To the Romans 13:1-14

13  Let every person be in subjection to the superior authorities,+ for there is no authority except by God;+ the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.+  Therefore, whoever opposes* the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will bring judgment against themselves.  For those rulers are an object of fear, not to the good deed, but to the bad.+ Do you want to be free of fear of the authority? Keep doing good,+ and you will have praise from it;  for it is God’s minister* to you for your good. But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear, for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword. It is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath against the one practicing what is bad.  There is therefore compelling reason for you to be in subjection, not only on account of that wrath but also on account of your conscience.+  That is why you are also paying taxes; for they are God’s public servants constantly serving this very purpose.  Render to all their dues: to the one who calls for the tax, the tax;+ to the one who calls for the tribute, the tribute; to the one who calls for fear, such fear;+ to the one who calls for honor, such honor.+  Do not owe anything to anyone except to love one another;+ for whoever loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law.+  For the law code, “You must not commit adultery,+ you must not murder,+ you must not steal,+ you must not covet,”+ and whatever other commandment there is, is summed up in this saying: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”+ 10  Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor;+ therefore, love is the law’s fulfillment.+ 11  And do this because you know the season, that it is already the hour for you to awake from sleep,+ for now our salvation is nearer than at the time when we became believers. 12  The night is well along; the day has drawn near. Let us therefore throw off the works belonging to darkness+ and let us put on the weapons of the light.+ 13  Let us walk decently+ as in the daytime, not in wild parties and drunkenness, not in immoral intercourse and brazen conduct,+ not in strife and jealousy.+ 14  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,+ and do not be planning ahead for the desires of the flesh.+

Footnotes

Or “resists.”
Lit., “servant.”

Study Notes

person: Or “living person.” Here the Greek word psy·kheʹ, rendered “soul” in some Bible translations, refers to a person.​—See Glossary, “Soul.”

the superior authorities: That is, the secular governing authorities. The term here rendered “authorities” is the plural form of the Greek word e·xou·siʹa. Readers of the Greek Septuagint may have been familiar with the way this word was applied to rulerships or dominion. (See Da 7:6, 14, 27; 11:5, where e·xou·siʹa is used to render Hebrew and Aramaic words meaning “authority to rule; rulership; ruling power.”) At Lu 12:11, it is used in the expression “government officials, and authorities.” The Greek term rendered “superior” is related to a word used at 1Ti 2:2 in the expression “kings and all those who are in high positions [or “in positions of authority,” ftn.].” In some contexts, it refers to being in a controlling position, having power or authority over others, but it does not imply being “supreme.” This is shown by the usage at Php 2:3, where Christians are urged to consider others “superior” to themselves, not supreme.

stand placed in their relative positions by God: Lit., “having been set in order they are by God.” That is, by God’s permission. The Greek word tasʹso used here is defined in various lexicons as “to bring about an order of things by arranging; to put in place; to draw up in order; to set in a certain order; to appoint.” The term is rendered “arranged” in some contexts. (Mt 28:16; Ac 15:2; 28:23) At Lu 7:8, Luke uses the same Greek word when rendering an army officer’s words: “I too am a man placed [form of tasʹso] under authority [form of e·xou·siʹa, the same word rendered “authority; authorities” at Ro 13:1-3], having soldiers under me.” This army officer had someone placed over him, and he had “soldiers under” him; so his “authority” was relative in relation to others. This indicates that the Greek word tasʹso does not always simply mean “to put in place.” It can also refer to a certain order in which someone is placed in relation to others. Many translations of Ro 13:1 use such expressions as “ordained of God” or “instituted (established; appointed) by God,” which might give the impression that God is ultimately responsible for installing secular rulers. However, based on the meaning of the Greek word, the immediate context, and what the Bible teaches elsewhere (Pr 21:1; Ec 5:8; Da 4:32; Joh 19:11), the New World Translation uses the expression “stand placed in their relative positions by God.” God allows the secular governments to have “relative” positions of authority, greater or lesser in relation to one another, but always inferior to his own supreme authority as Sovereign of the universe.

the arrangement of God: “The superior authorities” are part of a temporary arrangement permitted by God. (Ro 13:1) The Greek expression used here denotes what God has ordered or directed. These secular authorities are God’s temporary means of maintaining order in human society. But there would be no human authority if God did not permit it. (Joh 19:11) In that sense, the superior authorities have a relative position within God’s purpose. When Paul wrote this letter, the superior authorities affecting Christians were primarily the government of Rome under Emperor Nero, who ruled from 54 to 68 C.E. Paul clearly recognized the need for and the superiority of God’s way of governing. (Ac 28:31; 1Co 15:24) He was simply saying that as long as Jehovah allows human rulership to exist, Christians should respect and accept it as “the arrangement of God.”

it: That is, “the authority.”

were ministering to them: Or “were supporting (providing for) them.” The Greek word di·a·ko·neʹo can refer to caring for the physical needs of others by obtaining, cooking, and serving food, and so forth. It is used in a similar sense at Lu 10:40 (“attend to things”), Lu 12:37 (“minister”), Lu 17:8 (“serve”), and Ac 6:2 (“distribute food”), but it can also refer to all other services of a similar personal nature. Here it describes how the women mentioned in verses 2 and 3 supported Jesus and his disciples, helping them to complete their God-given assignment. By doing so, these women glorified God, who showed his appreciation by preserving in the Bible a record of their merciful generosity for all future generations to read. (Pr 19:17; Heb 6:10) The same Greek term is used about women at Mt 27:55; Mr 15:41.​—See study note on Lu 22:26, where the related noun di·aʹko·nos is discussed.

it is God’s minister: This refers to “the authority” mentioned at Ro 13:1-3. This human authority is God’s “minister,” or servant (Greek, di·aʹko·nos), in a particular sense. The Bible sometimes uses this Greek word to refer to “servants; those serving” others. (Mt 22:13; Joh 2:5, 9) The related verb di·a·ko·neʹo (to serve; to attend to; to minister) is also used to describe people performing various personal services for others. (See study note on Lu 8:3.) It is in this sense that the secular authorities can be called a “minister,” or servant. They are God’s minister because he allows them to continue for a time. They render certain services for the good of the people, providing a measure of order and protection against lawlessness. Additionally, the Bible shows that secular authorities have sometimes served as God’s minister in other ways. For example: King Cyrus of Persia called on the Jews to go out of Babylon and rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem. (Ezr 1:1-4; Isa 44:28) Persian King Artaxerxes sent Ezra with a contribution for the rebuilding of that house and later commissioned Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. (Ezr 7:11-26; 8:25-30; Ne 2:1-8) The Roman authority delivered Paul from the mob in Jerusalem, protected him after he was shipwrecked, and allowed him to stay in a rented house while a prisoner until his case could be heard by Caesar.​—Ac 21:31, 32; 28:7-10, 30, 31.

the sword: Here referring to the right or power of secular authorities to inflict punishment on those practicing what is bad. When authorities use this power properly, it can be a strong deterrent to crime, contributing to order in society. However, they are responsible to God for how they use this authority. For example, King Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded, abusing this symbolic sword. (Mt 14:1-12) Likewise, King Herod Agrippa I misused his authority by putting “James the brother of John to death by the sword.” (Ac 12:1, 2) If secular rulers try to make Christians act in violation of the Scriptures, they would not be acting as God’s minister.

to express wrath: When a person violates a human law that does not contradict God’s laws, the punishment meted out by the “rulers” is an indirect expression of God’s wrath against the one practicing what is bad. (Ro 13:3) In this context, the Greek expression for “to express wrath” could also be rendered “to bring punishment.”

the sword: Here referring to the right or power of secular authorities to inflict punishment on those practicing what is bad. When authorities use this power properly, it can be a strong deterrent to crime, contributing to order in society. However, they are responsible to God for how they use this authority. For example, King Herod Antipas had John the Baptist beheaded, abusing this symbolic sword. (Mt 14:1-12) Likewise, King Herod Agrippa I misused his authority by putting “James the brother of John to death by the sword.” (Ac 12:1, 2) If secular rulers try to make Christians act in violation of the Scriptures, they would not be acting as God’s minister.

to express wrath: When a person violates a human law that does not contradict God’s laws, the punishment meted out by the “rulers” is an indirect expression of God’s wrath against the one practicing what is bad. (Ro 13:3) In this context, the Greek expression for “to express wrath” could also be rendered “to bring punishment.”

There is . . . compelling reason: Or “It is . . . necessary.” The Greek word a·nagʹke used here literally means “necessity.” This verse shows that the compelling reason for Christians to obey Caesar’s laws and to pay taxes should be the Christian conscience rather than fear of Caesar’s “sword” of punishment. (See study notes on Ro 13:4.) Therefore, a Christian submits to human governments when a command does not contradict God’s laws.

holy service: Or “public service.” The Greek word lei·tour·giʹa used here and the related words lei·tour·geʹo (to render public service) and lei·tour·gosʹ (public servant, or worker) were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to refer to work or service for the State or for civil authorities and done for the benefit of the people. For example, at Ro 13:6, the secular authorities are called God’s “public servants” (plural form of lei·tour·gosʹ) in the sense that they provide beneficial services for the people. The term as used here by Luke reflects the usage found in the Septuagint, where the verb and noun forms of this expression frequently refer to the temple service of the priests and Levites. (Ex 28:35; Nu 8:22) Service performed at the temple included the idea of a public service for the benefit of the people. However, it also included holiness, since the Levitical priests taught God’s Law and offered sacrifices that covered the sins of the people.​—2Ch 15:3; Mal 2:7.

were ministering: Or “were publicly ministering.” The Greek word lei·tour·geʹo used here and the related words lei·tour·giʹa (public service, or ministry) and lei·tour·gosʹ (public servant, or worker) were used by the ancient Greeks to refer to work or service performed for the State or for civil authorities and to the benefit of the people. For example, at Ro 13:6, the secular authorities are called God’s “public servants” (plural form of lei·tour·gosʹ) in the sense that they provide beneficial services for the people. At Lu 1:23 (see study note), the term lei·tour·giʹa is rendered “holy service” (or, “public service”) regarding the ministry of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. In that verse, the use of the word lei·tour·giʹa reflects how it and related terms are used in the Septuagint in connection with the service performed by priests and Levites at the tabernacle (Ex 28:35; Nu 1:50; 3:31; 8:22) and at the temple (2Ch 31:2; 35:3; Joe 1:9, 13; 2:17). Such service included the idea of a ministry for the benefit of the people. However, the idea of holiness was included in some contexts because the Levitical priests taught God’s Law (2Ch 15:3; Mal 2:7) and offered sacrifices that covered the sins of the people (Le 1:3-5; De 18:1-5). At Ac 13:2, the Greek word lei·tour·geʹo is used in a more general sense, describing the ministering by Christian prophets and teachers in the congregation in Antioch of Syria. The word refers to the different expressions of devotion and service to God, including such aspects of the Christian ministry as prayer, preaching, and teaching. The ministry performed by these prophets and teachers no doubt included preaching to the public.​—Ac 13:3.

a public servant: The Greek word lei·tour·gosʹ is derived from the words la·osʹ, “people,” and erʹgon, “work.” The word was originally used by the ancient Greeks to refer to work done under the civil authorities, usually at personal expense, for the benefit of the people. There was a similar arrangement under the Romans. As used in the Bible, the term usually refers to one who is serving in sacred office. The term is frequently used in the Septuagint to refer to “duties” (Nu 7:5) and “service” (Nu 4:28; 1Ch 6:32 [6:17, LXX]) carried out by the priests at the tabernacle and at Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem. Here Paul uses the term with regard to himself, “an apostle to the [Gentile] nations” who proclaimed the good news of God. (Ro 11:13) This preaching would be of great benefit to the public, particularly to people of the nations.

public servants: The Greek word lei·tour·gosʹ (public servant, or worker) used here and the related words lei·tour·geʹo (to render public service) and lei·tour·giʹa (public service) were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to refer to work or service for the State or for civil authorities that was done for the benefit of the people. (The above-mentioned Greek words are derived from la·osʹ, “people,” and erʹgon, “work.”) Here the secular authorities are called God’s “public servants” (plural form of lei·tour·gosʹ) in the sense that they provide beneficial services for the people. However, in the Christian Greek Scriptures, these Greek terms are frequently used in connection with the temple service and the Christian ministry. For this usage, see study notes on Lu 1:23; Ac 13:2; Ro 15:16.

constantly serving this very purpose: Or “devoting themselves to this very thing.” The secular authorities fulfill their duties as described in the preceding verses, and as “God’s public servants,” they provide beneficial services for the people.

Pay back: Lit., “Give back.” Caesar minted the coins, so he had a right to ask for some of them back. But Caesar did not have the right to ask a person to dedicate or devote his life to him. God gave humans “life and breath and all things.” (Ac 17:25) So a person can “give back” his life and devotion only to God, the one who has the right to require exclusive devotion.

Render: Lit., “Give back.” The same Greek verb (a·po·diʹdo·mi) is used at Mt 22:21; Mr 12:17; and Lu 20:25 in the expression “Pay back . . . Caesar’s things to Caesar.”​—See study note on Mt 22:21.

commit adultery: That is, commit marital sexual unfaithfulness. In the Bible, adultery refers to voluntary acts of “sexual immorality” between a married person and someone who is not his or her mate.​—Compare study note on Mt 5:32, where the term “sexual immorality,” rendered from the Greek word por·neiʹa, is discussed, and study note on Mr 10:11.

commit adultery: See study note on Ro 2:22.

wild parties: Or “revelries.” The Greek word koʹmos occurs three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures and always in an unfavorable sense. (Ga 5:21; 1Pe 4:3) It has been defined as “drinking parties involving unrestrained indulgence in alcoholic beverages and accompanying immoral behavior.” In ancient Greek writings, the word was used in connection with riotous festal street processions that honored pagan gods, such as Dionysius (or Bacchus), the god of wine, with singing until late at night. Such processions and licentious conduct were common in Greek cities of the apostles’ time, including cities of Asia Minor. (1Pe 1:1) Peter addressed his letter to Christians there who had “carried on in acts of . . . unbridled passions, overdrinking, wild parties, drinking bouts, and lawless idolatries” before becoming Christians. (1Pe 4:3, 4) Paul included “wild parties” among “the works of the flesh,” adding that those who indulged in such behavior would “not inherit God’s Kingdom.” (Ga 5:19-21) In verses where the expression “wild parties” occurs, Paul and Peter also list such behavior as drunkenness, immoral intercourse, sexual immorality, uncleanness, brazen conduct, and unbridled passions.

brazen conduct: Or “acts of shameless conduct.” Here the plural form of the Greek word a·selʹgei·a is used. This Greek word denotes conduct that is a serious violation of God’s laws and that reflects a brazen or boldly contemptuous attitude.​—See Glossary.

put on the Lord: Or “imitate the qualities (manners) of the Lord.” The Greek word for “put on” literally means “to clothe (dress) oneself.” (Lu 15:22; Ac 12:21) It is here used figuratively in the sense of taking on the characteristics of someone. The same Greek word is used at Col 3:10, 12 in the expression “clothe yourselves with.” Paul’s admonition at Ro 13:14 means that Christians should follow Jesus closely, figuratively clothing themselves with his example and his disposition, striving to be Christlike.

Media

Taxation
Taxation

Shown here is a sales-tax receipt from the first century C.E. It records a property-tax payment made to an official bank in the Roman province of Egypt. The Roman Empire levied several taxes, and provinces exacted local taxes. Findings like this illustrate how some tax payments were recorded. Paul’s counsel encouraging Roman Christians to pay taxes follows the pattern set by Jesus, who told his followers: “Pay back . . . Caesar’s things to Caesar.”—Mt 22:21; Ro 13:6, 7.