Published November 6, 2008
Related Sunday School Lesson, Bible Studies for Life, Nov 16
Submit to civil authorities - Romans 13:1-7
What would you do if Islamic law was our government and the Qur’an was our constitution? For believers in Saudi Arabia, it’s a reality they wrestle with. Paul told believers they must submit to the government. What if your government hates Jesus?
God has placed all governments in place (v. 1), even those that suppress Christianity and religious freedom. God is greater than any government and revival can occur anywhere under any circumstances. Our responsibility is to obey the law and pay taxes.
What happens when governments have laws that conflict with the Bible? We are believers in Christ first and citizens of our country second. The apostles were on trial in Jerusalem before the Sanhedrin for teaching in Jesus’ name. Acts 5:29 states, “We must obey God rather than men.”
The sin of homosexual marriage in Massachusetts is an example of when civil laws conflict with the Bible. Believers must be careful to practice civil disobedience when civil laws conflict with God’s law. Submission to our government is because of God’s ordering of society.
Verse 5 says, “Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience.” The “wrath” is a reference to the punitive function of secular rulers. The more important reason for submission is “your conscience.”
This means that believers submit because of their knowledge of God’s will and purposes. Our Christian duty is first to God and secondly to our government.
Love your neighbor - Romans 13:8-10
Verse 8 uses the word, “one another,” which is literally translated “the other.” We all know people who owe us money. Something we will always owe to others is love.
Believers can accept Christ, receive baptism, daily read their Bibles, pray without ceasing, be a witness for Christ, and never miss a Sunday – but if they don’t love others they haven’t fulfilled the law. The law is Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The four commandments Paul listed in verse 9 relate to others. If we love our neighbors, we’re not going to struggle with adultery, murder, theft, and covetousness. Southern Seminary professor Thomas Schreiner said, “Human beings instinctively act to preserve their self-interest.” Our sinful nature makes us selfish; we want to improve our lot. French philosopher Blaise Pascal observed that those who commit suicide do so for their benefit, for they are convinced that they will be happier dead than alive.
Loving our neighbor requires us taking the initiative. We love our neighbor by helping them succeed; accepting ownership of their problems. Usually people will not approach you telling how you can help, you must discover it.
It’s too easy to say, “I’ll pray for you” and hope they make it. The simple phone call, email, visit, text message, or card lets others know we care. Jesus loved His neighbor by dying on the cross. It was His way of saying, “I care about you.”
Wear the character of Christ - Romans 13:11-14
The one thing that we never get back and are careful to guard is our time. It’s so frustrating to have people waste our time. We need to know God’s time.
The kairos, or “knowing the time” in verse 11 is the time we await the return of Christ. Jesus will return and He doesn’t want to find us wasting time by being asleep. 1 Thessalonians 5:6 says, “So then, we must not sleep, like the rest, but we must stay awake and be sober.” Believers are to work six days and rest on Sundays (Ex. 20:8-11). Attending church twice on Sundays isn’t always restful. Our rest will be in heaven.
Verse 11 says, “For now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” When Paul wrote this, Jesus has already been resurrected, and next was the parousia, or Second Coming of Christ. Before the Second Coming, Scripture lists three events that will happen: First, worldwide evangelization (Mark 13:10); second, the restoration of Israel (Rom. 11:12ff); and third, the apostasy (2 Thess. 2:1ff). These events have either already occurred or are now occurring. This should be a warning to believers that we are close to Jesus’ Second Coming.
Verse 12 informs us, “The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near.” Paul is stating that the present evil age we live in will soon come to a close. Since believers are about to meet Jesus, they need to be living a life He would approve of. Verse 13 says, “Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight.” Believers await the final day (Second Coming), but until then, we should be living a life that helps us experience the final day in this present age.
To conclude chapter 13, we are told to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” in verse 14. Paul is literally telling believers they need to wear Jesus. He should cover them just as clothes do. Colossians 3:10 says, “Put on the new man.” We become a new man when Jesus forgives us of our sins.
When a new baby is born, the nurse doesn’t put on a used diaper and a dirty onesie. Believers must wear new clothes to match their new body in Christ. Old clothes represent our old self (Rom. 6:6). God makes everything new. This chapter tells us how to be good citizens and good neighbors and ends by explaining why we should be.
Questions for Group Discussion
1. Have you ever been caught between God’s Word and secular civil laws?
2. Do you make time to love your neighbor? Do you have enough problems of your own?
3. Are you looking forward to the Second Coming? If not, is there unconfessed sin in your life?
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