Romans 13:4 answers: “For it [the authority, exousía] is God’s minister [diákonos] to you for your good. But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear: for it is not without purpose that it [the authority, exousía] bears the sword; for it is [not God, but is] God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath upon the one practicing what is bad.”
5. How did the Persian government, as an “authority,” serve as “God’s minister” for the Jewish remnant and their temple?
5 Prior to the Christian era, King Cyrus of Persia was a minister of Jehovah for the good of the Jews captive in Babylon. As God’s minister, Cyrus let the faithful remnant of Jews return to Jerusalem to build the temple and reestablish Jehovah’s worship there. In his decree of liberation Cyrus said concerning Jehovah God: “He himself has commissioned me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” (2 Chron. 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1-4) To this extent Cyrus was “God’s minister,” not, of course, that Cyrus was now a converted Jew. Twelve years later the returned Jews had to force an investigation of the official government records to relieve themselves of the obstruction of their temple work by their enemies round about. The investigation turned out favorably, the Persian government told the obstructors to stop, and so in four years’ time God’s people completed his temple.—Ezra 5:17 to 6:15.
6. How, later, did the Persian “authority” support the temple activities and also prevent the people of God from being massacred?
6 Later the king of Persia sent the Bible copyist Ezra to Jerusalem with a contribution to Jehovah’s house from the king and his counselors and princes. He also sent a letter of instructions that granted freedom from taxation to the priests and other direct servants at the temple. (Ezra 7:11, 24; 8:25-30) Also, in the days of Queen Esther, the Persian king her husband was God’s servant in executing Haman, the Jews’ enemy. He also arranged for the Jews to fight for their lives under Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai as the new Persian prime minister, and to kill those who tried to use Haman’s bad law to destroy God’s people.—Esther 7:5 to 9:17.
7, 8. (a) Is it only in fulfilling Bible prophecy or enacting a prophetic type that a worldly authority serves as “God’s minister” to Christians? (b) How do later developments in Paul’s ministry show whether the “authority” is a minister for good or for bad?
7 However, a worldly “authority” acts as God’s minister to the Christians for their good, not merely when the “authority” is fulfilling Bible prophecy or enacting a prophetic type, but also in the daily, ordinary things of life. The Christians as well as all other subjects or citizens benefit from the proper functioning of the worldly “authority.” Who was it that delivered the apostle Paul from the Jewish mob at the temple in Jerusalem? The Roman guard of the worldly authority. Who was it that transported Paul secretly from Jerusalem down to Caesarea to thwart a Jewish plot to kill him? To whom was it that Paul appealed—to the Jewish high priest or to a Gentile authority? Who was it that shipped Paul from Caesarea to Rome free of charge for him to give a witness in Rome? Who was it that provided for Paul not to be killed with other prisoners on the ship before it was wrecked? Who was it that provided for Paul to have “his own hired house” in which to be held as a prisoner in Rome while awaiting trial before Caesar Nero? It was always agents of the Roman “authority.”—Acts 21:31 to 28:31.
8 And, according to tradition, it was the same Roman authority that acquitted Paul from the false Jewish charges and enabled him to succeed in the “defending and legally establishing of the good news.” (Phil. 1:7) In all such cases, we ask, whose minister was the Roman authority, God’s minister or the Devil’s? Was the “authority” a minister for good or for bad as regards the Christian cause?
9, 10. (a) In what sense is it not to be understood that the “authority” becomes “God’s minister”? (b) Because of its being a “minister to you for your good,” what advantage may Christians take of the “authority”?
9 This does not mean, of course, that the “authority” becomes converted to Christianity so as to become a dedicated, baptized, preaching minister of God. Not any more so than that King Cyrus became a Jew, one of Jehovah’s dedicated people under Mosaic law. But the “authority” can serve for good, as it was intended; and we have a right to take advantage of it for good if we remain law-abiding persons.
10 Do we not appeal to the authorities of the land for them to render us some good in cases where our rights are being violated by enemies? In many such cases they have been ministers for our good, have they not? Why should we appeal to them at all if they were not appointed to minister good to us or if no good was possible to issue from them? Even in behalf of the preaching of God’s kingdom, which in many cases some officials have persecuted, Jehovah’s witnesses have appealed to the “authority” for the right handling of the situation adversely affecting us. Why should we do this if the “authority” was not really and essentially appointed to minister good things and benefits to all the people, to all who are lower than the “superior authorities” or “higher powers”?
PERSECUTION BY DICTATORS
11. What can be said about the “authority” when an individual in office perverts matters and ministers bad things to us?
11 At times, instead of acting as a minister for our good, the “authority” has turned to ministering bad things to us just because we are Jehovah’s witnesses. It has persecuted us and prohibited our preaching and tried to stamp us out of existence. What about that? Well, such ungodly conduct is the particular responsibility of the “authority” holder, the person who then wielded the authority. He will personally be held accountable for his abuse of authority by God, for perverting the proper, appointed function of authority.
12. How did Jehovah’s witnesses point out this fact in 1934, in 1956 and 1957 at their gatherings?
12 This fact was pointed out in the Resolution that Jehovah’s witnesses adopted in their 199 District Assemblies held around the world in 1956-1957 and that they addressed to the then Russian Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin.* It was also pointed out in the Resolution adopted by 33,091 of Jehovah’s witnesses assembled in Baltimore, Maryland, August 24, 1957, and addressed to the then dictator of the Dominican Republic, Generalissimo Rafael L. Trujillo.* The telegrams of identical style sent to the Nazi dictator of Germany, Adolf Hitler, on Sunday, October 7, 1934, by Jehovah’s witnesses assembled all around the world, said in part: “Refrain from further persecuting Jehovah’s witnesses; otherwise God will destroy you and your national party.”* As exemplified by those men, human dictators rise to power, abuse authority for a while and fall, but the “authority” continues on in the hands of other men.
13. With regard to human rulers, how have Jehovah’s witnesses shown no fear and yet shown respect?
13 From the time of Nimrod, Babylon’s ruler in the days of Noah, Jehovah’s witnesses have not feared the person, the man, even though a dictator. They have feared God. However, they have respected the “authority,” that impersonal thing which puts power to act in the hands of a ruler. Authority hands out hard treatment to evildoers.
14. What reason does Romans 13:4 give for showing fear, and what is the “sword” mentioned therein?
14 Says Romans 13:4 to Christians: “But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear: for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword.” Not just the dagger, which the Roman emperor and the governing officials next to him customarily wore as a sign of their “right of life and death” (ius vitae et necis); but the “sword,” which symbolizes the power of executing to death.
15. How did the ruling Herods use the “sword,” and what does this prove about our dealing with “authorities”?
15 When King Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded, he used the symbolic “sword” to no good purpose, not as “God’s minister.” Yes, he could use it, and he did, because it was not without a rightful object in view that he bore the symbolic sword. That object was to cut off evildoers; but in this case Herod Antipas did just the opposite. (Matt. 14:1-12) Also, when King Herod Agrippa I “did away with James the brother of John by the sword,” he misused the sword that his authority awarded to him. (Acts 12:1, 2) This proves, though, that it is not safe to fool with the authority by daring to do wrong, for then we are fooling with the “sword.”
16. For doing bad, what do we have reason to fear getting from the “authority,” and thus as what does the authority serve?
16 If we act unchristianly and do what is bad, we have reason to fear punishment from the one bearing worldly authority. “For it [the authority] is God’s minister.” In what way in this case? As an “avenger to express wrath upon the one practicing what is bad,” says the inspired Paul. Being an avenger is a fear-inspiring capacity of the authority, which should have held us back from doing wrong. God does not thus punish the evildoing Christian directly, or let matters wait till the distant future judgment day, before he has judgment for doing bad come on the offender. God does not have to act directly or wait till his coming judgment day. He already has his “minister” handy to mete out the punishment due.
17. Why did the widow of Jesus’ parable persistently appeal to the unrighteous judge, and what does this illustrate as to instructions to officials concerning conduct in office?
17 In Jesus’ parable of the unrighteous judge, in Luke 18:1-6, a widow persistently called upon the judge to be an avenger against her adversary-at-law. If the judge with his authority was not rightly expected to be an avenger, why should the widow have persistently called upon him? Especially so, when the judge was unrighteous, without fear of God or respect for man. Just as it is inside God’s own organization, so it is outside in Satan’s organization: persons in authority have their instructions for right conduct in office, certainly not instructions for bad, unjust conduct. Otherwise, how could we look to any official on earth for help? How could we do so if such official was not authorized to do right, to do good, to do justice? Some of the right-doing that they are authorized to do is in harmony with God’s law and can be approved by Christian conscience.
18. On what basis could Daniel and Mordecai the cousin of Queen Esther take part in the Babylonian and Persian governments?
18 How could the prophet Daniel have taken part in the Babylonian government or in the Persian government, if either of such governments had no authority whatever for doing good? The Persian government allowed Daniel, and also Mordecai, to do good, even though this directly benefited Jehovah’s people; and it even commended Daniel and Mordecai for doing so. It approved of their doing so, as they were the captive slaves of such governments. Vengeance deservedly came upon the persecutors of Daniel and of Queen Esther and Mordecai and of their Jewish brothers.
19. How did God use Gentile rulers as his avenger against the wayward ten-tribe kingdom of Israel?
19 In the centuries before Christ God authorized Gentile rulers or “superior authorities” to act as his avenger to express divine wrath upon his chosen people because of their national failures toward him. According to Isaiah 9:8-17, God used King Rezin of Syria together with the Philistines to act as his avenger against Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, the capital of Northern Israel. According to Isaiah 10:5, 6, 15, Jehovah also made the king of Assyria the stick or rod with which to belabor that wayward nation.
20. How did God use Gentile rulers as his avenger against Judah, Egypt and Babylon?
20 According to Jeremiah’s words (Jer 25:8-11; 27:4-8), Jehovah made the king of Babylon his servant by whom to bring divine vengeance upon the nation of Judah and other nations having to do with Judah. The king of Babylon was as God’s sword. (Ezek. 21:8-23) Jehovah made the king of Babylon like his woodcutter to chop down and subdue Egypt, which had grown like a sturdy tree. (Ezek. 31:2-14) King Cyrus of Persia was made Jehovah’s anointed one to humiliate Babylon and overthrow it as a world power.—Isa. 45:1-4.
21. (a) Whom did God use as his avenger A.D. 70, and against whom? (b) May the “authority” act as an avenger only when carrying out a Bible prophecy, or when also?
21 In the days of Christ’s apostles Jehovah God used the Roman authority to act as his avenger with the sword in the year 70. That year was when the “days for meting out justice,” the days of vengeance, came upon the antichristian nation of Israel. So its holy city and temple of worship were destroyed by the Roman legions under General Titus. (Luke 21:20-24; Matt. 23:35 to 24:2) That was a day of judgment for Israel. However, there is no need for the worldly “authority” to wait until the judgment day of a disobedient nation before it acts as an “avenger to express wrath.” The avenger’s wrath can be expressed at any other time against any individual wrongdoer, by the law processes of the “authority.” So the truth of the apostle Paul’s words does not need to be limited to the time that God carries out a prophecy against a whole nation.
Conscience and Subjection to Authorities
1. When does the greatest benefit come to one from subjection to authorities, and who therefore receive the greatest benefit?
THE greatest benefit from subjecting ourselves to the “existing authorities” that God permits to rule on earth comes by being subject with the right motive. The motive of fear does not always keep men from doing wrong or from opposing the “superior authorities.” In all the nations and lands the persons who have the best motive for subjecting themselves are the persons who are no part of Christendom but who are Christians dedicated to Jehovah God and who follow in the