It all comes back to love and how you treat your neighbor.  At least, that is what Paul is teaching us in Romans 13.  What Paul does that is different than Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40 (but not contrary to Jesus, just an extrapolation of it) is he pushes it out to the logical assumptions about political and social behavior.

Translation Notes

The most fitful translation choice for me was in verse 7.  There is a remarkable brevity in the way Paul frames these words–literally something like “taxes the taxes, toll the toll, fear the fear, honor the honor.”  I’ve added the verbs “due” and “pay” at the beginning and end of the verse for clarity, but those are not present in this part of the sentence.  They are borrowed from earlier.

In verse 6 Paul uses the word “leitourgoi” which is connected to the root for our word ‘liturgy’, and it is sometimes used to describe Christian worship or service.  Here, however, it is used to denote the secular, civil servant whom Paul also calls a servant of God.  It is fascinating that in 12:1, when he talks about worship, he uses another word, “latreo.”  Even though there are two different words, I wonder how connected in Paul’s mind is the work of Christian service and civil service?

One more translation issue.  Most English renderings add the word “first” in verse 11, when we “first believed.”  That is a giant liberty, for the word just is not there.  I don’t like it, because it implies a second (or third, or fourth etc…) moment of belief.  Paul is chronological here, recalling that time when we believed in Jesus, but the modifier “first” is unnecessary and confusing.

Theological Notes

I feel like these verses need a fresh reading in our current cultural context here in the United States.  Paul lived in a time when the Roman Empire governed everything, and Rome was anything but moral.  Rome was an empire built of power, lust, and greed.  Whatever evil someone thinks might be going on in our government today, it pales in comparison to the evil in Rome–all throughout the empire.  Yet, Paul can say that the imperium (lictor, likely) is chosen by God for the task.  It can only mean that in the larger society (not within the church, mind you, c/f 1 Cor. 5) order, peace, submission, and the public good trumps personal morality.  That is a hard pill for many, me included, to swallow but that seems to be the teaching.

Chapter Thirteen
1. Every soul must be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and they have been assigned to it by God.
2. So, those opposing authority resist the command of God, and those who resist authority will receive judgement.
3. For those governing are not to be feared by those doing good work, but those doing evil. If you do not want to fear the authorities, do good and you will have praise for it.
4. For he is a servant of God for your good. But if you do evil, you will fear, for it is not for nothing that he carries a sword as a servant of God—an executor of wrath—to those practicing evil.
5. Therefore, it is necessary to be subject, not only because of wrath, but also because of the conscience.
6. This is why you pay taxes, for those are servants of God, constantly attending to the order of things.
7. Pay everyone what is due. If taxes are due, then taxes, if a toll, then a toll, if fear, then fear, if honor is due, then pay honor.
8. Owe no one anything except to love one another, for the one who loves others has fulfilled the law.
9. For, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not lust,” and whatever other commandments, are summarized in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
10. Love for the neighbors does no evil, therefore it is a fulfillment of the law of love.
11. Especially knowing the time, because the hour is now already here to wake from sleep, for our salvation is nearer than when we believed.
12. The night advances, but daytime is at hand, therefore take off the works of darkness. Put on the weapons of light.
13. Let us walk properly as in the daylight—not in orgies, drunkenness, in bed, in debauchery, rivalries or jealousy.
14. Put on the Lord Jesus, Messiah. Do not satisfy your desires.


Half-way there.  Only eight more chapters to go after this one.

Theological Notes

Romans eight might be the most critical chapter in the whole Pauline corpus of the New Testament.  It transitions the sad argument Paul has been making about the guilt of humanity and the need for grace that culminated in Romans 7 with “What a miserable person I am” and moves into the good news–that Jesus loves us, died for us, and the Holy Spirit dwells within us and intercedes between our spirit and God.

We are not slaves.  We are not servants.  We are not debtors.  We are not animals.  We are children of God, joint-heirs with Messiah into all that eternity is.  It is impossible to read Romans 8 without smiling.

Translation Notes

It is very difficult at times to know whether Paul is talking about the spirit as a human aspect or if he is referencing the Holy Spirit. A good example is verse 5.  However, it is very clear to me me that in verses 26 and 27 almost every English translation has it completely wrong.  I believe Paul is addressing two different spirits, God’s Spirit and the individual human’s spirit.  The Spirit of God searches the heart (v. 27), which is the same thing as the spirit of human beings (v. 26) who do not know how to pray for themselves. Our spirit, as it were, then connects us to the Spirit of God at a gut level that helps us move beyond our thoughts into the love and abiding presence of the Lord. Note that this does not give credence to the old heresy that human beings are composed of three mostly independent individual parts—body, soul, and spirit.  That is platonic nonsense.  Instead, it is merely speaking about that emotional center of human beings, when we can’t or don’t even know what to say because the pain is so deep. It is in these places that the Lord comes to us—he searches for us.  He comforts us with his abiding presence and nothing can separate us from that.

Verse 23 has two different ‘ourselves’ and two other reflexive words that could be translated ‘ourselves.’ I shrunk it down to one because it sounded loopy.

Chapter Eight
1. Now then, there is no condemnation to those in Messiah Jesus.
2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Jesus freed you from the law of sin and death.
3. The law was incapable due to the weakness of the flesh, so God sent his own son who looked like fleshly sin and was near sin; he condemned sin in the flesh.
4. So that the demand of the law might be fulfilled among us, not by walking in the flesh but by Spirit.
5. Those who live by the flesh think about fleshly things, but those by the Spirit, spiritual things.
6. The thoughts of the flesh are death, but thoughts of the Spirit are life and peace.
7. For the thoughts of the flesh are hostile to God, it does not subject itself to the law of God, nor is it able to.
8. Those in the flesh are not able to please God either.
9. You are not in the flesh, but in Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But whoever does not have the Spirit of Messiah, this person is not his.
10. If indeed Messiah is in you, even though the body is dead through sin, the Spirit is life through righteousness.
11. If the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one that raised Messiah from the dead, he will give life to you and your mortal body through the indwelling of his Spirit in you.
12. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not now debtors to the flesh that we must live according to the flesh.
13. For if you live according to the flesh you are destined to die, but if you put the deeds of the body to death then you will live in the Spirit.
14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God.
15. For you did not receive a spirit of servanthood to fear yet again, but you received a spirit of family, in which we can call out to the Father, “Daddy.”
16. The same Spirit testifies within our spirit that we are children of God.
17. But if we are children and heirs, heirs of God, then we are also joint heirs of Messiah. Just as we suffer together with him so too we will be glorified together with him.
18. For I consider the suffering of right now incomparable to the glory which will be revealed in us.
19. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.
20. Creation was not willingly subjected to emptiness, but the one who subjected it did so in hope
21. that creation itself will be liberated from bondage to decay into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22. For we know that up until now creation groans together as if in travail.
23. And not only that, but we too, who are the first-fruits of the Spirit, we groan within ourselves awaiting adoption—the redemption of our body
24. in hope that we will be saved—but if it is seen it is not hope, for who can see what he hopes for?
25. But if we do not see what we hope for, we wait with patience.
26. Likewise the Spirit helps us with our weakness, for we do not now what we should pray, but our spirit itself intercedes with wordless groanings.
27. The one searching out the heart knows the thoughts of our spirit because he intercedes for the saints according to God.
28. But we know that for those loving God it all works into good for those being called in accordance with his purpose,
29. because he knew before and predestined those to share in the image of his son, for him to be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
30. Now those he knew before he called, those he called he made righteous, and those he made righteous he glorified.
31. What then can we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32. How will he who spared not his own son but gave him over for us all not bless us all along with him?
33. Who will bring a charge against the chosen of God? God makes things right.
34. Who condemns? Messiah, who died and what’s more rose, is at the right hand of God and he intercedes for us.
35. What will separate you from the love of the Messiah: Distress, anguish, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or a sword?
36. Just as it is written, that “For your sake we are executed all day long, regarded as sheep to slaughter.”
37. But in all these things we gloriously triumph through the one that loves us.
38. For I am convinced that neither death, life, angels, rulers, things present, things future, powers,
39. height, depth, or any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Messiah Jesus our Lord.

Want to read my renderings of the first seven chapters in Romans?

Romans One

Romans Two

Romans Three

Romans Four

Romans Five

Romans Six

Romans Seven


Today I have a special treat.  My long-time friend 
David Richardson is guest blogging for me.  
You can CLICK HERE to head over to 
David’s blog page, or you can click on the 
link in my blogroll on my homepage.  I told 
him he could blog about whatever he wanted to, 
and this is what was on his heart.  Thanks David 
for a great post with important reminders 
for us in our relationships.

Twenty two years. That’s how long Lara and I have been married. We started our marriage fresh off the heels of graduating from college. Now we’re on the verge of sending our oldest child off to college. Time sure flies!


We’ve learned some lessons along the way. I’d like to share them with you today because maybe some of the things we’ve picked up along the way will help you with your own marriage. Of course, we know there is plenty more to learn. But here is what we’ve gathered to this point about being husband and wife:

[1] Work at it. Good relationships don’t just happen. They demand effort on the part of the husband and the wife. Lara and I have had to learn new skills, hang in there during the not so easy times, and work on better understanding each other. I’m seeing that marriage requires intentional effort.

[2] Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. We see that it’s vital to share honestly with one another our thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. Men cannot read the mind of women, and women cannot read the mind of men. That just doesn’t happen. The phrase “I shouldn’t have to tell him/her” is one you might as well forget using. Unless your spouse is a mind reader, yes you do have speak up and communicate. How can your spouse know there is a problem if you don’t communicate? How can your spouse know to take care of a need in your life if you don’t communicate? See my point. You and I both have to speak up if we want good marriages.

[3] Forgive. I’m not a perfect husband. Far from it! I have failed Lara some along the way. And she has let me down at times too. We’ve realized that we are fully capable of wronging each other, and that puts us at a point of decision. Either we can stay mad and grow bitter at one another, or we can forgive. I’ve come to see that forgiveness means we bypass bitterness and refuse revenge. In other words, we say what needs to be said, let it go, don’t stew over it, and choose not to inflict a hurtful payback on one another. Has your spouse hurt you? Let me encourage you to do something: Forgive her or him as God has forgiven you.

[4] Seek counseling. It’s ok to sit down with a counselor and talk through issues. I will unashamedly tell you we’ve done that before. And it was good for us. A counselor helps a couple talk through issues that maybe they would not discuss on their own. If your marriage is struggling, and you just can’t seem to fix it on your own. reach out for help. It’s a smart thing to do.

[5] Put your spouse first. Selfishness destroys marriages. The biggest regrets I have so far about my marriage all go back to the times when I’ve been solely focused on me. That has never worked well. So I’m seeing that marriage requires I focus on caring for her. And, at the same time, she focuses on caring for me. The same is true for you and your spouse. You both have to put each other first. And this only works if both of you do this. It can’t be the sort of deal where one is putting their spouse first and the other is not. Both parties have to be on board with this.

[6] Look to God. I don’t want to sound preachy here. But I will say that having God in our lives is what has saved and improved our marriage. God is loving, forgiving, and patient. Because we look to Him, He helps us love, forgive, and hang in there with each other. I don’t know if we’d still be together if it wasn’t for God. We need Him as individuals and as a couple. So do you! Through Jesus Christ, you too can have a relationship with Him that helps you in every area of your life, including your marriage!

I enjoy my marriage now more than I ever have before. Really, I do! It’s not perfect. No marriage is. But it is a good union between two people who are willing to work at it, get real, forgive in the midst of failure, look out for the needs of each other, and seek help from above.

I wish you well in your marriage. Hang in there with that special someone you looked at and told “I do.” With God’s help, you can make it. And even better than that, you can enjoy it too!


Since I no longer work on Sundays, I find that I am a little more reflective.  When I pastored a local church, Sunday was a grueling marathon that required skill, determination, and preparation just to survive.  Now, though, I can hear more and listen better.  Here are two things that I heard yesterday that stuck with me.

Control is an illusion.

Our small group had a wonderful discussion about trusting in the Lord and not giving in to the temptation to worry.  Worry stems from a desire to control.  But really, we control nothing.  Therefore, worry is futile.  The Lord is in control, and the only appropriate response is faith.  As with so many truths, this is much easier to say than to do.

I’ve been thinking about the things in my life that I am guilty of worrying about, and it is not a pretty sight.  I have much to work through.


Never hate your enemies.  It affects your judgement.

This comes from the mouth of Michael Corleone.  Last Sunday we watched The Godfather and The Godfather Part II at a double feature in one of Austin’s old movie houses with some dear friends of ours.  Yesterday, I watched The Godfather Part III here at home.  Now, The Godfather Part III is rather poor, especially compared to the glory of the other two.  Sofia Coppola almost single-handedly destroys this film.  Nevertheless, this line about not hating your enemies, shouted from a helicopter just before a mafia boss meeting stuck with me.  Corleone says don’t hate your enemies.  Jesus says love your enemies.  The two statements are not the same.

Michael CorleoneOnly a fool doesn’t admit he has enemies.  I don’t have as many as I used to–or more to the point, my enemies are no longer relevant in my everyday life.  However, learning to love them is still hard and I have not quite mastered that.  I don’t hate them, but I am a long way from loving them.





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