Dual Citizenship - Part 2

So last week, we made it through the first 3 verses of Romans 13. I know – 55 minutes on 3 verses – that is some kind of record for me. But, it will be necessary for those of you who missed last week (and you know who you are) – to go back and listen online because this is one of the most important sections of Scripture for addressing some of the issues we are addressing today in our culture. You can also read the sermon notes online as well.

Let’s re-read the first 3 verses once again and then get right into this -  (Read Romans 13:1-3)

Colossians 1:16 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” 

Christianity was not well embraced in Rome at the time of Paul’s letter to the Romans. So, the irony is that Paul is teaching the Roman Church to submit to authority while encouraging them in their civil disobedience.

For centuries, Rome was a republic, with proud citizens and limits on the power of any individual. Then came Julius Caesar, across the Rubicon, civil war, and the age of the emperor. A dynasty. Five dictators in the House of Caesar: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero. Their names still bespeak power and excess. They came with the language of the Republic, but the reality of dictatorship.

  • Augustus – ruled from 27 BC – 14 AD – poisoned by wife, Livia
  • Tiberius – ruled from 14 AD – 37 AD – assassinated by Caligula (ruled during ministry of Christ)
  • Caligula – ruled from 37 AD – 41 AD – assassinated in conspiracy by the senators
  • Claudius – ruled from 41 AD – 54 AD – poisoned by wife Agrippina the Younger
  • Nero – ruled from 54 AD – 68 AD – committed suicide

 

Like Pastor Saeed Abedini who went back to Iran to teach the gospel, he was violating the law of the Iranian government that said to not spread Christianity. It is strictly forbidden. But in this case, the words of Christ to go into all the world and preach the gospel supersede those of the government of men. Pastor Saeed didn’t go back to lead a revolt – rather he went back to spread the truth of Jesus. So, as dual citizens, we are instructed to follow the government authorities but we must also hold it to the filter of God’s law. For example, we must not bow down before idols. You will see that in Revelation 13-14 – there will be a government that tells the people to build a giant statue and then to worship it and to receive a mark on their foreheads and hands. Revelation 14 then says, anyone who does this will not receive eternal life and will be thrown into the lake of fire.

So, what is that saying? Commit Civil Disobedience – do not obey when instructed to specifically defy the laws of God. However, it doesn’t say to revolt. Rather we refuse to subject our minds or bodies to directives of evil.

When the Sanhedrin commanded Peter and John to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, they replied: (Acts 4:19-20), “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Later, when the command was repeated, Peter answered (Acts 5:29), “We must obey God rather than men.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s idol (Dan. 3).

RESISTING AUTHORITY

Of course, there are at least three areas in which a Christian should resist authority:

(1) If he or she is asked to violate a command of God.

(2) If he or she is asked to commit an immoral or unethical act.

(3) If he or she is asked to go against his/her biblically-guided conscience. But when a believer resists authority he/she must be willing to accept the consequences (see 13:2). Submission is never easy and frequently there are serious ethical dilemmas.

This doesn’t mean that we just sit on our hands until the enemies of God come knocking on our doors. We must be determined to pray without ceasing for our authorities:

1 Timothy 2:1-3: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”

Then we must seek God for the discernment to impact the minds of the governing authorities and how to honor Him in our unwavering boldness to stand before men with truth in our lips – even if it costs us our life.

Matthew 10:32-33: "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

Ezekiel 3:18 tells us that we are responsible to tell the truth of God to dissuade them from their evil ways  and if we don’t he will hold us accountable for the their blood. That means sitting back in fear with a don’t rock the boat mentality is not satisfactory to God. People are dying out there. You have a life preserver and you are sitting on it if you don’t share the truth of Jesus Christ. God won’t turn a blind eye to that.

So yes – we could lose our lives and feel like nothing was accomplished if we stand up to corrupt governments with no rifle in hand. I will tell you though that Ephesians 6 puts the sword of the spirit in your hand which is far more effective than any rifle. How many martyrs have lost their lives in vein? None to my knowledge. Their message is even more powerful.

Obi Wan Kenobi told Darth Vader that if he strikes him down, he will be even more powerful than he could imagine. This is truth derived from the Scriptures. But, we have to be bold and courageous, willing to lay down our lives for the cause of Christ.

Matthew 16:24-25: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

The armies of God are armed with the weapons for spiritual warfare – not weapons formed of this earth:

2 Corinthians 10:4 “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 

Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

Romans 13:4:

In 13:4 Paul also alludes to “the sword” that government bears. Notice he doesn’t refer to “the whip” or “the jail sentence”—he says “the sword.” In New Testament times the sword was an instrument of capital punishment to behead criminals. Roman officials had sabers carried in front of them as a constant reminder that they held the power of life and death. Now, it may be true that Paul’s words carry a much broader meaning, but it’s also true that capital punishment is certainly included in this concept. He seems to be saying that the state or the government, not the individual, has the authority to take another person’s life. Hence, there is no conflict here between Paul’s words in 12:19-20 about not taking vengeance, and his use of the sword to restrain evil.

Rom 12 is personal; Rom 13 is constitutional.

In Rom 12 vengeance is at work; in Rom 13 justice is at work.

Thus, I understand 13:4 to teach that government has the right to execute capital punishment. God established the death penalty before the Law back in Gen 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” It has nothing to do with our opinions about it—whether we find it distasteful or arrogant to assume that society has the right to take a person’s life. All of that is an irrelevant discussion. God has addressed the matter. The Bible says that anyone who deliberately and premeditatively takes a life, his or her life shall be taken. In fact, not only is capital punishment biblical, but public capital punishment is biblical so that those watching will say, “I don’t want that to happen to me” (Num 16:30-34; Josh 7:24-26). The principle here is: God highly values human life. Murder is a unique crime, a crime against the “image of God” in man. The natural deterrent to upholding this intrinsic value is to practice the death penalty. It is a necessary function of society to harness the evil of people.

Ecclesiastes 8:11 states, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.”

Admittedly, capital punishment isn’t always administered justly and we must fight to correct the injustices. But the institute of capital punishment is necessary to punish evil and help instill fear of authority. This truth is further confirmed in Rom 13:4, when Paul calls governing authorities “an avenger” (ekdikos). If a person killed another person, in the Old Testament, even accidently, that person’s family had the right to exercise the “eye-for-an-eye” vengeance (the blood avenger). Paul seems to be relating the Old Testament custom to the authority of civil government.

In case you are confused, Paul summarizes his command (13:1a) and his reasons to submit to government (13:1b, 3). In 13:5 he writes, “Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake.” In light of all that Paul has said (13:1-4) he hopes that you will be “in subjection.” Paul repeats the two reasons to submit to government in reverse order. The external motivation that promotes submission is the fear of punishment. The internal motivation that promotes submission is a desire to maintain a pure and undefiled conscience. You have dual citizenship.

 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority…
~ 1 Peter 2:13

TAXES

Paul closes this section in 13:6-7 with specific applications: “For because of this [God’s ordaining of governing authorities] you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing” (13:6). How can you demonstrate your submission to the government? By paying taxes! One reason for paying taxes is that rulers are “servants of God.” God always seems to test our faith through money – tithing, taxes, spending, saving – money is a great barometer of depth and maturity in faith. How Big is Our God?

This is the third time that governing rulers are referred to as God’s “servants” or “ministers” (cf. 13:4). Yet, here Paul uses a different word for “servant” (leitourgos). This term is used for temple servants in the Old Testament. Paul also uses this word of himself a “minister [leitourgos] of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles” (15:16). Many governing officials may not realize it, but God has put them where they are to serve Him. Civil servants, then, are performing God-ordained functions full-time, and you should pay your taxes to support their ministry. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take deductions or pay more than needed, but it does mean that you should pay your share willingly. How honest are you in paying your taxes? Did you report sales tax on items you bought out-of-state (e.g., Internet site purchases)? Did you report all the tips you made? If you are willing to pay your taxes, it is likely that you will be submissive in other areas as well. This is a test of honesty – a test of the heart. Will God be honored by what is unseen to men?

But what about when my taxes are being used for things I disagree with? What if I don’t believe in spending money on foreign aid? What if I feel it is wrong to support the military. What if I believe it is criminal that state or federal funds are used to pay for abortions? Stop and ask yourself what Roman taxes were going toward in Paul’s day? The answer is the luxurious lifestyle of the Caesars, abortion, and the construction and maintenance of temples devoted to the worship of the Roman Emperor. You may not like the taxes you are asked to pay, you may not deem them fair, you might not agree with every way that our tax dollars are being spent, but you have no right to decide which taxes you want to pay and which ones not to pay. God has not given you the authority to make that decision. HERE ARE CHRIST’S WORDS ON THE SUBJECT:

Matthew 22:15-22:

Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial taxa to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

We must work to influence the government and the people voting, but we must work, intentionally within the structure God has established. Remember – it is from Exodus and Deuteronomy (Exod 18:21; Deut 17:14–20) where we see the first Republic being established under a Theocracy.

If we don’t like the taxes that we pay, then we must work within the system to change it – to pray as we have never prayed before and to start doing what God told us to do in the first place.

Going back to last week for a moment:

A corrupt government is the fault of a corrupt people. It is often a by-product of disobedience. Therefore, we must examine ourselves as a nation. The problem isn’t as much the politicians in Washington D.C. as we would like to believe. The problem is in our homes, our communities, and even our churches. Indeed, the heart of the American people has changed.

According to recent surveys, including one from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the fastest growing “religious” group in America is made up of people with no religion at all. This group has grown by 25 percent in the past five years, and for the first time evangelicals and Protestants now make up only 48 percent of the population. There was a significant decline in the group who identified themselves as Christian—by as much as 14 percent since 2005.

This alarming trend provides a pathway to power for individuals whose perspectives do not align with those of our Founding Fathers or the general precepts of morality we have strived to preserve for 396 years (since the Mayflower Compact). Proverbs 29:2 reminds us, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people groan” (nrsv). Noah Webster, a Founding Father and educator, offered a similar warning:

Let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God (Exod 18:21). … If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will so be corrupted … If government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws.[1]

We have no one to blame but ourselves. We have failed to pass a legacy of faith to the next generation as God Himself directed us to do (Deut 6:1–9; Psa 78). In four generations, we have lost a firm foundation on moral truth. Now the heart of our nation is divided, and we must be reminded of what the prophets spoke to the people of Israel—a reminder that is still relevant to us today: If we repent and return to God, He will hear, forgive, and restore our land (2 Chr 7:14). It was the Lord who said to Isaiah, “their hearts are far from me” (Isa 29:13). Again He spoke to Jeremiah and said that if His wayward people would return to Him with all their hearts, then He would give them leaders who honor Him—“shepherds after [His] own heart” (Jer 3:6–18). You see, it begins with us assuming a humble, contrite spirit before our Almighty God, expecting nothing in return.

In 13:7 Paul writes, “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” Paul states that you are to pay direct taxes and indirect taxes (customs). But he also says that you are to fear and honor your governing authorities. “Respect” (lit. “fear”) refers to your awareness that they have God’s authority to punish the evil-doer (13:4). “Honor” refers to your realization that God places value and significance upon such people. Notice, Paul does not qualify the word “all” (pas). This means all civil servants, at every level, are to receive honor and respect. This respect is not just for the office but to the person as well. This respect is “due them,” regardless of their party affiliation, regardless of how they live their private life, and regardless of the sly way they catch you speeding. Perhaps you’re thinking you can’t honor your president or governor. Can you pray for this person? As you pray for this person, you’ll find it easier to honor the governing authority. Remember, you have dual citizenship.

This takes me back to 1 Corinthians 8 – which Paul Seidl had some great comments about online for the Seminary class we offer here. Let’s read it.

1Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3But whoever loves God is known by God.a

4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

7But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

9Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Now you may be saying – what does that have to do with Government and to that I say “everything”.

This passage is yet another example of God’s expectation that we are always in the mindset of being an Ambassador for the Lord Jesus. Which means we are constantly aware of what we say and do because there are always people looking and there are always demons looking. They will either try to catch you in an act of disobedience to try and break your testimony or you can abuse your freedom and actually cause others to fall before they ever learn to stand. A mature believer is able to understand that food sacrificed to a non-existing god is just food that was never used properly, but if someone doesn’t respect the customs of the region – you can cause a stumbling block.

Have you ever notice that God removed the food restrictions before Peter just as they were taking the truth into the Gentile world? The reason is clear. God intended them to go as ambassadors into foreign lands which means they would have to respect the customs in order to influence their lives – meaning they would have someone present food before them they never would have eaten before. But can you imagine? You are trying to influence – not insult so you can’t insult someone into a relationship with Jesus. You can come across as a disobedient, disrespectful rebel to both culture and community by using our freedoms in Christ without discernment due to a failed focus on the objectives.

This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:21-23

“To those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”

This means that we pay our taxes and serve under the current government because our mission is to win people to Jesus – period. If you are mission minded, your life will become mission-centric and thus you will always be looking for ways to influence and impact the culture, not overthrowing or insulting it.

They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

There are many other relevant applications in this section:

(1) Don’t ignore your responsibility to vote. We whine and fret over the direction of our country, but we refuse to vote. What insanity! Christians who don’t vote are abdicating their responsibility and must answer to God. The Bible says that Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, was honored “because he sought the good of his people” (Esther 10:3). Shouldn’t we also work for the good of our nation? Don’t look at voting only as a responsibility; however, look at it as an opportunity—an opportunity hundreds of millions of people in our world wish they had.

On November 8, 2016, millions will cast their vote, selecting from an array of candidates - potential leaders who will impact the direction of the United States of America. This is a freedom that has come at a high cost for many over the 240 years since declaring independence from England in 1776.

Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States said, “If the people fail to vote, a government will be developed which is not their government… The whole system of American Government rests on the ballot box. Unless citizens perform their duties there, such a system of government is doomed to failure.”

Of the 52 million voter-eligible Christians in America, 10 million are not registered to vote for the elections, and over 20 million who were registered, did not vote in the previous election cycle. Quite simply, less than 40 percent of all eligible to vote Christians in America…voted.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States said, “The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter.”

(2) Encourage your governing authorities. Instead of being critical every time they do something you don’t like, contact various civil servants and let them know that you are praying for them (1 Tim 2:1-2). When they do something right, drop them an e-mail, a handwritten note, or even pick up the phone and call directly. Let them know how pleased you are and that you are grateful for them.

 (3) Consider public service if you have been given abilities appropriate to the task. If you are a young person, God may want to use you as a “minister” on His full-time staff. If your child or grandchild expresses an interest in politics, don't discourage him or her. Rather, challenge such a one to serve the Lord on the frontlines. How wonderful it would be if one of your children was instrumental in helping to turn around our country!

[Not only are you to “submit” to your governing authorities, you must also . . .]

2. Live To Love (13:8-10)

Remember Matthew 22:37-39 where Jesus tells us to love God and our Neighbor, well, Paul addresses that here again.

It is in interesting that after talking about honoring our government and paying taxes, Paul ends with the focus of “the why” – that we are putting our eyes on our role of service to honor those who persecute us – because true love is selfless. You can’t be a good spouse if you don’t understand selfless living. You can’t be a good employee until you can be a selfless person. You can’t be a good leader until you become a selfless servant of God. To married people: We complain about our spouse when God says – they are accountable to me. You do your job, which is to serve and love expecting nothing back in return and leave the rest to Me. To employees – work for Me – not for your boss and leave the rest to Me (Colossians 3:23). To slaves, work for your masters and honor them and leave them to Me (Eph. 6:5-9; Col 3:22; 1 Peter 2:18). To all under  governing authorities – respect the system, pay your taxes and leave the rest to Me. Don’t create a stumbling block by getting in the way of God’s work and trying to help God out. Therefore, endure hardship as a faithful soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-5).

Do your part and God will do His. Is God in America but not in North Korea? Is God in Iran? Of course and He is and working out a greater purpose even through their persecution.

Paul calls you to live out a lifestyle of love with everyone God brings you in contact with. In 13:8-10 he writes: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” There are several observations worth noting in these three verses.

First, the NASB’s translation “owe nothing to anyone” can be misleading because it seems to prohibit any form of debt or borrowing. However, this verse does not mean that you may never incur financial obligations or that you may not borrow from others in case of need. The Bible does not forbid lending or borrowing (Matthew 5:42), only the practice of charging inflated interest on loans and failing to pay debts (Deut. 23:19, Psalm 37:21). The words of Solomon still ring true today though: “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7. This is not a command against debt but a realization of your position while in it. A strong argument can be made for the view that one is not really in debt unless his liabilities exceed his assets, unless he has borrowed beyond the means to repay, or unless he has fallen behind on payments. The NIV’s translation, “Let no debt remain outstanding” avoids the literal interpretation but gives the correct interpretation of Paul’s thoughts.

Second, you should strive to love, but you should never consider the debt “paid in full.” Unlike house payments, car payments, credit card debt, and even college debt, love is a debt that continues forever. Therefore, when faced with a difficult situation, you can never say, “I’ve loved that person enough. I’m going to stop now. I have nothing else to give.” You must always remember Rom 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s love for you has been, and always will be, absolutely unconditional. Regardless of how you treat God, He showers you with mercy, grace, compassion, and patience. He lavishes love upon you. How can you not love your fellow believers? But you may say, “You don’t know my wife. She disrespects me in front of the kids. She deprives me sexually. She doesn’t keep the house clean. She has let herself go physically.” I hurt for you . . . I really do. However, you have a debt of love to your wife that will never be paid. Perhaps your children are rebellious and they have caused you nothing but grief. They have publicly humiliated you. Every day of your life is an all-out war. You feel like you are losing your mind. My heart truly grieves for you. Nonetheless, you owe your children a debt of love. This clarion call to love applies to an unruly boss, a cantankerous coworker, an annoying neighbor, and a gossiping church member. Despite how you are treated, God is calling you to a supernatural love for others.

Third, love fulfills the law. When you love your neighbor as yourself, the purpose of the law is brought to completion. However, Paul doesn’t want you to focus on the law; he wants you to focus on love since love should be the mark that distinguishes you as a Christian (John 13:34-35). Since the world believes Christianity is responsible for racism, sexism, homophobia, the Crusades, and religious wars, we must break the stereotype of intolerance and narrow hate that seems to mark us. We often are afraid that loving people no matter what is an endorsement of their lifestyle. You can stand for truth without comprising your mission through love. After all, Christ never created a litmus test for our neighbors. He said it is the second greatest commandment – to love them. Naturally, we can only accomplish this as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. He is the one who works in and through us and grants supernatural love. Today, don’t think vaguely about loving everybody; think about loving one or two particular people, the difficult ones whom God has set before you. As you do so, you will fulfill the law and demonstrate your dual citizenship.

It is easy to get hardened toward the world when you are afraid of being tainted by it. We must be in the world, but not of it, to influence it (John 17:16).

[You are obligated to submit to government and to live to love. Your third and final obligation is to . . .]

3. Refuse To Sin (13:11-14)

Paul uses the issue of the urgency of Christ’s return as a chief motivation to live the Christian life. In 13:11 he writes, “Do this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” The word “Do” is not part of the original text. The first phrase in 13:11 literally reads,

WHAT TIME IS IT?

“And this knowing the time.” “This” (touto) refers to the duties prescribed in 12:1-13:10. These duties can be categorized under two headings—love and service. We are to love and serve knowing our time is short. Have you ever noticed that we are obsessed with time! The first cognitive thought in our mind every morning is, “What time is it?” Have you ever counted the number of clocks you have in your house? (I counted over thirty last night in mine.) Think of your kitchen: coffee makers, oven, and microwave. What about your cell phones, laptops, DVD players, watches, and alarm clocks. We are fixated with time. But, are we measuring time correctly? We seem to be most concerned with what time it is now. God seems to be more concerned with what time is drawing near!

Paul often uses the word “sleep” (egeiro) as a picture of believers who have been lulled into worldliness. He sounds a spiritual alarm because many of us are asleep. We might say many believers are “sleep-walking.” They are alive, but they are caught up in the ways of the world. Paul says, “Wake up, Christian!” The term “salvation” (soteria) refers to Jesus’ coming and our glorification and reward. Paul wants you to live with your eyes set on the prize because Christ’s return could come at any moment. We need to be ready all the time because at any time Jesus may return.

In light of the urgency of Christ’s return, Paul writes in 13:12, “The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” “The night” refers to the time of Jesus’ absence; “the day” refers to His return. Again, Paul’s point is that Jesus’ return is imminent (i.e., it could happen at any time). Therefore, Paul commands us to “lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” In other words, we are to take off our soiled clothes and put on spiritual armor. This life should be viewed in light of the next.

GIT RID OF THE OLD PAJAMAS

I’ve always had what I call my daily “uniform.” My uniform is what I like to wear in the privacy of my own home. It’s what I immediately slip into when I come home. Usually, my uniform consists of clothes that I would NEVER wear in public. For years my uniform consisted of a pair of sweats and my favorite shirt. My favorite pajama bottoms were pretty worn and filled with holes, to where I would trip over the dangling strands hanging off the back of the fold. I loved those pajama pants because they were so comfortable. However, they were really starting to fall apart and that is when my wife gentle gave me a subtle hint by giving me new pajama pants for Christmas. But guess what – those new pants went under my pillow and my old ones were still my comfortable, easy solution. I didn’t want to change. Then Brandi took it to the next level to which she exclaimed, “Either you lose that pants or I will!” So, fortunately, for the sake of our marriage, I finally tossed my poor pajamas.

Do you have a “uniform” that is unsuitable for the light of day? Sadly, you may be married to Christ, but still committing “deeds of darkness” that need to be done away with. Paul says, “Get rid of your old pajamas and put on the armor of light.” You’re in a war! That’s why you need armor. Putting on this armor will permit you to plan as if Christ’s return is years away, but live as if He’s coming today.

In 13:13 Paul warns about the deeds of darkness: “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.” Paul lists three couplets of the old uniform: (1) Party sins (“carousing and drunkenness”). Drinking to excess has become rather popular among believers today. My question is: If you knew that Jesus Christ was going to return today would you abuse alcohol? Would you allow yourself to become intoxicated to the point that you may unintentionally do something foolish? (2) Bedroom sins (“sexual promiscuity and sensuality”). If you knew that Jesus Christ was going to return today would you be sexually immoral by sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend or someone who is not your spouse? Would you look at porn or call a 900 number? Would you carry on an emotional affair or flirt with someone of the opposite sex? Perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “I’m not a party animal, nor am I sexually immoral. I can check both of those sins off. I’m not guilty.” However, Paul is not done. (3) Social sins (“strife and jealousy”). There are many who would be shocked at the thought of drunkenness, immorality or sexual looseness, but seem not to be shocked at all by strife and jealousy. We can certainly add envy to that list as well. It seems to be what drives most Americans through our pride. Paul probably adds these sins to humble us all and prepare us for Christ’s return by living a life that is above reproach.

Paul cannot end on a negative note. So he concludes in 13:14 by saying: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” The righteous life is putting on Jesus like a suit of clothes. It is abiding in Him and living out His life. Paul instructs us to “make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” The term that is rendered “provision” (pronoia) implies forethought, planning, and activity. In Greek literature outside the New Testament, the term is used of a premeditated crime. Sin seldom just happens; most of the time it is premeditated. Sin is a link in a chain of events. When we surrender to the lusts of our flesh, it is often not a sudden collapse, but rather the culmination of a process. The sins of our flesh are those sins about which we have given much thought and for which we have made provision. If we are to be victorious over sin and the flesh, we must cease to make provision for it.

If you are a student of church history, you will not want to forget Rom 13:14. This verse led to the conversion of Augustine. Discouraged by his inability to overcome sexual sin (cf. 13:13), he one day heard a child at play call out, “Take up and read.” Picking up a copy of Romans, his eye fell on this verse. God convicted him of the reality both of his sin and of salvation, and he was converted. If you are a student of Scripture and want to make your mark on history, you will not want to forget this verse. Rom 13:14 has the power to set you free from a life of sin. Today, put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask Him to help you overcome your sin. Make no provision for whatever sin is plaguing your flesh. Stop gratifying your flesh; instead, gratify your inner man with Jesus. You have dual citizenship. You are a citizen of earth, but you are a pilgrim, a sojourner who is just traveling through.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

You are on your way to your heavenly home because you are first and foremost a citizen of heaven. So act like it! Jesus has given you all the power you need.

Scripture References

Romans 13:1-14

Daniel 2:21; 4:17

1 Peter 2:13-17

Acts 4:1-22; 5:17-42

Acts 16:16-40; 18:12-18; 21:27-26:32; 28:17-31

Luke 20:20-26

1 Timothy 2:1-2

Study Questions

1. Do I treat my governing authorities with the same respect I treat God, who appointed them (Rom 13:1-7)? Do I see governing authorities as God’s “ministers” (13:3, 4, 6)? When was the last time I thanked God for the safety I enjoy daily or thanked those authorities who provide it for me at the risk of their own lives? How well do I apply 1 Tim 2:1-2?

2. Is there any area of civil life in which I have exercised a cavalier or disobedient spirit (Rom 13:2, 4, 6)? Have I experienced any consequences for my actions? What one area of deliberate sin/rebellion is God convicting me of in relationship to the Laws of my land? Am I willing to obey God in this area?

3. Do I sense a debt to love my fellow believers (Rom 13:8-10)? Why or why not? Why is it difficult to love other believers? What relationship is there between love and evangelism (see John 13:35)? Do I try to rationalize my failure to love on the basis of “technicalities” instead of simply obeying the law of love?

4. How often do I think about the return of Christ (Rom 13:11-12)? Have I made any plans for the future that are more important to me than Christ’s return? Have I been thinking that the Lord Jesus may not return soon? Read Matthew 24:48. If Christians invested less in this world and more in “the next,” what impact would that have on fulfilling the Great Commission?

5. If Christ appeared today is there any lifestyle, thought, or activity that I would be ashamed to have brought into His light (Rom 13:13-14)? How can I practically “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (13:14)? What safeguards do I need to put in place in order to not fulfill my fleshly desires?



[1] Noah Webster, Noah Webster’s Advice to the Young and Moral Catechism (Aledo, TX: WallBuilders, 1993), 36.

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