Romans 13: Should We Obey or Not Obey?

Recently a friend of mine was making the argument that the Bible has been corrupted. He based this argument partially on the Bible passage from Romans 13 saying that this passage is a corruption because it has been used by certain religious groups to convince Christians to “stand down” in the face of a tyrannical government. I would like to state right off the bat that I do not believe that the Bible is or has been corrupted and that topic is for another discussion/blog/argument/whatever. What I do want to write about it is the controversy surrounding Romans chapter 13 as stated below:

Rom 13:1 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.

Rom 13:2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Rom 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

Rom 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Rom 13:5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

Rom 13:6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

Rom 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Rom 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

Rom 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Rom 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Rom 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

Rom 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

Rom 13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

Rom 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

Apparently this passage has been used and is continually being used to convince Christians that they should NOT resist tyranny or evil when the government is doing it. I have read that Hitler used this passage as well with the churches in order to quell any resistance at that time.

I argue that this passage was not put in the Bible so that Christians could become cowards in the face of tyranny or evil but it was put in the scripture by God to remind Christians that we should obey authority when that authority is within the perimeters of God's will. Whenever scripture is to be interpreted it is not to be interpreted outside of the context of the entire word of God. That is, it is not to be taken out of context.

Do you think that Christians should submit to "ungodly laws based on Romans 13"?

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I would like to submit three passages of scripture that I believe teach that if the government is tyrannical that we are, as Christians, encouraged (by scripture) to resist that government. They are:

Exo 1:15 And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah:

Exo 1:16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.

Exo 1:17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.

Exo 1:18 And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive?

Exo 1:19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them.

Exo 1:20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.

In this passage God dealt well with the midwives when they specifically disobeyed the ungodly command to kill the Hebrew babies. Not only did God approve of this disobedience but he also rewarded the midwives.

The next passages are:

Mar 6:18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.

Mar 6:19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not:

Luk 3:19 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's, and for all the evils which Herod had done,

Luk 3:20 Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison

John protested Herod's having his brother's wife as a lover and was arrested and ultimately murdered in prison for it. Jesus said of John that he was the greatest prophet. If we are to submit to the government then why did John protest Herod's infidelity? If we are to idly stand down while evil runs rampant John is not a very good example is he?

The next scripture is as follows:

Act 5:25 Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people.

Act 5:26 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.

Act 5:27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,

Act 5:28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.

Act 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

Peter and all of the other apostles must be confused as well since they were very clear in their answer to the authorities saying “we ought to obey God rather than men”!

Additionally, if the view that we are to submit to all government regardless of it's evil nature is true then God would clearly be contradicting himself when he tells us to refuse the mark of the beast written about in Revelation 13:13.

(Rev 13:16) And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

(Rev 13:17) And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

(Rev 14:9) And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,

(Rev 14:10) The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:

It is my conclusion that Romans 13 was provided to instruct us that even though we have freedom in Christ, we are still to obey the laws of God that are provided in righteousness. However, once those laws violate the laws of God it is clear that we are to boldly protest, we are to use our wits to circumvent evil dictates and finally we are not to obey them. Now whether we are to sell our cloaks to buy a swords in order to violently oppose them, I will discuss at another time! :)

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Comments 44 comments

no body profile image

no body 6 years ago from Rochester, New York

The devil who rules this world would have everything that is holy, perverted. He even now seeks to put laws in place to have many things that people of God do made illegal. We have no choice but to obey God rather than men. Great hub.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

Very True no body, thanks for the comments.


Vladimir Uhri profile image

Vladimir Uhri 6 years ago from HubPages, FB

Thanks for this hub.

God is number one, we fallow.

Merry Christmas.


preacherbill profile image

preacherbill 6 years ago

any law that goes against the Bible is wrong therefore

it is not to be obeyed. period.


A M Werner profile image

A M Werner 6 years ago from West Allis

I don't believe we are authorized by the Lord to fight back. I've always believed in passive disobedience to that which is unjust. The difficult part of being passive, is realizing you are on the Lord's time, and may have to suffer unduly (longsuffering and patient) until the Lord decides how to conclude the matter. Success cannot be measured as humanity measures success. Like Meshach, Shaddrach and Abedago going into the firey furnace - you acknowledge the power and their right to do what they are doing, and yet, you humbly submit to not agree and allow them to do whatever it is they are going to do.

Daniel 3:17-18 'If it be so, our Creator whom we serve is able to deliver us. . .But if not, be it known O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.' Good hub.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

A M Werner: I understand your comments but I am curious as to what you think about the words that Jesus said asking if the disciples had swords and if not to sell their cloak and go buy one???


Moonchild60 profile image

Moonchild60 6 years ago

I must say I am shocked that you don't believe the bible has ever been corrupted. I have heard many theologians admit that the bible has been "rewritten and revised" many times. Additionally, you state that "God put this in the scriptures" and God did not write the bible. Men did. Apparently over and over again.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

The Bible says:

2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

2Ti 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

If the scripture contained lies and half-truths it would not be profitable for doctrine would it? All scripture is inspired by God, I think that God, the Creator of the universe, who is all powerful and all knowing could manage 1 book!


A M Werner profile image

A M Werner 6 years ago from West Allis

Brie, I believe He was preparing them to make a point in Luke 22:36. In verses 25-34, the Lord clearly explains how people prefer to lord over one another but with them it would not be so. The temptation however to behave that way, to not suffer wrong unto death like Peter's thrice denial, but to fight would be too strong for many. He asks them in verse 35, if they ever wanted for anything in His service and they answered 'no.' But He knew the time was coming when He would be taken - and He knew some would fight to defend Him. And sure enough in Luke 22:49-51, Peter used a sword to injure Malchus - an injury the Lord immediately healed. Since they could not fight, everyone ran off and Peter went into his denial mode.


godpreacher profile image

godpreacher 6 years ago from Atlanta,Ga.

What a hub for discussion.

great topic and information, but I think I'll hold my comments momentarily.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks for the comments godpreacher.

I sent this to my pastor. He is of the opinion that we have the right to self defense but not to offense. I think I agree with him but things like Hitler and WWII make me wonder. I would really like to figure this out because if you wait until you need the answer I'm afraid it will be too late.


Debradoo profile image

Debradoo 6 years ago from Cocoa, Florida

A wonderful and informative hub. False doctrine (a terribly wrong interpretation of the Bible) is a doctrine that usually is extreme in understanding both the words and actions of the Bible (usually an all or nothing type deal) and can provide only an unbalanced lifestyle. But, you have presented here, a 'rightly dividing of the Word of God' and that is a much needed thing .. balance. God bless you!


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thank you Debradoo, I am interested in Truth even if it is not what I personally want.


Bill Arnold 6 years ago

Thanks, Brie; I believe we are to actively resist wrong even if it is law; we must, however, expect to bear the consequences of our resisting, for the secular government will surely exact it's "pound of flesh". Romans 13 can be taken out of context by "proof text" adherents to "prove" their point that whatever the powers that be is right; anyone with common sense knows better.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks for commenting Bill, unfortunately common sense is at a premium these days.


Hollander Price 6 years ago

I'd love to first point out that I am a member of the US military and I would proudly serve and protect my country. However, if my leaders issue any unlawful orders I will not comply. Likewise, if the government imposes any law that contradicts the Word of agod, I will also not comply. Like the above posts have already mentioned, use common sense. But also pray to the Lord, heed the scriptures, and follow your convictions. If Obama told me to kill innocent toddlers and babies, how could I possibly do that and not feel convicted. That would be shameful. If the president told me to do so I would rather take my own life ( or his, for that matter) than destroy an innocent one. If I lived in a Muslim country and was ordered to rape a captured woman of the enemy ( in accordance to Sunna and Sharia law), I wouldn't do it. I would disobey.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

During the Katrina crisis, military men confiscated arms of innocent civilians (from their homes no less). Some refused to do so, they are my heroes.


Elijah Returns 6 years ago

Thanks Brie, I want to use this for my homeland security clergy response team memberships....to show Christians can and must resist evil.

Best Wishes


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

Feel free...just make sure to give me credit so that I can get the word out.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

Do not put links on my hub pages, especially ones that have anything to do with the Jehovah Witness cult!


 6 years ago

I am not a Jehovahs Witness, nor part of their cult


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

Then why did you put a link to the watchtower organization on my hub?


elijah returns 6 years ago

I didn't, the essay exposes the watchtower, the so called true religion and exposes it for its relations with UN and as homeland security team player.....the essay exposes hypocrisy, and that true Christians are no part of this world, nor do they obey laws which violate Gods law.....and watchtower misuses romans 13, and thats what its all about


Elijah Returns 6 years ago

I put no link to the Watchtower, for I am no part of it, my article is on them being part of homeland security, how they got 501c3 status, and didn't tell any of their 7 million strong members.....but this is what is going on in religion all over America...the article was a bit of a wake up call, because soon, the state will enforce romans 13, and as George Bush said, you are either with him or against him...and Christians in America dont know what is going on...or what is about to happen....so, I am no JW, nor am I part of their set up, if you see what I write you will see that clearly


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

I'm so sorry Elijah, I didn't even look at it. I get a lot of spam from the Mormons and JW's and just jumped to conclusions.


brotheryochanan profile image

brotheryochanan 6 years ago from BC, canada

Luckily here in north america we don't really have to worry about ungodly laws. We are well off indeed, with a freedom to worship that is 90% intact. Our worries are about speeding tickets, minute things like that.

I wonder sometimes about submission period. We are to be gentle as lambs and peacekeepers, yet jesus made a whip and cast out the moneychangers, then he was silent upon the cross. Peacekeepers, when someone is smiting us on the cheek by giving the other one also, yet, does it make sense to obtain a broken bone not even for your belief just because a bully is frustrated?

Submission is good and puts forth a good front.

What if the government police or 'belief police' as i call them (in china) asked me if i believed in jesus.. would i be better off to lie and say no and still be "at large" or to do my lying in the jails about what my brethrens names are? These are all areas that i believe a utopic answer can be arrived at, but i say "thank goodness for the shed blood of jesus". Decisions of tantamount importance are a personal decision, the smaller decisions God has instructed us as to his way.

As for WW2 and hitler..Nebuchadnezzar could be labeled as a nazi. Wars are not started by individual people but by governments and that's politics for ya. Often its greed, we see this plainly in Nebuchadnezzar but not so plainly in George bush... because the bible tells us so and the bible tells us of the nature of unsaved mankind. These are what start wars; opportunity, cunning, greed. Nothing to do with satan stirring the pot, its just human nature with power and influence added, a steamy brew indeed. But God ended the WW2 war. less eloquently than the spanish armada invasion of england, but, in every situation there is so much we cannot see or perceive that is going on in and around events, across seas, in the minds of military experts.. Its unfortunate that solutions must occur but God brought evil in order to save lives and thus end a nasty war.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

Jesus said that if you deny me in front of men he will deny you in front of the angels. We should never deny Christ.


brotheryochanan profile image

brotheryochanan 6 years ago from BC, canada

so i guess peter was omitted from that rule when he denied christ 3xs.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

There is this thing called forgiveness...but it's not automatic...it's still a grave sin.


brotheryochanan profile image

brotheryochanan 6 years ago from BC, canada

I didn't think forgiveness was a sin at all. This must be a NIV quote. :)


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

Denying Christ is a sin, not forgiveness.


brotheryochanan profile image

brotheryochanan 6 years ago from BC, canada

Theres only one unforgiveable sin. blaspheming the holy spirit. This is not denying christ in a sentence but in a lifestyle.

Still my point was not my example verbatum, but until we are persecuted for our faith we will only be able at best to guess the answer for this. I also tried to purport a bit of wisdom in that it is best to pick your truths. Peter denied christ 3 times and went on to live a God blessed spirit filled life serving God. I think God asks the person who has no reason to steal, the billionaire, to not steal and the person who needs food and would indeed steal a loaf of bread, god asks this equally of each, but he walks individually and personally with each. If we all turned in our brothers at a request of the jailers, we would bring gods kingdom quick because there would be no believers outside the jails. :) Its a good question i thank you for your patience. My last post was pullin your leg.


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 6 years ago

I think your take on this is a good one. Romans 13 gives us a general principle: "obey those in authority." However, other scriptures give us clear guidance (the midwives is a good example) where we would not obey human authority, but would in fact, refuse to do so. Another important point here is that in the western tradition, we are not really under a "man"; we are under the "law." It is lex rex, not rex lex.

We need to be careful, though, when discussing the obedience to laws. A law might be unwise, but we still might be under a scriptural obligation to obey it. For example, I think that the progressive income tax system is grossly misguided for a free people. However, I still think that it's right for a person to pay his taxes (and wrong to refuse to pay them) because of the Romans 13 principle. I'm not breaking God's moral law by complying with the income tax law (per se) and would be in violation of God's commands (also found in Romans 13) if I did not obey it.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

Bibowen...let me ask you a question. Would it be "right" to pay taxes to the Nazi government?


Bibowen profile image

Bibowen 6 years ago

That's a great question (and a difficult one). Let me answer in parts.

First, would it be right to pay taxes to the Nazi government in 1934? Yes, I think it would.

Second, would it be right to pay taxes to the Nazi government in 1944? I believe that a person is morally clear when he pays his taxes, period. Keep in mind that we tend to monolithize (is that a word???) the Nazi government. But government still has to carry out basic functions, most of which has nothing to do directly with the Nazis: court cases have to be decided, rapists have to be locked up and prosecuted, obligations still have to be met, regardless of who is at the top. So, I have no moral indictment against Germans who met their minimal financial obligations to the government, as patriots of their nation (and not necessarily as supporters of the Nazis).

Third, we are not the first ones to grapple with these issues. I think that the contrast between Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer is instructive. Niemoller, a German pastor, appears to have been as cooperative as he could be with the Nazis up to a point (he even called Hitler "Mein Fuhrer"). However, he also courageously stood up to Hitler (face to face) and opposed him. His continual resistance to Hitler landed him in Dachau and Sachsenhausen prison camps throughout WWII. But Niemoller would have been one of those to pay his taxes and cooperate with the state up till the point that he could not. I don't know of anyone who thinks of him as being "immoral" because he cooperated with the Nazis to the degree he did. History (I think) bears out that he was courageous and that suffered with his nation after the war (he was released from prison in 1945).

In contrast Bonhoeffer saw Hitler and the German government as an enemy, a nemesis to be opposed on all fronts and was even involved in an assassination plot to kill Hitler, a plot that landed him at Flossenbürg where he was hanged in 1945.

In the end, I think that both are legitimate positions for a Christian to take. I tend to favor Niemoller's approach: he seemed to have greater moral clarity and was not as given to moral angst like Bonhoeffer. But, as Bonhoeffer said (and I do like this) that there might come a time when the only way to stop evil is to throw ourselves under the wheel to stop the engine. I think he did that and I admire him for it.

So, I don't think there is a moral indictment against a citizen who cooperates with an evil regime (most are evil anyway) to the degree that that regime is carrying out a legitimate government function (such as prosecuting murders or fixing roads).

Sorry to write so much, but you asked a difficult question!


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 6 years ago from Manhattan Author

I tend to admire Bonhoeffer, I think that pretty much sums up my position.


Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 2 years ago from Southern Clime

Children are advised to obey their parents "WHEN IT IS RIGHT IN THE LORD." I hope adults are wise enough to grasp a lesson here.

Caesar and Pilate were wrong in their dealings with Jesus, bug those who loved righteousness did not cry, "Crucify Him!"


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 2 years ago from Manhattan Author

Yes that's right, "When it is right in the Lord". Thanks for commenting "Levertis Steele".


firstday profile image

firstday 2 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

The rights we receive are from a higher power not man. We are born with unalienable rights. They were never given to us. Thanks for writing about this subject. Men writing laws…this scripture sums it up:

“Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away

the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves,

and them that were entering in ye hindered.” — Luke. XI, 52


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 2 years ago from Manhattan Author

Very well put "firstday", thanks for commenting.


Pico Triano profile image

Pico Triano 2 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

Great hub! I can confirm one of your points for you. My father who grew up in occupied Holland during the Second World War sees red when people quote Romans 13. It was used by certain churches with Nazi approval. He regards them as traitors.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 2 years ago from Manhattan Author

Wow, thanks for that. I think this generation is so far removed from WWII that they have no idea what happened.


poetvix profile image

poetvix 2 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

I do believe it states flat out in the book that the laws of man will be against man in the final days. When the laws of man contradict the laws of God, well no one can serve two masters and we are clearly called upon to serve God.

This was a joy to read. It's so sad but even the Bible is being used as a tool of deception by those who would rule unjustly not for the good of mankind but for the lust for power, money and control over others.

God bless you for standing.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 2 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks Poetvix.

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