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Bible Commentaries
Romans 13

Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and RevelationNewell's Commentary

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Verses 1-7


Verses 1-7

Verses 8-10

Verses 8-10

8 To none owe anything, except to love one another: for he that loveth the other hath fulfilled law.

9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

10 Love worketh no ill to one's neighbor: love therefore

is law's fulness.

Verses 8 to 10:

To none owe anything, except to love one another--The word "owe" here is the verb of the noun "dues" in verse seven. The connection is direct: when you pay up all your dues, whether private debts or public, and have only this constant obligation before you,--to love one another, "Love must still remain the root and spring of all your actions; no other law is needed besides. Pay all other debts; be indebted in the matter of love alone." So Paul continues: For he that loveth the other hath fulfilled law. Notice carefully that it is love, and not law-doing which is the fulness (Greek, pleroma (G4138)) of law! The one who loves has (without being under it) exhibited what the Law sought! For the law said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; and lo, love has, from another principle, even love and grace, zealously wrought no ill to others. Love, therefore, is shown to be the fulness (not, "the fulfilling") of the law. It is only those not under law that are free to love others. Love, and not righteousness, is the active principle of Christianity. And lo, one loving, has wrought righteousness! Thus, only those not under law show its fulness. Of course, the believer is in a "new creation," and is to walk by that infinitely higher "rule of life" (Galatians 6:15-16), and not by the Law. Nevertheless, in loving he has fulfilled the lower law!

Verses 11-14

Verses 11-14

11 And this, knowing the season, that already it is time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer to us than when we [first] believed. 12 The night is far spent, and the day

is at hand! Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

13 Let us walk becomingly, as in the day; not in revelling and drunkenness, not in chamberings and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ,

and as for the flesh,--do not make provision to fulfil its lusts!

Verse 11:

And this, knowing the season, that already it is time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer to us than when we [first] believed.

The hope of the imminency of our Lord's coming, with the consummation of salvation in bodily redemption and glorification, is constantly used by the apostles in exhorting believers to a holy walk in love. This present verse sets before us the awful tendency to sink down (as did the ten virgins!) into slumber and sleep,--into a state of spiritual torpor in which no Christian duties are effectively done. Believers are to "know the season." Our Lord sternly arraigned the Jews of His day for their ignorance concerning "the time"; "When ye see a cloud rising in the West, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it cometh to pass. And when ye see a south wind blowing, ye say, There will be a scorching heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye know how to interpret the face of the earth and the heaven; but how is it that ye know not how to interpret this time? And why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?"

There their Messiah was, in their midst, and they knew Him not! Why? Because they did not apply themselves to know the time they were in, although they could have known it, both from the prophetic Word which was being fulfilled before their eyes in Christ; and also "of their own selves," if they had set themselves to judge truly of the moral conditions about them and the necessities of action involved therein. If the Jews even then were called by our Lord "hypocrites," for applying their God-given discernment to the signs of the weather, and neglecting to apply it to spiritual things, and so going on blindly to judgment; how much more this should arouse us who have so much greater light and knowledge, in view of Christ's death and resurrection, and the presence of the Holy Spirit; and the certainty of our Lord's coming, and our uncertainty as to the day and hour!

Verse 12:

The night is far spent, and the day is at hand! Let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness, and let us Put on the armor of light.

As long as our Lord was on earth, He was the light of the world (John 9:5). Since He is gone, it is spiritual night. But He now says, "Ye [believers] are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life" (Philippians 2:15-16). Of course, it was night for the human race from the moment Adam sinned; and deeper night, as sin increased.

Our Lord's coming brought a brief day--a "day of visitation," and of actual blessing, if they received Him. His return to earth is spoken of as "the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in His wings," when it will again be day! It is good to know, in our wrestling with "the principalities and powers, the world-rulers of this darkness," that the night is far spent, the day is at hand. The word translated at hand is from the verb to "draw nigh," as in Matthew 21:1. Paul uses it in Hebrews 10:25 : "So much the more as ye see the day approaching": and it is the same word in 1 Peter 4:7 : "The end of all things is at hand" (drawing nigh). No matter what others say about the second coming of Christ, the apostles and the early Church lived in the expectation of it! Read Dean Alford's excellent comment below: remembering that as an expositor of Scripture he is rightly held in the very highest regard with respect to scholarship, sanity, and honesty, as well as devotedness to God. ["A fair exegesis of this passage can hardly fail to recognize the fact that the Apostle here as well as elsewhere (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:51), speaks of the coming of the Lord as rapidly approaching. Prof. Stuart, (Comm. p. 521), is shocked at the idea, as being inconsistent with the inspiration of his writings. How this can be, I am at a loss to imagine. "OF THAT DAY AND HOUR KNOWETH NO MAN, NO NOT THE ANGELS IN HEAVEN, NOR THE SON: BUT THE FATHER ONLY" (Mark 13:32). And to reason, as Stuart does, that because Paul corrects in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, the mistake of imagining it to be actually come, he did not himself expect it soon, is surely quite beside the purpose. The fact that the nearness or distance of that day was unknown to the Apostles, in no way affects the prophetic announcements of God's Spirit by them, concerning its preceding and accompanying circumstances. The day and hour' formed no part of their inspiration:--the details of the event, did. And this distinction has singularly and providentially turned out to the edification of all subsequent ages. While the prophetic declarations of the events of that time remain to instruct us, the eager expectation of the time, which they expressed in their day, has also remained, a token of the true frame of mind in which each succeeding age (a fortiori) should contemplate the ever-approaching coming of the Lord. On the certainty of the event, our faith is grounded: by the uncertainty of the time our hope is stimulated, and our watchfulness aroused."]

Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness--In Ephesians Five, after speaking of the "sons of disobedience," Paul says: Be not ye therefore partakers with them; for ye once were darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light. Now Paul had said the saints had put off the old man (when they were put into Christ). Now they are to put away, or cast off as not of their new life, all evil things. See Colossians 3:8-9;Hebrews 12:1,--for it is the same Greek word as the one there rendered "lay aside." The "works of darkness" are to be "put away," "cast off." And since "our old man was crucified with Christ," we see we can put them away! Let us put on the armor of light. This is a marvelous exhortation! Modern warfare has contemplated throwing upon the enemy mighty electric lights of such overwhelming brilliancy as to completely dazzle them. We all know how approaching automobile lights often blind us. In the remarkable passage of Luke 11:33-36, our Lord says: "If therefore thy whole body be full of light, having no part dark, it shall be wholly full of light, as when the lamp with its bright shining shall give thee light." This is the redeemed one whom Satan hates and fears,--one filled with light, armored with light. A blaze of light is harder to approach than swords or bullets. Our Christian armor, piece by piece, is described in Ephesians 6:11-18. But here it is more our "walking in the light, as God is in the light," that is in view. Since we are "light in the Lord," let us so walk and war!

Verse 13:

As those in the day, let us be walking becomingly --Men choose the night for their revels; but our night is past, for we are all "children of the light and of the day" (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Let us therefore do only what is fit for the light and for the day. We belong to that "day" which our Lord's coming will usher in,--and that shortly! Therefore, let us walk as those already in the daylight of that day! Not in riotings and drunkennesses--Nocturnal revels such as characterized the Roman Empire of Paul's day, and the myriad drunkennesses of modern "night parties," are in view here. How needful the warning to keep clear of these things in this hour when the time of "the iniquity of the end" (Ezekiel 21:25; Ezekiel 21:29) is drawing nigh! Young people, rushing on to damnation, with "dates" beginning at 10 or 11 or even midnight, and ending perhaps at dawn, know well what "revellings and drunkennesses" are. Let the saints in horror shun them!

And the next things of the text follow these, as they have always followed them: Not in chamberings and wantonness--The word translated "chamberings" occurs three other times: Luke 11:7, Romans 9:10, Hebrews 13:4. Its being in the plural number here, and associated with the word generally rendered "lasciviousness," suggests its horrid meaning. Schaff and Riddle well say: "Various forms of secret vice are here indicated by the plural. These sins are closely connected with the preceding (revellings and drunkennesses), often caused by them. The word translated wantonness' points to an abandoned sensuality." David said: "The floods of ungodliness (Heb. Belial (H1100)) made me afraid" (Psalms 18:4). So earth's steadily increasing tide of Noah's-day wickedness would terrify us, did we not know that the Lord is coming, to deliver His saints and to judge this very wickedness!

Not in strife and jealousy--Brawls, troubles, "wounds without cause"; hatreds and jealousies, follow this train of self-indulgent sins. "Strife and jealousy," here, may also particularly indicate those strifes, envyings, and jealousies which so frequently remain not put away among believers: "Wherefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven [that is, revellings and vices of the world of the wicked], neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness," (1 Corinthians 5:8)--which, alas, Paul has to warn against over and over among Christians: "Whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and do ye not walk after the manner of men?" (1 Corinthians 3:3). "Put away anger, wrath, malice, railing" (Colossians 3:8).

Verse 14:

But on the contrary, put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and for the flesh,--do not make provisions, to fulfil its lusts.

The full title of our Lord Jesus Christ awakes, almost startles us, here: Jesus is His personal name (Matthew 1:21); as Christ, the anointed One, He does His saving work; as Lord, He is over all things. The full title was announced by Peter at Pentecost: "God hath made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified." All true believers have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27) for He is their life; and the Corinthians were told that--Jesus Christ was in them (2 Corinthians 13:5). It is striking that the first use of our Lord's full title is by Peter in Acts 11:17, in connection with the gift of the Holy Spirit in the upper room: "The gift God gave unto us, when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ." They had before believed on Jesus, as the Jewish Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God: but evidently when He had ascended into glory, God led them to a surrendering of earthly hopes, and an appropriating of their Lord, in His now exalted and glorified character, as the Lord Jesus Christ, in a phase of faith never known before. It is this Christ Paul commands us to put on--the Lord Jesus Christ! Not as our righteousness are we to "put Him on": for He is Himself the righteousness of all believers. But it is as to our walk and warfare that we put Him on. We are to be panoplied with Christ!

There is an instructive passage in Colossians Three, giving light on this command to "put on." In verse 3 there, the Holy Spirit says through Paul, "Ye died." (It is an aorist tense, asserting a fact.) The believer now shares Christ's risen life, and is told (as we have repeatedly seen) that he is "alive from the dead," a new creation. In the ninth verse of the same chapter, we have the words, "Ye have put off the old man"; and in verse 10, "Ye have put on the new man"! Then, in verses 5 and 8, "put to death," "put away," your "members which are in the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion; anger, wrath, malice," and all such things. It is in and by the fact that we died with Christ that we have "put off the old man": as is said in Colossians 2:11, also, concerning our participation in "the circumcision of Christ" [The circumcision with hands, of our Lord, when He was a babe eight days old (Luke 2:21), is here distinguished from His death, as cut off from natural life,--a "circumcision made without hands," and in which we have such part that we are now called "the circumcision" (Philippians 3:3). Jewish circumcision was a striking token of that death to the flesh which was executed at the cross.] (His cutting off in death), we put off "the body of the flesh."

Then, (and not until our realization by faith of this federal death with Christ), are we ready in confidence to "put away" all those things that belong to our former manner of life, the old things) and to "put on, as God's elect, holy and beloved (of Him.), a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness" (Colossians 3:12, ff).

"Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ" is, therefore, our path, not only prescribed, but gloriously attainable. For we are in Him! and that federal "new man which hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Ephesians 4:24) belongs now to us. Even as "the old man" belonged by natural birth to us in the First Adam, so does the "new man" belong to us who are in Christ, the Last Adam!

Make not provision for the flesh--The word "provision" here is literally "forethought." It denotes the attitude of mind we used to have toward the flesh, as secretly expecting to gratify it, if not immediately, yet at some time. It is the opposite of the spirit of Galatians 5:24; it is Saul sparing Agag.

To fulfil its desires--The flesh has endless lusts and desires,--all clamoring for indulgence. Besides the lower lusts, and our natural self-sparing slothfulness, there are all the forms of self-pleasing: self-esteem, "sensitiveness," love of praise, man-fearing, fleshly amiability, flattery of others for selfish ends, pride, "dignity," impatience of non-recognition by others, sheer empty conceit, and a thousand other "desires of the flesh," for which no provision is to be made. Often we can, if we will, see beforehand and shun circumstances that would give the flesh an advantage to indulge itself. But it is only by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ as the positive attitude of the soul, that we shall find ourselves able and willing to refuse any provision for the flesh. [Bishop Moule beautifully says: "Put on, clothe, and arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, the living Sum and true Meaning of all that can arm the soul. It is by living our life in the flesh by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20), that is, to say, in effect, by personally making use of the crucified and living Savior, Lord, Deliverer, our Peace and Power, amidst all the dark hosts of evil can do against us. Full in the face of the realities of sin--of Roman sin, in Nero's day--St. Paul has written down across them all, this spell, this Name: Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.' Take first a steady look, he seems to say, at your sore need, in the light of God; but then at once look off, look here. Take your iniquities at the worst; this can subdue them. Take your surroundings at the worst,--this can emancipate you from their power. It is the Lord Jesus Christ' and the putting on' of Him. We can put Him on' as Lord, surrendering ourselves to His absolute, while most benignant, sovereignty and will,--deep secret of repose. We can put Him on as Jesus,' clasping the truth that He, our human Brother, yet Divine, saves His people from their sins. We can put Him on as Christ' our Head, anointed without measure by the eternal Spirit, and still sending of that same Spirit into His happy members,--so that we are indeed one with Him and receive into our whole being the resources of His life."]


1. God for His own reasons forbade any human hand to execute Cain, the first murderer. Iniquity increased, and God brought the Deluge.

2. After the Deluge, God announced a complete change of earth's governmental affairs. In the words of Genesis 9:5-6, "Surely your blood, the blood of your lives, will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it; and at the hand of man, even at the hand of every man's brother, will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made He man." God here puts the sword of the magistrate into man's hand as not before. Furthermore, the "everlasting covenant" with Noah, of which the above quoted words were a part, God said would last "while the earth remaineth" (Genesis 8:20-22; Gen_9:1-7).

3. Under the Law of Moses, 1000 years later, God reaffirmed the governmental duty of punishing murderers with death: "Ye shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer that is guilty of death. For blood, it polluteth the land, and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it" (Numbers 35:31; Numbers 35:33).

4. Note that in the above quotation, the crime of murder is said by God so to pollute the land, that there can be "no expiation made for a land" for this crime, save by the execution of the murderer.

5. It is said that upwards of 200,000 known man-killers are alive in America. "To realize," said Judge Kavanagh of Chicago, "the prevalency of this invisible class (murderers at large in the United States), it is only necessary to consider that they are more than we have of clergymen of all denominations, or male teachers in our schools; or all lawyers, judges, and magistrates, put together; and three times the number of our editors, reporters, and writers; and 52,000 more unconfined killers than we have policemen." Only by the stern carrying out of the command of God regarding the murderer, can this crime be checked.

(In England, where more than 90% of murderers are executed after a fair but speedy trial, even the police do not carry revolvers except by special license!)

6. To claim that it is "not Christian" to execute murderers, is to deny directly Paul's plain word here in Romans Thirteen, that the magistrate "beareth not the sword in vain," being "a minister of wrath to him that doeth evil," and one of whom evil-doers are commanded to be afraid.

7. It is therefore an appalling disservice to home, state, and nation, to call that murder which God has commanded to be done--the execution of shedders of human blood. It is a libel on Christianity to claim that the current anti-capital-punishment cry is Christian. It is not Christian, but rebellion against God. "We suffer," said the penitent thief to his impenitent companion on the cross, "the due reward of our deeds!" That penitent thief said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me"; and our Lord's answer, "Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise," shows anew the great truth that government in this world, and salvation in the next, are two absolutely distinct things. Only the ignorant confound them.

Bibliographical Information
Newell, William. "Commentary on Romans 13". Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wnc/romans-13.html. 1938.
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