Romans 13:4

4 for it is God's servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.

Romans 13:4 Meaning and Commentary

Romans 13:4

For he is the minister of God to thee for good
He is a minister of God's appointing and commissioning, that acts under him, and for him, is a kind of a vicegerent of his, and in some, sense represents him; and which is another reason why men ought to be subject to him; and especially since he is appointed for their "good", natural, moral, civil, and spiritual, as Pareus observes: for natural good, for the protection of men's natural lives, which otherwise would be in continual danger from wicked men; for moral good, for the restraining of vice, and encouragement of virtue; profaneness abounds exceedingly, as the case is, but what would it do if there were no laws to forbid it, or civil magistrates to put them in execution? for civil good, for the preservation of men's properties, estates, rights, and liberties, which would be continually invaded, and made a prey of by others; and for spiritual and religious good, as many princes and magistrates have been; a sensible experience of which we have under the present government of these kingdoms, allowing us a liberty to worship God according to our consciences, none making us afraid, and is a reason why we should yield a cheerful subjection to it:

but if thou do that which is evil, be afraid:
of the punishment of such evil threatened by law, and to be inflicted by the civil magistrate;

for he beareth not the sword in vain.
The "sword" is an emblem of the power of life and death, the civil magistrate is invested with, and includes all sorts of punishment he has a right to inflict; and this power is not lodged in him in vain; he may and ought to make use of it at proper times, and upon proper persons:

for he is the minister of God;
as is said before, he has his mission, commission, power and authority from him; and is

a revenge to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil;
he is a defender of the laws, a vindicator of divine justice, an avenger of the wrongs of men; and his business is to inflict proper punishment, which is meant by wrath, upon delinquents.

Romans 13:4 In-Context

2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval;
4 for it is God's servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.
5 Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.
6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, busy with this very thing.

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