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Bible Commentaries
Romans 13

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-14

Shall we turn in our Bibles to Romans 13 .

As Christians, what should be our attitude towards government? Paul declares,

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: and the powers that be are ordained of God ( Romans 13:1 ).

The Bible does not allow for civil disobedience. For we are commanded by the scriptures to be in obedience to those governing bodies that are over us. Paul wrote this at the time in which Nero was ruling in Rome. And we oftentimes, say, "Well, you know, we should be in obedience as long as we agree with what is being legislated." I do feel that there are rare occasions where the law of God does supercede the law of man, and on those occasions I must be obedient to God. In this period of the early church, when they were required to declare that Caesar was lord or be executed, they chose death by martyrdom rather than acknowledging the lordship of Caesar. When Peter was ordered by the magistrates, or by the council, actually, of the Jews not to speak anymore in the name of Jesus, he said, "Whether it is right to obey God or man, you judge, we know that we cannot but speak the things that we have seen and heard" ( Acts 4:19-20 ). And so when it becomes a matter of my conscience, then I must be obedient to God. But for the most part I am to be obedient to those governmental forces over me. I am to obey the law. Being a Christian does not give me an immunity from the law, for the powers that be are ordained by God.

Now this is a issue that we sometimes are prone to question. Did God ordain this particular government? The Bible tells us that the powers that exist are ordained by God. It is interesting to me that Nebuchadnezzar challenged that truth. When he was told by Daniel, who was interpreting his dream, that the great image that he saw was the ruling empires that would govern the world, and he said "Thou, O Nebuchadnezzar, are the head of gold, but your kingdom is going to be replaced by an inferior kingdom, the shoulders and the chest of silver. And that will be replaced by yet an inferior kingdom, the stomach of brass and that by a kingdom of iron, the legs." Nebuchadnezzar turned right around and made an image ninety feet high of all gold and demanded that the people worship it, which was open defiance to the declaration that your kingdom is going to replaced by the Medo-Persian Empire. And as a result of this defiance of God by Nebuchadnezzar, because of his pride, the Lord allowed him insanity until seven seasons had passed over him, until he knew that the Most High God ruled in the governments of man and set over them those whom He would. That was the lesson that God was teaching him during that period of insanity, where he went out and lived with the animals in the fields and ate grass with the oxen. The purpose of that was that he might recognize that God rules, and God establishes those on the throne whom He will, and he was only on the throne of Babylon by the divine decree of God. And after his insane period he acknowledged that the God of heaven ruled, and those who exalt themselves, He is able to abase. For he had surly been abased, but he recognized that God is the one who establishes the kingdoms and the thrones of man.

Why does God, then, allow evil men to reign if God is the one who establishes it? Basically, because men want evil men to reign over them, and in order that they might be brought to judgment, God will allow those evil rulers to lead the people in order that they might receive that rightful judgment of God. But I am told here as a child of God to be subject unto those higher powers because they have been established there by God.

Whosoever therefore is resisting the power is resisting the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation [or condemnation] ( Romans 13:2 ).

That is, you will be brought into judgment and thrown in jail, is actually what he telling us here.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Will thou then be afraid of the powers? do that which is good, and you will have praise of the same ( Romans 13:3 ):

In other words, be a decent law-abiding citizen and you don't have to worry about the authorities. The only time I worry when I see a black and white is when I am exceeding the speed limit. You know, if I'm going the speed limit or under I don't worry when I see the highway patrol go by. But if I'm exceeding the speed limit, then I think, "Oh, Oh." You know, you look in your rear view mirror and see the thing down a mile or so with the lights flashing, and the first thing you do is look at your speed and see how fast you're going. And if I'm exceeding the speed limit, I think, "Oh, oh", you know, and I sort of ease back to the speed limit and stay in my lane and cruise along. And breathe a great sigh of relief when he goes shooting past. But for a little bit my heart begins to beat, but if look down and I see that I'm in the speed limit, I think, "Oh, that's great, he's not after me." They're only a terror to the evildoers, not to the good. And thus, if you are living a good life, you need not be terrorized or be in terror of the authorities.

For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if you are doing that which is evil, then be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that is doing evil. Wherefore ye must needs subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake ( Romans 13:4-5 ).

So as a child of God I am to be an obedient citizen and a subject, an obedient subject to the authoritative government over me.

For this cause pay taxes also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually on this very thing ( Romans 13:6 ).

I agree with that, they're attending continually on this very thing.

Render therefore to all their dues: the taxes to whom the taxes are due, custom to whom the custom; fear to whom fear; and honor to whom honor is due ( Romans 13:7 ).

Render to each one their due. We are not to try to escape our taxes, nor are we to try to smuggle Rolex watches into the United States that we bought overseas. Pay the custom to whom the custom is due. This is something that the scripture commands us to be faithful and obedient, not to cheat on your tax report. Fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shall not commit adultery, Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not steal, Thou shall not bear false witness, Thou shall not covet; and if there is any other commandment, it's briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law ( Romans 13:8-10 ).

Jesus was asked one day, "What is the greatest commandment?" And He answered, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." Then He said, "The second is likened to the first, thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself, and in these two you have all the law and the prophets." Everything that God has commanded man, how we ought to live in relationship to God and the relationship to each other, is all summed up in these two: love God supremely, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. And if you do that, you will be doing all that God requires of you. Love is the fulfilling of the law. And so it is interesting that the law was placed, really, for the most part, in the negative; thou shall not steal, thou shall not kill, thou shall not bear false witness, thou shall not covet, and so forth, and it was mainly placed in negative, but Jesus turned around and put it in the positive. And Paul here follows the example of Jesus Christ and he too puts it in the positive. And he says, "Look, all of these commandments, not commit adultery, not kill, not steal, they're all summed up in this saying, namely: thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself." That's the summation of it. For love will not work ill to his neighbor. If I'm loving him, I'm not going to be lying, stealing, cheating or whatever from him. Especially if I love him as I love myself. So love is the fulfilling of the law.

And that, [he said,] knowing the time ( Romans 13:11 ),

God expects us to be aware of the time in which we live and of the time of God's working. For this purpose God gave us prophecy, which is history in advance, so that we would be alerted and aware of the days in which we live. Knowing the time, we are not ignorant of the time, nor should we be. For we are not the children of darkness, that the day of the Lord should catch us as a thief, but we are children of the light, and therefore knowing the time,

it is high time that we wake up from our sleep ( Romans 13:11 ):

I believe that, for the most part, the church is in a general state of lethargy. I think that it is indeed tragic that men are so concerned with their scholarly research to determine whether or not there were two authors of the book of Isaiah or perhaps three, and their concern of the authorship of Isaiah is so great they don't pay any attention to what Isaiah said. I think it is tragic when a man becomes so scholarly that he thinks that he is smart enough to challenge the Word of God, or to challenge the writer of the Word of God. And I think that it borders on blasphemy for a man to suggest from his position of scholarly achievement to suggest that Matthew was embellishing his account of the story of the life of Christ. And that he actually inserted things that really did not happen in order to make the story more exciting. And he does this in the name of Biblical scholarship in an evangelical college. Sad indeed!

The people are sleeping today, because this kind of scholarship will put you to sleep. It is high time that we awake out of this lethargy. I do not know how we seem to just be sleeping when all of these decisions were being made by the Supreme Court, putting prayer out of school, the favorable mention of God out of our schools. How we were sleeping when the humanists took over the public school system.

My wife ordered some of the McGuffie Readers this last week. They came yesterday. And she started reading me some of the things out of the McGuffie Readers. These are the reading textbooks that the children used to have here the United States, stories that had a moral to them, stories that extolled the virtues of honesty, and of goodness. Teaching the children as they were reading that they don't have to fear, God is watching over, and He is near, and they can call upon Him. Now what's so wrong about teaching morality and honesty and trusting God to a child? What is so criminal about that, that it has become against the law of our land? Where were we when this was going on? The church was sleeping! And while we slept, the flood tide of evil was open, and now such a flood of pornography has filled our nation and we are not alone in this. If fact, we are probably a step behind some of the European nations. In that horrible "anything goes" attitude. The West has been totally demoralized and totally immoral. You go to Europe and you actually feel that you are in a post-Christian era. For the most part the church is dead in Europe and you can feel it. Walking down the street you can sense that spirit of anti-christ that is everywhere.

And we slept, the church was sleeping, but it is high time that we awake out of our sleep.

for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent ( Romans 13:11-12 ),

I really cannot see how we can sink much lower. I really cannot see how we can go on much longer. How many more years can we exist adding a hundred and ninety two billion dollars to a federal debt? How much longer can the banks keep holding Brazil and Mexico and these other countries that are unable to pay their debt? Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent,

but the day is at hand ( Romans 13:12 ):

The Bible does face reality, and it does see the darkness of the night, but thank God the Bible does give us a hope in Jesus Christ. After the dark night is over a new day is going to dawn, the day of God's glory that is going to cover the earth. And that hope sustains us in the dark night.

but let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting [or revelry] not in drunkenness, not in immorality and shamelessness, not in strife or in envy ( Romans 13:12-13 ):

These are all a part of the flesh, and the life after the flesh.

But put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lust thereof ( Romans 13:14 ).

I believe that today there is an evil spirit that has invaded the land, this evil spirit operating through the pornography. I believe that people can become addicted to pornography just as much as they can become addicted to alcohol or to drugs. And it has the same powerful hold over their lives as does alcohol or drugs. They are drawn to it. They are attracted by it. And when they get away from it, they say, "I'll never do that again," and they are ashamed by what they've done. But somehow they seemed to be lured and drawn back to it again. And it can get hold on a person's life and he can become a slave to this spirit and power that is there. Operating through this it can get a hold on a person's life and you can become a victim, desiring more and more and more and different types of pornography. It seems to be a progressive thing like drugs and all, where you have to go deeper and deeper and more and more.

There are many homes today being destroyed because of pornography. Because of the, what Paul called here, chambering, or immorality, the Greek, koite, the desire for the forbidden bed. Many marriages being destroyed today because of incest. Many marriages being destroyed today because of the pornography and these things. And it is tragic to see a person that is a victim of these things. I believe that it is a work of Satan in the last days, and I believe that our only power against it is prayer. I believe that it is definitely a spiritual battle and the Bible says, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of the strongholds of the enemy" ( 2 Corinthians 10:4 ). But I think we have to use spiritual weapons. I don't think that just nagging a person or getting on a person's case for it is going to do it. That's using carnal methods. It is a spiritual battle and we must combat it with the spiritual weapons that God has given to us, and in this case, that weapon of prayer and intercessory prayer.

Paul tells us that we might take them from the captivity of the enemy who is holding them captive against their will. If a person opens his mind and opens the door to these kind of things, it can actually get a hold on that person's life.

We have an interesting case in the Old Testament, where Amaziah had sent his troops against the Edomites and he had experienced a victory against the Edomites. And so he wrote to the king of Israel in the north, Jehoahaz, and he challenged him to come out and fight. And Jehoahaz sent back a message and said, "Look, you went down and you had victory over the Edomites, stay home and enjoy the victory. Why should you meddle to your own hurt?" But Amaziah, flush with the victory over the Edomites, said, "Come on out, you chicken, and face me, you know." And so Jehoahaz came out with troops and they defeated the troops of Amaziah. They came to the city of Jerusalem and it says, "And they took many captives and they broke down the walls of Jerusalem and they carried away the treasure out of the temple." Why? Because he did not have enough sense not meddle to his own hurt. To meddle in places where he had no business being.

And there is a lot of meddling that is going on, as a person begins to meddle with things that he has no right to meddle with as a child of God. And when you do, it is always to your own hurt, and even as they tore down the walls at Jerusalem so that he lost his defenses, so Satan will tear down your walls and you will begin to lose your defenses against him and you will find that you don't have any defenses when he comes attacking again. You have meddled around and now you have been defeated and the walls are down and you have no real defenses against the enemy anymore. You're a victim, and he is holding you captive. But we are told that we are to take them from the captivity of the enemy who is holding them captive against their will. How do we do that? Through prayer.

Satan is holding many people's lives today as captives, captives of their own lusts. But God has ordained that you be the instrument through which God delivers them from that captivity. And it comes by intercessory prayer. Holding that person before the Lord and binding the power of Satan that is holding them captive.

We have the authority in the name of Jesus over all the principalities and powers, for they are subject unto Him. And when we come against them in the name of Jesus, they must yield. And thus, through the power of the name of Jesus, we can set people free from the captivity of Satan. We can set free from that binding force that he is exercising over them, that blinding influence that he has. Because people who are being held captive by Satan are also blinded and they don't even realize their problem many times. "For the God of this world," the scripture says, "has blinded their eyes and they cannot see the truth" ( 2 Corinthians 4:4 ). So through prayer I can bind that work of Satan so that their eyes can be opened. Through prayer I can set them free from the power of Satan that is holding them, that influence that is keeping them a slave and captive to those things. And I need to exercise this intercessory prayer in delivering them from the power of the enemy that they might come unto the glorious liberty and freedom in Jesus Christ.

Therefore because we're living in a dark world and the night is far spent, the only way we are going survive is by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ and not making any provision for the flesh to fulfill the lust thereof. It is a heavy spiritual warfare, and it is becoming heavier every day, and is going to continue heavier every day until the Lord snatches us out. Things are not going to ease up. Evil days, the scripture says, "shall wax worse and worse." Jesus said, "Because the iniquities of the world will abound, the love of many shall wax cold" ( Matthew 24:12 ), talking about the time of His coming. In fact, He said, "When the Lord comes will He find faith?" Yes, He will, if we will be determined to walk and to live after the Spirit and put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for our flesh to fulfill the lust of them. How opposite that is from the world today where the doors have been opened for man to live after his flesh in any matter that his mind can imagine. We think of the words of Jesus concerning His coming, "and as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of man." And one of those conditions of the days of Noah said, "And every man did that which was right in his own eyes." They didn't restrain themselves from anything. We are living in that kind of an age today where there seems to be no restraints. Men living after the flesh. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Romans 13". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/romans-13.html. 2014.
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