Our Responsibility To Government – Obedience; Our Responsibility To One Another – Love; Our Responsibility To The Present Time – Messiah-Like Living
Paul wrote 11 chapters on theology, teaching us about God and what God wants and what He does and how He works. Now, we are in the section in which the Rabbi helps Christians and Messianic Jews understand how we are to live in light of those great truths.
First, our responsibility to government. Because of the Fall of Man, human beings are rebellious by nature – rebellious against God and rebellious against human authorities. We like to be in control. We don’t like others being in control or telling us what to do. God is a God of order. For order to prevail, human beings need human government. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords has ordained that human beings be governed by other human beings – even though they are imperfect. This applies to everyone, including Christians and Messianic Jews. Because of our understanding of God and the Word of God, we might think that we know more than our leaders; that we are more righteous than our leaders – and we might be – but that does not exempt us from submitting to the governing authorities.
Let everyone be subject 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, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Because it is wrong to disobey God, and since God has established the governing authorities, God will punish those who rebel against the government.
The purpose of government is to restrain evil and enforce laws which benefit society. Therefore the government should not be seen as an enemy that we need to fear, but as an ally who is protecting us. 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 you will be commended. Governments are powerful and can be very dangerous. They have police; prosecutors; judges; jails; prisons; armies. They can fine you or imprison you, or punish you in other ways. You don’t want to be afraid of your government? Rabbi Paul would tell you: that’s simple. Do what is right. Follow the law and your leaders will commend you, not harm you. If you don’t follow the law, then you have reason to be afraid.
Government is established by God to order society for the benefit of people. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.
Government is established by God to punish wrongdoers. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Bearing the sword means having the right to kill. Government is empowered by God to bring the maximum punishment on wrongdoers. God is for capital punishment. And if God gives government the right to execute people, it has the right to impose lesser penalties – like fines or imprisonment or corporal punishment – as long as the punishment is not cruel and unusual.
The Rabbi repeats the two reasons why Christians and Messianic Jews need to obey the government. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. We need to obey the government because if we don’t, we may be punished; and second, because God has established government, and if we want to be right with God, and have a good conscience, we need to obey the authorities He has placed over us.
Even though most people hate paying taxes, government has the right to tax us. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Since God has established government, serving in government is serving God. And therefore, just like the Jewish people under the Sinai Covenant were required to support the temple and the priests who served at the temple; and just like Christians and Messianic Jews under Messiah’s New Covenant are expected to give generously to support their faith community and those who serve the community, so citizens are expected to pay taxes to support God’s other servants – those who serve in the government.
Not just give them money, but give them respect and honor – which may be harder to give than money. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Many people make fun of people in government. There is a way of criticizing bad decisions, bad policies, bad leaders – while doing it with respect. There is a way of showing respect to the office if not the person who is occupying the office.
Before we move on to the next section, I want to raise the question: Is there ever a time to disobey the government? To engage in civil disobedience? The answer is yes. The purpose of government is to be God’s servant for our good; to support what is beneficial and restrain what is harmful that people can live in a good and orderly way. If a government is doing the opposite – supporting what is evil and opposing what is good; and if a government becomes cruel and tyrannical, then it is right to oppose that government. However, keep in mind that neither Yeshua nor the apostles believed that their followers should rebel against the Roman government, with all its wickedness and injustice. That tells me a government would need to be worse than Rome for us to have the right to rebel against it.
Our responsibility to government: obedience.
Our responsibility to one another: love.
We owe taxes to the government and we owe our leaders respect. However, there is something we don’t want to owe, and that is money. Let no debt remain outstanding. Followers of Messiah are expected to work; to live within their means; to save enough to pay their taxes and support their faith community. We are not to borrow money to make risky investments. We are not to live beyond our means and borrow money to support a lifestyle we can’t afford. That’s foolish and destructive and dishonoring to God.
But there is one kind of debt we owe and will continue to owe. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another. We are indebted to God for all the tremendous things He has done, is doing and will do for us. It is a huge debt that we can never fully repay. But, we can partially repay it, and one of the ways we can repay our debt to God is by loving our brothers and sisters in Messiah’s Community. Just as God has designed the family so that brothers and sisters have obligations to each other, simply because they are brothers and sisters – to love each other and care for each other, so those who are part of Messiah’s Community are spiritual brothers and sisters, and have an obligation to love each other and care for each other.
Do you have a brother or sister whom you are close to? Feel that brotherly, sisterly love for? That sense of care for? That you would do almost anything for? That’s the kind of love that the Lord wants us to have for those who are part of Messiah’s Community.
Consider this: if you are not a member of a local community of Messiah’s followers; if you are not committed to your community; if you don’t come regularly; if you aren’t involved; if you don’t make an effort to get to know the people; if your life is so busy outside of the community that you have no time for your brothers and sisters in the community – how can you pay this debt? Maybe the Lord is asking some of us to make some changes in 2017 so that we can pay our continuing debt to love one another.
The Rabbi let’s us know that by fulfilling this debt to love one another, we fulfill the law, and fulfilling the law is a very, very good thing. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. 613 commandments were given to Israel. That’s a lot of commandments. That’s a lot of commandments to remember. That’s a lot of commands to fulfill. But by fulfilling just one of those commands, “Love your neighbor as yourself” we fulfill them all. If we love our neighbor, care for him, want what is best for him, we won’t harm him. We won’t commit adultery with his wife; steal his possessions; want to take what rightfully belongs to him. If we love our neighbor, not only will we not harm him, we will help him; enhance his life; make his life better. By loving our neighbor we live the kind of life that pleases God. We pay our debt to God. We fulfill the law.
Our responsibility to government: obedience.
Our responsibility to one another: love.
Our responsibility to the present time: live like Messiah.
The Lord wants us to understand the present time. And do this, understanding the present time: The present time is short. The present time is precious. The present time is limited. The present time will come to an end because a great change is coming that will affect history. The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. We are saved by Messiah’s atoning death and His resurrection and ascension and the giving of His Spirit. When the Rabbi mentions that our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed, he means the great salvation that will come to us when Messiah returns – the fullness of our salvation which includes the resurrection of our bodies and the arrival of a new and better age.
Messiah’s return and the golden age is getting nearer and nearer every day. Therefore this present time, and the unique opportunities that can only happen in the present time, are diminishing every day. We need to wake up from any spiritual slumber, to be spiritually awake to make the most of these opportunities. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. Creation began with darkness. Then came light. The seven days of creation began with night. Then came the day. The history of this fallen world starts with thousands of years of night, spiritual darkness, domination by the powers of evil; spiritual confusion; sin; sadness; death. After that comes the day – an age of light when Messiah returns and brings light and truth and salvation to a dark world.
Although we are living in a time when deep darkness covers the Earth, we don’t need to be part of the darkness. We can be full of light. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Light represents truth; wisdom; understanding; victory. When we know the truth and live according to the truth; it’s like putting on armor. We are protected. We are safe. We are victorious. We need to turn from deeds of darkness and live according to the light.
The deeds of darkness. The Rabbi understood that people tend to behave worse at night because the darkness hides many bad behaviors. It’s usually harder to identify someone engaged in certain illicit activities in the night than if he is engaged in those activities in the day. We don’t want to be like people who do bad things during the night. We want to be like people who behave well during the day. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
No wild partying. No excessive use of alcohol that results in drunkenness or loss of control. If drunkenness isn’t allowed, marijuana and other drugs aren’t allowed.
No sexual immorality. No sexual activity outside of marriage – male/female marriage. No fighting; no quarreling; not being difficult to get along with. Not giving into feelings of jealousy – desiring another person’s achievement or possession; or desiring that the other person lacked an achievement or possession. These are some of the bad behaviors and bad attitudes that characterize living in the darkness.
We don’t want to live according to the darkness. We want to live as people do during the day – properly. Here’s how we do that. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Clothe yourselves with the Lord Yeshua the Messiah means to be like Him; to imitate Him: to be God-centered; to be righteous; to be holy; to love what Yeshua loves; hate what He hates; desire what He desires; to be concerned about what He is concerned about; to be more interested in spiritual things than material things; to be concerned about the salvation of souls; to be passionate to preach His Good News and build up His Community.
How do we do this? By being filled with the Spirit of Yeshua. How are we filled with Messiah’s Spirit? First, we understand who Yeshua is – that He is the Messiah and the Son of God; that He lived a perfect life; died to atone for our sins; that God the Father raised Him from the dead; that Yeshua is alive now, the ascended and risen and powerful Messiah and Lord. After we understand this, we give our allegiance to Him and His Father. Then, the Father and the Son send their Spirit to live in us. The Spirit of the Messiah living in us changes us. He gives a new nature that is like Messiah’s nature. The Spirit of the Messiah living in us transforms us more and more into what the Messiah is like. He helps us value what Yeshua values. The Spirit of Yeshua living in us gives us power to resist temptation and not think about how to fulfill the desires of the flesh, but the desires of the Spirit.
Lord, thank You for the wisdom You gave to Rabbi Paul that is contained in this 13th chapter of his great letter to the Romans. Thank You that he wrote it; that it has been faithfully preserved over the centuries so that we can benefit from it.
Lord, help us fulfill our responsibility to our government: to be good citizens.
Help us fulfill our responsibility to one another: to love one another.
Lord, “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the commandment that fulfills the law.
Lord, You are our neighbor. Help us love You the way we should.
Lord, help us to love our neighbors in Messiah’s Community, our brothers and sisters, the way we should.
Help us love our neighbors outside of Messiah’s Community the way we should – by caring for them; by telling them the truth; by proclaiming the Good News to them that will save them.
Lord, work in us so that we let no debt remain outstanding except the debt to love each other.
Lord, help us fulfill our responsibility to the present time. The days until Messiah returns are limited. There are opportunities that can only happen in the present, opportunities which can never be repeated. Help us wake up from any spiritual slumber, to be spiritually awake so we can make the most of these opportunities.
Lord, help us clothe ourselves with the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, to be like Him; to be God-centered, righteous, holy; to love what He loves; hate what He hates; desire what He desires; to be concerned about what He is concerned about; to be more interested in spiritual things than material things; to be concerned about the salvation of souls; to be passionate to preach His Good News and build up His Community.
Lord, fill us with the Spirit of the Messiah so we can be like the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
Lord, fill us with Your Spirit so that we will not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.