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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Romans 13

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-7

Our attitude toward authority

Romans 13:1-7

In Chapter 12 the apostle taught the duties, responsibilities, and proper attitudes incumbent upon believers with respect to one another, with exhortation in reference to our conduct in the world and our attitude toward all men. In this chapter he deals with our duties and attitudes as members of an ordered society. This chapter has to do with our attitude toward all authority, especially civil authority.

Some of the reasons why Paul had to deal with this subject are:

1. The early Christians were charged with sedition and thought to be enemies of the government. Christ was accused of being Caesar's enemy.

2. Some of the early Christians were Jews, the seed of Abraham, who resented any Gentile ruler.

3. Some of the early Christians had the idea that since most rulers, magistrates, and people in authority were wicked and profane men, therefore children of God's kingdom should not obey or be subject to them.

Romans 13:1. ‘Let every person be loyally subject to civil and governing authorities.’ These kings, presidents, governors, policemen, or whatever are called higher powers because they are vested with authority over others. To be subject unto them is to show respect, obedience, and honor suitable to their stations and to obey their lawful commands with submission. It is also to pray for them rather than to rail against them (Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13).

‘There is no authority except from God.’ God is the fountain and source of all power. All authority is by his permission and appointment. This verse refers mainly to civil authority but is true of all authority, such as husbands, parents, employers, elders–they all get their right to rule and lead from God. Evil men may abuse, misuse, and corrupt authority; but government and leadership is necessary and must be obeyed.

Romans 13:2. The person who resists, rebels against, or sets himself against proper authority in any of these places is resisting the order and ordinance of God. Authority resisted, in the faithful and right discharge of office, will bring God's judgment on the offender. However, this does not include those officers who set their rules and laws above the law of God. The scripture says, ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:1). When men set themselves in defiance of God's law, they are to be resisted (Hebrews 13:17).

Romans 13:3. Authority in any area is not a terror to people of right motive and good conduct. Authority is only hated by those whose works are evil. Would you have no dread or fear of those in authority? Then do what is right and you will have their approval.

Romans 13:4. Persons in places of authority (whoever they are) are the servants of God for the general welfare of all. What would a home, school, office, factory, city, or country be like without authority? Think about a game without a referee. What chaos would reign if there were no laws and no power to enforce them!

If we are not willing to follow God's order and his proper chain of command, if we are not willing to submit to authority, then the authority is designated by God to deal with us by his own hand, and in so doing he is God's instrument of wrath and judgment.

Romans 13:5. Therefore, believers are subject to authority not only through fear of punishment or to avoid wrath, but the believer approves of authority and respects it as a matter of conscience, wisdom, and principle. Our consciences not only tell us that God's way of rule and order is right, but we approve of and love his way.

Romans 13:6. ‘For this cause.’ It is ordained of God, it is for the general welfare and good of all, and we understand and agree with the need for leadership and authority. We are to pay our taxes and that which is required of us for the support of governing officials and magistrates. Leaders in government, such as presidents, senators, city and county officials, policemen, firemen, teachers, etc., promote the general welfare of the society and are to be supported by the taxes of the people. They, too, are God's servants in full-time, continuing work.

Romans 13:7. ‘Render to all men what is due unto them.’ Whatever authority a man has entrusted to him is a sacred trust for which he shall give an account to God. That is his business. But our responsibility is to obey, respect, and submit to them as unto the Lord. Pay taxes to whom taxes are due, give respect to whom respect is due, and give honor to whom honor is due.


Verses 8-14

Love – the believer's rule

Romans 13:8-14

Rom_13:8. ‘Owe no man anything.’ This verse has been used to discourage buying on credit or borrowing money, but this is not the application at all. Most people could never own a home, car, or continue in business if borrowing money was forbidden in scripture. The verse left in the context continues the instructions to make good on all obligations, whether of a civil or natural duty. Obedience, respect, honor, and service are debts which are to be paid. Parents are due respect and obedience. Husbands and fathers are due submission. Leaders are due honor and support. These duties are to be fulfilled.

‘Love one another.’ This is the answer to all of the above. He who truly loves God and others will fulfill what God requires of him (Matthew 22:35-40; Galatians 5:13-14).

Romans 13:9. The first table of the law has respect to God. The second table, which is listed here, has to do with our neighbors. Our love for God will certainly lead us to worship him, have no idols, nor take his name in vain; and if we love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we will put forth every effort to treat him as we would be treated. We certainly will not steal from him, covet his wife or property, lie about him, nor take his life.

Romans 13:10. The man who truly loves his neighbor will not willingly harm him, rather he will do all within his power to promote his neighbor's happiness. Therefore, the whole law is comprehended or fulfilled in the word LOVE!

Romans 13:11. ‘Knowing the time.’ This is a special time; it is a critical hour. This is the day of salvation. This is the day of grace and mercy in Christ (2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:12-14). While the gospel is preached, while we have our faculties, it is time to seek the Lord (Isaiah 55:6; Proverbs 1:24-28). The primary reference in this verse, though, is to believers who may have grown careless or indifferent in their responsibilities and their relationship to Christ and the church. It is time to awake out of indifference, carelessness, or divided attention and be about the Master's business! Final deliverance and our eternal rest is much nearer than when we first believed. Some of us will be called away from this earth in a very little while. Our relationship with Christ should be our main concern!

Romans 13:12. The present time of life is far spent for most of us (Psalms 90:12). It is called ‘the night’ because this life on earth, at best, is filled with the works of darkness. Error, hate, sin, disease and death, war and poverty are the lot of those who walk this valley of death and darkness. Our glorious day of deliverance is near, and we need to give diligence to make our calling and election sure. Let us spend less time on the things of flesh and more time seeking the kingdom of God. Fling off those things that do not contribute to your spiritual well-being (Ephesians 6:11-13).

Romans 13:13. Let us live, walk, talk, and conduct ourselves in an honorable and godly manner as being exposed to all men in broad daylight–not in carousing and drunkenness, not in immorality, not in quarreling and jealousy. These things are forbidden and are unbecoming to any believer, but especially to the believer who is on the threshold of glory. Our pleasure and delight ought to be the fellowship of the gospel, and our companions, those who are redeemed by Christ.

Romans 13:14. ‘Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ.’ This is not only to be clothed in his spotless, imputed righteousness by faith and to make a strong, public confession in him, but it is to imitate him in the exercise of grace–to walk as he walked, to love as he loved, to forgive as he forgave, to submit to the Father's will as he submitted.

‘Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.’ That is, give less thought and attention to this body of flesh. As we think of the flesh, as we dwell on the passions and lusts of this body, we somehow arrange for those desires to be met (Philippians 4:8).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/romans-13.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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