N addition to the devotion & diligence that we should exude in response to God's good mercy & grace upon us (see Romans 12), we must avoid a major pitfall as well. The very real freedom that we enjoy under the shadow of God's grace can lead us to a place of smug complacency. While we are free in Christ, we are not entirely free in this world. Jesus has saved us from the penalty of sin & there is nothing that can cancel or undo that. However, our testimony among our peers is much less concrete. In fact, it is in a constant state of reevaluation & review. Being free because of God's grace does not remove our responsibility to behave well. There are still men who hold significant power over us & to whom God expects us to show due reverence. Human authority over other humans is a divine institution. Our salvation does not deliver us from this reality.
God created three institutions that exercise His authority in their jurisdictions in this world. God made the family unit, secular human government, & the church. While much could be said about the role of parents & pastors in the life of any believer, this chapter is aimed more specifically at secular authorities. The principle of submission taught in Romans 13:1 is very broad, but clearly the kinds of authority figures Paul had in mind were kings & presidents, governors & judges, mayors & policemen, etc.