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Understanding Romans 13

Updated: Jan 29

What does it mean that the “powers that be” are ordained of God? The word ordained does not mean “pre-ordained” or predetermined, it instead signifies a present influence, disposition, or positioning. The Bible uses the word ordained in Acts 13:48, and it means the Gentiles disposed themselves, or aligned themselves with the offer of salvation. They were not eternally decreed to believe and be saved as some claim. God’s influence on them, and their submission to God based on the light they had, positioned them to submit to Christ as Lord when they heard the gospel. Likewise, the influence and positioning of the world’s governments can be said to be ordained by God in the sense that in his divine project, he allows them to be in power just as he allows Satan to be “the god of this world.” God could overthrow the kingdoms of men and the tyranny of Satan in a moment of time, but he “ordains” that they continue to exist, perhaps to test our allegiance. In Deuteronomy 13:1-3, God says that false prophets will have dreams and provide signs and wonders about things that will come to pass. God says that even if their claims come true – we might say he ordains that he will let them come to pass – this does not mean that God approves of them. Instead, God says he uses the influence and presence of these false claims to “prove” the people, to know whether they will obey him or not. These false prophets were therefore “ordained of God” in that they were allowed to be in place for a reason – the testing of the people. We should remember this when it comes to obeying the government. It will be no excuse before God that we disobeyed him because we were obeying “the powers that be.” Not submitting will result in condemnation from the government, but it is better to be condemned by men than God.

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