Romans 12-15 The Practice of Salvation
Affects the way I think about people I struggle with (12:17-13:14), cont’d.
Romans 13:1-10-Sometimes, if we are not careful, we allow the chapter and verse divisions that are in our modern translations of the Bible to affect our interpretation of the Bible.
For an explanation of when chapter and verse divisions were added to the Bible see: http://www.gotquestions.org/divided-Bible-chapters-verses.html
That could be the instance here. As we come to the conclusion of chapter 12, we could allow the flow of Paul’s thought to end there and look for a new thought to begin in chapter 13. However, that is not the case. In chapter 13, Paul is continuing with the same teaching concerning how we are to relate to people I struggle with. Paul here presents an ideal picture of government and its purpose. He admonishes believers to be in subjection to the government...saying that the principle of government comes from God, Himself. Government is supposed to protect its citizens from evil. Notice that in 12:17-21, he taught how we are to respond when people are evil (:17,21) and even when people are our enemy (:20). He clearly admonished us to not respond to evil with evil (:17) and to not take revenge on those who harm us (:19). In fact, we are to respond in just the opposite manner (:18, 20-21). He then told us to leave such matters in the hands of God (:19). Paul now explains that the guilty party will not go unpunished because we do not exact our own wrath or vengeance. No. God will deal with the matter through the agency of human government. Notice in verse 4 that Paul says the government is an “avenger” and will bring “wrath” on the person who does “evil”. These three words have the same Greek root words as those Paul used in chapter 12, verses 17 and 19 to describe the person who is guilty of such behavior (“evil”) and the response of God to such behavior (“revenge”, “wrath”). We are to subject ourselves to government for “conscience’ sake”…because we know that since God established the principle of government we should obey it. And, to avoid “wrath”…since if we break the laws of government we will be punished. Government is the agency through which God will administer punishment when the law is broken (“bear the sword…brings wrath upon the one who practices evil”). Paul also tells us that we should support the government by paying the taxes it levies…so that it will be able to accomplish its function. In essence, Paul is telling us to allow the governing institution to handle matters of punishment…wrath, vengeance. In 12:21, he warned us that if we become caught up in seeking wrath and vengeance on those who have hurt us there is an inherent danger that not only will we be hurt the first time…but, in the process of seeking retribution we will be hurt yet a second time. This time, in our attempt to find satisfaction for the evil committed against us…we will be overcome by that very evil, ourself. By seeking to get our “pound of flesh”…the evil committed against us, will become the evil committed through us. So, God says to let Him handle those matters through the government. How liberating this is. I don’t have to be responsible to punish people for their sins. God will handle it. My responsibility is to be a vessel of His love. Even to those who have hurt me. In doing this, I fulfill God’s law. Instead of becoming a law-breaker myself, like the one who has hurt me…I fulfill the law of God.
Romans 13:11-14-Then, with something of a flurry, Paul encourages us. Sometimes, when evil is committed, we don’t see an immediate judgment, we don’t see the government punishing the evildoer, we don’t see justice served. So, in a very positive manner, Paul reminds us that the last days are quickly arriving. The days of evil will soon be behind us…days of darkness will be gone, forever. In that time…God will settle all accounts and all evil which seemingly went unpunished will be finally and ultimately resolved in the court of God. With that in mind, we ourselves should be mindful of our own behavior and not allow there to be any sin in our own lives for which we must give an account. We should "put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh" (:14). The words “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” mean to cover up, as putting on clothing. Let everything in your life (without exception) be completely under the control of Christ. And, “make no provision for the flesh”. The flesh is the sinful nature. The word “provision” means to care for or to give thought to. Don’t do anything in deed or thought that would strengthen your old, sinful nature.
Romans 13:8-10-Just a note. These verses are sometimes lifted from their context and used as a proof text that we should not borrow money (especially money that has an interest rate attached to it). However, that is not the context, nor the meaning of the verse. In verse 7, Paul tells us to pay what we owe...he is speaking specifically in reference to government taxes. Don't be delinquent paying your taxes...because the government is a servant of God and if we don't pay our taxes then we are not supporting the agency which God has established and in essence we are not giving God what is due to Him. Verse 8 then broadens this principle to other areas of life and says that if you owe something to someone don't be delinquent in paying it. In verses 8-14, Paul provides two reasons for us to be in subjection to government. First, is the law of love. Love is the ultimate fulfillment of the law. If we act in a manner that is in keeping with love…then we will fulfill the law of the government. If you owe something to someone and don't pay it...then you are not acting in love. Love does not do wrong to a person...and to not pay them would be to wrong them. Love is the one thing that you will never be able to entirely pay up. There will never come a time when our debt of love is paid. Our debt of love is owed to God...but we pay Him by the way that we treat other people. We should never come to the place where we think that we have loved them enough...and we can stop doing so.
Prayer: Lord, please help me to always be extending Your love to other people. Don't let me ever think that I have loved them enough. Sometimes I don't feel love for some people. Please help me to have Your love for them and to extend it to them. Please help Your love to live in me...so that I'm not just loving them because You do...but that Your love will transform me and I will love them myself, as You do.