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ROMANS 13:1, 2

Brother Beebe: I desire your views on Romans 13:1, 2. And if it is not asking too much, will brother Trott give, through the Signs of the Times, his views on Luke 9:49, 50. His compliance with this request will oblige an enquirer after truth.


Reply: Such views as we have on the text proposed for our consideration we will cheerfully give, although we do not claim to have any special light upon the subject. The text evidently presents an admonition to all the members of the church of Christ, and especially to the church at Rome.

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” The terms power and powers, in this text, mean authority, vested in superiors to rule or govern those who are under allegiance to serve or obey them. The theory that God has created all men equal, in 411 respects will not bear a scriptural test; for God has evidently made a difference among the members of the human family, in many particulars, and especially in regard to the investment of power or dominion. Adam was invested with power, by the ordination of God, over the whole animal creation; yet Adam himself was made lower than the angels, and under law to God. The next development of the creation is presented in the formation of Eve, and after the transgression, God said to her, “And thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” - Gen. iii. 16. Next in the order of development were Cain and Abel. And the Lord said unto Cain, “Why art thou wroth, and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” From Adam to Moses, the patriarchs were invested with power to rule their tribes, and the birth-right of the first-born entitled him to superior power and dominion, and made the younger members of the family subordinate.

There is now, and always has been, various grades of power, and proportionate grades of subordination among the human race, and that, too, by the ordination of God, including the authority of parents over children, masters over servants, kings over their subjects, and officers over subalterns. These distinctions God has made in his all-wise providence and divine ordination, for the common benefit of mankind; so that the apostle is sustained by all the scriptures in his testimony, that there is no power but of God. No being has power to live or move only as God has given the power. All our mental or physical powers, as well as the right of dominion to the extent possessed by any of us, is of God. It is God who has made us to differ, even as he has made one star to differ from another star in magnitude and glory. Of the same lump has he made one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor. And it does not become the vessel to say unto him that hath fashioned it, “Why hast thou made me thus?” Degrees of power are implied in our text, as high, higher, and highest. The authority of parents over children, masters over servants, commanders over armies, is high, and therefore, imperative; but that of Governors, Kings, and Emperors, or the constituted authorities of civil government in States and Nations is higher in its grade, and holds dominion over parents as well as children, and masters as well as servants. To the civil governments of Nations, then, we understand the apostle to refer, and also to all social or civil governments to which every or any soul may owe allegiance. In the parent is a higher power or right to rule than in the child; and in the master than in his servant; and still higher than the authority of parents or masters is the power or dominion of civil governments which God has ordained; while the superlative degree belongs to divine power - to God, as the Supreme Ruler of all things.

The kingdom of Christ, being a spiritual kingdom, does not interfere with the constituted powers of earthly kingdoms. The allegiance due to Christ by all the subjects of his spiritual government, being spiritual, does not release them from obligations devolving on them as men, women, or children in the flesh. Nor has any human government a right to interfere with the spiritual affairs of the Spiritual Kingdom. This was taught by Christ, when he said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.” And in perfect harmony with this principle the apostle admonishes every soul - that is, every individual member in the church of Christ - to be subject to the higher power. Compare this admonition with what the same apostle has enjoined on all the churches, especially on all the churches among the Gentiles. Hear him: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Savior of the body; therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in all things.” Eph. v. 22-24. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and thy mother, which is the first commandment with promise. Eph. vi. 1,2. “Servants, be obedient to them who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as unto Christ: not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God, from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” Eph. vi. 5-7. Again: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.” “Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.” “Servants, obey in all things your masters, according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God.” Col. iii. 18, 20 and 22. “I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; for this is good, and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” 1 Tim. ii. 1-3. “Let as many as are servants under the yoke, count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren;” (That is, the servant whose master is a member with him of the church of God is not to suppose that their being one in the Lord dissolves any obligation devolving on him in the flesh; still, the command is, “Let every soul be subject to the higher power;”) “but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit.” These things Paul commands Timothy to “teach and exhort,” and adds: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is after godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words whereof cometh strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness; from such withdraw thyself.” I Tim. iv. 1-5. These scriptures not only define the relations in which we stand to teach other, in the flesh, by the order and providence of God, but most clearly and solemnly enjoin on all Christians to observe, practice, and obey the injunction of our text and “Let every soul be subject to the higher power.” And, furthermore, they admonish us that all teachings which differ from this is anti-christian - hostile to the spirit of truth, and opposed to godliness. And that all Christians are to withdraw from all who teach otherwise, and who consent not to these wholesome words, as from those whose pride and ignorance lead them to dote about questions and strifes of words, which tend to anarchy, war and strife.

“Whosoever, therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. That is, whosoever resisteth the authority which God has vested in rulers - Kings, Governors, parents, or masters - are in open rebellion against God, and presumptuously fighting against his ordination and government. Hence Paul exhorts servants, and all others in their subordinate capacities, to render their obedience, as unto God. As God has commanded children to obey their parents, servants their masters, and all who are in subordination their rulers, we cannot disobey or dishonor those who hold authority over us without disobeying God, and violating the doctrine which is according to godliness. Paul informs Timothy, in connection with this subject, that those who teach otherwise, in their pride and ignorance, have mistaken the nature of real godliness, and that they think gain is godliness. But although godliness with contentment is great gain, yet whatever may be gained by resisting the ordinance or government of God is in violation of every principle of godliness, and hence he commands Timothy to disfellowship such resistance, and to withdraw from all who do so resist. And to teach that it is the established order of the church of God, that every soul shall be in subjection to the higher power, as defined in the scriptures to which we have referred. “And they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation,” that is, condemnation, divine disapprobation, or the displeasure and just rebuke of God. The term damnation does not always mean everlasting perdition, but it always means condemnation; and it cannot fail to fall on all who are found fighting against God, rejecting his government - setting up other standards of morality or divinity than the standard which God himself has given in his word. They are not therefore guiltless before God, who, through malice or even through ignorance, resist this ordinance of God.

The text which we have been laboring to explain was addressed, as we have observed, to the church at Rome, to “All that be (or were at that time) in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.” The Roman government was at that time very despotic, and its national religion was pagan; yet the apostles and primitive saints were a loyal, law abiding, patient people. This was conceded by their bitterest enemies. It is true the primitive saints protested against idolatry, and refused to be subject to the rulers of the land, in matters of a purely spiritual nature, because they were not authorized to recognize any human power as higher power, or as equal to the power and dominion of Christ; hence when they were persecuted and punished by the constituted power, it was for Christ’s sake. While they religiously obeyed the command of Christ, to render to Caesar the things that belonged to Caesar they withheld from Caesar, and rendered to God the things which are God’s. They rendered tribute to whom tribute was due, custom to whom custom - faithfully observing and promptly obeying all the laws of the empire, paying their taxes, and serving their king with fidelity, so far as in them lay. The system of bondage in Rome was also that of the most ultra and extreme bondage, allowing to the masters and owners of servants the right to put them to death. Yet Paul continued to exhort and to teach those members of the church who were under that yoke, to count their own masters worthy of all honor, and as entitled to their obedience in all things, and to obey them with the fidelity with which they served God. This church at Rome was composed of parents and children, husbands and wives, masters and servants, who, in spiritual things, were all one in Christ Jesus, yet, in their fleshly relations, differed very widely; and this distinction of power, one over another, belonging to their earthly relations, was not at all changed or abated, because of their unity and identity in Christ. From a due and careful consideration of all these facts, collected from the unerring testimony of the New Testament, we are bound to conclude that the order of the church and kingdom of Christ at the present time, and at all times, so imperiously demand that every soul shall be subject to the higher powers, in all the relations of life, that where these injunctions are ignored and rejected, the church of Christ in primitive purity cannot be found. And where these divine instructions are resisted, strifes, envy, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds who are destitute of the truth, will prevail, even as it is from the same cause, so painfully prevalent at the present moment in our country. And, farther, that it is the duty of all Christians to withdraw themselves from all connection that would or may involve them as giving any countenance, directly or indirectly, to those who do so resist the powers which are ordained of God, and to heed the commanding voice of the Captain of Salvation: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you; and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” - 2 Cor. vi. 17, 18.

Middletown, N.Y.
May 1, 1861.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 489 - 495