A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Having seen that along with the blessings of salvation have come the gifts that give us the ability to respond accordingly, we continue now with Paul’s advice on living a life pleasing to God in gratitude for all that He’s given us. Following these directions will bring us closer to God, allowing Him to work His will for our lives, which results in further blessing. This is the road to the abundant life Jesus spoke of. (John 10:10)
Submission to the Authorities
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:1-7)
The Bible seems to condone only one form of civil disobedience, and that’s when laws are passed that either make the worship of God illegal, or make the worship of pagan gods mandatory. Daniel 2 & 6 are examples where the worship of a pagan god was made mandatory. In Daniel 2 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship the statue Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and in chapter 6 Daniel was dropped into a den of lions for worshiping God rather than King Darius.
In Acts 4:1-20 Peter and John were put in jail for preaching the Gospel and then brought before the Sanhedrin who ordered them to stop. In verse 19 they refused, saying in effect that they couldn’t obey the rulers and God too, so they were going to obey God.
In all these cases acts of civil disobedience were blessed. But Paul is very clear that God instituted human government, and that He holds the leaders responsible for governing just as He holds the people responsible for obeying. Hebrews 13:17 tells us to “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.”
Love, For The Day Is Near
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
According to Matt. 5&6 these commandments are either obeyed out of the motivations of our hearts or they are not obeyed at all. They weren’t meant to train us to perform acts of outward obedience, like a dog or a seal, but to develop hearts full of love and respect for others, just as the Lord’s heart is full of love and respect for us. Love your neighbor as yourself. When the lawyer asked Him, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan, instructing us to go and do likewise. (Luke 10:29-37)
And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Romans 13:11-14)
As I’ve indicated from the beginning, this study of Romans is meant to prepare us for the life to come. As each day brings us nearer to the Rapture of the Church, we should be focused more and more on the things that are important to the One we await. It’s well past time to stop living for the pleasures of this world and begin living for the rewards of the next one. As Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18)
Soon we’ll be whisked away from everything we’ve built here, to spend eternity in a place where what we’ve built there will be all that matters. In 1 Cor 3:14-15 Paul wrote, “If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your adulthood acquiring the life style you now enjoy. But for how long? A few more years? If you haven’t done so already, begin shifting your focus now to the life that’s coming, the one that lasts forever. Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:20-21)
Your life is changing dramatically. All the rules are different and many seem counter-intuitive:
Give with no thought of receiving and you’ll receive more than you give. (Luke 6:38)
Put yourself last and you’ll become first. (Matt. 20:16)
Sacrifice your life in order to keep it. (Luke 17:33)
Don’t focus on what you can see, but on what you can’t. (2 Cor. 4:18) And on it goes.
In chapters 12-15 Paul has provided the guide to playing by these new rules. Master them and begin playing to win while there’s time. Let’s read on.
The Weak And The Strong
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:1-4)
In Paul’s day there were many pagan temples, and when they sacrificed animals to their gods they would sell the meat to help support the temple. Sometimes it was cooked and served restaurant style in their banquet halls to anyone with the price of a meal. Some believers refused to eat the meat, fearing they would be worshiping idols, and therefore sinning. Others, more secure in their Christian faith, saw nothing wrong with it because the pagan gods were just statues.
There was also the issue of the Jewish dietary restrictions. Believers from a Jewish background had spent their entire lives obeying these laws and some were hesitant to suddenly stop. Paul said that this was not a salvation issue and each should be guided by his own conscience, but that no one should condemn those with whom they disagreed. And once again Paul underscored where the power that guarantees our salvation comes from. To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 13:5-8)
In Colossians 2:16-17 Paul wrote, Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
As a believer, you can obey the dietary restrictions or not, abstain from alcohol or enjoy the occasional drink, observe the Saturday Sabbath or worship on Sunday, keep the Levitical feasts or ignore them. If you’re sincere in your beliefs, follow them. Just don’t judge those who feel differently about these things. Again, they’re not salvation issues.
For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,” says the Lord, “every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.”[Isaiah 45:23] So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:9-12)
This is a recurring theme through out Paul’s letters. It must be that believers were just as critical of each other then as we are now. But Paul’s admonitions came directly from the Source. Jesus said, “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2).
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. (Romans 14:13-18)
Our freedom in Christ is good, but when we flaunt it in the faces of those who don’t agree with us, we’re allowing what is good to be spoken of as evil. We learned this lesson early on in Mexico. On one of our first visits to a popular restaurant, the more experienced missionaries we were with advised us that in the local culture the public consumption of alcohol by an American missionary is unacceptable. I quickly changed my mind about having a beer with dinner and ordered a soft drink instead.
There’s nothing in the Bible that prohibits drinking wine or other fermented drinks like beer. In fact they were specifically authorized for the fall harvest feast in Israel. (Deut. 14:22-26) But just because they’re permitted doesn’t mean it’s OK to offend others, especially if it diminishes our credibility as a servant of the Lord.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:19-23)
Here Paul again confirmed that the dietary restrictions had been lifted as Peter had been shown in Acts 10:9-16. He was a great advocate of all of our freedoms in Christ, but compared exercising them without concern for its effect on others with drinking in front of a struggling alcoholic. It presents an unnecessary temptation to someone who’s having a difficult time. He said that if you can handle it and don’t see anything wrong, that’s great. Eat the meat and drink the wine, but do it at home where you won’t tempt a weaker brother. Like he told the Corinthians, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive.” (1 Cor. 10:23)
Even though we have this great freedom, we should always be careful not to either set a bad example for others, or cause someone struggling in their walk to be burdened unnecessarily. First and foremost let our behavior consist of things that lead to peace and lasting edification. Selah 03-24-07