Romans 13: Things to Do-Part 2
Lets review what Paul has written in what many refer to as the most systematic presentation of the gospel. From the beginning of the letter in Romans 1-3, Paul introduces the theme of Romans which is the righteousness that comes from God. He concludes all of mankind is unrighteous. He then proceeds to present the principle of justification through Christ received by faith. This righteousness begins the process of sanctification which Paul explains and by the end of Romans 8 , we know as believers we have freedom from sin, the condemnation of the law and now begin life in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 9-11, Paul deals with the problems of Israels rejection.
Then beginning in Romans 12, Paul tells us the things we are do as a result of our new life.
Lets look at our list of things to do so far:
- Present our bodies a living sacrifice and transform our minds with the Word of God and not to let the world continue to conform our thinking.
- Maintain a balanced view of ourselves- not thinking too highly or thinking too lowly of ourselves.
- Honor others above ourselves. (The 11th commandment of the Lord Jesus to love one another as I have loved you.)
- Do not return evil for evil, but return good for evil. For good is the only way to overcome evil. Evil only stirs up more evil. So remember this adage when someone wrongs you or your loved ones: do not nurse it; do not rehearse it; and do not attempt to reverse it. Vengeance is mine says the Lord. Our desire for vengeance is corrupt, because we are corrupt. Gods is perfect. In addition, if you are bent on revenge it leaves no room for grace.
So Paul is helping us build a foundation, a podium from which to extend the Gospel and thus expand the kingdom of God. Now in chapter 13 Paul turns to another area of things to do regarding government. And keep in mind, Paul in the time in which he wrote this was under the authority of a pagan government that would grow more hostile to Christianity.
God has established three institutions: the family; the government and the church. So Pauls reason for obeying the government is it is Gods establishment. Now there are clear exceptions when we are to be Godly rebels. In Acts 5- when the apostles are told they are not to speak in the name of Jesus, the apostles replied : We must obey God rather than man! When laws are passed that require Christians to violate clear commands of Scripture we must peacefully disobey.
Paul tells us we are to pay our taxes that we owe to the government and we are to pay respect and honor to those to whom it is due. The only debt we are not to ever consider paid and not owed it to love one another. Love is the fulfillment of the law. If we love the Lord our God with all our heart, we will not have any other idols and also if we love our fellow man there will be no murder, stealing, bearing of false witness, coveting, adultery, etc.
Then Paul tells us we need to have a sense of urgency based on our understanding of the times. We having been cruising along through life set on snooze control. We have been busy: raising families, establishing careers and businesses, saving for retirement, paying off mortgages, and all of the things that life entails. Like a person who falls asleep at the wheel, we all of sudden hear the gravel of the off road clattering under our cars that startles us into awakening. Wake up, Paul says. Look around you and understand the present time in which you live. The U.S. government has grown indifferent to Christianity and the Word of God. Let me warn you based on history- indifference to Christianity and our belief in Gods Word is only one step away from outright hostility to Christianity. Wake up and understand the present times in which we live. Paul says the hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber because our salvation in nearer now than we first believed. The salvation, Paul speaks of is not our individual salvation, remember he is writing to Christians. He is speaking of our ultimate salvation, the return of the Lord Jesus to earth to establish His earthly kingdom.
You might say- well that was 2000 years ago and the Lord has not returned yet. Lets listen to what Peter wrote about the last days: First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, Where is the coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forgot that long ago by Gods Word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget one thing dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.(2 Peter 3)
Jesus said in Matthew 24 concerning the last days: No one knows about that day or hour, even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the time of the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them away. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
In other words, be prepared, be ready. The coming of Jesus will be a happy, joyous event for believers, but will be the worst nightmare ever for unbelievers. Last minute preparations are impossible, so we must be prepared.
Paul is telling Christians in every generation- wake up from your slumber! The night is nearly over and the day is almost here. Almost here— do you believe that the day is almost here? Do you live in anticipation that today could be the day?
Now when Paul speaks of our salvation is now nearer than when we first believed- he is obviously not speaking of the individuals salvation as when one first believes and is saved from the penalty of sin for this letter is to believers. Salvation is used in the New Testament is three tenses. Past tense- is salvation from the penalty of sin; present tense is salvation in the present from the power of temptation of sin; and future tense is the salvation from the very presence of sin, as in the final and ultimate salvation when the Lord Jesus returns. So just as we sing- I am Saved, Saved, Saved this is good theology. I have been saved from my sins- past, present and future. I have been saved, I am being saved and in the Day of the Lords return I will be saved to the uttermost and completeness.
Each generation should live in this anticipation. We should observe what is happening and learn the lesson of the fig tree: as soon as the twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know summer is near. Even so when you see the signs( Matthew 24) know that it(the day of the Lords return) is near, right at the door.
So Paul tells believers what to do: put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently (walk honestly, KJV) not in orgies and drunkenness; not in sexual immorality and debauchery (wantonness); not in dissension and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus, ( clothe yourselves with the Lord) and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. ( Do not make provisions for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.)
Make sure the sins of the flesh do not creep back into your life is what Paul is telling us here. Be on guard. Paul knew realistically, evil desires lurk in the heart of our old nature and want to draw us back and look for every opportunity to do so.
I do not believe you can offer your body a living sacrifice without consciously clothing your body with the Lord Jesus. It is like a policeman putting on his uniform, he puts on the bullet proof vest and this reminds him of the danger that can come upon him/her suddenly. He puts on his badge for this is his authority. And he arms himself with his pistol for he must be ready to strike back. Everything he consciously puts on reminds him of who he is and what he faces any given day. Remember: His Divine Power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him, who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises so that through Him you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1)
However, having been given all of this and not utilizing it is like the policemen deciding not to put on his bullet proof vest for it is sometimes hot and uncomfortable. Or not to carry his service revolver for it chafes when walking. How foolish that would be, yet no less foolish than to begin a day without clothing ourselves in what the Lord Jesus has given us- which is Himself and His great and precious promises!
In Romans 14, Paul deals with the weak and the strong in faith. Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters.( gray areas). The man whose faith allows him to eat meat (sacrificed to idols) should not look down on the man who eats only vegetables. Nor should the man who eats only vegetables condemn the man who eats meat. If we are fellow believers, we are Gods servants. And as Paul asks- who are we to judge someone elses servant?
Now Paul tells us how to deal with this and it is interesting to note the person who is more legalistic is seen as the weaker in faith Here is Pauls instruction: It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep them between yourself and God.
Paul is not discussing conduct that is clearly defined in Scripture as sin. He is discussing conduct in areas which Christians may legitimately differ in these two incidents the drinking of wine and the eating of meat, which had been sacrificed to idols. Decisions should be guided not only by a spiritually enlightened conscience, but also guided by your concern for others beliefs. Remember in our commandment to love one another, this also involves honoring others before ourselves.
Now Paul continues with his theme of the weak and the strong as he lays down two precepts in Romans 15
- The strong are to bear the infirmities, the failings of the weak.
- We are not to please ourselves.
Here we are once again shown how we are to honor others above ourselves. We are not to please ourselves but please our neighbor for his good. This is about edification, building him/her up. Want to hear the instructions from the Lord Jesus: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life must lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. ( Matthew 16:24-25) Self- denial is not our favorite subject is it? This does not mean we can never please ourselves as long as it is not clearly sin, but when pleasing ourselves would cause our weaker brother to stumble we are to please him and deny ourselves. We are take up our cross- not put the burden on our weaker brother/sister.
I am afraid, we have encountered a problem we do not like anyone to know we have— we are selfish. These commandments are to not be selfish- but to be the opposite of selfish- placing others before our own self.
Again how did Christ lead? By example. For even Christ did not please himself. He came to do the will of the Father. He bore the cross of self-denial and took up the cross of sin and shame for our sakes.
Now let us consider what is one of the many purposes of the Word of God as Paul explains: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
- Our learning. We must study to show ourselves approved, workmen who need not to be ashamed , rightfully dividing the truth. We need to learn to study that we might understand the meaning of scripture and learn out of it how that which will do us good.
- Scripture was written that we might have hope. We attain this it says through endurance and encouragement of Scripture. The KJV says: that we through patience and comfort of the Scripture might have hope.
This tells us impatience is destructive to hope. Isnt that the truth? The more anxious you are to have a problem resolved, the more disappointed you become when it does not happen quickly.
Listen again to what Paul described as this process of hope: And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know we know that suffering produces perseverance(endurance), and perseverance, character and character , hope. And hope does not disappoint us , because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. ( Romans 5)
The word because is used twice in these verses and because means- due to the fact; for this reason.
We rejoice in our sufferings has absolutely no meaning and in fact seems contradictory to what ones feelings are telling them unless we understand the reason and purpose of suffering. We need to know as a promise of the Word of God, suffering produces perseverance ( endurance) which shapes our character like fire proves gold, and that character produces a hope that does not disappoint. For that hope is in God, His Character and His Promise and our Hope is in Him, due to the fact God has poured out His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever been hopeless? Ever been in an ongoing trial you thought was never going to end or end badly?
Do you not understand our Heavenly Father is the God of Hope who will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of His Holy Spirit. ( Romans 15: 13)
Hope is a gift from God. And I would remind you, if you as earthly parents know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more does your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.
And how do we overflow with hope? By the power of His Holy Spirit!
Why do I have Hope? It is simple- I have His Word, as an example that through endurance and encouragement of the Scripture and I have the Holy Spirit because, due to the fact, for this reason- I might have hope!
These verses tell us it is God who does the filling with joy and all peace as you trust in Him. Trust in the Lord with all your heart- this is our part, we must believe He is who He says He is and can what He says He can do.
God has told me He has plans for my future. He has promised He would never leave me or desert me. He has promised me rest. He has given me everything I need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us HIS VERY GREAT AND PRECIOUS PROMISES, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.(2 Peter 1)
Do you know His promises to you? Do you know the things you are to do?
Standing on the promises I cannot fall; listening every moment to the Spirits call. Resting in my Savior as my all in all- STANDING ON THE PROMISES OF GOD.