Execution of Judgment upon Opposers
1. To what organization does Romans 13:2 apply? So why must the “authority” be respected and not taken a stand against?
IT IS with respect to Jehovah’s theocratic organization that Paul says: “Therefore he who ranges himself up against the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will receive judgment to themselves.” (Rom. 13:2, NW) Jehovah God has built up a universal organization of his faithful creatures in heaven and earth, and various creatures he sets in positions with special authority. These represent him, and for this reason they are to be respected. They have not assumed this authority themselves. They received it from God in a theocratic way. We are therefore to respect the “authority”, the office which the servant of God occupies, even though personally we might want to take exception to the servant in the office. God set up the theocratic organization of the Christian congregation. He made Jesus of Nazareth Head of it and also stationed unlettered and ordinary men as apostles next to him in the organization. The unbelieving Jews, especially their religious leaders, opposed this arrangement of God, and persecuted Jesus and his apostles. In doing so they were taking a stand against God’s arrangement and really fighting him. Gamaliel, a Law teacher, warned the Jewish Sánhedrin of this, saying: “Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme and this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, you may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.” (Acts 5:38, 39, NW) Because it is God’s arrangement against which the opposers take a stand and fight, they subject themselves to direct judgment from him. They will surely have it executed upon them by him.
2. Why has the course of the nations since 1914 shown they are not the “superior authorities”? Why cannot we range ourselves with them?
2 A.D. 1914 the appointed times of the nations expired. Then God put his Son into authority as King of the new world. Thus the “authority of his Christ” came, and God says now: “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Rev. 12:10 and Heb. 1:6, NW) The nations of this world, intent on keeping up their own domination of the earth, opposed this theocratic appointment of Christ, and they have since raged and imagined vain things in opposition. Jehovah’s witnesses continue to warn them that they have thus taken a stand against the invincible arrangement of God and will receive adverse judgment from him for it. His fiery judgment will be executed upon them in their utter destruction at the battle of Armageddon. For this special reason the worldly political rulers could not be the “superior authorities” to whom Christian souls are to be subject in everything. Were we to subject ourselves to them in their ideas for perpetuating their political domination of the earth, we would be ranging ourselves with them against Jehovah’s kingdom and his Christ. We would then receive judgment to ourselves with them and would suffer annihilation with them at Armageddon.
3, 4. Are worldly rulers no object of fear to the good deed? Are they God’s ministers to us for good?
3 It is for our good that we subject ourselves to the “superior authorities” and to God’s arrangement of them. “For those ruling are an object of fear, not to the good deed, but to the evil. Do you, then, want to have no fear of the authority? Keep doing good, and you will have praise from it; for it is God’s minister to you for your good.” (Rom. 13:3, 4, NW) This cannot be said of worldly rulers, who connive at evildoers and praise and eulogize those who practice wickedness in this system of things. The greatest good deed that a person could perform is to serve God according to his commandments and to act as a minister of his Word, bearing witness to his name, purpose and universal sovereignty. But in lands behind the “iron curtain” and in so-called democratic lands where fascistic dictators and totalitarian hierarchies hold control, Jehovah’s witnesses are forbidden to perform such a good deed. In fact, in all lands they are penalized in various ways for serving the living, true God in harmony with his Word. They are hated by all nations and peoples.—Matt. 10:22; 24:9.
4 Because worldly rulers terrorize and create fear in those who want to do the good deed, multitudes of people are frightened off from taking their stand openly for Jehovah and his kingdom and associating themselves with his witnesses in worshiping and serving him. So such political rulers are not God’s ministers to us for good. Let such rulers examine themselves and honestly admit it.
5, 6. Who as ruler is God’s minister fearful to evildoers? How does he praise those who do good?
5 Concerning Jesus Christ it was prophesied: “There will be the root of Jesse [King David’s father], and there will be one arising to rule nations; on him nations will rest their hope.” Since Jesus’ resurrection from death and his glorification in heaven he is “The Ruler of the kings of the earth”. (Rom. 15:12 and Rev. 1:5, NW) He is indeed an object of fear to those doing evil, but he is an encourager of those doing good according to God’s will. These have no fear of him in his position of authority since 1914, but good-will persons of all nations are led to rest their hope in him.
6 For doing good in obedience to God’s Word we do receive praise, so that we know we have the divine approval and blessing. Because the “other sheep” do good to the anointed witnesses who are Christ’s brothers, the King Jesus Christ says: “Come, you who have my Father’s blessing, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the world’s foundation. . . . To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:34, 40, NW) So in the strictest sense the Ruler Jesus Christ is God’s minister or servant for our highest good. He assures us of his approval despite the scorn, condemnation and persecution by the rulers of this world. And those in the theocratic organization who represent the “superior authorities” in an official capacity will likewise praise those who do good and will encourage them.
7. What does the authority bear, and for what purpose? Where will Christ use it toward the nations, and how?
7 “But if you are doing evil, be in fear: for it is not without purpose that it [the authority] bears the sword; for it is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath upon the one practicing evil.” (Rom. 13:4, NW) How true this is in this “time of the end” since 1914! The judgment of the nations is moving ahead. It is a time to fear to do evil. Rather, seek righteousness, meekness and godliness, because Jehovah’s authorized Ruler of the new world, Jesus Christ, is on the throne and ruling in the midst of his foes. He is God’s avenger and the vindicator of His universal sovereignty. The sword which the authority bears symbolizes God-given power to execute judgment and cut off those who range themselves against God. Hence the symbolic description of Christ as he rides to execute God’s vengeance at Armageddon tells us: “Out of his mouth there protrudes a sharp long sword, that he may smite the nations with it, and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron.” (Rev. 19:15, NW) So upon the nations practicing evil he will act as the avenger to express the divine wrath. At Armageddon he will not recognize the political powers of this world as the “superior authorities” with absolute control over every human soul. No, but he will destroy them. He will treat them as his footstool, beneath his feet, and he will tread them to destruction in the winepress of God’s wrath. Then there will no more be a “Caesar” to whom anything must be paid. All things will be God’s and be paid back to him.—1 Cor. 15:24-28.
“ON ACCOUNT OF YOUR CONSCIENCE”
8. How did the apostles act with sword-bearing authority?
8 In the first century of the Christian congregation the apostles as part of the “superior authorities” exercised considerable power. As inspired spokesmen for God they expressed his judgments against evildoers in the congregation, this in cases being immediately followed by their punishment. Recall how Ananias and Sapphira fell down at once and expired when Peter pointed out that they had played false, not to men, but to God. What effect did this have on others? “Consequently great fear came over the whole congregation and over all those hearing about these things.” When the apostle Paul and Barnabas were preaching before the Roman proconsul on the island of Crete and the sorcerer, the Jewish false prophet Elymas, opposed the divine message, Paul pronounced the divine judgment upon him. “Instantly a thick mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went around seeking men to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul, upon seeing what had happened, became a believer, as he was astounded at the teaching of Jehovah.” (Acts 5:1-11 and Ac 13:6-12, NW) It was indeed not without purpose that the divine authority, which the apostles represented, bore the sword.
9, 10. What is the compelling reason for us to be in subjection? Why?
9 It is fear-inspiring to contemplate the execution of God’s judgment against evildoing. But not just for motives of fear should we avoid evil-doing and do good. The more powerful driving force in us should be the conscientious love of righteousness. Hence the apostle says: “There is therefore compelling reason for you to be in subjection, not only on account of that wrath but also on account of your conscience.” (Rom. 13:5, NW) It gives us peace of heart and freedom from fear if we have the approval of our conscience. But to be sure that our conscience is a true and safe indicator of the rightness of our actions it should be taught by God’s Word.
10 If we love life and want divine approval, we, of course, want to do right and escape God’s wrath. Fear of wrath is not the greatest power for right-doing. “The demons believe and shudder.” (Jas. 2:19, NW) But for all their fear of divine wrath they do not break away from evil-doing in the Devil’s organization. However, where we have a conscience trained in righteousness and we want it always to approve us for doing right, we will abandon evil-doing and will devote ourselves to right-doing. Subjecting ourselves to the “superior authorities” because they are the arrangement of God is right. So, not just to avoid God’s wrath, but rather for the sake of our good conscience, we will keep ourselves in subjection to the “superior authorities”. This results in everlasting life to us, for it vindicates the universal sovereignty of God.
11. Why, then, do we primarily pay tribute? And what purpose do God’s public servants constantly serve?
11 With authority Jesus told his followers to pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, including the payment of taxes. And so for conscience’ sake we pay tribute to “Caesar” as long as Almighty God lets him continue on earth. “For that is why you are also paying tribute,” Paul wrote to the Christians who were at Rome, the very capital of Caesar the great imposer of tax and tribute. Then with reference again to Jehovah’s theocratic organization Paul adds: “For they are God’s public servants constantly serving this very purpose.” (Rom. 13:6, NW) Christ and his apostles, clothed with authority from God and thus given superiority within his organization, are and must be his public servants. God keeps a close supervision of them and holds them responsible for the way they use their delegated authority. To him they must in due time render account on how they used their authority in his name. So it behooves these superior authorities under the Most High to serve his purpose constantly for the eternal good of those who subject themselves according to God’s will. Christ Jesus and his associates in heaven will do so.
12. What dues will we render to various ones, as commanded?
12 The apostle now concludes the discussion, showing that we can pay back “Caesar’s” things conscientiously to “Caesar” while at the same time paying back God’s things to God. In view of Jesus’ words and the apostle’s instructions, this course denotes our subjection to the “superior authorities”. Paul says: “Render to all their dues, to him who calls for tribute [levied on persons and land estates], the tribute; to him who calls for tax [on commercial items], the tax; to him who calls for fear, such fear; to him who calls for honor, such honor.” (Rom. 13:7, NW) The superior authorities within the divine organization call for our proper fear and honor. These due things we will render them. To “Caesar” we will render what is due him for the services he renders us, but we will not let him crowd in upon our worship of the Most High God by decrees against the arrangement of God. We will “be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna”, that is, the Almighty and Most High. (Matt. 10:28, NW) To persons in prominent positions within “Caesar’s” organization we will give due and proper respect, but will do so with fear of God. “Honor men of all kinds,” writes Peter, “have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God, have honor for the king.” (1 Pet. 2:17, NW) In the fear of God we will honor his King whom he has clothed with new world authority.
13. What will we always be paying one another as owing them? In obedience to what command will we be subject to superior authorities?
13 Pursuing this course prescribed by the Supreme Authority, we will be paying to everybody what is due him. Our obligations in this world both to “Caesar” and to God we will discharge, so that in the final judgment no unpaid debts can be charged against us. One thing we will always be owing our fellow creature, and that is love, love of our neighbor as ourselves. This we will endeavor to pay always, in obedience to the apostolic instruction: “Do not be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another; for he that loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.” (Rom. 13:8, NW) In obedience to the greatest commandment of all, that of loving God completely, we will be subject to the “superior authorities”.