The first verse of Romans 13 is one of the most misunderstood verses of the Bible and should not be.
A proper understanding of Romans 13 hinges on our knowledge of history which gives us the context of the Bible's authors and the meaning of the word exousia translated power, authority, right, liberty, jurisdiction, and strength in the same Bible.
What was Paul attempting to say in his Epistle to the Romans? In the King James version of the Bible chapter 13 begins:
“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.”
A common interpretation of this verse appears in The Living Bible:
“Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power. So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow...” (Romans 13:1-3).
You cannot blame all governments on God anymore than you can blame sin on God. The first thing God did was give man the right to choose, and the responsibility of suffering the consequences.
While it is not right to sin we have the right to choose to sin. Cain chose to go out of the presence of God and create the first city state. What he did was wrong, but he had the right to make that choice. The nature of the government we create is a product of what we are and our souls are formed in the character of the government we choose to serve.
Governments are created by men, not by God. God allows men the power, right, or liberty to create government, but not with impunity. There are many forms of government that are in opposition to God. Man must go out of the presence of God, rejecting Him to create those governments.
They are formed in the image and the character of Satan, who is the adversary of God.
Even those governments may serve God’s purpose by punishing the wicked who form them. God even forbids man from making covenants with those governments or bowing down or serving them.
Social contracts make use of at least two legal concepts or structures. One can be called a trust and the other is a corporation.
Governments cannot exist unless men create them. Man may vest something of himself into the forming of a government. As God formed man and breathed life into him, so also may men form and breathe life into a government body or body politic.
Plus we may also give something of value to men we trust for a particular purpose, whereby the government becomes a trust. If what we give is given entirely it may be called a sacred purpose trust. Governments may make use of both concepts of trust and corporation.
The most common form of government used throughout history is not the centralized governments of control and top down authority so commonly seen today. A diversified and voluntary network of people bound by a common faith, mutual hope, and practiced charity has often formed successful governments throughout history. In fact, “our modern reliance on government to make law and establish order is not the historical norm.”
Voluntary governments like that of Israel before the rise of the kings depended on the people freely choosing to give a share of their wealth in sacrifice or what was called Corban to fulfill the needs of society. That which was given in the form of substance and service sustained the government of the people, with the offerings by the people, for the sake of a free people.
That which was freely given was righteous. That which was taken away by force without daily free choice is unrighteous.
The New International Version (NIV) is translated:
“13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1-3).
The phrase "higher power" or the phrase the "governing authorities" in the NIV is huperecho exousia with the Greek word huperecho defined as "to have or hold over one" or superior. In the beginning God gave man the right to choose. He has delivered man from bondage time and time again and warned him about going under authority of others.
God wants you to be free souls under Him. That is the Kingdom of God. If someone else has the power to choose for you, how did that come to be? And is there a way back to liberty under God?
It is essential to the plan and purpose of Satan, the adversary, to deceive people. He does this by telling us part of the truth while deluding us to believe a lie. The cunning use of sophistry and his ability to tempt us to act selfishly in our own interest has been his recorded modus operandi for centuries.
Our modern misunderstanding of Romans 13 seems to hinge on one word of the text, powers. Dunamis, dunamai, didomi, arche, ischus, ischuros, kratos and energes are all translated in the New Testament as ‘power’, but have decidedly different meanings than the word that appears in Romans 13.
The original Greek word is exousia. It is from two Greek words. Ex meaning ‘of’ or ‘from’, while ousia means ‘what one has, i.e. property, possessions, estate’. Exousia is defined: “power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases.”
Is Paul telling us to go under government authority or to remain at liberty?
What would happen if we translated exousia in Romans 13 into the English word “liberty” as we see in 1 Corinthians 8:9?
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher liberty. For there is no liberty but of God: the liberties that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth (opposes) the liberty, resisteth (opposes) the ordinance of God: and they that resist [sets one’s self against] 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 liberty? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.” (Romans 13:1-3)
Can this be true?
Could so many people have been a part of such a bold deception?
Terms of the Times
To claim that Paul is actually saying that we should be at liberty to obey God rather than be subject to the will of other men is a bold accusation against the doctrines of modern Christendom. Has the Church been steadily deceived, by either negligence or design, arrogance or ignorance?
A theme throughout the Bible has been to set men free so we should be willing to examine how the word exousia was used by the Greeks and the authors of those sacred texts in the days of Christ. Although the use of words changes over time the Greek Glossary of Aristotelian Terms states that exousia means “right”. Aristotle actually exemplifies exousia’s use in the statement, “The right (exousia) to do anything one wishes...”
The rights or privileges of governments are ordained of men. That ordination of power into the hands of governments almost always occurs when the people reject God and choose to go away from His ways and out of His presence.
Since we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights it makes sense to say our original right to choose is ordained of God. Since man is a creation of God and governments are a creation of men the power maintained by those governments is based on the consent or actions of men, not upon any appointment by God.
In Plato’s notes the “Greek words for freedom (are) eleutheros (liberal/Free), exousia (Freedom/Power to do something), ...”
While Plato and Aristotle’s definition of the word exousia was from a classical Greek period, their opinion was still in conformity with the second century A.D. Cynic philosopher, Enomaos.
Aldo Brancacci examines the definition of ‘freedom’ in his Liberta e fato in Enamao di Gadara. In Bryn Mawr’s Classical Review we see, “Brancacci notices that the term used by Enomaos to refer to human freedom is not the typical Cynic one (eleutheria), but exousia, which expresses ‘the new concept of freedom in opposition to the already defunct and unhelpful eleutheria’.”
Enomaos’, sometimes written Oenomaos’, writings were preserved by Eusubius. For at least five centuries the word exousia consistently referenced human liberty and freedom. Are we supposed to believe that Paul is telling us to give up our freedom and liberty and become subject once again? Or have we already?
Are we supposed to believe that Jesus was only going to set us free spiritually and leave us in physical bondage? It seems a slave mentality to believe that we can only be “free at last, free at last” when we are dead.
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
It is our prayer that the truth of this will become self evident.
There is little meaningful debate among modern theologians on the matter of Romans 13. Typical comments might be those of Professor Ardel Caneday of New Testament Studies & Biblical Theology at Northwestern College, in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Ardel states that Case commits “fallacy” by giving the etymology of the word. At the same time Ardel seems to disregard Aristotle and Plato with a vague reference to Koine Greek. He even ignores Brancacci’s detailed explanation of the use of exousia in the 2nd century, by the cynic Oenomaus.
Koine Greek developed as the world of the Greeks and Romans went from free Republics to a dictatorial empire. Those governments of men made instruments of war, took the first fruits of the people, and even their sons and daughters for their own purposes. Those governments brought about famine, wars, and pestilence that killed off millions of people. A fact of history that will continue to repeat itself under the error of the modern Pharisaical scholars of our day.
It is true that languages change over time, but God does not. He wants us to be free souls under His authority, not slaves or human resources working under the Pharaohs and Nimrods of the world.
Most scholars are entrenched in the presumption that they already have the answer and could not be in error or under a strong delusion. Their interpretation of the Gospel may not be gospel just because they went to school somewhere or learned what other professors had to say. Saul who became Paul went to the best school with the most respected scholar as his teacher but he did not know Christ.
Usage of Scholars
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)
There were many scholars among those who crucified Christ. Satan has always deluded the scholars first. It makes his job so much easier. The educated Saul did not know Christ nor the Gospel of the Kingdom and even persecuted Christ’s followers. Paul, through revelation, eventually counted all he had known before Christ as little more than dung.
Concerning Ardel’s comments on the meaning of Romans 13 he also suggests that Case “appeals to one of the word’s lesser used meanings in the New Testament to render that unlikely meaning the meaning of the word in Romans 13.”
We must ask, lesser used meanings by whom?
Joseph Thayer’s first definition of the Greek word exousia is the “power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases”. It is not until the fourth definition that we see anything like “the power of rule or government”. The truth is most modern scholars choose not to use the primary meaning of the word exousia because it would be an indictment of the condition of the modern Church and the state to which it has brought the people it was meant to serve.
Ardel Caneday goes on to suggest that Case “fails to show that the New Testament regularly employs ἐξουσία to refer to ruling authorities, as it clearly does in Romans 13.”
The Greek word exousia [ἐξουσία] appears over 90 times in the biblical text. At least 12 times it is speaking of an individual’s, personal right or liberty. Over 50 times exousia is found in verses speaking of the “power” of God and Jesus the Christ, the anointed King, who appointed ambassadors and was proclaimed king by thousands of people including Pontius Pilate.
“And Pilate wrote a title, and put [it] on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS... in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.” (John 19:19)
More than a dozen times the word exousia is specifying a jurisdictional right to judge or a conflict of law between man’s government or the adversary of God, and the Kingdom of God.
If people are insistent upon using the fourth definition of exousia “the power of rule or government”, they should be willing to apply it to Christ’s government and its jurisdictional right as one form of government. Jesus was the King of Judea according to Pilate and therefore His ministers were a government that set the people free.
Jesus as Christ was the anointed King of Judea, the remnant of Israel. Those who proclaimed Christ were able to live, worship and serve God, unless the people, like the Pharisees, rejected Christ and chose to go under the authority or power of another. Christ sealed that Roman proclamation, nailed to the cross, in His own blood.
“Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,” (Colossians 2:20)
In Matthew 8:9 and Luke 7:8 'exousia' is used concerning an officer’s right to direct his men. That power comes from the contract his soldiers signed when they became members under his authority. The modern Church has removed the Kingdom from the “Gospel of the Kingdom” and brought the people back into bondage.
No King but Caesar
If we are to understand the fullness of the Gospel, we should know that it is first the “Gospel of the Kingdom”.
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom....” (Matthew 4:23)
Modern preachers, and the scholars who have seduced them, have removed the Kingdom from the Gospels and turned the hearts of the people to impure religion. It is time that voices from the wilderness again call for repentance and a making straight the way of the Lord.
But thank Heaven, the truth is not dependent upon democracies or scholars.
The Modern Christian has accepted a world based on a watered down gospel from their misguided leaders. This arranged system is a "world" system, a mystery Babylon, where their ministers teach the people to sing in their churches, praising Christ as King (a spiritual king), yet they send the people to pray to men of the world for their daily bread and benefits during the rest of the week; they are praying to men who call themselves benefactors but exercise authority one over the other. This is all provided at the expense of their neighbor.
The people do take a bite out of their neighbor, devouring one another. They wave their hands on Sunday, and they give lip service to God in their Churches, but the rest of the week they covet their neighbor’s goods through government power.
From the beginning we were told to make no covenant with the inhabitants where we go, nor with their gods, or we would have to bow down and serve them. Even Jesus told us to not swear at all and to only pray to our Father in heaven for our daily bread.
Applying to Pharaoh for their daily bread brought the Israelites into bondage. God led the people out of that bondage and told them never to return that way. God even told the people if they chose a ruler, they were to write in their constitution that he could never do anything that would return them to the bondage of Egypt.
Common sense would require us to ask why Paul would be telling the people to remain in an Egyptian style government rather than be free with Christ. Remember Christ was King, born King , preached a Kingdom, told us to do the same, and was hailed as King as He came to take the Kingdom away from those who ruled over the people. Those rulers had taken away their liberties, put heavy burdens on them, and through their system of social security had made the word of God to none effect.
Since, freeing people in Spirit and truth and living by faith has always been the mission of the prophets of God, it seems clear that Paul was saying that we should remain subject to liberty and the right to choose endowed by God. Paul understood the perfect law of liberty; to oppose liberty is to oppose the will of God for men.
Yet, many ministers and the people have difficulty seeing the simple and specific meaning of the word exousia in the context of the Bible. This is because it overthrows many of the preconceived notions, doctrines, and even some errant theology which they have become so comfortable with over the years.
If we may use the word ‘right’ or ‘liberty’ in Romans 13, Christians and especially their ministers will have to begin to examine the Gospel in a new light of understanding, and they will need to accept the truth that they have been under a strong delusion about the “Gospel of the Kingdom” and the message of Christ.
We may agree that governments sometimes possess the right to make choices for persons; in a more natural state, such choices would belong exclusively to the individual free man. But, governments are not inherently granted the right to choose for others; God does not ordain government for nullifying the natural state of diligent men (free men). Men may create governments, but in order to obtain that right to rule over men, governments would have to rely on some operation of pre-existing law. That fundamental law is often called natural law. They may, therefore, use natural law's operation of a contract or a covenant to arrange a government system which gradually nullifies many other aspects of the natural law, as the system responds to crises and grants more and more government authority over the citizens.
Romans 13 and I Peter 2,13-14
Is the Bible consistent about setting men free or does it contradict itself?
Romans 13 The booklet in printable PDF
Romans 13, NN Video Series:7-10 4:32
From the book The Higher Liberty, Sec. 1
Entire study of the Epistle to the Romans
Great Commandment (Romans 13:8–10) and Christianity and politics.
Civil Rights, SS Video Series 2-10 5:00
14. Romans 13 to Romans 14 verse 12
Chapter reviews Paul Love, working, no evil and the Ten Commandments
Which laws, division of faith and fallacies... gods many and prayer
20. Romans, natural brute beasts, protecting the delusion... The welfare state and liberty in righteousness
21. Was Paul a Roman Citizen Part 1
22. Was Paul a Roman Citizen Part
- Romans 13, Part 1
2/15/2013 12:44 PM 26889511 02-1Romans13-56.mp3
- Romans 13, Part 2
2/15/2013 12:46 PM 26869031 02-2Romans13-56.mp3
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. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 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: 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. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
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. 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 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. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
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. 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. 13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
The Higher Liberty is an iconoclastic examination of Romans 13 and other specious teachings which are an indictment the modern Church revealing a fuller gospel of the Kingdom for this world and the next. The consistent warnings of the prophets throughout the entire Bible and the purpose of the Church appointed by Christ as one form of government shines new light on modern apostasy. The simple truth of how God made you to be free souls, serving Him in Spirit and in Truth may bear witness in your hearts and minds.
Much of what is in this book will allow you to see the truth of the gospel in comparison to those who do contrary to the ways of God and make His word to none effect and have brought you back into a bondage to the gods many of the world through damnable heresies. Arm yourselves with His truth that will set you free. chapter-by-chapter or Order
- 1849 ~ἐξουσία~ exousia \@ex-oo-see’-ah\@ from 1832 (in the sense of ability); n f AV-power 69, authority 29, right 2, liberty 1, jurisdiction 1, strength 1; 103
- 1) power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases 1a) leave or permission
- 2) physical and mental power
- 2a) the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises
- 3) the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege)
- 4) the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed)
- 4a) universally
- 4a1) authority over mankind
- 4b) specifically
- 4b1) the power of judicial decisions
- 4b2) of authority to manage domestic affairs
- 4c) metonymically
- 4c1) a thing subject to authority or rule
- 4c1a) jurisdiction
- 4c2) one who possesses authority
- 4c2a) a ruler, a human magistrate
- 4c2b) the leading and more powerful among created beings superior to man, spiritual potentates
- 4c1) a thing subject to authority or rule
- 4d) a sign of the husband’s authority over his wife
- 4d1) the veil with which propriety required a women to cover herself
- 4e) the sign of regal authority, a crown
- 4a) universally
- Matthew 4:8 “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee...”
- Exodus 34:12 “Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:” also Exodus 23:32 and Exodus 34:15 “Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;”
- The Enterprise of Law: Justice without the State by Dr. Bruce L. Benson.
- ןברק Corban; offering 68, oblation 12, offered 1, sacrifice 1. offering, oblation
- Luke 16:9 “... Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”
- “Mammon, an Aramaic word mamon meaning ‘wealth’ … derived from Ma’amon, something entrusted to safe keeping.” Encyclopedia Britannica.
- Hebrew & Greek Lexicons, J.B. Smith, Herald Press, Scottdale, PA.
- “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9
- Matthew 21:9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
- Luke 1:32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
- Matthew 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
- Luke 22:29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;
- Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
- Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
- Lawmakers and Ordinary People in Aristotle, by Paul Bullen (1996) http://paul.bullen.com/BullenLawmakers.html (VI. 4.1318b38-1319a4)
- 1 Samuel 8:7 “And the LORD said ... they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” 1 Samuel 10:19 “And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out ... but set a king over us ...”1 Samuel 15:23. To Saul “... thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from [being] king.” Luke 7:30 “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.” Luke 20:17 “... The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?”
- Joshua 24:15 “... choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods ... the LORD.” Judges 5:8 “They chose new gods;...” Judges 10:14 “Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.” Jeremiah 11:12 “Then shall the cities of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem go, and cry unto the gods .. they shall not save them at all in the time of their trouble.” 1 Samuel 8:18 “And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.”
- Genesis 3:8 “... Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD...” Ge 4:16 “Cain went out from the presence of the LORD...”
- Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.08.19 On this issue, see S. Bobzien, Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy, Oxford 1998, chap. 6 . http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2001/2001-08-19.html
- From a Negro spiritual “Free at Last” originally sung by slaves at funerals.
- A Discredited Case: A Matter of Word Fallacy, Friday, June 12, 2009 http://bibliatheologica.blogspot.com/2009/06/discredited-case-matter-of-word-fallacy.html
- A Peccancy by Tim Case lewrockwell.com/case/case35.1.html
- Acts 22:3 “ I am verily a man [which am] a Jew, born in Tarsus, [a city] in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, [and] taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.”
- Philippians 3:8 “Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung...”
- The New Testament Greek Lexicon based on Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament." Define the word exousia:
- power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases
- physical and mental power
- the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege)
- the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and
- commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed)