Read Romans 13
Submission to Governing Authorities
1 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. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 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. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. 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. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 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.
Love Fulfills the Law
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 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.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
The Day Is Near
11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
In chapter 12 of Romans we learn about what Christians’ conduct in the church should look like and chapter 13 addresses Christians’ conduct with the state and with governing authorities. Paul emphasises that we are to be under the authority of the government and obey the laws of the land. In doing so, we honor God who has placed those rulers in their roles. God was purposeful in His creation of government. It serves 3 distinct purposes: establishing order, punishing evil, and promoting justice. Paul is writing this while under the reign of Nero, who was perhaps one of the most evil Roman emperors. And still, he reminds us that submission to authority, whether deserving or not, is honoring to God.
The first 11 chapters of Romans show us how God deals with us, while the last 5 chapters are a call to action because of who we are in Christ. It’s important that the doctrine of chapters 1-11 comes before the exhortation of chapters 12-16, because reflecting on who God is motivates and empowers us to do as He says. Our action flows naturally from our identity in Him. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In this example, and many other places in Scripture, we see that God goes before us. He takes the first step – He loves us first! He calls us His children and shows us how to live in light of our identity.
Verse 14 tells us to put on the Lord, Christ and to make no provision for the flesh. Paul is saying that in light of who we are, we are to act in a way that honors God. He makes a similar exhortation in his letter to the church at Ephesus. “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light” (Ephesians 5:8). John Owen, a seventeenth century author, pastor, and theologian, wrote a book called The Mortification of Sin. Mortification is just a fancy word for putting to death. The subtitle and main point of this book is “Kill Sin or Sin Will Kill You.” He is serious about sin and so is Paul. Sin has dire consequences and we need to steer clear of it at all costs! Make no provision for the flesh. Christ has set us free from sin, let’s choose to walk in that freedom, not returning to the slavery of sin.
- What is your attitude/disposition toward those in authority over you? Say a prayer that God would use their leadership for His glory.
- Does your identity in Christ determine your actions towards others? How can you love and care for others today out of the overflow of God’s love and care for you?
- What sin of the flesh do you need to mortify? What verses can you call to mind to help you kill that particular sin in your life?
“Mortification prunes all the graces of God, and makes room for them in our hearts to grow. The life and vigour of our spiritual lives consists in the vigour and flourishing of the plants of grace in our hearts.”
― John Owen
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