Romans 13 Commentary
Romans 13 Commentary
vv.1-7 “Paul appears to be demanding that every person always obey whatever any governmental authority tells that person to do, for God has appointed every authority that exists; to obey God, we must obey his appointed representatives. Yet believers in every generation have quailed before the prospect of obeying orders from what appear to be evil, even demonic, rulers — Hitler, of course, is the classic modern example.
“Moreover, Scripture itself seems to present disobedience of secular rulers as, at least in some cases, a virtue. The classic instance is Peter and John, whom Luke apparently commends for responding to the Sanhedrin’s command not to preach about Jesus with these words: ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:19–20; cf. 5:29).”
“In demanding ‘submission’ to the state, Paul is not necessarily demanding obedience to every mandate of the state. Key to this restriction is the recognition that the word ‘submit’ (hypotasso) in Paul is not a simple equivalent to ‘obey’ (hypakouo). To be sure, they overlap, and in some contexts, perhaps, they cannot be distinguished (cf. 1 Peter 3:1, 6). Moreover, submission is usually expressed through obedience.
“Nevertheless, submission is broader and more basic than obedience. To submit is to recognize one’s subordinate place in a hierarchy established by God. It is to acknowledge that certain institutions or people have been placed over us and have the right to our respect and deference. In addition to rulers (see also Titus 3:1), Paul also calls on believers to submit to their spiritual leaders (1 Cor 16:16) and even to one another (Eph 5:21; i.e., in the ways Paul outlines in 5:22–6:9). Christian slaves are to submit to their masters (Titus 2:9), Christian prophets to other prophets (1 Cor 14:32), and Christian wives to their husbands (1 Cor 14:35; Eph 5:24; Col 3:18; Titus 2:5). In each case, one person is to recognize the rightful leadership role that another human being has in his or her life.
“But implicit always in the idea of submission is the need to recognize that God is at the pinnacle of any hierarchy. While not always explicit, Paul assumes that one’s ultimate submission must be to God and that no human being can ever stand as the ultimate authority for a believer.” 
v.8 “continuing debt. To love is the one debt that is never paid off. No matter how much one has loved, he is under obligation to keep on loving.” 
v.12 “The night refers to the present evil time. The day refers to the time of Christ’s return.” 
vv.11-14 “Paul ends the section where he began in 12:1-2, setting the Christian’s moral obligations in the context of knowing what the time is: It is almost daybreak. This is a familiar image in early Christian writing, again quite possibly going back to Jesus himself; and Paul has developed it elsewhere (1 Thess 5:1-11; see also Matt 24:42-44; 26:45; Mark 13:33-37; Luke 12:3-56; 21:36; Eph 5:8-16; the idea of staying awake to be about one’s Christian tasks is also evident in Eph 6:18). This idea flows consistently from the early Christian belief that with the resurrection of Jesus God’s promised new age had dawned, but that full day was yet to come (see above all 1 Cor 15:20-28). Christians therefore live in the interval between the early signs of dawn and the sunrise itself, and their behavior must be appropriate for the day, not the night.” 
v.14 “Paul’s exhortations can be summed up in the call to put on . . . Christ. The metaphor of putting on clothing implies not just imitating Christ’s character but also living in close personal fellowship with him. Even though believers have new life, they still must constantly renounce the flesh and refuse to gratify its desires.” 
 Douglas J. Moo, Romans, Life Application Bible Commentary CD (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2000).
 The NIV Study Bible, study notes (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985) 1726.
 Life Application Study Bible, study notes (co-published by Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1991) 2052.
 N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. X (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2002) 727-728.
 English Standard Version Study Bible, study notes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2180.