Romans 13

This devotional is written by Joseph Augustin.

Romans 13

Submission to governing authorities
13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.

Love fulfils the law
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 10 Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

The day is near
11 And do this, understanding the present time: the hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.


I can think of a few reasons why a first century Christian might not want to pay their taxes. Yet here we have a clear instruction from Paul to humbly submit to the authorities at an extremely troubling time.  In the previous chapter the emphasis is on nonviolence and blessing “those who persecute you”, but this feels like more of straight up call to living honourably in day-to-day civic life.

It sounds easy but doing what we know to be right is not always an automatic response. It takes practice and awareness. It takes an active and awake prayer life.  We don’t just behave ourselves to protect us from the threat of punishment. Doing the right thing elevates us and draws us closer to God’s presence.

Paul writes “Love is the fulfilment of the law.”

Love is not banal.

We live in a city and each of us hold within us a responsibility to hold together in love the things that are set before us. Love is at the very heart of justice and justice is a social form of love.

Dear Father, May we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you. Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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