What we will see in Romans 13 are three exhortations that Paul gives to the Roman church and for all Christians. This is a continuation of the marks of a Christian that Paul started in chapter 12. The three exhortations are as follows.
Be obedient to governing authorities - Verses 1-7
This is probably not something we want to hear, but Paul does tell the Christians in Rome to subject themselves to the governing authorities. If you think we have tyrannical leaders now, I suggest doing a study of the emperors of the Roman Empire. When Paul wrote this to the church in Rome the emperor at that time was Nero. Nero, as we heard on Sunday, was a lunatic and someone who was not a reasonable person to deal with, as he killed his own child and wife because he did not like to be told what to do. Even more, the Roman church were the ones who were exposed to the emperor more than any other church because they were in the capital of where the emperor actually was. Yet, Paul still tells them and us to subject ourselves to the governing authorities because God was the one who put them into that position. What we can glean here is that if we genuinely trust in God’s sovereignty then our lives should be marked with obedience to all governing authorities knowing that God put them there for a reason. And obedience means giving to them what belongs to them. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God the things that are God’s. Are there times where we will have to disobey? Yes, when they tell us to disobey or deny God but, we need much discernment in working through many issues that can arise to deal with them in wisdom.
Love each other - Verses 8-10
Paul continues with saying “Owe no one anything” meaning that as Christians we are to honor those, we owe anything to by diligently paying off our debt, but the only thing we should owe anyone is love. Jesus said in Matthew 22 that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love your neighbor. Paul says that by loving we can fulfill the law. How is that so? Well, if you love God then you will try your best to honor him, live for him, and remove things in your life which are sinful. When you love your neighbor, instead of sinning against them by coveting their things, committing adultery with their spouse, or stealing something from them, you will strive to share what you have and to care for them because that is what genuine Christlike love does. Genuine love is self-sacrificial which means you will give up your stuff and your time to give to your neighbor and that love will help you to care for your neighbor and not sin against them which then, you will be fulfilling the law. Sin causes us to want what our neighbor has and sometimes it might cause us to act on it which leads to stealing and adultery, but love causes us to care for our neighbor and to share what we have which reverses the effects of sin.
Urgency to pure living - Verses 11-14
In these last four verses we can sense the urgency in which Paul speaks to the church, as he tells them to wake from their sleep. According to the context of chapter 12&13 I believe this exhortation deals with believers being slothful in their walks with the Lord and Paul is exhorting them to wake up from their slothfulness. He is saying salvation is more familiar with you now than when you were first saved, so there should be some growth. He exhorts them to have a Christ centered zeal that pushes them toward holy living which is why in verses 14 he says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and MAKE NO PROVISION FOR THE FLESH, to gratify its desires.” That means that Christians should not be passive when it comes to sin, we are called to put up many guards in areas where we are easily prone to fall. We are to eliminate every avenue and access to ways that we can fall into sin. Making no provision for the flesh is not legalistic, but it is a way we strive to honor the Lord in parts of our life that are weak and need growth. As we grow by God’s grace in the gospel of Christ, we will see our appetite for these things will change by the power of the Spirit in us but we should always put up guards so that we may not provide the flesh with any footholds that can drag us into the mud.