Romans 13:7
Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
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(7) Tribute.—Rather, taxesi.e., taxes upon person or property as opposed to the customs levied upon goods. These were collected by different officers.

Fear . . . honour.—There would be one class of officers who could claim respect for their official position, though they had no special means of enforcing it. Another class would have the power of inflicting punishment. This last would necessarily be feared, looked upon with a certain awe and reverence, as well as honoured.

Romans 13:7. Render, therefore, to all — Magistrates, whether supreme or subordinate; their dues — What by law, or by the appointment of God, belongs to them, even though you may have opportunities of defrauding them of it, to your own immediate and temporal advantage. In this precept the apostle follows the Lord Jesus, who ordered the Jews to render to Cesar the things which were Cesar’s, though Cesar was neither of the Jewish nation, nor of their religion. Tribute — Taxes on your persons or estates; custom — For goods exported or imported. “By using the general expression, to whom tribute is due, the apostle leaves it to the laws and constitution of every state, and to the people in these states, to determine who are their lawful magistrates, and what the tributes and customs are which are due to their governors; but by no means allows individuals to determine these points, because that would open the door to rebellion.” — Macknight. Fear — Obedience; honour — Reverence: all these are due to the higher powers.

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.Render therefore ... - This injunction is often repeated in the Bible; see the notes at Matthew 22:21; see also Matthew 17:25-27; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Proverbs 24:21. It is one of the most lovely and obvious of the duties of religion. Christianity is not designed to break in upon the proper order of society, but rather to establish and confirm that order. It does not rudely assail existing institutions: but it comes to put them on a proper footing, to diffuse a mild and pure influence over all, and to secure "such" an influence in all the relations of life as shall tend best to promote the happiness of man and the welfare of the community.

Is due - To whom it properly belongs by the law of the land, and according to the ordinance of God. It is represented here as a matter of "debt," as something which is "due" to the ruler; a fair "compensation" to him for the service which he renders us by devoting his time and talents to advance "our" interests, and the welfare of the community. As taxes are a "debt," a matter of strict and just obligation, they should be paid as conscientiously and as cheerfully as any other just debts, however contracted.

Custom - τέλος telos. The word rendered "tribute" means, as has been remarked, the tax which is paid by a tributary prince or dependent people; also the tax imposed on land or real estate. The word here translated "custom" means properly the revenue which is collected on "merchandise," either imported or exported.

Fear - See Romans 13:4. We should stand in awe of those who wear the sword, and who are appointed to execute the laws of the land. Since the execution of their office is suited to excite "fear," we should render to them that reverence which is appropriate to the execution of their function. It means a solicitous anxiety lest we do anything to offend them.

Honour - The difference between this and "fear" is, that this rather denotes "reverence, veneration, respect" for their names, offices, rank, etc. The former is the "fear" which arises from the dread of punishment. Religion gives to people all their just titles, recognizes their rank and function, and seeks to promote due subordination in a community. It was no part of the work of our Saviour, or of his apostles, to quarrel with the mere "titles" of people, or to withhold from them the customary tribute of respect and homage; compare Acts 24:3; Acts 26:25; Luke 1:3; 1 Peter 2:17. In this verse there is summed up the duty which is owed to magistrates. It consists in rendering to them proper honor contributing cheerfully and conscientiously to the necessary expenses of the government; and in yielding obedience to the laws. These are made a part of the duty which we owe to God, and should be considered as enjoined by our religion.

On the subject discussed in these seven verses, the following "principles" seem to be settled by the authority of the Bible, and are now understood,

(1) That government is essential; and its necessity is recognised by God, and it is arranged by his providence. God has never been the patron of anarchy and disorder.

(2) Civil rulers are dependent on God. He has the entire control over them, and can set them up or put them down when he pleases.

(3) the authority of God is superior to that of civil rulers. They have no right to make enactments which interfere with "his" authority.

(4) it is not the business of civil rulers to regulate or control religion. That is a distinct department, with which they have no concern, except to protect it.

(5) the rights of all people are to be preserved. People are to be allowed to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, and to be protected in those rights, provided they do not violate the peace and order of the community.

(6) Civil rulers have no right to persecute Christians, or to attempt to secure conformity to their views by force. The conscience cannot be compelled; and in the affairs of religion man must be free.

In view of this subject we may remark,

(1) That the doctrines respecting the rights of civil rulers, and the line which is to be drawn between their powers and the rights of conscience, have been slow to be understood. The struggle has been long; and a thousand persecutions have shown the anxiety of the magistrate to rule the conscience, and to control religion. In pagan countries it has been conceded that the civil ruler had a right to control the "religion" of the people: church and state there have been one. The same thing was attempted under Christianity. The magistrate still claimed this right, and attempted to enforce it. Christianity resisted the claim, and asserted the independent and original rights of conscience. A conflict ensued, of course, and the magistrate resorted to persecutions, to "subdue" by force the claims of the new religion and the rights of conscience. Hence, the ten fiery and bloody persecutions of the primitive church. The blood of the early Christians flowed like water; thousands and tens of thousands went to the stake, until Christianity triumphed, and the right of religion to a free exercise was acknowledged throughout the empire.


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 tie.

tribute—land tax.

custom—mercantile tax.

fear—reverence for superiors.

honour—the respect due to persons of distinction.

This verse concludes his discourse about the civil powers. When he saith:

Render to all their dues, he doth not mean all men, but all magistrates, whatever they be for quality, either good or bad; or whatever they be for degree, either supreme or subordinate. Render to them their dues; i.e. whatever of right belongs to them: see Matthew 22:21. There are two things that more especially belong to rulers, and are due from those that are under them: the one is maintenance; the other is reverence. The first is expressed here by tribute and custom; if these two differ, then the former is a tax laid upon the substance, the latter upon the person. The second, by fear and honour; fear notes inward, and honour outward, reverence and respect.

Fear is the magistrate’s due by reason of his authority;

honour, by reason of his dignity.

Render therefore to all their dues,.... To all princes, magistrates, and officers, that are placed over us, from the supreme governor to the lowest officer under him, should we render as a due debt, and not as a mere gift, whatever belongs to them, or is proper for them for the due discharge of their office, to encourage in it, and support the dignity of it, whether external or internal:

tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom. These two words include all sorts of levies, taxes, subsidies, &c. and the former may particularly design what is laid on men's persons and estates, as poll money, land tax, &c. and the latter, what arises from the exportation and importation of goods, to and from foreign parts:

fear to whom fear; not of punishment; for a good subject has no reason to fear the civil magistrate in this sense, only the man that does evil, the malefactor; as for the good neighbour, citizen, and subject, he loves the magistrate the more, the more diligent he is in putting the laws in execution against wicked men; but this is to be understood of a fear of offending, and especially of a reverence bore in the mind, and expressed by outward actions, and such as has going with it a cheerful obedience to all lawful commands:

honour to whom honour; there is an honour due to all men, according to their respective rank and station, and the relation they stand in to each other; so servants are to honour their masters, children their parents, wives their husbands, and subjects their princes; all inferior magistrates are to be honoured in their place, and more especially the king as supreme, in thought, word, and gesture; see 1 Peter 2:17.

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom {e} fear; honour to whom {f} honour.

(e) Obedience, and that from the heart.

(f) Reverence, which (as we have reason) we must give to the magistrate.

Romans 13:7. Hortatory application of the actual state of the case contained in Romans 13:5-6 : perform therefore your duties to all (comp. on 1 Corinthians 7:3), etc.—a brief summary (ἀπόδοτεὀφειλ.) and distributive indication of that which is to be rendered to all magisterial persons generally (πᾶσι), and to individuals in particular (tax officers, customs officers, judicial and other functionaries), both really (φόρος, τέλος) and personally (φόβος, τιμή).

πᾶσι] to be referred to magistrates, not to all men generally (Estius, Klee, Reiche, Glöckler, comp. also Ewald); this is manifestly, from the whole connection—and especially from the following specification, as also from the fact that the language only becomes general at Romans 13:8—the only reference in conformity with the text.

τῷ τὸν φόρον] sc. ἀπαιτοῦντι, which flows logically from ἀπόδοτε πᾶσι τ. ὀφ. (Winer, p. 548 [E. T. 737]; Buttmann, p. 338), and is also suitable to τ. φόβον and τ. τιμήν; for, in fact, the discourse is concerning magistrates, who—and that not merely as respects the notions of that time—do certainly, in accordance with their respective positions of power and performances of service, demand fear and honour.

φόρος and τέλος are distinguished as taxes (on persons and property) and customs (on goods). See on Luke 20:22.

φόβος, τιμή, fear (not merely reverence), veneration. The higher and more powerful the magisterial personages, the more they laid claim, as a rule, to be feared; otherwise and lower in the scale, at least to be honoured with the respect attaching to their office.

Romans 13:7. At this point Weiss begins a new paragraph, but W. and H. make Romans 13:7 the conclusion of the first part of this chapter. In view of the close connection between Romans 13:7-8 (cf. ὀφειλάς, ὀφείλετε) it is better not to make too decided a break at either place. All the words in Romans 13:7, φόρος, τέλος, φόβος, τιμὴ, do indeed imply duties to superiors, and seem therefore to continue and to sum up the content of Romans 13:1-6; but Romans 13:8, in which μηδενὶ μηδὲν ὀφείλετε seems expressly written as the negative counterpart to ἀπόδοτε πᾶσι τὰς ὀφειλάς in Romans 13:7, introduces at the same time a wider subject—that of the duties of all individuals toward each other. τῷ τὸν φόρον τὸν φόρον: this is quite intelligible, but nothing can make it grammatical: see Winer, p. 737. For the distinction of φόρος and τέλος see Trench, Syn[35], p. 392. For φόβος and τιμή 1 Peter 2:17.

[35] synonym, synonymous.

7. This and other considerations combine to assure us that the principles of the Gospel, so far from favouring tyranny, tend ultimately to make it impossible. A perfectly Christian nation under tyrannic authority is an inconceivable thing.

7. to all] To all persons in authority over you. The precept is, of course, of universal application, but plainly bears this special reference here: see the next words.

tribute—custom—fear—honour] Lit. the tribute, the custom, &c.; i.e. the tribute, &c. which is in question in each case.—“Tribute”—tax on person and property. “Custom:”—toll on merchandize. “Fear:”—such as is due to an authorized avenger of wrong. “Honour:”—such as is due to authorized power in general.

Romans 13:7. Ὀφειλὰς), debts.—τῷ, an abbreviated mode of expression,[137] as in 2 Corinthians 8:15, note.—ΦὉΡΟΝ, ΤΈΛΟς) with respect to the thing itself; ΦΌΡΟς is the genus, ΤΈΛΟς the species.—ΦΌΒΟΝ, ΤΙΜῊΝ, fear, honour) with the mind, and words and gestures. φόβος, respect, a higher degree of honour.

[137] See Appendix. Concisa Locutio.

Verse 7. - Render to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Whatever, either by law or by the constituted order of society, may be due to any, in the way of deference and honour, as well as payments, Christians, as members of society, are bound to render. Romans 13:7To all

Probably all magistrates, though some explain all men.

Tribute - custom (φόρον - τέλος)

Tribute on persons: custom on goods.

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