What is the meaning of Romans 13 which is about submission to governing authorities, and states, “The authorities that exist have been established by God”? I thought church and state were separate.
The separation of church and state is an American concept foreign to Paul’s thinking. What he is discussing falls under the idea of Christians not needing to fear the law because they follow it. Paul says this because God is the ultimate authority and he either sets a person in place, like Jesus the Messiah, or allows someone to rule.
For instance, the devil is the Prince of the Power of the Air (Ephesians 2:2). At this moment in time, he rules the earth. But he only rules the earth as much as God allows him to. Even the devil is subject to God and required to present himself to God for evaluation (Job 1-2).
Even within our idea of the separation of church and state, God is sovereign. He decides these things and even works in the background. There are some rulers who think that God has ordained them to rule. But he does what he will do and doesn’t need to ask any human being.
So God allows every authority that is in place. And some he specifically puts in ruling positions. Everything is part of fulfilling his will. If God allows an evil ruler, it doesn’t mean that he put that person in place. It doesn’t mean he condones that person’s actions.
Think of all of the evil kings of Israel and Judah that God allowed to rule for a time. He was so angry with some of them that he killed them or had them killed. His justice ultimately will reign on the earth. But during this time certain parts of his will for the end times must allow evil rulers for a time.
We as believers in Jesus may suffer persecution during these times. Jesus doesn’t teach us to retaliate. If we suffer here, we will see God’s justice prevail. He will avenge the saints. No one knows how long it will take for the end times in the last days to be complete.