The Powers that Be

May 9, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Common Expressions | Leave a comment
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“The powers that be” is a common expression used to encompass worldly authority in general, or sometimes to refer to the state of things against which the “common person” has no recourse.

“I wish my taxes weren’t so high, but the powers that be have decided to make sure I never get ahead.”
“I don’t like to sit in a circle in Sunday School, but the powers that be have decreed that it’s the best way to generate class discussion.”

It is an expression that is often accompanied by eye-rolling, exasperated sighs, or exaggerated and resigned shrugs of frustration. However, its origin is straight from the Bible:

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.

Romans 13:1

In a time when wicked Roman emperors allowed, encouraged, and even commanded the persecution, torture, and death of Christians, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul told the believers in Rome something that we might think very odd: Recognize that earthly governments and authority structures are ordained by God Himself, and willingly submit yourselves to them.

Since this world is, by nature, opposed to Christ and His truth, what hope is there for us who are commanded to live out our faith under this corrupt system? The answer is that part of our hope lies in the knowledge that these earthly powers, although they are called powers that “be,” are not really “beings.” Only our immutable God is truly a “Being,” since He is the only entity in all of existence Who is truly self-sufficient, eternal, infinite, and independent. Even you and I, His highest creations, are not being accurate when we call ourselves human “beings,” for we have no existence apart from God’s sustaining power. Only in Him do we live and move and have our “being.” We are far from immutable, changing by degrees from one moment to the next all our lives. “Human becomings” would be a more apt term for our race. If our state of existence is in such flux, even more flimsy and subject to rebellion, public opinion, and changing of the guard are the political parties and philosophies of the world.

This helps us to remember that God is sovereignly in control of all earthly authority. He has ordained even wicked governments and evil rulers for some good purpose we do not yet understand, and the knowledge that He is ultimately in control will help us to humbly submit even to those who have no desire to glorify Him or to treat His people with respect.


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