Romans 13 Specifically Delineates What
a Government Must Do To Be Lawful
by Stuart DiNenno
“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. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 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 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. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” (Romans 13:1-5)
Romans 13:1-5 specifically delineates for us what a government must do to be lawfully “ordained of God.”
It teaches that the civil authority is to be “the minister of God to thee for good” (Romans 13:4), that it must be the “minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4), that lawful rulers must be “not a terror to good works, but to the evil” (Romans 13:3), and that if we “do that which is good,” we “shalt have praise of the same” (Romans 13:3), but if we “do that which is evil,” we are to “be afraid” (Romans 13:4). This is the lawful type of government to which we “must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake” (Romans 13:5). A lawful government — “the powers that be” which “are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1) — must promote righteousness and reward the righteous, while suppressing wickedness and punishing the wicked, and, of course, only the law of God in the Holy Scriptures can be used as a measure of what is righteous and what is wicked.
If the aforementioned things expressly stated in Romans 13 are what a lawful government is to be practicing, then it is quite obvious that a government failing to do these things is not a lawful government. When the civil government becomes anti-Christian and defends all manner of wickedness, even to the point of enshrining evil in the form of laws, while it actively suppresses righteousness and persecutes the godly, then it quite obviously is no longer “the minister of God to thee for good.” It is not a “minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” We shall not have “praise of the same” if we “do that which is good.” And it has become “a terror to good works” rather than “to the evil.” In other words, it has become the complete opposite of the entity of which we are told that we “must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” God has established civil government for the good of mankind so as to suppress lawlessness and promote righteousness in every nation but, at this point, the civil government has become nothing more than a criminal enterprise in rebellion to God.
If it is absurd to think of Joseph Stalin and the Bolsheviks as the minister of God to Russia for good, Chairman Mao and the People’s Liberation Army as the minister of God to China for good, or Pol Pot and The Khmer Rouge as the Minister of God to Cambodia for good, then it is absurd to believe that whatsoever government gains power over a nation is ordained of God according to Romans 13.