Romans 13:3
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will you then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same:
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerNewellParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTeedTTBVWSWESTSK
(3) To good works.—Literally, to the good work, as if it were personified. Human law can only take account of that which is actually done, not of the intention.

In this and the following verse it is clearly the ideal aspect of the magistracy that the Apostle has in view. So Bishop Butler, in the paragraph next to that just quoted, continues: “If it be objected that good actions, and such as are beneficial to society, are often punished, as in the case of persecution and in other cases, and that ill and mischievous actions are often rewarded, it may be answered distinctly: first, that this is in no sort necessary, and consequently not natural, in the sense in which it is necessary and therefore natural, that ill or mischievous actions should be punished; and in the next place, that good actions are never punished considered as beneficial to society, nor ill actions rewarded under the view of their being hurtful to it. So that it stands good . . . that the Author of Nature has as truly directed that vicious actions, considered as mischievous to society, should be punished, and put mankind under a necessity of punishing them, as He has directed and necessitated us to preserve our lives by food.” Occasional failures of justice on the part of the executive do not make the strict administration of justice any the less its proper duty and office.

Romans 13:3-5. For rulers — In general, notwithstanding some particular exceptions; are not a terror to good works — Were not ordained, and do not use to punish those that do well, and conform to good laws; but to the evil — From which they deter people by punishing those who do them. Wilt thou — Wouldest thou then; not be afraid of the power — Of the high authority with which they are invested? Do that which is good — Carefully perform the good actions which they enjoin, and, according to the general course of administration, thou shalt have — Not only protection, but praise and respect from it. There is one fear that precedes evil actions, and deters from them: this should always remain. There is another which follows evil actions: they who do well are free from this. For he is — According to the original appointment, to be considered as elevated above his fellow-men, not for his own indulgence, dominion, and advantage, but that he might be to thee, and to all the rest of his subjects, as the minister of God for good — By maintaining all in their just possessions, and protecting them from all injury and violence. But if thou do that which is evil — And so makest thyself the enemy of that society of which he is the guardian; be afraid — Thou hast reason to be so. For he beareth not the sword in vain — Namely, the sword of justice, the instrument of capital punishment, which God hath put into his hands, and hath authorized him to use against malefactors. A revenger to execute wrath — Not his own personal resentment, but the wrath of a righteous Providence; upon him that doeth evil — In instances wherein it would be highly improper to leave that avenging power in the hands of private injured persons. Therefore a sense of duty to God, as well as prudence and human virtue, will teach you, that you must needs be subject, not only for fear of wrath — That is, punishment from man; but for conscience’ sake — Out of obedience to God. It must be well observed, that “the apostle did not mean that they were to be subject to the sinful laws of the countries where they lived, otherwise he made it necessary for the Roman brethren to join in the worship of idols, contrary to the superior obligation they were under of obeying God rather than man. Besides, by telling them they were to be subject on account of conscience, he intimated that the subjection which he enjoined did not extend to things sinful.”13:1-7 The grace of the gospel teaches us submission and quiet, where pride and the carnal mind only see causes for murmuring and discontent. Whatever the persons in authority over us themselves may be, yet the just power they have, must be submitted to and obeyed. In the general course of human affairs, rulers are not a terror to honest, quiet, and good subjects, but to evil-doers. Such is the power of sin and corruption, that many will be kept back from crimes only by the fear of punishment. Thou hast the benefit of the government, therefore do what thou canst to preserve it, and nothing to disturb it. This directs private persons to behave quietly and peaceably where God has set them, 1Ti 2:1,2. Christians must not use any trick or fraud. All smuggling, dealing in contraband goods, withholding or evading duties, is rebellion against the express command of God. Thus honest neighbours are robbed, who will have to pay the more; and the crimes of smugglers, and others who join with them, are abetted. It is painful that some professors of the gospel should countenance such dishonest practices. The lesson here taught it becomes all Christians to learn and practise, that the godly in the land will always be found the quiet and the peaceable in the land, whatever others are.For rulers - The apostle here speaks of rulers "in general." It may not be "universally" true that they are not a terror to good works, for many of them have "persecuted" the good; but it is generally true that they who are virtuous have nothing to fear from the laws. It is "universally" true that the design of their appointment by God was, not to injure and oppress the good, but to detect and punish the evil. Magistrates, "as such," are not a terror to good works.

Are not a terror ... - Are not appointed to "punish the good." Their appointment is not to inspire terror in those who are virtuous and peaceable citizens; compare 1 Timothy 1:9.

But to the evil - Appointed to detect and punish evildoers; and therefore an object of terror to them. The design of the apostle here is evidently to reconcile Christians to submission to the government, from its "utility." It is appointed to protect the good against the evil; to restrain oppression, injustice, and fraud; to bring offenders to justice, and thus promote the peace and harmony of the community. As it is designed to promote order and happiness, it should be submitted to; and so long as "this" object is pursued, and obtained, government should receive the countenance and support of Christians. But if it departs from this principle, and becomes the protector of the evil and the oppressor of the good, the case is reversed, and the obligation to its support must cease.

Wilt thou not ... - If you do evil by resisting the laws, and in any other manner, will you not fear the power of the government? Fear is "one" of the means by which men are restrained from crime in a community. On many minds it operates with much more power than any other motive. And it is one which a magistrate must make use of to restrain men from evil.

Do that which is good - Be a virtuous and peaceable citizen; abstain from crime, and yield obedience to all the just laws of the land,

And thou shalt have praise of the same - Compare 1 Peter 2:14-15. You shall be unmolested and uninjured, and shall receive the commendation of being peaceable and upright citizens. The prospect of that protection, and even of that reputation, is not an unworthy motive to yield obedience to the laws. Every Christian should desire the reputation of being a man seeking the welfare of his country, and the just execution of the laws.

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.

This verse contains a further argument for subjection to the higher powers, and it is taken from the benefit thereof, or from the end of magistracy, which is for the punishment of evil, and the encouragement of good works: see 1 Peter 2:14. When he says, that

rulers are not a terror to good works, he means, they are not so ordinarily; or they were not ordained for that end, but the contrary. Or else, by are not understand they ought not, so to be.

Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good,

and thou shalt have praise of the same: q.d. Wouldst thou be free from fear of being punished by the magistrate? Do that which is good, and thou shalt not only be free from fear, but sure of praise and reward: see Proverbs 14:35 16:13.

By good he means, not that which is so theologically. but morally: q. d. Live honestly, hurt no man in word or deed, give to every man his due, &c. This is good in the sight of all men, of heathens themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works,.... That is, to them that do good works in a civil sense; who behave well in the neighbourhoods, towns, cities, and countries where they dwell. The apostle seems to anticipate an objection made against governors, as if there was something very terrible and formidable in them; and which might be taken up from the last clause of the preceding verse; and which he removes by observing, that governors neither do, nor ought to inject terror into men that behave well, obey the laws, and keep a good decorum among their fellow subjects, not doing any injury to any man's person, property, and estate. The Jews (a) have a saying,

"that a governor that injects more fear into the people, than is for the honour of God, shall be punished, and shall not see his son a disciple of a wise man.''

But to the evil; to wicked men, who make no conscience of doing hurt to their fellow creatures, by abusing their persons, defrauding them of their substance, and by various illicit methods doing damage to them; to such, rulers are, and ought to be terrors; such are to be menaced, and threatened with inflicting upon them the penalty of the laws they break; and which ought to be inflicted on them by way of punishment to them, and for the terror of others. R. Chanina, the Sagan of the priests (b), used to say,

"pray for the peace of the kingdom, for if there was no "fear", (i.e. a magistrate to inject fear,) one man would devour another alive.''

Wilt thou not then be afraid of the power? of the civil magistrate, in power and authority, to oppose him, to refuse subjection to him, to break the laws, which, according to his office, he is to put in execution.

Do that which is good: in a civil sense, between man and man, by complying with the laws of the land, which are not contrary to the laws of God; for of doing good in a spiritual and religious sense he is no judge:

and thou shalt have praise of the same; shall be commended as a good neighbour, a good citizen, and a good commonwealth's man; an honest, quiet, peaceable man, that does not disturb the peace of civil society, but strengthens and increases it.

(a) T. Bab. Roshhashana, fol. 17. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Sanhedrin, c. 25. sect. 1.((b) Pirke Abot, c. 3. sect. 2.

{4} For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. {5} Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

(4) The third argument, taken from the reason for which they were made, which is that they are to be most profitable: because God by this means preserves the good and bridles the wicked: by which words the magistrates themselves are put in mind of that duty which they owe to their subjects.

(5) An excellent way to bear this yoke, not only without grief, but also with great profit.

Romans 13:3. Οἱ γὰρκακῷ] Ground assigned for ἑαυτοῖς κρῖμα λήψονται.

τῷ ἀγαθῷ ἔργῳ] The good work and the evil work are personified. We are not here to compare Romans 2:7 or Romans 2:15 (Reiche, de Wette).

φόβος] a terror, i.e. formidandi. For examples of the same use, see Kypke, II. p. 183. Comp. Lobeck, Paralip. p. 513; just so the Latin timor, e.g. Propert. iii. 5. 40.

δέ] the simple μεταβατικόν. The proposition itself may be either interrogatory (Beza, Calvin, and others, including Lachmann, Tischendorf, Ewald, Hofmann), or as protasis in categorical form (see on 1 Corinthians 7:8, and Pflugk, ad Eur. Med. 386). So Luther and others, including Tholuck and Philippi. The former is more lively, the latter more appropriate and emphatic, and thus more in keeping with the whole character of the adjoining context.

ἔπαινον] praise, testimony of approbation (which the magistrate is wont to bestow; see also Philo, Vit. M. i. p. 626 C); not any more than in Romans 2:29, 1 Corinthians 4:5, reward (Calvin, Loesner, and others). Grotius rightly remarks: “Cum haec scriberet Paulus, non saeviebatur Romae in Christianos.” It was still the better time of Nero’s rule. But the proposition has a general validity, which is based on the divinely-ordained position of the magistracy, and is not annulled by their injustices in practice, which Paul had himself so copiously experienced. Comp. 1 Peter 2:14.Romans 13:3. οἱ γὰρ ἄρχοντες κ.τ.λ. The γὰρ can only be connected in a forced and artificial way with the clause which immediately precedes: it really introduces the reason for a frank and unreserved acceptance of that view of “authorities” which the Apostle is laying down. It is as if he said: Recognise the Divine right of the State, for its representatives are not a terror—an object of dread—to the good work, but to the bad. φόβος as in Isaiah 8:13. It is implied that those to whom he speaks will always be identified with the good work, and so have the authorities on their side: it is taken for granted also that the State will not act in violation of its own idea, and identify itself with the bad. θέλεις δὲ μὴ φοβεῖσθαι κ.τ.λ. This is most expressive when read as an interrogation, though some prefer to take it as an assertion: that is, to regard Paul as assuming that the reader does not want to be afraid of the magistrate, rather than as inquiring whether he does or not. To escape fear, τὸ ἀγαθὸν ποίει: do what is (legally and morally) good.3. The passage distinctly forbids revolutionary action in a Christian. Action within the limits of the existing constitution he may employ; for the constitution is, in fact, the “power that is,” be it good or bad. But he must not plot for its demolition, nor indeed act for its demolition in any way of “violence;” be it violence of deed or word, violence direct or indirect.

3. For rulers, &c.] St Paul enforces the certainty of “judgment” in this case by pointing out its manifest justice. “Rulers” (lit. the rulers, rulers as a class,) are, as a fact, an agency on the side of right and order; it is justly, then, a sin in the sight of God to resist their authority.—No doubt the statement here is never fully realized save where the rulers are personally just and the constitution equitable; (and by no means always, in detail, even then). But the statement is not to be limited to such cases. Civil authority, even in its most distorted forms, never systematically favours wrong as wrong and punishes right as right. Even when a Nero or a Decius persecuted the Church of Christ, the theory of persecution (apart from personal rancour) was the preservation of order; and meantime, in the innumerable details of the common life of the Roman world, the authority of a Nero or a Decius was a necessity and a providential blessing.

Wilt thou then not be afraid] With the fear of an enemy; the feeling of a weaker towards a stronger opponent.—“Then” is lit. but; and so better, perhaps: But wilt thou not, &c. Q. d., “But if, as a fact, they are a terror to thee, and thou willest to shake off that terror—the remedy is simple; be a good citizen and subject.”

praise] That at least of protection and security; the “good” referred to in the next clause.Romans 13:3. [135] Ὄυκἀγαθῶν) not—of good works. This is immediately discussed, Wilt thou—as to good.—κακῶν, of evil) This is treated of at Romans 13:4, if [thou do that which is evil]—upon him that doeth [evil]. They especially do evil who are also rebellious. For at the beginning of the verse thus retains its own proper force.—θέλεις, wilt thou) All in some degree will, but they do not in an equal degree so act.—μὴ φοβεῖσθαι, not be afraid) One kind of fear precedes bad actions, and deters men from committing them; this fear continues, Romans 13:7 : another kind follows bad actions, and from this fear, they are free, who do well.—ἔπαινον, praise) 1 Peter 2:14, along with a reward; comp. 1 Corinthians 4:5.

[135] The margin of the 2d Ed. prefers the reading, τῶ ἀγαθῷ ἔργῳ, ἀλλὰ τῷ κακῷ. So also the German version.—E. B. So the oldest authorities ABD corr. later, G, Vulg. fg Iren. Memph. But both Syr. Versions have τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἔργωνκακῶν.—ED.
Romans 13:3 Interlinear
Romans 13:3 Parallel Texts

Romans 13:3 NIV
Romans 13:3 NLT
Romans 13:3 ESV
Romans 13:3 NASB
Romans 13:3 KJV

Romans 13:3 Bible Apps
Romans 13:3 Parallel
Romans 13:3 Biblia Paralela
Romans 13:3 Chinese Bible
Romans 13:3 French Bible
Romans 13:3 German Bible

Bible Hub

Romans 13:2
Top of Page
Top of Page