Romans 13 Overview

Romans 13. Authority, Love, and the Christian life


Paul gives the general principle that people are to submit to governing authorities. God has established authorities in life, and his authority in the political sphere works out through the governing power. Paul does not mention exceptions, such as if a law is contrary to Scripture or to the Constitution of a nation or to the accepted common law. The established authority is directed to punish evil and to promote good; it is given for good. Paul gives two reasons for why we submit to governing authorities: fear of punishment if one disobeys, and to motivate correct submission by appealing to conscience. Taxes are paid to make it possible for the authority to punish evil and promote good (Romans 13.1-7). Along with owing submission to governing powers, believers owe love to one another. Love fulfills God’s moral standard for the way people are to treat one another (Romans 13.8-10). Paul then makes a logical and expected conclusion to his instructions about political authority and love. Since our anticipated salvation is closer than it was when we believed, we should behave properly—we are people of light, not darkness. To do this we need to put on the character of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not allow our flesh to dominate us (Romans 13.11-14).


  1. Romans 13:1-7. God delegates authority to certain people and God designed this authority for good, to punish evil doers and promote good.
  2. Romans 13:8-10. Believers owe love to each other and those who love do no harm and also fulfill God’s moral standard to each other.
  3. Romans 13:11-14. Our anticipated salvation is closer than it was when we believed and we should behave properly by putting on the character of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Select doctrines

  1. Governing authority
  2. Spiritual and human freedom
  3. Godly love
  4. Love neighbor as yourself
  5. Spiritual growth
  6. Spiritual maturity

Romans Main Lessons to Remember

Romans 13, Authority, godly love, godly behavior, put on armor and Christ

  1. God designed the principle of authority for the benefit of creation. Every authority governs by God’s placement or permission. This passage sets the principle of submission to authority, and omits exceptions. We are to obey governing authorities. But if there is a conflict between human authority and God’s authority, Peter and others said that we must obey God rather than man (Exodus 1.15-22; Daniel 3.8-18; 6.1-28; Acts 4.19-20; 5.27-29; Romans 13.1-2).
  2. Romans 13 gives three fundamental statements about authority: 1. The ruling authority is God’s servant, whether the ruler recognizes it or not; 2. The governing authority is supposed to punish evil behavior and promote good behavior; 3. We obey rightful authority because it is the right thing to do (conscience sake) and because disobedience can bring punishment (brings wrath, Romans 13.3-5).
  3. Jesus taught that there are two areas of obligation—to God and to Caesar (Matthew 22.15-22; Mark 12.13-17; Luke 20.19-26). We owe obedience and taxes to “Caesar.” God wants us to pay taxes because taxes pay the governing authorities to work. We owe godly love to our neighbor because godly love to our neighbor fulfills God’s moral laws for society which protect and bless society, and reflects God’s love to people (Romans 13.6-10).
  4. The return of Jesus Christ for his church and then to finalize human history is now closer than when we believed the gospel. Therefore, Paul emphasizes six things to do: 1. wake up to Christian living, 2. put off sinful deeds and habits, 3. put on the spiritual armor for protection, 4. behave properly, 5. put on the character of the Lord Jesus Christ, and 6. do not put yourself in situations where you might sin. We can summarize all six as keep spiritually alert and become more Christ-like (Romans 13.11-14).