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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Romans 13



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. πᾶσα ψυχὴ. Cf. Romans 2:9 (Revelation 16:3, of fish); Acts 2:43; Acts 3:23. L. & S. give |[258] from Greek class. poetry. Epictet. fr. 33 ψυχαὶ = slaves.

ἐξουσίαις, of persons holding civil authority Luke 12:11; Titus 3:1 only; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21 alibi; Colossians 1:16 alibi; 1 Peter 3:22.

ὑπερεχούσαις. Simply of superiority in any degree; cf. 1 Peter 2:13.

οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ἐξ. κ.τ.λ. S. Paul lays down the principle that the fact of authority being established involves the divine ordinance of it. The two clauses state the same principle, in a negative and a positive form. The repetition emphasises the point.

Verses 1-7

1–7. Relation to civil authorities.

There is no introduction or formula of connexion. This is still part of the new σωφροσύνη. It is to be observed that the reasons for civil obedience are fully and clearly given, even with repetitions, as though the matter required explicit treatment. Yet the occasion for the introduction of the subject is not explained or hinted at. It is possible that S. Paul may have had reason to fear, or may have feared that others would expect, that the Christian societies might inherit some of the turbulence of the Jewish, esp. there may have been a danger that Christians at Rome would be infected. Or again, the Christian theory of the civil order may have been raised by the emphasis laid upon the kingdom. And the necessity of clear views may have grown upon S. Paul’s mind with his gradual approach to the centre of the Empire, and his realisation of the importance for the propagation of the Gospel. The establishment of Christian societies in so many places and the development of their internal organisation would also bring this question into prominence, as it did that of legal proceedings (1 Corinthians 6). At the same time, it is to be noticed that the treatment of the question, though definite, is quite general; there is no sign either in the argument or in the tone of the passage of any special urgency: and we may conclude that it is due simply to the desire for completeness in indicating the outlines of Christian duty and the character and temper in which it should be fulfilled.

Note further some significant omissions. [1] The question of duty as between rival claimants to civil authority is not touched. [2] Nor is the question of duty to a corrupt and unjust authority: it is assumed throughout that the authority is just and has for its aim the good. [3] Nor is the question of conflict between the civil and spiritual authorities.

S. H. have an excellent excursus on the question, pp. 369 ff. Cf. also E. von Dobschütz, Die Urchristlichen Gemeinden, p. 95 (Leipzig, 1902). Cf. 1 Peter 2:13-17; 1 Timothy 2:1 f.; Matthew 22:15 f. |[257] Lk.

Verses 1-10

Romans 13:1-10. The true relation to the civil power and the outside world.

Verses 1-14


In this section S. Paul deals with the consequences of the principles he has worked out as they affect the character and the conduct of the Christian life. The main principles are two: [1] The Gospel offers to the Christian power to conform his life and conduct to the will of GOD (Romans 1:16), the use of that power depending solely on faith or trust, as man’s contribution to the result. [2] Service in the execution of GOD’s purposes is the fundamental demand made upon man by his relation to GOD this principle has been exhibited as the explanation of Israel’s failure (9–11); and is now to be expounded in its positive bearing, as determining the main characteristics of the Christian life. In the course of this argument two main thoughts come into prominence. The power, as has been already shown (Romans 6:1 ff.), is the life of Christ in man, due to the living union given by the Spirit in baptism. And consequently the service is the service due from members of a spiritual society or body, conceived as potentially coextensive with humanity, the service due both to the Head and to the other members. The special instances of the operation of this power in service are determined by the conventions of the time and of the situation in which S. Paul found himself and those to whom he is writing. The section may be summarised as follows:

Verse 2

2. ἐαυτοῖς. Emphatic: will bring judgment upon themselves.

κρίμα λήμψονται. Of the civil judgment involved by their acts; cf. Luke 23:40; Luke 24:20.

Verse 3

3. γὰρ. The justice of the government is assumed: Song of Solomon 4 a.

τῷ ἀγαθῷ ἔργῳ. Hort favours P. Young’s conj., ἀγαθοεργῷ; cf. 1 Timothy 6:18, ἀγαθοεργεῖν; tempting but hardly necessary.

τὸ ἀγαθὸν ποίει. Cf. 1 Peter 2:15.

Verse 4

4. ἔκδικος εἰς ὀργὴν. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:6 : for the execution of wrath; the wrath of offended authority.

Verse 5

5. ἀνάγκη. “The necessity is twofold, external on account of ‘the wrath’ which the magistrate executes, internal on account of conscience towards GOD.” Giff.

διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν. Cf. Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16, ‘because of your own conscience’: because, as your paying tribute shows, you recognise them as authorities duly constituted, and therefore ministers of GOD. Hence it is a matter of conscience towards GOD cf. 1 Peter 2:19. See Add. Note, p. 209.

Verse 6

6. φόρους. Luke 20:22; Luke 23:2 only, direct taxes on persons, houses or land. τέλος of customs, taxes on trades.

λειτουργοί, of public service or office; here as administering public functions committed to them by GOD: the connexion of the word with public service of religion is secondary.

εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο, to this very end, i.e. of securing social order and obedience, τὸ ὑποτάσσεσθαι.

προσκαρτεροῦντες, absol.: cf. Acts 2:46.

Verse 7

7. ἀπόδοτε, pay as their due, οὐδὲ γὰρ χαρίζῃ τοῦτο ποιῶν· ὀφειλὴ γάρ ἐστι τὸ πρᾶγμα, Chrys.

Verse 8

8. μηδενὶ μηδὲν. The repetition of the negative gives a strong emphasis to the injunction. ὀφείλετε in pres. = remain under debt to no man in any matter, except in love.

εἰ μὴ τὸ ἀλλήλους ἀγαπᾷν. ἀλλὴλους must be given as wide a reference as μηδενὶ; love is a permanent debt (pres. infin.) that can never be fully discharged; cf. Aug. Ep. cxcii. 1 (qu. Lid.) “semper autem debeo caritatem quae sola etiam reddita detinet redditorem.” This sums up all the teaching of Romans 12:3 to Romans 13:7.

ὁ γὰρ ἀγαπῶν κ.τ.λ. This is the only way of fulfilling law, and this does fulfil it.

τὸν ἔτερον. Apparently used by S. Paul to give the widest possible extension to the principle: anyone with whom a man is brought into relation: it avoids vagueness (not πάντας ἀνθρώπους or τοὺς ἄλλους) by its individual note and bars all casuistry as to ‘the neighbour’; cf. Luke 10:29. It is grammatically possible to take τὸν ἕτερον with νόμον (cf. Hort on James 2:8 ad fin.); but the phrase would be strained, and the context (ἀλλήλουςτὸν πλησίον) is against it.

νόμον πεπλήρωκεν. Cf. Matthew 5:17 : supra Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:14 and subst. Romans 13:10. νόμος is quite general, though as the next verse shows the Decalogue is the crucial instance. πεπλ. perfect, has by that continuing act fulfilled and does fulfil, not abolished or done away.

Verses 8-10

8–10. The question of duty to the civil power leads to a summary of the principle which underlies all duty towards man, found in the duty of love, τὴν μητέρα τῶν ἀγαθῶν Chrys.: still the exposition of the properly Christian character.

Verse 9

9. τὸ γὰρ κ.τ.λ., n. sing. = the injunction regarded as one, contained in the several ἐντολαί following.

οὐ μοιχεύσεις κ.τ.λ. The order differs from the Hebr. text in Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17 : follows the B text of Deut. LXX[261], as also Luke 18:20; James 2:11; Philo de decal., Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. 16 S. H. N. the ninth commandment is omitted (but inserted in some MSS.).

ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τούτῳ = in this saying of Scripture.

ἀνακεφαλαιοῦται, is summed up and included. Ephesians 1:10 only.

ἀγαπήσ. τ. π. σ. ὡς σ., Leviticus 19:18, where the context seems to limit it to Israelites: here the context has already given the widest interpretation.

Verse 10

10. κακὸν οὐκ ἐργάζεται. The negative expression corresponds to the negative form of the precepts in Romans 13:9. Love cannot do any of these evils to the neighbour; therefore it fulfils law. Its positive effect in going beyond any possible extension of positive precepts is implied in Romans 13:8.

ἡ ἀγάπη = the love which Christians owe to all. It is to be noted, again, that in laying down the moral requirements of Christian conduct, S. Paul avoids rules and insists on the quality which in its proper operation belongs to the Christian as such and produces conduct conformable to the character of the life which is in him.

Verse 11

11. καὶ τοῦτο, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 6:8; Ephesians 2:8; cf. καὶ ταῦτα, Hebrews 11:12; resumes with emphasis the whole exhortation.

εἰδότες. Cf. Luke 12:56; Mark 13:33 = realising the character of the present period and its demands upon you.

τὸν καιρόν. Cf. 1 Corinthians 7:29; Ephesians 5:16; 1 Peter 4:17; Revelation 1:3; Revelation 22:10; Luke 21:8; almost technical for the period before the Second Coming, S. H.

ὅτι explains the characteristics which they ought to realise.

ὑμᾶς ἐξ ὕπνου ἐγερθῆναι. ὕπνος metaph. only here; cf. Ephesians 5:7-14. Here the contrast is not with the heathen state, but of the awakened and alert spirit with the sleeping and inert: a warning against acquiescence in the present. Giff. cf[262], Matthew 25:1 f.; perh. cf. 1 Corinthians 11:30.

ἡ σωτηρία. Cf. Romans 5:9; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9. It is not always clear whether the word is used of the present state in which the Christian is by faith: or the final state which is the object of his hope and is brought about by the Second Coming. Here the context decides for the latter.

ἐπιστεύσαμεν. We became believers—a good instance of the ‘ingressive’ aorist; cf. Moulton p. 129 f.; cf. [Mk] Romans 16:16; Acts 2:44; Acts 19:2; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 15:2; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:13; Hebrews 4:3.

Verses 11-14

11–14. The exhortations to the detailed development of the Christian character are enforced by the reminder that the times are critical, and demand effort; that the full ‘day’ of Christ’s coming is near: and the contrast between the life of the natural man and of the regenerate is drawn in a few bold lines. The whole is summed up in the description of the Christian aim, as a repeated effort to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ,’ and a complete abandonment of the satisfaction of the lusts of the flesh; a return to the thought of Romans 12:1-2.

Verse 12

12. ἡ νὺξ κ.τ.λ. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-7; Revelation 21:25; Revelation 22:5. προεκ. ‘is far spent’ (advanced): A. and R.V., aor. marks the point reached. The night is almost gone, the signs of the coming day are already in the sky.

ἀποθώμεθα οὖν κ.τ.λ. Here the contrast with the heathen life seems to come out. N. the aor., it is to be a single act done once for all. τὰ ἔργα τ. σ. the deeds which are characteristic of the darkness. τὰ ὅπλα τ. φ., the weapons needed for the work to be done in the light; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8, where both thoughts are more fully expressed. Ephesians 5:10 f. describes the warfare of the light. Taking Romans 13:14 into account, we see that there is a reference here, as in 1 Thes. and Eph., to the Messianic warfare in which the. Christian, as ἐν Χριστῷ, has to take his part.

Verse 13

13. ὡς ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κ.τ.λ. The conduct (περιπ.) must befit the day and its occupations.

Verse 14

14. ἐνδύσασθε. Metaph. only in S. Paul (exc. Luke 24:49); cf. Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10, with 11 ad fin. The closest parallel in thought, though not in language, is Eph. l.c[263], as the reference is not primarily to baptism (as in Gal. l.c[264], Col. l.c[265]) but is the repeated effort to realise the Christian character, that is the character of the Christ as living in the Christian. The metaphor is found in O.T. Job 29:14; Psalms 132:9; of. Lk. l.c[266], Colossians 3:12 after 10, 11, shows the meaning of the metaphor, and gives us a clear hint that in describing the details of Christian character S. Paul is consciously reproducing the elements of the character of our Lord, as we learn them from the gospels. In estimating the amount of acquaintance with the Gospel story which S. Paul had, this fact must be given full weight. The aorist here has the ‘constative’ force (Moulton, p. 130), i.e. describes as one effort the constantly repeated efforts of growth in the Christian character.

τὸν κύριον Ἰ. Χρ. The full name is remarkable, contrast Gal. l.c[267] If it is the correct reading, it emphasises [1] the indwelling of the Christ, [2] the model given by the life of Jesus on earth, [3] the motive of obedience and allegiance to the Lord.

τῆς σαρκὸς κ.τ.λ. Cease to provide for the flesh with a view to desires: the negative with the present imperative has its idiomatic force (Moulton, p. 122 f.).

πρόνοιαν μὴ ποιεῖσθε = μὴ προνοεῖσθε; cf. reff. ap. Field, ad loc[268]; cf. Matthew 6:25; Luke 12:22 f.; Philippians 4:6.

εἰς ἐπιθυμίας, quite general, of all desires of the flesh: the needs and desires of the flesh must no longer be the controlling motives in the life of the new man. = τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, Colossians 3:2; Ephesians 4:22 is more limited: so Galatians 5:16; 1 Peter 2:11.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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