Romans Chapter Thirteen
I. Content of the Chapter
The Social Life After One Has Been Saved
A. Towards the governing authorities:
1. Be subject to the governing authorities ---- do what is good without doing any evil (v.1-5);
2. Meet one’s obligations ---- pay taxes (v.6-7);
B. Towards all men ---- owe no one anything except to love one another (v.8-10);
C. Towards one himself ---- awake out of sleep, walk properly, put on the Lord Jesus Christ (v.11-14);
II. Verse by Verse commentary
Rom. 13:1 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. ”
YLT: “Let every soul to the higher authorities be subject, for there is no authority except from God, and the authorities existing are appointed by God,”
Literal Meaning: “the governing authorities” are synonymous with “rulers” (v.3), referring to the government officers at all levels.
“Let every soul be subject to…”, “every soul” includes every Christian without any exception. “Be subject to”: to receive the government of the authority. Christians should be subject to the national authorities at all levels. Since the Scriptures have not given the exact definition of a lawful authority that we Christians should be subject to, we can only suppose we should be subject to all the established authorities, no matter whether it is lawful or unlawful, or whether it is controlled by the commandment of the higher authorities, or whether it is produced from the election of the people, or whether it is from the outer invasion or occupation. Normally, Christians have no room to choose but can only obey, for authorities are all of the appointment from God.
However, we are not subject to the governing authorities on the earth bottomlessly. Only God is worthy of our bottomless obedience. Especially when the command of the government is against that of God, we should not be subject to the former one (see Ex. 1:15-17; Dan. 3:12, 6:10; Heb. 11:23).
We should know that the meaning of the word “be subject to” in this verse is slightly different from another word in Greek, namely, “obey”. “Be subject to”, it focuses on the submissive attitude. “Obey”, it more relates to the “obedience” in actions. Christians hold an “obedient” attitude towards the governing authorities on the earth. But when the command of the government resists the will of God (especially false commands concerning faith and morality), we cannot be subject to them blindly (see Acts. 5:29).
“For there is no authority except from God”, not only the spiritual authorities in the church but also that in the world are established and appointed by God. God Himself is the origin of all authorities.
“And the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” ---- The purpose that God establishes and appoints the governing authorities and rulers is to maintain good social order and to provide just and peaceful living environment so that believers can lead a quiet and tranquil life in all piety and gravity (1Tim. 2:2) and that the gospel of God will be wildly spread and the churches of God be established everywhere and the Lord’s second coming be accelerated.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Though Christians are heavenly citizens, as long as we live on the earth, we have still to assume our responsibilities. In other words, we have to meet the obligations of being a citizen of a nation.
2) Christians are easy to forget the fleshly responsibilities on account of spiritual responsibilities. Actually, taking the fleshly responsibility is contributory to our taking spiritual responsibilities.
3) Men in the world are subjection to the governing authorities for fear of the punishment of the law. That we Christians are subject to the governing authorities is due to the fear of God, for the authorities are all permitted and appointed by God.
4) The natural man is not subject to God (
5) There is the appointment of God behind every authority. Apparently, we are just subject to man’s authorities, but actually we are subject to God Himself.
6) The true ideal social system is that all is under the government of God ---- the governments serve the people in accordance with the will of God, and the people obey the government in fear of God.
Rom. 13:2 “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”
YLT: “so that he who is setting himself against the authority, against God's ordinance hath resisted; and those resisting, to themselves shall receive judgment.”
Meaning of Words: “judgment”: condemnation, decision, damnation;
Literal Meaning: “whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God”, there is no problem of the authority itself, for all the problems lie in men: 1) to obtain the authority unlawfully; 2) to perform the authority unlawfully. God Himself will deal with the faults of the authority, so believers should not have any actions resisting or overthrowing the authority. However, if it relates to the direct authority of God Himself, believers should give priority to the obedience of God’s authority.
“And those who resist will bring judgment on themselves”, here, “judgment” refers to legal sanction. If we are unwilling to obey the command of the government, we will be suffered from unnecessary troubles. Of course, if we suffer for the sake of the will of God, we should endure the suffering silently and ask the Lord for help.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Christians can never partake in any organization against the government, let alone any terrifying riot. No matter how sufficient your reason is, it will never be permitted or approved by God, for you are resisting God.
2) Any action that resists the authority should be judged and is caused by man himself. Man can not expect God’s approval or remission. The exception is that when the government oversteps the authority of God and offends the freedom of Christians’ faith and gathering, we may not think the command is of God. Therefore, resistance to this command is not resisting God.
Rom. 13:3 “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. ”
YLT: “For those ruling are not a terror to the good works, but to the evil; and dost thou wish not to be afraid of the authority? that which is good be doing, and thou shalt have praise from it,”
Literal Meaning: “rulers are not a terror to good works”, common government officials are restricted by the law and cannot disturb the people or domineer over them without reason. Therefore, if we do good works and seek to be good law-abiding citizens, we will not fear them.
“But to evil”, obviously, the government has the authority of punishing sins, thus performing the function of keeping the public security.
“Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same”, if Christians are lawful citizens, they will not only need not fear rulers but also have good testimonies, thus getting opportunities to bring them to the Lord.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) If we Christians live in the world according to the Scriptures, we need not fear rulers. There are only two exceptions: 1) Christians do not do good, but do evil; 2) the government officials bully those who do good but dear those who do evil.
2) Even though there are rulers who punish those who do right and to praise those who do evil, they still confess that they have vengeance on evildoers and praise to them that do well. It is hypocritical of them in fact, but not in principle. In principle, rulers appointed by God always praise those who do right and punish those who do wrong.
3) A normal Christian can still live in peace, even though he suffers the greatest distress.
Rom. 13:4 “For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. ”
YLT: “for of God it is a ministrant to thee for good; and if that which is evil thou mayest do, be fearing, for not in vain doth it bear the sword; for of God it is a ministrant, an avenger for wrath to him who is doing that which is evil.”
Meaning of Words: “minister”: servant, deacon, and attendant;
Literal Meaning: “for he is God's minister”, “God's minister” refers to the servant who serves God. Any work that serves the people and benefits mankind is serving God indirectly, so here he is “called” God’s minister.
“To you for good”, a good government official can at least provide us a good living environment and help us to lead a quiet and tranquil life in all piety, so he is good.
“For he does not bear the sword in vain”,
“sword” is a symbol of power at that time in
“For he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil”, the important responsibility of a God’s minister is to do justice and to maintain peace. He shall maintain the people’s rights through giving right judgment and repressing the disturbances of evildoers through legal sanction.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Christians should not be hostile to the whole political system because of some malfeasants. The political system may unavoidably have defects, but to a certain degree it still has its advantage in the hands of God.
2) The authority of the government is appointed to protect the citizens who keep the law and to prevent the unlawful deeds and to punish the evildoers.
3) When a ruler punishes an evildoer, he is fulfilling the responsibility of a God’s minister. Since the rulers are God’s ministers, that how they use the power given by God should be responsible to God.
4) All the leaders in the world are in the hands of God and perform their functions in God’s sovereignty. It is a great consolation to Christians ---- man may have faults, but God never fails. Man shall render account to God for their faults one day. We Christians shall only walk according to the will of God, and will ultimately be rewarded by God.
Rom. 13:5 “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake.”
YLT: “Wherefore it is necessary to be subject, not only because of the wrath, but also because of the conscience,”
Literal Meaning: “therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath”, “wrath” not only refers to the political penalty, but also God’s punishment in the future. In the negative aspect, we Christians should be subject to the authority of the government so as to avoid the double kinds of punishment.
for conscience' sake”, this is the positive reason why we
Christians should be subject to the governing authority. “Conscience”, God sets
conscience in man so that man can know what is right or wrong (
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Many times, the fear of assuming the responsibility after sins may prevent man from sin. A fearful heart is a great obstructive factor so that “many people dare to be angry but dare not utter, and dare to imagine but not do”. Therefore, it is not a bad thing that one is subject to the authority because of fearing wrath, but the motive is not much noble.
2) Altogether, wrath comes from men, and the feeling of conscience comes from God. We should honor God more than man. Therefore, Christians should still be subject to the authorities on the earth with a higher motive.
3) The feeling of the conscience of a normal
Christian is often inspired and testified by the Holy Spirit (see
4) Christian should walk in conscience (see Acts. 23:1). If we put away our conscience or ignore the feeling of our conscience, it is just like having made shipwreck as to faith (1Tim. 1:19), and without moving ahead.
5) Conscience is often the main power of guiding us concerning earthly things. Therefore, we should walk according to the feeling of conscience in national and social matters.
Rom. 13:6 “For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing.”
YLT: “for because of this also pay ye tribute; for servants of God they are, on this very thing attending continually;”
Meaning of Words: “minister”: a public servant, benefactor;
Literal Meaning: “for because of this you also pay taxes”, “pay taxes”, at that time, all the Roman citizens had to give tribute to the Roman Empire, namely, paying “the national taxes”. One should pay taxes honestly in order to avoid being punished or being accused by conscience.
“For they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing”, the government should have revenue to pay the necessary expense, so governors attend the matter of paying taxes very strictly.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Pay what is Caesar's to Caesar, and what is God's to God (Mark 12:17). Believers should obey the national laws on the earth, but not be an offence to them (see Matt. 17:27).
2) We Christians should decrease their taxes in legal range. We should in no wise evade taxes.
Rom. 13:7 “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
YLT: “render, therefore, to all dues; to whom tribute, the tribute; to whom custom, the custom; to whom fear, the fear; to whom honour, the honour.”
Literal Meaning: “render therefore to all their due”, “all their due”: what should be paid to them;
“Taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs”, “taxes” amount to “the national taxes” today (see v.6); “customs” refer to regional taxes today. Paying taxes is an obligatory duty of a citizen.
“Fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor”, “fear” refers to the inward terror; “honor” relates more to the outward courtesy.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) One who is protected by the nation should not merely enjoy, but have no paying out. One should not just enjoy his rights, but not assume his responsibilities.
2) One who fears neither heavens nor the earth is a man that does not fear God or man. Such man must be an unrighteous one.
3) We Christians shall love and bear and humble ourselves when serving God in the church. And we shall fear and be submissive when serving God in the nation or society.
Rom. 13:8 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
YLT: “To no one owe anything, except to love one another; for he who is loving the other -- law he hath fulfilled,”
Literal Meaning: “owe no one anything”, we should not let others suffer loss because of us.
“Love one another”, “one another”, it is not only among Christians, but also all men.
“Owe no one anything except to love one another”. Love is a debt that we can never repay. No matter how much love one has given, he still has to give unceasingly, for love never fails (1Cor. 13:8).
fulfilled the law”, “the law” refers to the Law of Moses in
the Old Testament. The Lord Jesus is the body of all the letter and customs in
the law (
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) “Owe no one anything”, since we had the corrupted nature, we were always fond of taking advantage of others and making others suffer loss. However, the new life of the Lord in us always makes us feel we owe others. Therefore, we dare not owe anyone anything.
2) When we begin to feel that the matters of others are ours and the troubles of others are ours and the burdens of others are ours, we begin to “love one another”.
3) The more we receive love, the more we may feel we owe. When we practice loving others, we will find that the more we owe, the more actively we can love others.
4) When we begin to love one another, we have perfectly fulfilled the requirements of the law, for true love to men is from God, and our love to man is the fruit of our love to God.
Rom. 13:9 “For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."”
YLT: “for, `Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false testimony, Thou shalt not covet;' and if there is any other command, in this word it is summed up, in this: `Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;'”
Literal Meaning: “for the commandments”, the following four commandments are quoted from the commandments concerning human relationship in the Ten Commandments, but they are not according to the original order. And the quotation that “you shall not covet” is not the original verse, but the summary of its meaning.
“You shall not commit adultery”, “adultery” refers to the sexual relationship of adults besides marriage. Adultery shows that those who commit adultery do not respect each other enough, so it is not love.
“You shall not murder”, “murder” is the ultimate performance of hatred. He who loves never murders.
“You shall not steal”, “steal” to strip someone of his ownership. True love is to give, not gain.
“You shall not covet, “covet” is a kind of uncontrollable lust. Love is a amazing way to eliminate one’s lusts.
“If there is any other commandment”, there are two meanings of the word “other”: 1) except for the above-mentioned four “shall not”, there is no other detailed commandment; 2) it refers to the commandments different from the above-mentioned commandments, so it many concludes the worldly law.
“Are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."” ---- “Love your neighbor as yourself”, it is quoted from the Book of Leviticus (19:18).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Anyone who loves his neighbor as himself had fulfilled his duties on men in the world.
2) “To love your neighbor as yourself”, it is a selfless love, namely, sacrificing love. Only when one lives in the divine life, can he manifest such love. He has loved me and given himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
Rom. 13:10 “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
YLT: “the love to the neighbor doth work no ill; the love, therefore, the fullness of law.”
Meaning of Words: “fulfillment”: repletion, completion, fullness;
Literal Meaning: “therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”, it means that if we “love our neighbor as ourselves” (v.9), we have filled the whole law (see Gal. 5:14).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) “Love does no harm to a neighbor”, true love is a kind of self-sacrificing love. Such love makes man glad to see others and unable to bear other’s being suffered. Where there is love, there will be less harm to men.
2) “Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”. It shows that: a) the purpose of the whole law of God is love. That God gives the law is not for the purpose of condemning or punishing man, but exposing the nature of man and bringing man to receive grace ---- this is love; b) this love is Christ. And the loving Christ can fully fulfill the law of God so that all the law of God will not fail; 3) as long as we live in the love of Christ, we can walk according to the will of God and even go beyond the requirement of the law. Therefore, we need no longer live under the law to be responsible to the law or keep the commandments of the law.
Rom. 13:11 “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. ”
YLT: “And this, knowing the time, that for us, the hour already to be aroused out of sleep, for now nearer our salvation than when we did believe;”
Literal Meaning: “and”, it shows that another principle of Christians’ life will be mentioned.
“Do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep”, “know”, as long as one is a believer, he should know this. “Now” refers to the age of grace at present. “High time”, it means that one should act without delay. “Awake out of sleep”, it indicates that one should not allow his spirit sleep deeply.
“For now our salvation”, it not only refers to the spirit of salvation (eternal salvation), for once we have believed the Lord Jesus we have been born again and obtained salvation, but also refers to salvation of the whole man (including the salvation of soul and the redemption of body and etc.)
“Is nearer than when we first believed”, it means that it becomes increasingly near to the Lord’s second coming every day.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Christians have no time to be consumed or wasted. When we drift along in a sleepy state, we are consuming and wasting our life.
2) He who is indifferent to the Lord’s second coming is in a dead sleep and is not watchful enough. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour (see Matt. 25:13).
Rom. 13:12 “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. ”
YLT: “the night did advance, and the day came nigh; let us lay aside, therefore, the works of the darkness, and let us put on the armour of the light;”
Literal Meaning: “the night is far spent”, it means that the darkness reigns and the world becomes increasingly evil and corrupted.
“The day is at hand”, it means that the time of Christ’s second coming is at hand. Since He is that morning star (Rev. 22:16), when He comes again, we shall live in light.
“Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness”, “the works of darkness” refers to the works that cannot be told to others, that can not let others see and that shall be judged by the Lord.
“And let us put on the armor of light”, “the armor of light”, it unveils that the good works of Christians are a sharp weapon to deal with the power of darkness.
Rom. 13:13 “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.”
YLT: “as in day-time, let us walk becomingly; not in revellings and drunkennesses, not in chamberings and lasciviousnesses, not in strife and emulation;”
Literal Meaning: “let us walk properly”, “properly”, it refers to an orderly and respectable form.
“As in the day”, it means that one walks in light (1John 1:7) without any concealment.
“Not in revelry and drunkenness”, “revelry”, it is belly-worship and noise; “drunkenness”, it means that one is anesthetized or controlled by alcohol and becomes unconventional and uninhibited. In short, revelry and drunkenness are indulging oneself.
“Not in lewdness and lust”, “lewdness”, it derives from the word “bed” in the original, carrying the meaning of “cohabitation”. It means pursuing improper sexual relationship. “Lust” refers to shameless and contemptible deeds. In short, lewdness and lust are defilement and filth.
“Not in strife and envy”, “strife” refers to arguments and contention in words; “envy”, it means having enmity against the preeminence, performance and achievements of others. To be brief, strife and envy are disputes with others.
Rom. 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
YLT: “but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and for the flesh take no forethought -- for desires.”
Literal Meaning: “put
on the Lord Jesus Christ”, we have been baptized unto Christ (
“And make no provision for the flesh”, do not plan anything for the flesh, nor prepare anything, nor supply anything. One should not let the flesh be upheld nor give way to the flesh.
“To fulfill its lusts”, “lusts” are in the flesh of man. Once man makes provision for the flesh, lusts will be activated.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The general principle of the life of the sons of God is “putting on Christ”. Putting on Christ refers to on one hand our objective position in Christ ---- He is our righteous clothes and our covering, and on the other hand our real condition of our life ---- we have manifested Him and boasted of Him.
2) Christians should not plan or arrange anything for the sake of satisfying the lusts of the flesh, nor even let the evil impulsion work haunt our mind.
III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons
To Be a Good Citizen
A. Christians should be subject to the government (v.1-5):
1. Why should Christians be subject to the governing authorities?
a. For there is no authority except from God (v.1);
b. For rulers remove resistance and maintain safety and execute judgment for the oppressed (v.3-4);
c. For they are “for good” (v.4);
2. In what conditions, we should not be subject to the government?
a. When the commandment of the government goes against righteousness or conflicts with that of God;
b. If the government persecutes our belief, Christians should not compromise.
c. If the government administrate improperly, Christians should “make supplications” (1Tim. 2:1-2) and “manifest our faith in life actively” (1Pet. 4:14-16) and should not “disobey the law”.
d. Christians should not resist the government violently or destructively.
B. Christians should do good and keep the law (v.3, 5):
1. Christians are willing to do good in the present society for the reason that they can obtain praise (good testimony).
2. Christians are willing to do good in the present society for the sake of obey their conscience (the manifestation of faith).
3. Christians should keep the law more actively and voluntarily than common people.
C. Christians should pay taxes faithfully (v.6-7):
1. Christians should pay taxes faithfully, for we are protected by the government.
2. Christians should pay taxes faithfully, for we receive various services from the government.
3. Christians should pay taxes faithfully, for it is ordained by the government.
The Reason Why We Should Be Subject to the Governing Authority
A. For there is no authority except from God (v.1-2);
B. For authority exists for punishing evil and rewarding good (v.3-4);
C. For conscience' sake (v.5);
D. For the tax collecting of the government is for the sake of providing good environment of life (v.6-7);
To Be a Christian Fulfilling the Law
A. One should taking “owing no one anything” (v.8) as the basic principle of walking in the world:
1. “Owe no one anything”, it means that we should not let others suffer losses whatever we do, nor take advantage of others.
2. If we are willing to keep the commandments of the Lord, we can “owe no one anything”.
3. If we are willing to perform our duties, we can “owe no one anything”.
B. “Love one another” (v.8):
1. The first secret of practicing the active love is being willing to uphold and satisfy the need of others.
2. The second secret of practicing the active love is being willing to show thought for others.
C. One should have the merit of “love his neighbor as himself” (v.9-10):
1. Love can fulfill the whole law:
a. Love does no harm to a neighbor ---- this is the negative significance of love.
b. Love is for the common good ---- this is the positive significance of love.
c. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” ---- it hangs all the commandments.
2. One who is willing to “love his neighbor as himself” can become a good Christian as well as a good law-abiding citizen.
3. A Christian who is willing to “love his neighbor as himself” must have a joyful life.
The Definition of Love
A. Owe no one anything except to love one another (v.8);
B. You shall not commit adultery (v.9);
C. You shall not murder (v.9);
D. You shall not steal (v.9);
E. You shall not covet (v.9);
F. Love does no harm to a neighbor (v.10);
To Be a Bright Christian
A. One shall wake up his spirit (v.11):
1. “It is high time to awake out of sleep”, it refers to the awakening in spirit.
2. Since the Lord Jesus is coming again, we should awake our spirit as early as possible.
3. Since the life is transient and ever-changing, we should awake our spirit as early as possible.
B. One shall elevate his character (v.12):
1. Since “the night is far spent, the day is at hand”, Christians should seize the opportunities to elevate their character.
2. One shall “cast off the works of darkness”:
a. One should not “in revelry or drunkenness”;
b. One should not be “in lewdness or lust”;
c. One should not be “in strife or envy”;
3. One shall “put on the armor of light”:
a. That Christians do not be fellow-partakers with evil men is on account of meditating the law of Jehovah day and night (Ps.1).
b. To “put on the armor of light” is to walk according to the truth.
C. One shall conquer his lusts (v.13-14):
1. Someone leads a losing life for his deeds are controlled by lusts.
2. Someone leads a triumphant life for his deeds are governed by truth.
Several Kinds of Comparison
A. Sleep ---- awake (v.11);
B. Night ---- day (v.12);
C. The works of darkness ---- the armor of light (v.12);
D. Put on the Lord Jesus ---- make no provision for the flesh (v.14);
We Should Know the Time
A. It is high time to awake out of sleep (v.11-12).
B. It is high time to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light (v.12).
C. It is high time to walk properly (v.13).
D. It is high time to put on the Lord Jesus instead of making no provision for the flesh (v.14).
── Caleb Huang《Christian Digest Bible Commentary Series》
Translated by Mary Zhou