1. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is
no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
1. Omnis anima potestatibus supereminentibus subdita sit: non enim
est potestas, nisi a Deo; quae vero sunt potestates a Deo sunt ordinatae.
2. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance
of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
2. Itaque qui resistit potestati, Dei ordinationi resistit; qui
vero restiterint judicium sibi accersent.
1. Let every soul, etc. Inasmuch as he so carefully handles this subject
in connection with what forms the Christian life, it appears that he was
constrained to do so by some great necessity which existed especially in
that age, though the preaching of the gospel at all times renders this
necessary. There are indeed always some tumultuous spirits who believe
that the kingdom of Christ cannot be sufficiently elevated, unless all
earthly powers be abolished, and that they cannot enjoy the liberty given
by him, except they shake off every yoke of human subjection. This error,
however, possessed the minds of the Jews above all others; for it seemed
to them disgraceful that the offspring of Abraham, whose kingdom flourished
before the Redeemerís coming, should now, after his appearance, continue
in submission to another power. There was also another thing which alienated
the Jews no less than the Gentiles from their rulers, because they all
not only hated piety, but also persecuted religion with the most hostile
feelings. Hence it seemed unreasonable to acknowledge them for legitimate
princes and rulers, who were attempting to take away the kingdom from Christ,
the only Lord of heaven and earth.
By these reasons, as it is probable, Paul was induced to establish,
with greater care than usual, the authority of magistrates, and first he
lays down a general precept, which briefly includes what he afterwards
says: secondly, he subjoins an exposition and a proof of his precept.
He calls them the higher powers, not the supreme, who possess the chief
authority, but such as excel other men. Magistrates are then thus called
with regard to their subjects, and not as compared with each other. And
it seems indeed to me, that the Apostle intended by this word to take away
the frivolous curiosity of men, who are wont often to inquire by what right
they who rule have obtained their authority; but it ought to be enough
for us, that they do rule; for they have not ascended by their own power
into this high station, but have been placed there by the Lordís hand.
And by mentioning every soul, he removes every exception, lest any one
should claim an immunity from the common duty of obedience.
For there is no power, etc. The reason why we ought to be subject to
magistrates is, because they are constituted by Godís ordination. For since
it pleases God thus to govern the world, he who attempts to invert the
order of God, and thus to resist God himself, despises his power; since
to despise the providence of him who is the founder of civil power, is
to carry on war with him. Understand further, that powers are from God,
not as pestilence, and famine, and wars, and other visitations for sin,
are said to be from him; but because he has appointed them for the legitimate
and just government of the world. For though tyrannies and unjust exercise
of power, as they are full of disorder, (ajtaxi>av) are not an ordained
government; yet the right of government is ordained by God for the wellbeing
of mankind. As it is lawful to repel wars and to seek remedies for other
evils, hence the Apostle commands us willingly and cheerfully to respect
and honor the right and authority of magistrates, as useful to men: for
the punishment which God inflicts on men for their sins, we cannot properly
call ordinations, but they are the means which he designedly appoints for
the preservation of legitimate order.
2. And they who resist, etc. As no one can resist God but to his own
ruin, he threatens, that they shall not be unpunished who in this respect
oppose the providence of God. Let us then beware, lest we incur this denunciation.
And by judgment, I understand not only the punishment which is inflicted
by the magistrate, as though he had only said, that they would be justly
punished who resisted authority; but also the vengeance of God, however
it may at length be executed: for he teaches us in general what end awaits
those who contend with God.
3. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt
thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt
have praise of the same:
3. Principes enim non sunt terrori bonis operibus sed malis; vis
ergo non timere potestatem? bene fac, et habebis laudem ab ea;
4. 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
4. Dei enim minister est tibi in bonum; si vero quid mali feceris,
time; non enim frustra gladium gerit; Dei enim minister est, vindex in
iram adversus eos qui male agunt.
3. For princes, etc. He now commends to us obedience to princes on the
ground of utility; for the causative ga<r, for, is to be referred to
the first proposition, and not to the last verse. Now, the utility is this,
ó that the Lord has designed in this way to provide for the tranquillity
of the good, and to restrain the waywardness of the wicked; by which two
things the safety of mankind is secured: for except the fury of the wicked
be resisted, and the innocent be protected from their violence, all things
would come to an entire confusion. Since then this is the only remedy by
which mankind can be preserved from destruction, it ought to be carefully
observed by us, unless we wish to avow ourselves as the public enemies
of the human race.
And he adds, Wilt not thou then fear the power? Do good. By this he
intimates, that there is no reason why we should dislike the magistrate,
if indeed we are good; nay, that it is an implied proof of an evil conscience,
and of one that is devising some mischief, when any one wishes to shake
off or to remove from himself this yoke. But he speaks here of the true,
and, as it were, of the native duty of the magistrate, from which however
they who hold power often degenerate; yet the obedience due to princes
ought to be rendered to them. For since a wicked prince is the Lordís scourge
to punish the sins of the people, let us remember, that it happens through
our fault that this excellent blessing of God is turned into a curse.
Let us then continue to honor the good appointment of God, which may
be easily done, provided we impute to ourselves whatever evil may accompany
it. Hence he teaches us here the end for which magistrates are instituted
by the Lord; the happy effects of which would always appear, were not so
noble and salutary an institution marred through our fault. At the same
time, princes do never so far abuse their power, by harassing the good
and innocent, that they do not retain in their tyranny some kind of just
government: there can then be no tyranny which does not in some respects
assist in consolidating the society of men.
He has here noticed two things, which even philosophers have considered
as making a part of a well-ordered administration of a commonwealth, that
is, rewards for the good, and punishment for the wicked. The word praise
has here, after the Hebrew manner, a wide meaning.
4. For he is Godís minister for good, etc. Magistrates may hence learn
what their vocation is, for they are not to rule for their own interest,
but for the public good; nor are they endued with unbridled power, but
what is restricted to the wellbeing of their subjects; in short, they are
responsible to God and to men in the exercise of their power. For as they
are deputed by God and do his business, they must give an account to him:
and then the ministration which God has committed to them has a regard
to the subjects, they are therefore debtors also to them. And private men
are reminded, that it is through the divine goodness that they are defended
by the sword of princes against injuries done by the wicked.
For they bear not the sword in vain, etc. It is another part of the
office of magistrates, that they ought forcibly to repress the waywardness
of evil men, who do not willingly suffer themselves to be governed by laws,
and to inflict such punishment on their offenses as Godís judgment requires;
for he expressly declares, that they are armed with the sword, not for
an empty show, but that they may smite evil-doers.
And then he says, An avenger, to execute wrath, etc. This is the same
as if it had been said, that he is an executioner of Godís wrath; and this
he shows himself to be by having the sword, which the Lord has delivered
into his hand. This is a remarkable passage for the purpose of proving
the right of the sword; for if the Lord, by arming the magistrate, has
also committed to him the use of the sword, whenever he visits the guilty
with death, by executing Godís vengeance, he obeys his commands. Contend
then do they with God who think it unlawful to shed the blood of wicked
5. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also
for conscience sake.
5. Itaque necesse est subjici, non modo propter iram, sed etiam
6. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are Godministers,
attending continually upon this very thing.
6. Propterea enim tributa quoque solutis; ministrienim Dei sunt,
in hoc incumbentes.
7. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is
due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
7. Reddite ergo omnibus quod debetur; cui tributum, tributum; cui
vectigal, vectigal; cui timorem, timorem; cui honorem, honorem.
5. It is therefore necessary, etc. What he had at first commanded as
to the rendering of obedience to magistrates, he now briefly repeats, but
with some addition, and that is, ó that we ought to obey them, not only
on the ground of necessity arising from man, but that we thereby obey God;
for by wrath he means the punishment which the magistrates inflict for
the contempt of their dignity; as though he had said, ďWe must not only
obey, because we cannot with impunity resist the powerful and those armed
with authority, as injuries are wont to be borne with which cannot be repelled;
but we ought to obey willingly, as conscience through Godís word thus binds
us.Ē Though then the magistrate were disarmed, so that we could with impunity
provoke and despise him, yet such a thing ought to be no more attempted
than if we were to see punishment suspended over us; for it belongs not
to a private individual to take away authority from him whom the Lord has
in power set over us. This whole discourse is concerning civil government;
it is therefore to no purpose that they who would exercise dominion over
consciences do hence attempt to establish their sacrilegious tyranny.
6. For this reason also, etc. He takes occasion to introduce the subject
of tributes, the reason for which he deduces from the office of magistrates;
for if it be their duty to defend and safely preserve the peace of the
good, and to resist the mischievous attempts of the wicked, this they cannot
do unless they are aided by sufficient force. Tributes then are justly
paid to support such necessary expenses. But respecting the proportion of
taxes or tributes, this is not the place to discuss the subject; nor does
it belong to us either to prescribe to princes how much they ought to expend
in every affair, or to call them to an account. It yet behooves them to
remember, that whatever they receive from the people, is as it were public
property, and not to be spent in the gratification of private indulgence.
For we see the use for which Paul appoints these tributes which are to
be paid ó even that kings may be furnished with means to defend their subjects.
7. Render then to all what is due, etc. The Apostle seems here summarily
to include the particulars in which the duties of subjects towards magistrates
consist, ó that they are to hold them in esteem and honor, that they are
to obey their edicts, laws, and judgments, ó that they are to pay tributes
and customs. By the word fear, he means obedience; by customs and tributes,
not only imposts and taxes, but also other revenues.
Now this passage confirms what I have already said, ó that we ought
to obey kings and governors, whoever they may be, not because we are constrained,
but because it is a service acceptable to God; for he will have them not
only to be feared, but also honored by a voluntary respect.
|8. Owe no man any thing, but to love
one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
||8. Nemini quicquam debeatis, nisi
ut invicem diligatis; qui enim diligit alterum Legem implevit.
|9. For this, Thou shalt not commit
adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear
false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment,
it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself.
||9. Illud enim, Non moechaberis, Non
occides, Non falsum testimonium dices, Non concupisces, et si quod est
aliud praeceptum, in hoc sermone comprehenditur, Diliges proximum sicut
|10. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor:
therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
||10. Dilectio proximo malum non infert:
plenitudo ergo legis est dilectio.
8. To no one owe ye, etc. There are those who think that
this was not said without a taunt, as though Paul was answering the objection
of those who contended that Christians were burdened in having other
precepts than that of love enjoined them. And indeed I do not deny, but
that it may be taken ironically, as though he conceded to those who allowed
no other law but that of love, what they required, but in another sense.
And yet I prefer to take the words simply as they are; for I think
that Paul meant to refer the precept respecting the power of magistrates
to the law of love, lest it should seem to any one too feeble; as though
he had said, ó "When I require you to obey princes, I require nothing more
than what all the faithful ought to do, as demanded by the law of love:
for if ye wish well to the good, (and not to wish this is inhuman,) ye
ought to strive, that the laws and judgments may prevail, that the administrators
of the laws may have an obedient people, so that through them peace may
be secured to all." He then who introduces anarchy, violates love; for
what immediately follows anarchy, is the confusion of all things.
For he who loves another, etc. Paulís design is to reduce all
the precepts of the law to love, so that we may know that we then rightly
obey the commandments, when we observe the law of love, and when we refuse
to undergo no burden in order to keep it. He thus fully confirms what he
has commanded respecting obedience to magistrates, in which consists no
small portion of love.
But some are here impeded, and they cannot well extricate themselves
from this difficulty, ó that Paul teaches us that the law is fulfilled
when we love our neighbor, for no mention is here made of what is due to
God, which ought not by any means to have been omitted. But Paul refers
not to the whole law, but speaks only of what the law requires from us
as to our neighbor. And it is doubtless true, that the whole law is fulfilled
when we love our neighbors; for true love towards man does not flow except
from the love of God, and it is its evidence, and as it were its effects.
But Paul records here only the precepts of the second table, and of these
only he speaks, as though he had said, ó "He who loves his neighbor as
himself, performs his duty towards the whole world." Puerile then is the
gloss of the Sophists, who attempt to elicit from this passage what may
favor justification by works: for Paul declares not what men do or do not,
but he speaks hypothetically of that which you will find nowhere accomplished.
And when we say, that men are not justified by works, we deny not that
the keeping of the law is true righteousness: but as no one performs it,
and never has performed it, we say, that all are excluded from it, and
that hence the only refuge is in the grace of Christ.
9. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, etc. It cannot
be from this passage concluded what precepts are contained in the second
table, for he subjoins at the end, and if there be any other precept.
He indeed omits the command respecting the honoring of parents; and
it may seem strange, that what especially belonged to his subject should
have been passed by. But what if he had left it out, lest he should obscure
his argument? Though I dare not to affirm this, yet I see here nothing
wanting to answer the purpose he had in view, which was to show, ó that
since God intended nothing else by all his commandments than to teach us
the duty of love, we ought by all means to strive to perform it. And yet
the uncontentious reader will readily acknowledge, that Paul intended to
prove, by things of a like nature, that the import of the whole law is,
that love towards one another ought to be exercised by us, and that what
he left to be implied is to be understood, and that is, ó that obedience
to magistrates is not the least thing which tends to nourish peace, to
preserve brotherly love.
10. Love doeth no evil to a neighbor, etc. He demonstrates
by the effect, that under the word love are contained those things which
are taught us in all the commandments; for he who is endued with true love
will never entertain the thought of injuring others. What else does the
whole law forbid, but that we do no harm to our neighbor? This, however,
ought to be applied to the present subject; for since magistrates are the
guardians of peace and justice, he who desires that his own right should
be secured to every one, and that all may live free from wrong, ought to
defend, as far as he can, the power of magistrates. But the enemies of
government show a disposition to do harm. And when he repeats that the
fulfilling of the law is love, understand this, as before, of that part
of the law which refers to mankind; for the first table of the law, which
contains what we owe to God, is not here referred to at all.