A Different Take on Romans 13 1 - Keep Thy Heart


Romans 13 1 states - "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." (KJV)

It's an obvious but oft neglected truth that Romans 13:1 follows on from Romans 12. In Romans 12, Paul describes what it means to be a Christian who is a living sacrifice to the Living God. Presenting our faculties - mind, body, heart, intellect, emotions, thoughts, actions to Him as a fragrant offering in obedience and love. The Lord tenaciously desires the hearts of His saints to be rendered unto Him and from that position and posture - a heart of love, service and submission to one another and then to 'the powers that be', as per Romans 13:1-7.

In Romans 13, Paul outlines the biblical doctrine of submission to governing authorities. However, whilst he is clear that this applies to every person, he does not say that we must obey them in all cases: Their remit is to punish evil and uphold good, something Peter also teaches (1 Peter 2:13-17). But Peter also reminds us that when governing authorities request that we go against God in what they command or forbid, "Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29). Paul and the other apostles refused to obey commands from people in authority to stop preaching the gospel, for instance, but they did, however, submit to those in authority in all matters that were not in contradiction to the will of God.

Our God expects the authorities to uphold their duty to bring retribution to evil and affirm good, just as He requires of us. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that in our natural state, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" But we are the redeemed Body of Christ with a heart of flesh, as Ezekiel 36:26 tells us: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."

Given that we need great discernment to understand if, when and how we may not obey the powers that be, we need to keep our hearts set on God to enable this clear discerning. And how do we keep vigilant over our hearts? By keeping vigilant over our minds and bodies. 

Keep Our Hearts By Keeping our Minds and Bodies

Whilst Romans 13 1 tells us that EVERY SOUL should be subject unto the higher powers, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 show us that every CHRISTIAN SOUL (and of course God desires every soul to turn to Christ) should love God first and foremost and bind His commandments on his hand (symbolic of bodily actions and work) and between his eyes (symbolic of thoughts, mind and emotions). So we can see that to keep (i.e. protect, guard) our hearts, we must keep our bodies and minds; the heart follows our thoughts and actions, not the other way around (as is a popular notion). 

"4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: 5And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

- Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Deuteronomy gives us clear instructions on how to keep our faculties - minds and bodies and thus our hearts - pure and holy before the Lord. We can expand upon this issue of the heart by looking at what Jesus says in Matthew's Gospel:

"21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"

- Matthew 6:21-23

Puritan, William Secker says of the heart in his wonderful book, 'The Consistent Christian', "God cares nothing for the decorated cabinet - but for the precious jewel." And also, "Good works without the heart are but flattery! And good works without the heart are but hypocrisy!...The formalist is all for outward activity - and the pietist is all for inward sincerity." 

BUT, we can be sincere in our inner being AND at the same time wrong and unrighteous in our outward actions (i.e. sincere but sincerely wrong). It is not enough to have a sincere heart, we must have hearts rooted in truth, justice and righteousness and turned from evil - according to God's standard's not human or cultural ones.

This is where the mind and a love of truth comes in. 

We Must Love the Truth to Read and Obey Romans 13 1 Correctly

So let's keep going here, if we are to be righteous in our judgements and discernment, we must know and love the truth. If we don't love or care about the truth, we can easily entertain falsehood and wickedness and be easily tempted into calling good evil and evil good - for an easy life, for comfort, to avoid persecution or out of sheer apathy or rebellion. If we don't love the truth, we will not be willing to suffer for it and we will end up in grave compromise, sooner or later.

Our proper understanding and obedience to Romans 13 1, which may include obedience or righteous civil disobedience to the higher powers in certain circumstances - is dependent on a love of the truth.

"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"

- Isaiah 5:20

Anyone who says that they love the Lord and does not actively hate and stand against evil, should be politely and firmly reminded of what God has to say about it and encouraged that standing against evil incurs divine approval and protection... 

"You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked."

- Psalm 97:10 (NKJV)

So, Scripture is clear that the Lord looks at our hearts within us, not our outward appearance, nor actions devoid of their motives and he desires a love of truth.

Holding all these scriptures in tension, I believe we can conclude that God commands us to:

  1. Embrace good and to shun evil (and the 'higher powers' too, as per Romans 13 1).
  2. Keep our heart set towards good and free from evil. We must be careful about what we let in our mind, what we think about, keeping our feelings in check - not being ruled by them.

Of course, probably the most well-known scripture on guarding or 'keeping the heart' is found in Proverbs 4:23 and surrounding verses... 

"20 My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
21 Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
22 For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
24 Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
25 Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
26 Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
27 Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil. or where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." 

- Proverbs 4:20-27


We are exhorted from these passages to keep the Lord's words as a singular focus of the eye, mind, heart and to speak them (and not evil and perverse words) and to keep our actions in line and on the straight path with the Lord's words to us, found in Scripture. Where our treasure is - where we invest time, energy, focus, actions, thoughts - there will our heart be. Whatever we focus on dictates our actions.

When we focus on worldly success, wealth, politics, medicine, Covid mandates etc we will expend our energies and make decisions on such worldly matters. However, when we focus on God’s priorities, our actions will reflect different priorities - and we will gain the approval of God and a reward in heaven that will last forever. I'd say this is a serious issue for every Christian to meditate on and examine themselves in often - the stakes are high. 

Truth, The Heart, Covid and Romans 13 1

Right now, in the advent of Covid, there is an out-and-out assault on our minds. Our minds need to love the truth and be stayed on the truth. Truth is being attacked on every angle - from gender ideologies, climate fantasies, Covid deception and beyond. If we determine to say and do what is true and right at this time, it requires courage as people will begin to persecute us - it's an inevitability that our Saviour and the Epistle writers warn us of repeatedly. It may, very sadly, even happen from inside the church. I have experienced that in the writing of my book, amongst other things.

If we give our minds over to the governments' tyranny and lies, we give away our hearts to them too; and this is sin. If we build up a treasury of lies, we reap no eternal reward or benefit and will suffer loss - not our salvation but eternal rewards will be forfeited, as well as the peace and joy of a close, faithful walk with the Lord now. 

Romans 13:1 does not permit us to permit, affirm and obey systematic evil and lies. Rather we are to submit to God and resist the devil and his schemes (James 4:7). Therefore we have an absolute obligation for vigilance over our minds and to walk in truth - no matter what lies are repeated by the news media and governments.

John W. Ritenbaugh in his commentary on Amos, 'Prepare to Meet Your God!' states:

"Despising truth is an inward attitude that outwardly reveals itself in immorality, and this is the condition God found in ancient Israel. The people had become complacent about His revelation to them. They zealously sought after knowledge - even religious knowledge - but they did not really love the truth (Romans 10:2-3). This was reflected in their immorality; if they had loved God's truth, they would have been living it, and God would have had no cause for judgment. In this information age, we accumulate mounds of data - regarding ethics, solutions to social ills, and the like - yet our morals decline. Intelligent, educated individuals have written many Bible commentaries, but they still refuse to keep the Sabbath or holy days. 

Christ said that if we keep the truth, the truth in turn will keep us free (John 8:31-36). If we live it, the revealed truth of God will protect us from sinking back into slavery to sin. But first we must love the truth we have been given. Humanly, we pursue what we love. God wants a father-child or teacher-student relationship with us. If we do not love truth, and if we do not pursue it and God Himself, we will seriously undermine our relationship with Him, and He could interpret our attitude as despising His truth."

We need to be very careful that we do not fall away from the truth. We are warned that there will be a great 'falling away' - not in the world (the world has no precious truth to fall away from) but rather from within the Church and to make sure we do not let things slip in our own lives. We are urgently warned to take heed that no one deceives us (Matthew 24:4), to take care lest we be weighed down by the cares of this life (Luke 21:34), and to take heed lest we fall (I Corinthians 10:12).

Conclusion: A Question to Give Consideration to

With all that in mind, I ask you this: What do you think our Lord thinks about government and so-called health authorities repeatedly lying about the death rates of a 'virus', the lies about the 'safety and efficacy' of masks, lockdowns, tests, an experimental injection and the utter censorship and suppression of their harm and incurred deaths? Most importantly, what do you think our God thinks when His Church is repeating and upholding such lies and calling them good and prudent? I'll leave you with these three Bible verses to help you draw your conclusions to that question...

Romans 13 1

"Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men."

- Isaiah 29:13

"The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

- Proverbs 8:13

"Wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?

- Jeremiah 4:14