Honour the King

Honour the King

By Georead

Submit to Every Ordinance of Man

The word of God counsels us to be subject to “the powers that be” and to “submit to every ordinance of man” (see 1 Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:1-6). Further it counsels that we should be subject to and obey the government, whatever government it should be. But if the government were to enact laws contrary to the law of God could we obey? How could I answer for my faith? Could I explain why I am not obeying the government when the Bible says, “submit to every ordinance of man” (1 Peter 2:13)?


The powers that be are ordained of God. Romans 13:1. The word “ordained” does not mean that kings or governments have some kind of spiritual power imparted to them because the alternate word given in Bible margin is “ordered”. The powers that be are ordered or put in place by God. The same word is found in Acts 28:23 “they had appointed him a day”, that is, the Jews in Rome appointed or ordered a day for Paul to tell them about the gospel. In Romans 13:1 the Apostle is saying the powers that be are appointed by God.

All Power from God

For there is no power but of God. Romans 13:1. God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God. Psalms 62:11. All power is derived from God. Does this mean that all kings whether good and bad derive their power from God?

King David was a good king. God Himself established David’s throne. We have no doubt that his power came from God. But what about wicked kings did they derive their power from God? For instance Nero, the most debased Roman emperor, did his power come from God? Who gave the Romans power to rule?

Pilate was the Roman ruler of Judea. When Pilate told Jesus he had power to crucify him or let him go, Jesus replied, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above John 19:11. Pilate’s power or the Roman power came from God. Nevertheless Pilate performed an act that was not sanctioned by God.

When he [Pilate] was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him Matthew 27:19.  The wife of Pilate sent him a message urging him to leave Jesus alone. She did this because the angels of God had warned her in a dream. They were trying to prevent Pilate from performing the terrible act of crucifying Jesus. Nevertheless Pilate condemned Him to be crucified. While Pilate was given power from God, he had freedom to act as he chose.

It must also be true that the tyrant Nero received his power from God. Yet this does not prove that God sanctions the acts of that power. When Nero put to death the Apostles Peter and Paul it was not an act sanctioned by God.

Take the case of individual powers. There are physical powers, intellectual powers, etc. Where do individual human powers come from? They come from God. God has given each one of us individual powers but we must choose how we will act, so with kings and governments. Their power comes from God. But that does not mean God is responsible for all their actions because they are free to act at they choose.

God over the Higher Powers

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers Romans 13:1. Who are the higher powers that we are to be subject to? Whatever it means by the higher powers, these powers cannot be above the Most High. God is all powerful

God removeth kings, and setteth up kings Daniel 2:21. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory Daniel 2:37. God set Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, over all the kingdoms of earth. When Nebuchadnezzar tired to ascribe to himself divine power he was driven mad until he acknowledged the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will Daniel 4:32.

Resisting the Power

Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation Romans 13:2. Since God himself has put in place these powers we should not resist them. God himself put Nebuchadnezzar in power so it was not right to resist him.

Jeremiah the prophet counseled the people of Israel to submit quietly to their Babylonian conquerors. Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives Jeremiah 29:7. A false prophet arose contradicting the message of Jeremiah. Hananiah told the people to rise up and resist Babylonian rule. To prevent insurrection and the great suffering that would result from it, God sent Jeremiah with a warning message against Hananiah.

Jeremiah  28:14,15 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him: Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie

The people of Judah were to submit to Nebuchadnezzar. God had set Nebuchadnezzar over all the kingdoms of earth. Jeremiah warned the people and the king of Judah to remain in peaceful subjection to the powers that be.

In Romans 13:2 the Apostle Paul is a warning against rebellion and insurrection. It is God who removes kings and sets them up. It is not us. We are not to be involved in rebellion or insurrection. Jeremiah warned the people of Judah not to raise an insurrection. They were not to resist.

Resisting Wicked Laws

Daniel was a captive in Babylon. He was familiar with the writings of Jeremiah (see Daniel 9:2). Likewise his three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would have been familiar with the counsels of Jeremiah. They lived peaceful subjection to Babylonian government. They did not resist.

However Daniel and his friends did not always obey the laws of that government. When the law of God conflicted with the laws of Babylonian government they disobeyed. Daniel’s three friends were cast into a fiery furnace because of disobedience to the king.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego resisted wicked laws of Nebuchadnezzar yet they remained subject to the powers that be. They showed submission speaking honourably to the king and not resisting the punishment. They did not rise up in rebellion against it. They committed themselves into the hands God in their hour of trial.

In Romans 13:2 when the Apostle speaks of ‘resistance’ he is warning against rebellion and insurrection. He is not speaking of resistance to wicked laws.

Ordinarily subjection implies obedience. When we read that Jesus was subject to his parents we are sure that he was obedient to them. Therefore when we are exhorted to be subject to the powers that be, the natural conclusion is, we are obedient to laws. But we should never forget that God is above all. All power comes from him. We are to obey God all of the time. Also we are to be subject to human powers, so long as our subjection does not involve disobedience to God.

While the word of God counsels us to be subject to the powers that be, it never countenances disobedience to God. It is the height of folly to misuse Romans chapter 13, claiming it is the duty of Christians to obey human laws when they conflict with the law of God.

1 Peter 2:13

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme 1 Peter 2:13.

What does it mean to submit to every ordinance of man? It is supposed that the word “ordinance” means law. But a more careful reading of the text shows that this supposition is a mistake. The word “ordinance” in the Greek could is better translated as “creation”. In the concordance it is only once translated as “ordinance” while 11 times as “creation”. Another text that using the same Greek word is 2 Peter 3:4 . . for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. Young’s Literal Translation of 1 Peter 2:13,14 reads: Be subject, then, to every human creation, because of the Lord, whether to a king, as the highest, whether to governors, as to those sent through him. The text says nothing about laws, only about rulers. The Apostle Peter counsels us to submit to rulers. But our submission to rulers does not necessarily involve obedience to wicked laws.  In 1 Peter 2:17 we are counseled to “honour the king” but it does not suggest that we disobey God.

Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward 1 Peter 2:17,18. We are to be in subjection to rightful authority whether the ruler be good and gentle or froward.

For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully 1 Peter 2:19. The next text points out that although subject to rulers we may be called upon to endure grief and suffer wrongfully because of conscience toward God. This might occur if rulers were to compel obedience to laws that contradict the law of God. This would cause those who would rather obey God to suffer wrongfully for conscience sake.


During the time of the Nazi rule in Europe many individuals and institutions compromised in order to secure peace for themselves. Yet in doing this they obeyed men rather than God. So-called Christian ministers misused texts such as Romans 13:1,2 and 1 Peter 2:13,14 to condemn those who were resisting the wicked laws of the Nazi regime.

The test of truth will come upon both individual Christians and church institutions. When the laws of men contradict the law of God what should we do? Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men  Acts 5:29.        

None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict. To every soul will come the searching test: Shall I obey God rather than men? . . . Are we prepared to stand firm in defense of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus?  {Great Controversy 593.2}

Be careful not to belong to any institution, including any church that has a track record of obeying men rather than God.

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