The controversy continues surrounding U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ citation of Romans 13 in justification of separating children from their parents, with individuals on both sides of the aisle and from just about every walk of life weighing in. We think it appropriate and the opportune time to explain Romans 13 so that individuals can have a clear understanding of the passage and know how and when to apply it.
Contrary to popular opinion, especially among the so-called religious community, is the fact that Romans 13 is actually one of the strongest expositions that there are in God’s Word that there must be a total separation of church and state--separating that which belongs to God and that which belongs to Caesar. The government is civil and should have absolutely nothing to do in the matter of legislating religious observances in any way, shape or form. This can be found in Jesus’ own words found in Matthew 22:27, “Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Cesar's, and unto God the things that are God's," in response to the Pharisees’ inquiry whether it was lawful to give tribute to Cesar or not. It is clear that Jesus placed a clear separation between that which pertains to Cesar and that which pertains to God. Individuals are not to render or give unto Cesar that which pertains or belongs to God; we are neither to render to God by or through Cesar that which is God's. Cesar, a representation of civil government, in requiring of men that which is God's is demanding what does not and has never belonged to him. By so doing, Cesar is assuming the power of God and is usurping the place and prerogative of God. Additionally, every person who regards God and his/her own rights before God, will reject any interference on the part of Cesar, the civil government.
This is where Romans 13 comes in. The above point, regarding the separation of what belongs to God and that which belongs to the civil government is irrefutably confirmed in Romans 13:1-9: "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. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain for he is the minister of God, a avenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another for he that loveth another limb fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Thou shalt not covet and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself.”
It would be almost impossible for a person not to see that the above-quoted scripture from Romans 13 is but an exposition of Christ's words in Matthew 22:27, "Render therefore unto Cesar the things that are Cesar's." Again, in Christ’s injunction there is a clear recognition of the place that the civil government has, and that its claims upon its citizens they are bound to recognize along with the things which duty requires them to render to the civil government. Romans 13:1 simply states this very principle in the following words, "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." The higher powers—the powers that be referred to in this passage refer to the civil government. The passage goes on to speak concerning rulers, as bearing the sword, and attending to matters of tribute. Then the command to render tribute to whom tribute is due is given: "Owe no man anything; but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." Following that, the author of Romans, Paul, refers to the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth commandments, saying, "If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
Conspicuously missing from Paul’s exposition are the other commandments of this same law, the Decalogue, to which Paul refers. There are the four commandments on the first table of the law which command the following: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me;" "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image;" "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain;" "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." Then there is the other commandment in which are briefly comprehended all these, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." It was not because Paul was not aware of these commandments that he did not mention them and stated, "If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself?" It was simply because Paul was writing regarding the principles laid out by Jesus concerning our duties to civil government. Hence, he showed conclusively that the powers that be, though ordained of God, are so ordained solely in matters relating to man with his fellow-men. Additionally, recorded in this divine account of duties that men owe to the powers that be, the civil government, there is absolutely no reference whatsoever to the first table of the Ten Commandments, it therefore follows that the powers that be, although ordained of God, have absolutely nothing to do with the relations which men bear toward God. When persons have recognized the right of the state to be, have paid their required tribute, and have fulfilled the necessary obligations to their neighbors, there is nothing more for them to render to the government; there is no other commandment in that sphere, thus, there is no other duty to be performed toward the powers that be. This is clearly presented in the following verse: "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." This proves that it is only the relation of man with man--of man to his neighbor--that is being considered in Romans 13. Again, this passage is but an enlargement, an exposition, a commentary of the principle set forth by Jesus, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
Therefore, the state has no right or Biblical justification at any time to legislate in regard to any person’s religious faith, or in relation to anything in the first four commandments. Consider a scenario in which a person invades the rights of his neighbor, as to life, family, property, or character and the civil government rules that it is unlawful. It would not be considered unlawful because it is irreligious or immoral but rather because it is uncivil, and for that reason only. It never can be right or appropriate for the state to ask any question as to whether a person is religious or not. The only question should be, “Is the action civil or uncivil?”
Corrupt men in political offices have always misconstrued and misused Romans 13 to justify unjust laws and government policies; and in the final crisis, the Mark of the Beast Crisis, it will be used to force submission to the National Sunday Law. If only men, like Jeff Sessions, would take the time to study the entire chapter of Romans 13, using the right version and asking God for the Holy Spirit to open their understanding, they would see clearly the role of the civil government. Those who allow Cesar, the government to dictate how they worship, when they worship, who they worship and to have control over their consciences are verily saying as said the Jews at Christ’s crucifixion, “We have no king but Cesar!”