulness and when necessary people need to follow God rather than authority.

    There is no evidence in this passage that Paul believes in unswerving obedience to those in authority just because they are in authority.

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