Subjection to Rulers, as Ordained of God. Verses 1 to 7.
No Debt but Love: What that Achieves! Verses 8 to 10.
Awake! Christ’s Coming Nears! Put on Christ Now! Verses 11 to 14.
1 Let every soul be in subjection to the authorities in power. For
there is no authority save from God; and those that exist are put in
place by God. 2 Therefore he that sets himself against the authority,
withstandeth the ordinance of God: and those [thus] withstanding shall
receive for themselves judgment.
3 For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And
wouldest thou have no fear of the authority? Practice that which is
good and thou shalt have praise from the same. 4 For it is God’s
servant to thee for good. But if thou dost practice that which is evil,
be afraid! For not in vain doth it bear the sword! For God’s minister
it is, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be in subjection, not only because of the
wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For this cause ye pay tribute
also; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this
very matter. 7 Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute [is
due]; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
WE HAVE HERE a passage of great importance in these lawless days!
Verse 1: Let every soul be in subjection to the authorities in power
[or, the constituted authorities]. For there is no authority but from
God; and those that exist are put in, place by God.
Every soul here, of course, means every believer: this Epistle is
addressed only to believers (see 1:1-8). The authorities in power are
the civil authorities ordained of God into whose hands God has
committed external human government. (We say external, as opposed to
inward, spiritual, which lies outside Caesar’s province.)
To be in subjection to the higher powers, means to render them their
due respect and obedience according to verse 7: tribute to whom
There is great necessity at this hour to emphasize to all Christians
this solemn exhortation of the apostle. Lawlessness,— contempt for
authority—is upon us like a flood. This lawlessness (anomia) is the
essence of sin. We have already called attention to the fact that the
Old Version translation of1John 3:4: “Sin is the transgression of the
Law,” is wholly astray. Not parabasis, transgression; nor paraptoma,
offense; but a much deeper word, anomia,—literally, lawlessness: the
spirit of refusing control,—this does God define as sin! Sin was in the
world 2500 years before the Law. Already existing sin caused the Law’s
“Thou shalt not.” Lawlessness is behind and below all law-breaking!
That the lawlessness of the last days is coming upon us, we see
everywhere! In the contempt of treaty obligations on the part of
nations; in the disregard for old-time honesty in private contracts; in
the “breaking loose” of “flaming youth” from parental restraint, and
the rush to “expressionism,” whether in school “dramatics” or in
disdain of “old fogy” morals; in the calling the sin of lasciviousness
and adultery by “modern” names,—such as “petting,” “sex-experience”; in
the flood of murder magazines and “mystery” novels; in the
unwillingness of the public to have crime really punished,—showing
public sympathy with sin!
It is because of this latter that law-enforcement breaks down. For, on
the whole, judges, prosecuting attorneys, sheriffs, and police, would
have criminals dealt with firmly: but the “technicalities” of legal
procedure are seized upon by evil, unscrupulous men to defeat law. And
who would be so foolish as to claim that things could be so if the
entire community were, in their hearts, righteously abhorrent toward
Perhaps the most glaring of all instances of last-days lawlessness, is
the tolerance of Red Communism. We do not now speak of Russia; but of
the fact that Communistic doctrines (which openly declare war upon all
Divinely appointed order) are held,—even by professing Christians! in
England, the United States, Canada, and all over the world. You have no
more right to “sit down” upon another’s property, against his will,
than any common thief has to enter your home to plunder! God’s Word
defends the rights of property, just as the right to life. “Thou shalt
not steal” and “Thou shalt not kill,” are in the same code of law.
Christians need to read and heed Matthew 20:1 to 15. The “householder”
there “agrees” with the “laborers”: these had the right to sell their
labor at an “agreed” price; while he had the right to decide what he
could profitably pay them, and “agree” to pay it. And he recognizes
what they had earned as theirs: “Take up that which is thine, and go
thy way” (verse 14). But as concerning that which was his, and which
they had not earned, he says, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I
will with mine own?” He paid them what they had earned, and sent them
off his property! Now Christ gave this lesson! And He calls the eye
“evil” (verse 15) that would covet what it had not earned!
No wonder Marx and Lenin and the Communists hate the Bible! It convicts
them of covetousness and thievery! Read Matthew 20:1 to 15 again; and
see what you think our Lord would have said of those laborers, if they
had “sat down” in that vineyard, claiming, “It really belongs to us,
‘the workers’; and we will not move until this householder raises our
wages to what we ask!” You see, the only way for Communism to exist, is
to destroy all hold of the Bible on men! Communism is the devil’s opium
for a people willing to let go the Word of God!
Let Christians beware of the specious lies of all movements of force
(“direct action,” the Reds call it!) to right the wrongs of this
present world. There are wrongs, as James tells us
(Jas. 5:1-6), but the Christian is told to be “patient until the coming
of the Lord” (Jas. 5:7, 8). Pray and wait. Things will get worse and
worse, until “violence fills the earth,” as in “the days of Noah.” But
God will deliver you—if you trust Him, and do not put forth your hand
with “violent men.” I pray you, read Proverbs 1:10-15, where you have a
vivid picture of all the “share the wealth” movements! Let the Lord’s
people avoid them as the very plague! If, instead of “godliness with
contentment,” earthliness and covetousness seize your heart, you are
really setting in on Lenin’s and Stalin’s path—which ends in hell! and
makes a land a bloody horror meanwhile.
The “restlessness” of today is really that deep “lawlessness” which God
calls sin: “SIN IS LAWLESSNESS!” The Man of Sin is called “the lawless
one” in II Thessalonians 2:7 and 8, where we are told that “the mystery
of lawlessness” is already working, but that there is One (the Holy
Spirit, we believe), that “restraineth now” until He be “taken out of
the way.” “And then shall be revealed the lawless one.” This is the
Now since God’s saints know that lawlessness and violence, lust and
covetousness, are characteristic of the last days, and know from
Daniel’s prophetic interpretation of the Great Image Nebuchadnezzar
saw, that we must be nearing the time of the end of the age, how
peculiarly needful that we all lay to heart these instructions
Magistrates are put in place, set up, or ordained, of God. Never mind
if they are bad ones, the word still stands, “There is no power but of
God.” Remember your Savior suffered under Pontius Pilate, one of the
worst Roman governors Judea ever had; and Paul under Nero, the worst
Roman Emperor. And neither our Lord nor His Apostle denied or reviled
The authority is called a servant (diakonos) of God to us for good
(verse 4): and those exercising this authority, are called ministers
(leitourgoi) of God for good: He [the power or authority set up by God]
is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil
(verse 4 and again in verse 6). Against the evil-worker, the ruler is
an avenger for wrath, not bearing a vain sword like some lodge officer
on parade, but bearing a sword given to him by the covenant of Genesis
Nine,—a sword with, necessarily, the death penalty wrapped up in it, to
be exercised when necessary: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall
his blood be shed,” God said to Noah, when He lodged governmental
authority in human hands. For the support of this governmental work, we
pay “tribute”; for They are God’s ministering officers, attending
continually upon this very thing (verse 6).
Thus there is in this passage to be considered, the governmental
authority as an abstract thing established by God; and then the
personal ruler’s exercising his rights and duties under the authority.
God established human government, and then appointed certain men to
Verse 2: Therefore he that sets himself against the authority,
withstandeth the ordinance of God: and those [thus] withstanding, shall
receive to themselves judgment.
It is only in spiritual matters—“things that are God’s”— that “to obey
God rather than men” is our path. The things pertaining to God are
those that concern our obedience to our confession of the faith of our
Lord Jesus Christ,—that is, all. matters of our Christian conscience.
Caesar has no right to touch my conscience. If I yield to him there, I
am a traitor to the truth. We should emulate the old martyrs here, and
even those who are suffering for the truth under Caesar’s wickedness in
our own day: for instance, under pagan Hitlerism in Germany, or atheist
communism in Russia, where, often, the most noble witnesses of Christ
are found. But, as to our persons and our property and our lives, that
is, as regards earthly things, we are subject to the powers that God
has put in place or ordained; and should not “withstand” them. Those
who do so withstand, will bring on themselves guilt and Divine
chastening. The Christian, above all men, should be in quiet subjection
to constituted authority.
Verse 3: For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil.
And wouldest thou have no fear of the authority? Keep practicing that
which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same.
This is the rule in general. Of course, Satan will stir up special
trouble against those who are proclaiming the gospel, which he
desperately hates; as he stirred up unjust accusation and persecution
against the apostles and the Lord Himself. Also, “the will of God may
so will,” that some may suffer for well-doing (I Pet. 3:17). This whole
passage, however, regards the general path of the believer with
reference to Divinely constituted authorities; rather than the peculiar
enmity of Satan and the world toward the message of the gospel. Every
Christian, in his life, should be praiseworthy in the eyes of rulers,
and, if consistent, he generally is so.
William Kelly well says: ” ‘Authorities in power’ is an expression that
embraces every form of governing power, monarchical, aristocratic, or
republican. All cavil on this score is therefore foreclosed. The Spirit
insists not merely on the Divine right of kings, but that ‘there is no
authority except from God.’ Nor is there an excuse on this plea for
change; yet if a revolution should overthrow one form and set up
another, the Christian’s duty is plain: ‘those that exist are ordained
by God.’ His interests are elsewhere, are heavenly, are in Christ; his
responsibility is to acknowledge what is in power as a fact, trusting
God as to the consequences, and in no case behaving as a partisan.
Never is he warranted in setting himself up against the authority as
Verse 4: For it [the authority] is a servant of God to thee for good.
But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for not in vain does it
bear the sword.
To “bear” is, literally, to bear constantly, illustrated in the
provincial Roman magistrates’ habitual wearing of the sword. It was
also borne before them, in public processions, as a symbol of their
right to punish by death. This is in accordance with God’s covenant
with Noah, after the Flood, which covenant remains in force: “Whoso
sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Those who decry
“capital punishment,” are themselves withstanding the Word of God as to
the very foundation of human government.
For a minister of God it is! an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil.
There are people in every community who live in constant terror of
government, because of their evil-doing. Let no Christian be in such a
position! You say, Would the magistrate have a right to deal with a
real Christian, if he became an evil-doer? Most certainly; and would be
bound to do so. Peter says: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or
an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other man’s matters,” showing that
Christians as such, have no protection from human law. But Peter’s
exhortation has not kept some true Christians out of these things;
insomuch, indeed, that God’s established government on earth would not
or should not permit them to go unpunished here, (if murder or crime
had been done); although the blood of Christ was their entrance into
Verse 5: Wherefore ye must needs be in subjection,—not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.
Believers are to be in subjection, not only to avoid earthly
governmental dealing, but because of a loving conscience toward
God,—knowing that in being subject, they are doing right, as well as
The constituted authorities include all the civil officers, state,
county, and municipal; together with the police, militia, and military
forces. There are many indeed in these foolish days who call themselves
“pacifists,” and decry the work and office of the soldier. Yet we
believe they would with alacrity telephone for the police if they found
marauders breaking into their houses! Police protect towns and cities.
State constabulary and militia, under the hand of the governor, protect
life, liberty, and order in the state; and a national army does
likewise for the nation.
It is God who has allowed the formation and growth of nations, and
given them “the bounds of their habitations”; and the “authorities” who
govern them do so by Divine command. They “bear the sword,”—whether for
order within the nation, or for defense toward an outward enemy.
Therefore it is folly to call the work of a soldier evil, and to
confuse personal murder with the public execution of justice. When
“soldiers on service” (Luke 3:14, margin), asked John the Baptist: “And
we, what must we do”? his answer was not, Resign your commissions, or
Leave the army. On the contrary he recognized their work as honorable,
saying to them only: “Extort from no man by violence, neither accuse
anyone wrongfully; and be content with your wages” (generally, with
soldiers, small enough!)
Cornelius, the centurion of Acts 10, “a devout man, one that feared God
with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God
always,” heard the gospel at Peter’s mouth and believed it, and was
filled with the Holy Spirit; and he kept right on being a soldier, a
minister of God’s service along the line of government. Such men as
General Havelock, General “Chinese” Gordon of the British Army; General
O. O. Howard and General “Stonewall” Jackson, of American Civil War
fame; and General Allenby, in the World War, have performed nobly and
ably their soldier’s duty,—the while maintaining a Christian’s walk
Verse 6: For this cause ye pay tribute also; for they are ministers of God, attending continually upon this very matter.
Here the apostle uses the word from which we get “liturgy” (leitourgoi)
in describing these “authorities.” God uses the same word in Hebrews
1:14 regarding the angels, calling them “ministering spirits”; and also
concerning the “ministering” of the Old Testament priests (Heb. 10:11).
In these days of restlessness toward restraint, and flouting of
authority, we need to meditate much on the fact that the constituted
authorities are liturgists of God: not indeed at all in spiritual
things, but none the less God’s own ministers in governmental things.
It is on this account that those governed pay tribute; for these
ministers of government must be supported.
Verse 7: Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute [is due];
custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Here “tribute” (taxes) comes first. How great the temptation to avoid
rendering this that is due! Next, “custom”; “tribute” (pharos) is
generally a tax paid by subjects to a ruling nation (Luke 20:22); while
custom (telos) is a tax on us, or duty on our goods, by our own nation.
Alas, how we loathe having the customs officers “go through” our
But let us remember that even customs are “dues,” by God’s appointment.
Fear to whom fear—“Fear” does not here designate terror, but (which
removes terror) a conscientious regard for and awe of men in whose
hands God has placed governmental authority,—whether police,
magistrates, judges, governors, presidents, or kings.256
Honor to whom honor—Honor is our attitude of reverence for the persons
of those who have authority over us; as also toward those who stand in
any place of earthly dignity. As Peter says so beautifully, “Honor all
men [for they are made in the image of God]. Love the brotherhood [of
saints]. Fear God [with whom you have constantly to do]. Honor the
king” [whom you may never see, but whom you hold in due regard in your
heart] (I Pet. 2:17). Not only law-officers, but those men to whom God
has committed wealth, or outstanding ability; or who have risen
honorably among their fellows, should receive the honor due them. Let
Christians be first to give “honor to whom honor is due.” Leave to the
base the despising of others!
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 com mandment, 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, plerōma) 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”
(Gal. 6:15, 16), and not by the Law. Nevertheless, in loving he has
fulfilled the lower law!
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
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” (Phil. 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 I 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.257
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
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” (I Thess. 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” (Ezek. 21:25, 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) made me afraid” (Ps.
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,” (I Cor. 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?” (I Cor. 3:3). “Put away anger,
wrath, malice, railing” (Col. 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 (Matt. 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 (Gal. 3:27) for He is their life; and the Corinthians were
told that—Jesus Christ was in them (II Cor. 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 know 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”258
(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” (Col. 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” (Eph. 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.259
CONCERNING CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
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 and 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” (Gen. 8:20-9:7).
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”
(Num. 35:31, 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
(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
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
In those cases where Christians have been able to withdraw from
intolerable situations, this rule is in no wise broken. The Huguenots
fled from France to England, and the Puritans from England to America,
for freedom of conscience,—much as the Lord said, “If they persecute
you in one city, flee to another.” Escape is sometimes possible, and is
Pacifists and “Internationalists” are (sometimes doubtless ignorantly)
deadly enemies of God’s order. It is a cowardly and a decadent
generation that is willing to enjoy a heritage purchased at the cost of
blood and tears, and then with an ignorant or basely perverted
conscience say, “I do not believe in war or in fighting,”—a generation
ignorant, first, of the very Scripture we are now studying, which tells
us that magistrates, bearing no vain swords, are ministers of God;
ignorant, second, of the lessons of history.
“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.”
Effeminacy, dilettantism, and loss of patriotism, have always gone
together. The hordes of barbarians from the North came down on a Rome
enfeebled by luxury and hideous sin, and we know the result! Today
America is filling up with the same sort of moral weaklings! We abhor
war; but war there will be. We say to pacifists”: Study the Scriptures
and history, and be awakened from a fool’s dream of unrealities.
To those “conscientiously objecting” to bearing arms, we say: Study
God’s Word here in Romans 13. The magistrates, the rulers, are
ministers of God, bearing not the sword in vain.” Pacifist principles
are doomed to defeat, for they are anti-Scriptural. You ask me, Would
you fight? If called to military service by my government, I should
answer that my ministry is preaching God’s gospel of grace; but that I
should gladly go to the battle front, and be placed in any position of
danger, and should minister the gospel even to an active enemy, or to a
prisoner from the enemy’s ranks, with the same earnestness which I
should hope to show toward men of my own country. On the other hand, I
should abhor even the thought of divulging my country’s secrets to my
country’s enemy. This would be rebuked by God Himself, who established
nations, and gave them the duty of protecting their citizens and their
Strange dupes are American “pacifists” and “internationalists!”
Christians who desire to know the conditions of the age, and how
rapidly “The iniquity of the end” is rushing toward us should read
pages 68 to 140 of A. C. Gaebelein’s Conflict of the Ages. While we are
not to be perplexed by the terrible things happening in the world: for
the Lord said, “When ye hear of wars and rumors of wars see that ye be
not troubled; for all these things must needs come to pass.”
Nevertheless, we should not be as the leaders of Israel—blind to the
days in which they lived. All these new forms of power—Communism,
Facism, Naziism; and also the subtle powers of evil working in America
are preparing the way for the Antichrist.
Several easily procurable books, such as Tainted Contacts by Col. E. N.
Sanctuary; The Red Network, by Elizabeth Dilling; and Pastors,
Politicians, and Pacifists, by L. F. Smith and E. B. Johns, expose the
poison of this “deadly white snake,” pacifism; and should be in the
possession of every believer.
In parallel columns on pages 100 to 107, in Tainted Contacts,
Communists, Socialists, Internationalists, and Pacifists, are shown to
be bed-fellows of common aims. The “Federal Council of Churches,”
(perhaps the most insidiously serpentine in its operations of any
organization in America) is seen to be hand-in-glove with all these
Again we say, Read the Scriptures, and re-read them! They alone enlighten, reprove, correct, instruct.
1.”This ideal of the apostle neither confounds church and state, nor
places them in antagonism, but properly co-ordinates them in Christian
ethics. Romanism subordinates state to church; Erastianism [as today
Fascism and Communism—W. R. N.], subordinates the church to the state,
usually confounding them; Puritanism also confounded them, but with
more of an acknowledged theocratic principle—Schaff and Riddle.
We may add that the Reformation did not fully escape, in this respect,
from Romanism and Judaism. Calvin established a theocratic state at
Geneva, holding fast to civil powers in religious things, which led to
the burning of Servetus! While Zwingli, in Switzerland, took the sword,
and perished by it. We may further add that in our own day the
perpetual meddling with governmental affairs carried on at various
government centres by the church lobbies (I write in America) reveals
that ignorance of the Church’s heavenly calling, and that vain hope to
“mend” this present world, which so darkens the counsels of government
itself, and increases daily that deep-seated resentment by the powers
that be against those who claim spiritual directive authority over
government. The upshot has always been and will always be disastrous;
for the State finally rises up and wades to independence of “religious”
interference through rivers of blood!
”A fair exegesis of this passage can hardly fail to recognize the fact
that the Apostle here as well as elsewhere (I Thess. 4:17; I Cor.
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 II Thess. 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.”
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” (Phil. 3:3). Jewish
circumcision was a striking token of that death to the flesh which was
executed at the cross.
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 (Gal. 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.”
Subjection to Rulers, as Ordained of God. Verses 1 to 7.