Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1, 2. Let every soul--every man of you
be subject unto the higher powers--or, "submit himself to the
authorities that are above him."
For there is no power--"no authority"
but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God--"have been ordained
2. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power--"So that he that setteth
himself against the authority."
resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to
themselves damnation--or, "condemnation," according to the old sense
of that word; that is, not from the magistrate, but from God, whose
authority in the magistrate's is resisted.
3, 4. For rulers are not a terror to good works--"to the good work,"
as the true reading appears to be
but to the evil.
4. he beareth not the sword in vain--that is, the symbol of the
magistrate's authority to punish.
5. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath--for fear
of the magistrate's vengeance.
but also for conscience' sake--from reverence for God's authority.
It is of Magistracy in general, considered as a divine ordinance,
that this is spoken: and the statement applies equally to all forms of
government, from an unchecked despotism--such as flourished when this
was written, under the Emperor Nero--to a pure democracy. The
inalienable right of all subjects to endeavor to alter or improve the
form of government under which they live is left untouched here. But
since Christians were constantly charged with turning the world upside
down, and since there certainly were elements enough in Christianity of
moral and social revolution to give plausibility to the charge, and
tempt noble spirits, crushed under misgovernment, to take redress into
their own hands, it was of special importance that the pacific,
submissive, loyal spirit of those Christians who resided at the great
seat of political power, should furnish a visible refutation of this
6, 7. For, for this cause pay ye--rather, "ye pay"
tribute also--that is, "This is the reason why ye pay the contributions
requisite for maintaining the civil government."
for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very
thing--"to this very thing."
7. Render therefore to all their dues--From magistrates the apostle now
comes to other officials, and from them to men related to us by whatever
fear--reverence for superiors.
honour--the respect due to persons of distinction.
8. Owe no man anything, but to love one another--"Acquit yourselves
of all obligations except love, which is a debt that must remain ever
for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law--for the law
itself is but love in manifold action, regarded as matter of duty.
9. For this, &c.--better thus: "For the [commandments], Thou shalt
not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou
shalt not covet, and whatever other commandment [there may be], it is
summed up," &c. (The clause, "Thou shalt not bear false witness," is
wanting in all the most ancient manuscripts). The apostle refers here
only to the second table of the law, as love to our neighbor is what he
is treating of.
10. Love worketh no ill to his--or, "one's"
neighbour; therefore, &c.--As love, from its very nature, studies
and delights to please its objects, its very existence is an effectual
security against our wilfully injuring him. Next follow some general
motives to the faithful discharge of all these duties.
11. And that--rather, "And this [do]"
knowing the time, that now it is high time--literally, "the hour has
to awake out of sleep--of stupid, fatal indifference to eternal things.
for now is our salvation--rather, "the salvation," or simply
nearer than when we--first
believed--This is in the line of all our Lord's teaching, which
represents the decisive day of Christ's second appearing as at hand, to
keep believers ever in the attitude of wakeful expectancy, but without
reference to the chronological nearness or distance of that event.
12. The night--of evil
is far spent, the day--of consummated triumph over it
is at hand: let us therefore cast off--as a dress
the works of darkness--all works holding of the kingdom and period of
darkness, with which, as followers of the risen Saviour, our connection
has been dissolved.
and let us put on the armour of light--described at length in
13. Let us walk honestly--"becomingly," "seemingly"
as in the day--"Men choose the night for their revels, but our night
is past, for we are all the children of the light and of the day
let us therefore only do what is fit to be exposed to the light of such
not in rioting and drunkenness--varied forms of intemperance; denoting
revels in general, usually ending in intoxication.
not in chambering and wantonness--varied forms of impurity; the one
pointing to definite acts, the other more general.
not in strife and envying--varied forms of that venomous feeling
between man and man which reverses the law of love.
14. But--to sum up all in one word.
put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ--in such wise that Christ only may
be seen in you (see
and make no provision--"take no forethought."
for the flesh, to fulfil the lust thereof--"Direct none of your
attention to the cravings of your corrupt nature, how you may provide
for their gratification."
Note, (1) How gloriously adapted is Christianity for human
society in all conditions! As it makes war directly against no specific
forms of government, so it directly recommends none. While its holy and
benign principles secure the ultimate abolition of all iniquitous
government, the reverence which it teaches for magistracy, under
whatever form, as a divine institution, secures the loyalty and
peaceableness of its disciples, amid all the turbulence and distractions
of civil society, and makes it the highest interest of all states to
welcome it within their pale, as in this as well as every other
sense--"the salt of the earth, the light of the world"
(2) Christianity is the grand specific for the purification and
elevation of all the social relations; inspiring a readiness to
discharge all obligations, and most of all, implanting in its disciples
that love which secures all men against injury from them, inasmuch as
it is the fulfilling of the law
(3) The rapid march of the kingdom of God, the advanced stage of it at
which we have arrived, and the ever-nearing approach of the perfect
day--nearer to every believer the longer he lives--should quicken all
the children of light to redeem the time, and, seeing that they look
for such things, to be diligent, that they may be found of Him in
peace, without spot and blameless
(4) In virtue of "the expulsive power of a new and more powerful
affection," the great secret of persevering holiness in all manner of
conversation will be found to be "Christ IN US,
the hope of glory"
and Christ ON US, as the character in which alone
we shall be able to shine before men