Romans 13

The Word Made Fresh

1Obey the governing authorities, all of you. After all, there is no real authority except God, and earthly authorities have been put there by God. 2So, those who resist authority resist God’s appointees and will suffer the consequences. 3Rulers are not a threat to good conduct, but to bad. If you don’t want to fear the authorities, do good, and the authorities will approve of you. 4After all, the authorities are God’s servants for your own benefit. But if you break the law you should be afraid; the authorities don’t have authority for nothing! They are God’s servants who punish the lawbreakers. 5So you must obey the laws, not just to avoid punishment, but out of your good conscience. 6That is also why you must pay taxes because the authorities are servants of God who are in charge. 7So, pay what is due – taxes to whomever taxes are due, income to whomever income is due, respect to whomever respect is due, and honor to whomever honor is due.

8Don’t owe anyone anything except love. Those who love are obedient to the law. 9The commandments – “Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet” – and all the other commandments, are but a summary to this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10For love does no wrong to a neighbor, so love is the fulfillment of the law.

11And besides all this, you know that now is the time to wake up! Salvation is closer to us now than when we first believed. 12Nighttime is nearly gone and daylight is coming, so let’s put the deeds of darkness aside and dress in the armor of light. 13Let us live as if we are always in broad daylight – not in partying and strong drink, not in foolishness and lawlessness, and not in arguing or jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and don’t worry about attending to the desires of the flesh.


1-7: From the vantage point of the 21st century we have pretty strong evidence that not every governing authority can be said to have been instituted by God. Given the context of Paul’s letters, however, especially the fact that he is sending this one to the capital of the Roman Empire, it makes sense to caution his readers to obey the governing authorities.

8-10: Since love (Christian love, not romantic love) can do no wrong, learning to practice love is the fulfillment of the law, both divine and human.

11-14: All of Paul’s advice is tempered by his belief that the day of salvation is close at hand. Suffer, then — it can’t be long. Patience, then — a new day is about to dawn. Endure, then — there is a light shining and you are approaching the end of the tunnel. Rejoice, then — we are already children of God.


If we break the law of the land we will be punished. What a waste of our time! Do good then, and be guilty only of faith.