Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Fulfilling the Law Through Love
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities…”, Paul makes this statement not under the care of a benevolent, 1950’s era US government, but under the iron hand of Roman rule. The very same government that had ordered Jesus crucified, had persecuted the Jewish people, had enforced the worship of the emperor as a deity, and on and on. Why did Paul tell his readers to be subject to the governing authorities then? Because Paul believed in the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men! He knew that it was God who made men rise to power, and God who brought men low (Daniel 2:21, 2:37, 4:13-17; John 19:10-11; 1 Peter 2:13-17).
As we see by the reference scriptures, there are no men in power who have not been placed there by God, for His purposes. So, our resisting the governing powers is a resistance against God, and we will incur judgement. Now, does that mean that we do anything and everything that the government requires? What if a despot rises up and orders us to kill a certain people group, or to partake of sin, or worship something other than God? Of course not! We have a greater obligation to obey God rather than men as we see in the following scriptures ( Acts 4:19-20; Acts 5:29; Revelation 13:15). Paul commands us to pay what is owed, taxes, revenue, respect, and honor, as the situation demands. We should be shining examples to the authorities as good citizens, not skirting the requirements, not hiding monies to prevent paying taxes, not bickering and complaining about the regulations that we are required, not speaking evil of the authorities, but praying for them, and honoring them ( 1 Timothy 2:1-2)
We are to keep ourselves from indebtedness, owing nothing but to love one another. In our society it is very difficult to keep from incurring debt, and if we do, we should be willing to do whatever it takes to pay that debt off, not to be slack about our commitments lest we tarnish our testimony to unbelievers. Love will keep us from wronging each other, it is the second greatest commandment we have been given. Paul illustrates that if we love one another, we will not commit adultery, or covet, or steal; instead we will look out for the best interests of our fellow men, not seek to gratify our flesh.
Paul warns his reader that the hour is growing darker, and the time of Christ’s return is getting closer every day. He commands us to put off our sinful natures, to walk uprightly as in the day, not slinking around hiding in the shadows of sinful lusts. We are to subject ourselves to Christ, to make no provision for the flesh, and to put on the armor of God.