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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Romans 13



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Verses 1-7

The Gospel in Relation to Civil Duties - Romans 13:1-7 deals with submission to authorities. The Church is also related to the government of that society. Therefore, it has civil duties in relation to its leaders ( Romans 13:1-7). Paul knew that the Romans were not pleased with the ways that the Jews were conducting themselves in Rome. He was very aware of how Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome in A.D 50, just seven years earlier ( Acts 18:2). Therefore, Paul takes time in his epistle to exhort the believers in Rome to honor those in authority. Paul did not want them to partake of civil rebellions in the Capitol.

Acts 18:2, "And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them."

Historical Background- Suetonius speaks of such a banishment of all the Jews from Rome by the emperor Claudius (A.D 41to 54) during the years A.D 49 or 50.

Seutonius writes, "Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome." (Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars: Claudius 254) 213]

213] Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, trans. Joseph Gavorse, in The Modern Library of the World's Best Books (New York: The Random House, 1931), 226.

Scholars believe that this Latin author is most likely referring to the same incident that is mentioned in Scripture. It is suggested that the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Messiah so incited the Jewish population of Rome that their disturbance caused their expulsion. (According to Dio Cassius, Claudius did not expel all Jews but forbade all meeting together. 214])

214] Dio Cassius writes, "As for the Jews, who had again increased so greatly that by reason of their multitude it would have been hard without raising a tumult to bar them from the city, lie did not drive them out, but ordered them, while continuing their traditional mode of life, not to hold meetings." (Roman History 6066) See Dio's Roman History, vol 7, trans. Earnest Cary, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1955), 383.

The classical writes reveal the distain that the Romans had for Christians. Tacitus (A.D 56-117) says the Christians had a "hatred of the human race" (Annals ). 215] Pliny the Younger (A.D 61-122) calls Christianity "a vicious and extravagant superstition." (Letters 1097) 216] Suetonius (A.D 70-130) refers to the Christian religion "a new and mischievous superstition." (Life of Nero 162) 217] as "a class of men given to a pernicious and baneful class of people." Therefore, Paul felt there was a great need to teach Christians to learn submission to their government leaders in order to show themselves worthy citizens of Rome. Eventually, when the great fire of Rome took place in A.D 64, Nero directed the blame on this unpopular group, 218] which was accused of incest and cannibalism. 219] This became the first large-scale persecution of the Church by the Roman Empire (A.D 64-68).

215] Tacitus writes, "Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue. First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race." (Annals 1544) See Tacitus: The Histories, vol 4, trans. Clifford H. Moore, and The Annals, trans. John Jackson, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1952), 283-284.

216] Pliny the Younger, The Letters of Pliny the Younger, trans. John Delaware Lewis (London: Trubner and Co, 1879). 379.

217] Suetonius writes, "Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition." See Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, trans. Joseph Gavorse, in The Modern Library of the World's Best Books (New York: The Random House, 1931), 250.

218] Tacitus writes, "Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians." (Annals 1544) See Tacitus: The Histories, vol 4, trans. Clifford H. Moore, and The Annals, trans. John Jackson, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1952), 283.

219] Athenagoras writes, "Three things are alleged against us: atheism, Thyestean feasts, Oediopdean intercourse." (A Plea for the Christians 3) (ANF 2)

In addition, John Chrysostom notes that every form of civil disobedience and plots to usurp the throne came against the Emperor during his day. Thus, Christians were to stand above constant corruption and ill will towards their civil leaders as good citizens and examples of God's love.

"Just reflect then what a word St. Paul hath uttered about the faithful, and those who are truly crucified, such as not even the Emperor with his diadem can achieve. For against him there are abundance of barbarians that arm themselves, and of enemies that invade, and of bodyguards that plot, and of subjects many that oftentimes are ever and anon rebelling, and thousands of other things. But against the faithful who taketh good heed unto God"s laws, neither Prayer of Manasseh , nor devil, nor aught besides, can raise opposition!" 220] (Commentary on Romans Homily 15)

220] John Chrysostom, The Homilies of John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistles of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans , Translated, with Notes and Incides, in A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, vol 7, ed. E. B. Pusey (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841), 266-267.

With this setting in mind regarding Romans 13:1-7, we must not forget that the contents of the epistle to the Romans is a systematic delivery of the Gospel message that Paul has been preaching for years. Thus, this passage is written so that it is relevant to all Christians in every city. Note similar passages that teach Christians on submission to government authorities:

1 Timothy 2:1-4, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."

Titus 3:1, "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,"

1 Peter 2:13-14, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord"s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well."

Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Romans 13:1 — "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers" - Comments- In the context of this passage, higher powers refer to civil authorities who govern our societies.

Romans 13:1 — "the powers that be are ordained of G For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" - Comments- Someone might say, "If God has ordained all powers, then why should we go out and vote for political candidates, if God has already decided beforehand who should hold office?" The answer lies in a story found in the Old Testament. When the children of Israel wanted a king, Samuel took their petition, or vote, to the Lord. Because this is the way the children of Israel voted, God gave them what they wanted.

The lesson is that we should always exercise our God-given right to vote for a candidate, knowing that this is the method that God has ordained for civil authorities to be placed in office.

Romans 13:2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

Romans 13:4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Romans 13:5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

Romans 13:5Comments- We are not to break laws of a nation, even if we think we can get away with it. We are to obey these laws for our conscience sake. For example, some Christians see no wrong in cheating on their income tax, speeding in a car, etc, if no one knows.

Romans 13:6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God"s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

Romans 13:6Illustration- Jesus paid tribute.

Matthew 17:24-27, "And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee."

Romans 13:7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Romans 13:7Illustration- Note Matthew 22:15-22, when the Pharisees tempted Jesus about paying tribute.

Matthew 22:21, "They say unto him, Caesar"s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar"s; and unto God the things that are God"s."

Verses 8-10

The Gospel in Relation to the Law- The Church is related to the government of its society. Therefore, it has civil duties in relation to its leaders ( Romans 13:1-7). These civil duties do not conflict with the Mosaic Law found within Scripture. In fact, these principles are found within the Law ( Romans 13:8-10).

Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8"Owe no man any thing" - Scripture References- Note other verses on debt:

Deuteronomy 15:6, "For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee."

Deuteronomy 28:12, "The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow."

Deuteronomy 28:44, "He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail."

Psalm 37:21, "The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth."

Proverbs 22:7, "The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."

2 Timothy 2:4, "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier."

Romans 13:8 — "for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law" - Scripture References- Note:

Leviticus 19:18, "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD."

Matthew 7:12, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."

Galatians 5:14, "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

Romans 13:8Comments- Kenneth Hagin tells us that many people take Romans 13:8 out of context by saying that Christians are not supposed to buy anything on credit. 221] He explains a person does not owe anything until the payment is due. If you do not make the payment, then something is due. In fact the previous verse tells us to pay our taxes when they are due. However, this verse is really saying that believers owe it to others to love them, which is a debt that will never be fully paid. One way to walk in love of course is to make good on financial obligations when they are due. The overall statement is to walk in love with others as a matter of obligation to God and our neighbour.

221] Kenneth Hagin, Following God's Plan For Your Life (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c 1993, 1994), 163.

Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Romans 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Romans 13:10Comments- If a person walked in perfect love, he would fulfill the Law in the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments. This Law is at the heart of God. Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it ( Romans 5:17).

Romans 5:17, "For if by one man"s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)"

Verses 11-13

The Gospel in Relation to Other Believers- Paul then exhorts the church at Rome to treat one's fellow believer with love as an example to the society and government in which they live ( Romans 13:11 to Romans 15:13). Christ's eminent return is reason enough to follow Paul's exhortations ( Romans 13:11-14). He takes a special problem, which is foods, to show the believers how to work together despite their social differences ( Romans 14:1 to Romans 15:13).

Christ's Eminent Return - In Romans 13:11-14 Paul gives the church at Rome one reason for walking in love, which is because Christ's return in eminent and each one will soon have to give an account of their lives to God.

Verses 11-14

Exhortation to Put on Christ - In Romans 13:14-14 Paul exhorts the church to put on Christ Jesus and walk in the light of the Gospel in light of His eminent return and future judgment of the world.

Romans 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

Romans 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

Romans 13:12 — "The night is far spent, the day is at hand" - Comments- The night is for the works of darkness. The day manifests all wicked works. Judgment day will show these works. Jesus is now the light ( John 1:5). We must put off evil works and put on the armor of light, which is good works, which results in Matthew 5:16.

Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

John 1:5, "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."

Romans 13:12 — "and let us put on the armour of light" - Comments- Two men of God in modern times have been given heavenly visions, both describing the children of God as being clothed in light. In his book, I Visited Heaven, Julius Oyet, looked down on earth and saw the believers beaming with a light as they went about on earth. 222] Rick Joyner in his two books, The Call and The Final Quest, describes himself as being clothed with an armor of light, so bright he has to put on an ugly cloak, which he described as a cloak of humility, in order to dim the light. 223] Note other verses to support these visions:

222] Julius Peter Oyet, I Visited Heaven (Kampala, Uganda: Lifeline Ministries, 1997), 83-84.

223] Rick Joyner, The Call (Charlotte, North Carolina: Morning Star Publications, 1999); Rick Joyner, The Final Quest (Charlotte, North Carolina: Morning Star Publications, 1977).

Philippians 2:15, "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world."

Ephesians 5:8, "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light."

This phrase "put on the armor of light" can mean the same thing as "put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ" used two verses later in verse 14.

Romans 13:14, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof."

Romans 13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

Romans 13:13"Let us walk honestly, as in the day" - Comments- The NIV says, "Let us behave decently." Our daily conduct, whether in people's presence, or alone in the dark, should be as if we are being seen in the daylight and observable to other.

Romans 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

Romans 13:14 — "and make not provision for the flesh" - Comments- Make no consideration for being fleshly or carnal-minded. Do not provide your flesh with worldliness that causes it to covet.

Romans 8:6, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."

Romans 8:13, "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."

Romans 13:14Comments- Romans 13:14 seems to rephrase Romans 12:1-2, since it is the final verse in a two chapter discourse.

Romans 12:1-2, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."


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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

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