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Romans 13:4

    Romans 13:4 Translations

    King James Version (KJV)

    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 evil.

    American King James Version (AKJV)

    For he is the minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath on him that does evil.

    American Standard Version (ASV)

    for he is a 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 a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil.

    Basic English Translation (BBE)

    For he is the servant of God to you for good. But if you do evil, have fear; for the sword is not in his hand for nothing: he is God's servant, making God's punishment come on the evil-doer.

    Webster's Revision

    for he is a 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 a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil.

    World English Bible

    for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn't bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil.

    English Revised Version (ERV)

    for he is a 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 a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil.

    Definitions for Romans 13:4

    Minister - Servants.
    Vain - Empty; foolish; useless.

    Clarke's Commentary on Romans 13:4

    For he is the minister of God to thee for good - Here the apostle puts the character of the ruler in the strongest possible light. He is the minister of God - the office is by Divine appointment: the man who is worthy of the office will act in conformity to the will of God: and as the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears open to their cry, consequently the ruler will be the minister of God to them for good.

    He beareth not the sword in vain - His power is delegated to him for the defense and encouragement of the good, and the punishment of the wicked; and he has authority to punish capitally, when the law so requires: this the term sword leads us to infer.

    For he is the minister of God, a revenger - Θεοῦ διακονος εστιν εκδικος, For he is God's vindictive minister, to execute wrath; εις οργην, to inflict punishment upon the transgressors of the law; and this according to the statutes of that law; for God's civil ministers are never allowed to pronounce or inflict punishment according to their own minds or feeling, but according to the express declarations of the law.

    Barnes' Notes on Romans 13:4

    The minister of God - The "servant" of God he is appointed by God to do his will, and to execute his purposes. "To thee." For your benefit.

    For good - That is, to protect you in your rights; to vindicate your name, person, or property; and to guard your liberty, and secure to you the results of your industry. The magistrate is not appointed directly to "reward" people, but they "practically" furnish a reward by protecting and defending them, and securing to them the interests of justice.

    If thou do that ... - That is, if any citizen should do evil.

    Be afraid - Fear the just vengeance of the laws.

    For he beareth not the sword in vain - The "sword" is an instrument of punishment, as well as an emblem of war. Princes were accustomed to wear a sword as an emblem of their authority; and the "sword" was often used for the purpose of "beheading," or otherwise punishing the guilty. The meaning of the apostle is, that he does not wear this badge of authority as an unmeaningful show, but that it will be used to execute the laws. As this is the design of the power intrusted to him, and as he will "exercise" his authority, people should be influenced "by fear" to keep the law, even if there were no better motive.

    A revenger ... - In Romans 12:19, vengeance is said to belong to God. Yet he "executes" his vengeance by means of subordinate agents. It belongs to him to take vengeance by direct judgments, by the plague, famine, sickness, or earthquakes; by the appointment of magistrates; or by letting loose the passions of people to prey upon each other. When a magistrate inflicts punishment on the guilty, it is to be regarded as the act of God taking vengeance "by him;" and on this principle only is it right for a judge to condemn a man to death. It is not because one man has by nature any right over the life of another, or because "society" has any right collectively which it has not as individuals; but because "God" gave life, and because he has chosen to take it away when crime is committed by the appointment of magistrates, and not by coming forth himself visibly to execute the laws. Where "human" laws fail, however, he often takes vengeance into his own hands, and by the plague, or some signal judgments, sweeps the guilty into eternity.

    To execute wrath - For an explanation of the word "wrath," see the notes at Romans 1:18. It denotes here "punishment," or the just execution of the laws. It may be remarked that this verse is an "incidental" proof of the propriety of "capital punishment." The sword was undoubtedly an instrument for this purpose, and the apostle mentions its use without any remark of "disapprobation." He enjoins subjection to those who "wear the sword," that is, to those who execute the laws "by that;" and evidently intends to speak of the magistrate "with the sword," or in inflicting capital punishment, as having received the appointment of God. The tendency of society now is "not" to too sanguinary laws. It is rather to forget that God has doomed the murderer to death; and though humanity should be consulted in the execution of the laws, yet there is no humanity in suffering the murderer to live to infest society, and endanger many lives, in the place of his own, which was forfeited to justice. Far better that one murderer should die, than that he should be suffered to live, to imbrue his hands perhaps in the blood of many who are innocent. But the authority of God has settled this question Genesis 9:5-6, and it is neither right nor safe for a community to disregard his solemn decisions; see "Blackstone's Commentaries," vol. iv. p. 8, (9.)

    Wesley's Notes on Romans 13:4

    13:4 The sword - The instrument of capital punishment, which God authorizes him to inflict.