“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:  for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

“For he is the minister of God”
Literally:  “For it is a servant of God.” –Here the Paul gives a reason, why a magistrate is not to be unduly dreaded and feared by his subjects who live well, for  he is by his institution the minister of God.

           MINISTER:  (Grk.–diakonos)– The servant of God.   He is appointed by God to do His will, and to execute His purposes.  The ruler, the guardian of order and the preserver of peace is, as a rule, a blessing.  The word for “minister” is the same as for “servant,” which is also the same root word from which we get our word “deacon.” 

Here the apostle Paul puts the character of the ruler in the strongest possible light.  He is the minister of God; i.e., the office is by Divine appointment: the man who is worthy of the office will act in conformity to the will of God: and as the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears open to their cry, consequently the ruler will be the minister of God to them for good.

“to thee for good”
Literally:  “To you for the good.”–He is made a ruler, not for his own good, but the good of the people whose interests he is bound to promote.

        For your benefit; to protect you in your rights; to vindicate your name, person, or property; and to guard your liberty, and secure to you the rewards of your industry. The magistrate is not appointed directly to reward men, but they practically do furnish a reward by protecting and defending them, and securing to them the interests of justice.
         He is the minister of
God for the good of them over which he is set, especially of them that are virtuous and good. The office is by Divine appointment: the man who is worthy of the office will act in conformity to the will of God: and as the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears open to their cry; consequently the ruler will be the minister of God to them for good.

“But if thou do that which is evil”
Literally:  “But if you do the bad.” —That is, if any citizen should do evil, then that citizen should be afraid. Fear the just vengeance of the laws.  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!

            “for he beareth not the sword in vain”
            Literally:  “For he does not bear the sword in vain.” —The sword is an emblem in the hand of the magistrate, of rightful authority.

           His power is delegated to him for the defense and encouragement of the good, and the punishment of the wicked; and he has authority to execute capital punishment, when the law so requires.
            Princes were accustomed to wear a sword as an emblem of their authority; and the sword was often used for the purpose of beheading, or otherwise punishing the guilty. The meaning of Paul’s is that he does not wear this badge of authority as an unmeaning show, but that it will be used to execute the murderers.  As this is the design of the power entrusted to him, and as he will exercise his authority, men should be influenced by fear to keep the law, even if there were no better motive.

    SWORD:  (Grk.–machairan)—An instrument of punishment, as well as an emblem of war.

Keep in mind that the Roman short-sword (the gladius) was a state-of-the-art military weapon for killing in Paul’s day. The amazing thing to be noted here is that he is writing to Romans,  Paul does not refer to that weapon (the gladius, which was about 20 inches long); rather, he refers to the machairan, which was actually a Greek sword that was not as wide as the Roman gladius and longer than the gladius (about 30 inches long).  That Paul would be referring to the Greek  machairan, instead of the Roman gladius, when writing to these Romans, is quite amazing.

“for he is the minister of God”
Literally:  “For it is a servant of God.”For it is
God'S vindictive minister, to execute wrath; to inflict punishment upon the transgressors of the law; and this according to the statutes of that law. God'S civil ministers are never allowed to pronounce or inflict punishment according to their own minds or feeling, but according to the express declarations of the law.

  “a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil”
   Literally:  “An avenger for wrath to the {one} practicing bad.”–He is
God'S vindictive minister, to execute wrath upon evil doers.

         REVENGER:  (Grk.–ekdikos)—literally: “avengenr” —In 12:19, vengeance is said to belong to God.  Yet He executes His vengeance by means of subordinate agents

            It belongs to God to take vengeance by direct judgments:  by the plague, famine, sickness, or earthquakes; or by the appointment of magistrates; or by letting loose the passions of men to prey upon each other. When a magistrate inflicts punishment on the guilty, it is to be regarded as the act of God taking vengeance by him; and on this principle only is it right for a judge to condemn a man to death.  
          It is not because one man has by nature any right over the life of another, or because society has any right collectively which it has not as individuals; but because God gave life, and because He has chosen, by the appointment of magistrates, to take it away this life when the crime of murder is committed, and not by coming forth Himself visibly to execute the laws. Where human laws fail, however, He often takes vengeance into His own hands; and by using the plague, or some other form of capital judgment, sweeps the guilty into eternity.

“to {execute} wrath”
Literally:  “For wrath.”–For an explanation of the word “wrath”, refer back to the notes for 1:18. Here it denotes punishment, or the just execution of the laws.

It may be remarked that this verse is an incidental proof of the appropriateness of capital punishment. The sword was undoubtedly used as an instrument for this purpose, and Paul mentions its use without any remark of disapprobation.  He charges Christian citizens to be under subjection to those who wear the sword, that is, to those who execute the laws by it; and evidently intends to speak of the magistrate with the sword, or in inflicting capital punishment, as having received the appointment or command of God. The tendency of society now is to forget that God has doomed the murderer to death; and though humanity should be consulted in the execution of the laws, yet there is no humanity in allowing the murderer to live to infest society, and endanger many lives, in the place of his own, which was forfeited to justice. Now society condemns murderers to life in prison and by doing so, punish the families of murderer victims by forcing them to pay taxes to feed and clothe thesE murderers and provide them with free items (i.e., free educational access, free medical and dental care, free television in their cells,  (just to name a few) that the victims cannot afford for themselves. No, instead of executing these murderers as God has commanded and getting them out of society, modern society has made them a burden upon society and the families of murderer victims.   Far better that one murderer should die, than that he should be allowed to live and become burden on society, and a tax burden on the families of murderer victims, for the rest of his natural life.   But the authority of God has settled this question, (Gen. 9:5,6) and it is neither right nor safe for a community to disregard His solemn decisions.

   “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed:  for in the image of God mad He man” (Gen. 9:6).
   “He that smiteth a man, so that he dies, shall be surely put to death” (Exodus 21:12).
   God has never recinded this verses.

“Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.”

“Wherefore ye must needs be subject”—
Literally:  “Because of this, {it is} necessary to be subject.

        WHEREFORE:  (Grk.–dio)—“Therefore; because of this.” The reasons why we should be subject, which Paul had given, were two:

1. That government was appointed by God.
2. That violation of the laws would necessarily expose to punishment.

“ye must needs”
Literally:  “There is necessity,” — Because it is right (2:15; 9:1), both because of the law and            because of conscience.

           NEEDS:  (Grk.–anakê)—This is a word stronger than that which implies mere fitness or propriety. It means, that it is a matter of high obligation and of necessity to be subject to the civil ruler.

“not only for wrath”
Literally:  “Not only because of wrath.” —Not only on account of the
fear of punishment; or the fact that wrath will be executed on evil doers.

There is a necessity that you should be subject, not only for wrath, literally: “on account of wrath;” or “on account of the punishment” which will be inflicted on evil doers, but also for conscience's sake; not only to avoid punishment, but also to preserve a clear conscience.

“For conscience' sake”
Literally: “Because of conscience” —As a matter of conscience, or of duty to God, because he has appointed it, and made it necessary and proper.

         Since civil government is established by order of God for the support, defense, and happiness of society, then they who transgress its laws not only expose themselves to the penalties assigned by the statutes but also to guilt in their own consciences, because they sin against God.  Here are two powerful motives to prevent the infraction of the laws and to enforce obedience.
1.      The
dread of punishment; this weighs with the ungodly.
2.      The
keeping of a good conscience, which weighs powerfully with every person who fear. 
         These two motives should be frequently urged both among professors and profane.

A good citizen yields obedience because it is the will of k; and a Christian makes it a part of his religion to maintain and obey the just laws of the land. (See Matt. 22:21; comp. Eccl. 8:2), “I counsel them to keep the king's commandments, and that in regard of the oath of God.”  There are two reasons for obedience to the civil ruler:
1.      If one fails to obey him, he will be a subject of his wrath (judgment) and be punished.
2.      It is God's will that we should obey our civil rulers. Hence, conscience should be a motive.

         Men should obey the laws, not merely from the fear of punishment, but from a sense of duty to God and men, i.e., from reverence for God's authority. It is that, in general, the magistracy is considered to be a divine ordinance, that this is spoken; and this statement applies equally to all forms of government, from an unchecked despotism–such as flourished when this was written, under the Emperor Nero–to a pure democracy.
         The inalienable right of all subjects to endeavor to alter or improve the form of government under which they live is left untouched here. But since Christians were constantly charged with turning the world upside down, and because there certainly were elements enough in Christianity of moral and social revolution to give plausibility to the charge, and tempt noble spirits crushed under misgovernment, it was of special importance that the pacific, submissive, loyal spirit of those Christians who resided at the great seat of political power, should furnish a visible refuting of this charge.

“For this cause pay you tribute also:  for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.”

“For this cause”
Literally:  “For because of this.”–Because they are appointed by
God for the sake of conscience, and in order to secure the execution of the laws. As they are appointed by God,   the tribute which is needful for their support becomes an act of homage to Godan act performed in obedience to His will, and acceptable to Him. 

“pay you tribute”
Literally: “You pay taxes.”–The taxes gathered from the Roman provinces were called
tribute.  Because government is an institution established by God, and magistrates are His ministers to promote the good of the people, you pay tribute;.

Taxes are justly due to the government for the payment of its officers, and for other needful expenses; and they ought to be freely, conscientiously, and punctually paid. Men have no more right to defraud the government of its just dues, or to withhold the taxes of the duties which are needful to carry on its operations, than to defraud their fellow-men. And those who in any way do this, sin not only against men, but against God.  Not only be subject to, (12:5,) but also pay what may be necessary to support the government. The payment of taxes and tribute to the supreme magistrate is necessary for several reasons:
1.      As it is an acknowledgment of the power which God has set over us. 
2.      As it tends to the support of the government which we live under.
3.      As it is a small recompense for the governor's continual care and protection.

         TRIBUTE:  (Grk.--phoros)—Tribute properly denotes the tax, or compensation, that was paid by one province or nation to a superior, as the price of protection, or as an   acknowledgment of subjection. Paying taxes recognizes authority over us.

The Romans made all conquered provinces pay this tribute; and it would become a question whether it was right to acknowledge this claim, and submit to it. Especially would this question be agitated by the Jews and by Jewish Christians.  But on the principle which Paul had laid down, (12:1, 20) it was right to do it, and was demanded by the very purposes of government. In a larger sense, the word tribute means any tax paid on land or personal estate for the support of the government. Even Jesus’ birth took place in Bethlehem because of this Roman taxation (Luke 2:1-4).

for they are God's ministers”
Literally:  “For they are ministers of God.” —God's servants; or they are appointed by Him. Paul keeps emphasizing this point.  NOTE:  Whenever the Holy Spirit (Who inspired Paul to write this epistle) repeats a point it is always for EMPHASIS; i.e., to emphasize the point He is attempting to make.

          MINISTERS: (Grk.–leitourgoi)—In verse 4 Paul uses the Greek word diakonos  for ministers,  but here he uses a different wordleitourgoi.  This was an old Greek word which originally meant, “one who discharged a public office at his own expense” but it came to mean, “a public servant, minister”

In the N.T. this Greek word was used in various ways:
1.      Of Christ, as a “Minister of the sanctuary,” that is, in the heavens (Heb. 8:2).
2.      Of Angels, (Heb. 1:7; Psalm 104:4 in the LXX).
3.      Of Paul, in his evangelical ministry, fulfilling it as a serving priest (Rom. 15:16).

This Greek word brings out more fully the fact that the ruler, like the priest, discharges a divinely ordained service.  Government is thus elevated into the sphere of religion.  As the government is by appointment of God, we should contribute to its support as a matter of conscience, because we thus do honor to the arrangement of God.  It may also be observed here that it being the fact that civil rulers are the ministers of God, this invests their character with great sacredness, and should impress upon them the duty of seeking to do His will, as well as on others the duty of submitting to them. And as the rulers are God's ministers, that is, His agents to attend to necessary duties, it is right that they should be supported.

“attending continually upon this very thing”
Literally:  “For this very thing always giving attention.”  

ATTENDING CONTINUALLY: (Grk.-proskarterountes)—Better rendered as, “always giving attention.” This is the same Greek word rendered as “continuing instant” in 12:12, but would have beem better rendered as “continuing steadfastly.”

As they attend to this, and devote their time and talents to it, it is proper that they should receive a suitable support. Therefore, it becomes for the people to contribute cheerfully to the necessary expenses of the government.  If those taxes should be unjust and oppressive, yet, like other evils, they still are to be submitted to until a remedy can be found in a proper way.

“Render therefore to all their dues:  tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

“Render therefore to all their dues”
Literally:  “Then give to all {their} dues.”–Render, or literally: “give over” or, “give to all rulers whatever they have a right to claim. From writing about magistrates, Paul now comes to other officials, and from them to men related to us by whatever tie.

         This injunction is often repeated in  the Bible (see Matt. 17:25-27; I Pet. 2:13-17; Prov. 24:21). This is one of the most obvious of the duties of religion. Christianity is not designed to break in upon the proper order of society, but rather to establish and confirm that order. It does not rudely attack existing institutions; but it comes to put them on a proper footing, tand to secure such an influence in all the relations of life as shall tend best to promote the happiness of man and the welfare of the community.
        This is an extensive command.  Be rigidly just; withhold neither from the king nor his ministers, nor his officers of justice and revenue, nor from even the lowest of the community, what the laws of God and your country require you to pay.

          DUES:  (Grk.-opheile)–Debts, from the Greek verb opheilô, which means, “to owe.” Used here in the N.T. only  and Matt. 18:32; I Cor. 7:3.  To whom it properly belongs by the law of the land, and according to the ordinance of God

 Paying debts needs emphasis today, even for ministers. It is represented here as a matter of debt, as something which is due to the ruler; a fair compensation to him for the service which he renders us by devoting his time and talents to advance our interests, and the welfare of the community. As taxes are a debt, a matter of strict and just obligation, they should be paid as conscientiously and as cheerfully s any other just debts, however contracted.

“Tribute to whom tribute”
Literally:  “To the {one due} tax, the tax.”

custom to whom custom”
Literally:  “To the one due tribute, the tribute.”

           CUSTOM: (Grk.–telos)—This word probably means such duties as were laid upon goods, merchandise, &c., on imports and exports and on foreigners.; what we commonly call custom.  A toll on goods, similar to the modern tariff; mercantile tax.  It was usually collected at the gates of cities on all goods entering (see Matt. 9:9).

Phoros (v. 6) is the tribute paid to a subject nation (Luke 20:22), while telos is tax for support of civil government (Mt. 17:25).    

“fear to whom fear”
Literally:  “To the {one due} the fear, the fear.”–Literally:  “reverence.”


    FEAR:  (Grk.-phobon)–This signifies that reverence which produces obedience. Treat all official characters with respect, and be obedient to your superiors.

We should stand in awe of those who wear the sword, and who are appointed to execute the laws of the land.  As the execution of their office is fitted to excite fear, we should render to them that reverence which is appropriate to the execution of their office.  Reverence means a caring anxiety lest we do anything to offend them.

“honor to whom honor”
Literally:  “To the {one due} honor, the honor.”

  HONOR:  (Grk.–timên)–Literally meaning that outward respect which the principle reverence, from which it springs, will generally produce.

          Never behave rudely to any person; but behave respectfully to men in office: if you cannot even respect the man-for an important office may be filled by an unworthy person-respect the office, and the man on account of his office.  If a man habituate himself to disrespect official characters, he will soon find himself disposed to pay little respect or obedience to the laws themselves.
          On the subject discussed in these seven verses, the following principles seem to be settled by the authority of the Bible, and are now understood:
1.      That government is essential; and its necessity is recognized by
God, and it is arranged by His Providence. God has never been the patron of anarchy and disorder.
2.      Civil rulers are dependent on
God. He has the entire control over them, and can set them up or put them down when He pleases.
3.      The authority of
God is superior to that of civil rulers. They have no right to make enactments which interfere with his authority. 

4.      It is not the business of civil rulers to regulate or control religion. That is a distinct department, with which they have no concern, except to protect it.
5.      The rights of all men are to be preserved.  Men are to be allowed to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, and to be protected in those rights, provided they do not violate the peace and order of the community
6.      Civil rulers have no right to persecute Christians, or to attempt to secure conformity to their views by force. The conscience can not be compelled; and in the affairs of religion man must be free.