How Should We Know Romans 13:1-2, “Submission to Authorities”?

January 2, 2023

I am a co-worker of a house church. Since our church has refused to join the Three-Self Church, we are restricted and persecuted by the Chinese Communist government frequently. So we go and gather in the mountains in order to avoid being arrested. Today, after my family and I had prepared everything, we disguised ourselves, took our farm implements, and then went to the mountain for a meeting. When passing by the village entrance, I heard some villagers saying that the police were arresting a preacher. Hearing that, I was much angrier and thought, “Ah! The Chinese Communist Party is persecuting house churches more and more severely. It seems that in the future we have to be much more cautious when gathering and preaching the gospel.” But what the scripture says occurred to my mind: “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Romans 13:1–2). I felt very confused and was caught in a dilemma: How should we treat the CCP regime? The CCP has been persecuting us believers in the Lord, arresting and persecuting Christians. If we obey the ruling authority according to Paul’s words, then aren’t we opposing the Lord and bringing destruction on ourselves? But if not, then according to the Bible, we are rebelling against the ordinance of God and asking for punishment. Ah! How to practice to be after the Lord’s will? The oppression of the CCP is becoming tighter and tighter yet I still don’t know how to practice in this aspect. …

As I thought of this, we reached the woods, and there we surprisingly encountered the preacher Brother Wu being arrested by the police. Without allowing ourselves time to talk, we hurried to take Brother Wu to our meeting place. After getting a general understanding of the persecution he had undergone, I said: “It is the Lord’s arrangement that we meet here today, and there must be God’s good will.” While I was speaking, the other co-workers came in gradually. Then I told them about how the CCP hunted Brother Wu.

Brother Zhou said heavily: “Brother Wu was able to escape from the pursuit of the CCP, this really was the protection of the Lord. It is too difficult for us to believe in the Lord under the CCP regime. Every time we gather together or preach the gospel, we are in danger of being arrested and jailed. If we didn’t have true faith and the will to give up our life for the Lord, it would be hard for us to walk down the path. We really need to pay a high price for following the Lord! I was arrested and had been in prison for three years because of spreading the gospel, so I know these things very clearly. For all these years, the CCP government has been wantonly arresting and persecuting believers in God, making many Christians have no home to return and their families shattered. Some have suffered tortures, and some have even been persecuted to death. The evil behavior of the CCP really makes people enraged with hatred! But in the Bible, Paul says that we should obey those in power. I am so hazy. How to treat the CCP regime to accord with the Lord’s will?” What Brother Zhou said was exactly what I thought and it was our puzzlement and difficulties as well.

Thus, I said anxiously: “Yeah! This problem has troubled me for quite a long time too. If we put Paul’s words into practice, then we ought to obey the regimes in all things. However, the CCP, an atheistic regime, has always persecuted religious belief and opposed God. Not only does the CCP not allow us to believe in the Lord but they also arrest and persecute those who spread the gospel and bear witness for God. In case we obey them, neither believing in the Lord nor preaching the gospel to testify about Him, then aren’t we standing on Satan’s side, resisting and betraying the Lord? Won’t we then become the ones who shall perish? Ah! I really don’t understand: When it comes to how we treat those in power, what should we do to be after the Lord’s will? Oh, Brother Wu, as a preacher, you should have higher insight. What’s your understanding of this?”

Brother Wu said seriously: “About this question of whether we should listen to those in authority or not, we should treat it according to God’s words. Let’s recall, from the Age of Law to the Age of Grace, God never said that man should obey the authorities. For instance, in the Age of Law, the Egyptian Pharaoh, the enemy of the Israelites, held the power. He prevented the Israelites from leaving Egypt to worship God. He resisted the work of God; as a result, God sent disasters down on him. In the Age of Law, all devilish rulers opposing God were destroyed by Him in the end. Then, in the Age of Grace, both the authorities and the religious leaders were resisting God and were hostile to God. They opposed and condemned God’s work, so the Lord Jesus could only leave the temple to preach and work in the wilderness and among the common people. Had the disciples of the Lord Jesus obeyed the ruling regime, could they have still followed Him? From the facts of the work of God, we can see that listening to those in power isn’t in accordance with God’s will and isn’t God’s requirements, either. Particularly, since the CCP came to power, they have been publicly denying, condemning, and blaspheming God. They have regarded Christianity as an evil cult, and labeled the Bible as an evil cult book, confiscating it and burning it. They have also declared religious groups as cult organizations and persecuted and suppressed them. Especially with those Christians who believe in true God, spread and testify God, the CCP even more wildly arrest, persecute and brutally torture them. It really is ruthless and unwarranted killing! The facts are sufficient to prove that the CCP is an evil satanic force opposing God. Why does the CCP hate and persecute believers in God so much? What on earth is its purpose? This is because it most fears that all Chinese people will believe in God, follow God, pursue the truth, and receive God’s salvation. In this way, there will be no one to be enslaved by or to serve it anymore. Hence, the CCP persecutes Christians by any means, trying in vain to abolish God’s work, ban Christianity, and turn China into a region without God. The CCP is indeed the evil satanic regime which hates the truth and God the most.”

After hearing Brother Wu’s fellowship, brothers and sisters started talking about it. My heart also felt much brighter and then I said, “Ah, thanks be to the Lord! Now I feel released in my heart. Previously I didn’t understand the truth and didn’t see through the CCP’s evil essence of resisting God. No matter how those in power arrested and persecuted Christians, I didn’t dare to rise up to resist but still prayed for them. I thought that authorities were ordained by the Lord and if we didn’t obey them, then we were rebelling against and betraying the Lord! Ah! I was really ignorant and unable to tell good from evil!”

Brother Wu said: “Thank God! This is all God’s enlightenment and illumination. The CCP government uses all kinds of means to persecute Christians cruelly, which causes countless Christians to be homeless and their families to be ruined. From the ironclad facts, we can be sure that the CCP government is the most evil satanic regime in the world. So, we reject and betray it. Isn’t this completely after God’s will?”

Brothers and sisters said repeatedly: “Right, it must be rejected.”

Brother Wu continued fellowshiping: “Actually, the Lord Jesus has said long ago, ‘This is an evil generation’ (Luke 11:29). ‘And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil’ (John 3:19). Also it is said in the Bible, ‘the whole world lies in wickedness’ (1 John 5:19). The Lord Jesus cuts to the point and reveals the true state and the source of this word’s evil darkness. All mankind lives under Satan’s influence, unable to tolerate the existence of God or the truth. Looking back, two thousand years ago, once the Lord Jesus was born, He was hunted down by King Herod; when He was preaching and doing His work, He was rejected and condemned by the Jewish leaders and in the end the Jewish leaders joined with Roman officials to nail Him to the cross. When the gospel of the Lord Jesus came to China, it also suffered the wild condemnation and resistance of the Qing Dynasty and we don’t even know how many missionaries were persecuted or slaughtered. Since the People’s Republic of China was founded and the CCP took power, Christians having been arrested or afflicted are even countless. What do these facts all prove? Why can’t God’s will be carried out on the earth as well as throughout all countries in the world? This is because the whole world is under the domain of the evil one, Satan. Those ruling on the earth are all Satan’s evil forces that oppose God, and the CCP regime is a typical example of Satan’s evil forces. That is the reason that mankind becomes evil and dark to the extreme. Isn’t this a widely acknowledged fact?”

I could see more clearly the essence of the CCP’s resistance to God after hearing his fellowship. Brothers and sisters all began to talk, “This is exactly correct!” “If we obey the CCP, we shall bring destruction to ourselves.” “It is really so!”

Brother Wu went on saying: “After the fellowship, now when we read Paul’s words again, we really find them questionable. Paul also was once arrested and put in jail because of spreading the gospel, in theory he should have greater insight into the essence of evil satanic regimes than we do. But Paul said these words in the end. It is really unbelievable!”

What Brother Wu said made a lot of sense and awoke me. I came to a sudden realization and said, “Alas! Yeah, most people in the religious world are misled and deceived by Paul’s words. In particular, those who believe in the Lord in the Three-Self Church obey the ruling regime according to Paul’s word, stand on the side of the CCP regime completely, and act upon whatever it says. Moreover, they also follow the fallacy of the CCP that ‘love your country, love your church, glorify God and benefit men.’ Gatherings, Bible study, and spreading the gospel are all controlled by the CCP. How are they believing in the Lord? Aren’t they worshiping Satan, and resisting the Lord and betraying Him? Ah! Paul’s words really are misleading and harmful; they have misled and ruined many pious believers who do not understand the truth.”

Brother Wu fellowshiped with patience, “The main purpose of God’s salvation for man is to defeat Satan and transform those who have been corrupted by Satan into those who obey and worship God. This is the way to thoroughly defeat and humiliate Satan, and end its destiny eventually. God allows Satan to rule on earth and corrupt mankind; He wills us to discern Satan, see its essence clearly, and hate and betray it. However, never has God said that we should obey Satan, much less that rebelling against the satanic regime is just asking for punishment. According to Paul’s viewpoint, were those ancient saints, who suffered the arrest and persecution of Satan’s regimes and were even martyred for the Lord, asking for punishment on account of rebelling against those in power? Is that really the case? Isn’t the imprisonment of the ancient saints a beautiful testimony to the Lord? But according to Paul’s words, the persecution and even slaughter of these ancient saints were not good witnesses to the Lord; instead they were looking for punishment because they rebelled against authorities. In this case, isn’t the suffering of being arrested and put in jail for spreading the gospel that Paul himself underwent in vain? Then why did he take his suffering as testimony and talk it to others? Isn’t he contradicting himself? It is heaven’s law and earth’s principle for us to believe in the Lord, and spread and testify to the gospel of Him. But satanic governments use all kinds of methods to persecute Christians brutally, obstruct the spreading of God’s gospel, and block the carrying out of God’s will, which fully exposes their devilish essence—hating the truth and being hostile to God. We are persecuted cruelly by the regime of Satan for adhering to the true way and spreading and testifying to the Lord’s gospel. The persecution we suffer is for righteousness’ sake and is most approved by the Lord. How can we say that this is asking for punishment? The Lord Jesus clearly said, ‘Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:10). Did Paul not know these words of the Lord? He must have known! It can be seen that Paul’s words obviously contravene those of the Lord Jesus. So, in this matter, what should we do? Listen to Paul or obey the Lord?”

“Surely we should obey the Lord!” I couldn’t help blurting out.

“Right,” Brother Li said excitedly, “‘Let every soul be subject to the higher powers’, these words are Paul’s, not the Lord’s. What Paul said doesn’t represent the Lord Jesus’ intentions. The Lord Jesus never said that obeying those in power was obeying God. Ah, I just remembered, when it comes to paying taxes, the Lord Jesus once said: ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s’ (Matthew 22:21). The Lord Jesus only said we ought to obey the authorities in terms of paying taxes. He never said that we must obey all of their commands, nor did He say that opposing them is rebelling against the ordinance of God. So the words of Paul aren’t in accordance with those of the Lord Jesus or the truth at all, and we cannot take them as the principles of our actions. Created by God, we belong to God. We should listen to God’s words and obey His authority in everything. This is the law of heaven.”

An old sister said with excitement, “Yeah, since we believe in the Lord, we should listen to and obey Him. Whoever they are, those in authority or famous figures, if their words are not in line with the Lord’s, we won’t listen. Just as the Bible says: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29).

I was so happy and said: “Today, hearing Brother Wu’s fellowship, my heart brightened suddenly. Many years of confusion have been resolved. Today we have gained much more than we have from listening to our pastors and elders explain the Bible. Brother Wu came here today, this is really the Lord’s arrangement and grace!”

Just at that moment, my father came to convey a message in a great fluster. He said that the police had not caught Brother Wu and were going to continue the search. We saw that gathering there was not safe, so I immediately arranged for some brothers and sisters to cover Brother Wu as he went down the mountain and to find him a safe place to live.

Walking on the path, I thought: Today’s meeting really benefited me a lot. What Brother Wu fellowshiped made me have a thorough discernment of Paul’s words “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Romans 13:1–2). We cannot obey those satanic regimes that resist, persecute, and are hostile to God; otherwise, we are bringing about our own destruction. Besides, I have understood that the reason why God allows Satan to rule on earth is that He wants to use it to do service for making a group of people who can obey and worship God, thereby to seal its fate. God is so almighty and so wise! It seems that we must see everything according to God’s words when it comes to believing in God. If not, we will fall into Satan’s net, and it will cause unimaginable consequences. Thank the Lord for guiding me to gain a lot through today’s meeting and having my puzzlement resolved. Glory be to God!

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