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A Bible Study of The Scripture

Lesson 11: Another look at Romans 13:1-7

This week we will revisit Romans 13:1-7 in detail. The King James Version with Strong’s Concordance will be used to look at this passage written by the Apostle Paul using the original Greek. For those who want to study this further there is a very easy to use Greek Interline and Strong’s Concordance at:

Romans 13:1-7 


King James Version

Holman Christian Standard Bible


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

Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God.


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

So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God's command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.


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:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do good and you will have its approval.


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.

For government is God's servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God's servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.


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

Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience.


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

And for this reason you pay taxes, since the [authorities] are God's public servants, continually attending to these tasks.


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

Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.

King James Version with Strong’s Concordance. (The formatting did not print well. In the online version the Concordance numbers are above the English words.)

Romans 13:1 - KJV_Strongs

  1 G3956 Let every G5590 soul G5293 be subject [G5732]   G5242 unto the higher [G5723]   G1849 powers G1063 . For G2076 there is [G5748]   G3756 no G1849 power G1508 but G575 of G2316 God G1161 : G1849 the powers G5607 that be [G5752]   G1526 are [G5748]   G5021 ordained [G5772]   G5259 of G2316 God.

Let every soul. The actual Greek is every soul, the “let” is associated with “let be subject”. “Every” of course means all of us inclusive, everyone. The use of the Greek for soul in the context of Romans references the spiritual aspect of man. The usage of “every” means that this passage applied to civil authorities also.

Be subject. This is the same Greek word hupotassō as used to describe the relationship between a husband and wife (Example: Ephesians 5:22). hupotassōiIs a combination of two Greek words, the second is tasso which means: to arrange in an orderly manner. It is one of conditional submission, not absolute. See Lesson 1.  In Lessons 3 through 5 we studied Scripture that demonstrated  the conditional submission.

Higher powers. The Greek term is exousia which literally means power or authority. Note that in verse 3 the Apostle Paul used the Greek word arcontez which means magistrate, prince or ruler. So in verse 1 exousia is used three times. Paul in many cases used repetition for emphasis. So the “higher powers”, “powers” and “the powers” in verse 1 are referring to authority or power of position, not the physical men. Every soul – including rulers who also have a soul - is subject to only God. Rulers are subject to God, their covenant with God and their covenant with the God’s people. The people are subject to God and to their covenant with their rulers. Each of these are “higher powers.”

For there is no power but of God. The literal translation is “There is no authority except from God.” This simply states that authority comes from God. God is sovereign (Lesson 8) – all worldly authority is either derived from God or is usurped and in rebellion to God.

The powers that be are ordained of God. Ordained is the Greek word tasso which means “to arrange in an orderly manner, i.e. assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot)”. So this phrase means that authority or power comes from God.  This is consistent with God gave us three institutions to order mankind; the family, the church and civil government. The authority of the family is conditional and limited by God. The authority of the church is conditional and limited by God. The authority of civil government is conditional and limited by God. The Scripture does not teach that an exception to obedience to God was granted to civil authorities. In Lesson 8 we studied Psalm 2 which demonstrated that while governing authorities may try to ignore God’s limits on their authority they will fail.

Verse 1, does not command us to obey any and all commands of civil authorities, but gives the framework in which civil government was created by God. All authority (power) comes from God. Everyone’s – people and rulers alike – are subject to these higher powers or authority. The Scripture we have covered includes the following: everyone is subject to God’s commands or God’s Word, rulers are subject to their covenant with both the people and with God, the people are subject to their covenant with their rulers.

Romans 13:2 KJV_Strongs(i)

  2 G5620 Whosoever therefore G498 resisteth [G5734]   G1849 the power G436 , resisteth [G5758]   G1296 the ordinance G2316 of God G1161 : and G436 they that resist [G5761]   G2983 shall receive [G5695]   G1438 to themselves G2917 damnation.

Therefore: Grammatical back reference. “Therefore” bases this verse on the preceding verse.

The power: Once again this is the Greek word exousia, not a word such as arcontez which would mean the ruler or magistrate. From verse 1 exousia is authority established by God, not man. Man may choose the ruler, in fact the Scripture shows that in some or many cases man does in fact chose the ruler. The ruler may ignore God’s limit on authority (Psalm 2) but the authority can not be changed by man. So this phrase applies to two situations: 1) man who rebels against God’s authority being properly executed by a magistrate OR a magistrate who rebels against God’s authority by either doing evil or ignoring the limitations established by God. In both cases both the ruled and the ruler are also bound by the limitations of active covenants.

Ordinance of God: in this phrase ordinance is the Greek word diatage which means “arrangement, i.e. institution”. So this phrase does not reference resisting the authority or power of man, but resisting the arrangement or institution of God. This applies to rulers (magistrate) as well as the people.

They that resist shall receive to themselves damnation: The literal translation is “and they that resist to themselves judgement shall receive.” This is consistent with the Scripture in that those who resist God’s Word and Commands will receive Judgement. Verses 1 and 2 are very similar to Psalm 2.

Romans 13:3 - KJV_Strongs(i)

  3 G1063 For G758 rulers G1526 are [G5748]   G3756 not G5401 a terror G18 to good G2041 works G235 , but G2556 to the evil G2309 . Wilt thou [G5719]   G1161 then G3361 not G5399 be afraid [G5738]   G1849 of the power G4160 ? do [G5720]   G18 that which is good G2532 , and G2192 thou shalt have [G5692]   G1868 praise G1537 of G846 the same:

For: Once again, a grammatical backward reference to verse 1 and 2.The Greek word used means: properly, assigning a reason (used in argument, explanation or intensification; often with other particles). So verse 3 is an explanation or intensification of verses 1 and 2.

Rulers: The Apostle Paul now uses the Greek word arcontez to reference the actual men who hold the position of rulers or magistrate. This is the first direct reference to magistrates in this passage except their corporate inclusion in “every soul ,“ “whosoever,” and “they that”.

Are not a terror to good works: An explanation of why those (specifically magistrates) will receive the Judgement (damnation) from verse 2. They are not supposed to be a terror to good works. Works is the Greek word ergon which is not specific acts as commonly used today, but rather one’s occupation or toils, so is of a longer duration or larger part of your life.

But to the evil: the inverse of previous phrase.

Based upon the connecting “For” – the above two phrases would be an explanation. They are in fact an explanation of the two functions authorized by God for civil government: Protecting the righteous and punishing evil.

Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power: The literal translation is Dost thou desire not to be afraid of the authority? Here the Apostle Paul is asking a rhetorical question. But note that it is not about the rulers (magistrates) it is the same power referenced in verse 1 - exousia. The authority of God.

It would be inconsistent with Romans 8:35 to imply that the Apostle Paul was asking a rhetorical question about fearing rulers. In 8:35 he clearly referenced persecution, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. The question on this phrase is the praise of rulers or of God’s authority. The Greek word used praise is used 9 other times by the Apostle Paul. Seven references praise of Jesus or God. Two reference praise of fellow believers. Today the common interpretation is that if we do good we will have praise of rulers. But that is inconsistent with the message in Romans and the Apostles Paul’s writing. “Do that which is good” is the message in a large part of Romans. If we do - we will have praise of the authority, which is God’s authority. If the ruler is Godly he would of course praise doing what is good and pleasing to the Lord. If the ruler is not Godly, then his praise is of no use as it is of the world, but by doing that which is pleasing to God and commanded by God we will receive God’s praise. This is consistent with the latter part of the Apostle Paul’s life, when he refused to do that which was pleasing to Caesar, and continued to do that which was pleasing to God.

Romans 13:4 - KJV_Strongs(i)

  4 G1063 For G2076 he is [G5748]   G1249 the minister G2316 of God G4671 to thee G1519 for G18 good G1161 . But G1437 if G4160 thou do [G5725]   G2556 that which is evil G5399 , be afraid [G5737]   G1063 ; for G5409 he beareth [G5719]   G3756 not G3162 the sword G1500 in vain G1063 : for G2076 he is [G5748]   G1249 the minister G2316 of God G1558 , a revenger G3709 to execute wrath G1519 upon G4238 him that doeth [G5723]   G2556 evil.

For: Backward grammatical reference. This verse is based upon verse 3.

He is the minister of God: The Greek used is diakonos which means “(Eng., deacon), primarily denotes a servant,". As noted it is the origin of our current English word deacon. Thus he is referencing the ruler who is not a terror to good works, but to evil and is a servant of God.

To thee for good: as we studied in the Scripture, magistrates are to administer to the people for their benefit. When we reference elected officials as public servants, it is not a new concept. As we studied when God established a covenant with the king, the people remained God’s people. The king was granted authority to rule for the benefit of God’s people: protect the righteous and punish the evil.

But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; Consistent with the Apostle Paul’s teaching – Christians should not do evil. For he beareth not the sword in vain; The For is a grammatical backward reference. The ruler has God’s authority to punish those who do evil. More importantly God will render judgement upon those who do evil.

For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil: Once again the For references backward to the previous phrase. Minister of God uses the Greek word diakonos again which means servant of God. “Revenger” is interesting. The Greek word is ekdikos which has a primary meaning of carrying out justice. This is consistent with the Scripture we studied about the Biblical qualifications for magistrate. A magistrate is authorized to carry out justice as defined by God. To execute wrath is of course punishment, Greek word orge, for those that do evil.

Romans 13:5 - KJV_Strongs(i)

  5 G1352 Wherefore G318 ye must needs G5293 be subject [G5733]   G3756 , not G3440 only G1223 for G3709 wrath G235 , but G2532 also G4893 for conscience G1223 sake.

Wherefore: Once again, a grammatical backward reference.

Ye must needs be subject: repeating the phrase from verse 1. This once again is a conditional submission, same Greek word hupotassō as husband and wife relationship.

Not only from wrath: One reason is the rulers have God’s authority to carry out justice as specified by God.

But also for conscience sake: the Greek word for conscience is suneidēsis which means the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other. Of course Christians should do what is morally right! We are morally required to obey our covenant with God and with our magistrates.

Romans 13:6 - KJV_Strongs(i)

  6 G1063 For G1223 for G5124 this G1223 cause G5055 pay ye [G5719]   G5411 tribute G2532 also G1063 : for G1526 they are [G5748]   G2316 God's G3011 ministers G4342 , attending continually [G5723]   G1519 upon G5124 this G846 very thing.

For: Backward grammatical reference. This verse is based upon verse 5.

For (second): Greek word dia meaning  - a primary preposition denoting the channel of an act.

This cause pay ye tribute also; tribute is taxes or tax.

For they are God’s ministers: The “for” is reference backwards. We are told to pay taxes because they are God’s ministers. The Greek word used by the Apostle Paul is not diskonos as in verse 4. The Greek word is leitourgos. Leitourgos has a very interesting meaning: a public servant, that is, a functionary in the Temple or Gospel, or (generally) a worshipper (of God) or benefactor (of man). This is the root word for our English word liturgy which is public worship. So rulers (magistrate) are to serve God in public worship.

Attending continually upon this very thing:attending continually” is the Greek word proskartereō which means; to be earnest towards, that is, (to a thing) to persevere, be constantly diligent, or (in a place) to attend assiduously all the exercises, or (to a person) to adhere closely to (as a servitor). This is referencing public worship in regards to civil government.

We are to pay tax because our magistrates are serving God by conducting public worship earnestly and with perseverance.

Romans 13:7 covers our duty to pay taxes, custom and respect which are covered in many passages. But note we are to do this “when due.”


Romans 13:1-7 does command everyone, including rulers to be subject to God’s authority. It does not grant an exception to civil government to do whatever they please and expect our obedience. The Apostle Paul was very well versed in the Hebrew law and his message in Romans 13:1-6 is simply an explanation of the same plan as we studied.



Next week we will look What is Biblical response to unGodly government




Next: Lesson 12

Lesson 12: What is Biblical response to unGodly government

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