An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 11 April 2011; Revised 19 April 2015
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of Romans is taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Unless otherwise indicated other Scripture quotations are also taken from the NASB. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of this chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Links to other ancient Jewish literature may be found at EarlyJewishWritings.com.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). The meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB," found online at BibleHub.com. Explanation of Greek grammatical forms and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance reference numbers are identified with "SH" for Hebrew and "SG" for Greek.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
Deontology: God's Ethical Expectations, 12:1–13:14 (cont.)
Relations with the government, 13:1-7
Relations with the community, 13:8-10
Personal readiness for salvation, 13:11-14
Relations with the government, 13:1-7
1― Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who be are ordained by God.
Let every soul be in subjection: Grk. hupotassō, to be in compliance with requirements of order; to subordinate oneself to higher authority; to be in subjection to. Hupotassō, from tassō, originated as a military term where a rank structure is clearly defined (DNTT 1:476). to the higher: Grk. huperechō, pres. part., be at a point that is superior. The verb refers to exercising control or ruling power commensurate with social rank, especially that of rulers. authorities: Grk. exousia, having the right to speak or act in a situation without looking or waiting for approval. The attachment of the verb "governing" specifies that Paul is speaking of ruling power as exercised by kings and government officials. The Heb. word s’mikhah that stands behind exousia means "leaning" or "laying" on of hands in the ordination ceremony for a judge, elder or rabbi (Stern 64).
The believer's obligation to obey pagan rulers gives him the opportunity to love his enemies, even when he may hate or disapprove of their deeds (Shulam). Paul's instruction is a specific application of his guidance in 12:20 where he quotes Proverbs 25:21-22. The evils of ungodly government exist in modern times (yes, even in America), just as in ancient times, but Paul's instruction is still applicable.
For there is no authority except from God, and those who be: Grk. eimi, pres. part., a multi-function verb that most often connects a subject to a predicate and means to be, to exist (BAG). are ordained: Grk. tassō, per. pass. part., to put in an arranged order. The perfect tense emphasizes the state or condition that began in the past and continues to the present and thus means "stands ordained" (Robertson). by God: Robertson asserts that Paul is not arguing for the divine right of kings or for any special form of government, but for government and order. However, from the beginning of divine institution of government (Gen 9:5), God has intended government as an important part of his curse containment system and only a strong government can restrain the sinful proclivities of mankind. The standard form of government from the most ancient times is the monarchy (Gen 10:10). God himself is the king of Israel as first seen in the figure of Melchizedek, the type of Messiah (Heb 5:10; 6:20) to whom Abraham paid homage (Gen 14:18; Heb 7:1). When God renewed his covenant with Israel in Moab, he directed that in the future they were only to select a king of God's choice (Deut 17:13). With divine approval the human king would then serve as God's regent (Ps 2:6-7).
Paul speaks of authority in a general sense, alluding to the fact that society has layers of authority, all of which are established by God. Yeshua exercises authority over the people of God (Eph 1:22; Col 2:10). Rulers have authority over citizens (1Tim 2:2; Titus 3:1). Employers have authority over their employees (Eph 6:5; Col 3:22; Titus 2:9). Pastors have authority over their congregations (Eph 4:11-12; 1Tim 5:17; Heb 13:17). Husbands have authority over their wives (1Cor 11:3; Eph 5:22-23; Col 3:18; 1Tim 2:11; Titus 2:5). In the area of sexual intimacy husbands and wives share authority over each other (1Cor 7:4). Parents have authority over their children (Eph 6:1; Col 3:20; 1Tim 3:4). In all these areas authority should be exercised within the ethical guidelines established in Scripture.
In regard to the governing authorities Paul may well be alluding to an early form of the rabbinic dictum, "The law of the government [or country] is Law." This saying is attributed to Rav Shmuel (AD 80-120, Nedarim 28a). The saying is also found in Gittin 10b and Baba Bathra 54b. Of course, this compliance only applied to civil cases. The Jews never allowed the government to interpret and apply religious laws for them.
Man's government, whatever form, has never fulfilled God's will, but with the advent of the Kingdom of God in the person of Yeshua (Matt 4:17; John 18:36) each disciple lives under his kingship. While generally unacknowledged Yeshua is the king of the Jews (Matt 2:2; Luke 1:33; John 19:19) and his kingdom is present wherever he rules in men's hearts (Matt 6:33; Luke 17:21; Col 3:15). It is with that understanding that Paul makes his appeal to submit to God-ordained authority.
2― Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God; and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment.
Therefore he who resists: Grk. antitassō, pres. part., set opposite to, range in battle against. The verb is derived from a military image. the authority withstands: Grk. anthistēmi, perf. ind., take a position in opposition to. The presence of the definite article, "the authority," points to one exercising God-ordained authority. The omission of the article in other versions imply that Paul is speaking in rhetorical fashion of a principle. However, he is addressing a serious reality. the ordinance: Grk. diatagē, an orderly quantity or arrangement; an authoritative declaration that effects the orderly objective. Here it means a directive or ordinance. In Acts 7:53 it is used of ordinances transmitted through angels. Paul may have had the specific ordinance cited in 12:19 in mind (Shulam). of God: Paul translates the rabbinic dictum mentioned above as reflecting the will of God. Paul's use of military imagery suggests that violent efforts to resist an evil government impede and oppose God's own plans for judgment.
Robertson makes the contradictory assertion that Paul does not oppose revolution for a change of government, but he does oppose all lawlessness and disorder. It is ironic that many Christians who insist on the recognition of the levels of authority mentioned above also lionize colonial patriots who overthrew a legitimate government by force of arms. Our country's founders managed to twist the Bible to make it say what they wanted it to say, which has characterized the history of Christianity. (The irony is that the patriots fought because of taxation without representation, but one might ask whether we're better off now that we have taxation with representation.)
and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment: Since authority is granted by God, those exercising authority are accountable to God for their stewardship responsibility. To reject or rebel against the order of authority in the world is to reject God's authority and in so doing risk his wrath. Does this mean that believers should obey edicts of the government that amount to infringements of religious conscience? The answer is no, as Paul certainly knew of Peter's stand who announced to the Sanhedrin, "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Yeshua had commanded his disciples to obey Pharisaical leaders (Matt 23:1-3) and the apostles were law-abiding citizens. The only matter in which they were passively non-compliant was in the matter of witnessing for Yeshua.
Government is to be obeyed as Paul sets forth in this chapter, but when the will of the state and the will of God directly conflict, then disciples must stand for the will of God. History is replete with the stories of both Jews and Christians who paid with their lives when they refused to compromise their loyalty to God. Stern reminds us that Jews were even martyred when they refused conversion to a Christianity which was incapable of communicating either its truth or its Jewishness, with the result that Jews perceived it as idolatry.
Many disciples, unfortunately, think that standing for God's will means forcing pagans to act like good Christians, even to the point of engaging in civil disobedience to protest social evils. Examples of the Hebrew midwives (Exodus 1:15-21), Daniel (Daniel 6:3-14) and Peter (Acts 5:27-32) are held forth as justification. However, these acts of disobedience were directed against requirements on God's people to disobey God's laws. The Bible heroes never engaged in civil disobedience to stop unbelievers in their disobedience of God's laws.
3― For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the same,
For rulers: Grk. archōn, one who has eminence in a ruling capacity, here used of appointees in a government capacity. are not a terror: Grk. phobos, lit. fear, and here may indicate the power of the rulers to intimidate. to the good work: the combination of agathos ["good] and ergon ["work"], used in both the singular and plural and a variety of grammatical forms appears to be unique to Paul's writings (see Rom 2:7; 2Cor 9:8; Gal 6:10; Eph 2:10; Phil 1:6; 1Tim 2:10; 5:10; 2Tim 2:21; 3:17; Titus 1:16; 3:1). Agathos refers to a high standard of excellence and ergon may refer to any task, assignment, deed or action. Ordinarily a "good work" is one that is pleasing to God and benefits others. A good work may be contrasted with works of legalism (3:20, 28).
but to the evil: Grk. kakos, adj., may mean (1) morally or socially reprehensible, something that violates community standards, thus bad, wrong or evil; or (2) causing harm with focus on personal or physical injury, bad, injurious or harmful. In the LXX kakos is used predominately to render Heb. ra, which has the same dual meaning (DNTT 1:562). Kakos here refers to evil as a moral quality. Do you desire: Grk. thelō, pres. ind., to wish, desire or want; lit. "are you wishing?" to have no fear: Grk. phobeō, pres. mid. inf., lit. to be not fearful. of the authority: Grk. exousia. See note on verse 1. The repetition of "the authority," points to one exercising God-ordained authority. See the note on verse 2.
Do that which is good, and you will have praise: Grk. epainos, expression of high approval, praise, commendation. from the same: lit. "from it," meaning the governing authority. This is an incredible statement for Paul to make and one might accuse him of being naïve. Not many years hence he would be martyred by Caesar Nero, and in the second and third centuries, thousands more disciples of Yeshua would be put to death merely for refusing to say "Caesar is lord." However, at the time of this writing Paul was convinced that if the disciples, especially the Jewish disciples, refrained from negative reaction to government antisemitism, but focused on good works they would in turn receive good from the government. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul urged intercessory prayer for pagan rulers, both for their own salvation, but especially so that the disciples might "lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (1Tim 2:2). Allowing disciples to pursue their faith without infringement would be a passive form of commendation.
4― for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn't bear the sword in vain; for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil.
for he is: Grk. eimi, pres. ind., to be. The verb is third person singular and while some versions translate "it is," signifying the government as a collective body. the most natural meaning is "he is." The nearest antecedent that could apply is "the authority" in verse 2. The government is not just a nebulous mass, but individuals with authority. In this case Paul could be indirectly referring to Caesar. a servant: Grk. diakonos generally means a servant or helper in a domestic context and from that used of someone in service to an earthly ruler or to God. Diakonos is a function-oriented term rather than a status-oriented term.
of God to you for good: all levels of authority are to function in the realization of accountability to God. The purpose of having authority is to serve the needs of those over whom the authority is exercised. Such weighty responsibility is especially true of government. Caesar at this time probably did not see himself as a servant of the God of Israel, but it's possible that Paul had in mind Cyrus of Persia (Isa 44:28) and Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 25:9) whom God regarded as his servants. Moreover, the Romans served the purposes of God by destroying the Greek empire and other enemies of Israel and granting autonomy to the Jews to rule themselves. It was the Pax Romana ("peace of Rome") that made it possible for Paul and the other apostles to spread the good news of the Messiah from one end of the empire to the other.
But if you do that which is evil: Paul may appear to be exaggerating, because evil is contrary to true discipleship (6:1-2). However, being persecuted can provide temptation for negative reaction, even to the point of lawbreaking (cf. 1Pet 4:15). be afraid, for he doesn't bear: Grk. phoreō, pres. ind., to bear or carry, to have something closely and constantly associated with one's person (e.g., clothing, Matt 11:8; a crown, John 19:5). As the opening verb "he is," this verb is also third person singular and the most natural meaning is "he doesn't bear."
the sword: Grk. machaira refers to a dagger or the Roman short sword used by ancient Roman infantry for close hand to hand combat (Mounce 143). The sword is the symbol of the executive and criminal jurisdiction of a magistrate (Rienecker). The essential function of government is the safety of its citizens and to punish those who harm others. This ruling responsibility reflects the commandment given to Noah in Genesis 9:5-6. in vain: Grk. eikē, without aim or purpose. The underlying idea is "at random." At this point in history Roman power was virtually invincible. In every part of the empire the "sword" was wielded by its highly efficient army to enforce the ruling power of the provincial governors.
for he is a minister of God, an avenger: Grk. ekdikos, exacting penalty from in reference to standing up for the rights of others. for wrath to him who does evil: Roman justice was not known for mercy. A disciple who breaks the law will get no sympathy from God when the government prosecutes and punishes.
5― Therefore you need to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
Therefore you need: Grk. anagkē, inevitability as an inherent component in human experience, and therefore must happen. be in subjection: Grk. hupotassō. See the note on verse 1. not only because of the wrath: Grk. orgē, strong displeasure with the behavior of another, and may be rendered as anger, indignation or wrath. Orgē is the preferred word in the apostolic writings for the judgment of God at the end of the age, although here the wrath is probably temporal. but also for conscience' sake: Grk. suneidēsis, sensitivity to moral or ethical expectations, whether of God or society. This term should not be confused with the concept of an inward controlling faculty distinguishing in advance what is good or bad, often developed from parental training and custom. The disciple's supreme priority is to please God and do his will as expressed in Scripture.
6― For this reason you also pay taxes, for they are ministers of God's service, attending continually on this very thing.
For this reason: lit. "for though this," an idiomatic expression referring back to "for conscience sake." you also pay: Grk. teleō, to render what is due, to make payment. Taxes: Grk. phoros, tax or tribute, a direct tax by all inhabitants (with some exceptions) of Rome's provinces. for they are ministers: Grk. leitourgos, one engaged in special service, usually in a religious setting. of God's service: lit. "ministers of God." attending continually: Grk. proskaptereō, to attend with continuing resoluteness of an official obligation. on this very thing: lit. "into this thing." It may seem ironic for Paul to use religious terminology to refer to those who collect taxes as serving God, but the concept is consistent with the general principle of government as an agent of God.
The system of taxation in place during the apostolic era was instituted by Caesar Augustus in 1 BC. Each province was required to pay a wealth (or income) tax of about 1% and a flat poll tax of one drachma on each adult. The income and poll taxes relied on a regular census being taken to evaluate the taxable number of people and their income/wealth status. The first census to institute the new system very likely is the one mentioned in the birth narratives of Yeshua. (For more on Roman taxation see my article The Defamation against Zacchaeus.)
Paul essentially echoes Yeshua's own teaching when he was asked about paying taxes to Caesar (Matt 22:21). Jews in the congregation would have been well aware of the Messianic pretender, Judas the Galilean, who instigated a revolt at the time of the enrollment for the Roman tax in AD 6 (see Luke 2:2; Acts 5:37). Josephus quoted Judas as saying that people who paid Roman taxes were cowards (Wars of the Jews, II, 8:1). In consequence of Judas' revolt, the Zealot Party (Matt 10:4) formed itself and became a major provocation leading to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 66–70 (Stern 238).
7― Give therefore to everyone what you owe: taxes to whom taxes are due; customs to whom customs; respect to whom respect; honor to whom honor.
Give: Grk. apodidōmi, aor. imp., engage in reciprocity, frequently used with a commercial component and thus "to pay," "to repay" or "to give." therefore to everyone: lit. "to all men." "Therefore" does not occur in the Greek text. what you owe: pl. of Grk. opheilē, a financial obligation, lit. "the dues." The verb form is a command that requires payment to be made when the obligation is incurred or stipulated by the authority imposing the obligation. Paul then proceeds to identify four duties owed to those with ruling authority. tax to whom tax is due: reference to the income and poll taxes mentioned in the previous verse.
custom to whom custom: The Roman government also created a wide variety of taxes on commerce such as sales taxes, highway tolls, customs at border crossings and assorted government fees. Custom taxes on commerce and travel were just as hated, if not more so, than the income and poll tax. The ancient and widespread curse of arbitrariness made the system oppressive. Besides the indignity of having one's boxes and bundles opened in order to appraise the value of the goods, the tariff rates on travel and commerce were often vague and indefinite, which enabled tax collectors to literally commit "highway robbery." While Roman society enjoyed greater prosperity than ever before under Augustus, the provinces, especially Israel, experienced Roman taxation as a crushing weight. As a result, some violent civil revolts occurred because of the tax burden.
fear to whom fear: to fear those with authority to judge. honor to whom honor: to render appropriate honors to those in positions of authority. Honor recognizes the worth of the office, not necessarily the person occupying the office.
Relations with the community, 13:8-10
8― Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
Owe: Grk. opheilō, to become a debtor. The term has a specific use of a financial obligation (e.g., Matt 18:28; Phm 18), but also a more general usage of any legal or moral obligation as may be prescribed by an authority (cf. Luke 17:10; John 13:14; 19:7; Eph 5:28; 2Th 1:3; 1Jn 2:6). no one anything: Grk. mēdeni mēden, double use of the adj. mēdeis, "no." When used as substantive nouns as here the phrase means lit. "to no one nothing." except to love: Grk. agapaō, pres. inf., to love. See note on 8:37. The essential character of this verb is a willingness to sacrifice for the object of the love. one another: Grk. allēlōn, a pl. reciprocal pronoun meaning each other or one another. for he who loves: Grk. agapaō, pres. part. This love is as much a character trait as an action.
his neighbor: Grk. eteros, a distributive pronoun that distinguishes one item from another, lit. "the other." Eteros is not the usual term for "neighbor" (see verse 10 below). has fulfilled: Grk. plēroō, perf. The verb has two basic meanings: (1) to cause to abound in content to a maximum, to fill; and (2) to bring to fruition or completion, thus to complete, fulfill or as intended here "to carry out." The probable Hebrew equivalent of plēroō is lekayem. In Yeshua’s time lekayem was used in the sense of preserve or sustain and the antonym of levatel (cancel, nullify, Matt 5:17). As a rabbinical term lekayem means to sustain by properly interpreting (Bivin 94). If one can properly interpret Scripture then it can be properly applied to one's life.
the law: Grk. nomos, law. See the note on 2:12. Paul no doubt means the entire Torah given to Moses since the following verse quotes specific commandments. Paul engages in a synthetic parallelism with the general corporate reference of loving one another and then the more specific reference to loving individual persons. Paul is not saying that disciples should never borrow money. In fact, the previous verse mentions the debt of taxes. So, in the financial sense the verb means to not default on what is owed. However, as a principle "owe nothing except love" is really a restatement of the Golden Rule. Paul engages in a play on words with the Greek noun opheile, "due", in verse 7 and the verb opheilō, "owe," in this verse. Love is the most important debt to be paid to others, because we have been the recipients of so great a love.
9― For this, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not give false testimony," "You shall not covet," and whatever other commandment there are, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
For this: Paul quotes from the "Second Table" of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:13-17; Deut 6:17-21) as Yeshua did to the rich young ruler (Matt 19:16-20) and then the second greatest commandment from Leviticus 19:18. Of interest is that unlike Yeshua's quotation Paul reverses the order of the sixth and seventh commandments. The words and whatever, lit. "and if," do not imply any abrogation of Torah commandments or limitation of Torah commandments to those in this list. Quite the opposite. The double conjunction assumes other commandments to still be in force, such as the fifth commandment that he quotes in Ephesians 6:1. Moreover, the hortatory sections of Paul's letters are based on Torah commandments.
Paul's point is that any and all of God's commandments that impact a neighbor may be summed up as expressions of love, which he will go on to repeat in the next verse. Legalistic observance of Torah fails to achieve this goal. Many Christians treat any discussion of obeying God's commandments as legalism and will even rationalize the breaking of the Ten Commandments. Paul has already stated that the work of the Holy Spirit is to make it possible for "the requirement of the Law" to be fulfilled in us (Rom 8:4). Try explaining to God that you don't have to obey his requirements (cf. Matt 5:19; 7:21). It is not a winning argument.
10― Love doesn't harm his neighbor. Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.
Love doesn't harm his neighbor: Grk. plēsion, indicating nearness whether in proximity or circumstance, generally rendered as "neighbor." Plēsion is used in the LXX to render Heb. reya, which means friend, companion, or fellow, including a fellow citizen (BDB 945f). In the context of the Torah "neighbor" referred to a fellow Israelite. Love therefore is the fulfillment: Grk. plērōma, completion of a requirement. of the law: i.e., the Torah, God's Law. Paul echoes Yeshua's own priority of the second great commandment (Matt 22:39).
Paul no doubt alludes to the specific provisions in Leviticus 19 that lead up to the statement of the second great commandment in verse 18. God gave very practical guidelines so that the Israelites would know what he meant by loving one's neighbor. These expectations included leaving a portion of a harvested field for the poor, confronting sinful behavior, and refraining from any action that would cause harm to another's person or property. It's also noteworthy that the "stranger" (non-Israelite) was to be treated with the same degree of justice and love (Lev 19:33-34).
Love is a measure of faithfulness. It is to be offered in sincerity and with respect. Love avoids evil and supports what is good. Love is particularly devoted to brothers. Those of the household of faith in need have a claim on our generosity. Love would not contemplate wronging a brother. We should keep in mind that the Torah cannot be canceled if love fulfills it. Moreover, for love to fulfill Torah, then it must be an informed love. As a person devoted to God's will (12:2), the disciple takes the time to learn from Torah how God defines justice and the right things that a disciple should do for his neighbor.
Personal readiness for salvation, 13:11-14
11― And this, knowing the time, that it is already time for you to awake out of sleep, for salvation is now nearer to us than when we first believed.
This verse is really a preparatory statement for the exhortation in the next verse. And this, knowing the time: Grk. kairos, the appropriate or set time, especially in regard to the end times. From the point of view of the apostles the Messianic age had already been ushered in (cf. Heb 11:1). Since all the prophecies about the coming of the Messiah had been fulfilled then one can be assured that the rest of the prophecies about the consummation of all things, as summarized in the Olivet Discourse, would also come to pass. that it is already: Grk. ēdē, adv., with focus on immediate culmination, lit. "now." time: Grk. hōra, a period of time in the day (e.g., hour) and figuratively as a point of time as occasion for action or for an event.
for you to awake: Grk. egeirō, aor. pass. inf., to move from an inert state or position, here meaning to awaken or to rouse. out of sleep: Grk. hupnos, here fig. of spiritual lethargy. for salvation: Grk. sōteria, freedom from real or threatened harm, rescue, deliverance, or salvation. In context Paul refers to eschatological salvation (cf. 8:18-25). is now nearer: Grk. egguteron, near or close. to us than when we first believed: Grk. pisteuō, aor. ind., to believe in, to put trust in, and to initiate faithfulness toward, all combined. See note on 1:16. This statement would draw attention to when each person in the congregation as well as himself first accepted Yeshua as his Messiah and redeemer.
Imminence of Messianic deliverance was characteristic of Jewish apocalyptic literature and Paul reflects this expectation of the Second Coming of Yeshua. Such expectation was certainly reasonable considering that Yeshua began his public ministry on earth by proclaiming, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15). Yeshua spoke as if the message of the prophets had finally come true. Yet, over three years of proclaiming the good news passed, followed by crucifixion and resurrection and shortly before the Lord’s ascension, the apostles were compelled to ask, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore self-rule to Isra’el?" (Acts 1:6 CJB)
How could Yeshua tell them that almost two thousand years would pass before Israel would be restored to its own sovereignty? Moreover, Yeshua knew they were not ready for such knowledge. Yeshua responded, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by his own authority" (Acts 1:7). It took time for the apostles to understand that the last days began with the first advent (1Cor 10:11; Heb 1:2; 1Pet 1:20) and that the Last Day still lay in the future (John 6:39ff; 12:48). In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul had to allay concerns that the Day of the Lord had already occurred and there he outlines a key prophecy that still awaits fulfillment. Nevertheless, the fact that death is appointed to everyone (Heb 9:27) means that awakening from spiritual legacy cannot be dependent on the date of the Second Coming. Paul's call for repentance and revival is just as important now as it was then.
12― The night is far gone, and the day is near. Let's therefore throw off the works of darkness, and let's put on the armor of light.
The night: Grk. nux, the chronological period from sunset to sunrise, but there are figurative uses as here (John 9:4; 1Th 5:5). is far gone: Grk. prokoptō, aor., to put forward, to advance (Rienecker). The verb identifies the morning twilight when the darkness has been replaced with sunlight as one views it on the horizon. and the day: Grk. hēmera, daylight or simply day. is near: Grk. eggizō, perf., lit. "has drawn near" (Marshall). The verb points to the approach of someone or some event. The perfect tense indicates an event that occurred in the past with continuing results into the present. Figuratively speaking, the verb could refer to the day arriving in the person of Yeshua or in the hearts of disciples when they believed (verse 11).
Let's therefore throw off: apotithēmi, aor. mid. subj., to put off, put away, lay aside or rid oneself of something. The verb is plural and is thus serves as an appeal to the body of disciples. The HNV gives the verb a sense of dramatic impact with "throw off." the works: Grk. erga, pl. of ergon, deeds. of darkness: Grk. skotos, absence of light, whether literal or figurative. and let's put on: Grk. enduō, aor. mid. subj., provide covering, to clothe oneself, to put on something. the armor: Grk. opla, pl. of oplon, military weapons. Paul uses the analogy of a Roman soldier preparing for battle by putting on his weapons, as described in Ephesians 6:13-17, and which consisted of belt, breastplate, sandals, shield, helmet, and sword.
of light: Grk. phōs, that which serves as a revealing or disclosing medium, used of light, both literally and figuratively. Stern comments that "night" and "day," also "darkness" and "light," function as metaphors for evil and good are found in the book of John (John 8:12), in the Tanakh (e.g., Isa 60:1-3), and in the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Essenes, who separated themselves from what they considered the decadent and immoral life fostered by the establishment Judaism of their time. In addition, "day" and "daytime" are metaphors for the olam haba, the age to come.
13― Let us walk properly, as in the day; not in reveling and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and lustful acts, and not in strife and jealousy.
Let us walk: Grk. peripateō, aor. subj., to walk about, to conduct one's life (Rienecker). properly: Grk. euschēmonōs, decently, becomingly. as in the day: Paul then lists behaviors inconsistent with walking in the light of God. not in reveling: pl. of Grk. kōmos, carousing, unseemly reveling or partying. and drunkenness: pl. of Grk. methē, overindulgence of wine or strong drink. The plural noun would point to repetitive behavior, such as dissipation. not in sexual promiscuity: pl. of Grk. koitē, lit. "bed" or sexual activity. Here the plural form probably should be treated as promiscuous sex with multiple partners in contrast with marital sex as the singular form of the term is used in Hebrews 13:4.
and lustful acts: pl. of Grk. aselgeia, lit. "excesses" (Marshall). The word contains the idea of shameless greed, animal lust, sheer self-indulgence which is such a slave to its so-called pleasures that it is lost to shame. It is one who acknowledges no restraints, who dares whatever his caprice and wanton petulance may suggest (Rienecker). and not in strife: Grk. eris, strife, contention or quarrels. and jealousy: Grk. zēlos, a passionate interest or intense interest in something or someone, which can manifest itself positively or negatively. See note on 10:2.
Paul is not trying to deny people the good things of life as worldly critics might allege (cf. 1Tim 4:1-4). Yeshua did not oppose celebrations (John 2), drinking wine (Luke 7:34), getting married, expressing personal viewpoints or demonstrating zeal for God. But, all the good things can become evil by perversion, selfishness and lack of self-control. The disciple who has presented his body as a living and holy sacrifice to God (Rom 12:1), must take decisive action to eliminate moral and ethical uncleanness from his life. The vices in Paul's list are not comprehensive, but representative. All but koitē is included in the catalogue in Galatians 5:19-21. There should be a marked difference between the lifestyle of disciples of Yeshua and the world.
14― But put on the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, and make no provision for the flesh, for its lusts.
But put on: Grk. enduō, aor. mid. imp. See note on verse 12 above. Unlike the strong suggestion "let us walk" in the previous verse, Paul issues an authoritative command. the Lord Yeshua the Messiah: for the name and titles see chapter one. The humble carpenter and Prince of Heaven is the promised and long-expected Messiah of Israel, the King of the Jews, the one who brings salvation. His name is the only name by which one may be saved and whose name must be confessed to gain so great a salvation. and make no provision: Grk. pronoia, forethought, from the preposition pros, "before," and the noun nous, "mind."
for the flesh: Grk. sarx. See the note on 6:19. Paul means human existence apart from God. for its lusts: Grk. epithumia, strong desire or longing. See note on 6:12. The description is not limited to sexual lust as translations suggest. While the catalog of sins immediately preceding easily influences interpretation of this verse, Paul is closing the subject of ethics with a general principle as he began. In reality the authority of Yeshua is being contrasted with man's desire to be the authority over his own life. Even perfectly good desires can become bad or evil when they are not submitted to the Lordship of Yeshua. The disciple is not permitted to compartmentalize his life so that Yeshua rules in some areas but not others. As a speaker I once heard said, "Yeshua gave all, so he wants all."
ABP: The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, trans. Charles Van Der Pool. The Apostolic Press, 2006. An interlinear of the Septuagint with English translation. Online.
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown, Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, "Romans," A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997)
Shulam: Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans, Lederer Books, 1997.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Copyright © 2011-2020 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.