Our only hope is of course Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Listen to verse 14.
14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Folks, putting on Jesus Christ and making no provision for the flesh are inseparable. You will not do one without the other. Since putting on Christ is so essential, let’s clarify a few things. The putting on of Christ is not speaking of salvation. We saw a minute ago that salvation is brought by Jesus Christ. Our salvation is Jesus’ possession. No, the putting on of Christ uses the same imagery of putting on your clothes. In fact, some translators write this verse as “Clothe yourself with Christ.”
It is the same idea used in I Peter 5:5-8 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful.
Do you notice the similarities between the I Peter passage and Romans 13? Clothing yourself with Jesus and righteousness shows a vigilance for the present time with a look to the future.
The proper question is to ask, “How exactly do I put on Christ? Well, what have we been called to in these verse? Love in verses 8-10 and Holiness in verses 10-13. The work of Jesus Christ of course clothes you with both the love of God and the Holiness of Jesus Christ. Learning to walk in those garments is the hard part in this life.
- The putting on of Christ is not an exertion of the will but it involves that.
- The putting on of Christ is not being self-disciplined but it involves that.
- The putting on of Christ is the daily act of finding your ever need met in Jesus Christ and His incredible sufficiency.
- The putting on of Christ is the daily act of finding yourself unwise and God only wise.
- The putting on of Christ is the daily act of finding guidance not in the counsel of others or your self but in the counsel of scriptures.
- The putting on of Christ is the daily act of finding your hope not in yourself or in your own efforts but in the efforts of Christ.
In doing that, then and only then can we make no provision for the flesh and obey the commands that we have seen in this passage. John Piper explains this extremely well: The word “provision” means literally “forethought,” and the whole sentence would go like this: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t let any thought in your head that would lead to a sinful desire—not just to the gratification of the sinful desire, but even the desire itself.” Paul is warning you and me against even thinking about of sinning.
You know the word here for provision only appears elsewhere in the NT in Acts 24:2, and is translated as “providence.” So there is providential forethought, if you daily put on Christ in your thoughts by meditating on Him in prayer and study, you will not then be making plans to sin. You won’t leave the door open to sin. You will see your life transformed as you clothe yourself with Christ.
Part One of this post can be found here.
11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand.
Paul quite clearly says to each and every one of us: wake up. Now is the time for you to wake up and realize what is at hand. Salvation here implies the return of Jesus Christ – the ultimate realization of our salvation. Let me go old school here for a moment: Jesus is returning. He will bring salvation and life to those who have faith in Him, and He will bring judgment and death to those who have not. Metaphorically, the night is gone and the day is at hand. Your expressions of love and mercy to your neighbor are extensions of the invitation of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him. The paying of your debt of love is the sharing of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and a demonstration of Jesus’ love to those who do.
Now why would Paul tell the Romans, and subsequently you as well, to wake up? Because quite simply, we’ve forgotten. Other things have our attention. Have you ever been separated from a loved one for a significant amount of time? Do you remember what it was like to long for their return? I’ve told this story before but never grow tired of it. I remember waiting for Amy to return from England when we were engaged. She was gone for 4 months and I was a depressed puppy. At any point in the journey I could tell you how many days until she would return. This was when there was no cell phone, no email…just snail mail and dialing 13 digit numbers over and over again at 5am just to get 5 mins to talk. There was no one any more ready for her return than I.
That is the sense of expectancy for the return of Jesus that we are called to have. But nearly every moment of every day in this world seeks to drag you away from the central task of loving others with the goal of proclaiming Jesus Christ with the expectation of His return. Every thing from cleaning the house to paying the bills to picking the kids up from school to facebook to taking out the trash to doing the laundry seeks to distract you from loving others in the name of Christ in the hopeful expectation of His return.
Now some of those things are completely fine and even essential to our day to day living. You have to do laundry. You have to educate your children. You have to eventually clean your house. You have to pay your taxes. And in the course of most of our days, it so easy to set our focus on the performing of the thousands of tasks that are our responsibly and not setting our mind to loving our neighbors in the name of Christ in expectation of His return.
When trying to get the kids out the door and into the van, it’s difficult to have any time built in to speak to your neighbor. When picking your children up from school, the ocus is either getting home or to the next errand and not to love and serve the principal and teachers. In the grocery store, what’s your primary concern? Making sure your kids don’t make too much noise or being nice to the other customers or getting to know the cashiers. We have our salvation for which we are thankful but the worries of this world drown us out so getting around to weeping for people who don’t have salvation is often far from our minds. Where our personal sacrifice meets the loving of our neighbor is where we find out just how much we have been personally impacted by Jesus Christ. When we realize that much of our life is carving out comfort for our little corner, Paul says to us, “Wake up.” Look what Paul calls this reorienting of our life…
So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.
Waiting expectantly for Jesus’ return is loving your neighbor but it is also, casting off the works of darkness and putting on the armor of light. This is serious language for serious times. This is Paul’s straightforward command of walking in repentance, turning away from sin, and striving to live a Godly life. And just in case we don’t know what sins Paul is talking about, he gives us a list of them to which we should avoid and repent. What we have here is the extreme of several good things. That’s what sin does. It takes a healthy thing and distorts it by taking it to extremes.
Sex, completely healthy in the marital realm, gets turned into orgies when tainted with sin. Alcohol completely healthy and even commended in scripture gets turned into drunkenness when tainted when sin. Pleasure gets turned into sexual immorality and sensuality when tainted with sin. Relationships get turned into quarreling and jealousy when tainted with sin.
Well, you might say, “Okay, I know I shouldn’t get drunk, quarrel and be jealous, but at least none of us have to worry about orgies.” Not so fast. If you are married and engage in any pornographic activity watching other people have sex, you are involved in an orgy. If you are married and engage in any flirting or fantasizing with another person you have involved you and your spouse in an orgy. The marital relationship is about the fidelity of two people to each other. Two becoming one, forsaking all others and clinging to one another.
How about drunkenness? The Bible commends the use of alcohol on Proverbs 31:6 and I Timothy 5:23. It is a good thing however that can be easily abused and requires the same amount of self control that sex and relationships require. Now the amazing thing is I know a bunch of people who drink but I’ve hardly met any one who has gotten drunk. Everyone says, “No I wasn’t drunk. I can handle my drinks.” Good I hope you can. But if alcohol is the only way you can relax or calm down or take a break mentally, then that is drunkenness. Paul would say cast that behavior off.
How bout quarreling and jealousy? Quarreling and jealousy are when you can’t see beyond your own desires. Are you guys familiar with Winston Churchill’s famous speech following Operation Dynamo? In it he said, “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” If you take that attitude and apply it to your personal life, what you get is quarreling and jealousy. When you look around at the people in your life (your parents, your children, your spouses, your employees, your co-workers, your bosses, your neighbors) and you think, “First and foremost, I’m going to protect myself,” then you get quarrels and jealousy. Basically, whenever you miss out on loving others as you love yourself, quarreling and jealousy are all that remain.
These will be the things to completely take you away from you preparedness for Jesus’ return. Sexual sin, drunkenness, quarreling and jealously are all selfish, self-pleasuring sins that reflect a worship of self and a complete lack of love for one’s neighbor.
Have you ever noticed how the clothes you wear have the power to influence your mood or even influence the mood of the people around you? For example, you may have gone to an interview before with your best suit on or your sharpest looking outfit with the expressed purpose of making a good impression. Perhaps those clothes gave you confidence or perhaps they made you feel itchy but either way, you wore them because you wanted to make a certain impression to someone.
Now, sometimes what we wear or don’t wear is dictated for us. For example, from 1993 until 2003, I wore a tie every single work day. I haven’t seen too many of those on me lately. But when I was a teacher and a sales guy and an office manager, wearing a tie or a suit was essential business attire. Now, I don’t know about many of you folks, but I give what I wear each day about 15 seconds worth of thought – maybe 30 at best. Unless there is an event that calls for something specific, the requirements for me are cleanliness (most of the time) and comfortability.
I’m aware not every one is like me or is afforded the luxury of wearing what they want every day. Some folks take great pains to look put together for their day to either send a specific impression or to just make themselves feel better. Either way, every one has some routine, habit, pattern, or ritual about the picking out and putting on of their clothes each day.
Well, this week in the book of Romans, Paul is, believe it not, going to address what you put on every day but with a twist. In the midst of a whole slew of exhortations and commands, Paul is going to command you to put on Jesus Christ, just like you put on your clothes every day. And we are going to find out that despite God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us, we still need to put on Christ in order to live this life of faith in which we are called. With that in mind, let’s ask this Big Picture Question this week.
Big Picture Question: What does it mean to put on the Lord Jesus Christ?
As always, before we try to answer that question, we need to remind ourselves of the context in which this week’s passage falls. Paul is the middle of making some incredibly practical applications and exhortations about what it means for the believer in Jesus to offer their body as a living sacrifice as a spiritual act of worship. According to Paul, offering your body as a living sacrifice
- Means loving people genuinely, hating evil, and loving good.
- It means blessing those who curse you and loving your enemies.
- It means meeting each other’s needs within the church and showing hospitality to those who are in need within the larger community.
- It means being submissive to the authorities that God has placed over you.
13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Now what we have here is one of the few sections in the NT that repeats a large number of the 10 commandments. Aside from Jesus’ preaching at the Sermon on the Mount, we don’t see much of the 10 commandments in the NT. Perhaps that’s because the 10 commandments were assumed in the life of the believer or perhaps it’s because the NT is the inspired commentary on the Law and the 10 commandments. Either way, Paul feels it’s necessary to remind us of the importance of living out these commands of the law now by the power and grace of Jesus Christ. We get these commands:
- Do not commit adultery.
- Do not murder.
- Do not steal
- Do not covet
Now I don’t want to just read these commandments and let them fall on your ears like so many other readings of the 10 commandments have done. Think about how each of those commandments reflect God’s character for a moment.
Why does God care if a husband and wife are faithful? I mean, why can’t you just have that person at home and that person on the side? Because God is always faithful. He never strays from His love of you and His care for you, and He wants you to reflect that in your marriages.
Why does God care if you kill or murder someone whether it be physically or mentally? Because death is a result of sin and death is the curse of the fall into sin. The life of the believer in Christ is evidence of God’s undoing that curse of sin. Murder, whether it be mentally or physically, is a willful return to the curse of sin. Murder is saying, “Jesus is irrelevant. Let’s indulge in a sinful, hurting world instead of undoing sin and hurt.
Why does God care if you steal? Well, any time we steal, whether it be money, time, or fame, we are saying, “Hey God, you are unwise. You have not properly cared for me. You are stingy, God. You should be more generous.” Hearing those words spoken out loud show their ridiculousness.
Why does God care if you covet? As you can imagine, coveting is much like stealing yet much more nefarious – I love using that word. Coveting is stealing someone else’s possession in your mind. Why would God care about that as long as you don’t actually steal anything? Well when you covet, you’re stealing and you think you are getting away with it. Mentally, you are saying, “I’m going to steal this from another person and God will never know (insert Dr. Evil laugh).
Obeying each and every one of those commands shows in them a faithfulness to God and a loving attitude and care towards your neighbor. That’s why Paul goes on to say You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself and if you are seeking to love your neighbor as you seek to love yourself (and we all love ourselves folks; don’t kid yourself) then you will be fulfilling the law. Now verses 9-10 are not new. They are basically quoting Jesus from Matthew 22 when a bunch of Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest law was. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” The “shalls” in this passage speak to the way in which we are to love God and our neighbors: we are to love them with every part of us as if we were seeking their welfare in the same way that we seek ours. These commandments coupled with the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves should show immediately both the depth of sin in our souls and the great amount help that is going to be needed to obey them.
But Paul teaches us a new wrinkle in this somewhat familiar truth in verse 8. He commands us to owe no one anything but love. Love is what we owe to God and one another. Now I have to be really careful here as a pastor and I’ll tell you why. If I use the language of owing something, I’m quilting you into something. If I guilt you into love because you owe it as a debt, it is no longer love. But Paul clearly says that there is a debt of love. Dr. John Townsend describes the dilemma this way in his book, “Where is God?” “It is impossible to should love. That is an oxymoron. Basically, when we feel we have to love someone, we have erased the possibility of love.” Love is a desire and a choice. Make it a “have to” and it is no longer love.
So what is Paul saying? Well, before we go any further we have to understand that this is one of those highly contested verses in terms of translation. Some folks think it should be translated “Owe no man anything.” Which makes getting a car loan a sin but that wouldn’t be consistent with the rules of loaning and repayment found within scripture. Some folks split the two commands making it “Owe no man anything (period) and then add “Only love one another” which separates the two ideas offering no connection. Those translations are possible but they don’t emphasize well enough the intention of the language. Verse 8 really translates along these lines “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.”
Folks, right now, there are people in your life that you are willfully choosing to withhold and withdraw love and affection. Maybe you are doing to protect yourself or maybe your doing to punish them. It’s not love though. Paul says you have a continuing debt to love one another. You see, you will never get to the point where you can say that you have loved other people enough, and choosing not to love incurs a debt. God commands us to love Him and to demonstrate our love of Him by loving our neighbors – in fact Paul describes it in this way: Love does no wrong to a neighbor. We don’t add to the love of God love for us by loving either Him or our neighbor. But we are to love our neighbors seeking only to do them good and not wrong.
What we are doing is reflecting the nature of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. Practically, any one who claims to be a believer in Christ Jesus, should look around this room, should look around their workplace, should look around their neighborhood, should look around their home and think, “I owe each and every person here a debt of love. How can I love them better? How can I love them like Jesus has loved me? God, how can you help me love them?”
Right now, you can’t turn on the radio or the TV without hearing commercials about debt consolidation or eliminating debt. The idea is, “How can I most quickly pay off this debt and be debt free.” Paul would say, “You are never debt free when it comes to love. You never get to pay it off. Christ gave of Himself so that you could reflect His love in loving those around you.” Listen to the urgency in Paul’s verse in verse 11
Part 1 of this post can be found here.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
The rulers that God ordains are not placed in power to terrorize your good conduct but they are there to terrorize your bad conduct. So you may have a valid point of disagreement with our government or a particular candidate but you make yourself subject to terror if you go about it in a dishonorably submissive manner. It is no wonder very few things change in the political realm. Too many Christians sin in their submission to the government and therefore their conduct is terrorized.
Paul asks, “Do you not fear the authorities that God has established?” If you express the same fear for the authorities that God commands for Himself, then live obedient lives (which includes governmental submission) and see the government blessing. But if you are do what is wrong, if you willfully sin against the government that God has established, the you should be afraid for the sword is God’s arm of judgment.
Now let’s stop here for a moment. The general prevailing attitude presently in Christendom is that our government is a low point in our history because of the sins of abortion, homosexuality, and the like being not only permitted but at times endorsed and encouraged. I would say that yes biblically that can be the case. The idea is that Christians are oppressed because of their views for those things and I would say that Biblically that is also a reason why things are as they are. But Paul offers another reason here for the present state of our country and it is the interaction between Christians and their government. Paul would say, “Hey believers, you so wantonly sin against the governing authorities that God has established that God is bringing judgment against you and is using the very government you disrespect as the instrument of judgment. God will not suffer your interaction with your government if it is not respectfully submissive. If it is arrogant, brash, mean-spirited and sinful, then discipline will come.
Now you may say, “Gordon, you think God wants us to submit to this government? To this president? To these crazy liberals? There is no way.” Well, if you think our government is bad, consider the one that Paul was commanding the believers in Rome to submit to. The first documented case of imperially-supervised persecution of the Christians in the Roman Empire begins with Nero. In 64 A.D., a great fire broke out in Rome, destroying portions of the city and economically devastating the Roman population. Nero was suspected as the arsonist so to remove any suspicion on himself, Nero accused the Christians and systematically tortured them. Nero lit Christians on fire and impaled them on sticks using them to light to the roadways in Rome.
Paul says, “Submit to the rulers over you as they are the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Folks, I’m not advocating and neither is Paul commanding a passive, silent Christianity in a pagan world. Paul is however, commanding a respect of government that is on par with the respect that wives are to give their husbands. Quite simply, speak respectfully and in truthful love and remove the spit and venom. Now. If we violate these commands, we will live under the avengers of God’s wrath.
Now, submission for submission’s sake never sounds fun and just doing or not doing something so you don’t get thumped is not exactly a spiritual act of worship. Knowing that, hear verse 5.
5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
We don’t live lives of submission just to avoid getting the beatdown from God. The Christian conscience is designed in such a way that if you actively and willfully violate scripture, you are going to be miserable. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling of you and the transformation that happens when your heart of sin becomes a heart of love for God is so complete that the desire for obedience does not rise from a heart of fear but a desire to be like your Savior. Look at the areas of your life presently and ask yourself, “Who is in authority over me?” “Am I interacting with them in a way that is pleasing to God?” “Do I hold my political opinions fervently and passionately but also respectfully as God would have me?”
Practically, there are several ways in which we can live out this respectful, worshipful sacrifice of submission. First, Paul says, pay your taxes. I really don’t know how to make it any more simple. However, making this command more practical, don’t spend the next 3 months disrespectfully complaining about your taxes. Pay them as the governing authorities are ministers of God. If you feel like your taxes are too high, respectfully pay them and speak with politicians who can change and influence the tax laws. But do it submission, peacefully, and respectfully. Secondly, if you owe someone an amount of money, any amount of money, pay your bill respectfully and on time. Thirdly, if you are presently being disrespectful or dishonoring to someone with whom you should be respectful and honoring, whether you are doing in your speech, your actions, your blog or your thoughts, God would have you repent.
Folks, as always, consider Jesus Christ and His example. The disciples thought the culmination of God’s work would be Jesus’ overthrowing the kingdoms that inhabited Jerusalem. At that time, Jesus couldn’t care less about overthrowing those rulers (who btw were much more evil than anything we’ve ever seen). When the disciples were convinced that Jesus wouldn’t want His disciples to pay the ridiculously high taxes to Caesar, Jesus responded with Mark 12:17 “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him. When faced with Pilate before His death, Jesus wasn’t worried about overthrowing or reforming him either. “36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Yet Jesus also made it very clear that because of His divine nature, no government or governmental official could thwart His plan. When the Pharisees encouraged Jesus to flee before His crucifixion, He said, Luke 13:32 “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’
In every interaction, Jesus understood a couple of things. God ordained all earthly authority. Respectful submission to that authority is the call of the life of faith. No one needs to sin to be respectful of that authority. But also, don’t sin in your interaction with authority.
Gang, your interaction and response to the government in which we are presently under speaks greatly to your faith in Jesus Christ. If you interact respectfully submitting in a Christ-like fashion, you will speak well to faith in Jesus Christ. If your disagreements with our government cause you to speak disrespectfully, lob personal attacks of character, and cause you to wish for harm on our governing authorities, then you are bringing disservice to name of Jesus Christ. Folks, this passage does not advocate a passivity towards our government. It advocates humility and a recognition that God has ordained who our leaders are. As verse 4 says, our governing authorities are, “the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” If we have oppressive leaders, then God is has ordained that. We would do well to spend more time in personal repentance than barking to the wind about our leaders.
Our first and primary response is always personal repentance. If you want better leaders or more Godly leaders, start by repenting of your brash, arrogant attitude toward to leaders that God has given you. Our attitude should be the same as Phillipians 2:1-11
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
If you are a believer united with Christ and finding comfort in His love, then the church should be like minded. We should have one spirit and purpose which is love. That causes us to live as verse 3 commands.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Our goal should not be for selfish ambition or vain conceit. We should look around us and see a bunch of people that we consider better than ourselves. We should demonstrate that by meeting the needs of others.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We are to emulate Jesus’ humility. He was God yet was obedient unto death and God glorified Him for it. The brash arrogant church of today so often feels far away from the example of our humble Savior. As we emulate this Savior, we do it with the goal of not having a perfect democratic government or taking the next election. Those things have their place but that place is far below the goal of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus so that ever tongue might confess and every knee might bow to Jesus Christ.
- It is possible for Sovereign King Church to hold Biblical truths passionately.
- It is possible for us to play a part in Godly change in our world.
- And it is possible for us to do those things in all humility.
- But those things are only possible as we emulate and imitate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Once again, I want to remind everyone that the context of these verses as well as the verse last week about loving your enemy fall into the overall command of offering your body as a living sacrifice in a spiritual act of worship. Paul talks about living this life of sacrificial worship personally, in relationships within the church and then expanding out to the surrounding communities. So, Paul commands the church to meet each other’s needs and then be sure to show hospitality. Then he goes on to speak of the act of sacrificial worship that is loving and blessing your enemies. In that spirit, this week, Paul issues an even more broad command. He says, Let every person be subject to governing authorities. Like I said, you think loving your enemy is hard, try being subject to the government.
So, what does it mean to be subject to the governing authorities? Well the Greek word for the word “subject” there is a form of the word hupotasso which appears in some variation, 39 times in the NT. It generally means “to subordinate; to obey, to be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.” You get the point.
You’ll hear the word in such passages as:
- Hebrews 2.7-8 – You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” So everything in creation is subject to Jesus.
- James 4.7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Submission to God causes the devil to flee from you.
- Ephesians 5.19 – submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Each believer is to walk humbly submitting to one another.
- Ephesians 5.22 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Wives are to submit to their husbands in the same manner that believers are to submit to Jesus.
So being subject to and submitting to something is a natural outworking of a relationship with Christ. As all things are subject to Him, we are to reflect our humility in submission to other things that God has ordained worthy of submission. Here God commands that you submit to the governing authorities. To understand that let’s ask two questions: why and how should we submit to governing authorities. First to the why?
Well there is no authority in this world that God has not granted. No nation, no relationship…if there is authority in this world, God has granted it. Since God has established these authorities, resisting them is resisting what God has appointed and resisting what God has appointed incurs judgment.
Take that in for a moment as we explore how we are to submit to the government. In the same way that we are to submit to God, in the same way that a wife is to submit to her husband, that is the way you are to submit to the governmental authorities that have been established. Immediately, a bunch of questions come to mind. Does that mean that a Christian can’t have an opinion or disagree with their government? Of course not. In the same way that a wife submitting to her husband doesn’t make her a brain dead slave. No wife should submit to her husband if he is telling her to willfully sin and if a government tells you to willfully sin, you shouldn’t do that either. But the same air of respect should be between you and your government that is expected between wife and husband. I want that truth to sink in and sink in deeply.
Sadly, that type of submission is in no way the case in our culture. No matter what political party most Christians affiliate themselves with and no matter what candidate is favored, when it comes to the government, there is rarely anything but rudeness, sarcasm, and flat out hatred, especially right now with this administration. When a candidate gets caught in a scandal, the general response is a joyous, “I told you so” and mockery. So many Christians delight in the revealing of sin in the political arena. Folks make jokes about everything from politicians’ sexuality to their family to outright wishing that the certain candidates would be publicly flogged or even die. The majority of Christian interaction with politics these days is quite frankly disgusting and dishonoring to God. Christians teach their children to hate their presidents (unless of course its the one they voted for) and don’t think twice about it.
If you want to gauge your own responses to the government and how well you submit to the governing authorities, ask yourself this question. Men, would you be comfortable with your wife speaking about you the same way you speak about the president of the US? Wives, would you be comfortable speaking about your husband the same way you speak about a local senator or governor or the president? I would imagine that very few of you would find the same type of language used about our government okay if it was directed towards you.
There is a valid place for public discussion about things that we disagree with our government, but it should look like a peaceful exchange between a husband and wife about any other decision they have to make. Maybe the problem is that none of us know how to interact with folks with whom we disagree which is completely out of line with Paul’s command last week of not being wise in your own eyes.
The foundational problem with submission is that we love other kingdoms more than we do the Kingdom of God. Folks love the Kingdom of America much more than the Kingdom of God so they spend all their time griping, complaining, and flat our dishonoring the name of Christ by the way they attack politicians. Try to take our guns away from us and we are ready to shed blood. Ask us to love our neighbors and our attention might rise above indifference. Folks love the Kingdom of Self much more than the Kingdom of God which is why so many marriages can’t discuss where to go out to eat with getting into a fight. Sadly, some children live in fear of one of their parents erupting into massive argument about the silliest things.
Our submission, especially our submission to governing authorities (which is commanded at least 3 times in the scriptures) is an act of living sacrificial worship. Now, Paul doesn’t have to, but he goes on to explain why we should submit to the government in verse 3.
Part Two can be found here.
A lot of exciting things are going on this weekend including the Garner Citizens for Haiti event and worship on Sunday. Check out the video preview below for more details.
To prepare our hearts, consider these thoughts from Tim Lane and Paul Tripp:
“The Bible says that my real problem is not psychological (low self-esteem or unmet needs), social (bad relationships and influences), historical (my past), or physiological (my body). They are significant influences, but my real problem is spiritual (my straying heart and my need for Christ). I have replaced Christ with something else, and as a consequence, my heart is hopeless and powerless. Its responses reflect its bondage to whatever it is serving insted of Christ. Ultimately, my real problem is a worship disorder.
When we rightly identify the source of our problem, we are on our way to a solution that celebrates the grace of Christ. But we must first acknowledge that the problem is us! It is inside us, deep in the recesses of our hearts. If we don’t face our own sins, we will never get to the real solution. We will minimize the redeeming love of the Father, the Son, and Spirit or bypass it completely.” (How People Change)
If you would like to worship with us at Sovereign King, you can find directions our space here.
If rain is Christian Kryptonite, then what is snow? Well, I don’t expect any one to take unnecessary risks this weekend, but we are planning on having services at Sovereign King on Sunday. Be wise, prepare, but if you can, let’s gather for worship this Sunday at 10:30m.
Last week, we tackled the daunting task of understanding how and why God commands us to love our enemies. It is a command that seems way beyond our ability to obey. The passage of scripture this week makes last week seem like nothing. In fact, our Big Picture Question to be answered is, “You think loving your enemy is hard?” It should be fun.
If you want to worship with us, you can find directions to our worship space at http://www.sovereignkingpca.net/1.2.html.