Faith: Approaching the NT Book of Romans
The Church finds triumph past our limited ends in the unlimited sovereignty of God.
Let’s talk for a moment about the whole scope of the book of Romans. It matters becuase as a reminder, the book is really a letter, read to a church in ancient rome. When this was written there weren’t chapters and verses. Those are for our benefit. So when we get to Romans 13, really Romans 12, these aren’t separated by chapters but they are separated by theme.
When we get to Romans 12 there is an entire shift in the letter. Paul, in light of us understanding the overwhelming grace of God, we now have to look at
Romans 12:1 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:9 ESV
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Romans 12:18–20 ESV
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Romans 12:21 ESV
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
- Our allegiance in Romans 12 is not to anything less than the sovereignty of God. And because of the Christian’s surrender to God, He is our first and final authority.
- To just bring up Romans 13 alone is becomes very complex very quickly. We will talk through some of those areas but we have to see them in light of the reality that we first live under God’s authority. That He is our final victory. And that from that place we learn to live with one somebody and a bunch of somebodys.
Loving A Bunch of Somebodies: In Society under Christ
Romans 13:1–2 ESV
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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
- But this passage is not really about Government, it is really about the sovereignty and rule of God.
- This passage is not an approval of the existing human order. It does not say, “this is the right way to do things in a government or society.” IT does not slum to that level. It is not about approval of the existing order but it is about the work of God within any order.
- Paul is writing this within a horrible overwhelmingly oppressive government. This is right about the time Nero was Caesar. That Nero. So it’s not like Paul is living within a free society.
- We are being told to subject ourselves to the limited nature of Govt. It can’t do everything but it does some things. But part of that subjection is to realize that we are not the solution to the problem.
- This section provides a caution. A means for reflection.
- This is important to understand because the opposite of what we are being told to do is to not subject to the governing authorities. (now there is a place and time, when the authorities are going against God’s law where this is not the case, but we are called as the church to check whose authority and whose triumph we are coming under.)
- The call is to be in subjection, not because the government is sovereign but because God is. God is the One in authority. He is the One in control.
Matthew 26:52–53 ESV
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?
- Power only speaks one language. And Jesus, knowing that reminds the disciples that those who take the sword will perish by it. And that final power and authority rests in the Father.
– The church does not pursue triumph. We live in the triumph of Christ. Triumph against power ONLY comes through violence. It only comes through confrontation of power against power. IT comes only through rebellion.
- TO choose to not subject ourselves is, in it’s opposite, to choose rebellion. And the moment we choose rebellion it becomes up to us, in our strength, to bring about the revolution. It is to choose your own strength against the strength of the object of your rebellion
- Our great hope is in Christ. And that Christ works through whatever govt system that we face.
- In a working system, the govt provides the boundaries necessary to live righteously with one another. Not redeemed but righteously. The government can never redeem.
- The church can never be confused with the goverment because in this text there is a massive shift that Paul makes to keep talking about the church and leaves the govt behind.
Romans 13:8–10 ESV
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 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.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
- Love moves in a direction. It has an end. We love people to the greater love found in Christ Himself.
- Sometimes we get confused about our end and believe that the govt is the most important space in the world. Or that the public square is the most important space in the world. or whoever is yelling loudest is the most important space in the world
- If we want to talk about where we find life, we have to trust that the church is the most important space in the world. Because it is the space where God represents Himself to the world. How He shows the world what He is like.
- We have a call far beyond the structures and systems of this world. Far greater than any governmental system. Our call is to the cosmology of the human soul. To love God in such a way that He remains the sovereign end in our lives and to love others in such a way that they see Him