Chapter Thirteen

    It seems evident to me that the thoughts presented in this chapter follow in logical sequence to the ones presented in chapter twelve. Chapter twelve, the great chapter on daily living as a Christian, deals with some general and specific principles in living the life a Christian should live. Chapter thirteen, and fourteen as well, turns to additional specifics where these principles are to be applied.

Verses 1, 2

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

    The overall theme of these two verses, in fact much of the chapter, is the relationship of the Christian to the earthly government under which he lives. The teaching is the will of the Lord, not only for the Christian, but for the unconverted person as well. If this were not true, the conduct and purpose of civil government would be nullified altogether. We see in these words the mind of God in ordaining there be civil governing powers, even though we cannot conclude there was any specific type of civil government that God has directed that we must adopt. It can be said without any real opposition, and can be successfully argued, that any government that bases its precepts and laws upon the great principles of human relations as taught in Scripture is a government more acceptable to God than a government built and based upon values and ideologies that contradict what the Lord has taught concerning human conduct toward other humans.
    The higher powers are to be understood in the context of the entire first seven verses as civil powers that have authority over the people of a given area. Verse three identifies this power as the "rulers," and verse seven identifies them as those to whom tribute and custom are to be paid. This obviously refers to civil authorities.
    We are to be subject, obedient, and submissive in giving allegiance to the civil government over us. We have a responsibility to civil government. We are Christians, citizens in the kingdom of God, but also we are citizens of the earthly kingdom where we live. This is plain and needs no elaboration.
    The reason given why we are to be subject to such power is because that is God's plan and design by which society is to be kept orderly and proper. Such powers are ordained of God, made of God, and are according to God's intent that they exist. The civil power derives its power from the fact that God has granted such power to it. In this connection, read John 19:10,11 and Daniel 5:18. For this reason it is a travesty against all that is right for any government to ignore the will of the Lord in the handling of its affairs. The operation of the civil government is different from the operation of the home, or the church, but the civil government certainly ought to consider the thinking of God regarding the realm in which it is to operate. More often than not, it seems that those who lead in civil matters pay little to no attention to what God would prefer, but more to what is politically expedient for their own selfish gains and aims. We are grateful when the rare exception rises among us. It need not be this way, but it seems it is that way so very, very often.
    It is because God has appointed that there be civil government that the Christian is to respect its power. To violate civil law is more than violating civil law. It is violating an authority that God has appointed to exist in governing man on earth.
    Some have falsely thought if everyone were good and all were Christians that civil government would not be necessary. This is folly. They have concluded that the only function of civil government is to punish evildoers. That certainly is a major function of civil government, but not the total function. Civil government would be necessary if everyone was a faithful Christian because there are matters of a secular nature that impose themselves upon all men in the conduct of living that are not specifically determined by laws written in Scripture. There are matters that are secular and material that have to be decided. The need for traffic laws, property laws, inheritance laws, the manner of collection of taxes, and innumerable other duties such a dealings between nations that demand some form of civil government by which all are to be governed. Such laws of government are not specified in the Bible. Even though there be principles that would bear upon such things, the actual laws must be made by men. Man ought not make laws that are contradictory to Scriptural principles, however. Whether the laws of the land are consistent with Scriptural principles or not, if they do not demand of the Christian that which necessitates him to violate divine law, he is subject to the higher power and is expected by man and God to obey these laws.
    In the event some civil law demands something of us that would force us to violate a teaching of God, we are obliged to respect the teaching of God rather than the "higher power" or civil government. Fortunate is the person who is privileged to live under a system of civil government that does not demand of him violations against the law of God.
    Our first allegiance to God's law above civil law does not warrant taking the law into our own hands or disobeying laws we simply may not like. This principle only applies when we are directed or forced to do that which would cause us to sin. Peter was once confronted with such a matter, and he stated the principle with clarity in Acts 5:29, "We must obey God rather than men."
    To resist the power is to resist a law of God. As stated, it is the ordinance of God that we obey. To resist will mean trouble for us, not only from duly ordained civil authorities, but from God as well. Violating civil law is more than just violating civil law, as we have aforementioned. It is also violating a divine law that says we are to obey civil law, with the exception already noted. This is the source from which the Christian gains his determination to be a law abiding citizen. God has said he is to be just such a citizen.

Verses 3, 4

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: 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.

    Civil powers are not designed to inflict harm on the good, but to control and punish the evil. When we obey the law we have no need to fear the civil power. Indeed, if those in power are of the nature they should be they will praise the citizen who abides by the law. Of course, there are men that abuse civil power and do inflict harm on the good. But when men do this they are not using the power God has ordained, but are abusing the power granted to civil government. The system that calls for civil government is not to be abolished simply because some will and do misuse that system and power at times.
    The philosophy that says one is justified in revolting against civil government just because they may not like it, or the philosophy that says we shall overturn all civil authority because some abuse it, is not according to God's will. There is nothing, to my knowledge, in the will of God that prevents the citizenry of a nation from correcting the abuses of the civil power. When there are lawful ways and means of doing so then a lawful course of action should be followed. If abuses exist and there is simply no way for one to address himself to the correction of such offenses, this raises another set of questions altogether. We must keep in mind that God never designed that civil government should be abusive of the citizens under its power, and never intended that government so conduct itself as to mistreat those in its dominion. When it does, it deserves being terminated because it violates God's intent.
    We need to be impressed with the strong statement that the civil power is a "minister of God." The purpose for this ministry is the accomplishment of the will of God in the realm over which this minister has authority granted by the Lord. This ministry is for the accomplishment of that which is good. Once and for all this ought to silence any advocacy that the civil government of itself is evil, or has come into existence because of evil. It came into existence because God designed it as His tool for the accomplishment of good that must attend in the conduct of society. Otherwise, there would exist nothing but anarchy and total chaos.
    Take notice that Paul says the power is the minister of God "to thee" for good. Consider the phrase, "to thee," more closely. What did Paul mean? Is the civil government God's tool on behalf of the Christian only as some seem to have concluded? Some admit the necessity of civil rule while denying the right of a Christian to have any part whatever in civil government. They contend that government is to be left in the hands of those who are not Christians. They indicate the government is simply a provision of God as a servant for the benefit of Christians. They contend the "thee" refers just to the Christian brethren. To my mind, such is an unnatural, forced, unrealistic, and inconsistent conclusion that also defies the facts of the case.
    None doubt that all are to obey the rule of civil authority whether Christian or not. Is it reasonable to conclude the benefit of government is not for everyone as well as the Christian? God has ordained government for the sake of all society. While Paul was writing to Christians, and was insisting the civil power is a minister of God for good to them, it was not by virtue of their faith, but by virtue of their citizenship in the nation being governed that the government did them good. Remember, they were citizens of the earthly government as well as citizens in the kingdom of God. The government is a minister of good for all men because of their citizenship in the earthly kingdom, not because of citizenship in God's kingdom. "To thee" means "to thee as citizens," not just "to thee as Christians."
    The false idea some have suggested that Christians can have nothing whatever to do with government has driven men to conclude that only sinners can have anything whatever to do with work that even they contend is primarily on behalf of the Christians. Does it not strike you as grossly inconsistent to grant the sinner fellowship with God in doing God's work, but deny that fellowship to the child of God? Here is a work of God that produces good, not evil, but good for everyone. A position that would deny the Christian the right to serve God as His minister in this capacity, and participate in this good work ordained of God is untenable. That the Christian may face dangers and temptations in working in civil government does not invalidate the argument because he faces such things in almost every human secular activity, even in earning a livelihood for himself and his family.
    Christians are to obey the laws of the land as any other citizen, and will receive benefit from the same government as any other citizen. Christians do have a two-fold motive for obeying, however. (1) He must obey because the government has the power and authority to enforce its own laws. (2) More significantly to the Christian, God said obey the "higher powers."
    Civil power has been ordained of God to have the power of enforcement of its laws. It has the power of the sword, an instrument of force, and even of death. There is no doubt but the civil government has been given this power by the Lord, and if it chooses to exercise that power, it has the right before God to do so. Capital punishment is no more a violation of God's law than the existence of civil government itself is a violation of God's law. Even the home and the church could not survive without the power to enforce the laws governing them. No government could possibly survive, and could not do that for which it was ordained, without the power to enforce its laws. The power of the home and church is not the same power as that of civil government, but there is no doubt that the government has the power of capital punishment if it chooses to use it.
    The question is often raised if a Christian can have part in civil government. We have touched on this already, but more can be said. Many good brethren have taken extreme and widely separated views on this subject. I contend if we will look at some facts that the Bible does reveal we shall not see the need for the complications many have raised, nor the inconsistencies into which they have drawn themselves. God ordained civil government. The government is the minister of God. There is a complete absence of any divine directive to the Christian forbidding him to participate in government. While this argues from silence, if God had forbidden it, that would have been the end of the matter. On the other hand, there are instances in the New Testament where Christians were involved in government without rebuke from any divinely guided messenger. These instances present material which is too lengthy a subject to expound here. As far as I am concerned, this fact settles the matter that Christians can operate in civil government. The function of government is a proper function. It fills a need the Lord saw, and it has a role assigned it by the Lord. It would be a strange concept to be sure that would allow only the servants of the devil to do the work of the Lord, and deprive servants of God from doing it under any circumstances. Government is a work of the Lord. When one serves the government and conducts the affairs of government he is doing what God has ordained to be done. He may not do it well. He may well abuse his power rather than properly use it. He may become corrupt while doing it, and surely experience has shown this is a grave problem for those who serve. But the fact remains that a Christian involved in governmental affairs is involved in a function that God approves, provided the operation itself is honorable, of course.
    I find it most unreasonable to take a position that says God and the children of the devil can work together to accomplish good for the Christian, but God and His own children cannot work together for the good of all mankind. I know God has used evil people to accomplish His purposes many times as recorded in Old Testament revelation. He used them to punish His own wayward children. He even sometimes used them to help His children. But that did not mean it would be sinful for His children to also be involved in accomplishing His noble purposes.
    Civil government is for the good of all mankind. The Christian is God's child. One who is not a Christian is yet the devil's child. Government is God's order and plan. It is not of the devil, but of God for accomplishing certain benefits for everybody. Surely, a child of God would do a better job in God's work than a child of Satan. When there is nothing required in civil rule that God forbids, the Christian can serve in governmental service.
    Furthermore, God does not force men to sin. To say the civil government does things that the Christian cannot do, and that such things must be left to the sinner, but that such things must be done, is to contend that God, who ordained civil government, has ordained certain things that must be sinful, and made it necessary that somebody sin to carry them out. God does not force sin, but He has ordained government, given it its duties to perform, and all those duties are by His authority.
    We recognize that sometimes governments do violate the functions God has given government to do. But this is an abuse of government, not the use of it.
    Before one jumps too far into condemning a Christian's participation in government at all, you might recall how school teachers, mail deliverers, water meter readers, road engineers, etc. are government workers. You might say that is acceptable, but being a policeman, mayor, or soldier is not. So you now obligate yourself to produce Scripture that teaches you can do some government work, but some is excluded. If that be so, it obviously is not so on the basis that it is government work.

Verses 5-7

5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 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.

    The Christian is presented with a double motive for being subject to the higher powers. We touched upon these two motives earlier. One, it is for wrath's sake. That means it is to escape punishment from the civil power. Two, it is for conscience sake. This means the Christian's conscience is trained according to the will of the Lord, and that will says obey the laws of the land. This dual motive also directs him to pay tribute, custom, taxes, have respect for the authority of the government, look upon the function of government as honorable, and give honor to those who hold governmental positions, if not for the sake of the person, then for the sake of the position itself. Christians are to render to all what is deserving, and the civil government is deserving of obedience and respect. The support of the citizenry of the civil government is proper because the civil government is attending continually to the work the Lord has given it. Civil affairs are vital and necessary to the conduct of orderly and lawful human existence.
    We must take note that one function of government mentioned in verses four and five is that of executing wrath on the evil doer. Some have erroneously concluded that this legislates against all forms of self defense by individuals, even if he is set upon by intruders or otherwise threatened with harm. The idea has been set forward that the Christian will turn all such defense into the hands of the civil power and absolutely refrain from any notions of self defense. This passage does not teach such as that. To take such a position is to add without warrant to the scope and realm of the teaching embraced in this passage. Let us first note that the matter of self defense is not under discussion here. What is under discussion is the role of civil government. It is taught that civil government can and does punish the evildoer. This does not preclude the individual under some circumstances protecting himself.
    You may recall that I said when discussing verses nineteen through twenty-one of chapter twelve, that retaliation is not to be equated with self defense. Retaliation, vengeance, getting even, executing punishment against one who offends you is not allowed to the Christian as an individual. But God has provided for vengeance, retaliation and punishment. In many instances the way God has provided is through the long and powerful arm of civil power. Defending oneself is not the same as retaliation. Retaliation is taking the offensive on your own and reaping vengeance. Self defense is warding off offenses. At times the actions may seem very similar, but the motive for the actions comes into play.
    There may well be times when one can rely upon the civil power not only for retaliation against the wrongdoer, but also for personal protection. But there may be times when he cannot rely upon the civil power for personal protection. Agencies of the civil power may not be on the scene. In such circumstances the Christian is not forbidden to protect himself. It is not expedient in this discussion of chapter thirteen to go into all the many parts relating to self defense because chapter thirteen is not discussing self defense. You have to study elsewhere for God's will regarding this and the extent to which such is allowed.
    This chapter is not the entire presentation in Scripture regarding a person's relationship to the government under which he lives. There are many questions that can be raised that this chapter does not address. I have tried to discuss what this chapter teaches. There are other passages that should be studied to gain the full scope of the teaching regarding the Christian and the civil powers. I would refer the reader to one of the most consistent presentations of the subject it has been my good fortune to study, and I have studied many of them. I recommend The Christian and the Civil Government, by Foy E. Wallace, Jr. I know everyone does not accept all that is stated in that book. But one will find himself hard pressed to refute the conclusions drawn, and even harder pressed to come up with a more accurate and consistent presentation of the subject of the Christian and the government. The study of the first seven verses of this chapter often produces the kind of thinking we should avoid; namely, straining to produce certain ideas from the text that is foreign to what the text teaches. Too often men concoct some theory, and then proceed to make a serious effort to read that theory into the Scriptures. It is far better to take the text and read out of the text what is in the text, and be content therewith. This is all I have attempted to do with these comments.

Verses 8-10

8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 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. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    The next matter to be considered is that we, as Christians, are not to neglect our obligations. Duty is a precious word, and the Christian of all persons on earth should be one who does his utmost to discharge his duty in whatever realm that duty lies. The admonition to "owe no man anything" is not restricted to financial and monetary matters, though these are included. It does not forbid borrowing or entering into financial negotiations. If one wants to be very specific regarding borrowing money and making debts, then consider how a man who borrows a certain sum of money with the obligation to repay that sum in smaller installments over a specified period of time is not indebted to anybody so long as he meets the terms he accepted. When he makes the required payment at the required time he is not in debt or obligated to anybody until the next payment is due. He is not owing any man anything if he meets the terms. A man is supposed to pay his monetary debts and fulfill that duty. But a Christian has many duties to many people, and he will strive to meet all his duties to the fullest that he is capable of doing.
    One duty mentioned is the duty to love others. Yes, I would consider the desire to seek what is the best for others a Christian duty as well as a privilege. Love is something everyone owes everyone else. So many do not love others, and therefore, they are neglecting one of the duties of life. When one does love another he is accomplishing the thrust of the law of God regarding person-to-person relationships.
    There are many laws that have reference to human relationships. Some of the commandments God originally gave at Mount Sinai are mentioned to illustrate human relationships. These are not all inclusive in the law of human relationships, but they show what the apostle was emphasizing in this passage. Man is obligated to treat his fellowman properly.
    In verse ten we have a definition of love. There are other definitions in the Scriptures as well. But this one emphasizes love, not seeking the harm of another. No man can claim to love if he desires and seeks the detriment of another. Love is the very opposite of that. Love seeks the other's highest good. This allows no room for doing ill toward another to harm him. Only when one seeks the other's highest good can he know he is fulfilling God's will regarding his attitude and action toward other people. Love does not forbid discipline or self defense, or even properly executed punishment by civil power. Love does seek the best for the other person as God's will has determined what is best.
    One definition that must be included regarding love, even though it is not in this text, but is implied in the entire system of salvation that Paul is revealing in the book of Romans, and that is what we read in First John 5:3. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." Other passages teach the same thing. One cannot separate love and obedience any more than he can separate faith and obedience.
    Sometimes a person may develop the idea that what he does is altogether his business, and he can live his life somewhat isolated from others. This is not true. What one does affects others, and each must be mindful of the effect he has on others. To the extent his conduct affects others, to that same extent what he does is somebody else's business as well as his own. Since what he does is of consequence to others, the Christian will be a person that will strive to perform his duty. These great characteristics, performance of duty and love, are to be a part of the make-up of the Christian.

Verses 11, 12

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. 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.

    Verses eleven and twelve are directed toward the prime thought that opportunity is now, and we must make the best of it. We must consider the time and circumstance under which we live, and the conditions of the world around us, and be busy about our task of living the Christian manner of life. There will be those times probably when all become spiritually drowsy, even indifferent, in spite of Paul's admonition in Galatians 6:9 not to be weary in well doing. But we cannot afford the luxury of sleep at a time when we need to be wide awake and on the job. Each day we live we should live in a saved relationship with God, but each day brings us closer and closer to the ultimate reward of eternal salvation in heaven. It would be the tragedy of tragedies should we neglect so great salvation by spiritual drowsiness and unconcern.
    Paul is giving some of the most practical advice and encouragement that a bedraggled and hardship-laden people might hear. The Christian is often just such a person, and the Christian needs to be warned against indifference and urged to work.
    Because the time grows shorter and shorter in which to make some real contribution for righteousness' sake, we cannot afford to do the work of darkness, perform the deeds of sin, or commit evil. The time is drawing nigh when our opportunity to do right will be terminated. This being true, we ought to arm ourselves with the brilliance of light, truth, righteousness, godliness, purity, and all the other qualities that God wants His people to possess. Study in this connection Ephesians 6:10-20.

Verses 13, 14

13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

    In addition to those qualities just mentioned in the last phrase, there is the quality of honesty. There are some things to avoid, such as rioting, drunkenness, chambering (having reference to sexual intercourse and the context in which it is given obviously refers to illicit and unlawful intercourse), wantonness, wastefulness, dissipation, strife, and envy.
    Rather than partaking of such evils, we are to put on Christ, which means, we are to imitate the life of Christ in our own lives, not surrendering to the passions of the flesh and the fulfillment of lust. The teaching not to make provision for the flesh is not teaching us to neglect the care of the body, or fail to provide the necessities for this body and our material needs. It has reference rather to the flesh as the term "flesh" was used previously in this book with reference to sinfulness on contrast to the ways of the Spirit. See chapter seven, verse five, and chapter eight, verse five.
    By way of summary, this briefest chapter of the book of Romans has presented several of the most profound teachings regarding the Christian and his life. It tells him of his duty to civil government. It shows his obligation to love and to do his duty in all realms of life. He is urged to take advantage of the short time he has, and keep alert, wide awake to the opportunities that are his. There are things he must do and not do in serving the Lord. His emphasis is doing what is right, not satisfying the lusts of his flesh.
    As we read such chapters as this thirteenth one in Romans, we are once again impressed that the epistles, written to Christians, by inspired men, are so vital to us because they enable us to know what is expected of us as Christians. It is one thing to become a Christian, but something more to be what you have become. The book of Romans, studied, understood, believed, and obeyed, will contribute immensely to our spiritual growth and equip us to live lives acceptable before God that will bring glory and honor to Him.

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