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Bible Commentaries
Romans 13

Dunagan's Commentary on the BibleDunagan's Commentary

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I. The Christian and the Government: 13:1-7

II. The Christian and Love of Neighbors: 13:8-10

III. Exhortation to Spiritual Alertness and Moral Purity: 13:11-14


'In the preceding chapter Paul has been pointing out to Christians their duty of showing humility and love as members of the church; here he enforces the duty of loyalty as citizens of the state...because he is a member of the church, a Christian is not free from his duties to the state, but rather is under obligation to perform these duties with greater faithfulness. What local conditions may have led Paul to discuss the question of Christian citizenship is largely a matter of conjecture. Yet evidently it was necessary that the church in the Roman capital should not be misled by any false ideas as to the nature of the Kingdom of God, that it should not be allied with any movements which tended toward anarchy, insurrection, or rebellion. All Christians need to have a definite understanding of their right relation to the state...'

'So long as the church was mainly Jewish in composition, problems of this kind (problems with the Roman government) were not lacking, but they were not so acute as they were later to become. The position of Jews within the Roman Empire was regulated by a succession of imperial edicts. The Jews, indeed, as a subject nation within the Empire, enjoyed quite exceptional privileges....Imperial policy forbade successive governors of Judaea to bring the military standards, with imperial images attached to them, within the walls of the holy city of Jerusalem, as that was an affront to the Jew's religious susceptibilities. If by Jewish law the trespassing of a Gentile upon the inner courts of the Jerusalem temple was a sacrilege deserving the death penalty, Rome confirmed Jewish law in this respect to the point of ratifying the death-sentence for such a trespass even when the offender was a Roman citizen. For the first generation after the death of Christ Roman law, when it took cognizance of Christians at all, tended to regard them as a variety of Jews. (See Act_18:12 ff)

There is another side to the picture of Christianity's relation to the state. Christianity started out with a tremendous handicap in the eyes of Roman law , for the sufficient reason that its Founder had been convicted and executed by the sentence of a Roman magistrate. The charge against Him was summed up in the inscription attached to the cross: "The king of the Jews." Whatever Jesus may have said to Pilate about the nature of His Kingship, the one record of Him known to Roman law was that He had led a movement which challenged the sovereign claims of Caesar.....When Paul's opponents at Thessalonica wished to stir up as much trouble for him and his companions locally as they could, they went to the civic magistrates and laid information before them: "These men who have fomented subversion throughout the world have come here too....they all act contrary to Caesar's decrees and claim that there is another emperor, Jesus." (see Act_17:6-7 ) .... It was all the more necessary, therefore, that Christians should be specially careful of their public behaviour, and give their traducers no handle against them, but rather pay all due honour and obedience to the authorities .'

In addition, suffering and persecution loomed on the horizon for the Church in Rome. In 64 A.D., Rome would experience one of the most disastrous fires in it's history. In order to divert suspicion from himself, Nero instituted persecution of the Christians. In the midst of such persecution, the Christians in Rome, could remember what Paul had written years ago, civil government is a minister of God. Persecution, even by the civil authorities, did not give them the liberty to become anarchists.


Verse 1

Rom_13:1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God.

'Let every soul' -'The thirteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, according to J.W. Allen, contains what are perhaps the most important words ever written for the history of political thought.'

'The duty of submission to civil authorities is thus without exception, no matter how high or privileged one's social position may be, no matter what political theories one may hold, no matter what religious views one may profess.'

'Soul' -'person' (NASV)

'Subjection' -'Let every one obey' (TCNT), 'submit himself to' (Con). 5293. hupotasso hoop-ot-as'-so; from 5259 and 5021; to subordinate; reflexively, to obey: -be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.

'The Jews were especially averse to being subject to the Roman government, and Jews who became Christians would likely hold to their former prejudice against being subject to Rome. And converts from heathenism might feel that, having confessed Jesus Christ as their king, they were not subject to any other government.'

'Many of them (the Jews) held, on the ground of Deu_17:15 , that to acknowledge a Gentile ruler was itself sinful; and the spirit which prompted the Pharisees to ask, Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? ( Mar_12:14 ) had no doubt its representatives in Rome also. Even Christians of Gentile origin may have been open to the impulses of this same spirit; and unbalanced minds, then as in all ages, might be disposed to find in the loyalty which was due to Christ alone, an emancipation from all subjection to inferior powers.'

Modern Applications:

1. New Christians can naively think that since their citizenship is now in heaven, all human laws (like speed limits, tax laws, etc..) are unimportant. The Bible doesn't support such a view, in fact, contradicts it here and in Mat_22:21 ; 1Pe_2:13-17 ; 1Pe_4:15 .

2. God even expects the wealthy to comply. Some try to excuse themselves by saying, 'this nation should be lucky to have such a productive citizen as myself, I employ people, pay a larger amount of taxes, the government should just look the other way when I break the law.'

3. And yet, the poor are not immune from the temptation to rebel either. 'I need to feed my family, or, the stores are exploiting me, so it's alright to steal, loot and riot to get what's rightfully mine.'

'higher powers' -'governing authorities' (NASV). Lit., authorities which have themselves over. (Vincent p. 163) 'The government that is over him' (Beck) ( 1Pe_2:13 ' whether to a king as the one in authority. ')

Point to Note: The Jehovah Witnesses regard the governments of the world as Satan's organization. In fact some Christians hold the same view with regard to every government but their own, or even their own. They believe that the "higher powers" of this section are Jehovah and His Son Jesus. Yet this definition breaks down in the immediate context, not to mention various contradictions with other passages:

1. "For it is a minister of God" (13:4,6). Clearly the "higher powers" in this section are viewed as 'servants of God', and not God Himself.

2. Jesus taught that the people of God have a dual citizenship ( Mat_22:21 ), with responsibilities that go with both. If Caesar's kingdom and God's kingdom were naturally antagonistic one toward the other, no person could sustain a relationship to both as citizens. This would be like trying to serve two masters.

3. Paul taught that "our citizenship is in Heaven" ( Php_3:20 ), and yet often appealed to and used his Roman citizenship. ( Act_16:37 ; Act_22:26-28 ; Act_25:11 ) This demonstrates that the Christian can legitimately and consistently sustain a relationship to both the civil government he is under and the God he serves.

4. Being subject to human authorities and being subject to God, shouldn't shock us. Children are subject to their parents ( Eph_6:1-2 ); a woman is subject to her husband (5:22); members are subject to the elders ( Heb_13:17 ); and employees are subject to their bosses ( Col_3:22 ).

'for there is no power but of God' -'For there is no authority except from God' (NASV). 'If it didn't suit God for that government to be there, it wouldn't be there.' (McGuiggan p. 380) 'In heaven or earth-no power at all' (Alford p. 954) ( Joh_19:10-11 ; Dan_4:17 ; Dan_5:19-21 ). ' for no authority can exist without the permission of God'. (Gspd)

'and the powers that be' -'the authorities that now exist' (Mon)

'are ordained of God' -'appointed by God' (Mon); 'established by God' (Gspd) 'Stand ordained by God' (Robertson p. 407) Perfect tense, have been ordained, and the ordinance remains in force. (Vincent p. 164)

All the governments of the world exist, because God allows them to. And while they exist, God expects those under them to be in subjection, except where subjection would place one in direct violation to the law of God. ( Act_5:29 )

Verse 2

Rom_13:2 Therefore he that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment.

'Therefore' -seeing that the civil authorities are the arrangement of God.

'resisteth' -to range oneself against, i.e. to oppose. To range in battle against, 'he that lines himself up against.' (Robertson p. 407)

'the power' -'authority' (NASV), i.e. the established civil authorities.

Points to Note:

1. No specific 'type' of government is ordained of God. No particular form of authority is specified. Imperial, monarchical, republican, democratic, communist or socialist. Paul was writing when Rome ruled the world and the Roman government often abused it's power. But Jesus and His apostles taught subjection to it. ( Mat_22:21 'Render to Caesar..'; 1Pe_2:13-17 'whether to a king..honor the king'.) God's people in the past have even served in the administrations of Dictatorships, Monarchies and Totalitarian Governments. (Joseph, Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah). God's form of government for the nation of Israel wasn't a Democracy or a Republic. It was a Monarchy ( Deu_17:15 )

2. It is always understood, that the State never has the right to demand allegiance that is due only to God. 'The obedience which the Christian owes to the State is never absolute.' (F.F. Bruce p. 237) ( Act_4:19-20 ; Act_5:29 )

'withstandeth' -'has taken his stand against' (Robertson p. 407)

'ordinance of God' -arrangement, i.e. institution. 'The governmental power', the man who insists on defying lawful government is defying God. He setteth himself against that which is divinely set. (Vincent p. 164) 'Is opposing the divine order' (Mof); 'Is resisting a Divine institution' (NEB).

'God has made it very clear throughout his word that he will not tolerate anarchy. ("Anarchism"-the theory that all forms of government interfere unjustly with individual liberty. Webster p. 50) Whether it is the family structure ( Rom_1:30 'disobedient to parents'), the national government, Church government ( Heb_13:17 ) or the powers beyond this world---God doesn't approve of anarchy. In 2Pe_2:10-11 and Jud_1:8-10 ...Jude tells us of Michael (an arch-angel, no less) when in dispute with the Devil would not behave himself disrespectfully. If anyone would have the position of bring a railing accusation against anyone, it would be the powerful Michael. If any person deserves a railing accusation it would be the Devil. Michael refrained from what silly (mere) mortals major in. The ranting and raving that we often hear against dignitaries is not Christian ..(We're not discussing the godly denunciation of immoral schemes or activities.)'

'shall receive to themselves judgement' -'will get punishment for themselves' (Bas). Not only from the civil authorities (13:3), but from God himself. Which means that the revolutionary, anarchist, terrorist, and traitor is going to end up lost, if they don't repent.

Verse 3

Rom_13:3 For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And wouldest thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same:

'For' -'explains why the punishment comes upon the rebel. It is because government exists to promote the good and suppress the evil.' (McGarvey p. 509)

'rulers' -the "higher powers" in this section. (13:1) Which would include everyone in the chain of command, President, Representatives, Senators, Governors, Mayors, Police Officers, National Guard soldiers, Judges, IRS and Immigration Agents, etc.. ( 1Pe_2:13-14 ' ..or unto governors, as sent by him.. '). God expects submission to all those who are "sent" by the king also. Food and Health Inspectors, Building Inspectors, Fire Marshals, DMV and DEQ officials, etc..

'are not a terror to the good work' -'not a cause of fear for good behaviour' (NASV).

What Paul here states is generally true. 'The principles of the Roman law were just, and Paul himself found protection from its officers and tribunals ( Act_19:35 ; Act_21:31 ; Act_22:30 ; Act_24:10 ; Act_25:10-11 ; Act_26:30 )' (P.P. Comm. p. 391)

This is not to say that the civil authorities sometimes swerve from their God appointed mission. Sometimes the civil authorities get confused over what actually constitutes 'good' and 'evil' ( Isa_5:20 ). Unfortunately, for awhile the Roman government would view Christians as "evil-doers" ( 2Ti_2:9 ; 1Pe_2:12 ). There are many instances in history where governments due to ignorance, prejudice or bigotry mistook the wrong for the right. Our present government is sadly mislabeling right for wrong and wrong for right-(abortion, homosexuality, prayer in the schools, spanking, etc..). Paul had even found himself mistaking right for wrong. ( Act_8:3 ; Act_9:1-2 ; 1Ti_1:13 )

'but to the evil' -'but to those of bad behavior' (Amp) And for the most part, most governments try to fulfill this God-given task. ( 1Pe_2:20 ; 1Pe_4:15 )

Points to Note:

1. 'Law and order is a boon to any society..any form of government is better than anarchy. All forms of organized government depend on the law-abiding majority...no government can abide unless the law-abiding situation be prevalent...Peking, Hanoi, Moscow, London and Washington would all be in ruins unless they defended the rights of the law-abiding majority.'

2. We have too many people in our society that naively think that no government would be preferable to the government that we have. On a daily basis we receive the benefits of living with a civil government, paved roads, clean water, electricity and heating, order and justice that enables the establishment of businesses, which brings employment so we can support our families and buy nice things and own our homes.

'wouldest thou have no fear of the power' -'Do you want to have no reason to fear the Authorities?' (TCNT) We fear "authority", because we understand it can punish us. And we need to be grateful for that, for it means, that it will punish the evil-doer that might try to harm us. All forms of government, even the most corrupt, depend upon the law-abiding majority to remain in power.

'do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same' -doing good in this verse includes being law-abiding, i.e. obey the tax laws, speed laws, building codes, etc..( 1Pe_3:13 ) In the vast majority of cases this principle is true, but, at times governments do get right and wrong confused. ( 1Pe_3:14 ; 1Pe_3:17 )

Verse 4

Rom_13:4 for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil.

'For he' -'For it' (NASV), i.e. civil government.

'minister' -attendant or servant. This is how we need to view the government that we are under. Government exists to maintain law and order, to punish the evil-doer, to protect the innocent, etc..., and in so doing it serves the purpose of God.

'to thee for good' -the state exists for our benefit! It builds roads, maintains order, sets standards of quality in meats, dairy products, etc...it protects the rights of the innocent. It keeps us from being invaded by another power. Many regulations exist not because someone is trying to pry into our lives, but because of ABUSES! Every government regulation and law admits the fact that man is STILL A SINNER. Christians benefit greatly from government. Roads and avenues of communication help the spread of the gospel, a common currency enables preachers to be supported and the needy to be relieved. We can own a place of worship and worship God publicly. And the government even patrols the neighborhood in the attempt to help us avoid vandalism.

'but if thou do what which is evil' -Christians could act in such a way as to violate the laws of the land. Christians can fall away from the faith. ( 1Pe_2:20 ; 1Pe_4:15 )

'be afraid' -'you have reason to be alarmed' (Phi)

'It would seem that the government's primary purpose (or at least the one Paul has in mind here) is to cause fear in relation to evil behavior...a government whose legal and judicial system is such that it strikes fear in the heart of the potential criminal and deter's his evil action is fulfilling its God-given purpose.'

'for he beareth' -present active indicative, to bear, wear. (Robertson p. 408)

'the sword' -'Borne as the symbol of the magistrate's right to inflict capital punishment.' (Vincent p. 164) 'Paul is writing to the Romans as a Roman citizen, hence he uses "sword", the Roman short sword, which was used for executing citizens.' (Lenski p. 792) 'Symbol of authority as to-day policemen carry clubs or pistols.' (Robertson p. 408)

'in vain' -'for nothing' (NASV); 'for the sword they carry is not without meaning' (TCNT); 'for they do not carry swords for nothing' (Gspd). 'For the sword as the symbol of power to punish, is not given to a ruler in vain.' (Erdman p. 151)

Points to Note:

1. Paul clearly taught that the civil authorities have the God-given right to execute the criminal. In fact, Paul wouldn't of made an exception to himself, if he had been convicted of a capital crime. ( Act_25:11 ' If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die.. ')

2. Both these sections of Scripture admits the existence of a category of crimes that are 'worthy of death', where the sword needs to be used.

3. God says that the evil-doer should suffer ( 1Pe_2:20 ; 1Pe_3:17 ; 1Pe_4:15 ). Never does God say, 'Keep the law-breaker from suffering.'

4. Protesting the execution of a convicted criminal is not a practice that Christians should be involved in. In fact, it is anti-Christian and anti-God. It is protesting, resisting (13:2), God's will for how civil government is to operate.

5. Christians should never vote to take the "sword" out of the hands of God's minister. A vote against the death penalty is a vote against God.

'an avenger of wrath' -'an avenger who brings wrath' (NASV). 'Carrying justice out, i.e. a punisher' (Strong). 'Exacting penalty from one' (Robertson p. 408) 'An avenger appointed to inflict wrath' (McGarvey p. 511)

'An avenger of wrath is an EXPLANATION of "he is a minister of God". Note it doesn't say: "For he is a minister of God and an avenger for wrath." Now the government of any country has more than one reason to exist. They build roads, schools, medical services and on and on.' (McGuiggan p. 383)

'to him that doeth evil' -Civil government serves God, when it (among other things), punishes the law-breaker. God has given government the "right" to execute some of His wrath. When the child molester is put to death, some of God's wrath has been witnessed. God is in agreement with the execution.

Points to Note:

1. While the individual is forbidden to execute vengeance ( Rom_12:19 ); civil government has been given the right to. Therefore, the vengeance that Christians need to leave room for (12:19), includes the 'wrath' that the civil authorities will inflict.

2. This is why mob action, vigilantes and lynching are sinful, but a state execution isn't.

3. Civil government isn't under all the same laws that the individual is. See Mat_5:39 ; Luk_17:3-4 . I am to forgive the person that sincerely repents of killing a loved one, and yet, the state still has the right to execute, even a repentant murderer. ( 1Pe_3:17 ; 1Pe_4:15 )

4. If God has given the state the right to execute some of His wrath, then those that work for the state (police-officers, district attorney's, detectives, prison guards, and military personnel), do not sin when they are involved in 'avenging wrath' upon the evil-doer. In fact, they are serving the purposes of God.

'Some people think it is more noble or more "Christian" not to report crime (even against oneself), or to try to abolish punishment altogether as a barbaric relic. But such decisions are misinformed and are a violation of justice (and this context).'

Christians need to learn: We aren't doing God any favors by trying to remove the death penalty; by showing disrespect to police-officers; by belittling the government; by cheating on our taxes; by voting for individuals who are soft on crime, and who see the criminal as a victim, rather than an evil-doer who is victimizing others.

In view of some recent jury verdicts, many people in our society need to read this Chapter

Verse 5

Rom_13:5 Wherefore ye must needs be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience' sake.

'Wherefore' -'there is a twofold necessity for submission--an external one, in the wrath of God which comes on resistance; an internal one, in conscience.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 697)

'must needs be' -'there is necessity' (Robertson p. 408); 'You are bound, therefore, to obey' (TCNT) The moral necessity of obedience.

'not only because of the wrath' -(13:4). Reason number one: Why do I need to obey the laws of the land? If I don't I will be punished. Pretty good reason! That's incentive number one.

'Fear of punishment is called on as an incentive to obedience. There are those who oppose using fear as an incentive to obedience. I can understand that. He who is obedient only because he is afraid of being punished..doesn't have the heart the Master longs for. But fear well used is a healthy thing which is productive of much good. What puts brakes on automobiles and builds hospitals? Fear does! What puts parachutes on the backs of test-pilots and builds insurance companies? Fear does! Healthy fear is a blessing. A healthy use of fear is a wise thing. But it isn't the only reason for obedience...'

'but also for conscience' sake' -'but as a matter of principle' (Gspd); 'but because it is the right thing to do.' (Phi)

'There is such a thing as honor. There are those, thank God, who strive to be within what they are seen to be without. There are those, thank God, who act in private as they act in public . There are those, thank God, who don't need slavish fear of punishment to produce obedience.' (McGuiggan p. 383)

The Christian realizes that obedience to the laws of the land, is obedience directed towards God. Showing respect for government officials, is demonstrating respect for God. Submitting to the civil authorities, is an act of submission to God's will. I obey the laws of the land, because I love God and want to do His will!

'Some years ago during one of the many Boxer rebellions in China a mission compound was taken. One hundred girls lived and learned there. The rebels took down the cross from the top of the central building and laid it in the gateway leading out of the mission compound. They lined the one hundred girls up and gave them the offer to freedom if they would walk on the cross on their way out of the compound. Seven young ladies choose the way of "freedom". Number eight not only wouldn't walk on the symbol of her faith, she got on her knees before it and prayed. They shot her dead on the spot. Listen--they had to shoot the remaining 92 girls. There's something stronger than fear. There's something more honorable than mere living .' (McGuiggan pp. 383-384)

Verse 6

Rom_13:6 For this cause ye pay tribute also; for they are ministers of God's service, attending continually upon this very thing.

'For this cause' -'This, too is the reason why you pay taxes' (Mon); 'For because of this' (NASV) 'It is because conscience recognizes the moral value of the State as an ordinance of God that we pay taxes.' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 697)

'ye pay tribute' -i.e. taxes. 'This cause', seems to refer to the 'cause of conscience' (13:5). We obey the laws of the land because it is the right thing to do, likewise the same reasoning is behind why we pay taxes, i.e. financially support the government. Since it is God's minister, and one reason it exists is to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, then it certainly deserves our support.

While the government may misuse our funds from time to time, or even use them for immoral purposes, Jesus and Paul still commanded Christians to pay their taxes. 'Paul is stating a general truth. The bulk of the money taken is used to cater to the masses of the governed. Were it not so, the government wouldn't last long. While we all can always find something to gripe about, the masses of societies are being basically cared for even in totalitarian states out of the taxes etc...' (McGuiggan p. 384)

'for they are ministers of God' -'They carry out a service for God.' (McGuiggan p. 384) They keep law and order, reward and punish, and care for the needs of society-and such is the will of God.

'attending continually' -'to persevere' (Robertson p. 408); 'devoting their energies' (Wey). The Government works around the clock to provide for it's citizens. It tries to continually maintain the roads, various utilities (water systems, sewer), police and fire protection, it even sands the roads when it snows.

'upon this very thing' -i.e. this very thing of being a servant of God, and carrying out His will in caring for the masses and punishing the rebellious.

Verse 7

Rom_13:7 Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

'Render' -591. apodidomi ap-od-eed'-o-mee; from 575 and 1325; to give away, i.e. up, over, back, etc. (in various applications): -deliver (again), give (again), (re-)pay(-ment be made), perform, recompense, render, requite, restore, reward, sell, yield.

The idea of 'repay' fits well here. Since Government provides a valuable service to Christians (comfort, safety, freedom, convenience, protection, incentive to do right, etc..), it is reasonable and fair that people financially support it and pay their share. Those who rebel at paying taxes are very naive. Without taxes roads can't be built, policemen and firemen can't be hired, prisons can't be built, is that the type of society that you want to live in?

'The man or woman who undermines lawful government is weakening the whole fabric of society and plunging everyone into danger . God will not hold such people guiltless.' (McGuiggan p. 382)

'all their dues..tribute..custom' -tolls, tariffs, personal taxes, property taxes, etc..

'fear to whom fear' -'respect'. 'Respect where respect is due' (TCNT). Since those in governmental positions are part of 'a minister of God', we need to demonstrate towards them the proper respect.

'But I don't believe that "honor to honor" means giving a fifteen minute eulogy on a man every time he gets up to speak....The preacher got down out of the pulpit one morning. One listener (with a little too much "syrup") said, "You were just magnificent!" "I know", said the preacher grimly, "the Devil told me that already!" (McGuiggan p. 385)

Verse 8

Rom_13:8 Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law.

'Owe no man anything' -'Leave no debt unpaid' (Wey).

Points to Note:

1. Sadly some have taken this expression to mean that the Christian can never take out a loan or charge something on a credit card, that one must pay cash for everything.

2. Actually the verse is teaching that Christians are not permitted to assume debts we cannot pay. There's nothing wrong with honest debt. ( Phm_1:17-18 ) This means that we pay the debt when it is "due". We pay the bills on time, pay the house payment within the agreed time period, etc..

'There is a foolish idea abroad that money given into Church treasuries is more appreciated by God than the paying of honest debts. This isn't true! In God's name pay the honest and wise debts you have contracted with your fellow man...We're doing God no favors if we drive the unforgiven creditor to believe that God approves of thieves as long as they contribute to some Church budget. Spend your money wisely; live within your means..' (McGuiggan p. 385)

'save to love one another' -this is a debt that Christians continually have, we can never fully pay off this debt. Too many have the attitude that the world owes them. Rather, God says, 'you owe others'.

'for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law' -'the Law's horizontal aim was the right treatment of our fellow-man.' (McGuiggan p. 386)

Verse 9

Rom_13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

'For this' -'For the Law which says' (Mon). For 'this' law just mentioned (13:8). Paul now proves the last statement made in 13:8, i.e. that love of neighbor fulfills the law's requirements.

'if there be any other commandment' -Paul does not attempt to list all of them.

'is summed up is this word' -or in one command.

'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself' - Lev_19:18 .

Points to Note:

1. 'Love' never seeks to justify sinful behaviour. 'Fornication', has been relabeled, 'making love', but it isn't! Sinful behaviour, is never the 'loving thing to do'. Situation Ethics chokes on this verse. Adultery IS NEVER AN EXPRESSION OF LOVE (no matter how hard people argue that they became someone's saviour by delivering them from a bad marriage..) neither is killing (euthanasia, suicide, abortion), and neither is stealing (I need to loot the store to feed my family).

2. '..he is declaring that one who loves his neighbor will not injure his neighbor, but will fulfill toward him all that the law demands. One who loves will not borrow from a neighbor (like the bank, or credit card companies) that which he cannot repay; he will not wrong his neighbor by adultery, theft, murder, or covetousness . In fact, all special precepts are summarized in that of love...so it is that every conceivable moral requirement is summed up in this one commandment..' (Erdman pp. 153-154)

Jesus presented the same truth in Mat_7:12 and Mat_22:36-40 . Every command that God has ever given fits into the two basic categories of 'love God, love others'. Therefore, 'sin' is the result when we don't care about God or others. Sin is more than just a mistake, at that moment we either 'hate' God or others, or both. In essence, sin is extreme selfishness, where one is only occupied with 'what I want right now'.

Verse 10

Rom_13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.

'Love' -real love in contrast to the false 'love' of the world. Someone has described this love as 'invincible good will', 'unconquerable benevolence'. 'Who started the lie that love makes people weak? Love is tough and demanding. It costs a lot, you see, It cost God his Son...Love doesn't make a person less a person. It makes them as tough as a nickel steak. It isn't weakness to love people. The easy way out is to have them hurt you once and then cut the offender off. That way you won't have to bear a lot of pain..' (McGuiggan p. 387)

'worketh' -'never wrongs a neighbor' (TCNT)

Point to Note:

Someone might ask, if the Law of Moses was removed at the cross ( Col_2:14-16 ; Heb_9:1-28 ; Heb_10:1-39 ), then why does Paul appeal to the Law of Moses when talking to Christians in this section of Scripture?

I think that Paul could appeal to the 'Law', because God's moral standard's haven't changed. Adultery, theft, murder, covetous were all sins BEFORE SINAI AND EVEN AFTER THE CROSS. Love has always simply tried to fulfill what God has wanted done! Love doesn't resent "Law", it doesn't try to get around "Law", it doesn't try that argue that the Christian doesn't have to obey 'law'. Love simply wants to do God's law. God's law is simply the expression of God's character and nature, and all true Christians love whatever reveals God.

Verse 11

Rom_13:11 And this, knowing the season, that already it is time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed.

'And this' -'This do' (Con) 'Be obedient to the government, reach out in love for your neighbor..this do, or, and bearing this in mind' (McGuiggan p. 389) 'And let us do this, viz., live in no debt but that of love.' (Alford p. 956)

'knowing the season' -'you know the crisis that we are in' (Mon); 'realizing the situation' (Wey); 'make no mistake about the age we live in' (Knox) 'The critical period, not time in general' (Robertson p. 409)

Some think that this refers to the "second coming". But Paul has already written that one cannot know that "season" ( 1Th_5:1-3 ). This may refer to the coming trouble that Nero would bring on the Christian's in Rome. 'Paul recognized the critical nature of the times. He was under no illusions about the permanence of his present opportunity of preaching the gospel without let or hindrance, but he was determined to exploit it to the full while it lasted.' (F.F. Bruce p. 240)

'already it is time for you to awake out of sleep' -'it is time to wake up to reality' (Phi); 'it is time for you at once to awake' (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 699)

'Awake out of sleep' is an exhortation to alertness in spirit , a throwing off of lethargy. The whole passage is a word picture. It contemplates a sleeper who is urged to awake because it is almost daybreak. The sleeper, now awake, is urged to dress as befits someone who is to face the day by throwing off his night attire.' (McGuiggan p. 389)

Paul exhorted Christians in other places to be alert. ( Eph_5:14-16 ; 1Th_5:6-8 ) 'Few Christians are ever as wide awake as they should be.' (Whiteside p. 263)

'for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed' -eternal salvation, since they already had the forgiveness of their sins. (8:23)

As every day passes by, we are that much closer to eternal life. Therefore, the foolishness of Christians becoming slack and careless in their service to God. We often forget this fact. It's just not another day, it's another day in which we are closer to our goal of eternal life. The passing of time shouldn't discourage the Christian, in fact, the faster that time seems to past, the more encouraged the Christian should get, 'I am just that much closer to an final relationship with God.'

Verse 12

Rom_13:12 The night is far spent, and the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

'the night is far spent' -'almost gone' (NASV) Apparently 'night' here stands for the 'life of the world'. I don't think that 'night' here refers to one's earthly life, in that case Paul would be saying, 'Your just about dead, so get rid of your sinful habits'. That just doesn't seem to be a very noble incentive to live right. 'Day' in this context refers to a life lived according to God's will (13:13) and opposed to a life lived in sin. I think Paul's language here finds a counterpart in Peter's statement:

Verse 13

Rom_13:13 Let us walk becomingly, as in the day; not in revelling and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy.

'walk becomingly' -'behave properly' (NASV). While Christians are not to be snobs, there is a definite lifestyle that the Christian must live. ( Eph_5:3-17 ) The Bible does teach a standard of acceptable conduct.

'revelling' -2970. komos ko'-mos; from 2749; a carousal (as if letting loose): -revelling, rioting. The same two Greek words rendered 'revelling and drunkenness' also appear together in Gal_5:21 .

'Komos expresses a lustful excess in physical and sexual pleasure which is offensive to God and to man alike. It may well be that the best translation of it is that of J.W. C. Wand, when he translates it debauchery.'

'Excessive feasting..' (Arndt p. 462) 'Of feasts and drinking-parties that are protracted till late at night' (Thayer p. 367). Modern day 'revellings' are found in many a (worldly) office, Christmas or New Year's Eve party. 21st birthday parties and keggars.

'chambering' -'sexual promiscuity' (NASV), fornication, adultery, homosexuality.

'wantonness' -'sensuality' (NASV)

'strife and jealousy' -'quarreling and jealousy' (TCNT). We seem to erroneously think that being jealous isn't as bad as getting drunk as a skunk. But God doesn't buy it. The last two sins can do just as much damage as the other sins listed here.

Verse 14

Rom_13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

'put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ' -one puts on Christ, when they cast off the old sinful ways (13:12), and replaces them with attitudes and deeds which find God's approval. (13:12 'put on the armor of light').

'make not provision for the flesh' -'Let us be Christ's men from head to foot, and give no chances to the flesh to have its fling.' (Phi)

Points to Note:

1. Sadly, 'making provision for the flesh, to fulfill it's lusts', just happens to be the chief aim of many people in our society. 'Make sure that you get fulfilled..get what's coming to you...you have rights...if it feels good do it...' Physical pleasure has become the adopted "god" of many. ( 2Ti_3:4 )

'Provision' -4307. pronoia pron'-oy-ah; from 4306; forethought, i.e. provident care or supply: -providence, provision.

2. Too often, we do make 'forethought' for the lusts of the flesh. Often, we become our own worst enemy. People make 'forethought' for the flesh, when they allow their minds to wander and dwell on sinful thoughts. They make 'forethought' for the flesh when they allow themselves to hold on to resentment, hate, bitterness, and self-pity. They make 'forethought' for the flesh, when they deliberately place themselves in situations, where they are at the disadvantage. Hanging around with the wrong friends, is making 'forethought' for the flesh. ( 1Co_15:33 )

3. Too many of us 'set ourselves up to sin'. We caved into temptation, because we in someway or another 'planned' the situation. This verse suggests, that sin can often be avoided, if we refuse to "give" the flesh any extra room. We need to refuse to give the devil "any" opportunity. ( Eph_4:27 )

Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 13". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dun/romans-13.html. 1999-2014.
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