This S.C.O.P.E. Lesson #12, is from Romans 13:1-14, and it is for May 17, 2020.
CSBC Sunday School: Romans Series
Lesson #12: Romans 13:1-14
May 17, 2020
Resources: Phillips; Braddy; MacArthur; Ray, Explore the Bible
HOOK: (Why should we listen to this lesson?)
Central Theme: WE ARE TO BE GOOD CITIZENS!
Objective Statement: EVERY CHRISTIAN CAN BE A GOOD CITIZEN BECAUSE OF THESE THREE ATTITUDES WE DISPLAY!
Points: ATTITUDE #1 – SUBMIT! ATTITUDE #2 – LOVE! ATTITUDE #3 – ANTICIPATE!
- FOCUS ATTENTION: Our view of the government often depends on our current circumstances. Some of us are frustrated with our present government challenges and have a concern that maybe some officials are practicing “over-reach” when it comes to the power they claim to wield. If a police officer pulls us over for speeding, the complaint may be, “Don’t they have anything better to do?” Well, in Romans 13, Paul deals with the believer’s relationship to governing authorities. He called for submission to God ordained authorities in our life, as God is the one who orchestrates government leaders. They have the right to rule, but they are to be subject to God, who alone holds absolute authority.
- CONTEXT: Last week we considered Paul’s two commands related to “evil” and “good” from Romans 12 ( 12:9, 21). In today’s session, Paul developed three concrete ways for the believers in Rome to always do what is good and avoid evil that was around them:
- Believers were commanded to submit to God ordained authority. Paul based his command on the fact that all authority ultimately comes from God and those authorities serve as God’s servants to punish evil and reward good. This passage does not address the challenge of governments which act in ways to limit the Gospel. That issue is dealt with elsewhere.
- Paul discussed the believer’s responsibility to love. The responsibility to love one another can never be completely accomplished. Therefore, we must continue to strive to fulfill that command of Jesus.
- Paul reminded his readers they were living in a time that demanded action. Even in his day, Paul believed in the imminent return of Jesus so he always reminded all Christians that their time was short and we had to be constantly prepared, watching and ready. In the meantime, we must be advancing the Gospel to those who have never heard.
- Let’s Explore the Bible in Romans 13:1-14.
BOOK: (What does the Bible say?)
ATTITUDE #1 – SUBMIT! (Rom. 13:1-7)
- In Chapter 12, Paul ended his instructions with a series of commands ( 12:9-18). Now, he turns his directives to the single topic of the believer’s relationship to governmental authorities. The Greek word translated “be subject unto” (vs. 1) means to place oneself in a subordinate role under someone or something else. In other words, Christians are to submit to those governments that “are ordained of God” (vs. 1c). The reason we should do that is we recognize a sovereign God is really the One who has placed government in that authority, “For there is no power but of God” (vs. 1b). Since no authority can exist that is outside of God’s authority, the specific governing structures that do exist are put in place by God. When Pontius Pilate claimed to have authority over Jesus, the Lord answered, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:11). For someone, even a believer, to resist God ordained authority, they are really resisting “the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (vs. 2). It is unclear if that judgment is something that comes from the governmental officials or judgment given by God. Throughout the Bible God has placed, even pagan Rulers, in places of authority where God calls them His “servants.” For example, both Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Jer. 25:9), and Cyrus the Great of Persian (Isa. 45:1), were called the servants of God. So throughout history God used governmental officials that He had placed in order to accomplish His will. For Christians that are good and obedient, they had nothing to fear as long as their conduct was proper. However, if their behavior was bad, they had every reason to be afraid. The phrase, “beareth not the sword in vain” (vs. 4), refers generally to the right of the government to punish those who break the law; even to the point of capital punishment. Just as rulers were God’s servants for good, so also they could be God’s servants for vengeance. In this role the ruler was “a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (vs. 4b). God had already declared that vengeance was denied to the believers because vengeance was God’s prerogative (Rom. 12:19). But God identified His earthly authorities had the right to inflict His punishment on wrongdoers and rewards upon those that remained obedient. In this passage, Paul directed Christians to fulfill willingly their obligations as citizens. He reminded them God is sovereign over all human authorities, and expects such authorities to maintain justice for the good of all.
- In verses 5-7, Paul continued summarizing the need for believers to submit to God- installed human government. Not only should we submit to their role in punishing evil doers, but Paul states there’s another reason. Believers must submit “for conscience sake” ( 5). For the Christian, “conscience” is moral sensitivity to the will and purpose of God. In other words, Paul urged all believers to be in subjection to authorities because it was the right thing to do. Again, Paul reiterates to his readers that governmental leaders were “God’s ministers” (vs. 4, 6). Therefore, as a good citizen, “for this cause pay ye tribute” (vs. 4); which we would understand means taxes. The obligation to pay is summarized with four categories: direct “tribute” (taxes); indirect taxes such as “custom” (or fees); “fear” or reverential respect; and “honour” (ascribing worth and value to leaders, whenever possible) (vs. 7). Absolute authority belongs to God alone, and believers must always evaluate the demands of authorities in light of the Gospel. Not all human governments function in godly ways; some throughout history have been dominated by evil people and/or systems that might oppose the free sharing of the Gospel. When that happens, it is always better to obey God rather than man. But as much as possible, “live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18).
ATTITUDE #2 – LOVE! (vs. 8-10)
- Paul tied 8 to the previous section using the concept of debt. Believers are to pay all of our obligations (vs. 7) so that we do not owe anything to anyone (vs. 8). But there is one obligation that all believers must continue to pay because it can never be repaid: “but to love one another” (vs. 8b). Usually, Paul uses this kind of phrase in his instructions for believers as they minister to others in the household of faith. However, in the following two verses, Paul references the word “neighbor” (vs. 9, 10). It is reminiscent of Jesus’ use of the word in the Parable of the Good Samaritan where he defines a good neighbor (Luke 10). Therefore, the command to love is owed to both believers and non-believers, both those friendly toward us and those hostile toward us. Believers have an obligation to love because “he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” (vs. 8). WHICH OF THE 10 COMMANDMENTS ARE MENTIONED IN VS. 9-10? (Allow for a delineation of the 4 commandments that deal with the way humans are to relate to one another). The phrase “and if there be any other commandment” (vs.9), probably referred to any other of the Ten Commandments that also relates to human interaction. But Paul stated that all these commands are summed up by the command, “love thy neighbor as thyself” (vs. 9). This injunction can be found in the OT (Lev. 19:18), but also in the second of two commands on which Jesus said all of the Law and Prophets depend (Matt. 22:37-40). The reason why love for neighbor was able to sum up all of the other commands was that “love worketh no ill to his neighbor” (vs. 10). So once again, Paul affirmed that the law is fulfilled in love. When writing to the Galatian Christians, Paul instructed them to use their freedom to serve one another in love because the law is fulfilled in loving one’s neighbor (Gal. 5:13-14).
ATTITUDE #3 – ANTICIPATE! (vs. 11-14)
- These verses are a call for the Believers to be looking to the future and the imminent return of Jesus Christ. We are to be ready, “knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” ( 11). Every day is one day closer to Jesus’ return. Paul continued the imagery of sleep by suggesting that “the night is far spent, the day is at hand” (vs. 12a). We must be READY. In light of Jesus’ imminent return we must “cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (vs. 12b). Read 1 Thessalonians 5:4-5. Therefore, believers are to “walk honestly” (vs. 13) in a way that our behavior is proper and appropriate. We are also to behave “as in the day” (vs. 13b), which speaks to the issue that we are to walk as children of light. In contrast to those in the day, WHAT ARE CHARACTERISTIC OF THOSE WHO WALK IN THE DARKNESS? (Allow for a list of evil deeds done, usually, in the darkness from vs. 13). Paul then commands the Christians to “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 14). Because our lives have been forever transformed by the work of Jesus, we cannot be conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2). Therefore, we must, “make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (vs. 14b). We should live right as we ANTICIPATE the soon coming of Jesus Christ!
LOOK: (Why is what it says important?)
- Objective Statement (Repeated): EVERY CHRISTIAN CAN BE A GOOD CITIZEN BECAUSE OF THESE THREE ATTITUDES WE EXAMINED TODAY!
- It is not always easy to SUBMIT, is it? From our lesson today, we have learned that believers should seek to represent Jesus well in their community and world. To do that, Christians should honor their government and its leaders by being model citizens. As long as government does not clearly violate God’s Word and limit the preaching of the Gospel, our attitude should be one of submission toward our God ordained authority.
- A couple of other important attitudes should have been gleaned from our lesson today. Believers should demonstrate Christ-like love to all people, especially to other Christians. We should also live holy lives in anticipation of the return of Jesus. Because the night is coming when no one can work, we must be eager and passionate to work for Jesus while it is still daylight. The world is waiting for the Gospel as we wait for the Coming of Christ. Let’s persevere to the very end and reach as many people as possible for Him!
TOOK: (Why is it important to me? What should I do with it?)
Evaluation: Romans 13:11 says, “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.” Since Jesus could come at any moment, we should submit to God ordained authority in our lives, love all people with the hope of reaching them with the Gospel, and anticipate His return by living righteously and casting off the works of darkness. The way to accomplish all these things is, “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ!”
In preparation for our next Bible Study please read Romans 14:1-12!