Romans 13 - Outline of Romans (MENU page)
VI. Righteousness Practiced; Application, Service (12:1 - 15:13)
D. In Relation to Government, 13:1-14
  1. Duties toward the authorities of the state. v.1-7
  2. Duties toward fellow citizens of the state. v.8-14
13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers {ie., authorities}.
For there is no power but of God:
{cp. Psa 75:6,7}
the powers that be are ordained of
{ie., appointed by} God.
The believer - -
  • has become a citizen of Heaven (Php 3:20), a citizen of Christ's Kingdom of Righteousness (Col 1:13), subject to the King of Righteousness at all times and in all things, though His earthly Kingdom is yet to come (Jer 23:5,6).
  • is in the world, but is not of the world. (Joh 17:15-18)
  • is not to conform to the world, but as God's servant, he is to model God's Will. (Rom 12:1,2)
Do these things make him free from earthly governmental authority? No.
The very fact that he is now a servant of God, obligates him to submit to earthly governments. Citizens of Righteousness are to live in righteousness, even while sojourning in this world of unrighteous kings and governments.
for there is no power but of God...-
God established human government. Gen 9:6
God oversees human government, installing and removing rulers. Psa 75:6,7; Dan 4:17; Joh 19:11
Jesus taught submission to government. Luk 20:25; Mat 22:21
Peter taught our responsibility as God's servants, to obey the rulers. 1Pet 2:13-17
Paul teaches (here) our reponsibility to obey the rulers, because they are God's servants.
13:2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God:
and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
'Damnation' means 'judgment' or 'condemnation' (ie., from the government). cp. Mat 26:52
13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.
{ie., The purpose of government is to maintain law and order.}
Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?
{ie., Do you wish to live without fear of the state's authority? Then...}
do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
13:4 For he is the minister
{GK=diakonos, servant} of God to thee for good. {cp. 1Pet 3:13}
But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain:
{The sword is not a meaningless symbol of power. It has a solemn purpose. cp. Gen 9:6}
for he is the minister {GK=diakonos} of God,
a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.
a revenger {ie., extractor of punishment} to execute wrath {ie., just anger} upon him that doeth evil {or, who perpetrates harm} -
Even power crazed tyrants are used of God to provide a measure of stability to the lands under their control. They may act from selfish interests in attacking crime and terrorism, but the control of those destructive influences also benefits their people. The displacement of a dictator (eg., in the interest of promoting democracy) often results in greater turmoil, as every man does that which is right in his own eyes.
13:5 Wherefore [ye] must needs be subject, not only for wrath,
but also for conscience sake.
Obedience to the government is motivated by--
- - the fear of the sword (v.4)- ie., the consequences of violating earthly law.
- - the fear of the Lord (v.2)- ie., our moral responsibility to obey God's appointed authorities.
13:6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also:
for they are God's ministers
{GK=leitourgos}, attending continually upon this very thing.
The word used here for 'minister' is used elsewhere of priests. Though civil rulers fill secular roles, they fulfill a spiritual purpose, since they have been divinely appointed.
13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute [is due];
custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
The believer's responsibility includes financial support of a God appointed institution. cp. 1Tim 5:18
  • Tribute - personal and property taxes (continuing or regular). cp. Luk 20:22-25; 23:2
  • Custom - import or export duty, tolls (one time or occasional fees). cp. Mat 17:24-27
  • Fear - 'reverence' or 'veneration' to him who bears the sword for God.
  • Honor - 'respect' all who exercise authority delegated to them by God. 1Pet 2:17
    The person who holds the office may not seem worthy of honor. Still, we are to honor the office. cp. 1Sam 26:9
But what if the rule of government is in opposition to the rule of God?
  1. Remember that the Lord is still in ultimate control...
    - - though the wicked rule and oppress the righteous (Psa 11).
    - - though righteous kings pass away, leaving wicked successors (Isa 6:1).
    - - Therefore, we need not take matters into our own hands (Joh 18:36).
  2. Remain faithful in civil duties to the extent possible. cp. Dan 6:1-3
  3. Choose to obey God, rather than man, when conflict is irreconcilable. cp. Acts 5:29,41
    However, we should expect to pay the consequences of disobeying earthly leaders.
    eg., Dan 6:4-10,16; Dan 3:13-18; cp. 1Pet 3:13-18; 4:19
    (This does not preclude the use of legal process, if it is available to us. cp. Acts 25:10,11)
  4. Continue to pray for government leaders, with... (the bullet points below are from 1Tim 2:1-2)
    • supplications- 'entreating' God to supply their need (need that they may not recognize, eg., for wisdom in governing, for hearts open to the Truth, for their personal salvation...).
    • prayers- This is the general word for prayer. It is used also of the 'place of prayer.' (It is used in both senses in Acts 16:13,16.) We should uphold our leaders in both private and public prayer.
    • intercession- GK=enteuxis, 'a meeting with,' 'an interview.' The sons of God have access into the presence of the King of kings. There we are to speak with Him, in behalf of the lesser authorities.
    • giving of thanks- GK=eucharista, lit., good gifts of grace (plural). We are to acknowledge to the Giver that He has given good gifts (even though it may not be easy to live under our rulers). cp. Rom 8:28; 1The 5:17,18
    • a purpose: 'that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life...' - The underlying purpose of our prayer is for an environment conducive to the proclamation of the Gospel. This prayer is according to God's Will (1Tim 2:2b-7).
   2. Duties toward fellow citizens of the state (v.8-14)
13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love {GK=agapao} one another:
This is a debt which cannot be fully paid.
for he that loveth {GK=agapao} another hath fulfilled the law.
The world is governed by moral law. The Church is governed by the Holy Spirit.
The believer is free from the Law because -
  • The Law cannot provide heavenly citizenship (Gal 3:2,3).
  • The Law is not the governing principle of heavenly citizens (Rom 6:14-18).
  • The Law cannot produce true righteousness (Rom 10:4).
Yet, the believer is obligated to obey the moral law, as a citizen of the world.
13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery,
{Note that adultery is not a product of 'love' (v.8), but of lust and license.}
Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal,
Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet;
and if [there be] any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying,
namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
{cp. Lev 19:18; Mat 22:36-40}
13:10 Love worketh no ill
{GK=kakos, harm, evil (v.4)} to his neighbour:
therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law.
Paul quotes the second table of the Mosaic Law, the Ten Commandments
(listing only the commandments that govern man's relationship with man).
'thy neighbor'...- is not just the man next door, but every person with whom you interact.
cp. Luk 10:29-37
love is the fulfilling of the law.- It is not in man to fulfill the law.
Because love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, believers can be true law abiding citizens. Gal 5:22
''The state must resort to the sword to enforce the law, because, though it can write good laws, it cannot inspire the love that heeds them.'' [Stifler]
Thus far, ch. 13 has given three principles which should make believers model citizens--
- - the fear of the Lord (v.2).
- - the fear of the sword (respect toward earthly authorities, v.4).
- - the Love that flows from the Holy Spirit (v.10).
To these, now, another is added -
- - the imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ (v.11-14).
13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now [it is] high time to awake out of sleep:
for now [is] our salvation nearer than when we believed.
sleep {GK=hupnos} - suggests...
  • dullness toward reality, being mesmerized by this passing world (as in a dream).
  • inactivity in our worship and service.
    'Sleep' is a lack of zeal... a spirit less than fervent (cp. Rom 12:11; Rev 3:15).
now is our salvation nearer...- Paul is not speaking of the assurance of sins forgiven (for that is our present possession),
but of the completion of our Hope (1Pet 1:3-9). The citizens of Righteousness have been 'translated' into the Kingdom of Christ. We are His subjects. We watch expectantly, for His return, and our transfer from under the dominion of this world's rulers, to the dominion of our Lord and King. Col 1:12,13
No man knows the time of Christ's return, but we can be sure that each passing day brings that Day closer. (cp. Mat 24:36)
now it is 'high time' {GK=hora}...-
'Now' is the hour, ie., the point in time, that we ought to be alert:
  • yielding all that we are and have to the Lord. Our time, dollars, and possessions will soon pass away. How are we investing them?
  • being vigilent toward dangers. 1Pet 5:8
13:12 The night is far spent, {ie., the night of the Lord's absence}
the day is at hand:
{ie., the Day of His appearing, cp. 2Tim 4:8}
let us therefore cast off the works of darkness,
{cp. Eph 5:11-18}
and let us put on the armour of light.
{cp. Eph 6:10-18; 1The 5:1-8}
13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day;
not in rioting
{ie., reveling} and drunkenness,
not in chambering
{ie., sexual immorality}
and wantonness
{ie., shameless continuance in what we know to be wrong},
not in strife and envying
{ie., jealousy, zeal that opposes the Lord}.
walk honestly as in the day...- Many citizens of the world live for 'night life' (Joh 3:19).
The believer waits for the Day of Christ's Kingdom of light, and though it is yet future, he conducts himself according to its reality. ''The lightning flash that ushers in the Day will not change a man's walk, it will merely show what it is.'' [Stifler] cp. 1Cor 3:13
13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ,
How is this accomplished?
First, by identification with Him, by faith. cp. Rom 6:3,4; Gal 3:27
Then, by transformation to His likeness, by the power of His life within the believer who is yielded to Him. cp. Eph 4:22-24; Rom 8:2; 12:1,2; 1Joh 3:2,3
and make not provision {lit., take no forethought} for the flesh, to [fulfil] the lusts [thereof].
The things which the flesh desires will soon pass away.
cp. Mat 6:19-33; 1Tim 6:6-12; Rom 8:12,13; Gal 5:16,17,24; 1Joh 2:15-17

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