Let’s read Romans 13:1-5, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” 

In the first verse, we are instructed to be in subjection to the authorities.  The context shows that this is speaking of governmental leaders.  When the Apostle Paul wrote these words, Rome was under the leadership of Nero, one of the most terrible emperors in the history of the Roman empire.  Many Romans believed that the Great Fire of Rome was instigated by Nero.  He was said to have seized Christians as scapegoats for the fire and burned them alive, seemingly motivated not by public justice but by personal cruelty.  Yet, the believers in Rome were instructed to obey this man’s authority.

The second part of verse one may be even harder to understand, telling us that there is no one in authority except the Lord put him there.  We read of the Lord Jesus on trial before Pilate in John 19:10-11, “Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above…”  Even before Pilate gave the Lord over to be crucified, the Lord reminded him that he had been put in power by the One who is “from above.”  Indeed, God put Pilate in power, even as He puts all leaders into power.

We have that truth borne out in Daniel 2:20-21, “Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: HE REMOVETH KINGS, AND SETTETH UP KINGS: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.”  Daniel 4:17 tells us, “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and GIVETH IT TO WHOMSOEVER HE WILL, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” (Read also Daniel 5:21.)

I think it is clearly apparent that the Lord sets up kingdoms and He sets up kings (presidents, prime ministers, emperors, etc.)  Romans 13:4 tells us of our leaders, “For he is the minister of God to thee for good.”  How could Hitler possibly be a minister of God?  After all, he was such and evil and sadistic man.  Admittedly, that is a difficult question.  Sometimes we are confused as to the people the Lord allows to be put into office.  The Lord doesn’t always tell us His plan, but we do know we can trust Him in His plans.  We read the rhetorical question in Genesis 18:25, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”  Indeed, EVERYTHING the Lord does is right.  We need to be clear that although the Lord might put an evil person in the position of great power, that person is still responsible for his own actions. 

The governmental leader is a minister of God because he has been put into power according to God’s sovereignty and will.  Hitler was an evil man.  So was Pilate.  So was Nero.  So were many, many leaders through the ages.  Pilate, for example, served God by making sure he sent Him to be crucified.  The Apostle Peter stated in Acts 2:23, “Him (Jesus), being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”  It was God’s will that His Son was crucified.  It was the wickedness of man that put Him on the cross.  God’s will always prevails!  Many wicked men have served the Lord unconsciously by doing what He wants to happen.  I trust the Lord will reveal to us one day exactly how Hitler accomplished the will of God.  The Lord has often used evil leaders to punish and bring to repentance the Jewish nation.  In fact, the Lord raised up Nebuchadnezzar to punish Judah in Babylon for their idolatry. (2 Kings 20:17-18).  Besides all this, any government is better than no government at all.  Anarchy prevails when there is no leader. 

Before closing, I will offer one more comment.  When we consider the state of the United States today, what kind of nation are we?  Are we a Christian nation?  Well, would a Christian nation take the Lord out of the schools, allow and encourage the abortion of millions of children, legalize mind altering drugs, allow pornography to exist, etc.?  When we consider the shape of our nation, we must wonder:  What kind of leader to we deserve?  Whoever our leaders are, may we be obedient to God’s Word as we find in 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “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 Saviour.”  (421.6)