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.
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As Paul has already ordered that the law of heavenly righteousness be followed, he now commends earthly law as well, so as not to appear to be slighting it. For if the earthly law is not kept, the heavenly law will not be kept either. The earthly law is a kind of tutor, who helps little children along so that they can tackle a stronger degree of righteousness. For mercy cannot be imputed to anyone who does not seek righteousness. Therefore, in order to back up the authority and fear of the natural law, Paul bears witness to the fact that God is the author of both and that the ministers of the earthly law have God’s permission to act, so that no one should despise it as a merely human construction. In effect, Paul sees the divine law as being delegated to human authorities. Commentary on Paul’s Epistles.
Most rightly, Paul warns against anyone who is puffed up with pride by the fact that he has been called by his Lord into freedom and become a Christian, and therefore thinks that he does not have to keep the status given to him in the course of this life or submit to the higher powers to whom the government of temporal things has been confided for a time. For because we are made of soul and body and as long as we are in this life we make use of temporal things as a means of living this life, it is fitting that, as far as this life is concerned, we be subject to the authorities, i.e., to the people who with some recognition administer human affairs. But as far as the spiritual side is concerned, in which we believe in God and are called into his kingdom, it is not right for us to be subject to any man who seeks to overturn in us the very thing which God has been pleased to grant us so that we might obtain eternal life. So if anyone thinks that because he is a Christian he does not have ...
Non est potestas, exousia, nisi a Deo. St. Chrysostom, om. kg. p. 189. ouk eipen, ou gar estin archon ei me upo tou theou, alla peri tou pragmatos dialegetai legon, ou gar estin exousia. Ver. 13. Non in cubilibus, me koitais, which may signify beds, chambers, or immodest actions.
Let every soul, or every one, be subject The Jews were apt to think themselves not subject to temporal princes, as to taxes and lest Christians should misconstrue their Christian liberty, he here teacheth them that every one (even priests and bishops, says St. Chrysostom) must be subject and obedient to princes, even to heathens, as they were at that time, as to laws that regard the policy of the civil government, honouring them, obeying them, and their laws, as it is the will of God, because the power they act by is from God. So that to resist them, is to resist God. And every Christian must obey them even for conscience-sake. St. Chrysostom takes notice that St. Paul does not say that there is no prince but from God, but only that there is no power but from God, meaning no lawful power, and speaking of true and just laws. See hom. xxiii. (Witham)
For this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.".
Paul the apostle also says upon this same subject: "Be ye subject to all the higher powers; for there is no power but of God: now those which are have been ordained of God."
Paul has a good deal to say on this matter in his other epistles also, placing subjects under their rulers in the same way that household servants are under their masters. He does this to show that Christ did not introduce his laws for the purpose of undermining the state but rather so that it should be better governed. He does not speak about individual rulers but about the principle of authority itself. For that there should be rulers and ruled and that things should not just lapse into anarchy, with the people swaying like waves from one extreme to the other, is the work of God’s wisdom.
Therefore, as to what relates to the honours due to kings or emperors, we have a prescript sufficient, that it behoves us to be in all obedience, according to the apostle's precept.
No doubt the apostle admonishes the Romans
1016. After showing how man should behave toward God by using the gifts of His grace [n. 953], the Apostle now shows how man could comport himself toward his neighbor. 503 First, in regard to superiors; secondly, toward all [v. 8; n. 1044]. In regard to the first he does two things: first, he urges men to the subjection owed to superiors; secondly, to show the sign of subjection [v. 6; n. 1037]. In regard to the first he does three things: first, he proposes his teaching; secondly, he assigns a reason [v. 1b; n. 1020]; thirdly, he draws the conclusion [v. 5; n. 1036]. 1017. In regard to the first it should be noted that in the early Church some believers said that they should not be subject to earthly powers on account of the freedom they received from Christ, since it says in Jn (8:36): If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." But the freedom granted by Christ is a freedom of the spirit, by which we are set free of sin and death, as was said above (8:2): "The law of the Sp...