As I have an interest in dislodging the sediment of encrusted theological opinion, I post an excerpt from James Redford's 2001 essay “Jesus Is an Anarchist,” the full text of which I had taken from anti-state.com and posted on AnthonyFlood.com about five years ago.
It is often claimed that Christians are required to submit to government, as this is supposedly what Paul commanded that we are supposed to do in Romans 13. Thus:
Romans 13:1-7: Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
But in actual fact Paul never does tell us in above excerpt from Romans 13 to submit to government! – at least certainly not as they have existed on Earth and are operated by men.
In fact, Paul would be an outright, boldfaced hypocrite were he to command anyone to do such a thing: for Paul himself did not submit to government, and if he had then he would not even have been alive to be able to write Romans 13.
For Paul himself disobeyed government, and it is a good thing that he did as we would not even know of a Paul in the Bible had he not disobeyed government. As when Paul was still only known as Saul he escaped from the city of Damascus as he knew that the governor of that city, acting under the authority of Aretas the king, was coming with a garrison to arrest him in order that he be executed.
This was right after Saul's conversion to Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. The Jews in Damascus, hearing of Sauls conversion, plotted to kill him as a traitor to their cause in persecuting the Christians. Saul was let out of a window in the wall of Damascus under cover of night by some fellow disciples in Christ (see Acts 9:23-25).
In none of Paul's later writings does he divest himself, or disassociate himself, from these actions that he took in knowingly and purposely disobeying government: in fact, this very event is one of the things that he later cites in demonstration of his unwavering commitment to Christ (see 2 Cor. 12:22-33)!
Indeed, ever since Paul's conversion to Jesus Christ, he spent the rest of his entire life in rebellion against mortal governments, and would at last – just as with Jesus before him – be executed by government, in this case by having his head chopped off.
Paul was continuously in and out of prisons throughout his entire ministry for preaching the gospel of Christ; he was lashed with stripes 39 times by the "authorities" for preaching Christ; he was beaten with rods by the "authorities" for preaching Christ; and none of these rebellions of his did he ever disavow: indeed he cited them all as evidence of his commitment to Jesus (again, see 2 Cor. 12:22-33)!
But even more importantly, if Paul is saying in Romans 13 what many people have said he meant, i.e., that people should obey mortal, Earthly governments, then it is questionable whether Paul could even be a genuine Christian.
For as was pointed out above, Jesus would not even have existed as we know of today had it not been for Joseph and Mary intentionally disobeying king Herod the Great and escaping from his reach when they knew that Herod desired to destroy baby Jesus (see Matt. 2:13,14).
Thus, if indeed Paul meant in Romans 13 that we are to obey Earthly governments then this would mean that Paul would rather have Joseph and Mary obey king Herod the Great and turn baby Jesus over to be killed.
So what in the world is going on here with Paul and Romans 13? Is Paul a hypocrite? Is Paul being contradictory? Actually, No to both. Once again, as with Jesus's answer to the question on taxes, this is another ingenious case of rhetorical misdirection.
Paul was counting on the fact that most people who would be hostile to the Christian church – the Roman "authorities" in particular – would, upon reading Romans 13, naturally interpret it from the point of view of legal positivism: i.e., that such people would take for granted that the "governing authorities" and "rulers" spoken of must refer to the men who operate the governments on Earth.
But never does Paul anywhere say that this is so! (Legal positivism is the doctrine that whichever gang is best able to overpower others with arms and might and thereby subjugate the populace and who then proceed to proclaim themselves the "authority" are on that account the rightful "Authority.")
But before proceeding with the above analysis, what would the motive be for Paul to include such rhetorical misdirection in his letter to the people at the church of Rome? In answering this, it must be remembered that just as with Jesus, Paul was not free to say just anything that he wanted.
The early Christians were a persecuted minority under the close surveillance of the Roman government as a possible threat to its power. Here is Biblical proof of this assertion written by Paul himself:
Galatians 2:4,5: And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Paul never intended that his letter to the Roman church be kept secret, and he knew that it would be copied and distributed amongst the populace, and thus inevitably it would fall into the hands of the Roman government, especially considering that this letter was going directly into the belly of the beast itself: the city of Rome.
Thus by including this in the letter to the church at Rome he would help put at ease the fears of the Roman government so that the persecution of the Christians would not be as severe and so that the more important task of the Church, that of saving people's souls, could more easily continue unimpeded.
But Paul wrote it in such a way that a truly knowledgeable Christian at the time would have no doubt as to what was actually meant.
The Church leaders at the time would have known that Paul obviously couldn't have meant the people who control the mortal governments as they exist on Earth when he referred to the "governing authorities" and "rulers" in Romans 13, for that would have made Paul a shameless hypocrite and also meant that he would desire that baby Jesus had been killed (for surely the histories of Paul and Jesus's lives would have been fresh on their minds).
The only answer that can make any sense of this seeming riddle is that one doesn't actually become a true "governing authority" or "ruler" simply because one has managed by way of deception, terror, murder and might to subjugate a certain population and then proceed to thereby proclaim oneself the "King" or the "Authority" or the "Ruler."
Instead, what Paul is saying is that the only true and real authorities are only those that God appoints, i.e., one cannot become a real authority or ruler in the eyes of God simply because through force of arms one has managed to subjugate a population and then proclaim oneself the potentate.
Thus, by saying this Paul was actually rebuking the supposed authority of the mortal governments as they exist on Earth and are operated by men!
"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God." (Rom. 13:1.) leaves wide open the possibility that those who control the mortal governments on Earth are not true authorities as appointed by God.
The fallacy most people make when encountering a statement such as this is to unthinkingly and automatically assume that Paul must be referring to the people in control of the mortal governments that exist on Earth – for after all, don't these people who run these Earthly governments call themselves the "governing authorities"? Do they not teach their subjects from birth that they are the "rulers" and the "authorities"?
But when we factor in the life history of both Jesus and Paul, then it can leave no room for doubt: Paul most certainly could not have been referring in Romans 13 to the people who control the mortal governments as they exist on Earth – otherwise Paul would be an outright hypocrite as well as an advocate of deicide against baby Jesus. Indeed, God Himself directly confirms this very thing:
Hosea 8:4: "They set up kings, but not by Me; They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them."
But, some may inquire, what about Paul telling us to pay taxes in Romans 13:6-7? Thus:
Romans 13:6,7: For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
But does Paul really tell us to pay taxes here? Again, just as with Jesus, nowhere does Paul actually tell anyone to pay any taxes!
Paul continues with the rhetorical misdirection that he started in the beginning of Romans 13, knowing – just as Jesus knew before him – that those who would be hostile to the Christian church would automatically assume what they are predisposed to assume: i.e., that the taxes and customs "due" are due to those in control of the governments who levy them.
But here Paul was being wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove, as Paul never said any such thing. For when Paul says "Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs" this just begs the question: to whom are taxes and customs due?
The answer to which could quite possibly be "No one." And this is precisely how Paul proceeds to answer his own question-begging statement, in Romans 13:8-10:
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
So there we have it in no uncertain terms: Owe no one anything except to love one another! Yet since when have taxes ever had the slightest thing to do with love?
As was explained above, all mortal governments throughout history steal and extort wealth from their subjects which they call "taxes," yet at the same time governments make it illegal for their subjects to steal from each other or from the government.
Thus in taxes we see that historically all governments do to their subjects what they outlaw their subjects to do to them. Thus, all Earthly, mortal governments, by levying taxes, break the Golden Rule which Jesus commanded everyone as the supreme law.
In the earlier discussion on Jesus and taxes we learned that when Jesus said "Give on to Caesar that which is Caesar's and give unto the Lord that which is the Lord's" he was, in effect, actually saying that one need not give anything to Caesar: as nothing is rightly his, considering that everything that Caesar has, has been taken by theft and extortion.
And what of Paul writing in Titus 3:1: "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work"? As was clearly demonstrated above, Paul was referring to the true higher authorities as recognized by God, not to the diabolical, Satanic, mortal governments as they have existed on Earth – as Paul spent his entire ministry in rebellion against the Earth-bound, mortal "authorities," and was at last put to death by them. (For other cases of righteous disobedience to government in the Bible, see Exo. 1:15-2:3; 1 Sam. 19:10-18; Esther 4:16; Dan. 3:12-18; 6:10; Matt. 2:12-13; Acts 5:29; 9:25; 17:6-8; 2 Cor. 11:32,33.)
And as further proof of this, consider Paul's advice to Christians as regarding being judged by what the government considers the "authority":
1 Corinthians 6:1-8: Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!
Paul said that the government judges "are least esteemed by the church to judge"! It is clear that he considered them to be no authority at all!
But moreover, even Jesus didn't consider the Earthly, mortal "rulers" to be true rulers and authorities! Thus:
Mark 10:42-45: But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
By saying this Jesus was in fact rebuking the supposed "authority" of the Earthly "rulers"! Just because mortals on Earth may consider someone to be an "authority" and "ruler" does not mean that God considers them to be so!