Romans 13:2 MEANING

Romans 13:2
(2) Damnation.--Condemnation--i.e., the sentence passed upon him by the judge or magistrate as God's representative.

Verses 2-5. - Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they which withstand shall receive to themselves condemnation (i.e. really God's, operating through the human "power;" not meaning damnation in the common sense of the word). For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. It is the theory of the laws of all civilized governments to uphold justice, and only to punish what is wrong; and in the main they do so. The principles of the Roman law were just, and Paul himself found protection from its officers and tribunals, whose fairness he had, and had reason to have, more confidence in than in the tender mercy of either Gentile or Jewish zealots (cf. Acts 19:35, seq.; 21:31, seq.; 22:30; 24:10; 25:10, 11; 26:30, seq.). As has been observed already, the Neronian persecutions had not yet begun. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain (though "the sword" might possibly be understood as only the familiar symbol of power, yet the mention of it may be taken to imply the apostle's recognition of the legitimacy of capital punishment, such as he also expressed distinctly, Acts 25:11): for he is the minister of God, an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wrath here expresses the familiar idea of the Divine wrath against evil-doing, for the execution of which, in the sphere of human law, the magistrate is the appointed instrument (see note on Romans 12:19). Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. Not only for fear of penal consequences, but because it is your duty, whatever might ensue, to submit to the ordinance of God. Similarly, in 1 Peter 2:13, submission to every ordinance of man is enjoined "for the Lord's sake (διὰ τὸν Κύριον)."

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.Whosoever therefore resisteth the power,.... The office of magistracy, and such as are lawfully placed in it, and rightly exercise it; who denies that there is, or ought to be any such order among men, despises it, and opposes it, and withdraws himself from it, and will not be subject to it in any form:

resisteth the ordinance of God, the will and appointment of God, whose pleasure it is that there should be such an office, and that men should be subject to it. This is not to be understood, as if magistrates were above the laws, and had a lawless power to do as they will without opposition; for they are under the law, and liable to the penalty of it, in case of disobedience, as others; and when they make their own will a law, or exercise a lawless tyrannical power, in defiance of the laws of God, and of the land, to the endangering of the lives, liberties, and properties of subjects, they may be resisted, as Saul was by the people of Israel, when he would have took away the life of Jonathan for the breach of an arbitrary law of his own, and that too without the knowledge of it, 1 Samuel 14:45; but the apostle is speaking of resisting magistrates in the right discharge of their office, and in the exercise of legal power and authority:

and they that resist them, in this sense,

shall receive to themselves damnation; that is, punishment; either temporal, and that either by the hand of the magistrate himself, who has it in his power to punish mutiny, sedition, and insurrection, and any opposition to him in the just discharge of his duty; or at the hand of God, in righteous judgment, for their disobedience to an ordinance of his; as in the case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who opposed themselves both to the civil and sacred government of the people of Israel, Numbers 26:9; and were swallowed up alive in the earth, Numbers 26:10, or eternal punishment, unless the grace of God prevents; for "the blackness of darkness is reserved for ever", Jde 1:13, for such persons, who, among other of their characters, are said to "despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities", Jde 1:8. This is another argument persuading to subjection to magistrates.

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