I see a lot of abuse of this passage going on these days. Perhaps because there is a movement like never before to put people in a state of complacency towards radical movements in government. Let's delve into the Lexicon as needed while we just go through the passage here for a bit. Romans 13 is often misrepresented sharply by groups who, of no surprise, have tax shelter agreements with a corrupt worldly government.
Let me preface what is to come by saying that we are commanded to, as much as possible be at peace with all men. Now 'possible' must be seen within the context of obeying Jesus' commands. We don't sacrifice the truth to be at peace with people. We, like the apostles, must tell people when THEY are violating what God has commanded us to do. If someone commands us to cease telling people the truth then we must say "I must obey God, not men".
So as we enter Romans 13 we are immediately struck with the question 'who is my authority'? It talks about 'authorities above' in the first verse. Any spiritually minded person reads this and immediately recognizes that it's talking about angelic authority. And we will see this reinforced later in the passage. But in my Lexicon 'him' is added in parenthesis. Well there is no 'him' in the greek. "Authorities above [him]" it says. Well that's rather silly when you think about it. Because the very definition of an authority is someone who is above you in some way. So it's kind of redundant. But the reason that was put there was to try to cast favor on the interpretation that this is really talking about worldly authorities! WHO ARE PUT IN PLACE BY PEOPLE in many cases.
Here in the United States we have a declared president who spent what 5 years in Indonesia which had single citizenship at the time and so he would have had to renounce his US citizenship to be in School there! The whole reason our law states that no naturalized citizen shall be in that office is to prevent the possibility that someone during impressionable years was functionally groomed to be an agent of change towards another system of government! Yet he's illegally occupying that office as far as many are concerned. I follow the law so I don't consider him my president or an authority in any way shape or form. But to those who have no respect for the law, he is their president. Whatever.
Now as we proceed to next sentence in verse 1 we see that there is no authority except that appointed by God. RIGHT! Was Herod an authority over John? No. JOHN was an authority over Herod which is why Herod murdered John for exposing his corruption. John carried the true spiritual authority from God. Herod was a murderer who schmoozed his way into office and now burns in hell because of his refusal to see the truth John was presenting to him unless some miraculous change happened as he was dying or something.
Anyway many people would say "No, Herod was the authority recognized by man so he's also the one recognized by God". But the scripture doesn't say that. It rather says that God appoints all authority. And indeed the Babylonians were an authority over the WICKED in Israel. However those who followed God and escaped into captivity were still following God. And the showdown, was soon to follow in which the Babylonians would find that their fire and lions had no power over the children of God! They were the true authorities that God had appointed over the Babylonians. The Babylonians he had chosen as authorities over the rebellious of Israel. Is that clear enough?
Ok moving along then to verse 2, I see no need to comment. Hard to mess that up. But verse 3 is very often confused. Even when the spirit leads us to resist authorities recognized by others around us, but who we do not recognize as authorities (like Daniel etc. above) they are not a "Terror" to us. We are a peace in God and take joy when we are persecuted for his name's sake! So that kind of eliminates the word 'terror' in application to us. Perfect love casts out *all* fear. How much fear? ALL fear. :-)
CLEARLY we do not receive praise from the world for doing the good work of sharing the truth of the gospel! So CLEARLY Paul is talking about 'authorities above' again here. Angelic authority. Recall John in Revelation talking to his 'co-worker', the angel, who he errantly began to worship. Then verse 4 -5 continues that these servants shall even carry out his wrath against evil. And how it's a matter of our conscience! Clearly the governments of this world REWARD evil in many cases. So if that's what the scripture is talking about then it is wrong. However the scripture isn't wrong and we clearly see that it's talking about authorities *above*.
Verse 6-7 is saying we should pay tribute or whatever is due to those continually attending to such things. So that could be a wide open thing and we should discern who is attending to these things as he gives us ability and pay tribute to them! THIS pair of verses opens up the field and notes how God will work through in various ways earthly people I believe. But again we must discern what is due. Everyone wants to rule the world. So do we just give to everyone who claims to be an authority over us? If we do people will catch on pretty quick and we'll have nothing..ever.
Verse 8-10 then further qualifies though what this is talking about. To each OTHER we should have no debt. So it's just saying to keep all affairs up front with each other and love one another continually. And that the law is summed up in loving others as ourselves. And then the chapter ends with more encouragement towards the works that result from putting on the Lord Jesus Christ!
Just bear in mind that the actual forms of words used for "Authority" (or sometimes magistrate etc.). in the Greek appears in verses where they mean both worldly authority and angels like in Luke. It's just a generic Greek reference to authority. No distinction as to what type or whose authority. And likewise with 'rulers' and so on. It is a generic reference. If we don't read into what it's saying like many translators *did*, then we won't be in error. I hope that is a good help to someone in these times when so many seem to be trying to twist this passage into a compulsion for us to just submit to the direction of the demonic people who are worming their way into worldly positions of pseudo-authority.