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Tuesday, April 16th, 2024
the Third Week after Easter
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Bible Commentaries
Romans 13

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

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Verse 1

1 ) "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers," (pasa psuche eksousiais huperchousais hupotassestho) "Let every soul, every living person, be subject to superior authorities;" In every orderly government or society every living person has someone to whose authority he is to be subject, in some things, so long as he lives, without exemption of church or ministers of the gospel too. This refers to all established orders of civil authorities, Proverbs 24:21; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-16.

2) "For there is no power but of God;" (ou gar estin eksousia me hupo theo) "For or because there exists no authority except by, from, or of God;" God’s provision, sanction by direct or permissive will. All civil authorities are answerable to God for their decisions and actions, as well as to men, Matthew 22:21. In proper establishment and administration there should be harmony in, and no conflict between, civil law, and divine worship, and obedience to God.

3) "The powers that be," (hai de ousai) "And those (authorities) that exist," that have positions of organized and deputized authority and function; civil powers should not attempt to regulate worship and divine service of the church. It is then only that God is to be obeyed, precedent to wicked impositions of civil rulers, Acts 5:29; Daniel 3:11-18. In all other matters of civil life, whether regulations are good or bad, they are to be respected, until altered by proper redress of grievance procedures in civil law, 1 Peter 2:13-18.

4) "Are ordained of God," (hupo theou tegagmenai eisin) "Are ordained or set in organized function, by, from, or of God’s direct or permissive will; Proverbs 8:15-16; Daniel 2:21; John 19:11; John 18:3; John 18:28.

Verse 2

1) "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power," (hoste ho antitassomenos te eksousia) "So that the one who stands up against or resists the authority," the authority of function in what God has sanctioned; The one who opposes wise and wholesome laws, or properly and orderly established laws that are not the wisest, 1 Peter 2:14.

2) "Resisteth the ordinance of God;” (te tou theou diatage anthesteken) "That one has opposed or opposes the ordinances of God;" the ordinance that men are to be subject to public rulers and governors, Titus 3:1.

Thoreau wrote: "It matters not half so much what kind of a vote you drop in the ballot box, as what kind of a man you drop out of bed into the street every morning."

3) "And they that resist," (hoi de anthestekotes) "An d those having opposed, resisted, or disobeyed," civil rule and authority in civil matters, except by wholesome orderly and ethical means, resist God’s decree. For Man is not left to be "a law unto himself." Such a concept followed would tend to anarchy, turmoil, and total disorder in human society, as when there was no judge in Israel, Judges 21:25.

4) "Shall receive to themselves damnation", (heautois krima lempsontai) "Will receive to themselves judgment," of their own cause, making, or doing." Both civil and religious orders of service require certain subordinations of one person and order of service to another. This is God’s order and any altered order leads to disorder, and confusion, rebellion and anarchy, bringing suffering, hurt, and grave judgment on the disobedient, Acts 23:2-5; Exodus 22:28.

God ordained civil government for the greater, wiser benefit of all society, the saved and the unsaved. He did not prescribe any particular form of government, but left such for men to establish, administer, and alter by orderly process --not by anarchy. This is Paul’s contention.

Verse 3

1) "For rulers are not a terror to good works," (hoi gar archontes ouk eisin phobos to agatho ergo) -For the rulers are not (exist not) as a fear to morally and ethically good works," (Ephesians 2:10. Rulers are to protect the good, the upright in society, from terror of those who do wrong. Subjects have a corresponding duty to do good, do right, and deport themselves so as to merit the respect of authorities, Matthew 5:15-16.

2) "But to the evil," (alla to kako) "But they are (do exist) as an occasion of fear or terror to or toward immoral and unethical work, deeds, or behavior," as a restraint to them. It is the duty of properly appointed civil authorities to punish evil doers as surely as it is to praise the orderly in conduct.

3) "Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?" (theleis de me phobeisthai ten eksousian); "And do you not have a high moral will to fear (to be respecting) the authority?" Do you not then will, desire or choose to be orderly and do good rather than to live under fear of ordained punishment for breaking the civil laws you are under? You should. For the fear of man bringeth a snare, a trap, an ordained punishment, 1 John 4:18; Proverbs 29:25.

4) "Do that which is good," (to agatho poiei) "Do the good," the morally and ethically proper thing; unless you are evil. 1 Peter 3:13; 1 Peter 4:14-16; Proverbs 3:27; Even our Lord was praised because he "went about doing good," Acts 10:38. Let every church member and Christian citizen follow his example, walk in his steps.

5) "And thou shalt have praise of the same," (kai ekseis epainon eks autes) "And thou wilt have praise from doing it;" 1 Peter 2:14; Matthew 5:16. You will have both protection and favor of men (your rulers) and of God for good and obedience to and respect for established law and order.

Verse 4

1) "For he is the minister of God to thee for good," (theou gar diakonos estin soi eis to agathon) "For he is a common servant-minister of God to you, with reference to moral and ethical good conduct and good behavior"; in administering good civil government, being himself under authority.

2) "But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid," (ean de to kakon poies, phobou) "But if on the other d you do that which is immoral and unethical, be afraid, fearful," afraid or fearful of the righteous judgment consequences from the constituted Divine civil authority. Be afraid of detection and punishment, if you do evil, break public laws, Daniel 4:10; Daniel 5:29; Ecclesiastes 3:14.

3) "For he beareth not the sword in vain," (ou gar eike ten machairan pobei) "For he does not bear the sword in vain;" The instrument of civil punishment; Even the taking of the life of one who has in malice aforethought taken the life of another, is of Divine command, Genesis 9:6.

4) "For he is the minister of God," (theou gar diakonos estin) "Because he exists, has his position, as a common servant-minister of God," to the saved and unsaved, to every soul, to every person in society, impartially. The "he-servant-minister of God" is the civil ruler. For him Christians are to pray, have fear, and obey, 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Titus 3:12.

5) "A revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil," (ekdikos eis orgen to kakon prassonti) "An avenger with regards to wrath to those repeatedly doing or practicing morally and ethically bad things or involved in such behavior, 2 Chronicles 10:6; 1 Timothy 1:8-10.

Verse 5

1) "Wherefore ye must needs be subject," (dio anagke hupotassesthai) "Wherefore it is necessary (for you) to be subject"; For these reasons it is necessary for you to submit yourself to every ordinance of man in civil matters, then seek in an orderly manner to alter, amend, or rescind any law that may be wrong. God never sanctioned outright anarchy by any citizen in purely civil matters, 2 Peter 2:13-18.

2) "Not only for wrath," (ou monon dia ten orgen) "Not only because of wrath"; the judgment wrath of the law upon rebel citizens, doers of moral, ethical, and illegal evil. Wrath of civil judgment is not the only reason one should be subject to civil law and rulers. We must obey these for the sake of God and not disobey God, for the sake of all men, see? Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.

3) "But also for conscience sake," (alla kai dia ten suneidesin) "But also because of the conscience," the monitor of the soul. He who persistently does evil or wrong, even against established civil law that he is under, will soon acquire not only an evil, wicked conscience, but also a seared conscience, Acts 24:16; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Timothy 4:2. You see one must live with his conscience and memory on earth and in hell, Luke 16:25-26. The rich man did "remember", and his memory of conscience haunted him in hell for his lack of proper influence on his five brothers left on earth behind in rebellion against God. 0 that men would give heed to the laws of men and of God in civil and religious matters, wherein they are in harmony! Matthew 22:21-22. For these are both ordained of God. And they who do not first obey civil laws are not likely to obey the voice of God in spiritual matters of spiritual conduct, See?

Verse 6

1 ) "For this cause pay ye tribute also," (dia touto gar kai phorous teleite) "On account of this you all pay your taxes," or "pay your taxes because of this service," the service or protection the rulers render to you and for your conscience sake, as well. The term tribute denotes taxes, assessments, or dues charged to you for services offered or rendered by the civil rulers and by the government, for public roads, utilities, and police protection etc., Matthew 17:27; Mark 12:13; Mark 12:17.

2) "For they are God’s ministers," (leitourgoi gar theou eisin) "For they are ministers or servants of God in common interest things"; They (these rulers) are officers of the people, of the public, saved and unsaved, for public good. The term rendered minister here means "laity workers," meaning workers for the masses for the general public.

3) "Attending continually upon this very thin," (eis auto touto proskarterountes) "For this very kind of thing they are attending constantly, around the clock;" as officers who serve to protect the public from violence or from health hazards, etc., as well as tax collecting, covering a wide range of duties and services of official magistrates.

Verse 7

1 ) "Render therefore to all their dues," (apodote pasin tas opheilas) "Render or give back to all what they are due;" pay honor, respect, and civil obedience as a debt or obligation due these Divinely sanctioned offices and services, 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

2) "Tribute to whom tribute is due," (to ton phoron ton phoron) "To the one pay tax to whom tax is due"; tax levied on person, properties, houses, or land.

3) "Custom to whom custom," (to telos to telos) "To the one pay tribute to whom tribute is due"; "custom taxes", refer to charges levied on merchandise particular.

4) "Fear to whom fear," (to ton phobon ton phobon) "to the one pay fear or reverence to him for his position"; primary fear of reverential kind should be, not to the ruling officer but toward God, who set the official position in Divine civil order, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; 1 Peter 2:17.

5) "Honor to whom honor," (to ten timen tin timen) "To the one the honor due the position of honor"; Solomon directed his son to fear, reverence, or "honor God and the king" and to avoid meddling with government subversion, Proverbs 24:21.

Verse 8

1) "Owe no man anything," (medeni meden opheilete) "You all owe no man anything," "not even one thing"; Do not be morally or ethically obligated to anyone; under the law one was not to withhold wages from a worker, even over night, Leviticus 19:13. This does not seem to preclude the making of debts of obligation, but forbids not paying them on or before agreed date of payment, to maintain integrity of character, Proverbs 22:7.

2) "But to love one another," (ei me to allelous agapan) "Except to love one another continually"; To love God supremely is ’to love and treat ones neighbor with honesty and integrity, the duty enjoined on every believer and every member of the church in particular, Colossians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:22.

3) "For he that loveth another," (ho gar agapon -ton heteron) "For the one loving the other," the other party, individual, even the one having a different disposition or personality; his neighbor near him, has done what the law of Moses prescribed as a standard of public and private morality and ethics, Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 10:27-37.

4) "Hath fulfilled the law," (nomon peoleroken) "Has fulfilled the moral and ethical principal of the Divine law, Exodus 20:1-20; Galatians 5:14 asserts that the "law-premise" or principle is fulfilled in this, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" Leviticus 19:18; James 2:8-9.


Let us then pay every debt but the debt which we can never wholly pay, whether to God or our neighbor, which is the debt of love. But let us gladly own that debt, and be busy every day of our lives in making at least some small payment in account. As we gather about the family board let us remember the homeless and unbefriended, and be sure that we have done something to make sunshine in their hearts, no matter what gloom may reign without.

-Bp. Potter

Verse 9

1) "For this, thou shalt not commit adultery," (to gar ou moicheuseis) "For this cause or logical reason thou shalt not commit adultery," moral and ethical sexual wrong, acts in conflict with Divinely revealed principles of moral chastity, purity, cleanliness, or holiness.

2) "Thou shalt not kill," (ou phoneuseis) "Thou shalt not kill," or you shall not in malice aforethought, or fit of anger, take or deprive another human being of his life.

3) "Thou shalt not steal," (ou klepseis) "Thou shalt not steal," cheat, or by dishonesty deprive or defraud another human being of what belongs to him, whether it be property or a good name.

4) "Thou shalt not bear false witness; Thou shalt not covet," (ou epithumeseis) "Thou shalt not covet," have or hold wilfully a fleshly desire for anything that belong; to another, whether it be property, traits of personality or person, or a good name," -- The first phrase is omitted from the more prominent original texts. To bear false witness, however, is an expression of both covetousness and stealing what belongs to another.

5) "And if there be any other commandment," (kai ei tis hetera entole) "And if there is or exists any other (kind of) commandment, to cover condemnation of evil.

6) "It is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely," (en to logo touto anakephalaioutai) "It is summed up in this expression, as follows," (en to) namely or like this: Matthew 22:39-40; Mark 12:31; Galatians 5:13-14.

7) "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," (agapeseis ton plesion sou hos seauton) "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," to do him good always, to do him harm, never, to speak good of him always, to speak ill of him never any more than of your own self.

Verse 10

1) "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor," (he agape to plesion kakon ouk ergazetai) "True love does not, of its own accord or will, work moral or ethical wrong to the neighbor of one;" Love not only avoids devising or designing evil against ones neighbors but also seeks ways of doing good to them, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love will not covet, steal, bear false witness against, commit adultery, or do anything wrong against ones neighbor.

2) "Therefore love is the fulfilling of the law," (pleroma oun nomou he agape) "Therefore love is or exists the essence of fulfillment of Divine law," the things Divine law requires, as set forth Exodus 20:1-20; 1 Corinthians 15:56.

Love is a motivating power, an inspiration to good and righteousness as well as a restraining force against evil. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes the essential nature of love which enables one in Christ to meet the righteous principles embodied in the Law of Moses.

Verse 11

1) "And that, knowing the time," (kai touto eidotes ton kairon) "And this, knowing or recognizing, the time-season"; what time it is, in relation to the personal, bodily return of Jesus Christ, and an accounting before his judgment seat, 2 Corinthians 5:10-12.

2) "That now it is high time to awake out of sleep," (hoti hora ede humas eks hupnou egerthenai) "it is at this moment (important) an hour for you all to be aroused out of sleep", a state of lethargy or indifference. It is a time for doing, not dreaming, Matthew 25:5 while the "bridegroom tarries," many tend to sleep still, 1 Peter 4:7-8; Ephesians 5:14-16; John 9:4.

3) "For now is our salvation nearer," (nun gar enguteron hemon he soteria) "For now and continuing forever hereafter is our salvation (deliverance) nearer," nearer at hand. The allusion is to the believer’s full, complete, perfected salvation or deliverance, involving deliverance from both the power and presence of sin, and the glorified resurrection of the body, Hebrews 9:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-9.

4) "Than when we believed," (e hote episteusamen) "Than when we believed, trusted were born again"; nearer in the sense of including being in his likeness, like him, as children of God and members of his church in particular, 1 John 3:2; Ecclesiastes 9:10.


A short time ago a locomotive engine was speeding along the Northwest line, whilst the two men who were in it lay fast asleep. A sharp-eyed signal-man, from his look-out, was alert enough to see how matters stood, and without a moment’s delay telegraphed in advance to lay a fog-signal on the line, that the detonation might rouse the sleepers. Happily, it was done in time; and startled from what might have been a fatal slumber, the men shut off steam, reversed the engine, and averted a terrible calamity. It is no breach of charity to suspect that some of you are hasting on to destruction, but know it not, for your conscience is asleep; and I would lay a fog-signal on the line that, ere you pass another mile, the crashing sound may rouse you to your danger, as you hear the voice of eternal truth declaring, "if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die!"

-T. Davidson

Verse 12

1 ) "The night is far spent," (he nuks proekopsen) "The nighttime (has) advanced"; at present it is dark, it is night, a time of sinning and trying to conceal it, John 3:19-20.

2) "The day is at hand," (he de hemera engiken) "And the daytime has drawn very near"; Day dawns when Jesus comes, and the time is not far away, Hebrews 10:37-39.

3) "Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness” (apothometha oun ta erga tou skotous) "It behooves us, so let us put off, put aside like old filthy garments, the works of darkness"; things morally and ethically questionable, that our conscience would want to hide; Hebrews 12:1-2; Ephesians 5:11; Colossians 3:8-10; Colossians 3:12.

4) "And let us put on," (endusometha de) "And let us put on, dress up, of our own voluntary will or accord," with the armor of Christian warfare Ephesians 6:11-13. The armor is both defensive and offensive for protection and projection of ones person, possessions, and territory expansion, Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Peter 1:4-9.

5) "The armour of light," (to hopla tou photos) "With the weapons of the light reflecting kind"; We are children of the light, and of the Day, by nature, so that day of our Lord should not, must not, come upon us unawares, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9; Ephesians 6:13-18; 2 Corinthians 6:7.

Verse 13

1) "Let us walk honestly, as in the day," (hos en hemera euschemonos peripatesomen) "Let us walk in a becoming manner, as in the day," when people are looking on; Let us walk decently, in a becoming manner, with decorum that befits our profession as Christians and our positions as members of his church in the community, Ephesians 5:14-15; Philippians 4:8; Galatians 5:25.

2) "Not in rioting and drunkenness," (me komois kai methois) "Not in revellings and in drunken-bouts"; the way of the Gentiles, heathen, or unbelievers; Luke 21:34; 1 Peter 4:3. Avoid rioting, reveling, debauchery, or drunken bouts, in the light of your salvation and the soon coming of Christ, lest you be not "accounted worth to escape," the things of tribulation, See also Hebrews 9:28; Matthew 25:1-10; Luke 21:36.

3) "Not in chambering and wantonness," (me koitois kai aselgeiais) "Not in beds and excesses"; immoral, illicit, sex-pleasures of the lust of the flesh --and not with lasciviousness in words, thoughts, looks, and deeds of immoral suggestion and "dirty joke", "smutty tale" kind; Galatians 5:21 asserts that those who practice such shall not have an heir-setting, a ruling part in the kingdom of God.

4) "Not in strife and envying," (me eridi kai zelo) "Not in strife or contention and in jealousy:- those who are awake to truth and the voice of God in the light of coming judgment must put off the practices of carnality, to be ready when Jesus comes, 1 Corinthians 3:3; Matthew 24:42; Matthew 25:13; "When the master" of the house returns, it will be too late to watch, Mark 13:33-37. It is a fearful thought that should give pause to every slumbering believer and saint, (church member), that it is possible that some may not be "accounted worthy" of escaping the tribulation judgment merely by having been under the blood, and then slumbered while the bridegroom tarried --It was to such he warned "watch ye" --the warning, if not possible, would involve our Lord in folly!

Verse 14

1 ) "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ " (alla endusasthe ton kurion lesoun Christon) "But put ye on, imitate, or dress up in the Lord Jesus Christ". These Roman brethren were already saved, baptized, and church-member saints, but some were sleeping, slumbering, and idle to spiritual service, to them Paul gave this command to put on or imitate Christ in zealous service, John 9:4; Luke 9:23; 1 Peter 2:21-22.

2) "And make not provision for the flesh," (kai tes sarkos pronoian me poieisthe) "And do not make a forethought of the flesh"; Do not give precedence, priority, or first place to the flesh, Matthew 6:33; Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:24; Do not give or provide the devil with a camping-place in your life, 1 Peter 2:11.

3) "To fulfill the lusts thereof," (eis epithumias) "With reference to its cravings, or covetous lusts"; Do not provide for gratifying sinful desires and passions in your life, for in doing so one reaps corruption, Galatians 6:8; 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ means to conduct ones self in daily life after the moral dispositions and habits of Christ, on an holy, ethical plane, Matthew 5:48. It also means to be a bearer of fruit, John 15:1-12; Galatians 5:19-25; 2 Peter 1:4-9.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Romans 13". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/romans-13.html. 1985.
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