Obedience in Authority.* 1Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God.a 2Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves. 3For rulers are not a cause of fear to good conduct, but to evil.b Do you wish to have no fear of authority? Then do what is good and you will receive approval from it, 4for it is a servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, be afraid, for it does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer.c 5Therefore, it is necessary to be subject not only because of the wrath but also because of conscience.d 6This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.e
Love Fulfills the Law.* 8Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.f 9The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this saying, [namely] “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”g 10Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.h
Awareness of the End of Time.* 11And do this because you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;i 12the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light;j 13let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,* not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.k 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.l
* [13:1–7] Paul must come to grips with the problem raised by a message that declares people free from the law. How are they to relate to Roman authority? The problem was exacerbated by the fact that imperial protocol was interwoven with devotion to various deities. Paul builds on the traditional instruction exhibited in Wis 6:1–3, according to which kings and magistrates rule by consent of God. From this perspective, then, believers who render obedience to the governing authorities are obeying the one who is highest in command. At the same time, it is recognized that Caesar has the responsibility to make just ordinances and to commend uprightness; cf. Wis 6:4–21. That Caesar is not entitled to obedience when such obedience would nullify God’s prior claim to the believers’ moral decision becomes clear in the light of the following verses.
* [13:8–10] When love directs the Christian’s moral decisions, the interest of law in basic concerns, such as familial relationships, sanctity of life, and security of property, is safeguarded (Rom 13:9). Indeed, says Paul, the same applies to any other commandment (Rom 13:9), whether one in the Mosaic code or one drawn up by local magistrates under imperial authority. Love anticipates the purpose of public legislation, namely, to secure the best interests of the citizenry. Since Caesar’s obligation is to punish the wrongdoer (Rom 13:4), the Christian who acts in love is free from all legitimate indictment.
* [13:13] Let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day: the behavior described in Rom 1:29–30 is now to be reversed. Secular moralists were fond of making references to people who could not wait for nightfall to do their carousing. Paul says that Christians claim to be people of the new day that will dawn with the return of Christ. Instead of planning for nighttime behavior they should be concentrating on conduct that is consonant with avowed interest in the Lord’s return.