Rebelling against authorities is rebellion against God — so Paul at Romans 13:2-4. Tom Wright contends that Paul is looking at the authorities as part of “God’s intended order” and “not its corruputions.” Paul, of course, would learn the rough side of “authority” for before long he will be hauled before the magistrates in Israel and will end up in Rome — just off the Capitoline in a small dungeon of a prison, overlooking the famed Forum.
Of course, Paul’s words provoke response, reaction and at least some comment. Do you think this is how every Christian in every government should respond? And, as we will try to show below, how tightly has Paul enveloped “authority” into a system and a leader who does what is right and what is just? And, if the authority begins to do what is wrong and what is unjust, does that not also mean “authority” has changed? And therefore “submission” to authorities?
Notice Paul’s points — which, in my estimation — do some internal deconstructing or at least put some conditions on what Paul is saying:
Rom 13:4: The authority figure is “God’s servant to do you good.” What if he (or she) is not doing good but is doing evil and creating piles of systemic violence and injustice?
Rom 13:3: “For rulers old no terror for those who do right…” But what if they do hold terror for those who do right? Did they do right by Paul in Jerusalem? Did Paul do right with the Christians he hailed into judgment and had put to death?
Rom 13:3: “Do you want to be free from fear…?” Is not Paul assuming that the authority figures will do right and, if his readers do right, they will be protected? What happens if they turn against those who are doing right?
Rom 13:4: “He is God’s agent of justice” — but what if he is doing injustice?
For these reasons, then, I think Paul meshes “authority” as God’s creation with “authority” as doing, in general — Rome, after all, was hardly Christian or Jewish, what is right and what is just.