There is one particularly pernicious “twisting” of Scripture that probably tends to turn up in “Sunday Churchianity” more than any other. When Kefa (aka “Simon Peter”) wrote in the second letter that bears his name (II Peter 3:15-16) that “in the writings of our beloved brother” Shaul or Paul are many things that are “wrested” or “twisted…by the unlearned and untaught,” he may already have had a vision of what a paganized, co-opted church would do to Romans chapter 13 in just a millenium or two.
Here is the standard, “Authorized” English rendering of the “letter to the Romans”, verses 1 and 2. Unfortunately, there is so much historic and translation-bias “baggage” in the way that passage is rendered, AND TAUGHT, that the worst “twisting” Peter warned about has already happened:
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 this reason, the Modern, Politically-Correct, 501c(3) State-Church Approved, Officially-Authorized Version of that verse (arguably it’s about the ONLY verse that still even HAS Washington’s Stamp of Approval) pretty much boils down to, “when Big Brother says ‘JUMP’, you must say, ‘How high, master?’ “.
The trouble is, that popular “teaching” – that to obey the State is to obey God – is just plain WRONG, and antithetical to the message of the rest of Scripture. Especially when the state tries to pretend that it IS “god”, or “another master,” imbued with the power to overwrite not only His Written Word, but its own “supreme law” by imperial edict anyway.
Why? Isn’t that a bit of hyperbole? At least, unless the State tries to require people to commit acts that directly violate Scripture.
You mean – like murder? Theft? Dishonest weights and measures? Subsidizing what He calls “abomination,” and calling it ‘licensed marriage’? Leaving aside the obvious objections, like just “in Whose Name” do we claim to be working, anyway? And, Who do we truly serve? Caesar, or YHVH? There’s a big difference between walking in obedience to the REAL King, Creator, and Elohim of Scripture, and those false self-proclaimed “gods” who would like to take His place. While YHVH may allow bad kings, conquerors like a Nebuchadnezzar, or even a “Beast” government to chasten those who walk in rebellion to Him, it is always clear that His “remnant” must have discernment.
Paul ALSO said, and it was in that very same letter to the Romans (v 6:16), well before those troublesome Most Twisted Verses, to be very careful just WHO you “submit yourself” as a servant to obey. For, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
It would seem that, just as Scripture emphasizes consistently throughout, that we have a CHOICE about Whom we obey, Whom we worship, Whom we serve. Paul is hardly contradicting himself, or his heavenly Master. Note that in the well-known “spiritual battle” line from the same author’s letter to the Ephesians, Shaul uses the same word to describe those we fight, or wrestle, AGAINST:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, G1849 against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Furthermore, remember that several apostles were among those who were arrested and jailed for FAILING to obey those “higher powers” that were “ordained of God.” Something is wrong with the claim here. Check out the story in Acts chapter 5. Following their arrest for “resisting the power,” rather than, “receiv[ing] to themselves damnation,” they were freed by an “angel of the Lord.” When confronted directly for their very un-Romans-13-like behavior, “Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
And Scripture is replete with other examples of men – and women – of God who did not submit to some “higher power,” whether in the form of a state, or its priests. Particularly a pagan state that saw itself as ‘god’. The Hebrew midwives in Egypt, commanded by Pharoah to kill male babies, “feared God,” disobeyed the king, and, “therefore God dealt well with them.” They were even rewarded with “households.” Young David did not allow King Saul to do to him what that “higher power,” unquestionably ordained by the Almighty, would have wanted to do to him, either. Indeed, the litany of kings who “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” alone should prove that the “Clergy Response Team” twisting of Romans 13 sounds more like something they would have written than YHVH Himself.
The context, consistency, and totality of Scripture reveal the lie. But there’s another way to debunk the Caesar-Approved Spin on Romans 13. Just look even briefly at the language. Even in the Greek rendering of the original letter, the key word in the verses is “exousia”, repeated several times. The primary Strong’s definition (Number G1849) says it means “power of choice,” or “liberty” of “doing as one pleases.” Other verses use the word to indicate “authority,” but the context makes clear that such authority can be used either for good, in the service of YHVH, or for evil, as in the “power of darkness.”
In I Cor. 8:9, the same word ‘exousia’ is rendered this way:
But take heed lest by any means this liberty G1849 of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
Like all power, authority, and liberty – there is a way to use that “exousia” in accord with the Word, in accord with the will of YHVH, and another way which is in opposition to Him. To “rightly divide the Word,” includes understanding that proper context!
Let’s try it THIS way, and see if the apparent meaning changes any:
Let every soul be subject unto the higher liberties. For there is no liberty but of God: the liberties that be are ordained of God.
Whosoever therefore resisteth the liberty, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
It certainly seems to put a whole different spin on the text, doesn’t it?
Whether the text is talking about “power” OR “liberty” – the key point remains. Whether for good, or for evil, it’s all about Who we serve.