15. Christian Obligations (Romans 13)
The Book of Romans is a declaration of the grace of God toward men. That grace was required because men are sinners, justly under sentence of condemnation because they have evidenced their enmity with God by rejecting the light they were given (Romans 1-3a). The saving grace of God has been provided in the Person and work of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, Who, as a substitute, bore the sins of men and Who offers in place of our wretchedness His righteousness (Romans 3b-5).
Since every Christian professes to have died to sin and to having been raised to newness of life in Christ, continuing to live in sin is both unreasonable and unacceptable (chapter 6). Although godly living is necessary, it is humanly impossible, due to the weakness inherent in the flesh (chapter 7). The grace of God is again revealed in the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, Who empowers Christians to live godly lives (chapter 8).
The grace of God is unmerited favor, and consequently Israelites have been wrong to suppose that God is obliged to save every physical descendant of Abraham on the basis of ethnic origin or as the result of works. Although men may demand justice, they cannot demand mercy or grace (Romans 9). Unbelieving Israelites are justly condemned, not only because God has not chosen to save every Jew, but also because those who disbelieve have rejected God’s provision of righteousness in Christ, by endeavoring to establish their own righteousness by works (chapter 10). The grace of God has been made available to the Gentiles by Jewish rejection, but Israel’s rejection is neither total nor permanent. God is currently provoking the Jews to jealousy by the salvation of Gentiles, and He will ultimately conclude His program with the Gentiles and restore the nation Israel to its place of promised prominence and blessing (chapter 11).
In chapter 12 Paul begins to impress upon his readers the obligations of grace. In verses 1 and 2 he maintains that the only logical response to the grace of God is that of the sacrificial presentation of our lives to God in worshipful service. In verses 3-8, Paul informs us that our service is not only a response to grace, but a result of it. God has bestowed on every believer a measure of serving grace and by means of these spiritual ‘grace’ gifts, each Christian has a vital role to play within the body of Christ. In verses 9-21, Paul reminds us that we should also reflect the grace of God in our daily lives and relationships.
As we approach chapter 13 we come to the matter of our Christian obligations. In verses 1-7, our obligation to human government is discussed. Verses 8-10 describe our obligation to live by the law of love. Our obligations are underscored by the fact that we should be living as those who await the soon coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to establish His Kingdom on earth (verses 11-14).
The Christian’s Obligation to the Powers That Be
The subject of the Christian’s obligations to civil government was far from academic in Paul’s day. The Lord Jesus Christ had been executed on the pretext of treason (John 19:12) and Paul himself had been accused of insurrection (Acts 16:20, 21).
The Jews of Paul’s day had many questions about the rights of the Roman government (cf. Matt. 22:16, 17; Mark 12:14, etc.). The Jews prided themselves on their independence (cf. John 8:33). Some of the Jews had incited revolt (cf. Acts 5:34-37) and it was a Jewish revolt which precipitated the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
The Roman government viewed Christianity as merely a sect within Judaism (e.g. Acts 18:12-17), and therefore viewed Christians with as much suspicion as the Jews. In Acts 18:2 we find a brief reference to the expulsion of the Jews from Rome. A reference in ancient literature provides an interesting commentary of this expulsion of the Jews.
Seutonius, in his Life of Claudius (xxv. 2), said that the emperor “expelled the Jews from Rome because they were constantly rioting at the instigation of Chrestus” (a variant spelling of Christus).98 The point is simply that the Roman government was all too aware of a revolutionary sect within Judaism and since both Jesus and His followers were accused of attempting to overthrow Roman rule, any civil disobedience would be viewed with suspicion. To put the matter in its simplest terms, the Christian community had two strikes against them so far as Rome was concerned. They could not afford any unnecessary confrontations with Rome.
Up until now Paul had been the recipient of the privileges of Roman citizenship. It was under the protective banner of Rome that Paul preached. It was Roman soldiers that protected Paul from the hands of his Jewish opponents. But a time was soon coming when Christianity would no longer be viewed as a friend of Rome. When severe persecution began, it was vital that any such persecution occur for the right reasons.
Paul’s words on civil government were important to his readers for another reason. In chapter 12 Paul had instructed those who named the name of Christ as Savior to avoid retaliation and repaying evil for evil. The Christian is to leave room for divine retribution (12:19). Verses 1-7 of chapter 13 are a partial explanation of Paul’s instruction, for we are informed that civil government is one of God’s instruments through which divine retribution is administered in this life.
This passage in Romans 13 is of vital importance to the readers of the 20th century as well. In many countries of the world, it is expected that the individual citizen will make every effort to cheat the government out of its taxes. On April 15th in our country, there is much the same mentality. Such cannot, or at least should not, be the case of the Christian.
In America today, there seems to be the mentality that the only kind of government of which our Lord can approve is a democracy. In a day when new countries are established by revolution almost daily, we Christians must have our heads on straight to deal biblically with these situations.
This chapter has much to say to us by way of implication. Just one of the issues which Paul deals with by way of inference is that of capital punishment. Let us look to the Scriptures for a Word from God on these vital issues.
(1) The Precept (v. la). Paul’s instruction is very direct and uncomplicated: “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1a).99 By this it is clear that Christians are to be in subjection to their government, national or local.
(2) The Premise (v. 1b). The reason why such a command can be given is found in the second part of verse 1: “For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1b). God is the source of all authority. The government authorities, then, exist by the authority granted them by the supreme authority, God Himself.
Now I want you to observe this verse closely, for it reveals to us what the basis is on which a government should be acknowledged and obeyed. It is not by virtue of its characteristics, whether it be democratic, autocratic or whatever. A government is not legitimate and duly constituted because its form precisely meets our preferences. A government is to be acknowledged and obeyed by virtue of its existence. “… those (governments) which exist are established by God.” This means that the government of Red China is ordained by God. It means that the government in Russia is established by the authority vested to it by God. This even means that the Nazi regime in Germany was there by the will (decretive) of God.
I want it to be very clear that there are no loopholes in this first verse. Every soul is to be in subjection to human government; any and every government, by virtue of its existence is, de facto, the government to which we must submit.
(3) The Principle Involved (v. 2). The principle of Paul’s argument is apparent: “Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Romans 13:2). For a Christian (or any other person) to resist government is to resist the One from Whom authority has been granted. If God has ordained the existence of a government and we disobey it, we resist not only government, but God. For this we will suffer judgment.100
(4) The Purpose of Government (vv. 3-4). The reason for our obedience to government is not arbitrary, but is found in God’s purpose for government.
For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil (Romans 13:3-4).
There is no reason for the Christian to fear government for its purpose is to punish evil-doers and to reward those who do good. Since the Christian is to practice what is good and avoid evil, there should be no conflict between the Christian and government.
In verses 3 and 4 there are several inferences which are important to the Christian.
(1) There is a separation of function implied between the church and state. The government official is described as a minister of God, but only in the sense that he serves the purpose of God by restraining evil and rewarding good. The Christian is also a minister of God; not a minister of wrath (judgment), but of mercy (the gospel). Each has its legitimate sphere of activity. In fact, when the minister of government does his job well, it facilitates the minister of the gospel (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-3).
(2) We learn that fear of punishment is a deterrent to evil. “Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good …” (Romans 13:3b). Some are saying today that the fear of punishment has no effect on whether or not someone will commit a crime. Paul says that fear of punishment is a deterrent.
(3) We can see a somewhat subtle argument in support of capital punishment. “… for it does not bear the sword for nothing …” (Romans 13:4c). The bearing of a sword by civil magistrates symbolized their authority and, as well, their right to exercise the penalty of death.101, 102, 103 It seems likely that such is the sense implied here.
In Genesis chapter 9, God instituted the death penalty (verse 6). Some would argue that capital punishment, though practiced in the Old Testament economy, surely can find no place in our age. But the words of our Lord Jesus Himself vindicate this responsibility of government:
Pilate therefore said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10-11).
When our Lord stood before Pilate He expressly stated that the power of death was within the authority of civil government. Indeed, this authority was granted ‘from above.’
The real issue behind the matter of capital punishment is the character of God. Those who reject the possibility of civil government taking the life of a human being try to convince us either “that the God of the Old Testament is not the same as in the New Testament, or that God has somehow changed. But God is unchanging and He hates sin. His holiness demands a payment for sin, and in this life human government has been charged with the responsibility of avenging evil (v. 4).
(1) Motivation for Obedience (v. 5). In verse 5, we are given two reasons for civil obedience. The first has already been explained; it is the motivation of fear of punishment. This is the primary motivation of the unbeliever. We would see a great change in public morality if the legal penalty for sin were removed. Indeed, this is precisely what is occurring in our time.
But there is a purely Christian motivation for obedience, aside from the fear of punishment. This motivation is that of conscience before God. You see, if I am traveling down a lonely piece of road in the late hours of the night, I may be absolutely confident that there is no policeman in sight, but my conscience before God convicts me to do what is right because God knows all. My sin will never miss the scrutiny of His all-seeing eye. Even when fear of punishment is no factor, I do not desire to grieve my heavenly Father by civil disobedience.
On April 15th, I may be able to claim certain deductions on my income tax form which cannot be legally challenged. But God knows my thoughts and actions and motivation. I find in my own life that the fear of legal punishment in no way measures up to the fear of grieving God. All of our actions should be done as ‘unto the Lord.’104
(2) The Bottom Line—Pay Up (vv. 6-7). It seems to me that the bottom line of much of Scripture seems to find its way to our wallets. In verses 6 and 7, the apostle inform us that we are not only obliged to obey, but to pay governing authorities: “For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:6-7).
Just as a minister of the gospel is worthy of his hire (cf. 1 Corinthians 9), so a minister of God in civil government is deserving of financial remuneration. Government officials are devoted to the maintenance of justice and peace, so they must be financially supported. This support is derived from taxes, both indirect (tax) and direct (custom).105, 106, 107
Beyond the mere payment of taxes and external obedience, there is the need for a submissive spirit expressed by the giving of respect and honor to civic officials. We should render both respect and honor to civic officials by virtue of their position.
(3) A Lesson in Submission. There is here, I believe, a lesson to be learned about submission as it is required of children to their parents and wives for their husbands. This submission is one based upon position and not on personal writ. This submission is not primarily motivated by the one to whom we submit, but is an act of obedience and submission to our Lord Himself.
Our Obligation to Fulfill the Law of Love
While verses 1-7 focused our attention upon the Christian’s obligation to submit to the powers that be, verses 8-10 direct our attention to our obligation to men in general. While our specific obligation to civic officials is to submit, our obligation to men in general is to love them. “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law” (Romans 13:8).
It seems unfortunate to me that this verse has been misapplied to condemn the practice of borrowing money. Such is the case with Phillip’s paraphrase of this verse: “Keep out of debt altogether except that perpetual debt of love which we owe one another.” Do not misunderstand me; I am not advocating indebtedness. “The borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Proverbs 22:7). But although Scripture does not recommend indebtedness, neither does it condemn it.108
What puzzles me the most is the inconsistent interpretation of those who understand this passage to condemn indebtedness and then proceed to qualify the type of indebtedness incurred. The paraphrase of such a view would be something like this: “Owe no man anything, except for non-depreciating items.” If we are to understand Paul to condemn the borrowing of money altogether, then at least let us be consistent in our application and refuse to borrow money for any and every type of purchase.
What I understand to be the most natural translation (and interpretation) is to see both verses 1-7 and verses 8-10 as speaking to our obligations. Paul is stressing in verses 8-10 our obligation to men in general. He is saying that our exclusive and primary obligation to men is to love them. The translation of Sanday and Headlam reflects this sense: “Let your only debt that is unpaid be that of love—a debt which you should always be attempting to discharge in full, but will never succeed in discharging.”109
Paul is not saying that we should never incur debts, but that we should quickly and speedily pay every debt except that of love. We should strive to love, but we should never consider the debt ‘paid in full.’
The ‘Law of Love’110 encompasses the whole Law of the Old Testament as it pertains to our obligation to our fellow man. The commandments mentioned in verse 9 are those of the second half of the decalogue which define our social obligations. Love never seeks the harm of our neighbor, only to accomplish that which is for his good. Therefore, to keep the ‘Law of Love’ is to keep the Old Testament Law which relates to our neighbor: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the Law” (Romans 13:10).
Herein is found the error of Judaism. They had perverted the Law in such a way as to serve personal interests to the detriment of others (cf. Mark 7:6-13; esp. vv. 10-11). The heart of the Law was to regulate individual behavior to the benefit of society at large. The heart of Pharisaism was to twist the Law into the service of the individual at the expense of others.
In these verses also we are given a clue as to the rightful attitude toward the Law as it relates to grace. The question is really this: If Paul condemned works as a means to salvation and grace, why does he now command us to do very specific things? Aren’t the commands of the New Testament just a slightly modified repetition of the Old Testament Law?
We must remember that the requirements of the Law are not evil; they are holy and just and good (Romans 7:12). The Law was intended as a standard of righteousness. The Law as a standard or a goal is just as valid as it was in the Old Testament. It defines sin (Romans 7:7) and correspondingly defines righteousness.
The problem with the Law was that what it demanded it did not produce. It was an excellent goal, but did not provide the means. In this way it revealed man’s inadequacy to please God by his works.
The grace of God to the Christian is that God not only bestows on him salvation and forgiveness of sins, He also provides the motivation and the means to live a godly life—that is to keep the Law. Rather than by the striving of human effort, God produces love in the life of the Christian which motivates him to accomplish what the Law demands. In other words, God makes the heart delight in what the Law demands.111 The requirements of the Law are met, but in a different way than legalistic Law-keeping.
It is the Holy Spirit of God Who works within us to give us the love which seeks to bless others at our own expense. The Law is still valid as a standard by which to measure our expression of the righteousness of God, but it has never been, nor will it ever be, the means by which the individual may win God’s approval.
To be ‘no longer under Law, but under grace’ does not mean that there are no standards, no commands, no necessity of obedience. The New Testament is full of imperatives and God is just and righteous in expecting us to meet them, out of gratitude, out of a desire to worship Him in Christian service, and by the power God has provided in the Holy Spirit. He is at work in us ‘both to will and to do what is pleasing to Him’ (Philippians 2:12-13).
Our Obligations in the Light of His Soon Return
What Paul has said in verses 1-10 is now discussed from the standpoint of our motivation to keep our Christian obligations, both to civil government and mankind in general. This is reflected in the translation of verse 11 by the NASV: “And this do knowing the time …” Paul’s interest in these verses is not to explicitly outline the details of eschatology,112 but rather to motivate the Christian to diligence and obedience by a reminder that the return of our Lord is at hand. Truly our salvation (cf. Romans 8:18ff.) is nearer now than it has ever been. Paul speaks of the present age as ‘night’ and the future age of restoration as ‘day.’ We should awaken from the sleep of indulgence (v. 13) and indifference. We should take off the night clothes of our old self and put on our daytime garments of righteousness.
Not Catering, But Control (vv. 13-14). The last two verses should make every Christian uneasy, for they speak of the need for the Christian not to cater to the lusts of the flesh, but to control them. “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:13-14).
Those things which are condemned in verse 13 are excesses of the flesh. Paul, in verse 14, summarizes by calling them ‘making provision for the flesh, in regard to its lusts.’ The sins of the flesh which Paul specifies are indulgences, excesses. A little wine is not sinful (cf. 1 Timothy 5:23), but drunkenness is. Sex in marriage is holy (Hebrews 13:4, etc.), but promiscuity is evil.
There is probably no age in which excess has been so commercialized and emphasized as our own. We, as children of the ‘day,’ must put this kind of living aside, and be ready for our Lord’s return.
In the light of our Lord’s return, we have two pressing responsibilities:
(1) To submit to civil government. This responsibility can be summarized in three words: (a) Obey—keep the Law. (b) Pay—your taxes. (c) Pray—for those in authority (I Timothy 2:1-3).
(2) We are to love our ‘neighbor,’ and by doing this fulfill the requirements of the Law (cf. Romans 8:4).
It is apparent that Paul has written during a time when government was fulfilling its responsibility of restraining evil and rewarding righteousness. But what of the times when this is not the case? In view of the general nature of Paul’s exhortation, we will ask and answer several critical questions.
Questions Related to Romans 13:1-7
(1) Are there times when a Christian should disobey government?
Yes, if the government commands a Christian to do what is clearly contrary to God’s Word. When one disobeys, he must nevertheless submit to the punishment which government prescribes for this disobedience. Since government has the delegated authority of God, government’s authority is subordinate to God’s orders if they differ. Daniel (Daniel 6) disobeyed the law of the Medes and the Persians signed by Darius which forbade prayer for 30 days. He, however, submitted to the penalty for his actions. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3) are a similar example. Peter and the apostles (Acts 5, note especially v. 29, 40-42) refused to obey the order that they “speak not in the name of Jesus.” Our Lord’s statement in Matthew 22:21 “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s,” demonstrates the fact that the Christian finds himself in two spheres of authority. Whenever these two spheres of authority come into conflict we must say with Peter and the apostles, “we ought to obey God rather than men.”
(2) Should a government become corrupt and cease to fulfill its proper functions (i.e., to restrain evil and encourage good works), should the Christian engage in revolution to attempt its overthrow?
Instances can be found in the Old Testament in which the Lord instructs an individual to rebel against the existing government and overthrow it. One such instance is in 1 Kings 11 and 12 where God instructs Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah to rebel against the united kingdom of Solomon and ten tribes from the kingdom. All of the instances such as this in the Old Testament to my knowledge are due to the direct revelation of God. To use these instances as arguments for rebellion today we would need to be consistent and require a direct revelation from God to do so. It is God Himself Who raises up kings and puts them down (Psalm 75:7).
We must also remember that God uses evil governments, as well as good ones, for His purposes (cf. Habakkuk 1:6-11, Exodus 7:1-7, Amos 6:14). Romans 13:1 seems to say that any government which exists is, by virtue of its existence, ordained of God. To resist any existing government, by attempting to overthrow it (if the above assumption is true), is to resist God (Romans 13:2). God has no difficulty in performing His will apart from our assistance.
In the Old Testament Saul was to have his kingdom taken away due to his disobedience (1 Samuel 15) and David was anointed as the new king (chapter 16). Although Saul was no longer fit to be king, David waited until God removed Saul, even though he had several excellent opportunities to remove Saul himself (cf. 1 Samuel 24:1-15; 26:6-12). It is God’s desire that we live a “tranquil and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:2, 3). Revolution does not lead to tranquillity.
(3) Does Romans 13 or any other Scripture teach passivism toward government?
No. Remember Paul refused to leave the prison in Philippi until he was escorted out by the magistrates who had illegally beaten and imprisoned them (Acts 16). We uphold the law by insisting upon adherence to it, even by the law officials themselves.
(4) What should a Christian do when the government to which he is to be subject persecutes Christians unjustly?
The Book of Romans was written before severe persecution of Christians began, although Paul was writing with Nero in mind. The entire Book of 1 Peter is written with this very issue in mind. Nevertheless, Peter instructs: “Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evildoers and for praise to them that do well” (1 Peter 2:13, 14). Peter’s example is that of servants, who are to be in subjection to their masters, even the cruel ones (2:18). It is only when suffering unjustly that it is pleasing to God (v. 20). The supreme example for us to follow is our Saviour, Who died unjustly for our sins (1 Peter 2:21-25). The thrust of chapters 2, 3, and 4 of Peter’s first epistle is that we are to suffer patiently when persecuted unjustly. We should remember the Lord’s words, “A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you …” (John 15:20).
(5) Is it wrong for a Christian to be in politics?
In the Old Testament many men such as Daniel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah (not to mention the kings) were involved in the politics of their day. In the New Testament one would be harder pressed to find an individual deeply involved in politics—although it is readily conceded that an argument from silence is not very compelling. In the Old Testament theocracy, government and religion (church and state) were not separated as in the New Testament. The issue is one of priorities and personal convictions ultimately, as well as the individual leading of the Lord.
Civil government in the time of the Great Tribulation. We should take just a moment to consider the institution of civil government during the time of the Tribulation. Government was ordained of God in Genesis chapter 9 to restrain the evil intents of the hearts of men. To the present day, government to a greater or lesser degree continues to carry out this responsibility. This is the reason why Paul exhorts the Christian to submit to human government.
During the Tribulation, the restraining force of government (as God ordained it) will be removed (2 Thessalonians 2:6ff.) and Satan will be allowed to have his day. Government during this time will not exist for the purpose of preventing evil, but for promoting it. Such government should not be viewed as ‘authorized’ by God, but simply allowed in order to reveal what men are capable of doing apart from God’s restraining influence. If the violence we see today takes place in spite of human government, think what those days will be like. Thank God we shall not have to be a part of those evil days, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
It is my prayer that you have come to trust in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, Who died in your place and bore the penalty for your sins. He offers to you the righteousness which God requires for eternal life. He offers the riches of heaven in place of the torment of Hell. May God work in your heart to trust in Him.
99 The ‘governing authorities’ referred to here are not angelic powers as Oscar Cullmann has argued, but earthly rulers to whom we are to submit. Cf. Bruce, p. 236, fn. 1. C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper and Row, 1957), pp. 244-245. John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1968), II, pp. 147-148.
101 “In ancient and modern times, the sword has been carried before sovereigns. It betokens the power of capital punishment: and the reference to it here is among the many testimonies borne by Scripture against the attempt to abolish the infliction of the penalty of death for crime in Christian states.” Henry Alford, The Greek Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1958), II, p. 447.
102 “God’s wrath, which belongs properly to the last day (ii. 5), is capable of being brought forward into the present (i. 18); one means by which this future wrath is anticipated is the magistrate’s sword. This last expression recalls the technical term ius gladii, by which was meant the authority (possessed by all higher magistrates) of inflicting sentence of death (cf. Tacitus, Histories, iii. 68).” C. K. Barrett, p. 247.
103 “The sword which the magistrate carries as the most significant part of his equipment is not merely the sign of his authority but of his right to wield it in the infliction of that which a sword does. It would not be necessary to suppose that the wielding of the sword contemplates the infliction of the death penalty exclusively. It can be wielded to instill the terror of that punishment that falls short of death. But to exclude the right of the death penalty when the nature of the crime calls for such is totally contrary to that which the sword signifies and executes. We need appeal to no more than New Testament usage to establish this reference. The sword is so frequently associated with death as the instrument of execution (cf. Matt. 26:52; Luke 21:24; Acts 12:2; 16:27; Heb. 11:34, 37; Rev. 13:10) that to exclude its use for this purpose in this instance would be so arbitrary as to bear upon its face prejudice contrary to the evidence.” Murray, II, pp. 152-153.
104 “Paul uses this word ‘conscience’ frequently and it is apparent that the meaning is conscience toward God (cf. Acts 23:1; 24:16; II Cor. 1:12; 4:2; 5:11; I Tim. 1:5; 3:9; II Tim. 1:3). The meaning here must be that we are to subject ourselves out of a sense of obligation to God. The thought then is that we are not only to be subject because insubjection brings upon us penal judgment but also because there is the obligation intrinsic to God’s will irrespective of the liability which evil-doing may entail. God alone is Lord of the conscience and therefore to do anything out of conscience or for conscience’ sake is to do it from a sense of obligation to God. This is stated expressly in I Peter 2:13: ‘be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.’ The necessity, therefore, is not that of inevitable outcome (cf. Matt. 18:7; Luke 21:23; I Cor. 7:26) but that of ethical demand (cf. I Cor. 9:16).” Murray, II, p. 154.
105 “The Roman magistrates, little though they knew it, were public servants not of Rome but of God; it was his work they did. In this fact lay their true authority, and their right to receive their ‘dues.’ Render to all men what is due to them. Pay the tax (or tribute, direct taxation) to him to whom the tax is due, the levy (indirect taxation, such as customs dues) to him to whom the levy is due; pay reverence to him to whom reverence is due, honour to him to whom honour is due.” Barrett, p. 247.
106 “The ‘tribute’ corresponds to our term ‘tax,’ levied on persons and property (cf. Luke 20:22; 23:2), ‘custom’ refers to the tax levied on goods and corresponds to customs payments.” Murray, II, p. 156.
107 “‘Render therefore to all (in authority) their dues.’ Omit ‘therefore.’ Four specifications are given: render ‘tribute,’ personal or property tax, to him to whom it is due; ‘fear,’ reverence (Meyer says ‘veneration’), to him who bears the sword for God; ‘honor’ to all his subordinates.” James M. Stifler, The Epistle to the Romans (Chicago: Moody Press, 1960), p. 218.
108 “In accord with the analogy of Scripture this cannot be taken to mean that we may never incur financial obligations, that we may not borrow from others in case of need (cf. Exod. 22:25; Psalm 37:26; Matt. 5:42; Luke 6:35). But it does condemn the looseness with which we contract debts and particularly the indifference so often displayed in the discharging of them. ‘The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again’ (Psalm 37:21). Few things bring greater reproach upon the Christian profession than the accumulation of debts and refusal to pay them.” Murray, II, pp. 158-159.
110 This ‘Law of Love’ is initially directed to our love as Christians for ‘one another’ (verse 8), but it becomes more general in verses 9 and 10 to encompass ‘our neighbor.’ Thus the Christian is commanded to love his wife (Ephesians 5:25), his neighbor (Romans 13:9), and even his enemy (Matthew 5:44-45).
111 “But God demands much more of the believer than the state asks. The latter says, ‘Thou shalt not injure thy neighbor.’ God says, ‘Thou shalt love him as thyself’ and short of this love the civil law is not fulfilled. Love is not the ‘fulfilling,’ but the fulfillment of the law. This is impossible to men in their natural state, but not to him whose heart is made like God’s. It is by this simple but powerful principle of love that the Christian not only fulfills the law, but finds his freedom in it. Love takes the place of the letter and makes all moral duties not only light, but a delight.” Stifler, p. 219.