2 Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged-in divine order. And those who resist will bring down judgment upon themselves-receiving the penalty due them.
3 For civil authorities are not a terror to [people of] good conduct, but to [those of] bad behavior. Would you have no dread of him who is in authority? Then do what is right and you will receive his approval and commendation.
4 For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, [you shall dread him and] be afraid, for he does not bear and wear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant to execute His wrath (his punishment, His vengeance) on the wrongdoer.
5 Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God's wrath and escape punishment, but also as a matter of principle and for the sake of conscience.
6 For this same reason you pay taxes, for [the civil authorities] are official servants under God, devoting themselves to attending to this very service.
7 Render to all their dues. [Pay] taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due. (Romans 13:1-7).
1 The teaching in this section is addressed to "everyone," i.e., every believer. What Paul requires is to "submit" to those who ruled from Rome. Submission means placing oneself under someone else. Paul seems to avoid using the stronger word "obey" (cf. also v.5), probably because believers may find it impossible to comply with every demand of the government. A circumstance may arise in which they must choose between obeying God and obeying people (Acts 5:29). But even then they must be submissive in that, if their Christian convictions do not permit their compliance, they will accept the consequences of such refusal.
Paul makes a sweeping statement when he says, "There is no authority except that which God has established." This is true even of Satan: what authority he exercises has been given him by God (cf. Luke 4:6). The name of Christ does not appear anywhere in the passage, probably because Pauls's concern is not with redemption or the life of the church as such, but with one's relation to the state. While Christians have citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20), they are not excused from responsibility to acknowledge the state as possessing authority from God to govern him. They hold a dual citizenship.
2 Those who refuse submission are rebelling against what God has ordained. While it is true that "the world" can be set over against God (1 John 2:16), this cannot be said of the state, despite the fact that individual governments may at times be anti-God in their stance. Those who rebel "will bring judment on themselves." This judgment refers to that which is administered through human affairs (cf. Jesus' words in Matthew 26:52). For example, the Jewish revolt against Rome that began within a decade after Paul wrote led to the sack of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the nation.
3-4 These verses constitute the most difficult portion of the passage, for they seem to take no account of the possibility that government may be tyrannical and may reward evil and suppress good. A few years after Paul wrote these words, Nero launched a persecution against the church at Rome; multitudes lost their lives, and not because of doing evil. Later emperors also lashed out against Christians. It should be noted, however, that the empire did not persecute Christians for their good works or even for their faith, but rather because they felt the Christians' refusal to honor Roman gods threatened stability in the empire.
There are two ways to deal with this problem. (1) Paul is presenting the norm here, i. e., the ideal for government, which is certainly that of punishing evil and rewarding or encouraging good. If this is the correct interpretation, then we can understand why Paul warns against rebellion and makes no allowences for revolutionary activity. This interpretation does allow for revolution in cases where rights are denied and liberties taken away, since the state has ceased to fulfill its God-appointed function. At the very least, when justice collapses, the Christian community is obliged to voice its criticism of the state's failure and deviation from the divinely ordained pattern. (2) The other possibility is to introduce the principle of Romans 8:28, whereby God finds ways to bring good out of apparent evil, so that even in the event that the state should turn against the people of God in a way that could rightly be termed evil, he will bring good out of it in the long run.
Paul terms the state "God's servant" to extend commendation to the one who does good and, conversely, to punish the wrongdoer. This implies considerable knowledge on the part of the governing authority as to the nature of right and wrong, a knowledge not dependent on awareness of the teaching of Scripture but granted to human beings in general as rational creatures (cf. Romans 2:14-15). While "God's servants" is an honorable title, it contains a reminder that the state is not God and that its function is to administer justice for him in areas where it is competent to do so. The state must not be thought of as infallible in its decisions. Yet this does not entitile persons to flout the state's authority when decisions are not to their liking.
The warning to believers to aviod evil carries with it the admonition that if this warning is neglected, "fear" will be in order because the authority has the power to use the sword. This warning relates to public acts that threaten the well-being and security of the state, not to individual crimes that might warrant capital punishment. That is, Paul is warning believers against becoming involved in activity that could be construed by the Roman government as encouraging revolution or injury to the state. To engage in subversive activity invites speedy retribution.
5 In bringing this portion of the discussion to a close, Paul advances two reasons why Christians must submit to the state. One is the threat of punishment if one does not put oneself in subjection. Paul appeals here to personal advantage, to the instict of self-preservation. To defy the state could mean death. The other reason is "conscience", which is more difficult to determine. Mostly like this word denotes a personal awareness that the ultimate foundation of all of life is God. In other words, Christians, by virtue of divine revelation, can have a clearer understanding of the position of the governing authority than an official of the government is likely to have (cf. 1 Peter 2:19). Let that knowledge guide them in their attitudes and decisions.
6-7 Building on his allusion to conscience, the apostle explains the payment of taxes. The more clearly a person recognizes that the governing authority is God's servant, the greater appears the reasonableness of providing support by taxes. While the person in authority may be unworthy, the institution is not; and without financial undergirding, government cannot function. For the third time Paul speaks of rulers as God's servants, but this time he uses a differnt word, one that means workers for the people or public ministers. Their work is carried on under God's scrutiny and fulfills his will. These public servants give full time to governing; therefore they have no time to earn a living by other means (cf. Luke 10:7).
There is deliberate repetition in the sense that the paying of taxes is assumed (v.6), then enjoined (v.7). But the word Paul uses in v.7 literally means "give back" (the same word Jesus used in Mark 12:17), suggesting that what is paid to the govermnet in the form of taxes presupposes value received.
The various items metioned in v.7 are all classified as obligations. Since the Christian ethic demands clearing whatever one owes another (cf. v8), no basis is left for debate. The very language that is used supports the imperative form of the communication. The word "taxes" means tribute paid to a foreign ruler. "Revenue" pertains to indirect taxation in the form of toll or customs duties. "Respect" refers either to that which one gives to God (cf. "fear" in 1 Peter 2:17) or the veneration that is due to the highest persons in the government "Honor" is the respect due any who hold a public office.
[NIV BIBLE COMMENTARY Volume 2: New Testament].
JESUS IS LORD.