1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Being at peace with all men includes submitting to our governing authorities. God is sovereign over all authority. As Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Any person in government is there because God has allowed that person to rule. All authorities which exist are ordained by God. They may not all be God-honoring authorities, but God is sovereign over their being where they are. He can bring them down if He wills, and He can lift another up if He so desires. Since God has put people in our lives over us, we honor Him when we submit to them. Obviously, we are not to deny Christ if they tell us to deny Him or to disobey Him in anyway. Though earthly authorities are ordained by God, God is the ultimate authority. Thus, His will and glory takes precedent over what any earthly authority might do or say.
2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
David of the Old Testament modeled the principle of honoring God’s appointed authorities. He had many opportunities to kill King Saul and take the kingdom from him, but he waited until God took the kingdom from Saul. God desires us to submit to authorities, and if we do not and become rebellious and unruly, we will bring judgment upon ourselves. We don’t have to agree with our authorities or even like them, but we are to respect their governance. They are where they are because God allows them to be there. It may be a test, or it may be a judgment. But they are to be submitted to nonetheless. That we do this is a test of our willingness to subject ourselves to the work, power, and plans of God. He alone can bring a person down or raise a new one up.
3For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;
4for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
5Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
6For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
7Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Christians may be citizens of heaven, but in the here and now we need to live and function as citizens of this world. We benefit from the protection and provision of government, and thus we should give government its due. We need to pay tax where tax is due and any other customs. Those who should be feared because of their authority should be feared, and those who need to be honored as authorities should be honored. They are not to be worshipped or followed if it will force us to sin against God. But, otherwise, we should rightly submit. Since rulers are ultimately servants of God in that they are doing the sovereign will of God whether they know it or not and whether they like it or not, we should give them their due as unto the Lord. Generally speaking, government does not seek to destroy those who do good and are good citizens. Government is more concerned with dealing with lawbreakers and criminals. Though, obviously there are exceptions to this generality, especially is a government is biased against Christianity. There are certainly ungodly forms of government and ungodly ways to lead. These will not necessarily keep a good Christian from being harmed.
We would be worse off if we professed Christ and committed crimes against society. Government will deal with the unruly and evil. They are thus in this place for the purpose of punishing those who do evil. Sometimes in history God will raise up a nation to pour out His wrath on other nations (i.e. Israel on the Canaanites- Genesis 15:16). We should thank God for good governments who defend human rights and provide freedom to worship God. Thus, since God uses governments to punish evil, we should submit to them as they can be an agent of His bidding. Furthermore, being subject to government is a matter of conscience in terms of keeping a good testimony before men. If Christians don’t pay their taxes or take part in their government, they set a poor example as it demonstrates selfishness, self-righteousness, irresponsibility, and a lack of care for the welfare of others in the locale, state, and nation.
8Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
9For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Part of being a good citizen is to do what we can to stay out of debt or other legal infringements. We don’t want to have to pay society a debt in prison. Neither do we want to be enslaved to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). Thus, the ultimate law we should live by is the law of love. This is the only thing we should owe anyone, and we owe it because we are stewards of the kingdom of God. Thus, we have a duty before God to live as citizens of heaven while we are yet on earth. Our love for others is the culmination of the intention of the Law. Paul quotes several commandments relevant to proper functioning of a society. Murder, stealing, coveting, and adultery all lead to hurt, frustration, division, and destruction. They are not motivated by love but by envy, jealousy, and hate. Thus, what Christians should bring to society is a fulfillment of the law to love our neighbors as ourselves. Actually, Christ even called us to go a step further by loving as He loved (John 13:34-35), which was to give up Himself for others. This is the greatest form of love that we lay down our lives for others (John 15:13). Out of love for God, for conscience sake, and for the sake of subjecting ourselves to God-ordained authorities, we need to love our neighbors. Only a believer can truly love because love is of God. We must be born of God in order to love (1 John 4:7-8). Thus, we fulfill the law of Christ when we love, and we show that we have fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Mosaic Law in and through Christ Who now enables us to love.
11Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.
12The night is almost gone, and the day is near Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
13Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.
14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
We have but a brief time on this earth. Thus, to sleep during our time of stewardship is to give into our flesh and behave improperly, ruining our testimony and losing our rewards. We are not to be like those who commit sexual immorality, who lust, who get drunk, who speak profanely, and who are constantly at odds with one another, envying one another. We have God Who gives us what we need so that we don’t have to be constantly in strife and jealousy (James 4:2-3).
Our day of salvation from this earthly body draws ever nearer. One day our salvation will be declared to all as we enter into Christ’s kingdom as His sons or daughters (1 Peter 1:5). We are to put on Christ and the armor of light. As Paul instructed the church in Ephesians 6, the way to spiritual victory is by remembering who we are in Christ and trusting Christ for the victory over Satan. If we lose faith and lower our shield, if we doubt our salvation and remove our helmet, if we get deceived and remove our belt of truth, if we become lazy and cease preparing our feet with the gospel of peace, if we let sin reside in our heart by removing our breastplate of righteousness, or if we don’t know the Word and are unable to use the sword of the Spirit, we are making provision for the flesh. God doesn’t tempt us; Satan does (James 1:13). Satan appeals to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). If he can get us to bite on any of these baits, then he will have us. As James 1:14 says, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” Thus, Paul’s message is to be pursuing God, actively serving Him, and not putting ourselves in danger areas where compromise is possible and temptation is enabled. Our time is short, so we must lay aside the deeds of darkness, live as if we are in the light, and press on toward the prize (Philippians 3:14), running to win (1 Corinthians 9:24).