Romans 13:1-14 Fulfilling the Law.
We are to submit to the governing authorities for no other reason here but that they exist by God’s appointment (v. 1 Cf. Titus 3:1; ). The civil administration of governance is by God’s appointment or design (v. 2). Therefore to resist governmental rule outright is to rebel against what God has ordained. The usual focus of government is to oppose evil and promote what is good (vv. 3-4). Whereas most in the world are motivated by escaping punishment, the Christian is to be motivated by conscience (v. 5 Cf. Eccl 8:2; I Pet. 2:13-14). Taxes and respect are therefore justified for the work which God has ordained them for (vv. 6-7 Cf. Mt. 22:21).
In agreement with the Lord, who also included the prophets, Paul teaches that the law is fulfilled toward one’s neighbour in the summary given of loving one’s neighbour as one’s self (vv. 8-10 Cf. Ex. 20:13-17, Dt. 5: 17-21; Mt. 7:12; 22:37-40; Gal. 5:13-14). The law itself gave this as a summary for not taking the law into one’s own hands or vengeance (Lev. 19:18). The law is also our guide for our sanctification (vv. 11-14). The third use of the law, to convict sinners and lead them to Christ, has occupied Paul in this letter, but here he gives two other uses. It’s place in sanctification for the believer also occupies his time earlier in this letter and elsewhere.
Sanctification is a process (v. 11). We are not yet perfect but we have a guide of where God wants us to be headed. There is a lifestyle that may be deemed lawful by the state but which is not lawful for the Christian (Cf. I Cor. 15:34). The Christian is called to be light in the darkness (v. 12 Cf. Mt. 5:14-16; Eph. 5:11). Putting on Christ, so to speak, means putting off the world (vv. 13-14). To be clear, Paul does not espouse a pagan dichotomy between soul or spirit and the body. He is saying that the Christian is to “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Lust is the issue here, seen in revelry and drunkenness, lewdness, strife and envy (Cf. I Cor. 6:9-10).
It should be a sobering thought that Paul includes envy and strife in his list. Envy is more than covetousness, it is the desire to take from another what one does not or cannot have for one’s self. More than simply wanting what is not one’s own, envy is the desire that the owner not enjoy what is there’s by right. This is ultimately where strife comes from-lust and envy (Cf. Js. 3:14). Paul taught and lived a pattern which they could follow (Cf. Phil. 4:8). This idea of putting off or putting away and putting on figures prominently elsewhere for Paul (Cf. Eph. 4:22-24, 31; Col. 3:8-14). One cannot be clothed with both at the same time. Fulfilling the law is what it means to walk in the spirit (Cf. Gal. 5:14-26).