Mass genocide. Torture. Persecution. These are just some of the things enacted on innocent civilians by governments in the twentieth century. Hitler is our easiest example of a madman in power, but history is filled with despots and dictators who have reigned over their subjects with brutality and injustice. So why would Paul tell us they receive their authority from God?

  • Name a few leaders you would consider evil, and a few you would consider good. How do you view your current city, state, and country leaders? Be honest.


13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. What is hardest for you to understand in hearing that your governing authorities have been instituted by God (vs. 1)? How, if at all, does this change how you live as a citizen?
  2. How did Paul describe these authorities? What powers and responsibilities do they have?
  3. What attitudes are we charged to have in regard to our governmental authorities?
  4. At what point is it our responsibility to stand against a government? Does this passage support such an action?


I struggle to reconcile this passage with what I know about world history. Mao, a “minister of God”? Stalin, “God’s servant for your good”? Idi Amin, “an avenger” of God’s wrath? Pol Pot, “instituted by God”? But despite the flowing tides of history, those who follow Christ are not to be swayed. The standing government, however good or evil, is irrelevant to who we are as a people. Tyranny doesn’t force us to live scared, or to become violent, or to abandon who God has called us to be. No matter what our government, the call is to be a people of love and good deeds. God will take care of tyrants, all in good time.

  • Talk to God today if you struggle with those he has put in governmental authority over you.
  • Ask God to make you an instrument of his peace as you submit to his ultimate authority.