“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” (Romans 13:1-2)
The source of authority is the first matter to be addressed. This Source is none other than God Almighty. The word used for powers is the same word often translated authority. The powers spoken of here are those who sit in the place of government. The word let is not asking the reader for permission. It is stating a simple fact. God has decreed that governmental authority will be so; therefore, let it be so, and each and every soul falls under the reality of this divine institution. Man cannot alter this; regardless of how frustrated he may become with its abuse by wicked men. The text makes it clear that every authority, good or bad, is allowed to exist by God's decrees. The believer is not exempted from obedience because an authority is not righteous. The tense of the Greek verb which has been translated are ordained is conveying the idea of an irreversible action. God has ordained authority, and it is not going away. Someday it will be cleansed and restored in righteousness, but it will forever be.
The word for resist means to wage war against. The picture is that of the man who digs his feet into the ground and takes a fighter's stance against governmental authority. The text makes it clear that the man who does this is actually taking a fighter's stance against the Almighty. Most believers would not consider their hatred of authority (good or bad authority) to be such an offense toward God; but such is the case. If a father were to entrust his little boy with a message for the other siblings, and these siblings were to disregard the message, they would, in reality, be disregarding the authority of their father. Such is the case when the believer rebels against the principles of government and takes matters into his own hands. He will never be successful, nor will he have peace in his soul, because he is waging war against the very One who has permanently ordained such things. Often times, the Christian believes he is honoring God with his hatred and rejection of authority; but all he is doing is handling matters in the flesh and resisting God's decrees. The word for damnation is the same word often translated judgment. God will see to it that the rebel, lost or saved, will be duly rewarded for his disregard of godly fear.