The duty of subjection to governors. (1-7) Exhortations to mutual love. (8-10) To temperance and sobriety. (11-14)
Verses 1-7 The grace of the gospel teaches us submission and quiet, where pride and the carnal mind only see causes for murmuring and discontent. Whatever the persons in authority over us themselves may be, yet the just power they have, must be submitted to and obeyed. In the general course of human affairs, rulers are not a terror to honest, quiet, and good subjects, but to evil-doers. Such is the power of sin and corruption, that many will be kept back from crimes only by the fear of punishment. Thou hast the benefit of the government, therefore do what thou canst to preserve it, and nothing to disturb it. This directs private persons to behave quietly and peaceably ( 1 Timothy. 2:1 1 Timothy. 2:2 ) trick or fraud. All smuggling, dealing in contraband goods, withholding or evading duties, is rebellion against the express command of God. Thus honest neighbours are robbed, who will have to pay the more; and the crimes of smugglers, and others who join with them, are abetted. It is painful that some professors of the gospel should countenance such dishonest practices. The lesson here taught it becomes all Christians to learn and practise, that the godly in the land will always be found the quiet and the peaceable in the land, whatever others are.
Verses 8-10 Christians must avoid useless expense, and be careful not to contract any debts they have not the power to discharge. They are also to stand aloof from all venturesome speculations and rash engagements, and whatever may expose them to the danger of not rendering to all their due. Do not keep in any one's debt. Give every one his own. Do not spend that on yourselves, which you owe to others. But many who are very sensible of the trouble, think little of the sin, of being in debt. Love to others includes all the duties of the second table. The last five of the ten commandments are all summed up in this royal law, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; with the same sincerity that thou lovest thyself, though not in the same measure and degree. He that loves his neighbour as himself, will desire the welfare of his neighbour. On this is built that golden rule, of doing as we would be done by. Love is a living, active principle of obedience to the whole law. Let us not only avoid injuries to the persons, connexions, property, and characters of men; but do no kind or degree of evil to any man, and study to be useful in every station of life.
Verses 11-14 Four things are here taught, as a Christian's directory for his day's work. When to awake; Now; and to awake out of the sleep of carnal security, sloth, and negligence; out of the sleep of spiritual death, and out of the sleep of spiritual deadness. Considering the time; a busy time; a perilous time. Also the salvation nigh at hand. Let us mind our way, and mend our pace, we are nearer our journey's end. Also to make ourselves ready. The night is far spent, the day is at hand; therefore it is time to dress ourselves. Observe what we must put off; clothes worn in the night. Cast off the sinful works of darkness. Observe what we must put on; how we should dress our souls. Put on the armour of light. A Christian must reckon himself undressed, if unarmed. The graces of the Spirit are this armour, to secure the soul from Satan's temptations, and the assaults of this present evil world. Put on Christ; that includes all. Put on righteousness of Christ, for justification. Put on the Spirit and grace of Christ, for sanctification. The Lord Jesus Christ must be put on as Lord to rule you as Jesus to save you; and in both, as Christ anointed and appointed by the Father to this ruling, saving work. And how to walk. When we are up and ready, we are not to sit still, but to appear abroad; let us walk. Christianity teaches us how to walk so as to please God, who ever sees us. Walk honestly as in the day; avoiding the works of darkness. Where there are riot and drunkenness, there usually are chambering and wantonness, and strife and envy. Solomon puts these all together, ( Proverbs 23:29-35 ) . See what provision to make. Our great care must be to provide for our souls: but must we take no care about our bodies? Yes; but two things are forbidden. Perplexing ourselves with anxious, encumbering care; and indulging ourselves in irregular desires. Natural wants are to be answered, but evil appetites must be checked and denied. To ask meat for our necessities, is our duty, we are taught to pray for daily bread; but to ask meat for our lusts, is provoking God, ( Psalms 78:18 ) .
Romans 13:1-14 . SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED--POLITICAL AND SOCIAL RELATIONS--MOTIVES.
1, 2. Let every soul--every man of you
be subject unto the higher powers--or, "submit himself to the authorities that are above him."
For there is no power--"no authority"
but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God--"have been ordained of God."
2. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power--"So that he that setteth himself against the authority."
resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation--or, "condemnation," according to the old sense of that word; that is, not from the magistrate, but from God, whose authority in the magistrate's is resisted.
3, 4. For rulers are not a terror to good works--"to the good work," as the true reading appears to be
but to the evil.
4. he beareth not the sword in vain--that is, the symbol of the magistrate's authority to punish.
5. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath--for fear of the magistrate's vengeance.
but also for conscience' sake--from reverence for God's authority. It is of Magistracy in general, considered as a divine ordinance, that this is spoken: and the statement applies equally to all forms of government, from an unchecked despotism--such as flourished when this was written, under the Emperor Nero--to a pure democracy. The inalienable right of all subjects to endeavor to alter or improve the form of government under which they live is left untouched here. But since Christians were constantly charged with turning the world upside down, and since there certainly were elements enough in Christianity of moral and social revolution to give plausibility to the charge, and tempt noble spirits, crushed under misgovernment, to take redress into their own hands, it was of special importance that the pacific, submissive, loyal spirit of those Christians who resided at the great seat of political power, should furnish a visible refutation of this charge.
6, 7. For, for this cause pay ye--rather, "ye pay"
tribute also--that is, "This is the reason why ye pay the contributions requisite for maintaining the civil government."
for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing--"to this very thing."
7. Render therefore to all their dues--From magistrates the apostle now comes to other officials, and from them to men related to us by whatever tie.
fear--reverence for superiors.
honour--the respect due to persons of distinction.
8. Owe no man anything, but to love one another--"Acquit yourselves of all obligations except love, which is a debt that must remain ever due" [HODGE].
for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law--for the law itself is but love in manifold action, regarded as matter of duty.
9. For this, &c.--better thus: "For the [commandments], Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet, and whatever other commandment [there may be], it is summed up," &c. (The clause, "Thou shalt not bear false witness," is wanting in all the most ancient manuscripts). The apostle refers here only to the second table of the law, as love to our neighbor is what he is treating of.
10. Love worketh no ill to his--or, "one's"
neighbour; therefore, &c.--As love, from its very nature, studies and delights to please its objects, its very existence is an effectual security against our wilfully injuring him. Next follow some general motives to the faithful discharge of all these duties.
11. And that--rather, "And this [do]"
knowing the time, that now it is high time--literally, "the hour has already come."
to awake out of sleep--of stupid, fatal indifference to eternal things.
for now is our salvation--rather, "the salvation," or simply "salvation."
nearer than when we--first
believed--This is in the line of all our Lord's teaching, which represents the decisive day of Christ's second appearing as at hand, to keep believers ever in the attitude of wakeful expectancy, but without reference to the chronological nearness or distance of that event.
12. The night--of evil
is far spent, the day--of consummated triumph over it
is at hand: let us therefore cast off--as a dress
the works of darkness--all works holding of the kingdom and period of darkness, with which, as followers of the risen Saviour, our connection has been dissolved.
and let us put on the armour of light--described at length in Ephesians 6:11-18 .
13. Let us walk honestly--"becomingly," "seemingly"
as in the day--"Men choose the night for their revels, but our night is past, for we are all the children of the light and of the day ( 1 Thessalonians 5:5 ): let us therefore only do what is fit to be exposed to the light of such a day."
not in rioting and drunkenness--varied forms of intemperance; denoting revels in general, usually ending in intoxication.
not in chambering and wantonness--varied forms of impurity; the one pointing to definite acts, the other more general.
not in strife and envying--varied forms of that venomous feeling between man and man which reverses the law of love.
14. But--to sum up all in one word.
put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ--in such wise that Christ only may be seen in you (see 2 Corinthians 3:3 , Galatians 3:27 , Ephesians 4:24 ).
and make no provision--"take no forethought."
for the flesh, to fulfil the lust thereof--"Direct none of your attention to the cravings of your corrupt nature, how you may provide for their gratification."
Note, (1) How gloriously adapted is Christianity for human society in all conditions! As it makes war directly against no specific forms of government, so it directly recommends none. While its holy and benign principles secure the ultimate abolition of all iniquitous government, the reverence which it teaches for magistracy, under whatever form, as a divine institution, secures the loyalty and peaceableness of its disciples, amid all the turbulence and distractions of civil society, and makes it the highest interest of all states to welcome it within their pale, as in this as well as every other sense--"the salt of the earth, the light of the world" ( Romans 13:1-5 ). (2) Christianity is the grand specific for the purification and elevation of all the social relations; inspiring a readiness to discharge all obligations, and most of all, implanting in its disciples that love which secures all men against injury from them, inasmuch as it is the fulfilling of the law ( Romans 13:6-10 ). (3) The rapid march of the kingdom of God, the advanced stage of it at which we have arrived, and the ever-nearing approach of the perfect day--nearer to every believer the longer he lives--should quicken all the children of light to redeem the time, and, seeing that they look for such things, to be diligent, that they may be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless ( 2 Peter 3:14 ). (4) In virtue of "the expulsive power of a new and more powerful affection," the great secret of persevering holiness in all manner of conversation will be found to be "Christ IN US, the hope of glory" ( Colossians 1:27 ), and Christ ON US, as the character in which alone we shall be able to shine before men ( 2 Corinthians 3:8 ) ( Romans 13:14 ).