The Bible and Respect for Authority

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The Bible and Respect for Authority

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"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities," wrote the apostle Paul. "For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God" (Romans 13:1). This includes the payment of taxes and other obligations (Romans 13:2-7). Remember that the Roman government of the time had its own problems with corruption and abuse of power. But such behavior does not give people an excuse to disobey the law or disrespect the authority of their leaders.

Peter gave his readers the same instruction: "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors ..." (1 Peter 2:13-14). We are also to "honor the king" or chief ruler (verse 17). Paul echoes Peter's instruction to Titus: "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no one ..." (Titus 3:1-2). Elsewhere Paul exhorts us pray "for kings and all who are in authority" (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

All this does not mean that we are to disobey God in situations where the law of man may conflict with the law of God (Acts 4:18-20; Acts 5:40), but even then Christians are to continue to respect government authority—even when those in positions of authority have abused their offices.