Subjection to “Superior Authorities”—Why?
“Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.”—Rom. 13:1.
1. How did the subjection of Joseph and Mary to the political powers of the world work out in harmony with God’s will and prophecy?
IN THE year 2 B.C.E. Joseph the son of Jacob and his pregnant wife, Mary the daughter of Heli, subjected themselves to the decree of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. They had themselves registered in their native city in Judea. So it occurred that her son, Jesus Christ, was born in Bethlehem. This was according to the will of Jesus’ heavenly Father, Jehovah God, who had foretold his Son’s birth there through the prophet Micah seven centuries in advance. (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 1:1, 16, 18; Luke 2:1-7; 3:23) Thus subjection to the political powers in this regard did not work contrary to God’s will and purpose, even though the Jews in Palestine were still subject to the Ten Commandments and other laws that Jehovah God had given them through his prophet Moses.
2. Between what two sets of laws did the Jews have to make an adjustment, and what perfect rule for this did Jesus state to them?
2 As the Jews were under God’s superior law, they had to adjust themselves to the law of the imperial government that was then controlling the land of Judah and Galilee, keeping order and collecting tax and tribute. The perfect rule for making this adjustment was stated by Jesus Christ to a group of Jews, some of whom were in favor of the Roman Empire and others of whom were against it. Jesus said to them: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matt. 22:15-22) Neither the pro-Empire Jews nor the anti-Empire Jews could find fault with this rule.
3. Why must Christians still obey that perfect rule in spite of what the year 1914 has meant?
3 The Caesars of the Roman Empire perished with that empire long ago, but what was represented by Caesar in those words spoken by Jesus nineteen centuries ago still remains—not just imperialism and colonialism, but political government of this world. This is true even since A.D. 1914, when the Gentile Times or “the appointed times of the nations” ended, just as Jesus foretold in his prophecy on the end of this worldly system of things. (Luke 21:5-7, 24) Hence the guiding rule as stated by Jesus must still be respected and obeyed today, particularly by dedicated, baptized Christians such as Jehovah’s witnesses are. Not only the nations still exist, but God also still exists, and all the nations on earth are on judgment before him since 1914. Persons who are sheeplike in disposition toward God will follow the rule to pay back to Caesar only Caesar’s things but to God all God’s things. As Christian apostles, Paul and Peter stuck to this rule and wrote in support of it.—Matt. 25:31-40.
4. (a) When and to whom did Paul write about this point in dispute, and so with reference to what rulers? (b) Did the receivers of his letter understand Paul, and what about Christians today?
4 About the year 56 Paul wrote to the Christian congregation in the very capital of the Roman Empire. In chapter thirteen of his letter he especially dealt with this point in dispute. This was more than two hundred years before so-called Christendom came into existence (in the fourth century). Paul wrote in the midst of the pagan Roman Empire, before there were so-called Christian kings claiming to rule by divine right and “by the grace of God.” So Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, not about Christendom’s political rulers, but about pagan rulers like Caesar and his governors and kings of individual nations. At Rome in particular the Christians had to be clear on this question: Worldly rulers are not Christians and are not dedicated to Jehovah God, and yet do Christians owe anything to such existing rulers who have control of the land, yes, too, of the land of Palestine and its city of Jerusalem? For the sake of Christianity the Roman congregation had to be clear on this controversial matter and to act with their conscience enlightened. In his letter to them Paul dealt thoughtfully with the matter. Certainly he made himself clear to them and they understood what he wrote. And yet today, nineteen centuries later, there is controversy over what Paul meant, as recently forced onto the world’s attention by a religious happening in divided Germany.a
5, 6. (a) For whose benefit did Paul write Romans 13:1-7, but what question arises in this connection? (b) What will help us to get to the right answer to the question, and so what do we now do?
5 Paul wrote “to all those who are in Rome as God’s beloved ones, called to be holy ones,” and so he wrote for the benefit of the Christian congregation. (Rom. 1:7) But not all the things he discusses in this letter are inside the congregation. The big question today is, Are the things Paul wrote about in Romans, chapter thirteen, verses 1 to 7, within the congregation or outside? For one thing, the verses leading up to chapter thirteen will help us to determine this. We must remember that Paul did not divide his letter up into verses and chapters; he wrote it as a letter, not as a modern book or modern-style Bible. We have no proof that he divided off what is now Ro chapter 13:1-7 from what precedes. So, in order to get the introductory context, let us read, without interruption, from what is now Ro chapter 12:17 through chapter Ro 13:7, as follows:
6 “Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men. If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’ But, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals upon his head.’ Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good. Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. Therefore he who opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will receive judgment to themselves. For those ruling are an object of fear, not to the good deed, but to the bad. 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. But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear: for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword; for it is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath upon the one practicing what is bad. There is therefore compelling reason for you people to be in subjection, not only on account of that wrath but also on account of your conscience. For that is why you are also paying taxes; for they are God’s public servants constantly serving this very purpose. Render to all their dues, to him who calls for the tax, the tax; to him who calls for the tribute, the tribute; to him who calls for fear, such fear; to him who calls for honor, such honor.”
7. According to the introductory context, where, logically, do the “superior authorities” have their setting?
7 From the above reading it is plain that in the last five verses of chapter twelve Ro 12:17-21 Paul is telling God’s holy ones how to conduct themselves among men outside the Christian congregation, “all men,” including even an enemy who does evil to Christians, hence an individual found outside the congregation, not inside. Then, right afterward, Paul passes on to his discussion of the “superior authorities,” and thus has his sights focused on, not what is inside the congregation, but what is outside it. So the “superior authorities” have their setting logically in the world outside the congregation.b Certainly we cannot close our eyes to the fact that there are authorities outside the Christian congregation.
8. (a) What was the original word that Paul wrote down for “authority,” and to whom was this word also applied? (b) How was this word used by Satan the Devil and by a Roman centurion in Capernaum?
8 Although the congregation was in Rome, Paul wrote to it in Greek, not in Latin. The Greek word that Paul used for “authority” was exousía. Readers of the ancient Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures were quite familiar with that word exousía as applying to pagan rulerships or dominion. (See Daniel 7:6, 14, 17; 11:5.) Even Satan the Devil claimed authority. When he tried to tempt Jesus Christ with world rulership and dominion, he said to Jesus: “I will give you all this authority [exousía] and the glory of them, because it has been delivered to me, and to whomever I wish I give it.” But Jesus refused to bargain with God’s chief enemy for worldly authority. (Luke 4:6-8) Later, when pleading with Jesus to cure his manservant, a Roman centurion in Capernaum used words found in Romans 13:1 and said: “Just say the word and my manservant will be healed. For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this one, ‘Be on your way!’ and he is on his way.”—Matt. 8:5-9; Luke 7:8.
9. What use did Jesus and his enemies make of this word as referring to worldly authorities?
9 When forewarning his disciples about persecution by enemies of Christianity, Jesus said: “When they bring you in before public assemblies and government officials and authorities, do not become anxious about how or what you will speak in defense.” (Luke 12:11) The Jewish religious leaders sent men pretending to be righteous to talk to Jesus, “in order that they might catch him in speech, so as to turn him over to the government and to the authority of the governor,” says Luke 20:20. When Jesus yielded himself up to arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, he said to his enemies: “This is your hour and the authority of darkness.” (Luke 22:53; Col. 1:13) What did Governor Pontius Pilate do with Jesus? “After ascertaining that he was from the jurisdiction [exousía] of Herod, he sent him on to Herod.” (Luke 23:7) In harmony with this authority of worldly governors, Jesus had previously said to his apostles: “The kings of the nations lord it over them, and those having authority over them are called Benefactors. You, though, are not to be that way.” (Luke 22:25, 26) And the last book of the Bible, which foretells events of our own day, tells of ten symbolic kings and says: “They do receive authority as kings one hour with the wild beast. These have one thought, and so they give their power and authority to the wild beast.” (Rev. 17:12, 13) So all these are worldly “authorities.”
10. Does the adjective “superior” applied to those “authorities” lift them out of this world, and what determines our answer to the question?
10 However, someone may object, In Romans 13:1 Paul calls the authorities “superior,” and does not that expression lift those authorities out of this world? Can any authorities be “superior” to God? No; but Paul reminds us that those “authorities” are, despite their being “superior,” subject to God. How so? Paul says: “There is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions [by whom?] by God.” If God placed them in a position relative to himself and to one another, then such “superior authorities” must be subject to God, who is the Most High. (Luke 6:35; Acts 7:48; Heb. 7:1) “Superior,” according to the Greek verbal participle used by Paul, means “holding over; being higher (or, better); overtopping; being prominent above,” and not necessarily supreme. Let us note other uses of this Greek verb.
11 In 1 Timothy 2:1, 2, when discussing prayers involving all sorts of men, Paul says that prayers should be “made concerning all sorts of men, concerning kings and all those who are in high station.” The expression “high station” translates the Greek noun hyperokheʹ derived from the verb hyperékhein, the participle of which verb Paul uses in Romans 13:1. Peter uses the same Greek verb in 1 Peter 2:13 and speaks of a king as “being superior.” Also, in Philippians 2:3 the apostle Paul tells Christians in the congregation how they should be looking at one another, saying: “With lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you,” not, of course, supreme like Jehovah God.
“SUPERIOR” TO WHOM?
12. Outside in the world are there men higher in station than Christians, and what do Christians remember in this regard?
12 Nevertheless, outside in the world, where Christians find themselves although they are no part of the world, there are men who are higher in station and in authority than true Christians are. This is so in political governments, because truly dedicated Christians like Jehovah’s witnesses do not meddle in politics or run for political office. But they remember King Solomon’s words, in Ecclesiastes 5:8, to the effect that Jehovah God is higher than the highest earthling, saying: “If you see any oppression of the one of little means and the violent taking away of judgment and of righteousness in a jurisdictional district, do not be amazed over the affair, for one that is higher than the high one is watching, and there are those who are high above them.”
13. Why should every soul be subject and how is it seen that this does not apply to heavenly angels?
13 Since Christians cannot avoid dealing with worldly governments, Paul tells the Christians in Rome: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities.” He reminds them that they are souls, and that their life as souls is involved. Every soul, each individual, of the congregation has an obligation to render this subjection. No one is excepted; and Paul’s career proves he did not except himself. But how far should this subjection of Christians go? To the limit? By no means. Remember that Romans 13:1 is not addressed to angels in heaven, who are subject only to God and his glorified Son Jesus Christ. (Heb. 1:5, 6; 1 Pet. 3:21, 22) Heavenly angels have fought in times past against human political governments and will yet fight against them in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Rev. 16:14-16; 19:14-20) Romans 13:1 is addressed, not to them, but to Christians here on earth, where political governments of this system of things still exist.
14. What are some of the limited areas of subjection that Christians must observe?
14 Here on earth there are many limited areas of subjection that Christians must observe according to God’s written Word. Even Jesus as a boy in Nazareth “continued subject” to his earthly caretakers, Joseph and Mary. (Luke 2:51, 52; Gal. 4:1-5) So the subjection of children to Christian parents is commanded, in 1 Timothy 3:4; Ephesians 6:1-4; younger Christians are to be in subjection to older ones (1 Pet. 5:5); slaves or servants to owners or masters (Titus 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:18; Eph. 6:5-8); wives to husbands (Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1, 5; Eph. 5:22-24); women to the brothers in the congregation (1 Cor. 14:33, 34); and congregation members to brothers who faithfully minister to them. (1 Cor. 16:16) All these are cases of relative subjection, having limitations; for, above all, we must do as James 4:7 tells Christians: “Subject yourselves, therefore, to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.”
15. Accordingly, what kind of subjection is that which must be rendered to “superior authorities,” and why?
15 In the same way the subjection that Christians must render to the “superior authorities” of this old world is merely relative, for it does not leave God and conscience out of consideration. For instance, the apostle Paul says that one reason why every soul ought to be subject is that “there is no authority except by God.”
BY GOD’S PERMISSION
16. How is it that Satan the Devil possesses authority, and what has he done with it?
16 What power Satan the Devil has he originally got from God. Yet we must not subject ourselves to the Devil for a moment but must oppose him. He has been granted an allowance of invisible authority over this old world; otherwise, he could not have offered worldwide authority to Jesus when he tried to tempt Jesus into sin. A person who holds power and authority can pass this along or deal out some of it to others. Satan, “the great dragon,” has done this to his visible organization on earth. Revelation 13:1, 2 pictures this organization as a wild beast and says: “And the dragon gave the beast its power and its throne and great authority.”
17. In subjecting themselves to political governments are Christians subjecting themselves to Satan, or what makes the difference?
17 Of course, all this has been only by God’s permission, and it has resulted in the political governments and rulerships that exist today. However, Satan the Devil is not a visible, earthly authority to whom Christians are commanded to subject themselves. When Christians subject themselves to existing visible, earthly, human governments or “superior authorities,” they are not subjecting themselves to Satan the Devil, the Dragon. They are obeying God’s command.
18, 19. (a) Because of what declaration of purpose has God held back from destroying Satan? (b) What did God have to prove regarding the promised “seed”?
18 From before the flood of Noah’s day till now Satan the Dragon has exercised power and authority only by God’s permission. God has held back from destroying Satan only because of what God said to Satan in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve had sinned. God said: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.”—Gen. 3:15.
19 Time and freedom of action had to be permitted the Devil in order to settle the newly arisen issue: Who holds the universal sovereignty, Jehovah God or Satan the Devil? Also, since the Seed or Offspring of God’s “woman” was put into the issue, God had to prove this point: In spite of the fall of the first perfect man into sin under pressure by Satan the Devil, Jehovah God is able to put on earth in the midst of the Devil’s world a Seed or Offspring that will remain faithful to God. The subjecting of this Seed to earthly “superior authorities” would not lead this Seed or Offspring to be disloyal to God or break integrity toward God.
20. What was illustrated in the case of Job of the land of Uz, and what was foreshadowed through him?
20 God’s allowance of Satan to use his power against godly men of integrity is illustrated in the case of patient Job of the land of Uz. Under challenge by Satan the Devil, Jehovah God said to him regarding faithful Job: “Look! Everything that he has is in your hand. Only against him himself do not thrust out your hand!” When the unsuccessful Satan challenged God on a second occasion, God said regarding Job: “There he is in your hand! Only watch out for his soul itself!” Job proved Satan the Devil a liar again. This foreshadowed how Satan would completely fail when he would be allowed to use his powers against the Seed or Offspring of God’s “woman.”—Job 1:12; 2:6.
21, 22. (a) Hence how has it been that “superior authorities” have been able to exercise authority? (b) How did Jesus make this point clear to the Roman governor?
21 As in Satan’s case, so in the case of the visible, human “superior authorities.” These could exercise no authority except by God’s permission because of the issue that is involved. Accordingly, when the Chief One of the Seed of God’s “woman,” namely, Jesus Christ, stood before the earthly superior authority in Judea, the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, Jesus said something very enlightening. Jesus was then on trial for his human life.
22 When Jesus refused to tell the Roman governor about his heavenly origin, “Pilate said to him: ‘Are you not speaking to me? Do you not know I have authority to release you and I have authority to impale you?’ Jesus answered him: ‘You would have no authority at all against me unless it had been granted to you from above.’” (John 19:9-11) Only by grant from God was Pilate able to exercise his earthly authority against Jesus to put him to death.
23. What, then, is true in the case of action against the other members of the woman’s seed, and how at Romans 13:1 does An American Translation agree with this?
23 The same thing is true with regard to all other political “superior authorities” when they proceed against the other faithful members of the seed or offspring of God’s “woman,” when, for example, they proceed against the “remaining ones of her seed” in our days. (Rev. 12:13, 17) Hence Paul’s words in Romans 13:1 refer to the permitted authority that these “superior authorities” have. In accord with this fact An American Translation of the Bible renders Romans 13:1 as follows: “Everyone must obey the authorities that are over him, for no authority can exist without the permission of God.”
24. Does such granted authority work out for the hurt of God’s people, and is the authority by divine right?
24 Regardless of how this granted authority is used by imperfect, sinful human rulers, it will not work out for the eternal hurt of God’s faithful people; it will rather work out for their eternal good. God watches how men with authority use it. Its good use or its bad use is not without his knowledge, as his own written Word shows. So such use must be by God’s permission, and not because the “superior authorities” rule “by divine right.”
“EXISTING AUTHORITIES” AS PLACED
25. In what way do the “existing authorities” stand?
25 Following up the thought of God’s permission, Romans 13:1 goes on to say: “The existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.” The Greek verb that Paul used here, namely, tasso, means “to order; to set in a certain order,” as in Luke 7:8, where it carries the meaning of being placed under another’s orders. So it refers to the arranging of matters. (Matt. 28:16; Acts 28:23; 15:2) We must not fail to note that Romans 13:1 does not say that the existing authorities stand created by God. He is not their Creator. He allowed for their coming into existence. He even foresaw their coming into existence. He foretold them inasmuch as he was determined to permit them to exist. He always had in mind the relation of these “superior authorities” on earth to the Seed or Offspring of his “woman.”
26. With regard for what did God fix the boundary of the worldly peoples, and why?
26 We see this in the case of the ancient Jewish nation of Israel, or Jacob. God’s prophet Moses led the nation of Israel (or Jacob) out of Egypt and past a number of worldly nations to the borders of the Promised Land of Canaan. There at the borders Moses composed a prophetic song before his death, and in it he said this: “When the Most High [Jehovah God] gave the nations an inheritance, when he parted the sons of Adam from one another, he proceeded to fix the boundary of the peoples with regard for the number of the sons of Israel. For Jehovah’s share is his people; Jacob is the allotment that he inherits. Jehovah alone kept leading him, and there was no foreign god along with him.” (Deut. 32:8, 9, 12) Out of this nation and in fulfillment of Bible prophecy came the Chief One of the Seed of God’s “woman,” also thousands of other members of her seed. We can understand, then, why Jehovah fixed the boundary of the worldly peoples “with regard for the number of the sons of Israel.” He was interested in producing this Seed.
27. Having a like thought, what did Paul say to the high court in Athens, and how was this illustrated in the case of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?
27 With a like thought the apostle Paul said to the high court in Athens, Greece: “The God that made the world and all the things in it, being, as this One is, Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in handmade temples, . . . he made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth, and he decreed the appointed seasons and the set limits of the dwelling of men, for them to seek God, if they might grope for him and really find him, although, in fact, he is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:24, 26, 27) How God decreed the appointed seasons for them to exist and the set limits of their dwelling can be seen from Bible history. When Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were wandering about in the Promised Land of Canaan, Jehovah permitted the pagan Canaanites to occupy the land and exercise their authority there; and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had to recognize it. “They kept walking about from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people. He did not allow any human to defraud them, but on their account he reproved kings, saying: ‘Do not you men touch my anointed ones, and to my prophets do nothing bad.’”—Ps. 105:13-15.
28, 29. (a) When the “error of the Amorites” became full, what did God do with his people, Abraham’s descendants? (b) On the march to Canaanland, what did God not let the nation of Israel do?
28 Hundreds of years later when the “error of the Amorites” in Canaanland became full and Jehovah’s appointed season came to uproot them from the Promised Land, he led the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob out of Egypt by the hand of Moses. He marched them through the wilderness and past or through nations to the eastern shores of the Jordan River.—Gen. 15:13-21; Ps. 105:26-45.
29 On this march to Canaanland God did not let his nation of Israel molest, overrun or uproot the nations of Edom (or Esau; Mount Seir), Moab and Ammon. Why not? “Because,” said Jehovah, “I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a holding.” “Do not molest Moab or engage in war with them, because I shall not give you any of his land as a holding, for to the sons of Lot I have given Ar as a holding. . . . I shall not give you any of the land of the sons of Ammon as a holding, for it is to the sons of Lot that I have given it as a holding.”—Deut. 2:5, 9, 19.
30. How did God deal with other nations by means of Israel, and why did some enemy nations remain in Canaanland?
30 Other nations Jehovah assigned to be destroyed by his chosen people Israel, such as the Amorites under King Sihon; also the Amorites under King Og of Bashan, and then the Canaanites west of the Jordan River. (Deut. 2:31 to 3:13) But when the invading nation of Israel lost its godly zeal and failed to destroy or subjugate the Canaanites, such as the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Amorites, the Perizzites and the Jebusites, then Jehovah declared that he would let these enemies remain for a vexation and a snare to the Israelites.—Judg. 2:20 to 3:6.
31. How about God and the other nations round about Israel both before and during the “appointed times of the nations”?
31 Jehovah God was aware of the other pagan nations all around his chosen people, such as Babel (Babylon), Assyria, Syria and also Egypt, which he had plagued but had left exist. This was before the start of the Gentile Times in 607 B.C.E. Jehovah God himself had foretold those “appointed times of the nations,” and his Son Jesus Christ also mentioned them in his prophecy on the end of this worldly system of things. (Luke 21:24; Jer. 25:8-29; Deut. 28:64-68; Lev. 26:31-41) By his prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel Jehovah also foretold the order in which the world powers, beginning with Babylon, would follow one another during these Gentile Times till they ended in 1914 (A.D.).c
32. What did God foretell regarding the national groups or associations from 1914 onward, and during what time did Paul write his letter about “superior authorities”?
32 Under startling symbols the last book of the Bible has foretold the national groups or associations that are to exist during this “time of the end” from 1914 onward; for example, the Devil’s visible earthly organization, also the British-American dual world power, and the League of Nations and the United Nations. (Rev. 13:1 to 19:20) Jehovah God also foretold the destruction of these “superior authorities” in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty.” The apostle Paul wrote his letter regarding these “superior authorities” during the Gentile Times in the days of the Roman Empire. The Watchtower is publishing this article about them forty-eight years after the Gentile Times ended in 1914.
33. Did the applicableness of Romans 13:1 end in 1914, or when does the applicableness thereof end?
33 The applicableness of Romans 13:1 did not end, however, with 1914. The end of the “appointed times of the nations” in that year still left the Gentile “superior authorities” in existence on earth, but under judgment by God’s kingdom that was set up in the heavens in 1914, with his Son Jesus Christ enthroned at his right hand. Those Gentile “superior authorities” still exist, though undergoing many changes and readjustments. Almighty God will continue permitting this until his work of gathering sheeplike people out of the nations is finished according to his will. Then he will begin the universal war called Armageddon in order to destroy them.
DIFFERENCE IN LAWS
34. How is it that changes or differences in laws have existed, and has this been true of only Gentile nations?
34 As one after another the world powers took the controlling position on the stage of world affairs during the Gentile Times, there was, of course, a change from time to time in the laws that the subject people had to obey. Also the local laws of one country differed from those of other countries, according to the legal ideas of the local ruling authorities. Laws in one place may have been opposite to those in another. But even God’s laws for his people differed at times. For example, the nation of Israel was under the laws of the old covenant that Moses had mediated for them with Jehovah; whereas the “holy nation” of spiritual Israel has, since A.D. 33, been under the Christian laws of God’s new covenant mediated by his Son Jesus Christ. He forbade the ancient Jews to eat fat, pork and unclean animals, but His laws now allow the Christians to eat these things. Yet God has not been self-contradictory in this.
35. How is it that many of such Gentile laws are in line with Christian conscience?
35 Human laws differ from country to country and from time to time and may be contradictory, yet not all these Gentile laws are against the conscience of God’s people. Many of such laws are in line with Christian conscience, even though the Gentile lawmakers were not influenced by Judaism or by Christianity. How could this be? Quite easily, because all nations and peoples descended from the one original man Adam and his wife Eve, in both of whom God implanted this sensing of right and wrong called “conscience.” Besides that original start, all peoples have had a more recent start from righteous ancestors, from the survivors of the world flood forty-three centuries ago, namely, the conscientious Noah and his three sons, together with their wives, or eight persons in all.
36, 37. What, as explained by Paul, do such laws show the effect of?
36 Conscience is inherent in man, it being made part of man by God. Thousands of years have passed since the Flood, and yet all conscience has not been wiped out even from those who have not been God’s chosen, dedicated people. Hence many of their laws show the effect of a God-given conscience still lingering to some extent. On this very point Paul said this to Christians at Rome:
37 “The doers of law will be declared righteous. For whenever people of the nations that do not have law do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. [How so?] They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them and, between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused.”—Rom. 2:13-16.
38, 39. (a) When Christians subject themselves, what do they do regarding the laws of the “superior authorities”? (b) What does the case of Daniel under Medo-Persia and his three companions under Emperor Nebuchadnezzar show regarding obedience, and how do Christians today show they are not lawless to God?
38 So, when Christians subject themselves to Gentile “superior authorities” with their different systems of government and law, they conform themselves to those laws that show the work of conscience according to what God originally wrote in man’s heart. Since the Christians’ subjection to worldly “superior authorities” is only relative, it does not obligate them to obey any worldly laws that go contrary to the laws of the Supreme Lawgiver, Jehovah God. Even during the Gentile Times the prophet Daniel refused to obey the Medo-Persian law that forbade him to pray regularly each day to Jehovah. The miraculous deliverance of Daniel from the lions’ den proved that he had done right in not subjecting himself to King Darius to the point of breaking God’s law.—Dan. 6:1-23.
39 Despite their being captives to Babylon, Daniel’s three Hebrew companions did not obey the emperor’s law that required them to bow down in worship before a golden idol. Their coming out alive, unsinged, from the superheated fiery furnace proved that they had done right in conscientiously refusing to obey the emperor and break the law of the Most High God against idolatry. (Dan. 3:1-30) Like those witnesses of Jehovah of ancient time, Jehovah’s witnesses of today refuse to obey man-made laws that are against God’s law. They are not lawless to God; and so all the laws of the Gentile “superior authorities” that are not contrary to God’s law they obey. Thus they can be in subjection as law-abiding citizens.
40. (a) If standing placed by God, how do the “existing authorities” stand in relation to God himself? (b) Do those authorities have a superiority on earth, and why cannot Christians be anything but subject to them?
40 From our look into Bible history and from our study of Bible prophecy as fulfilled among the Gentile nations, we find Romans 13:1 truthful in saying: “The existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.” Jehovah the Most High is not the God of the worldly nations and their “superior authorities,” and yet he has a control over them. In arranging them or in placing them in their relative positions and in determining their succession to world power, Jehovah did not arrange for them to be higher than himself or his Christ. But do the authorities have a relative superiority on earth? Yes, even toward Christians. They are allowed to wield an authority that true Christians do not have. How so? In that such Christians take no part in politics and do not seek any worldly authority as emperors, kings, governors, mayors, and so forth. These present-existing authorities are an operating part of this world that is soon to be destroyed at Armageddon; and Christians are no part of that doomed world. But as long as authorities exist by God’s permission, Christians must be subject to a relative degree.d
a See the book The Powers That Be, by the clergyman Dr. Clinton D. Morrison, first published in Great Britain in 1960. Also, the book God and Caesar in East Germany, by Richard W. Solberg, published in 1961. See the magazine Awake!, as of August 8, 1960, pages 12-15.
b See The Divine Plan of the Ages, by Chas. T. Russell, published in 1886, pages 250 (¶ 1), 266 (¶¶ 1, 2). Also The Time is at Hand (1889), page 81.
d See Zion’s Watch Tower, as of June, 1882, page 5. Also The Watch Tower, as of May 15, 1914, pages 158, 159.
[Picture on page 682]