Lesson 84: "Let Us Put on the Armour of Light" (Romans 13:12)

Romans 13:1-14

Welcome to lesson #84.   Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. Near the end of ch. 12, Paul said "give place unto wrath." He said, do not avenge yourselves, leave vengeance to God. From this thought, Paul moved on to show that civil governments are ordained of God and that God uses civil governments as an instrument of vengeance on evil does. It is from this point of view, that Paul moved into ch.13, where he discussed the proper relations between church and state. It seems only natural to me that Paul would write these things to the church at Rome; located in the capital city of the empire. As to exactly what vibrations of church-state relation that Paul had received at Ephesus and Corinth in recent months is anybody's guess; really. But, it is obvious that one doesn't have to be a great historian of that period to understand that the Jews in general had an antagonistic spirit toward civil government and especially toward the Romans. Taxes were repulsive to most Jews. A few Jews worked for the Roman government as tax collectors, usually referred to as publicans.   Jews in general considered the publicans as outcasts. The roman tax system was used to explain (in Luke c. 2) why Jesus was born in Bethlehem rather than in Nazareth, (you will remember). On that Last Tuesday of Jesus' life at the Temple, the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus asked: "is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" Tribute there is another word for taxes, I trust you understand. You will recall, after asking to see a Roman coin, Jesus said: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." Thus, in analyzing that; Jesus indicated that both civil government and the kingdom of God could co-exit. So, you can see here in ch. 13, after Paul had discussed several points on Christian living (in ch. 12); he doubled back into some of the Jewish problems and attitudes, which ties this chapter back ;into c. 9-10-11, Paul's kinsmen. Historically, after coming our of slavery in Egypt, at the foot of Mt. Sinai; the Hebrews became a sovereign nation. We have said before, a theocratic system, i.e. a government in which God is recognized as the supreme ruler.   It is no secret, at the time of Paul, the Jews resented Roman domination. Resentment of the Jews toward Rome was smoldering hot within Judiasm. Because of the antagonism, I don't know the details; but, Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome, you'll remember (Acts 18:2). That must have been somewhere near the end of the AD 40's. These things, of course, touched the lives of many Christians who were members of the Jewish race. Aquila and Priscilla come to mind. At this stage in the game, it would appear the Roman authorities looked upon Christianity as simply a sect of Judiasm.    Do you remember Gallio, the deputy of Achaia, and the court case at Corinth?? (Acts 18:12)? Jewish resentment toward Rome became so intense, that in the late AD 60's, the Jews openly revolted against Rome. The emperor Nero sent in troops and what we call the War of AD. 70 ensued. The Jews (or Hebrews) lost their national status, forever; we touched on that in our last lesson concerning so-called modern Israel. This was foretold by Daniel the prophet in the O.T., Jesus, himself said so (Matt. 24:15). The Romans destroyed the temple and plowed Jerusalem like a field in the summer and fell of AD 70. Temple worship ceased. It has never to this day been restarted.   Some Jewish citizens at that time were exiled and many other's were enslaved. Keep in mind now, that was just over the horizon, 8 or 10 years down the road, when Paul wrote these things (in Romans ch. 13). The war of AD 70 greatly changed the course of history for the Jews. After the war, Roman authorities tended to look upon Christianity as just one wing of Judiasm. Christians were then looked upon with great suspicion.   It was in the decades after that war; that many Christians were thrown to the lions before great crowds in Roman coliseums and stadiums because they would not renounce their feith.     It was under such pressures the book of Revelation was written. Others, trying to be pragmatic attempted to evolve the church into an organization similar to and acceptable to the Roman Government for recognition and for survival. Scriptural compromise traded for state recognition in this way finally, after much departure from the Bible, resulted hi the Roman Catholic Church; that ultimately became the so-called Roman state church; or a puppet of the Roman government in the AD 300's. But, you must realize that was a departure from true Christianity. It still is!   Thus, the things said (here in ch. 13) about government,   particularly   applied   to   the   Roman government. But, beyond that, ch. 13 serves Christians, even today, as guidelines for church-state relations. As you read this, observe: Paul had a very positive attitude toward civil government.     Paul had been jailed, imprisoned, whipped and mistreated by civil government officials; but, that didn't change his concept of governmental   purpose.       God   ordained   human governments to be a part of God's system in the Christian age. Christians should not look upon human governments as conflicting with Christianity. God gave the Jews a theocratic system of government at Mt. Sinai. Authority for their religion AND their government was woven into a single document, called very simply "the law" which consisted of commandments, statutes, judgments, ordinances, etc.. But in Christ's kingdom (the church), our Lord and King changed all that. Today the church and state are two separate institutions. That's not just something our forefathers wrote into the declaration of independence, they had some help, that's what this chapter teaches (Rom ch. 13). Well, we better get started on our text! Ch. 13, here we go. Beginning inv. 1, we'll read down through v.7. Are you ready?
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For ruler's are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in van: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor."

Alright, the term "higher powers" here in v.l, to whom every soul should be subject, means very simply: civil government or human governments. Then, look at it close; these powers are ordained of God. So far as the Christian is concerned; it makes no difference if the government is a democratic government, a socialistic government, or a dictatorship; Christians are to be subject to their government. Notice the next sentence. "Whosoever {that's everybody] therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God." Thus in that sense, civil law becomes Christian spiritual law. And don't miss the last part: "they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." In other words, this is a sin and one can be lost for not respecting civil government.

That's pretty strong talk; especially for those who take these thins lightly. Now, v.3-4 show the intent of civil governments. AND, I think it goes without saying here; it is assumed in this discussion that governments are operating consistently with the intent expressed here. You know and I know that governments can become corrupt; just as corrupt as any officials that serve. It is NOT my view, that these verses imply we should support a corrupt government.     But, we must respect the institution of government. The apostle Peter, on this subject, said: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him; for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well." (I Pet. 2:13-14). In that verse where Peter said "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man..." some translations say: "Submit to all human institutions..." I believe Christians have a duty and obligation to improve government where we legally and logically have an opportunity to do so. One of the reasons governments sometimes become corrupt is because Christians simply neglect to apply their dutiful input. Governments are a minister of God to thee for good (v.4). God uses the institutions of government in certain limiting and formative ways, that is clear. Exactly how god uses these things, I'm not totally sure. But, the last of v. 4 makes it clear, one of the ways God uses such institutions is "to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." Thus, in the next verse (v.5), this fear of wrath is one of the reasons given for our subjection. Beyond that, (v.5) we must consciously endeavor to comply with our institutions of government; in other words, to do so is part of our Christian duty. Then v.6 and 7 make it very clear this includes paying taxes, also. There's a lot of hay stores in this chapter, spiritually speaking. It's a big field. There can be and there will be conflicts. Peter told the council (Acts 5:29). "We ought to obey God rather than men." What about serving in the military or armed forces? What about working as a policeman or an FBI agent or those jobs that require carrying a gun?   What about voting?   What about seeking government protection? Some of these things have brought about conscientious objection in some people, I trust you are aware.   This is not something new.     Those brethren at Rome were undoubtedly grappling with some of these problems. They needed guidelines, just like we do.
Now, let's hang on three more verses. Read wit me please! V. 8-9-10. Here we go! "Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this say, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
O.K., these verses seem a very fitting closure to the above discussion, to me at least. It says in effect; if you follow Christian principles and obey God, you will find that governments generally do not conflict with these things. To "owe no man anything" in v.2 might include money in some cases; but, the idea does not exclude mortgages and business contracts and that kind of thing. This does not prevent honest cooperation. The idea is not to become obligated to somebody else and be their patsy, so-to-speak. Don't let people use you to accomplish evil! Do you remember David? And his affair with Bathsheba in the O.T.? When David began to get caught in the net; he sent a letter to Joab, the general, instructing him to place Uriah (Bathsheba's husband, a soldier in the war) in a place where valiant men of the enemy were (II Sam. 11:16), i.e. to make Uriah vulnerable to being killed. Was Joab obligated to do that? I don't think so. But, Joab did and Uriah was killed, it would appear in a very innocent way. What about the next time David instructed Joab to do something? If Joab didn't want to, he may have said, David, I'm not going to do that! Suppose David said, I'm the king and I said do that! You see, David is now obligated to Joab, and Joab might say: Yes, but David, I know something about you. You see, blackmail begins with the patsy-patsy obligation business of owing somebody something. Keep you nose clean and it will keep you out of a lot of trouble. I remember hiring a man one day to mow y lawn and he wanted me to make the check to somebody else. You know why, for evasive income tax purposes, obviously. I told him you let the other man do the work and I'll make the check to the other man. He then suddenly decided it was alright to make the check to himself. Crooked people are standing in line to use you for evil, if you'll let'em. But, you have a Christian obligation not to do that. "Love one another," Paul said, v.8. If you'll check it out, "love," there in that verse, is the Greek word "agape" meaning to seek the hightest interest of another. And, let's fact it! To seek somebody else's highest interest, you might have to say: NO! Some people think love means you never say no! Paul is saying, don't get caught in that trap, "love is the fulfilling of the law" (end of v.10).

We better read the rest of it! V.ll-12-13-14. Put both eyes on it- "and that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." In these verses I detect a tinge of invitational thought. It's time for us to get with it. Paul was saying to the Romans, stand back and let's take a look at ourselves. He does this by depicting an army camped out in the night. Twilight is showing in the east; the day is coming to life; the time for sleep is past and the troops are even now dozing past the snooze alarm. The great sound of the bugle is bursting forth; arise and cast off the works of darkness. It's time to remove any night clothing, dress for the battle, arise and face the new day. "Let us put on the armour of light," which Paul identifies in the next breath as "the Lord Jesus Christ." (v.!4)(. How do we put on the Lord Jesus Christ? The armour of light? "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Do you remember Gal. 3:27). Then, "reckon ye also yourselves to be dear indeed to sin..."(Rom 6:11). "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." (12:2). The revolting sins of our past must be forgotten; drunkenness, chambering, wantonness and strife (v. 13). Such conduct is no longer acceptable. How shall the army of saints march forward? "Let us walk honestly, as in the day,": (v.13). I.e. recognizing the time. "It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." Let's march for the Master! Let's pay our taxes; being subject to the higher powers for conscience sake. Let's love our neighbor as ourselves. Let us walk honestly. Are you ready to march? The command has been given. Christian action is NOW expected. Some around us are weak in faith. How shall be deal with the weak in faith? That's ch. 14! Paul covered the water front. We'll cover that in our next lesson. Until the, have a good day.

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