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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 13

Verses 1-7

  1. Intro:
    1. Ok Paul, now what are the believers responsibilities towards society?
    2. I started learning about politics the hard way.
      1. As newlyweds in mid 80‘s, Kelly & I went to see her sister in the Sonoma area (No.Ca)
      2. We had a blue Datson B-210 wagon & emblazoned on the back of our car was a bumper sticker that read President Reagan Votes for Jesus Christ!
        1. It didn’t go over very well in Northern Cal.
    3. And if you haven’t noticed yet…we don’t live under a Christian government.
      1. But, Paul makes it clear we are not to take an anti-government mentality. Nor organize the “Murrieta Militia”!
      2. We are not to see government as our enemy or as the Devil’s tool.
      3. We walk a tightrope between church & state.
      4. He also doesn’t want us to have an uninvolved indifference! (i.e. “We’re not of this world!”)
        1. And so some have determined not to worry at all, not vote, not pray…a,“hey, God’ll sort it all out in the end” mentality.
    4. How do we figure this all out? How do we develop a godly perspective? How do we interact w/ a society that clashes w/God’s standards? [Let’s see!]
    5. Title: Good Citizens! - Subtitle: Christian Citizenship in a Secular Society.
    6. Outline: Good Citizens for God’s Sake; Good Citizens for Your Own Sake; Good Citizens for Conscience Sake.
    7. Overview: Daniel Webster, Whatever makes men good Christians makes them good Citizens!
      1. Christians have the responsibility to make their country, wherever they live...better!
        1. We can do this by electing Christians or other high-principled leaders!
        2. We can do this morally, by serving as an influence for good in society!
  2. GOOD CITIZENS FOR GOD’S SAKE! (1,2)
    1. ​​​​​​​Yes, believers are citizens of heaven, but we must not minimize our responsibilities on earth! (Warren Wiersbe, pg.470.)
      1. Allegiance to God does not take away our responsibility to secular authority.
      2. We must be exemplary citizens so that the Lord will be glorified.
    2. (1) Be subject – The predominant thought is not obedience but the conduct that flows naturally from the recognition that, the other person as Christ’s representative, has an infinitely greater claim on one, than one has on oneself. (Carnfield, quote from Mounce in Romans, pg.62.)
      1. Just like church leaders, Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Heb.13:17
    3. To governing authorities – Note what he doesn’t say.
      1. Paul doesn’t give the type of government to submit to.
      2. He doesn’t specify a Democracy, or Socialist, or Totalitarian gov.
      3. Democracy isn’t the best Government anyway…Theocracy is!
        1. Slide#10 1 Sam.8:5,7 (Israel to Samuel) Look, you are old, & your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.…And the LORD said to Samuel, Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. (A Theocracy, i.e.governed by God)
      4. So, since Paul doesn’t give the type of government to submit to…believers are to submit to whatever form of government they reside under.
        1. Admittedly, government doesn’t always make sense, like this image here. School & Prison, both government institutions. School forbids reading the bible. In he prison its encouraged! Irony.
    4. (2) To resist rulers is to resist the ordinance of God, which brings judgment.
      1. Note: it wasn’t Paul’s purpose here to explain the other side… [i.e. what is the responsibility of the state]
      2. Or, When is civil disobedience right? – Like Peter & John touch on in Acts 4:19,20(NIV) Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.
      3. Paul was not advising believers on how to deal w/rebellious government but w/rebellious believers!!!
        1. Government authority comes from God, so you must respect the office even if you cannot respect the officer.
  3. GOOD CITIZENS FOR YOUR OWN SAKE! (3,4)
    1. ​​​​​​​(3) God has established human government because people are sinners & must be controlled.
      1. Government is God’s way of maintaining the public good & directing the affairs of state.
      2. Rulers maintain order in society by rewarding good conduct & punishing wrongdoing
    2. (4) God’s minister/servant(civil servants) to you!
    3. Does not bear the sword in vain – (the form of execution at the time)
      1. Roman officials had sabers carried in front of them as a constant reminder that they held the power of life & death.
      2. Maybe today…“he does not throw the switch in vain!” “does not lethally inject in vain!” “does not use lethal gas in vain!”
      3. God has given the authority of capitol punishment to the civil government.
        1. God to Noah & sons, Gen.9:6 Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; (why?) For in the image of God He made man.
        2. Capitol punishment is the ultimate manifestation of the states authority to enforce order!
      4. Good Christians that obey the law & refrain from evil, have nothing to worry about!
    4. The fear of punishment is not the highest motivation for obedience, but it is better than having chaos & anarchy.
  4. GOOD CITIZENS FOR CONSCIENCE SAKE! (5-7)
    1. ​​​​​​​(5) Wrath…a motivation for obedience, but even better conscience!
    2. A Godly conscience – A God directed conscience!
      1. Not Fox News directed. Not CNN directed. Not TV adds at election time directed. Not even your Pastor’s opinion directed. A God directed conscience!
      2. Oh, that Christian’s would vote our conscience!!!
        1. This November, know what candidates stand for.
        2. Weigh the candidates values against the life principles found in God’s word.
        3. Choose the candidates whose views most closely match.
        4. Educate yourself on the different issues & propositions at hand.
        5. Billy Graham was asked, the Bible doesn’t say you have to vote, does it? - His answer: “No, the Bible doesn't directly command us to vote - because people who lived in Bible times couldn't vote. But the Bible does command us to be good citizens - and one of the ways we do this today is by voting. In fact, if we don't vote, we are failing to fulfill that God-given responsibility to be good citizens. The Bible says that Mordecai, Esther's uncle, was honored "because he worked for the good of his people" (Esther 10:3). Shouldn't we also work for the good of our nation? - Don't look on voting only as a responsibility, however. Look on it also as an opportunity - an opportunity hundreds of millions of people in our world wish they had.
    3. Is the issue what Party I vote? Republican, Democrat, Green, Independent, Tea Party. A new one that many Christians are joining...The Holy Water Party. jk!
      1. No! The issues is Natural Law vs. Positive Law.
        1. See, the bible teaches there is a Law above the law!
        2. Society is pushing the opposite!
      2. Positive Law - is municipal law, that is, a system of rules established by the governmental power of a state.
      3. Natural Law – refers to the standard of conduct that transcends human authority. [It is a Law above the law]
        1. Christians should have no problem with this according to our text this morning!
        2. President Lincoln said, “we’ve been given certain rights by our creator.”
      4. If you want to take away 1 Nation Under God then who on earth will we be under?
        1. 1 nation under the state? Under the Federal government?
        2. There better be a power higher than ourselves.
          1. If it is a power of ourselves then, the same people that gave the power can take that power away.
    4. So, the question between the 2 views: Do human governments create moral law or discover it?
      1. The founders of the U.S. put it into the Declaration: “all men are created equal”. They understood the nation’ freedom & existence were based upon God as Creator.
      2. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator w/certain unalienable rights”[non-transferable,can't surrender these rts]
    5. Pay taxes in Greek? = “pay taxes!” :)
      1. Christian’s are obligated to pay taxes to support the governing authorities. This is their “management fee” for their order & protection they furnish.
    6. Was this just Paul’s command?
      1. Nope! When Jesus was asked, “Taxes, to pay or not to pay?”
      2. His answer was, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. Mark12:17
      3. The Jewish priesthood in our Lord’s time was very corrupt, but Jesus approved of the widow paying her Temple Tax. Lk.21:2,3
    7. But what about when my taxes are being used for things I disagree with? Even then???
      1. Some Patriots don’t believe in spending money on foreign aid.
      2. Some Pacifist feel it is wrong/immoral to support the military.
      3. Most all of us here believe it is criminal that state or federal funds are used to pay for abortions.
    8. But now think of who penned these words! – What were Paul & the Roman Christian’s taxes going toward in Rome in that day?
      1. Consider the abortion issue just after Paul’s day: I quote from a medical book in the 2nd century ad. By the Greek physician Soranus, who specialized in gynecology, obstetrics, & pediatrics. “In order to dislodge the embryo, the woman should take strenuous walks & be shaken up by draft animals. She should also make violent leaps in the air & lift objects which are too heavy for her...If this is ineffective, she should be placed in a mixture, which has 1st been boiled & purified, of linseed, fenugreek, mallow, marsh-mallow, & wormwood. She should use poultices of the same substances & be treated w/infusions of olive oil, alone or mixed w/rue, honey, iris, or wormwood.”
        1. An ugly practice then, as well as now. But, it does not give us the right to take the laws into our own hands.
        2. Rather it should give us the drive to do everything we can to change the lawthrough peaceful, & legal means.
      2. So yes, we are even supposed to pay taxes even when we disagree with the way the money is spent.
        1. Ps: In Paul’s day Roman tax didn’t only build their famous roadways…but also to erect & maintain temples devoted to the worship of the Roman Emperor. [hardly a project Paul would have endorsed!]
    9. We are also supposed to respect & honor them!
      1. And when you can’t the officer, you can the office!
    10. Biblical Challenge for Godly Citizens?
    11. ​​​​​​​[1] Pray for our Country! Jer.29:7 seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive(i.e. Babylon), & pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.
      1. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Psalm 33:12
      2. Historically, this country’s faith has sustained us through the wars that we’ve experienced and the crises that have come our way. We turned to God when we were attacked on 9/11. The churches were full. Historically, America has called on Him when we have had a need.
    12. [2] Vote your Godly Conscience & Biblical Morals & Ethics!
      1. “It is safe to say that less then ½ of professing Christians vote in a given election.”
      2. Imagine the impact believers could have on our government, its leadership, & our nation if we all registered to vote & voted our values!
      3. It isn’t my goal, my job, nor my education to stand up here & tell you how to vote about politics & the economy. But...When it comes to legislating morality issues… then I will speak out! When it comes to being a voice for the voiceless I will honor Prov.31:8,9 & do exactly that!
        1. Ex: Yes on 35! - Stop Human Trafficking in California:
        2. It protects children in California by:
          1. Increasing prison terms for human traffickers.
          2. Requiring convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders.
          3. Requiring all registered sex offenders to disclose their internet accounts.
          4. Requiring criminal fines from convicted human traffickers to pay for services to help victims.
    13. [3] Support ministries like Advocates Faith & Freedom, who defends our religious Liberties. (Robert Tyler; Jennifer Monk)
    14. [4] Hold tenaciously to the Word of God - for it is our only Homeland Security!
    15. Instead of politicizing churches, we should apply C.S. Lewis' dictum: "Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither."

Verses 8-14

  1. Intro:
    1. A great monarch was accustomed on certain set occasions to entertain all the beggars of the city. Around him were placed his courtiers, all clothed in rich apparel; the beggars sat at the same table in their rags of poverty. Now it came to pass, that on a certain day, one of the courtiers had spoiled his silken apparel, so that he dared not put it on, and he felt, "I cannot go to the king's feast today, for my robe is foul." He sat weeping until the thought struck him, "Tomorrow when the king holds his feast, some will come as courtiers happily decked in their beautiful array, but others will come and be made quite as welcome who will be dressed in rags. Well," said he, "so long as I may see the king's face and sit at the royal table, I will enter among the beggars." So without mourning because he had lost his silken habit, he put on the rags of a beggar, and he saw the king's face as well as if he had worn his scarlet and fine linen.
      1. Haven’t you done this many times, when the evidences of your salvation has been dim? - If you cannot come to Jesus as a saint, come as a sinner; only do come! (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990) [End is modified])
  2. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR! (8-10)
    1. This section of scripture is not dealing with finances.
      1. Some have interpreted this verse to mean Christians should never borrow money (not for mortgages, car loans, not for anything).
      2. Jesus wasn’t against borrowing, Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. Mt.5:42
      3. Granted we have rampant credit abuse in our culture today.
        1. Easy credit, constant advertising, living above our means, & living on the assumption “I’ll make more money in the future, therefore I’ll buy on credit now, & pay later!” (Yes you will!)
    2. Owe = verb means “don’t continue owing”.
      1. NIV nails it, “Let no debt remain outstanding,”
      2. So it’s not saying don’t borrow, but “never leave your debts unpaid!”
      3. Obviously paying cash is optimal! - It frees us from all the warnings of debt in Proverbs.
      4. The wealthiest man who ever lived said regarding finances, The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender. Prov.22:7
    3. What is the single most guiding principle that should control the Christians life in society? Love!
    4. Outline: The Debt of Love; The command to Love; The release of Love.
    5. THE DEBT OF LOVE! (8)
    6. I think we have all longed to pay off some debt [An automobile, a mortgage, college bills, a loan]
      1. Here Paul names a perpetual debt you’ll never pay off this side of heaven!
      2. This is an obligation to love which has no limits, which can never be paid off!
    7. We can never say, “I have done all the loving I need to do!”
    8. It is the Christian’s way of life; we’re never done loving!
      1. Real love extends to Christians, non-Christians, rich & poor, people of every color, nationality, age, & those of different sexual orientation.
        1. No, not approve the sin, but still love the sinner!
    9. THE COMMAND TO LOVE! (9)
    10. Love for God & love for your neighbor is the highest motive for obedience!
      1. Also, it has been God’s plan from the beginning.
    11. Love does what is right & just, & seeks the best for others.
    12. By nature, we don’t have this kind of love: For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. Titus 3:3
      1. How do we get this kind of love then? The Lord gives it to us!
        1. The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Rom.5:5
    13. When we truly love others, we place their needs before our desires.
      1. Vs.9,10 msg When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code - don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of - finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.
      2. James called it the Royal Law! If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well. (2:8)
    14. THE RELEASE OF LOVE! (10)
    15. Love isn’t the end of the Law, but the fulfillment of it!
      1. Because love & law need each other! – Love needs law for direction, while law needs love for its inspiration!
    16. So, what are the 3 Love Principles to live by?
      1. Understand your outstanding debt to love others!
      2. Only one command fulfills the law, the command to love all people!
      3. We can only show real love with God’s help!
    17. Questions: (Charles Swindoll, pg.43.)
      1. What does your personal love-debt look like?
        1. Have you been keeping up your payments?
        2. Have you been making love-deposits into the emotional bank accounts of those you hold dear?
      2. How are you doing in the area of loving your: Spouse? Children?
        1. How about your: Parents? Grandparents? Siblings? Relatives? Friends?
        2. How about: Strangers? Unbelievers?
      3. Do you feel a sense of accomplishment, or a little convicted?
        1. How can you do a better job at filling up others emotional love-tank this week?
  3. KNOWING THE TIME! (11-14)
    1. Slide#11 What time is it?
      1. The Bible divides time into only 2 categories...this age & the age to come.
    2. We are obsessed with time! – It is the very 1st cognitive thought in our mind every morning! (What time is it?)
      1. Ever count the number of clocks you have in your house? (I counted 36 last night in mine)
      2. Think of your Kitchen: coffee makers, oven, microwave. [Cell Phones, laptops, decorative, DVD players, every bedroom; landscape timer; watches…xtra watches]
    3. We are fixated with time! – But are we measuring time correctly?
      1. We seem to be most concerned with what time is it now?
      2. God seems to be more concerned with what time is drawing near!
        1. Jesus in Jn.9:4, I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. And now here in vs.11.
      3. Back in 1964 Mick Jagger sang “Time is on Our Side”. 48 years later, I’m not sure if they still sing that on tour today? – Jesus always taught the opposite. He taught “Time is ticking away, tic, tic, ticking away!”
      4. We focus on minor measurements of minutes; God focuses on Epochs & Era’s.
    4. Well, man has at least 1 eye on the future…but it is in the negative! - It is called the Doomsday Clock!
      1. Since its inception in 1947, the symbolic Doomsday Clock has signified the level of threat posed by nuclear weapons and other changing factors in international security.
      2. As the state of international security has changed, the Doomsday Clock has been changed 20 times to reflect the danger level of the period.
      3. The Doomsday Clock was last changed on Jan 10, 2012 and currently stands at 5 minutes to midnight. (From the bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.)
    5. So Paul says, open your eyes! - Wake up to what time it really is! - And then explains there is a new way to live in light of the dawning of the eternal day!
    6. Oh, if every one of our clocks would scream God’s sense of time!
      1. ​​​​​​​But just like talking to a youth about their dying one day…it just seems so far away to them.
      2. So, with us…Christ’s return? – Oh, I know it’s coming but I’m sure its after ______.
    7. Since the end is near…we need to Wake up, Get up, Clean up, & get Dressed up!
    8. Outline: Wake up; Get up; Clean up; Dress up.
    9. WAKE UP! (11)
    10. What’s the 1st thing you do when the alarm goes off in the morning? Hit the snooze!
    11. To some, there salvation is nearer…to the others, their damnation is nearer!
      1. Salvation is nearer means every passing moment brings us closer to the end of “the hour” – closer to our glorification!
    12. This unveiling of true time...gave Paul the sense of urgency. Something we all should have.
      1. Our response: Not like the Extremist & Alarmist, w/a Doomsday Mentality; but instead, understanding we only have a limited amount of time to spread the gospel & make God known to the world!
    13. GET UP! (12)
    14. Once we know what time it is, we need to wake up & get out of bed!
      1. Paul is equating sleep w/spiritual lethargy!
    15. Cast off the works of darkness – Eph.5:11-14 NLT Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
      1. Just as you get up in the morning & cast off your night clothes & wear the appropriate attire for the work that awaits you. So, we are to do spiritually!
    16. Our job as Christian’s is best accomplished when we are sporting our “Armor of light”, & our “Attire of Christ!”
      1. Actually our mission is impossible w/o His protective gear: Like, His Kevlar Vest of righteousness! Helmet of salvation, etc.
    17. Now before we can put on our armor, we 1st need to make sure we aren’t wearing something else…the deeds of darkness!
      1. ​​​​​​​That’s like putting your Tee Shirt “over” a suit of armor.
      2. Swindoll put it this way, “If we want to wear Christ, we can’t be snuggled in the velvet-lined straitjacket of sinful habits.”
      3. Christ’s armor is tailor fit & can only be worn by believers who have shrugged off their sinful lifestyles.
    18. CLEAN UP! (13)
    19. The 1st 4 sins deal w/the area of immorality; the last 2 deal w/relational sins…that can be just as destructive!
    20. Revelry = It was used of a nocturnal, riotous procession of ½ drunken & frolicsome fellows who paraded through the streets w/torches & music in honor of Bacchus Roman/Dionysus Gk (god of grape harvest/wine) or some other deity. Then it was used generally of feasts & drinking parties that were protracted till late at night & indulged in revelry. (Thayer, in Linguistic Key of the Greek N.T., pg.379)
    21. Lust – Animal lust, sheer self-indulgence which is such a slave to its so called pleasures that it is lost to shame. It is one who acknowledges no restraints. LKGNT
    22. DRESS UP! (14)
    23. Put on Jesus, His armor of light, the armor of God!
    24. Make no provision for the flesh - What used to cause us to blush, what used to be considered shameful behavior,…now is our entertainment! [From shock Jocks to sitcoms]
      1. We find ourselves like in Jeremiah’s day, Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush. Jer.6:15
      2. What’s our answer? Same answer as God gave the Israelites Jer.6:16a Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.
      3. What is the good way? – to distance ourselves from the deeds of darkness & cloth ourselves w/Jesus Christ!
    25. vs.11-14 msg But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! God is putting the finishing touches on the salvation work he began when we first believed. We can’t afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight. Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Romans 13". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/romans-13.html. 2017.