Chapter 13, The Study
“Divine Righteousness Producing Practical Righteousness in the Believer” Romans 12-16

J. Deering,

The Will of God pertaining to Government and Social Responsibility“


Romans 13
Be Subject to Government

 1 Every (A) person is to be in (B) subjection to the governing authorities For (C) there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

Our discussions in chapter 12 have pointed us to the very root of the human creation. “Man, created in God’s image and likeness.” The ramifications of that statement set the stage for the centuries of human life that would follow. God, created us “like Him,” as if each one of us were to be Him – as much as something created could be. Why, we ask, would God place us in such a precarious position with His authority? If as a created being with our “god like” authority choose not God as the single authority in our lives but choose ourselves instead – then we are in enmity with Him. If we choose to bow down to Him, then we must admit that our god-like authority is far inferior to His absolute authority. Thus God’s choosing of those who would bow the knee to Him as those who would enjoy His fellowship forever.

 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

God’s absolute authority allows Him to place His subjects under human governments. Our response to our own circumstances is a direct indication of our position before Him.

Do we submit to Him or do we demand a self-centered relationship to governments and/or situations around us? How very difficult it is to bow the knee and say, “Yes, Lord.”

Pay taxes to unbelieving governments – “Yes, Lord, by Your authority.”

Drive the speed limit or below, and do so safely – “Yes, Lord, by Your authority.”

Stop at that stop sign – “Yes, Lord, by Your Authority.”

 3 For (D) 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;

What is Paul saying? Is he out of his mind? Doesn’t he know and understand about evil governments? – How about the Romans, the Babylonians, the Assyrians? Of course he has taken all this into account and the answer is still the same. Your government (or theirs) exists because of the Sovereignty of God – they are the result of His authority and His choice. As far as the common civilian is concerned a government is a good thing no matter which government it is. Life would be much more difficult in the absence of civil government.

Are all governments good? That’s not the question that Paul is addressing. Have there been or are there rulers who have committed atrocities in their own names, or in the name of their gods, or in the name of God? Absolutely! Paul’s point is that civil government is, by design, God’s institution since man refused Theocratic Rule – It was Israel who said, “Give us Kings like the other nations of the World.”

Government supplies food, law, order, roads, water, on and on. Not always the best, not always the best quality, but that is their role.

 4 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 (E) avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

God’s Holy Spirit says through Paul that Civil Government is “a minister of God” to YOU FOR GOOD. God’s plan is that you live under the authority of government. Doing the right things – government will be a good thing for you – by HIS Authority.

Do the wrong thing, according to the law of civil government, is a bad thing, because (A) you are under their authority, and (B) you are under the authority of God who has set that government in authority over you.

Penalties are part of the system that God has set up for disobedience. Being disobedient to them is being disobedient to God who placed them in authority over you. It is government’s responsibility to discipline wrong doers in the interest of all of the civilization.

The translation of “the one who practices evil,” is a poor translation because the topic here is obedience to authority not the performance of good VS evil. Paul’s discussion is purely on the attributes of civil government, not satanic influence or rule. But Paul considered Roman rule to be beneficial to the population – including Christians and Jews – because it was God Authorized and established.

 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also (F) for conscience' sake.

Paul wraps up this part of his discussion with three statements in one sentence.

1.     “It is necessary to be in subjection.”

The whole discussion of chapters 12-13 is in the realm of subjection, submission, bowing the knee to authority. What is the main difference between God and a man? God demands subjection of His creation. Man, being a creation of God, is in no place to make demands. The believer is one who knows who he is and rightness of being in willing submission to God.

It is the Godless man or woman who sets themselves up as a god and unrighteously demands that others (including God) bow the knee to them and their desires.

Or even the “many” that don’t even see themselves as a god, but refuse to bow to any another’s authority or to bow to another’s authority by any terms except their own.

2.     It is necessary, in order to avoid wrath, to be in subjection.

  1. The one who is in subjection has no fear from the established authority. And
  2. Fear is a great deterrent to offending the authority of another (person, government, god, God).

3.     It is necessary to be in subjection for the purpose of Conscience.

Only the person who places themselves under subjection knows the difference between right and wrong. Without subjection there is no wrong.

Think of the offense to God that accompanies the unbeliever. “I’ll do what I want, when I want, to whomever I want, without regard to authority.”

It is the one under authority that understands that there is right and wrong, and that there is an authority who has defined them. If, as some say, that God wound up the universe and went off and left it to its own ways then all of creation would be in chaos with no knowledge of righteousness or evil. A universe of creation “doing what is right in their own eyes.”

May this not be so for the one who is a believer in Jesus Christ. Submission to His authority, at the expense of all desire on our own part to have that authority for ourselves, is the foundation of being conformed into the Image and Likeness of Jesus Christ. It is what He did in getting to the Cross. It is what each of us must do to become “complete” in Christ and acceptable to God the Father in His Son.

 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.

This is a hard thing for many, but with the dissolution of the Jewish Theocracy also came the partial separation of the responsibilities of the Temple Priesthood from the general population.

 7 (G) Render to all what is due them: (H) tax to whom tax is due; (I) custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

Writing for, Bob Deffinbaugh brings to light some interesting facts.

Luke 19:45 through the end of chapter 21 there is an on-going debate, taking place in the temple. He calls this section, “the tempest in the temple.” It began with the Lord’s possession of the temple, His purging of it, and it continues with His practice of teaching there daily.

Chapters 22 and 23 deal directly with the arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial of our Lord. Chapter 24 depicts the Lord’s resurrection and its impact on the disciples)

Deffinbaugh states that the question is not whether or not any person should pay their taxes, but whether or not a Jew should pay taxes to a heathen Gentile government and that the issue is posed as a problem of the law, not as a matter of rebellion or personal preference. Is the paying of taxes by Jews to a Gentile government legal under Mosaic Law?

Remembering who Jesus claimed to be – the Messiah, God with us, the question becomes very devious. Jesus, since you claim to be the Messiah, why should we still pay taxes to Rome. Didn’t you come to free us from these oppressors? They were looking for Jesus to answer that the financial support of the Jews should be re-focused on Him and the temple. This would give immediate grounds for them to hand Him over to the Romans for a death sentence for anarchy against Caesar for non-payment of civil taxes.

When Jesus answers their question He “cuts to the chase” and requires from His persecutors their recognition of the root issue of authority. They had previously asked Him about the basis of His authority at the beginning of the chapter. Now they were saying, “Jesus, since you (say that you) are the authority (Messiah), tell us to remove our financial support from Caesar.”

But, Jesus’ answer took them all by surprise. Who would expect that the Messiah would place His “stamp of approval” upon God’s People paying taxes to a pagan government?

Deffinbaugh states, “Jesus’ answer is rooted in the fact that while government and God are distinct, they are not in opposition to each other.” “This matter of what is due Caesar is not an academic issue to our Lord, for He will render His very life to Caesar, in submission, and not just taxes.”

As said earlier in this chapter, the issue is submission to authority.

1 Peter 2:13-15 reflects the teaching of the Holy Spirit through Paul.

13 (AJ) Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him (AK) for the punishment of evildoers and the (AL) praise of those who do right. 15 For (AM) such is the will of God that by doing right you may (AN) silence the ignorance of foolish men.

 8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for (J) he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
Many commentators begin a completely new section here leaving behind the concerns of obedience, submission, and “rendering what is due.”
Instead we should see that this section does continue under those concerns. Submission to Christ requires love – endless love – continual love – abounding love. In the previous verse “Tax; custom; fear; and honor” are in the list of obligations due to our fellow humans as we submit to Christ. How much more so with love.

Paul made the Romans think about being in submission to all in order to rightly understand Christ’s role as God. His total submission to the will of the Father is not just an object lesson of how God wants everyone around Him to bow and submit – we could not be further from the truth if we think this.

It is the Son who leads the way, through His submission to His heavenly Father, to make clear the “kind” of God that His Father is. His Father is Love and Light. Because He could not come as “Father,” and be comprehended by us, instead He came as “Son” to teach us His love for us. He is the God who is willing to die for us.

John 3:16-17, :21
“16 For God loved the world in such a way that He gave US His unique Son – so that whoever believes in Him shall not come to no end, but have life eternally. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” “21 And he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifest as having been wrought in God.”

Therefore, be submissive to each other in the area of love. The love of God calls us to love others. We should see that we can never love our neighbor (any other human being) enough, and that fulfills God’s law concerning love.

As a side note – Love is Active not Passive. Thinking good thoughts toward those around you is not love. Love requires much sacrifice on our part. Jesus may not have liked every human, but He loved every one in such a way that He gave His life for each one as an individual. We, seeing His example, should do no less.

 9 For this, "(K) YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "(L) YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."

Paul gets down to the nitty-gritty here. The Law of God requires that we “do not do” certain things as well as “do” certain things. At the top of things we are NOT TO DO are -1 Do not have sex with your neighbors wife – she belongs to him, not you (David!). 2 Do not kill your neighbor (David!). 3 Do not steal your neighbor’s stuff (his wire, his children, his things). 4 Do not look over your neighbor’s fence and want what’s over there (anything over there!).

You shall give LOVE to your neighbor not take love away!

 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore (M) love is the fulfillment of the law.


The law demands that no one do wrong to another – therefore, LOVE completely fulfills and honors not only the law, but the very character of God, and His Son, and His Holy Spirit.

 11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is (N) already the hour for you to (O) awaken from sleep; for now [a] salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.

Be in submission – to God, to government, to each other…

Paul, impressed with the immediacy of the Gospel, encourages everyone of us to “Wake Up!” With every passing moment we come perilously closer to our death without endeavoring to become like Jesus. Jesus will ask, “What were you doing while you were waiting for Me?” What will be your answer?

 12 (P) The night is almost gone, and (Q) the day is near Therefore let us lay aside (R) the deeds of darkness and put on (S) the armor of light.

Like the prophets of old, Paul saw, and didn’t see at the same time. He saw the immediacy of getting young Christians educated in the Faith and grounded in the word. He saw the persecution that was all around them and the need for Christianity to grow and survive. But he did not see that the return of Jesus Christ physically was still far off. For the believer the day of Jesus’ coming in the air to take them into Heaven for the Marriage Feast of the Lamb is the great expectation then after that returning with Him to rule and reign in the Kingdom age here on Earth. Paul expected it “soon,” but with God a blink of an eye can be a thousand years.

With this soon expectation Paul exhorts us to lay aside the deeds of darkness. Not specifically deeds of the “dark one,” Satan, but all those things that do not produce light. Then we are to put on, active imperative, “You, put on the armor of light,” which a wonderful vision of Christ’s light of Glory shining in and through us – that others might see Him in us. Knights in shining armor of light. Not for battle, but for showing for Christ’s Glory through Love and righteous living (Chapter 6 was wearing armor for battle).

 13 Let us (T) behave properly as in the day, (U) not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.

What an easy command to say, but what a difficult command to do. “Let us behave properly – as if we were living with Christ in the Kingdom age, representing Him in power and deed – just the opposite of these things listed that are not the result of the Love of God, where all live in submission to Him and in submission to each other.

The picture he paints here is of a first century outpost bar. In that place there is the opposite of “behaving properly as in the day,” but instead a drunken orgy and brawl where men and women live only for their own filthy lusts and greed. Life there is full of selfishness, self will, self aggrandizement, self, self, self, where all are torn apart with jealousy for the “things” of everyone else. How pitiful and sad. Don’t live like that! It is not becoming of who you are.

 14 But (V) put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh (W) in regard to its lusts.

The alternative is to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” the armor of light in verse 12, sot that we may live in the light as He is the light. Another imperative, “You, Make NO provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

For many of us it is late in life before we understand how we have made provision for the lust of our flesh. How often we can look back and see how we toyed with the things of the flesh, how we sought to be attractive in the flesh and not attractive in the things of Christ. For many there has been great cost for our actions. “Lord, may we learn and understand that the only way to avoid the trappings of the lust of the flesh is to flee – to You, and then to let You live through us.”



  1. Romans 13:11 Or our salvation is nearer than when

Cross references:

  1. Romans 13:1 : Acts 2:41
  2. Romans 13:1 : Titus 3:1; 1 Pet 2:13
  3. Romans 13:1 : Dan 2:21; 4:17; John 19:11
  4. Romans 13:3 : 1 Pet 2:14
  5. Romans 13:4 : 1 Thess 4:6
  6. Romans 13:5 : Eccl 8; 1 Pet 2:13, 19
  7. Romans 13:7 : Matt 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25
  8. Romans 13:7 : Luke 20:22; 23:2
  9. Romans 13:7 : Matt 17:25
  10. Romans 13:8 : Matt 7:12; 22:39; John 13:34; Rom 13:10; Gal 5:14; James 2:8
  11. Romans 13:9 : Ex 20:13-ff; Deut 5:17-ff
  12. Romans 13:9 : Lev 19:18; Matt 19:19
  13. Romans 13:10 : Matt 7:12; 22:39; John 13:34; Rom 13:8; Gal 5:14; James 2:8
  14. Romans 13:11 : 1 Cor 7:29; 10:11; James 5:8; 1 Pet 4:7; 2 Pet 3:9, 11; 1 John 2:18; Rev 1:3; 22:10
  15. Romans 13:11 : Mark 13:37; 1 Cor 15:34; Eph 5:14; 1 Thess 5:6
  16. Romans 13:12 : 1 Cor 7:29; 10:11; James 5:8; 1 Pet 4:7; 2 Pet 3:9, 11; 1 John 2:18; Rev 1:3; 22:10
  17. Romans 13:12 : Heb 10:25; 1 John 2:8; Rev 1:3; 22:10
  18. Romans 13:12 : Eph 5:11
  19. Romans 13:12 : 2 Cor 6:7; 10:4; Eph 6:11, 13; 1 Thess 5:8
  20. Romans 13:13 : 1 Thess 4:12
  21. Romans 13:13 : Luke 21:34; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:18; 1 Pet 4:3
  22. Romans 13:14 : Job 29:14; Gal 3:27; Eph 4:24; Col 3:10, 12
  23. Romans 13:14 : Gal 5:16; 1 Pet 2:11

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