The first part of Romans Chapter 13 needs to be understood in the context of the whole Bible. Paul tells his readers, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities … those that exist have been instituted by God. Whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed … for rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” [v.1-3] Was this written because some Christians thought they could ignore the laws of the land in some situations?
Some see a problem with this when there are bad rulers. That is a fair question and the answer is seen to some degree when we look for examples of this. The end result of bad situations, if God’s will is involved, is good for the spreading of the Gospel. Paul and Silas were thrown into jail in Philippi and sang hymns and God caused an earthquake and the jailer and his family were baptised. Think of other bad situations like the times Paul spent a couple of years or more in detention, but we notice that several of Paul’s letters were written from prison demonstrating there are opportunities in every situation.
Religious authorities are regarded differently. When Peter and John were told by the religious authorities “to speak no more to anyone in this name”, they replied “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of the things we have seen and heard.” [Acts 4 v.18-20] And today we cannot we must follow and teach godly principles – and note the things that are written that condemn things, such as homosexuality. (note 1 Cor. 6 v.9 and 1 Tim. 1 v.10) Jesus said, “the word that I have spoken will judge … on the last day.” [John 12 v.48]
Our Genesis reading today is most interesting in what the LORD tells Moses to say to Pharaoh in warning him of the plague of hail, “for this purpose I have raised you (i.e. Pharaoh) up to show you my power, so that my name (reputation) may be proclaimed in all the earth” [Ch.9 v.16]
So God brings bad people and nations into positions that influence the course of events so that his will is done. He raised up enemies for Israel for this purpose, he is working out his purpose with Israel today. We must always seek to see situations from God’s perspective, making sure we maintain “good conduct” – in the light of God’s word. God’s purpose is often not seen – until believers look back on events and see the chain reaction of situations that they set in motion – to fulfil his will – and challenge the hearers (and readers) to obey..