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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Romans 13

 

 

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Verse 1

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.

Ver. 1. Let every soul be subject] In things lawful only; for else we must answer as those apostles did, Acts 4:29, and as Polycarp, who being commanded to blaspheme Christ, and to swear by the fortune of Caesar, peremptorily refused, and said, We are taught to give honour to princes and potentates, but such honour as is not contrary to God’s religion.

Ordained of God] In regard of its institution, though for the manner of its constitution it is of man.


Verse 2

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

Ver. 2. Resisteth the power] His authoritative commands, not his personal.

Receive to themselves damnation] κριμα, 1 Corinthians 11:31-32. Poenam sibi auferent, saith Piscator, they shall receive punishment, to wit, from the magistrate; as Aretine deserved to do, who by longer custom of libellous and contumelious speaking against princes, had got such a habit, that at last he came to diminish and disesteem God himself.


Verse 3

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:

Ver. 3. For rulers, are not, &c.] They should not be. But Jeroboam set a net on Mizpeh, and spread a snare upon Tabor, to watch who would go from him to Judah to worship, Hosea 5:1.

A terror to good works, but to the evil] The sword of justice (saith one) must be furbished with the oil of mercy; yet there are cases wherein severity ought to cast the scale. Duresce, Duresce, o infaelix Lantgravie, Be sern, be stern oh unhappy Lantgrave, said the poor smith to the Landgrave of Thuring, more mild than was for his people’s good. Bonis nocet, qui malis parcit. He harms the good who spares the wicked. Edward the Confessor was held a bad prince, not by doing, but enduring ill.


Verse 4

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.

Ver. 4. For he is the minister] It was written upon the sword of Charles the Great, Decem praeceptorum custos Carolus, Charles is Lord Keeper of the Decalogue.

For he beareth not the sword in vain] Like St Paul in a glass window, or St George (as they call him) on a sign post.

A revenger to execute wrath] But now we see how every man almost will be a pope in his own cause, depose the magistrate, at least appeal from him to himself.

Upon him that doeth evil] Whether the evil be civil or religious; Non distinguendum, ubi scriptum non distinguit. Not distinquishing where the law does not distinquich, (See Mr Burroughs’ Heartdivisions.) Note this against those that hold that magistrates have nothing to do in matters of religion. See Deuteronomy 13:6; Ezra 7:26; Daniel 3:29; 1 Peter 2:13-14. Their laws bind the conscience per concomitantiam, by way of concomitancy; because they depend upon the law of God, and are agreeable to it; which primarily and per se bindeth. As the soul is said to be in a place per concomitantiam, because it is in the body; so here.


Verse 5

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

Ver. 5. But also for conscience sake] Good rulers we must obey as God; bad, for God. δια τον θεον. (Basil.)


Verse 6

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

Ver. 6. Attending continually] As born for the benefit of many. The Parliament in the 25 Edward III is known to posterity by the name of Benedictam Parliamentum, Blessed Parliament. So shall this present Parliament (A.D. 1646) for their continual attendance upon the Lord’s work, bending themselves to the business (as the word προσκαρτερουντες signifies) and holding out therein with unparalleled patience.


Verse 7

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.

Ver. 7. Render therefore to all their dues] He saith not their unjust exactions. Melancthon makes mention of a cruel prince, that to get money from his subjects, would knock out their teeth, first one tooth and then another, unless they would bring him in such sums of money as he required. {a}

Fear to whom, &c.] i.e. Reverential observance, far beyond that which Quintus Fabius Maximus yielded to his son, when he became consul. (Liv. Decad. iii. lib. 4.)

{a} Primo unum dentem evellebat minitans.


Verse 8

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

Ver. 8. Owe no man, &c.] The Persians reckoned these two for very great sins: 1. To be in debt. 2. To tell a lie; the latter being often the fruit of the former. (Xenophon, Gell. xii. 1.) By the 12 tables of Rome, he that owed much, and could not pay, was to be cut in pieces, and every creditor was to have a piece of him according to the debt. (Acts and Mon.) When Archbishop Cranmer discerned the storm which afterwards fell upon him in Queen Mary’s days, he took express order for the payment of all his debts; which when it was done, a most joyful man was he; that having set his affairs in order with men, he might consecrate himself more freely to God. (Mr Wilkins’ Debt Book.) Let us therefore (saith a reverend man) be thus far indulgent to ourselves, as to shake off the deadly yoke of bills and obligations, which mancipate the most free and ingenuous spirit, and dry up the very fountains of liberality. Yea, they so put a man out of aim that he cannot set his state in order, but lives and dies entangled and puzzled with cares and snares; and after a tedious and laborious life passed in a circle of fretting thoughts, he leaves at last, instead of better patrimony, a world of intricate troubles to his posterity and to his sureties; which cannot be managed by those who understand them not, but to great disadvantage. We read of a certain Italian gentleman, who being asked how old he was? answered, that he was in health; and to another that asked how rich he was? answered, that he was not in debt: q.d. He is young enough that is in health, and rich enough that is not in debt.

But to love one another] This is that desperate debt that a man cannot discharge himself from, but must ever be paying, and yet ever owing. As we say of thanks, Gratiae habendae et agendae, thanks must be given, and yet held as still due; so must this debt of love.


Verse 9

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.

Ver. 9. Briefly comprehended] Capitulated, fulfilled, saith the Syriac, summed up, ανακεφαλαιουται. St Bartholomew is quoted by Dionysius to have said of divinity, και πολλην και ελαχιστην, Et magnum esse et minimam, that it was large and yet little, as containing much matter in few words.


Verse 10

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

Ver. 10. The fulfilling of the law] The filling up of the law in this, that it closeth the duties of the law with the glory of a due manner, and seateth them upon their due subjects, with the unwearied labours of a constant well doing.


Verse 11

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.

Ver. 11. To awake out of sleep] While the crocodile sleepeth with open mouth, the Indian rat gets into his stomach, and eateth through his entrails. While Ishbosheth slept upon his bed at noon, Baanah and Rechab took away his head. Security ushereth in destruction. Go forth and shake yourselves, as Samson did when the Philistines were upon him; lest Satan serve you, at least for your souls, as Captain Drake did the Spaniard at Taurapasa in the West Indies, for his treasure; he found him sleeping securely on the shore, and by him 13 bars of silver to the value of 40,000 ducats, which he commanded to be carried away, not so much as once waking the man. (Camden’s Elisa.) Or lest Christ himself deal by us, as Epaminondas did by the watchman, whom he found asleep; he thrust him through with his sword, and being blamed for so severe a fact, he replied, Talem eum reliqui, qualem inveni, I left him as I found him.

For now is our salvation nearer] Stir up yourselves, therefore, and strain toward the mark. There is a Greek word ( νυσσα) signifying the end of a race, which is derived of a word that signifieth to spur or prick forward ( νυσσω). Surely, as they that run their horses for a wager, spur hardest at the race’s end; so, sith our salvation is nearer now than ever it was, therefore we should run faster now than ever we did. When a cart is in a quagmire, if the horses feel it coming, they’ll pull the harder; so must we, now that full deliverance is hard at hand. Rivers run more speedily and forcibly when they come near the sea, than they did at the spring; the sun shineth most amiably towards the going down. Tempus iam est (said old Zanchius to his friend Sturmius, who was elder than he) ut ad Christum et caelum stelliferum a terra properemus, &c. It is even high time for you and me to hasten to heaven; as knowing that we shall shortly be with Christ, which is "far far the better," Philippians 1:23.


Verse 12

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.

Ver. 12. The night] Here it is taken for all unregeneracy, which (as the night) is full of error, terror, &c. Nox pudore vacat. This night with the saints is far spent, or already past, Transivit, praeteriit, as Cyprian and Jerome here render it.


Verse 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.

Ver. 13. Let us walk honestly] Handsomely, fashionably, mannerly, with a holy shamefacedness ( ευσχημονως).

Not in chambering] Properly, lying a-bed or long-lying ( κοιταις).


Verse 14

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

Ver. 14. But put ye on] Augustine confesseth that he was converted by reading and pondering this text.

And make not provision] Make not projects, cater not for the flesh.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Romans 13:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/romans-13.html. 1865-1868.

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