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Everyone must obey the state authorities. Paul is telling Christians to obey the Roman government that would soon be persecuting them. This is a paradox. The Christian is to obey whatever government rules the country where he lives. The Gentile Christians would be expected to pick up many Jewish ideas from the Jewish Christians. The Jews believed no Gentile had the right to rule over them, basing this on Deuteronomy 17:15. As believers in the Messiah, “another king, by the name of Jesus” (Acts 17:7), even Gentile Christians might feel they had no loyalty to any human government. Paul’s teaching here is the same as what Jesus said in Mark 12:14-17. The point is that human governments are necessary to preserve moral order. All human governments have been put there by God. [The Book of Revelation shows us that EVERY government serves both God and Satan at exactly the same time.]
Whoever opposes. This is a strong statement! We must obey the civil laws just as we must obey God’s laws. Of course, this does not mean we are to obey wicked rulers when they order us to disobey God (compare Acts 4:19).
By those who do good. In general, rulers work for the good of their people [to stay in power], which includes punishing those who do evil. Some rulers are an exception to this, and probably all rulers are at sometime an exception.
For he is God’s servant. The ruler is to guard order and preserve peace. In this he is God’s servant. But if you do evil. In just a few years, Jewish armed terrorists rebelled against the Roman government, and it all ended in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
But also as a matter of conscience. There are two reasons we should obey civil government: (1) to avoid God’s wrath (Romans 13:4); (2) because of conscience (it is God’s will that we obey).
That you pay taxes. Since the civil ruler is God’s servant, Christians are obligated to pay taxes to him. See Matthew 22:21.
Pay, then, what you owe them. Pay to them whatever they have a right to claim from you. And show respect and honor. [Fear = respect, reverence.] The Christian respects and honors those whose right it is to be respected and honored, and pays his just taxes. He cannot do less, and be true to God.
Be in debt to no one. Some think this means a Christian should not use credit or borrow money. But most see it continuing the thought of Romans 13:7, and understand it to mean: “Pay every just claim, not only to government, but to everyone. The debt of love, though fully paid, is still always owed!” Has obeyed the Law. “Has obeyed” implies that obedience is already completed in the simple act of love.
Are summed up in the one command. Law describes moral standards. The law of Christ is a rule of life for believers. Paul names four commandments which have to do with human relationships. These and any others are summed up in LOVE. [“DO not give false testimony” is omitted in most of the manuscripts.]
To love, then, is to obey the whole Law. Compare Galatians 5:13-15. The Expositor’s Greek Testament says: “It is apparent once more that NOMOS is the Mosaic Law, and not law in general . . .”
You must do this. “Love your fellow-man as yourself.” You know what hour it is. They lived at a crucial point in history! See notes on Matthew 24:29-31; Romans 11:25-26. For you to wake up. Christians must have a sense of urgency, like the farmer who races to finish his work before sundown!!! When we will be saved. Even though Paul knew (by inspiration) that the Lord would not come in his lifetime (2 Thessalonians 2:3), yet he always had a strong sense of the nearness of that Day when Christ would Come! Saved here is used in the sense of our being set completely free – body, soul, spirit – in Eternity. Compare 1 John 3:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; Romans 8:23.
The night is nearly over. The “night” of spiritual darkness [ignorance and evil]. Day is almost here. When the Truth of Christ sets people free from sin and death. [Johnson sees this night as the period leading up to the “will be saved” of Romans 13:11. But Romans 13:13 points this symbolism to the present time.] Things that belong to the dark. Sin, evil, and everything that cannot survive the light of Truth. Take up the weapons. These weapons of light are the exact opposite of the “things that belong to the dark.” See Romans 6:13; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:8.
Let us conduct ourselves properly. Christians are “walking advertisements” for the Faith. Orgies. See note on Revelation 2:20. Immorality. The technical word is fornication. See notes on Matthew 19:9; Hebrews 13:4. Indecency. Sensuality, things that degrade human character. Fighting. See James 4:1-5. Jealousy. See Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:3.
But take up the weapons. Compare note on Romans 13:12. We make ourselves part of Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:27). Here the thought is that we ourselves are to take the weapons (principles?) of Christ and make them part of our fighting-gear. The new birth (John 3:5) is only the beginning of our new life in Christ, and we learn and apply the teaching of Christ to the totality of all we do. This means we can no longer be a slave to our sinful nature.
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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Romans 13". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30