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ROMANS 13:1-13:14
Last updated 06/29/01

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.


Introduction

Chapter 13 is divided into two distinct sections. The first, verses 1-7 has traditionally been interpreted as Paul commenting on how believers should relate to the secular government. Many commentators have noted how "peculiar" it was on the part of Paul to interject such a section in the middle of a major discussion on believers' responsibilities within their faith and congregation. When interpreted in this fashion, the verses do not harmonize with chapters 9-12 and 13:8 and onward. No good explanation is given as to why Paul did this - it has simply been accepted as an oddity.

In our study, we defer to the findings of Mark Nanos, as found in his book, The Mystery of Romans. Nanos' research shows that rather than Paul embarking on a radical subject shift in the midst of his letter, Roman 13:1-7 is actually a continuation of the emerging discussion on gentile's responsibilities as followers of Yeshua within the faith of Israel. Nanos proposes that Romans 13:1-7 has to do with the Synagogue government, whose authority the gentile believers were still under.

This was something that did not settle well with many "on either side," and even drew criticism from secular Romans. The Jews in authority were primarily unsympathetic toward the cause of Yeshua, and did not like all of these gentiles "invading their Synagogue" often with ungodly pagan practices and manners.

Many of the new gentile believers, coming directly out of a very anti-Semitic Roman society, and lacking a foundation in Torah, did not understand how their faith was tied to that of the Jews who did not accept Yeshua. The idea of being under the authority of the Synagogue (and these same Jews), was a cause for anger and hostility, as well as the early development of ideas of theirs being a "new faith," replacing that of Israel. (Re: Paul's warning to the gentiles concerning this, in chapters 9-11.)


1-2  Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Citizens in Rome needed no reminder about their duties to Roman government. If Paul were preaching a civil command he would not identify the government with being "ordained of God." Romans written during time of the Emperor Nero, who was evil and not "of God." Conversely, Synagogue government was "ordained by God" to interpret righteousness for the people, for praise of those who did good, and discipline of those who did not. (Recall Yeshua's comments in Matthew about the people obeying the religious leaders who "sat in Moses' seat" of authority.)

The early Messianic community viewed the secular government as empowered by Satan, not God (see Luke 4:6-7; Revelation chapters 12, 13, 18). The first century "Messianic view" was that evil pagan governments would come to an end and thus not to be worthy of support. Paul himself speaks of unrighteous secular authority in; 1 Corinthians 2:8, 61; 1 Thessalonians 5:3; and 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12.

3  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

Jewish rulers were not a "terror to good works" (following Torah) - but Rome certainly was. Power" (authority) and "rulers" are commonly used in New Testament regarding the Synagogue. (Acts 9:14, 14:5 26:10-12; Luke 8:41, 12:11; 14:1, 18:18, 23:13, 24:20; Matthew 23:2-4)

"Fear" is not due secular government, but is due God, the Torah, and those who are responsible for its interpretation. Paul's desire is for the gentiles to win the praise of the Jewish leadership, thus giving credence to his ministry and teaching of Yeshua as Messiah, with the hope that more of his brethren would come to faith (i.e., Romans, chapters 9-11).

4-5  For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

"Minister of God" cannot be associated with servants of the Roman empire, as the latter were not "continually attending to God's things" (re: verse 6 below).

The "sword" could be metaphorical, a symbol of authority which the Synagogue leaders did have. (i.e., Paul's previous authority in persecuting Jewish followers of Yeshua, as well as his own submission to beatings at the hands of the Synagogue authorities aftern he too came to follow Him as Messiah.)

The "sword" could also be figurative as the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12), as the religious authorities were the interpreters of Torah and responsible for application in the community. (Note Paul's use of "armor" in 13:12.)

6-8  For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

The Temple tax was collected by synagogue ministers and paid by righteous gentiles as well. This did not sit well with many new followers of Yeshua who, even though they paid the Temple tax, were not allowed as gentiles to participate in all Temple activities.

Both Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus attest to this custom, with the latter criticizing such gentiles as "people of the worst sort," who, "renouncing their ancestral religions, would send their tribute and gifts there (to Jerusalem) in heaps." 1

The term "honor" has the sense of proper moral behavior in accord with Torah (re: Genesis 38:23; 1 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 6:20). Jewish catacombs have designations of "of all honor" for those of higher office (i.e., interpreters of good and evil).

Paul calls believers to honor those authorities with regard to their duties including Temple tax collection. Paul says to pay what you owe and owe nothing to anyone except to love each other. Note in Matthew 15:5,6 and Mark 7:11-12, "honoring your parents" included financial support.

Verses 8-14

Paul continues his discussion of proper halakha (the way of "walking" one's faith) for gentiles, who must live in purity if they are to show that they have turned from idolatry to worship of the One God of Israel. Paul quotes from the Torah to prove his point.

9-10  For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

The statement in verse 10 is one often misinterpreted in Christian circles to teach that the Torah given by God to Israel through Moses, has been replaced by some new undefined "law of Love." Nothing could be further from the truth. This type of false teaching is caused by a lack of knowledge of Paul's Hebraic thinking and Talmudic teaching methodology.

Note in verse 9 that Paul equates the Torah commands of not committing adultery murder, theft, bearing false witness or coveting, as the "love that fulfills the law." Therefore, if there is some new "law of love" replacing obedience to the Torah, then these things are no longer sin, as long as one "believes" he is doing them "in love." As absurd as this sounds, it is taught throughout Christianity and goes unchallenged.

In actuality, Paul's comment about "love fulfilling the Torah," is a paraphrase of one made a gereration earlier by Rabbi Hillel, a staunch Pharisee quoted throughout the Talmud. No one would ever suggest that Hillel taught "against Torah" (as is said of Paul), yet he is recorded in the Talmud as saying:

Shabbat 31a - Do not unto thy neighbor that which you would not have him do unto you. This is the whole Jewish law. All else the rest is but commentary.

12  ... let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

The "works of darkness" is sin, and is defined by God's Torah.

The "armor of light" is equivalent to the "full armor of God" as Paul taught in Ephesians 6, and is an allusion to the vestments of the High Priest, which in Judaism, are related to aspects of the Torah. The concept of the work of the priest in the Tenakh is one of engaging in spiritual "warfare." Salvation does not come without a "fight."

This is reflected in a number of verses where God is said to be clothed in garments of strength and justice:

Psalm 93:1 - The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

Isaiah 59:17 - For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.

Isaiah 63:1,2 - Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?

14  But put ye on the Lord Yeshua haMashiach, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

Returning to Paul's comments in chapter 8, those "of the flesh" are not subject to the Torah of God. Therefore, those of the Spirit of Messiah, including gentiles, are to become both hearers and doers of Torah.

"Putting on Yeshua" is the same allusion to Ephesians 6, as Yeshua is our heavenly High Priest who provides for our salvation. Provision for the flesh and lust is sin and is defined by Torah.

Isaiah 61:10 - I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

The various Tenakh verses cited above link the Lord's "garments" to both strength/judgment and salvation. Note Yeshua's return, which will be in strength and judgement, is also linked to our ultimate salvation:

Hebrews 9:28 - so Messiah was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.


1. Tacitus, Histories 5.5.1

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