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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Romans 13

Verse 1

Every soul (πασα ψυχη). As in Romans 2:9; Acts 2:43. A Hebraism for πας ανθρωπος (every man).

To the higher powers (εξουσιαις υπερεχουσαις). Abstract for concrete. See Mark 2:10 for εξουσια. Hυπερεχω is an old verb to have or hold over, to be above or supreme, as in 1 Peter 2:13.

Except by God (ε μη υπο θεου). So the best MSS. rather than απο θεου (from God). God is the author of order, not anarchy.

The powers that be (α ουσα). "The existing authorities" (supply εξουσια). Art ordained (τεταγμενα εισιν). Periphrastic perfect passive indicative of τασσω, "stand ordained by God." Paul is not arguing for the divine right of kings or for any special form of government, but for government and order. Nor does he oppose here revolution for a change of government, but he does oppose all lawlessness and disorder.

Verse 2

He that resisteth (ο αντιτασσομενος). Present middle articular participle of αντιτασσω, old verb to range in battle against as in Acts 18:6, "he that lines himself up against."

Withstandeth (ανθεστηκεν). Perfect active indicative of ανθιστημ and intransitive, "has taken his stand against."

The ordinance of God (τη του θεου διαταγη). Late word, but common in papyri (Deissmann, Light, etc., p. 89), in N.T. only here and Acts 7:53. Note repetition of root of τασσω.

To themselves (εαυτοις). Dative of disadvantage. See Mark 12:40 for "shall receive a judgment" (κρινα λημψοντα). Future middle of λαμβανω.

Verse 3

A terror (φοβος). This meaning in Isaiah 8:13. Paul does not approve all that rulers do, but he is speaking generally of the ideal before rulers. Nero was Emperor at this time.

From the same (εξ αυτης). "From it" (εξουσια, personified in verse Romans 13:4).

Verse 4

A minister of God (θεου διακονος). General sense of διακονος. Of course even Nero was God's minister "to thee (σο ethical dative) for good (εις το αγαθον, for the good)." That is the ideal, the goal.

Beareth (φορε). Present active indicative of φορεω, old frequentative form of φερω, to bear, to wear.

But if thou do (εαν δε ποιηις). Condition of third class, εαν and present active subjunctive of ποιεω, "if thou continue to do."

Sword (μαχαιραν). Symbol of authority as to-day policemen carry clubs or pistols. "The Emperor Trajan presented to a provincial governor on starting for his province, a dagger, with the words, 'For me. If I deserve it, in me'" (Vincent).

An avenger (εκδικος). Old adjective from εκ and δικη (right), "outside of penalty," unjust, then in later Greek "exacting penalty from one," in N.T. only here and 1 Thessalonians 4:6.

Verse 5

Ye must needs (αναγκη). "There is necessity," both because of the law and because of conscience, because it is right (Romans 2:15; Romans 9:1).

Verse 6

Ye pay (τελειτε). Present active indicative (not imperative) of τελεω, to fulfil.

Tribute (φορους). Old word from φερω, to bring, especially the annual tax on lands, etc. (Luke 20:22; Luke 23:1). Paying taxes recognizes authority over us.

Ministers of God's service (λειτουργο θεου). Late word for public servant (unused λειτος from Attic λεως, people, and εργω, to work). Often used of military servants, servants of the king, and temple servants (Hebrews 8:2). Paul uses it also of himself as Christ's λειτουργος (Romans 15:16) and of Epaphroditus as a minister to him (Philippians 2:25). See θεου διακονος in verse Romans 13:4.

Attending continually (προσκαρτερουντες). Present active participle of the late verb προσκαρτερεω (προς and καρτερεω from καρτος or κρατος, strength) to persevere. See on Acts 2:42; Acts 8:13.

Verse 7

Dues (οφειλας). Debts, from οφειλω, to owe. Often so in the papyri, though not in Greek authors. In N.T. only here, Matthew 18:32; 1 Corinthians 7:3. Paying debts needs emphasis today, even for ministers.

To whom tribute is due (τω τον φορον). We must supply a participle with the article τω like απαιτουντ ("to the one asking tribute"). So with the other words (to whom custom, τω το τελος απαιτουντ; to whom fear, τω τον φοβον απαιτουντ; to whom honour, τω την τιμην απαιτουντ). Φορος is the tribute paid to a subject nation (Luke 20:22), while τελος is tax for support of civil government (Matthew 17:25).

Verse 8

Save to love one another (ε μη το αλληλους αγαπαιν). "Except the loving one another." This articular infinitive is in the accusative case the object of οφειλετε and partitive apposition with μηδεν (nothing). This debt can never be paid off, but we should keep the interest paid up.

His neighbour (τον ετερον). "The other man," "the second man." "Just as in the relations of man and God πιστις has been substituted for νομος, so between man and man αγαπη takes the place of definite legal relations" (Sanday and Headlam). See Matthew 22:37-40 for the words of Jesus on this subject. Love is the only solution of our social relations and national problems.

Verse 9

For this (το γαρ). For the article (το) pointing to a sentence see Romans 8:26, here to the quotation. The order of the commandments here is like that in Luke 18:20; James 2:11 and in B for Romans 13:5, but different from that of the Hebrew in Romans 13:20; Romans 13:5. The use of ου with the volitive future in prohibitions in place of μη and the imperative or subjunctive is a regular Greek idiom.

And if there be any other (κα ε τις ετερα). Paul does not attempt to give them all.

It is summed up (ανακεφαλαιουτα). Present passive indicative of ανακεφαλαιοω, late literary word or "rhetorical term" (ανα, κεφαλαιον, head or chief as in Hebrews 8:1). Not in the papyri, but κεφαλαιον, quite common for sum or summary. In N.T. only here and Ephesians 1:10.

Namely (εν τω). See το γαρ at the beginning of the verse, though omitted by B F. The quotation is from Leviticus 19:18. Quoted in Matthew 5:43; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8 it is called βασιλικος νομος (royal law).

Thy neighbour (τον πλησιον σου). Πλησιον is an adverb and with the article it means "the one near thee." See on Matthew 5:43.

Verse 10

The fulfilment of the law (πληρωμα νομου). "The filling up or complement of the law" like πεπληρωκεν (perfect active indicative of πληροω, stands filled up) in verse Romans 13:8. See Romans 13:1 for the fuller exposition of this verse.

Verse 11

And this (κα τουτο). Either nominative absolute or accusative of general reference, a common idiom for "and that too" (1 Corinthians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 6:8, etc.).

Knowing (ειδοτες). Second perfect active participle, nominative plural without a principal verb. Either we must supply a verb like ποιησωμεν (let us do it) or ποιησατε (do ye do it) or treat it as an independent participle as in Romans 12:10.

The season (τον καιρον). The critical period, not χρονος (time in general).

High time (ωρα). Like our the "hour" has come, etc. MSS. vary between ημας (us) and υμας (you), accusative of general reference with εγερθηνα (first aorist passive infinitive of εγειρω, to awake, to wake up), "to be waked up out of sleep" (εξ υπνου).

Nearer to us (εγγυτερον ημων). Probably so, though ημων can be taken equally well with η σωτηρια (our salvation is nearer). Final salvation, Paul means, whether it comes by the second coming of Christ as they all hoped or by death. It is true of us all.

Verse 12

Is far spent (προεκοψεν). First aorist active indicative of προκοπτω, to cut forward, to advance, old word for making progress. See Luke 2:52; Galatians 1:14; 2 Timothy 2:16; 2 Timothy 3:9.

Is at hand (ηγγικεν). Perfect active indicative, "has drawn nigh." Vivid picture for day-break.

Let us therefore cast off (αποθωμεθα ουν). Aorist middle subjunctive (volitive) of αποτιθημ, to put off from oneself "the works of darkness" (τα εργα του σκοτους) as we do our night-clothes.

Let us put on (ενδυσωμεθα). Aorist middle subjunctive (volitive) of ενδυω, to put on. For this same contrast between putting off (αποτιθημ and απεκδυω) and putting on (ενδυω) see Colossians 3:8-12.

The armour of light (τα οπλα του φοτος). The weapons of light, that belong to the light (to the day time). For the metaphor of the Christian armour see 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 2 Corinthians 6:7; Romans 6:13; Ephesians 6:13.

Verse 13

Honestly (ευσχημονως). Paul is fond of the metaphor "walk" (περιπατεω), 33 times though not in the Pastoral Epistles. This old adverb (from ευσχημων, graceful) occurs also in 1 Thessalonians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 14:40. The English word "honest" means honourable (Latin honor) and so decent. Wycliff translates 1 Corinthians 12:32 by "unhonest," "honesty," "honest" for "less honourable, honour, honourable."

Not in revelling (μη κωμοις). Plural "revellings." See on Galatians 5:21.

Drunkenness (μεθαις). Plural again, "drunkennesses." See on Galatians 5:21.

In chambering (κοιταις). Plural also. See on Romans 9:10.

Wantonness (ασελγειαις). Plural likewise. See on 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19.

Not in strife and jealousy (μη εριδ κα ζηλω). Singular here, but some MSS. have the plural like the previous words. Quarrelling and jealousy go with the other vices (Shedd).

Verse 14

But ye on (ενδυσασθε). The same metaphor as in verse Romans 13:12. The Lord Jesus Christ is the garment that we all need. See Galatians 3:27 with baptism as the symbol.

Provision (προνοιαν). Old word for forethought (from προνοος). In N.T. only here and Acts 24:2.

For the flesh (της σαρκος). Objective genitive.

To fulfil the lusts thereof (εις επιθυμιας). "For lusts." No verb.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Romans 13". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/romans-13.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.