New World Living: Responsible citizens that love their neighbors and live holy lives to the glory of God.
Principle: Romans 12:18 (ESV) 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. [China underground church Yeeui, Wenshui]
Paul was writing during the first century of the Roman Empire, currently ruled by the notorious Nero (Nero’s early years were not as bad as his later ones, but the system he ran was full of injustice and imperial arrogance [N T Wright]).
As a result, some find it incredible to think of Paul writing about submission to those in authority.
“No passage has caused more unhappiness and misery than this one” [O’Neill].
Difficult part of the book of Romans – there is nothing quite like anywhere else in Paul’s writings. verse 8 would follow quite naturally on 12:21
The Jews of the Roman empire were notoriously bad citizens. Many held on the ground of Deuteronomy 17:15 that to acknowledge a Gentile ruler was sinful. [Wuest]
There were those who objected paying taxes to support a heathen state.
Deutronomy 17:15 … be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner.
Transition: In chapter 13 of his epistle to the Romans, he told his oppressed minority of followers to avoid causing trouble with the most powerful government in the world. He wrote:
Romans 13:1–7 (NLT) 1 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. 6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honour to those who are in authority.
Submit to governing authorities vs 1 –
those in positions of authority have been placed there by God…
2 anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.
But what about civil disobedience in the Bible? Rabbi Arthur O Waskow
- obedience to the law is the default position for Christians.
- But this is not an absolute duty, [for we rightly celebrate the stand of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3 and Peter and John’s defiance in Acts 4:1-21, where they ignored an order to stop preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name.]
- Avoid the temptation to become hypersensitive to every affront.
- consider our witness
Loving their Neighbour vv 8-10
Romans 13:8–10 (NLT) 8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
Living holy Lives vv 11-14
Romans 13:11–14 (NLT) 11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.