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The Christian’s Duty to the State and to his Neighbour
St. Paul now passes to the duties of Christians to the State. In Romans 12:19 he had condemned revenge; but he asserts here that the State may rightly punish, as God’s agent in temporal affairs. He enforces obedience to government, i.e. to social order, not to any special form of government. He gives no directions as to what is to be done when there is a conflict of civil authority (Romans 13:1-7). Our behaviour to men in general is to be regulated by love (Romans 13:8-10). The nearness of Christ’s coming is a motive for holiness of life (Romans 13:11-14).
1-14. Paraphrase. ’(1) Obey civil rulers, for they are divinely ordained, (2) and therefore God will punish disobedience. (3, 4) They do God’s work, rewarding the good and punishing the evil. (5) Therefore obey, not only for fear of punishment, but because it is right, (6) as is implied by our rule that Christians are to pay taxes. (7) To sum up, give all authorities their due. (8) Owe no debt but that of love, which you can never adequately discharge, (9) for love sums up and includes all the commandments, (10) and, by loving, you fulfil them. (11) Let the thought of Christ’s coming awaken you to these duties. (12, 13) Let us put off all evil ways, and conduct ourselves as those who belong to the kingdom of light. (14) Provide for your spiritual nature by clothing yourselves with the likeness and power of Christ, but pay no attention to the wrong desires of your fleshly nature.’
1. Of God] i.e. having its source in God.
2. Damnation] RV ’judgment.’
4. Revenger] RV ’avenger.’ Wrath] i.e. God’s anger against evil-doing.
5. For wrath] RV ’because of the wrath.’
6. Tribute] i.e. taxes paid by subject races. The Christians obeyed Christ’s direction, Luke 20:20.
7. Custom] i.e. ordinary taxes. Fear] i.e. scrupulous obedience.
8. Another] RV ’his neighbour.’ Hath fulfilled] i.e. hath fully met its requirements: cp. Matthew 22:40; For the Christian, faith and love have taken the place of law.
9. The Ninth Commandment is omitted in the best texts.
Thou shalt love] cp. Leviticus 1 s Romans 9:18; Luke 10:27; James 2:8.
10. Worketh no ill] cp. 1 Corinthians 13:4. No one who truly loves his fellow-man will injure him.
11. And that] RV ’and this,’i.e. and do this: cp. 1 Corinthians 6:6, 1 Corinthians 6:8. Time] RV ’season.’
Salvation] i.e. complete salvation. Nearer] However long Christ tarry, death brings Him near to each. But the first Christians evidently expected His return in their own time. Sanday and Headlam point out that this belief proved beneficial, by quickening the zeal of the Church for its difficult task, and by preventing the apostles from laying down minute regulations for the future. Believed] RV ’first believed.’
12. The day] i.e. of Christ’s appearing.
Armour of light] cp. Ephesians 6:13.;
13. Walk] i.e. along the path of daily life. Honestly] or, ’becomingly.’ Envying] RV ’jealousy.’
14. Put ye on] Christ is put on in baptism, cp. Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27 but the union must be realised.
The reading of these last vv. marked the turning-point in St. Augustine’s life: see his ’Confessions,’ bk. 8, Romans 12.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Romans 13". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34