28 February 2014

Romans 13:1-14

“Owe no one to anything, except to love one another.” (v. 8)


Romans 13 continues Paul's guidance to believers in Rome on how to live. He begins with advice on how Christians should relate to political rulers (verses 1-7), instructing "every person [to] be subject to the governing authorities" (v. 1). The passage has historically been (mis)used to quash legitimate protest, and so needs to sit alongside other biblical texts concerning political rulers. Paul offers here not a full-blown theology of the state, but some key principles, including a call to honour those authorities that do exist. It may be that certain Christians in Rome thought that following Jesus as Lord meant that they needn't pay their taxes, but Paul encourages them to do so (verses 6-7). Political authorities still have a legitimate role within God's world.

Verses 8-10 picks up the notion of debt from verse 7 to emphasise that the only debt that always remains is that of loving one another, which is - as Paul explains - is the real fulfilment of the law. This does not mean that particular rules have no place, but rather that love sustains and explains particular guidance. The echoes of Jesus' teaching here are clear (Matthew 22:36-40).

The chapter ends with a reminder to those in Rome that the age they live in is one between the first coming of Christ and their future salvation (verses 11-14). Christians need to live not as citizens of darkness who remain in unbelief, but as members of the coming kingdom. Paul refers to a number of practices that believers should reject, including drunkenness, licentiousness (sexual immorality) and jealousy (verse 13). To live with the "armour of light" (v. 12), believers should "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 14) - being conscious of living in him and for him.

To Ponder

  • In what ways should we show 'honour' to our governing authorities in the United Kingdom (or wherever you live) today?
  • How can we keep love central in the way that we live as followers of Jesus?
  • How might we retain a perspective on life that reflects the time in which we live - between Christ's first coming and future salvation?  

Bible notes author

Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the Discipleship Development Officer for the Methodist Church and an Associate Lecturer at Cliff College. He lives in Derbyshire with his wife Ali and their two sons.