Having commented on the believers’ proper attitude to God, to fellow-believers, and to outsiders (including enemies), Paul now describes how God’s children should relate to governing authorities. He states that these rulers have been ordained by God, so that those who oppose them are resisting God’s ordinance. Moreover, the addressed should bear in mind that magistrates have by God been appointed to promote the interests of the people over whom they were placed in charge. Therefore, in order to avoid God’s wrath and also for the sake of conscience those for whom Paul’s letter was written-believers in every age-should submit themselves to the civil authorities. Those who follow the opposite course better remember that they are opposing God himself; also, that the magistrate does not bear his sword in vain.
Taxes too, of whatever kind, should be paid, and those who judiciously and faithfully collect them should be respected. This section closes with the words, “Pay to all whatever you owe (them): tax to whom tax (is due), custom to whom custom, respect to whom respect, honor to whom honor” (verses 1-7).
Having just a moment ago stated, “Pay to all whatever you owe (them),” Paul now adds, “Do not keep on owing anyone anything except to love one another.” Thus he condemns the practice of those who are ever ready to borrow and ever slow to repay; emphasizes that the debt of love we owe to others can never be repaid in full; and makes clear that in our loving embrace we should not only include fellow-believers but anyone at all whom God has placed in our path for help and protection of any kind. He says, “For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, is summed up in the saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Paul closes this section with the striking understatement, “Love does no harm to the neighbor. Therefore the fulfilment of (the) law is love” (verses 8-10).
It is clear, therefore, that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves because that is what God’s holy law demands. The apostle now adds another reason why we should do this, and probably also why we should strive to live in accordance with all the exhortations found in 12:1 f. (thorough devotion to God, etc.). He writes, “And (do this) especially because you know how critical the time is. The hour has arrived for you to wake up from (your) slumber, for our salvation is nearer now than when we (first) believed. The night is far advanced; the day is drawing near.” He was undoubtedly referring to the day of Christ’s Return in glory. That what he stated with reference to the imminent character of this great event and of full salvation for both body and soul, to be imparted to all who walk in the light, is true, has been indicated on pp. 445-447. Paul, accordingly, exhorts the addressed to abandon the kind of deeds associated with darkness (orgies, drinking bouts … dissension, jealousy), and, instead, to put on “the armor of light.” In closing this section he states, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ [i.e., strive to attain to full spiritual union with him], and make no provision for (the fulfilment of) the lusts of the flesh” (verses 11-14).