Engaging in Anarchy: Romans 13:2

resisting authority (2)

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g) Rom 13:2: Since the Lord places all political leaders in office (Rom 13:1), Paul wrote, “Therefore, whoever resists (antitassō) authority has opposed the ordinance of God, and the ones who have set themselves against (anthistēmi) [it] upon themselves judgment shall receive.”

The compound word antitassō literally means “against order,”[1] signaling strong opposition to something or someone (Cf. the Greek translation of Prov 3:34).

According to the 1st–2nd century AD Testament of Dan:

I know that in the last days, ye shall depart from the Lord, and ye shall provoke Levi unto anger, and fight against (antitassō) Judah; but ye shall not prevail against them, for an Angel of the Lord shall guide them both; for by them shall Israel stand.[2]

In the New Testament, the very rare word translated as “ordinance” (diatagē) occurs only here and in Acts 7:53.[3] However, Paul did use a related verb in Gal 3:19.[4]

Refusing to recognize the legitimate right of human governments to wield authority equates to rebelling against the Lord (Matt 22:15–22; Rom 13:6–7).[5]

Acts 25:7–12 recounts Paul’s approach to ruling regimes.



“Judgment” (krima) refers to the decision of a judge, with the ruling typically going against the one under trial. This results in condemnation (Mark 12:38–40; Acts 24:24–25; 1 Cor 11:27–34).[6]

Consequently, the Jewish expression “judgment shall receive” forms an idiom meaning “shall be condemned.”[7]

Due to the context of this passage, this judgment will come from God, not merely from the civil authorities.[8]

Those who engage in anarchy,[9] persistently rebelling against human rulers, subject themselves to God’s wrath at the final judgment. They await certain condemnation.[10]



This concept of allegiance to one’s government commonly appeared in the Greco-Roman world.[11]

The second century AD Stoic author Hierocles wrote an entire work on the subject called How to Behave Toward One’s Fatherland.[12]

According to Plato (427–327 BC), when a friend offered to help Socrates escape from prison to avoid his execution, the condemned man said this:[13]

Then consider whether, if we go away from here without the consent of the state, we are doing harm to the very ones to whom we least ought to do harm…and whether we are abiding by what we agreed was right…

If, as I was on the point of running away (or whatever it should be called), the laws and the commonwealth should come to me and ask, “Tell me, Socrates, what have you in mind to do?

“Are you not intending by this thing you are trying to do, to destroy us, the laws, and the entire state?…

“Or do you think that state can exist and not be overturned, in which the decisions by the courts have no force but are made invalid and annulled by persons?”[14]

Thus, Socrates endured the death penalty to avoid sabotaging the government. He recognized that civil authorities enacted good laws in addition to bad legislation.[15]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Rom 13:2. How does refusing to obey governing authorities relate to rebelling against God? What hints do we have in this verse that anarchists will face the Lord’s judgment? How do you respond when the ordinances of human rulers contradict those of God? Does that amount to rebellion? Why or why not?






Go to Do What is Good (Rom 13:3)

[Related posts include Live in Peace (Rom 12:17–18); Leave Vengeance to God (Rom 12:19); Responding with Kindness (Rom 12:20); Overcoming Evil with Good (Rom 12:21); Submitting to Governing Authorities (Rom 13:1); Do What is Good (Rom 13:3); Bearing the Sword (Rom 13:4); Blood for Blood (Gen 9:5–7); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: A Covenant with Noah (Genesis 8:20–9:17)]


[1]Gerhard Delling, “τασσω” (tassō), TDNT, 8:27–31.

[2]R. H. Charles, trans., “Testament of Dan,” in Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (London: Black, 1908), 128, https://archive.org/stream/testamentsoftwel08char#page/128/mode/2up.

[3]Result of Logos 7 word study on “διαταγη” (diatagē).

[4]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “διαταγη” (diatagē), BDAG, 237.

[5]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 799.

[6]Friedrich Büchsel, “κριμα” (krima), TDNT 3:942.

[7]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “κριμα” (krima), BDAG, 567.

[8]Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:664.

[9]Dunn, Romans 9–16, 762.

[10]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 799.

[11]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Rom 13:1–7.

[12]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Rom 13:1–7.

[13]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Rom 13:1–7.

[14]Plato, “Crito,” in Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 1 (trans. Harold North Fowler; Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press; William Heinemann, 1966), 49e-50c, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0170%3Atext%3DCrito%3Asection%3D49e.

[15]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Rom 13:1–7.