You’ll notice when reading this verse that no person in government is mentioned. Paul didn’t mention the current emperor Nero, a corrupt man, or the governor of Palestine, or any local judge or magistrate. He used “higher powers” in v. 1 and “the power(s)” in v. 1, 2. The word “power” is the inherent authority residing in a governmental office or function.
Because of our democracy we are often trapped in a sort of political personality cult. We give more attention to the person filling the office than we do the office itself. Frankly, in the long term, the person is of little consequence. It is the power of the office which gives the officeholder consequence. It is this system of God given authority which stabilizes our existence on this earth.
Government hasn’t changed much through the centuries. How people get into office has changed, laws have changed, but the basic structure remains the same.
Throughout history there has generally been a system by which laws were made. Also a system by which laws were enforced. There has been a judiciary by which the accused were judged and either freed or punished.
God has given and maintains the structure of Government for the benefit of fallen humanity, and He has obligated all Christians to respect and obey the “higher powers.”