Submission to the Authorities
13 Everyone must submit himself 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, he who 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 he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent 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 because 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 everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
God delegates some of his authority to governments. I have written about ineffective arguments against capital punishment and somewhat effective arguments against capital punishment. People often ignore that the Bible says that the government “does not bear the sword for nothing.” I don’t point that out as a blanket endorsement of capital punishment under any circumstances, but just to say that the Bible does not prohibit it.
Of course, there are corrupt governments. I won’t expand on the Biblical view of the concept of civil disobedience other than to say that if God’s laws conflict with man’s laws we need to obey God. Otherwise, we need to obey the laws even if we think they are unfair. Christians should pay taxes, obey traffic laws, etc.
God has set up an authority structure and we all benefit when it runs better and people use it properly. If your neighbor is beating his wife, I think the Biblical model is to bring in the authorities (the police, in this case). To overlook the crime is to put ourselves in the place of God’s designated authority. The church leaders are the authorities for many issues, and we need them to do their jobs as well.
Love, for the Day Is Near
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
This is another way of stating how Jesus summarized the Commandments in Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
But the summaries of Jesus and Paul don’t make the law easier to follow, as Jesus’ questioner had apparently hoped.
What are practical applications of “love your neighbor as yourself?” I don’t like people stealing from me, telling lies about me, distorting my views, being jealous of me, killing me in my mother’s womb, encouraging me to commit sinful acts, etc., so I ought not do that to others.
11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has 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 orgies 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 sinful nature.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
We quickly and properly seize on the commands against the “big” sins like orgies and drunkenness. No problem there. But these lists usually include “lesser” sins like jealousy. What are we to make of that?
If I covet what other people have – and I often do – what message am I sending to God? I’m indirectly saying that He didn’t order the universe properly and that someone else has something I should have. When I put it in that perspective it works as a reset button for me, because I really don’t want to send him that message.
What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?