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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Romans 13

 

 

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Verse 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.

In such a state of things as existed at Rome when the apostle wrote, the Christians there must often have been perplexed as to the estimate they were to form, and the duties they owed to "the power" that so tyrannically and degradingly ruled there; especially as the whole fabric of Roman society heaved with the elements of insubordination and insurrection, and as the Jews in particular had, in the days of Claudius, been banished the capital for their restless and insurrectionary tendencies (Acts 18:2). It was natural, therefore, to pass from the social to the political duties of believers; and this accordingly occupies the chief portico of the present chapter.

The Relation and Duties of the Christian to the Civil Magistrate (Romans 13:1-6)

Let every soul (every man of you) be subject unto the higher powers , [ exousiais (Greek #1849) huperechousais (Greek #5242)] - rather, 'submit himself to the authorities that are over him.'

For there is no power ('authority') but of God: the powers that be - `the existing authorities,' whatever they are,

Are ('have been') ordained of God - [ exousiai (Greek #1849) seems not genuine. In this case the translation is 'those that be have been ordained,' etc.]


Verse 2

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

Whosoever therefore resisteth the power - `So that he who setteth himself against the authority'

Resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation - or 'condemnation' (according to the old sense of the word); that is, not from the magistrate, but from God, whose authority in the magistrates is resisted.


Verse 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:

For rulers (according to the true intent of their office), are not a terror to good works, but to the evil - `to the good work, but to the evil,' is plainly the true reading [ too (Greek #3588) agathoo (Greek #18) ergoo (Greek #2041) ... kakoo (Greek #2556)].

Wilt thou then (have cause to) not be afraid of the power? ('authority.') Do that which is good, and thou shalt ('wilt') have praise of the same. Doubtless, this was written before Nero had stretched forth his hands against the Christians; for though, as Alford remarks, this would not have affected the general principles here taught, it could hardly have failed to modify the phraseology.


Verse 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.

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 - the official symbol of the authority to punish which is inherent in the magistrate's office,

In vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger ('avenger') to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.


Verse 5

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

Wherefore ye must needs be subject ('submit yourselves'), not only for ('because of the') wrath - or, for fear of the magistrate's vengeance,

But also for conscience' sake - out of conscientious reverence for God's authority. It is hardly necessary to say that it is of Magistracy in general, considered as a divine ordinance, that this is spoken: and the statement applies equally to all forms of government, from an unchecked despotism-such as flourished when this was written, under the Emperor Nero-to a pure democracy. The inalienable right of all subjects to endeavour to alter or improve the form of government under which they live is left untouched here. But since Christians were constantly charged with turning the world upside down, and since there certainly were elements enough in Christianity of moral and social revolution to give plausibility to the charge, and tempt noble spirits, crushed under misgovernment, to take redress into their own hands, it was of special importance that the pacific, submissive, loyal spirit of those Christians who resided at the great seat of political power should furnish a visible refutation of this charge.


Verse 6

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

For, for this cause pay ye tribute also - or, 'ye pay.' Critics differ as to whether this is a counsel to pay, or a statement of the fact that they did pay: q.d, 'This is the reason why ye pay the contributions requisite for maintaining the civil government,'

For they are God's ministers, attending continually upon (or 'to') this very thing.

From magistrates the apostle now comes to other officials, and from them to men related to us by whatever tie.

Civil Duties in General (Romans 13:7)


Verse 7

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

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute, [ ton (G3588) foron (G5411) = keenson (G2778), the poll-tax and land-tax] (see the note at Matthew 17:25), to whom tribute is due; custom, [ to (G3588) telos (G5056), export and import duty], to whom custom; fear (reverence for superiors), to whom fear; honour (the respect due to persons of distinction), to whom honour.

The All-Comprehensive Relative Duty-Love (Romans 13:8-10)


Verse 8

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

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another. Love is the only debt which can never be paid off, for it is always due:

For he that loveth another , [ ton (Greek #3588) heteron (Greek #2087)] - literally, 'the other,' in relation to himself; his "neighbour" (as Romans 13:9; Luke 10:29; Luke 10:36),

Hath fulfilled the law - for the law itself is nothing but an injunction to manifest love in all relationships and all circumstances.


Verse 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.

For this (commandment), Thou shalt not commit adultery, (and this) Thou shalt not kill, (and this) Thou shalt not steal, (and this) [Thou shalt not bear false witness]. This clause-to complete the supposed intention of the apostle to quote the four last precepts of the Decalogue-has but slight external support [but one uncial-'Aleph (') - ; numerous cursives; the printed Vulgate, but not the best manuscripts of it; the Philox. Syriac and Memphitic versions: on the other hand, it is wanting in A B (C is defective here) D E F G (K is defective here) L several cursives; the Old Latin and best copies of the Vulgate, the Peshito Syriac, and the Hebrew versions, with several Greek fathers. As to internal evidence, it was much more likely to be added to the genuine text than to be lost out of it], (and this)

Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment - which is equivalent to saying. 'And whatever other commandment there is;' for the apostle did not mean to express any doubt of there being other commandments, but to excuse himself from quoting anymore, for the reason about to be given.

It is briefly comprehended ('it is headed up') in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The apostle here confines himself to the second table of the law, because it is relative duties he is treating of.


Verse 10

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

Love worketh no ill to his (or 'one's') neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. As love, from its very nature, studies and delights to please its object, its very existence is an effectual security against our willfully injuring him. Now follow some

General Motives to the Faithful Discharge of All these Duties (Romans 13:11-14)


Verse 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.

And that, ([ kai (G2532) touto (G5124)], rather, 'And this' [do]), knowing the time ('season') - "these last days" (Hebrews 1:2), "the end of the world" (Hebrews 9:26); that is, the final economy of grace, before the second coming of Christ,

That now it is high time , [ hoora (Greek #5610) eedee (Greek #2235)] - 'that now is the hour' for us

To awake out of sleep - of stupid, fatal indifference to eternal things:

For now is our salvation - `the salvation,' or simply 'salvation' (in the sense of Romans 5:9-10; Romans 8:24).

Nearer than when we (first) believed. This is in the line of all our Lord's teaching, which represents the decisive day of Christ's second appearing as at hand, to keep believers ever in the attitude of wakeful expectancy, but without reference to the chronological nearness or distance of that event.


Verse 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.

The night (of evil) is far spent, the day (of consummated triumph over it) is at hand: let us therefore cast off (as a worn-out dress) the works of darkness - all works holding of the kingdom and period of darkness, with which, as followers of the risen Saviour, our connection has been dissolved,

And let us put on the armour of light - the armour which befits "the children of the light," described at large in Ephesians 6:11-18 : see also 1 Thessalonians 5:8.


Verse 13

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

Let us walk honestly , [ euscheemonoos (Greek #2156)] - 'becomingly,' 'decorously,'

As in the day - q.d., 'Men choose the night for their revels, but our night is past, for we are all the children of the light and of the day (1 Thessalonians 5:5): let us therefore only do what is fit to be exposed to the light of such a day.'

Not in rioting and drunkenness - varied forms of intemperance; denoting revels in general, usually ending in intoxication;

Not in chambering and wantonness - varied forms of impurity; the one pointing to definite acts, the other more general; not in strife and envying-varied forms of that venomous feeling between man and man which reverses the law of love.


Verse 14

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

But (to sum up all in one word), put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ - in such wise that Christ only may be seen in you (see 2 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:24);

And make not provision , [ pronoian (Greek #4307) mee (Greek #3361) poieisthe (Greek #4160)] - 'take not forethought,' to [fulfill] the lusts [thereof] : q.d, 'Direct none of your attention to the cravings of your corrupt nature, how you may provide for their gratification.' Remarks:

(1) How gloriously adapted is Christianity for human society in all conditions! As it makes war directly against no specific forms of government, so it directly recommends none. While its holy and benign principles secure the ultimate abolition of all iniquitous government, the reverence which it teaches for magistracy, under whatever form, as a divine institution, secures the loyalty and peaceableness of its disciples amid all the turbulence and distractions of civil society, and makes it the highest interest of all States to welcome it within their pale, as in this, as well as every other sense, 'the salt of the earth, the light of the world.'

(2) Christianity is the grand specific for the purification and elevation of all the social relations-inspiring a readiness to discharge all obligations, and, most of all, implanting in its disciples that love which secures all men against injury from them, inasmuch as it is the fulfilling of the law.

(3) How should the rapid march of the kingdom of God, the advanced stage of it at which we have arrived, and the ever-nearing approach of the perfect day-nearer to every believer the longer he lives-quicken all the children of light to redeem the time, and, seeing that they look for such things, to be diligent that they may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless (2 Peter 3:14)!

(4) In virtue of 'the expulsive power of a new and more powerful affection,' the great secret of persevering holiness in all manner of conversation will be found to be "Christ IN US, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27), and Christ ON US, as the character in which alone we shall be able to shine before men (2 Corinthians 3:3).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/romans-13.html. 1871-8.

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