Q. When referring to Romans 13, which talks about submitting to governing authorities, does that mean the government has the right to control people’s lives? I know there are countries like China and North Korea that often seem to do that. This has happened throughout the Roman Empire in medieval times. When properly understood how authority works, how do we apply it to Biblical scripture?
A. Romans 13:1-7 simply tells us to submit to governing authorities. To me that means obeying the law of the land. Usually it’s governments exceeding their authority that causes problems. For instance in the US the law does not permit unauthorized snooping into a person’s private affairs without cause. It does not permit prejudicial enforcement of laws.
Laws vary from country to country, but believers don’t get to decide what laws to obey in any country. The only authorized disobedience of the law I’ve found in the Bible is where a believer is required to violate God’s law in order to obey the government. An example is where Daniel’s three friends were required to worship a statue or face death. They chose to face death (Daniel 3).
During the Great Tribulation this will happen again. When it does, God will expect tribulation believers to die rather than take the mark of the beast (Rev. 14:9-13).