The Benefits of Subjection to Authorities
1. How can a person take his stand against God’s arrangement regarding authorities, and what does God not prevent from happening to a person that does so?
WHAT person knowingly wants to take his stand against God’s arrangement? A person can do so by opposing the authority that God permits men in high station on earth to wield. Opposition does not work out to a person’s benefit. Says Paul the apostle, in Romans 13:2: “Therefore [because of what Paul has said in the first verse, as discussed above] 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.” Since such opposition means taking a stand against God’s own arrangement, God does not prevent the opposer from undergoing a judgment of punishment now at the hands of the authority.
2. Why did Jesus not oppose the authority on earth, and how was he rewarded for this?
2 Jesus well knew God’s arrangement. So Jesus did not oppose the authority on earth, even though this meant his death. He did not oppose God’s allowance of authority to the Roman governor at Jerusalem to put him to death. The governor’s authority was only limited, as Jesus himself told the governor, because God’s authority is supreme and absolute. (John 19:10, 11; Luke 20:20) Hence Jesus did not appeal to Caesar. He yielded himself to God’s arrangement, like an unresisting lamb, in order to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 53:6, 7. (Acts 8:32, 33) But the judgment of death that Jesus underwent was not for opposing the “authority”; it was because his false accusers prevailed upon the governor, who wanted to prevent a religious riot. For not taking a stand against God’s arrangement concerning the “superior authorities” on earth, Jesus was rewarded. He was resurrected from death to heavenly life and was given a royal seat at God’s own right hand in heaven.
3. (a) For doing what was Jesus put to death, and yet what did he afterward tell his disciples to do? (b) Why does Bible preaching not mean taking a stand against God’s arrangement?
3 Jesus preached the good news of God’s kingdom, and he was put to death for preaching it. Jesus knew that this was right, although the Roman “authority” put him to death for preaching God’s kingdom. That is why, after he was resurrected from the dead, he appeared to his disciples and told them to go right on preaching the same good news of God’s kingdom. This preaching, that cost him his earthly life, was not a failure to be subject to the “superior authorities” of this world. Such “superior authorities” cannot wipe out God’s command through Christ to preach the good news of salvation. Hence subjection to worldly authorities does not mean to silence the preaching of God’s Word. This preaching is not a taking of one’s stand against God’s arrangement for worldly authorities. Preaching means a proper obedience to God, from whom comes all authority.
4. Why does God let us be haled before governors and kings because of Kingdom preaching?
4 If we are persecuted for preaching God’s Word, it does not mean that we opposed the worldly authority. When we preachers are brought before kings, governors and judges for proclaiming the good news, God lets this occur that a witness may be given to them and also that we may avail ourselves of the help of these authorities, if possible. So Jesus did not tell his followers to quit when they are persecuted and brought before rulers. (Luke 12:11, 12) He told us to use the occasion to expand the Kingdom witness to reach the “superior authorities,” by giving them a testimony, not fearing to give them a witness. We should turn the occasion into an opportunity for us to give a witness to them. Said Jesus: “You will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations.”—Matt. 10:18.
5. How did the apostles explain their not obeying the Jewish court and so with whom were they in agreement?
5 Peter and the other apostles of Christ explained why they had not obeyed the order of the Jewish Supreme Court of Jerusalem by saying: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” This was not a case of wrongfully opposing that Jewish Court, which still operated and had the recognition of the Roman government. (Acts 5:29) The apostles knew that God himself would destroy that court. So they did not conspire or work up rebellion against it, even in the Christian congregation. They did not stir up political action against the court even among the people. On two counts they were in agreement with God: (1) In being subject to the authority that God let exist and (2) in obeying God’s command to preach.
6, 7. (a) How have Christendom’s religious organizations been guilty of opposing God s arrangement? (b) How has the Roman Catholic Church been guilty of this and this despite what claims of hers?
6 Religious organizations in Christendom have been guilty of opposing God’s arrangement. How? By opposing the permitted authorities rather than being in subjection to them. How? By meddling in politics and trying to get on top of the State and to dominate it.
7 Every reader of history knows how the Roman Catholics, from the pope on down, have tried to be higher on earth than the “superior authorities” or “higher powers.” (Dy; AV) They have tried to boss the political “higher powers” instead of being subject to them like true Christians. For centuries the fight between the Roman Catholic Church and the states of Christendom has raged. They have forced their canon law on some states and have had the State execute religious heretics for them. They have stirred up revolts against non-Catholic states and have led in overturning governments that have not had the approval of their church. They have brought about a marriage or union of Church and State. In this union they have fought to play the husband’s part in being the head rather than the woman’s part, which is to be subject to the husband. And yet the Roman Catholic Church claims to be the Bride of Christ and to be subject to his orders, such as Christ’s orders given through Paul in Romans 13:1, 2, and through Peter in 1 Peter 2:13-17, 21-24. Now the Roman Catholic Church is getting a due judgment.
8. What is the Greek word that Paul uses for “judgment” here, and what shows whether the word is restricted to a coming judgment day?
8 The judgment that the opposer of the authority receives is not a future one during the thousand-year reign of Christ. It is a judgment executed now by the “authority” in power in the world. For “judgment” Paul used the word krima, which is not the word that is uniformly used in the expression “the day of judgment,” in which krisis is the word used for “judgment.” The word krima can mean any individual judgment, at any time, from any quarter, human or divine. It is not rightly restricted to a judgment on a future day of judgment after Armageddon. Thus Luke 24:20 speaks about the krima or “sentence of death” executed upon Jesus by the Roman governor. And 1 Corinthians 6:7 speaks of having krimata, that is, “judgments” or “lawsuits” with one another.—Yg; Ro; NW.
9. On whom do worldly authorities execute a judgment for guilt, and what must the congregation do regarding any guilty member?
9 Worldly authorities render a judgment and punish persons, whether they are inside the congregation or outside, if they violate the laws of decency and good order. The violators have no right to complain at such punishment, as Paul showed by his words before Caesar’s judgment seat. (Acts 25:11) Hence the Christian congregation cannot protect any of its members if they steal, smuggle, commit bigamy, murder, libel, defraud, and so forth. The congregation must release such guilty members to punishment by worldly authorities. Since the guilty break the laws of the land and thus oppose the “authority,” they are taking a stand against God’s arrangement.
10. How far may a congregation proceed regarding a lawbreaking member, and why?
10 The Christian congregation has no orders from God and has no right to protect such opposers and lawbreakers from the due punishment by the “authority” of the land. We cannot hinder, oppose or condemn the execution of the krima or judgment by aiding or shielding lawbreakers. To do so would put the Christian congregation also in opposition to God’s arrangement. Besides letting the krima or “judgment” take its course upon offending members who bring reproach upon God’s people, the congregation may disfellowship such lawbreakers. The congregation does not want to deserve a krima or “judgment” with the lawbreakers by siding or cooperating with them and opposing the worldly “authority.” It also wants no reproach.
AN OBJECT OF FEAR TO BAD DEEDS
11. In Romans 13:3, who are the rulers meant, and what is the “good deed” to which they are no object of fear?
11 Following up the foregoing thought, Romans 13:3 goes on to say: “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.” The rulers here meant are not this world’s invisible rulers, who are Satan the Devil and his demons, according to John 12:31; 14:30; Ephesians 2:2; 6:12. The ones here meant by “those ruling” are visible, earthly, human. Such rulers are not an object of fear to the “good deed.” This does not mean the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom, though this is the best deed that we could perform. The “good deed” means the good works that the laws of the “superior authorities” command for everybody and that the people in general perform.
12. How does Paul’s appeal in the court at Caesarea show whether the Roman emperors were up till then an “object of fear” to preaching?
12 When Paul wrote his letter to the Roman Christians in the year 56, Emperor Nero was still ruling. So it was to this Roman emperor that Paul appealed. Why did Paul appeal to this pagan ruler, who possessed imperial authority? In order to maintain freedom, even in Jewish territory, for the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom. (Acts 25:8-12; 26:1-7) Hence at that time Emperor Nero was no “object of fear” to the excellent deed of preaching God’s kingdom. The preceding emperor, Claudius (A.D. 41-54), had banished the natural Jews from Rome, including Aquila and Priscilla. But this action by Emperor Claudius was not against the Christians, although the Christians might be confused with the Jews because of the source of their religion.—Acts 11:28; 18:2; John 4:22.
13. Up till then the persecution of Christians had been mainly by whom, and despite his being what was Paul released from prison in Philippi?
13 The burning of Rome had not yet taken place, namely, in the year 64, which burning by accident resulted in the persecution of the Christians from then on by the Gentiles in an organized way. Paul was thus in a position to appeal to Emperor Nero in behalf of the Christian ministry that the Jews obstructed in Paul’s case. Up till now the persecution of Christians had been mainly by the Jews. What occurred to Paul and Silas in Philippi in Macedonia was mainly because these two missionaries were misrepresented by racketeers to the Gentile civil magistrates, in which case Paul and Silas were also branded as being Jews. In this instance Paul effectively referred to his Roman citizenship and was let out of prison despite his being an active Christian.—Acts 16:19-21, 37-39.
14. Why, then, was Paul not afraid to appeal to Caesar, and how did this confirm what he said in Romans 13:3 about rulers?
14 So when Paul appeared before Governor Festus, he was not afraid to appeal to Caesar, for Paul had been doing no bad thing by preaching God’s Word. He appealed to this highest Roman court in order to defend his right to keep on preaching. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans years before he was imprisoned in Jerusalem and in Caesarea and before he was transferred to Rome to appeal in person to Caesar Nero. Paul reached Rome first about A.D. 59, or five years before the accidental burning of Rome. Paul could correctly write, in Romans 13:3, that those ruling in high worldly position are no object of fear even to Kingdom preaching.
15. What is the lawful purpose of rulership, and how does even the law code of Hammurabi indicate that?
15 “For those ruling are an object of fear . . . to the bad [deed].” This is because of the “authority” that such rulers wield. The lawful purpose of rulership is to discourage and restrain the bad deed. The ruler must act against badness according to the law of the land. Any righteousness in such law shows the result of the conscience that God implanted in the first man and the remnants of which are still found in human lawmakers. By a righteous course the ruler must inspire a restraining fear in persons who are inclined to be bad. Even the preamble to the law code of the pagan king Hammurabi of ancient Babylon indicated this. In column one he says: “ . . . at that time they called me Hammurabi, the exalted prince, the reverer of the gods, to make justice to prevail in the land, to overthrow wickedness and evil, to relieve the weak from the oppression of the strong, . . . to illumine the land, and to promote the well-being of men.”a
16. What do people expect of their rulers, why does God let them wield authority, and is the abuse of authority ordained by God?
16 A ruler’s being an object of fear to the bad deed is a mark not alone of men who are in authority inside Jehovah’s organization but also of the “superior authorities” of this world. This is the stated purpose of all human rulers; and this is what the people, their subjects, expect of the rulers. The fearsome authority of rulers in general serves to keep badness down. Since God permits worldly rulers on earth to wield authority, it is to let them see how much good or how little good they can do with it in comparison with the promised kingdom of God. The abuse of authority on earth is not ordained by God; it is devilish. Rightful exercise of authority is provided for in order that benefits may result, by the restraining of lawlessness and disorderliness.
17. (a) Why have Christians no “fear of the authority” when preaching? (b) What is the good that Romans 13:3 tells Christians to do in order to have praise from the authority?
17 Wrongdoers have reason to be in “fear of the authority,” as the laws and decrees of such authority are generally published and made known. Preachers and teachers of the good news of God’s kingdom have no fear, for they are not doing wrong but doing the greatest good. Still, when Romans 13:3 says: “Keep doing good, and you will have praise from it [the authority],” it does not refer to Kingdom preaching. It refers to obeying the good laws of the land that even people who do not preach God’s kingdom obey. By its giving praise to persons who are law-abiding subjects or citizens the authority promotes good order, decency and general rightdoing. Nevertheless, when speaking to King Herod Agrippa II, the Roman Governor Festus spoke favorably of the apostle Paul.—Acts 25:24-27.
18. Is it, then, unusual for Jehovah’s witnesses to receive praise from civil rulers?
18 So Paul had no fear of the authority for preaching God’s Word. He was happy to make his defense before King Agrippa as well as Governor Festus. (Acts 26:1-3; 25:8-11) Today it is not unusual for the Christian witnesses of Jehovah to receive praise from the civil rulers. During World War II the United States Solicitor General, Francis Biddle, spoke out in behalf of Jehovah’s witnesses in order to quiet down the prevailing mob action in forty-four American states by misguided, fanatical, prejudiced people.b This was beneficial.
(For the next in this series see our next issue.)
a See Babylonian Life and History, by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, K.T., page 124, edition of 1925. Also Israel and Babylon, by W. Lansdell Wardle, M.A., B.D., pages 253, 254, edition of 1925; and Freedom in the Ancient World, by Herbert J. Muller, New York edition of 1961.
b See the book Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, pages 181, 182, edition of 1959.