“Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1 HCSB)

The word translated “instituted” is a Greek word that originally was used to describe how an army  or navy lined up its troops or ships for battle.  It took on the connotation of putting things in order, or appointing, or directing or appointing someone to a task, with the implication that the one doing the directing or appointing was the authority figure who could do such things.

Other possible translations:

  • ordained of God (KJV)
  • have been established by God (NIV)
  • are put in place by God (LEB)
  • have been placed by God (NLT)

We have a good idea how the early church understood this command in The Martyrdom of Polycarp:

“The proconsul said; ‘Prevail upon the people.’ But Polycarp said; ‘As for thyself, I should have held thee worthy of discourse; for we have been taught to render, as is meet, to princes and authorities appointed by God such honour as does us no harm; but as for these, I do not hold them worthy, that I should defend myself before them.’”