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. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation…Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
JOHN GILL (1697-1771): This Paul’s Christian Politics.
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): [Christians] belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of their scriptural character is, that they are the quiet in the land. If Christians were quiet when under the government of Nero and Caligula, and when persecuted and hunted like wild beasts, they ought to be not only quiet, but very thankful now.
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Even though rulers are wicked and unbelieving, yet is their governmental power good―in itself―and of God. So our Lord said to Pilate, to whom He submitted as a pattern for us all: Thou couldst have no power against me, except it were given thee from above, John 19:11.
JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): By me kings reigns and princes decree Justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth, Proverbs 8: 15, 16―It is not owing to human perverseness that supreme power on earth is lodged in kings and other governors, but by Divine Providence, and the holy decree of Him to whom it has seemed good so to govern the affairs of men…Let no man here deceive himself, since we cannot resist the magistrate without resisting God. For, although an unarmed magistrate may seem to be despised with impunity, yet God is armed, and will signally avenge this contempt.
MARTIN LUTHER: Christians should not, under the pretense of Christian religion, refuse to obey men in authority even if they are wicked.
JOHN GILL: This is not to be understood, as if magistrates were above the laws, and had a lawless power to do as they will without opposition; for they are under the law, and liable to the penalty of it, in case of disobedience, as others; and when they make their own will a law, or exercise a lawless tyrannical power, in defiance of the laws of God, and of the land, to the endangering of the lives, liberties, and properties of subjects, they may be resisted, as Saul was by the people of Israel, when he would have took away the life of Jonathan for the breach of an arbitrary law of his own, and that too without the knowledge of it, I Samuel 14:45; but the apostle is speaking of resisting magistrates in the right discharge of their office, and in the exercise of legal power and authority.
A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Holy Scripture must never be made to contradict itself: one of its precepts must never be pressed so far as to nullify another; each one is to be interpreted and applied in harmony with the general analogy of faith, and in the light of the modifications which the Spirit Himself has given. For example; children are required to honour their parents, yet Ephesians 6:1 shows that their obedience is to be “in the Lord;” if a parent required something directly opposed unto Holy Writ, then he is not be obeyed…
Now the same modification we have pointed out above obtains in connection with the exhortations of Romans 13:1-7. In proof, let us cite a clear example to the point from either Testament. In Daniel 3 we find that the king of Babylon—the head of the “powers that be”—erected an image unto himself, and demanded that, on a given signal, all must “fall down and worship” [it]. But the three Hebrew captives declared, Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up, verse 18; and the Lord vindicated their non-compliance. In Acts 4 we see Peter and John arrested by the Jewish “powers,” who, commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. Did the Apostles submit to this ordinance? No, instead they said, Whither it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye, verse 19. As Romans 13:4 declares, the magistrate is “the minister of God thee for good:” should he require that which the Word condemns as evil, he is not to be obeyed.
JOHN CALVIN: We are subject to the men that rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command any thing against Him, let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity which they possess as magistrates.
JOHN GILL: Subjection to the civil magistrates designs and includes all duties relative to them; such as showing them respect, honour, and reverence suitable to their stations; speaking well of them, and their administration; using them with candour, not bearing hard upon them for little matters, and allowing for ignorance of the secret springs of many of their actions and conduct, which if known might greatly justify them; wishing well to them, and praying constantly, earnestly, and heartily for them; observing their laws and injunctions; obeying their lawful commands, which do not contradict the laws of God, nature, and right reason; and paying them their just dues and lawful tribute, to support them in their office and dignity.
RICHARD STEELE (1629-1692): Be conscientiously cautious of busying yourself with the affairs of state. Many indulge themselves in great impertinency in this respect; that affect to have a profound knowledge of politics; to be acquainted with private negotiations, and the secret springs of action; to which are often added rash censures of what they do not understand. They can find some fault in every measure of their governors; can tell to whose ignorance or unfaithfulness every disappointment was owing; or to gratify whose pride or revenge this or that step was taken, or law made. By this means they not only discover great folly, but divert others from their proper business.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): And any attempt to equate the teaching of the New Testament with either of the political parties, or any other conceivable party, is to do violence to the teaching of the Scripture.
ANDREW FULLER (1754-1815): The great point with Christians should be, an attachment to government, as government, irrespective of the party which administers it; for this is right, and would tend more than any thing to promote the kingdom of Christ. We are not called to yield up our consciences in religious matters, nor to approve of what is wrong in those which are civil; but we are not at liberty to deal in acrimony and evil-speaking…On this principle it is probable the apostle enjoined obedience to the powers that were, even during the reign of Nero.
H. A. IRONSIDE (1876-1951): Christians are to be examples to others of subjection to the government. When difficulties arise and differences come up that divide people and set one group against another, we should be characterized by quiet, restful confidence in God as we refer these things to Him in prayer.
RICHARD STEELE: Let no pretense how pious soever, nor any prospect how specious soever, nor any pressure how great soever, prevail with you to disturb the public peace, to dishonour your rules, or embark in any design unjustifiable by the laws you are to be governed by…Let God alone to rule the world; let the lawful magistrates alone to rule His subjects; and let it be your business cheerfully to obey, or quietly to suffer. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye―but let none of you suffer as an evil doer, or as a busy body in other men’s matters, I Peter 4:14,15.