The Socially Contracted Christian
Lesson # 6

            How can anyone doubt the sacred book from which we are reading? The evidence has so clearly been laid out before us. The Bible’s inventory goes all the way back to Adam’s indiscretion; a greater tragedy there never was. He was created to reside in the Garden paradise. We can only imagine of such an existence untainted with “carnal” lust. The closest thing Man has dreamed up is something called a “utopia”. It is a term robust with irony. For one, it is a place devoid of God. Philosophers of contractarianism theorize that when Man is at his best the result will be a utopian society. If such a thing were even possible it would most certainly be an homage to secular humanism: people would only do work they enjoyed, that would free up more time to pursue arts and entertainment and some how this would equate to a strong economy, social order and political excellence. Man has been engaged in this Godless exercise for thousands of years and has little to show for it. Another irony of the word is found in its Greek word parts, broken down it means not a place. Countless generations have spent their entire lives looking for something that does not exist.

            The Apostle Paul knew this long ago and that is why the Holy Spirit directed him to write on a topic that truly proves that the Bible is a book before its time. Paul’s subject matter for the next three and a half chapters is, the social contract. This is something that did not occur to Man to do until the 1600s. The social contract is the foundation of any enduring society. It was by the premise set forth by men like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke that of our own Constitution was drafted. The Constitution of the United States of America has been the archetype of the social contract for over two hundred years and forever will be. Why is the social contract the cornerstone of society? “The notion of the social contract implies that the people give up some rights to a government or other authority in order to receive or maintain social order.” See, in the state of nature liberties were unrestrained, might made right. But when we come together to form “a more perfect union” we willingly lay down that unbridled liberty for equal rights. That is the backbone of any social contract and our democracy. But where does the Christian fit into the social contract? As you read the next three and a half chapters notice how Paul transitions from individual responsibility to communal responsibility and going one step further to corporate responsibility. He touches on all the fundamentals of the social contract and the Christian’s place in it.

II. The socially contracted Christian ch. 12-15:14

The socially contracted Christian 12-15:14

A. One body 12:1-13:14

1a.) I will grow v. 1-8

            Paul’s opening statement of this section says it all; “I beseech you therefore”. Beseech means to urge, it suggests as if Paul were to come alongside us to give fatherly advice. The last word of that statement serves as a sign post. Think of the Bible’s “therefore(s)” as a yield sign cautioning you to look back over your should so as not to fail to notice why they are “there for”. Paul has just used the light of Calvary to reexamine Scripture and in doing so, tells an epic story. It is a story that is both blushingly truthful and for our own sakes. A story of how God created an innocent race to live in harmony with Him and how they subsequently deformed themselves so hideously that they are now capable of monster-like atrocities. But “by the mercies of God” there is a happy ending, a “Saviour” came to give that innocence back and more. And it is in the light of that Paul says, “therefore… present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service”. It is “reasonable” considering the lengths God went to for our redemption, which Paul chronicled in the first section.

            He prefaces this by saying “brethren”. Keep in mind that this is a new people Paul is speaking to: not Jew, not Gentile but Christian, the Church. As you comb through the remaining chapters you’ll note Paul only draws the distinction once and then it is only to speak of how we are not divided by pedigree but united as believers. God’s plan and God’s people freshly revealed, no longer Jew and no longer Gentile, we were a people in need of an identity. In a sea of people what follows is to be the thumbprint of every Christian. This is where the sanctified rubber meets the road. Sanctification happens in the body, with the inner man but how does that translate outwardly? You see, God already has the inner man but He wants the outward man too. One should be the shadow of the other. Because it is that outward man that everyone sees, he is the one that has to maneuver within the social contract. And that is the focus of this section.

            When a person is born into a society they are not asked to sign a contract stating that they will behave in a particular manner, it is just expected of them. Your birth into the family of God is the same way, you don’t have to sign anything to get in, your behavior isn’t going to get you kicked out; however, a certain decorum is looked for. The things of which Paul speaks in these first eight verses require dedication. How do you know if you have truly dedicated yourself? Paul gives us three bench marks of dedication. The first one is the body; give your body to God. Don’t gloss over this! Paul says “to every soldier”, “present your bodies”. In the military when the command to “present arms” is given, a swift rifle salute follows. It is a salute to a superior officer but the poise of the soldier delivering that salute carries a message. From the way they hold their rifle to the precise positioning of their feet tells whether or not they are putting forth their very best. To think of the Apostle’s words, “present your bodies”, in those terms, would not be far off. It is also an opportunity to be Christ-like, by the way. As He took on a body to accomplish the “will of God” so, must we use our bodies to do the same.

            We are to present our bodies as “a living sacrifice”. Only the redeemed can do this; and of them those that dabble in the world aren’t really sacrificing anything. God wants a willing sacrifice not a coerced sacrifice. When you are right with God it isn’t a sacrifice anyway, because we get something far greater in return. We get the hand of God on our lives, we get to have Him work through us, we get to go to a place called Heaven. Remember, those fleshly desires are self-destructive to start with and that it is when we follow the yielding of the Holy Spirit that we are exerting true control, otherwise we are just sheep being led to slaughter. Paul taught us in a previous chapter that Christ died to give us that control back. That word “sacrifice” literally means victim when you trace it back to its OT ceremonial roots. Jesus was the victim of our sin, He volunteered to be the dead sacrifice so, that we wouldn’t have to be. Paul says we get to be the “living sacrifice”. Sacrifices get destroyed but not us, we get to be used for “that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Paul describes us as “holy” or set aside. Why are we set aside? Because when you are “holy” God cherishes you with a tender love. Why do we so often give Him our leftovers? I Corinthians 6:19-20 That is what is “acceptable unto God”.

            The second bench mark of dedication Paul gives is the mind; give your mind to God. The only way to do that is to read His Word, have it in your head, meditate on it. Paul says, “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”. In other words, the more you expose yourself to the Word, the more likely you are going to operate by it. Remember, now that you are saved your body is home to two natures and the one you feed the most is the one that is going to take control. It is in the mind that this war is fought and won. Satan will employ every scheme in the book to get us to think that what the flesh is feeling is what we truly want. We can not forget that our old natures have home field advantage, that’s why we give in so easily. Ask the drunk, ask the dope addict, ask the homosexual years from the urge they now feel and they’ll tell you; in the midst of the emptiness and the disease, it was all a scheme. In fact, the word “scheme” comes from the Greek word for “conform”. II Corinthians 4:3-6 The “god of this world” wants to manipulate and control your mind. He will scheme and lie to blind you to the truth. He wants to see us all “conformed to this world”. What exactly does that mean? When we are “conformed” basically it means we are made into copies. If the things of this world dominate your thinking you are a conformer or copy of it. On the other hand, if the things of God dominate your mind you are not “conformed” but “transformed”. See, where Satan blinds, God shines. In English we get the word metamorphosis from the Greek for “transformed”. Broken down to its word parts “transformed” means the “form”, which is us, gets carried with or across, that’s the “trans” part, into something greater than before. Like the old song says, “Lord, I know I’ve been changed”.

            If you are really relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the first two, then the third will simply fall into place. The third bench mark of dedication is the will; give your will to God. This can be an entirely no fuss step, because with a “transformed” mind comes a “transformed” will. The reason it is so hard to witness today is because “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not”. The honest truth is we need to face the fact that our minds need to be renewed. The “god of this world” has spiritually blinded so many that the people of this world now “call evil good, and good evil”, they now mistake “darkness for light, and light for darkness”. They do something Paul and the early Church took every precaution not to do; he said it back in II Corinthians, “we preach not ourselves”. But today, that is exactly what people do, they makeup their beliefs as they go along. That does anything but “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” But if you will dedicate your body and your mind to the Lord, your will and the will of God will line up every time.

            In verse three Paul tells us what these three bench marks of a dedicated Christian achieve. Being a dedicated Christian allows you to “think soberly”. You see, until salvation we are only living with the illusion of control. You ever see something that wasn’t there? Everyone has; for example, on a hot day if you travel down a highway and look a mile or two ahead it will appear has if the road is submersed in water. Of course by the time you get to that point the road is bone dry. It is an illusion created by the ambient temperature of the air and the hotter surface of the pavement. As the ambient air and the hotter radiating air off of the pavement temper one another it distorts the light, at a distance it looks like a reflection of the sky; thus giving the illusion of water on the road. Despite its very real appearance, it was never really there. How many drunks have you ever seen that knew they were drunk? Not many, I’m sure. Paul says we need to “think soberly” well, sobriety has to do with being in control, you can’t tell me that people who are under the influence, whether that influence be herbal, alcoholic or narcotic, are in control. Stories like this get little attention because of our own liberalness but last year a news piece on a brutal murder got brief attention. It was the story of a man and his fiancée; I can still remember the photo they ran with the story. He was a big, strong, good looking guy and she was an absolutely beautiful young woman. The reporter reported how on the night in question they engaged in “recreational” drug use. By morning both were dead, if memory serves me right he committed suicide because of what he had done to the woman he was about to marry. Some time during that night and for reasons we will never know, he cut her head off. Can you see the satanic finger prints? They don’t call it being “under the influence” for nothing. The scarier question is, under the influence of what or should I say, under the influence of who?

            Stories like this are happening more and more and by and large people are refusing to connect the spiritual dots. Which is a near impossible thing prior to salvation but you get saved and you will experience a “renewing of your mind”; then all of a sudden knowing who and what you are in relationship to the world around you gets a lot easier. That is what Paul is saying when he says, “I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly then he ought to think; but to think soberly”. We used a military analogy earlier to explain what Paul was saying but he is not pulling rank on us here. He is just saying that “through the grace given unto me”, I can now see past the illusion, I can now “think soberly”. So, that now when you reach these bench marks of growth, you don’t just give your body to God, you exert control and change the things you do with it. You don’t just give your mind to God, you exert control and change how you use it. In the Greek Paul uses the same verb repetitively for “to think”; it complements the thought put forth by “soberly” or in control. The repeated verb expresses the idea of being in your right mind. Spiritually the only way for us to stay in our right minds is to spend time in God’s Word and to spend time with Him in prayer. The amount of time you spend on these two things will let you know how much of your will you have really given to God.

            Alright, so far Paul has told us that we need to be able “to think soberly” because “the god of this world” is ready to turn us into his own personal photocopies. But another reason we need the ability “to think soberly” is because it allows us to be actuated “according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith”. What does that mean? And what is this “measure of faith” Paul is talking about? Well, to be actuated means to be motivated or moved to action. Unbelievers are unable “to think soberly”, that is what makes them “lost”, they think “more highly” of themselves than they “ought to think”. They have been “conformed” or schemed by Satan so, any motivation they feel isn’t holy and of the Spirit, it’s unholy. Furthermore, since they are still lost in unbelief they have not been “dealt” a “measure of faith”. Now, “the measure of faith” has to do with two things: what God has given you, such as gifts which Paul goes on to talk about in a couple of verses and what you do with what He has given you. Paul has just shared a little bit of wisdom on the latter by telling us that when we really dedicate our bodies, minds and wills to Christ, we can make use of “the measure of faith” God has given us. That is what Paul is getting at in I Corinthians 12:7 when he says, “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” We are to use our “measure of faith” to “profit withal”; by that he means that we are to use the things God has given us incorporation so, that we profit along with all that are in the “body of Christ”.

            Paul uses the human body as a transition into the gifts of God. It is a truly inspired analogy, for it serves not only as a transition but an explanation on two hot button issues. Here goes! With over a thousand different literal denominations, just in our day, how are you to tell who is and isn’t the body of Christ? Paul’s answer is, dare I say, ecumenical. Now, before you burn this lesson please understand I mean that in the vaguest possible sense. The word “ecumenical” at its Greek roots simply means the inhabited world. Today, when you hear the word it is automatically associated with the Ecumenical Movement; a flawed concept that seeks to uphold Christ while downplaying the importance of doctrine. In short it is the Rodney King approach to theology, the “can’t we all just get along” theory. On the outset it sounds like it couldn’t be more right but it’s in the follow-through where it turns into a religious train wreck. Deemphasizing right doctrine would be like throwing the rulebook out the window during a basketball game. You do that and all of a sudden nothing is out of bounds, anything goes, there is no right and there is no wrong; at that point Scripture becomes open to “private interpretation”. In case you haven’t noticed, Paul is heavy on the doctrine in his letter to the Romans. So, what starts out as a well intentioned movement for all the Christians in the inhabited world ends up a free-for-all.

            To put it in perspective, “ecumenical” is the new Catholic. The word “catholic” was chosen all those centuries ago because of its understood meaning in Latin, universal. The designation “The Catholic Church” sent a very definite message to those the church wanted to intentionally keep ignorant. Ecumenical was coined for the same reason, its meaning conveys a message; “we, being many, are one body in Christ”. What does Paul mean by “many members”? Let’s begin our search for the answer in Philippians 1:15-18. Paul realizes that there will be those who preach Christ “in truth” but there will also be those who preach Him “in pretence”. That means they will have other motivations in mind. With so many churches dropping doctrine, dropping standards for the sake of numbers, you can’t tell me that seeing that “Christ is preached” is their main concern. There are doctrines and denominations out there that are indefensible when exposed to the light of God’s Word, things like the “prosperity gospel”. You’ve seen them as I have proclaiming, in a not so many words kind of way, that God is going to turn parishioners and viewers of these sorts of churches into virtual millionaires, because they are children of the king, “the head, and not the tail”. The damage such things do to believers and the cause of Christ! But despite what Paul knew was coming, he rejoiced that “notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached”. Yes, Paul saw the denominational divisions down the road. Go back to I Corinthians 12 but this time look at verses four through seven. I believe those “differences of administrations” and “diversities of operations” that Paul is talking about are what we call denominations. And that is what he means back in Romans by “many members”.

            We are very much like the “many members in one body”, “every one members one of another”. Just like the individual organs of the body are connected, so are we connected. Ephesians 4:12-13 tells us why. For one, we are meant to be connected to help one another, that’s what Paul means by “the perfecting of the saints”. The more we serve our “office” or post or function, the closer we are to Christ. Paul says, “all members have not the same office” but by us doing our part “the work of the ministry” gets done. Just like all the different parts of the body work together, collectively all the believers in the inhabited world work together “for the edifying of the body of Christ”. Isn’t it great that right now, somewhere in the world “Christ is preached”, souls are being won, lives are being turned around! That is God working “all things” “together for good”.

            Earlier we said there where two hot button issues broached by verses four and five; first was denomination and second is “gifts”. During WWII German bombing damaged an English cathedral. After the war a group of German students volunteered to go help rebuild it. Work progressed steadily; however, a statute of Jesus caused some concern. It in large part had survived the bombing, all except the hands. Adding to the dilemma was the statue’s accompanying inscription, it read “Come unto me”. Simply unable to fabricate them they finally decided to leave them off and changed the inscription to match. It now reads, “Christ has no hands but ours”. And such is the point of the next subset of verses. They deal with gifts. Like the organs of a body work together to sustain and build it, we are to use our “gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us” to “edify” or build the Church. And it is only when we get the first five verses down that we can make beneficial use of the “gifts” we’ve been given. We have to dedicate our bodies, minds and wills to God. When we stop thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, it is then that we can “think soberly”; coming to the recognition that “we, being many, are one body in Christ”. Remember, we are talking about the socially contracted Christian in this section. Paul may not have used the phrase but he is very much talking about the “body politic” here. In basic terms the body politic refers to the state but a more detail oriented definition reveals the Apostle’s thought process. The body politic constitutes a people united by a commonality. Paul in this section speaks of two commonalities. First, we are “one body” “in Christ” and second, which we’ll see in the next chapter, we believers are one part of a larger whole. And as such we are going to have to amalgamate into whatever society we find ourselves.

            Every believer has a gift. Some may have many but it is up to you to discern exactly what gift(s) God has dealt you in your “measure of faith”. I have heard believers say that they wish they had a gift. The fact that they say that is evidence that they have not genuinely spent enough time with God to find out. Another reason someone might say they don’t think they have a gift is their definition of a gift is simply based on what can be seen. That is the pitfall of the Pentecostal and Charismatic. Their creative license with the gift of “tongues” is too extreme. Among most of their circles the consensuses is that everyone can and ought to speak in tongues. They use a slew of verses from I Corinthians as a defense of it. But let’s look closer. Look at I Corinthians 12:29-30. It very clearly and very rhetorically asks “do all speak with tongues?” What did it say back in Romans; “all members have not the same office”. They may say you are taking it out of context but the fifth verse of chapter fourteen say the same thing. And the first verse of chapter thirteen is a hypothetical. Just a little FYI, whenever it says tongues were spoken pay special attention to where the Bible says they were at the time. In Acts, for example, they were always in the presence of Gentiles. Foreigners tend to speak different languages. Most seem to agree that the signs like tongues and healings ceased as the Apostles began to die off. For one thing: Romans, Ephesians and I Peter were all written years after I Corinthians and they make no mention of those things. The reasoning is it made the Gospel message easier to authenticate in that day and time; which is understandable, seeing some of the other religions of the day. Man is drawn to a works salvation religion and they had plenty of them in NT times. Also, there were the religions steeped in sexual practice. Without the “signs”, “wonders” and “miracles” the Church might have never got off the ground, Hebrews 2:3-4. The fact that it says these things were prevalent “at the first” is corroborated by the Gospel in Mark 16:20. That word “confirming” means to establish and strengthen. The very word implies a one time event.

            So, how many of these “gifts” are there? The Bible never really tells us. It gives us a couple of short lists of temporary and permanent gifts. But the real answer to that question is, anything you can use “for the edifying of the body of Christ” is a gift. When you define it like that God’s gifts become plenteous. Whereas before when you make the common mistake of basing gifts on visual perception there seem to be very few like preaching, teaching, singing and of course some have wrongly tried to work tongues in there. So, there are many, many gifts and making use of them takes dedication. Look at Paul for instance, do you imagine that prior to his salvation he was a humble man? I doubt it. I imagine he was pretty full of himself, which was and still is a very Jewish trait, not to mention he believed in a works salvation. When you are your salvation it is like having your ego on steroids. Everything about his culture nourished that kind of narcissism. Yet in verse three he was singing a very different tune; “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly” or with a level head. With the kind of egotism he would have had he wouldn’t have accomplished much for God so, the gift of humility was “given” unto him so that he could.

            Our own faith is a gift, it sure doesn’t come from us. But it must be exercised and that exercise takes dedication. Prayer is a gift. You ever notice how some people seem to have a direct line to God, while maybe you have to constantly lift something up in prayer to see the slightest progress? For some it is a gift and for those who know what they have it is a very practiced one. Sensitivity to the Spirit is another one as well. Finish this statement; “I can do all things through Christ which…”. Strength is a gift, Paul says it in Philippians 4:13 and in I Timothy 1:12-14. There is no way we could list all the gifts of God, instead let’s think of them like this. Did you ever happen to watch a program on PBS called “The Joy of Painting”? The host was a man that had a twenty year long career in the military but you could have never told by his always calm and soothing demeanor. His name was Bob Ross and in just a thirty minute show starting with a few base colors and a blank canvas he could paint anything. Think of the gifts of God like the colors on his palette. Looking at the finished painting you would say there is no way so few a colors could produce such a work. But they do. He begins by starting out with his definite colors but when those colors are individually mixed different shades begin to emerge, shades that weren’t apparent initially. And the end product is the painting you thought you didn’t have the colors to paint. In your “measure of faith” the gifts of God are just like that, all mixed in varying degrees, all uniquely used by the Holy Spirit.

            God will use us “according to the proportion of faith”. This relates back to “the measure of faith” in verse three. That phrase in verse three emphasized God’s part over ours’ but here in verse six the emphasis is on us. A “proportion” concerns the relationship between two things. Earlier we said those two things were, what has God given you and what have you done with it. Paul is saying we ought to use our gifts, for every “measure” that God has given us our effort and use ought to be proportional to His. Then he provides some examples, “whether prophecy, let us prophesy”. It is important that we understand exactly what Paul means. Whenever people hear the word “prophecy” most automatically assume it has to do with predicting the future but that is not its soul meaning, it’s a shared meaning. Taken literally from the Greek it has no connotation of supernatural prediction, that comes from pagan Hollywood. While there is precedent of fore telling future events where “prophecy” is concerned its literal meaning has more to do with speaking for God. It is not like OT prophets just walked around babbling about the future miscellaneously all the time. Most of their time was spent speaking for God or in other words preaching, warning against a certain future if repentance did not take place. The “gift” of “prophecy” is more accurately the gift of being God’s public spokesman, having the ability to expound the Word of God, I Corinthians 14:3.

            Paul’s advice is “let us wait on our” gifts. By “wait on” he means be ready to use them, “be instant in season” and “out of season”. If your gift is “prophecy” then preach, if it is “ministry” then minister. The idea behind ministry is simple. What can I do to help? Out of the word “ministry” in the Greek we get the word deacon, which straightforward enough means helper, servant, attendant. If your gift is “teaching” be apt to teach. “Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation”. Exhortation is encouraging, comforting, advising, warning, strengthening and inviting. If your gift is to be “he that giveth”, “do it with simplicity”. That means do it honestly with no ulterior motive, do it liberally not begrudgingly and full of pretense. If your gift is to be “he that ruleth”, do it “with diligence”. Should you have a position of leadership in your church manage it with care, be responsive and consistent. If your gift is to be “he that sheweth mercy”, do it “with cheerfulness”. You ever have to stand in an out the door line for service? And when you finally get to the help desk they give you that , “don’t ask me, I just work here” attitude. For someone that is already in need of a little bit of mercy, it is crushing. To wrap this up, “Onward Christian Soldier”; we all work together for the same cause just like individuals in an army. When one breaks down it affects the chain. In places, such as I Chronicles, we are given long lists of people and names that appear to be of little value to readers. But closer inspection reveals they are the bones, organs, muscles and glands of Paul’s analogy. See, in those lists were kings, their children who were the future heirs, their servants, other leaders and their servants, soldiers, their servants and so on and so forth. The point is everyone plays their part. If you have been saved by His grace, that means He valued you enough to give you a part.

2a.) I will love v. 9-21

            “The greatest virtue of the Christian life is love.” It is to this virtue that Paul devotes the reminder of the chapter. The Greek word used here for “love” is the word “agape”. Coming from the era from which it did, the Apostle’s use of this word would have drawn attention. Agape is a description of a particular kind of love you rarely see in barbaric times, even pagan Greek literature had little use for it. The reason for that is “agape” love is an unselfish love, a self-giving love. Oftentimes it is mistaken for weakness. There are those that characterize Jesus as weak, citing how He never fought back and His forced uncontested execution. But it wasn’t weakness, it was meekness, strength under control. It was His “agape” love for Man that took Him to the cross and kept Him on it until the debt had been paid in full. See, “agape” love centers on the needs and welfare of the one that is loved and will pay whatever personal price is necessary to meet those needs and foster that welfare. It is a love the Apostle John spoke a great deal about, notice I John 4:16. That “love that God hath to us” is what John 3:16 is all about; that Man was in need of salvation and that God, out of “love”, took it upon Himself to make it possible. Jesus left Heaven behind for the earth beneath and “endured the cross” so, “whosoever would”, could. This was such an under taking of “love” that all John could say was “God is love”.

v. 9-11 In good times

            God is love and that love is a “gift”. Paul’s advice over in I Corinthians 12:31 is “covet earnestly the best gifts” and then what does he go on to talk about? “Charity” but what is the Greek word he uses? “Agape”, a love that supersedes the need for reciprocation. He says at the end of the next chapter that there are many different “gifts” “but the greatest of these is charity.Why? It is because of Christ’s “charity”/“agape” love that He was able to stay on the cross and purchase our salvation and it is that same “charity”/“agape” love that is going to enable us to do mighty things for the cause of Christ and we can because “he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” In fact the rest of chapter twelve, back in Romans, is about all the things that supernatural “love” enables you to do. It is “the greatest” of “gifts”. So much so, that Galatians 5 lists “agape” love before all other “fruit of the Spirit”. II Corinthians 6:4-6 sums up God’s will for our exercise of grace.

            Paul says “in all things” or in every way we ought to be “approving ourselves as the ministers of God”. He lists several circumstances in which we’re to let our Christian colors fly but about half way through he says no matter what comes our way we are to be known “by love unfeigned”. That is the “agape” love we have been talking about back in Romans but something else tethers us to Romans as well, it is the word “unfeigned”. In the Greek it is the same word for “dissimulation”. “Let love be without dissimulation”, Paul says. In ancient Greek times derivations of this word were ascribed to actors. While on stage actors would carry masks with understood expressions on them so, that people would know their part. Playing off of that Paul’s message here is, love is not a disguise. It should be sincere not hypocritical, which is what “dissimulation” means. Don’t play the part of a disingenuous person; be known “by love unfeigned” or a love unfaked.

            True Christian character is founded on “love”. For those of you that know what it is to live the Christian life you’ll recognize that to assume a character you no longer have feels a little backwards. You know that when you try and slip back into the flesh, the you “you” used to be, it no longer feels natural. Many a Christian can tell you that before salvation there wasn’t anything they couldn’t say without a four letter word but now that kind of language doesn’t sound right when it gets uttered, it seems out of place, out of character. The next half of this chapter isn’t only about the things that “love” enables you to do, it is about your character. When the world flies in your face and it will, “by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” your character should remain intact. That is important because it is these character traits that are going to allow you to participate within the social contract of your society. Any society will benefit from this first one; “Abhor that which is evil”. “Abhor” is best defined as to look upon something with horror, which makes sense when you consider the object, “evil”. The literal meaning here bears interest, it means full of labors, annoyances, hardships; basically “evil” refers to everything that makes the world bad. The horror both God the Father and God the Son must have felt that day at Calvary. Horror on God’s part because He looked down out of Heaven to see “his only begotten Son” stained with our sin and Horror on Christ’s as He cried “why hast thou forsaken me” while our “heavenly Father” turned His back. Sin has caused so much pain, is it any wonder why Paul says we should view it with horror?

            Proverbs tells us the “fear of the LORD is to hate evil” and “the evil way”. The inference being, when you are raised in a family you know where you stand in relationship to your family as opposed to the rest of the world. You “cleave” to your family because that’s where the “love” is, that’s where the understanding is. Little children embody this by the way they will literally cling onto their parents when faced with having to stay with a babysitter. In fact that is what “cleave” here means: to cling to, to stick to, glue or cement. If you have really done what the first part of this chapter has said you will have grown and the lessons you’ve learned by being in the family of God are things you should hold on to. We should reject the “evil way” and “cleave to that which is good” like a child clinging to what they know, their parents.

            I Thessalonians 5:21 puts it another way, “hold fast to that which is good.” That phrase “hold fast” has a nautical meaning, it means to steer the ship or head the ship. It is the matured you knowing “that which is good”, taking control and directing your life according to it. When you’re sailing the slightest variation in direction can push you thousands of miles out course so, you have to “hold fast” to the course. It is the same way spiritually, it is easy to let the things Paul is about to go on to talk about slip. But if we’ll let “love be without dissimulation” then that course correction will be a lot easier to make. Paul says that God’s will over the course of our lives is that we be “kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love”. Embedded in the word “affectioned” is the meaning prone to love. As believers we have a supernatural inclination to love “one another”. I Thessalonians 4:9 On an entirely separate occasion Paul writes, “as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.” This “brotherly love” goes much deeper than biology, because God intends for us as believers to be closer than unsaved relatives. The Bible says that “in honour” we should actually be “preferring one another”. You “honour” something when you recognize that it has a fixed value. As children of God our value is not only elevated, it is fixed. God has appraised us at the highest possible value; that is why He paid the steepest price for us, His Son. When you and I prefer a brother or sister in Christ it sends a Gospel witness out into the world and honors God. That word “preferring” means to take the lead. When you take the lead you steer the ship, when you take the lead you “hold fast”, you “cleave to that which is good”.

            From this point to the end of the chapter you could very well preface each verse by saying, “If you love then you can…” do whatever the verse says. The first part of verse eleven can almost be looked at as an opposite to the first part of verse ten; verse ten telling us to do something while verse eleven tells us not to do something, the first speaks of inclination while the second speaks of disinclination. Someone who is “slothful” is slow, in fact the word sloth is an old derivation of the word slow. A “slothful” person lags, they hesitate out of laziness or lack of concern. The word “business” here is not business related but rather carries the meaning of whatever your “office” is in the service of God. Next we read we are to be “fervent in Spirit”. This certainly has to do with attitude, because to be “fervent in spirit” is to be Spirit led. When our attitudes are out of wack we are not going to hear the Spirit. But when we are right with God despite the circumstance it is then that the Spirit can be heard. To be “fervent in spirit” in the pictorial language used here means to be aglow and it is a glow that comes directly from His presence. Acts 4:13 John and Peter get arrested for nothing more than being Christian and telling the truth really. Now, in the eyes of the political religious machine of their day, as in ours, these believers were considered “unlearned and ignorant”. They expected to make them look like buffoons and just have their way with them, until a Peter, “filled with the Holy Ghost” spoke up. These two “unlearned and ignorant” men spoke so authoritatively that the “council” reasoned that they must have “had been with Jesus.” What those on that council saw was the personality of Jesus Christ aglow, via the Holy Spirit, on the disciples. That glow could be seen because John and Peter were not “slothful” in their “business”. Adding to our understanding is the fact that in the Greek the same word is used for “diligence” in verse eight and “business” in verse eleven. Like Paul, I imagine both John and Peter were diligent in their “business” or service for God and not “slothful” or lazy. “Spiritual laziness is the cause of spiritual defeat.” When we put it together here is what we learn. Whatever is done in the Lord’s service should be done with diligence, enthusiasm and care. Because when we get busy it allows the Spirit to work, it’s at that moment that we are “serving the Lord”.

v. 12 And in bad

            Verse twelve is for when things get hard. As a matter of fact you could divvy off this last portion of chapter twelve as a warning, a warning that conflict is coming. Jesus said it Himself: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves”. How are we to move forward in such fearful conditions? Paul provides the answer, we are to move forward “in hope”. Philippians 4:8 gives us a good description of what that looks like. Why does that verse end with, “think on these things”? Because those are the kinds of things that will encourage you on your way, they’ll give you endurance through the affliction. Satan and even this world will try and steal your joy, make you stumble. “Rejoicing in hope” means you have hope in your heart and a song on your lips. Its then that we can persevere in “tribulation”, whatever its form or severity.

            Back in chapter five the Holy Spirit used Paul to pen something that frames the whole meaning of “hope”. Chapter five verse five says that “hope maketh not ashamed”. Why is Christian “hope” so much different? The story is in the meaning. In our day “hope” is synonymous with wishful optimism, a castration of its fuller meaning which we can attribute to our own secularism. The understood meaning of biblical times is so much better. As they would have understood it “hope” meant confidence and trust. Theirs was more than just a vague optimism for better things. They could “rejoice” in their “hope” because they were confident of their future. I think a lot of believers are missing that right there.

            Paul brings “hope” up first because it is what’s going to get you through what will inevitably come your way, “tribulation”. The Apostle says be “patient in tribulation”. The word “patient” can also be translated as calm so, essentially we are being told to be calm in times of tribulation. Practical advice, however, today the popular thing to do is the exact opposite. It is so popular TV executives have built an entire industry on it, it is called “Reality TV”. The range of these kinds of shows out there seems to be limitless but in the end they are all based on the same premise, people acting completely asinine. I’ll never get why some people like to cause a scene, they get this explosive case of verbal diarrhea and make a bad situation worse. If that is you stop, you are only making your home a breeding ground for conflict and eventually hatred. Take the very practical advice of the Word of God and calm down. Often times it is us causing our own tribulations. Did you know that our word “trauma” is tied to the Greek for “tribulation”? Trauma means wound or shock produced by violent incidence. We need to learn that the “tribulation” we cause leaves wounds. I imagine that is why Paul phrased it the way he did in the Greek.

            Literally “tribulation” means pressing or pressure. Common sense tells you if you press too hard or exert too much pressure you are going to inflict harm. Tribulation gets its meaning from the paths that are worn down from the pressure of pressing feet. Tribulation is an erosive force. We have dogs and like most creatures they have regular patterns. So regular, that they have worn trails in our back yard. If you have pets I’m sure you’ve noticed the same phenomenon. The erosive force of tribulation can be both bad and good. When wielded by God “tribulation worketh patience”, a good thing. A person that has “patience” has “love”, ask any parent. When you have “patience” it is a lot easier to go through “tribulation”, you don’t get worn down as easily, you’re not easily insulted or angered. In God’s hands it a tool that refines us. But in our hands it wounds, it causes trauma. We are to love “one another” not traumatize each other. How can you justify showing more concern over stepping on the dog then to the person you just intentionally verbally abused? How do you bludgeon another member of your family with your words and then turn around and sob at some fiction on the TV?

            When “tribulation” comes Paul reminds us that we should be “continuing instant in prayer”. The tribulation we under go is like the fire under a stock pot: the heat causes it to boil, the boiling concentrates it, which intensifies the favor. Well, when we go through “tribulation” it has the same effect. It should drive you to God, it should intensify your prayer life, your prayers should be more concentrated. That is what the phrase “continuing instant” is getting at. It means to be devoted to, it is something you persevere in, it is something that is done out of more than just hope. Going back to the beginning of the verse, we are to pray in confidence, even in “tribulation”. Confident because that “prayer” is communication with God. You got to know someone in order to really talk to them. That is why Paul starts out this portion of the twelfth chapter with “love”. Our prayer lives are proportional to how well we love and know God.

v. 13-21 In sickness and in health

            You might have noticed that the last half of chapter twelve is outlined like wedding vows. Like the social contract marriage is also a contract; one that is meant to be kept or exercised without hypocrisy. We, as the Church, are the “bride” of Christ. And as the “bride” we are to be invested in the “bridegroom”. That is what the rest of this chapter tells us how to do. Look at the first word of verse thirteen. “Distributing” means to be invested in by becoming a partner. That’s the keystone of missions. We get invested with missionaries when we agree to support them, we partner with other churches to meet “the necessity of saints”. Because just like in the stock market we have a share in their success. What’s more, we are to be invested in the lives of other believers as well. Galatians 6:10 It says “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Romans calls that “hospitality”. The transliterated word is “philoxenos”; “philo” being a Greek derivative of “love” and “xenos” meaning something new or strange. When you look at it from the Greek “hospitality” is the love of strangers. In NT times hotels weren’t exactly Motel 6, if you could find one chances were the clientele wouldn’t be your kind of people. So, what Christians would do was open up their homes for other Christians. They didn’t know them, they were strangers but they loved them anyway. If you’ll remember we covered the word “affectioned” back in verse ten and uncovered that it carried the meaning of being prone to do something. Well, “given” bears similar meaning. It means to run swiftly to reach a goal, in this case that goal is the pursuit of a stranger’s love; even going out of your way for it. Hospitality is “philoxenos” but more often we tend to be “xenophobic”. That is we tend to have an unreasonable fear, even dislike of new or unfamiliar Christians and people in general. A shame because the Church is meant to be a support system that functions as a body and family.

            “Bless”, in verse fourteen, captures this sense. But I want take this a different direction because over the years a New Age spin has been put on this word. The idea that you can “bless” something, thereby making it holy some how or that you can endue with some kind of magical power is pagan. The very English word “bless” has pagan origins. It worked its way into English via the Germanic languages. It is a derivation of a word the Druids would have used. Theirs was a religion of blood and witchcraft, that not only thrived in Britain but peppered northern Europe prior to Europe’s conversion. Their belief was that they could invoke a supernatural power through their pagan rituals. Well, “bless” in the OT Jewish sense means to invoke or call on God. In a sense it is a request for Him to bestow His care on a person; the way He did for Adam and Eve, they were “blessed” by Him. Reading between the lines, Paul is no doubt telling us to pray for another and for our persecutors. And of course by “curse not” Paul is saying that a prayer against someone is about as unchristian as it gets. “Bless” also means to speak well of. This makes perfect sense considering the Greek etymology of the word originally used that gets translated as “bless” gives us the word eulogy today. What is a eulogy? A eulogy is an occasion in which a deceased person is spoken well of and remembered. A Christian should never run someone down, in fact it should be the opposite, our praise for others should abound. I Peter 4:8-9 That “charity” is the “love” we talked about in verse nine. It is the kind of love that doesn’t need to be returned, it’s an empowering enabling love. When you possess that kind of love it keeps you from writing someone off, even after they have hurt you. That is what Peter meant by “charity”/”love” “shall cover the multitude of sins.” When you love like that it is hard to hold on to those grudges. Like “affectioned” in verse ten and “given” in verse thirteen “persecute” here in verse fourteen means prone, certain people may be prone to tasteless and rude conduct but we shouldn’t be. And of course when “bless” is in reference to God it leans more toward worship.

            Verse fifteen speaks of more than the law of the social contract; it is about the fabric of a people. Earlier we brought out that we are to be invested in the lives of other believers but here Paul makes a blanket statement; “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Europe is a prime example of what happens when this advice is not heeded. 2003 was one of the hottest summers on record for Europe, close to forty thousand lost their lives due to the extreme temperatures. The elderly proved to have the highest mortality rate. In our day, in industrialized nations how could such a thing happen? This verse touches on the answer. European people have become very individualistic and disengaged from those around them. We see it here too, years ago everyone knew their neighbors but now that kind of “hospitality” almost seems rude. On top of that is the transformation of Europe from a collection of sovereign nations to a disconnected community. Little by little the powers that be are striping them of their identities, turning them from citizens into denizens. A denizen is someone who merely inhabits a particular place, while a citizen is a native that enjoys entitled privilege. A citizen has a stake in the body politic that the denizen is not afforded. Think of it like rental property, the renter doesn’t own anything so, they really don’t have a vested interest; that is why rental property has to constantly be maintained by the person that does own it. When you are not invested you don’t feel the need to be responsible. Over the decades this mentality has caused the European people to become disconnected and this disconnect is what allowed an entire segment of society to go unchecked. We Christians are citizens and we have a stake in this world and the next; may we never act like denizens as believers or Americans because an investment in each other is an investment in our future.

            Being invested in others allows us to be “of the same mind”. That means we view each other as equals, otherwise like James says we “become judges of evil thoughts”. That word “evil” that James uses in chapter two is the same word Paul uses back in verse nine here. It is a reference to everything that makes the world a bad place. When we start discriminating “one toward another” we make it just that much worse here. And we lose the very thing that gives us the constitution to be “of the same mind” in the first place, the “mind of Christ”. The “love” that is supposed to bind us comes from there. “Mind not high things”, Paul writes next but without love this would be impossible. By “high things” Paul is referring to things that bolster our self-seeking pride. “Mind not” those kinds of “things”, he says. The word “mind” means to have an understanding of or be wise in. Well, the only way you can have an understanding of something or be wise in it is if you have invested yourself in it. “Mind not high things” then means to not invest in things that are of a prideful and self-seeking nature; that’s how you stay humble in a vain world. Jesus provides the illustration in Luke 14:12-14. The idea is that we shouldn’t just do something because we are going to get some kind of “recompense” for it. Remember, Paul has been speaking in terms of investment and by definition it means a return is not immediate. The English word “recompense” comes from the Latin, which was translated from the original Greek. When it was translated from the Greek the word they chose to use to express what Christ was saying was a pre-King James era word, we get recompense from it today but despite the passage of time the idea is still the same, to balance out. I think one of our biggest problems as Christians is we do “mind” the “high things”. So many people are worried about when they are going to get theirs, when things are going to balance out for them. Consequently, we lose sight of the fact that God says, “I will repay”. We could invest in all the world’s riches, a million times over, but it could never yield what we will “be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

            The bottom-line is, we need to be careful of what we invest ourselves into because we are too easily “carried away with” it. In fact, that is the literal meaning of the word “condescend”. The meaning today has been perverted to mean to look down your nose at someone. But years ago it meant the opposite, to waive privilege or rank, station and pride for the sake of becoming equals. What did the first part of the verse say again? So, “condescend” had a much nobler meaning back then. Like verse three says, who doesn’t need to be taken down a peg or two? Think of the basic word parts that makeup the word “condescend”. First, you have “con” which means with; second, is “descend” and it means to go down. Put them together it means to gown down with or in physical terms to be “carried away”, like how a flowing river would carry you with it. Over in Galatians 2:13 that same Greek word is used just that way. The same Greek word is used again in II Peter 3:17. There it is rendered “led away with”. We need to take care to not be “led away with” our own “conceits”. One is said to be conceited if they have an excessively favorable opinion of their own importance and abilities, it is something that occurs and is conceived in their minds. Indeed, it comes from conceive, which means to form. It is interesting that the word “conceit” is also tied to both the words deceit and receipt. “Be not wise in your own conceits” is advice warning us that if we invest too heavily in ourselves we begin to believe our own lies. So, by aligning ourselves with “men of low estate”, people of the “same mind”, people that know how to grow, people that know how to love, that invest in each other; by doing that it ensures we don’t get “carried away” or “led away” in the wrong direction.

            As close as we are and are meant to be there comes a time when we have to interact with those outside our circle, within the social contract. This is the topic of the next five verses, which serves the purpose of leading us into the next chapter where the main focus is civics. The first thing Paul says here is an “I got you back” approach only sets you up for failure. It is the reason most societies never advanced past tribal status. It is the motivation behind the motto “united we stand, divided we fall”. Rome and a whole host of smaller civilizations would have floundered had they not got this lesson down. It is the reason behind why we are called the United States of America. “Recompense to no man evil for evil”, respect the society in which you live. There are a lot of people out there that will do you wrong but if you and I try to balance out things by doing “evil for evil”, it only fuels the fire. It is an investment Paul warns us not to make. The word for “evil” here is different from the one he previously used, it has more of a personal application. In earlier chapters we used Cain as an illustration for this one, it is the kind of “evil” that affected his mode of thinking, feeling and acting. This kind of investment damages not only those that have hurt you, it damages the society you live in, it damages you. Besides, that whole “eye for eye” OT concept was for civil justice not personal revenge.

            These aren’t just idle words coming from Paul. It is his testimony. He had a huge investment of love for his people, an investment that he knew he would probably never see returned in his lifetime but it is one he still made. The Jews hated him, sought to undermine him however they could, by going after the churches he planted, by turning his own converts against him, ultimately they wanted to kill him. Rather than return that “evil for evil” he continually prayed for them and up until the end you can read of him still trying to win them. That takes love and you can only do the first part of verse seventeen if you are operating in it, the second part of the verse reinforces that. Love has a preoccupation with respectful forethought. Look at what Paul says; “Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” “Provide” literally means to consider in advance. To be “honest” displays respect. Further analysis of I Corinthians thirteen affirms these aspects of “agape” love. I Corinthians 13:5 says that this kind of “love” does “not behave itself unseemly” or inappropriately. Do a survey of Acts and I and II Corinthians and see how Paul conducted himself in matters of money, work and other things; his record is impeccable. Even in those times when some of that money could have gotten him out of some pretty unpleasant situations. And despite those that so clearly strove against him, he kept a loving respect for them. It also says in that same verse that this kind of “love” “seeketh not her own”. It is the opposite of selfish, it is selfless. “Beareth” two verses down underscores that, it conveys the desire to protect by covering, concealing or hiding. It is like taking a bullet for someone, you protect them at your own expense. During Paul’s ministry he no doubt lost track of the number of times he put himself in harms way for the sake of reaching someone with the Gospel.

            That word “honest” provides us a segue into the next verse. In the English language the word “honest” comes from the word honor. Honor has a broad meaning but it is a word that fits exactly with what Paul is describing here. It is when your actions and your beliefs matchup. This is a litmus test Paul repeatedly past by the way. So, what he is about to say is in no way unrealistic. “If it be possible”, Paul says, “live peaceably with all men.” The second half of the book of Acts serves as a catalog on Paul in this area. We could pick from any number of events but one of Paul’s first outings I think bears the most interest. In Acts 13:2-12 Paul is confronted by someone he would have to “live peaceably with”. Notice the journey the Lord sends Paul and Barnabas on. They start this journey from a place called “Seleucia”, it means white light. This is a place we ought begin our everyday from, like Paul and Barnabas we ought to bring the light wherever we go. From there the Bible says “they sailed to Cyprus” and stopped at a city called “Salamis”, it means salt. What did Jesus have to say about salt? We “are the salt of the earth”. You who cook can appreciate that a little bit of salt goes a long way. Salt penetrates and cleanses, salt preserves. The presence of the saints on this earth has preserved it from judgment up until now. One big reason we need to keep our “savour” is because just like Paul we windup in places like “Paphos”. Paphos means boiling or hot and it is here that verse eighteen back in Romans comes into play. The person Paul is going to have to “live peaceably with” in Paphos is “Bar-jesus”, an obvious adulteration of the name. It means son of Jesus. You can see Paul’s disdain in the way Luke captures his description of him. First, he calls him a “sorcerer” with contempt so thick it even comes across in the third person. Next, he calls him a “false prophet”, just a straight up liar. Lastly, and not wanting to even give him this much dignity because it is an embarrassment to their people, he tells us that this Bar-jesus is “a Jew”. Earlier we talked about bringing the light well, these poor deceived people thought they had it. Don’t you imagine Paul’s first impulse was to slap the taste right out of this guy’s mouth? I mean here he was ripping off the name of Jesus, scamming these people out of who knows what and manipulating their leaders. Paul knew real well what was going on here.

            Despite it all he handled it “peaceably”. Bar-jesus had the ear of the Roman in charge, a guy named “Sergius”. Luke tells us he was “a prudent man”, he was looking for the truth, he “desired to hear the word of God.” But every time they attempted a Gospel presentation this scam artist would spew his poison. It would have been easy for Paul to get a little hot, his former life was a testament to what he was capable of when his anger motivated him. He could have lashed out but he kept his cool, as a matter of fact he just came from a place that reminded him of how he was supposed to be. Before he stopped in Paphos he was in Salamis, the name of the place means salt. Paul was like salt. What does that even mean? I’ll tell you one way to look at it, he was in Paphos which means boiling or hot. Things could have boiled over quickly, countless wars have been started in just this way but Paul didn’t let the heat get to him. He kept his composure, just as salt does when heat is applied to it. A grain of salt can withstand temperatures of well over a thousand degrees before it begins to melt, double that before it begins to boil. Do you think the Lord of creation knew that when He made that comment about how we should be as “the salt of the earth”? Of course He did, we Christians should be like salt because when everyone else has lost their cool and blown up, we can take the heat.

            That being said he does say, “as much as lieth in you”. Before we got into this verse we said that Paul’s words are not meant to be taken as unrealistic religious jargon; neither is it to be interpreted as him telling us to be passive to a fault. It hinges on the word “possible”. In the Greek it is a word that is also translated as able, mighty, strong or could. It is meekness or strength under control. Anybody can react but it is how you react that tells the story. We talked about salt and how a little goes a long way; salt is such that when you taste it you know beyond a shadow of a doubt what it is. The same should be true for us; people should know by seeing “as much as lieth in” us, that we are Christians.

            “Vengeance” and “recompense”, of which Paul is speaking, can be traced back to Deuteronomy 32:35. Paul cites this for a very particular reason. At length he has been talking about the Christian’s place in society. For over three hundred years ours was a hunted people. Under such circumstances it is easy for a small group to become militant minded; especially when that persecution was for nothing more than mere blood sport to the rest of society at the time. Lord knows countless religious nut jobs have picked up arms for less. Muhammad forged Islam with the sword because initially it was the only way it was going to survive. Sadly though, over the years as they put down the sword they picked up the gun. “Dearly beloved”, Paul puts it as tenderly as possible so, it will register, “avenge not yourselves”. You are going to win more people with a soft heart than a balled up fist. The Apostle says, “rather give place unto wrath”. What is that “place”? The OT reference answers; “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence”. Who is the “me”? It’s God and this judgment may or may not be eschatological in nature. The final judgment is self-explanatory so, let’s look at how this could apply to temporal life. The verse here in Deuteronomy certainly leans in that direction. Speaking through Moses God says, “their foot shall slide in due time”. The phrase “in due time” points toward the future but isn’t exactly pinpoint. The next statement, “the day of their calamity is at hand” gets us a little closer but it is that last statement that is most telling, “the things that shall come”. Specifically that phrase has to do with things that have been prepared based on the choices that were made. Could it be that the things that happen to us are God’s way of recompensing, balancing out, our foolish missteps?

            A lesson that we are too hard hearted to get any more but one that remains true nonetheless. Something else that is not gotten is the fuller meaning of that last part. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” It parallels what Paul is telling us about our conduct towards those outside our circles, even those we could consider our enemies. So far, he has told us to deal with them with respect; however, he is about to tell us that we should even go the extra mile for them. Just like God did for us. Matthew 5:38-41 Jesus said “resist not evil”, perhaps because so many of us try to manipulate our way out of the necessary evils of life. It’s the bad things in life that give the good such value. What if Christ would have resisted the cross? Then there would be no salvation today. As in Romans the insinuation is not to turn a blind eye to the wrong done to you but rather the idea is to not make a bad situation worse. The “evil” Jesus speaks of is that which we spoke of back in Romans, those things that make this world a bad place. Don’t contribute to it, is the gist. Now, beyond that is the truth that “judgment must begin at the house of God”. Why “must” that be so? Well, remember we don’t have to go through a final judgment so, whatever “judgment” God deems “must” take place before our time on earth is up. Considering the size of some of our blunders that’s grace beyond measure. So, I think it is safe to say that the “evil” that comes into our life from time to time serves its purpose in one way or another. It was four chapters ago but we are still seeing “all things work together for good” for the believer.

            So, we are to let God’s “wrath”, active and passive, run its course; “give” it its “place” Paul says. Or resign to the truth that despite the circumstances, God’s will is being done. It is not our place to step in and manipulate or forcefully impose as Peter did with his sword in the garden that night with Jesus. “Put up again thy sword into his place”, Jesus said, “rather give place unto wrath”. That “place” was the cross. “Vengeance” was had by God at the cross. Every sin that was ever committed or will ever be committed by “whosoever” chooses to believe on the Son of God was placed on Him. God had total vengeance that day. But He went the extra mile that day too, because it was Him that paid the price. “I will repay, saith the Lord.” And He did and more. We’ve studied how He did more than just relegate us back to a state of innocence, like Adam and Eve, innocence being the absence of the “knowledge of good and evil”; He went the extra mile and justified us. Unlike Adam and Eve ever were, we are entitled to Heaven.

            Paul brings to a close this discourse on civility by quoting an OT proverb. Proverbs 25:21-22 This proverb is a proverb that has many threads leading to it and subsequently those threads lead from many different directions. For starters, anthropologically speaking, it is said that this proverb comes from an ancient Egyptian custom. It was custom for a person that wanted to make a public demonstration of contrition to carry a pan of burning coals on their head. The burning pain bore the cultural meaning of the shame and guilt this person now felt. So, the “heap coals of fire on his head” part some ascribe to that. Others feel that it is just one of those metaphors that time forgot, used for when good is done in response to evil. There is also a twofold disjunctive way of looking at this proverb. When wrought iron is forged it is not just put on “coals of fire”, the iron is plunged into the burning coals so, that there is a “heap” of coals above and beneath. The iron absorbs more heat that way, making it more malleable. Likewise, by doing what the Apostle has been prescribing in the last four verses you make it more likely to melt a hard heart into repentance. The disjunction comes in when your efforts go unappreciated thereby aggravating the condemnation that person is already under. In this case the “coals of fire” won’t be your ingratiating acts of civility, it will be “wrath” treasured up “against the day of wrath”.

            Let’s rewind and take look at that first part. Why would someone be your “enemy”? Perhaps it is because of the “offence of the cross” that you are a witness of. Or could it be that they’re an enemy because you’re an offence to the cross? We are supposed to be “ambassadors for Christ” but there are those times we fail to represent Him, times when we may rub people the wrong way. It is altogether too easy to be “overcome” by the flesh. You ever get so “overcome of evil” it affected how you thought, felt and acted. We’ll get to the point that “if thine enemy hunger”, we wouldn’t “feed him”, “if he thirst”, we wouldn’t “give him drink”. “Be not overcome of evil”, Paul says. We are to be as salt, it preserves, it can withstand the heat; “wrath” has its “place” and it’s not with us. “Our own evil is exponentially more dangerous to us than is the evil done to us by others.” The word “overcome” implies victory. On the one hand we are to not allow the evil done to us to “overcome” us or have victory over us. And on the other hand we are to not allow ourselves to be “overcome” by fleshly impulses. It takes strength to not let the flesh drive you, push you or pressure you into doing something. And it is more than just not returning “evil for evil”, that only requires you do nothing, but when you “overcome evil with good” it requires you go the extra mile. Paul says, “in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” Both “heap” and “overcome” can share similar connotation here, i.e. overwhelm. When we “overcome evil with good”, the victory is that we did not let them get to the flesh and in some cases those actions will shame or overwhelm a hard heart, David did it to Saul. Other times, it’s God that has to do the overwhelming, that is, He will “heap coals of fire” into their life.

3a.) I will acquiesce 13:1-10

To Terrestrial law v. 1-7

            “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers”, chapter thirteen opens. If you have done the things Paul suggested in the last chapter this will be so much easier. We are to be of “one body” as believers but we are to also fit into the framework of our corporate society, the body politic; almost regardless of the government. As believers we are only part of a larger whole but our place in that larger whole should be an affair we are invested in. How do we make that investment? Well, it begins with the “higher powers”. This phrase is not meant to be taken as a reference to angelic or demonic powers but rather it denotes human government, “rulers” in verse three serves as a confirmation to that fact. However, those kinds of powers do have a place in this discussion as we will see shortly. Did you know that the very first vestige of God “ordained” human governance is found in Genesis chapter nine? It is when God told Noah and his sons to be “fruitful, and multiple, and replenish the earth.” Now, He sent them out with only one directive; “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed”. That is enough to deter most people but sadly not all but it is from this that civic duty was born. As Man and society evolve, or you could just as accurately say devolve, the civic privileges and obligations, rights and responsibilities of the social contract change. No doubt this concerned the Apostle a great deal, which is why the Spirit gave him liberty. In fact Paul is going to give us several reasons for why we are to submit to authority. The first reason “every soul” should “be subject unto the higher powers” is because governments are supernaturally appropriated. Let’s work our way into this one. Matthew 22:15-22 Verses like these have been horribly twisted over the years to justify the lie of separation of Church and State. Let me ask you. Should there be a separation of Church and State? Well let’s look at how it has worked out for Muslim countries. More and more there is no such separation in a lot of these countries. And how has it affected the people? The women are brutalized, while the men drowned in their own narcissism. They become so drunk with it they pick up arms and kill remorselessly, even strap on bombs for bonus points. All to get into a heavenly playboy mansion, Hugh Heffner would be proud. Of course we are no better, because we have gone to the other extreme. What we have can no longer be called separation of Church and State but rather we are striving for separation of God and State. We have completely lost the respect that as much as He is Lord of the Church, He is also that much Lord of the State as well.

            OT Israel provides the model. Vesting both civil and religious powers in the same body is the potential energy of tyranny. God, very transparently, divided the balance of power up in Israel. The priests came from the tribe of Levi, while the kings came from the tribe of Judah. As Zechariah declares, it is only in Christ that those two offices can be combined. Many kings and Popes have tried and they’ve used these verses in Romans to get away with it. But they all at some point abused the power. Coming back to the verse, is it justifiable, in those circumstances, to reject the “higher powers”? After all, that is how America was born. Was our nation’s birth unscriptural? If you take that word “subject” to be literal and you should, then it certainly paints a derogatory picture. Not to make any excuses but that is why God in His wisdom made “all things work together for good”, because He knew we would all openly choose courses of action that go against His will. Or, as is so often the case, He knew we would paint ourselves into a corner to where our only recourse would be some kind of transgression. All because subjection is something this flesh recoils from. The word “subject” shares a slight militaristic meaning here, to “be subject unto” something is to be of a lower rank. In addition, as this word applies to citizenry it means or implies to be voluntary. We give up absolute liberty and endow public servants, be it local, state or federal, with limited authority over the populace voluntarily. We do this in accordance with our social contract, the Constitution and for the sake of the society it fosters.

            Paul isn’t the only one to be concerned about the Christian’s place in the social contract, Peter also weighs in on the subject; I Peter 2:13-17 gives us the short of it. Doesn’t his speak of “using your liberty” sound Constitution like? You know, the Jews would use their “liberty for a cloak of maliciousness”. It has always been true that we “ought to obey God rather then men” but what the Jews would do with that truth is abuse it. They would “resisteth the power” as Paul says back in the second verse of our text in Romans. They would “resist” Rome by continually mounting insurrections, attacking and even trying to assassinate political leaders and as we talked about a little earlier they would simply not pay their taxes. Of course Scripture had to be twisted to allow for this, they used Deuteronomy 17:15. But a careful look at the verse condemns any liberties they might have taken. Note carefully the word “thou”: “one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee” and “thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother”. The problem with their theology was they were not an independent nation, they had no say in who the next Caesar would be. In the Jew’s eyes, because of their warped interpretation of Scripture, their religion was tied to their ethnicity but now that the people of God were clearly defined by belief only it meant that subjection to ruling powers took precedence over religious political maneuvering.

            “Honour the king”, Peter said. Why does he say that, especially in a time that was growing more anti-Christian by the day? Two reasons, the first being it “is the will of God”. Do you remember that we said that governments are supernaturally appropriated? Well, Proverbs 8:15-16 presents the evidence of that. These verses are why Paul broaches this topic by saying that “every soul” should “be subject unto the higher powers”. “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God”. Another reason to submit to authority is if you don’t, Heaven considers it rebellion; because “the powers that be are ordained of God”. Now, Paul has just used three words that point in a very significant direction: “subject”, “ordained” and “ordinance” all gravitate to one truth, divine appropriation. That was the theme of the last section. It means that God has arranged things exactly the way He wants them. Again it says, “the powers that be are ordained of God” and that “there is no power but of God”. That is what “powers”/“ordained” points back to, delegated authority. God has delegated authority throughout the universe and one day on the other side of glory we too will be delegated to rule and reign with Him. But for now the “power” we think we have is only an illusion. Satan is “the prince of this world”, he has the “power”. That is a claim that even Jesus did not dispute. Luke 4:1-6 Satan said that “this power” and “glory” were “delivered unto me”. By Who? By God, because “there is no power but of God”. Maybe it has been that way “from the foundation of the world”; maybe God gave Satan, Lucifer before he fell, lordship over this part of Creation. Obsessed by a prideful desire to “be like the most High” and realizing that in eternity it would never be so, he left with his band of renegade angels to give it a try down here. Referring to his dominion on earth he tells Jesus, “to whomsoever I will give it”. Perhaps that is precisely what he did. There are three distinct chapters in the OT that seem to indicate that nations are under the influence of specific demons. Daniel chapter ten for instance introduces us to “the prince of the kingdom of Persia”. But this “prince” is no regular prince, he is discernibly supernatural. Then you have Ezekiel 28:12-15, where an earthly ruler is addressed but it soon becomes clear what is really being addressed here is the greater power behind the scenes. From the description, on this occasion, the power pulling the strings is Satan. Notice verse two of this same chapter, God initially says “say unto the prince of Tyrus” whereas in verse twelve it is “king of Tyrus”. On more than one occasion the NT refers to Satan as a “prince”. Most would simply write that off as some kind of biblical typo but I wager it is very much deliberate. The account most would probably be familiar with however, is Isaiah 14:4-6, 12. Satan himself, as was the case in Tyre, presided over the kingdom of Babylon. It says he “ruled the nations in anger”. Looking at the carnage going on in so many places it isn’t hard to imagine that demons are at the reigns.

            “Honour the king”, Peter says. Earlier we said there were two reasons for why he said that, particularly in a time when that would be a favor that would not be returned to believers. The last half of verse two here in Romans gives us the second reason; “they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Read the rest of that segment in I Peter and you’ll see that is where he goes with it as well. That last part of verse two is also another reason for submitting to authority. Now, that word “damnation” has an eschatological overtone to it but I don’t believe that is Paul’s intended meaning here. I believe that such strong language serves as warning of things to come. With his Spirit given discernment Paul looked into the future and he saw persecution coming. Peter saw it too. Recall he said, “so is the will of God, that with welldoing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men”. We live right here today. We have a president whose opinion of us is that we are nothing but a bunch of misinformed, disadvantaged hicks clinging to “God and guns”. Nebuchadnezzar had similar feelings for the God fearing Jews that were captive under his rule as well. Can’t you snidely hear him referring to God as “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego”? He continued doing that until God decided to “brake from him” that smugness. “Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams” and those dreams turned into nightmares. The Bible says, “his spirit was troubled” by those nightmares; in his own words he says, they “made me afraid”. It was all a part of God’s plan in the life of this pagan king. Once you get to Daniel chapter four you begin to see him show God some reverence but he is still not converted. He boosts in that chapter of the new name he had given Daniel, he had renamed him “Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god”. Over the course of the opening chapters of Daniel we see a transition take place in Nebuchadnezzar, he goes from a blasphemous God hater to someone who can’t shout the praises of God enough. Going back to Romans the point is, both the ruled and the ruler are accountable. Pray for our out of touch, Nebuchadnezzar-like president.

            In fact we should be concerned about the overall health of the society we live in. At the same time all of that was going on in Babylon, Jeremiah was in Jerusalem writing letters to the captives. Even though Nebuchadnezzar started out as a God hater, that despised God’s people and Babylon was as pagan as you could get do you know what God directed Jeremiah to tell them to do? It wasn’t rebel or lobby, it was to invest in “the peace of the city”. Jeremiah 29:4-7 Investment is something the Apostle repeatedly spoke of in the previous chapter. Listen, we do need to invest in each other, in our society, in our country, even in our democracy. But we need to be careful to not get too involved, because when we do it turns into politics. At a certain point all of it turns into a waste of time, because we’ve learned “that the heavens do rule”. Satan and his fallen angels have sway over the world governments and for that reason getting too involved in politics is a waste of time and resources. What is it Ephesians 6:12 says? It also takes us away from God’s greatest concern, the lost. We are meant to be “a kingdom of priests” not social activists or rabble rousers. It is a sad thing that some evangelicals and others have become nothing more than PACs, lobbyists and special interest groups.

            The next reason Paul gives for submitting to authority is twofold, it allows the civil authority to protect the community and punish the criminal. Which, as Paul suggests, is clearly in the best interest of any civil authority, because one compliments the other. “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil”, Paul says. By seeking out and prosecuting “evil” the “good” of society is served. The word “evil” here is one that Paul has used often. It refers to a mode of thinking, feeling and acting. That kind of “evil” is infectious. Everyone one of us knows someone that got involved with the wrong crowd and after they did the person we thought we knew slowly began to disappear. Left unchecked this kind of “evil” will poison a society. But “good works” on the other hand will cause a society to prosper, their recognition even inspires a sense of civic duty. Paul says, “do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same”. That word “praise” carries the idea of public commendation. “Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?” or in other words, what is there to be afraid of? Good government should applaud “good works”, because they need them. That word “good” means useful, government should value its useful, productive citizens not penalize them. If more citizens were useful there would be less need for welfare. Welfare devalues the individual and creates a dependency on government handouts. They’ve made an industry out of it. Something else they have made an industry out of is the prison system. But if you take the time to read the Bible you’d notice ancient Israel didn’t really have any of them. Long term incarceration had no place in the divinely inspired OT law. That is because merely incarcerating someone serves little purpose. Our own recidivism rates tell us that much. We have the worst numbers in the entire developed world. We have the highest number of prison inmates per capita, not to mention the highest crime rate too. It has become a self-perpetuating cycle, prisons are like breeding grounds for criminals. More prisons mean more prisoners, which means more prisons, which means more prisoners, which means…. Welfare and crime, let’s put the two together. If welfare keeps people in poverty and poverty breeds crime, then what could possibly be the benefit in a welfare state? The “powers that be” dance around that one. Our society is falling apart because for the last several decades we’ve gotten the first part of verse three backwards.

            Ecclesiastes 8:11 tells us of the dangers of giving the criminals the breaks while letting the honest foot the bill. “The words of the Preacher” are far from endorsing a police state but the God ordained role of government is to restrain and punish evil. In this capacity human government serves as the “the minister of God”. The Apostle says for the honest and law abiding the government’s role is “for good.” Of course in the imperfect world in which we live that is an expectation that routinely falls by the wayside. It did for Paul, he did nothing but “good works” but continually found himself in trouble with authorities, the early Christians too. Paul understood all too well that “he beareth not the sword in vain”. In NT times Roman magistrates wore swords as a symbol of authority. They had the authority to sentence someone to death and their sentences were “executed speedily”. It seems as though the opposite is true with our justice system. Criminals know that cases can be dragged out in the courts for years and they use this to their advantage, to slow the justice system down. It has gotten to the point in some instances that the pursuit of justice is almost “in vain”. As the man of God comments in Ecclesiastes, it sends the wrong message.

            “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” Societies prosper on the “good works” of people, governments need them because it means they have to shoulder less of the burden but if “sin”/”evil” is allowed to run rampant it will undermine the nation. Just look at the globe and take your pick. Why is it so prevalent? Verse four would seem to point us in the direction of an answer. “But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid”. Why is sin so prevalent? We have lost our fear. People have gotten so belligerent that not only do they not fear God anymore, some don’t even fear the presence of law enforcement. You ever seen an episode of COPS? The end of verse four gives us another very real reason to submit to authority, as “the minister of God” they are “a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

             Going back to verse two, it said “they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” We said “damnation” sounded a little over the top but then again the brutality of ancient Rome speaks for itself. Railroaded justice, public beatings, nailed to a Roman cross; yea, I could see how one could feel damned. The ancient world was filled with this kind of thing, still is. Verses three, four and five are an elaboration of what Paul means by “damnation”. “Wherefore ye must needs be subject”, Paul says, “subject unto the higher powers.” That word “needs” suggests a course of action that would be to your advantage; “not only for wrath” or to avoid it “but also for conscience sake.” Summing up his reasons for why Christians should acquiesce to civil authority is, anyone can obey the law out of fear but a Christian should do it out of “conscience”.

            Did you know that “conscience” literally means with knowledge, when you break it down? Our modern use of the word has changed a bit but as Paul uses it “conscience” meant to have a self-knowledge. You see it in Acts 24:16. Paul was concerned “of offense toward God, and toward men.” He knew that we are guilty in ways we don’t know of or even come close to understanding. For that reason, he took special care “to have always a” self-knowledge that was “void of offense”. We’ll come back to that in a minute but first I want you to think of your “conscience” as like a sun dial. What quality of a sun dial is used to tell time? You use its shadow to determine time. What determines the direction that shadow gets cast? The sun determines that, particularly its perspective in the sky. Don’t gloss over that. Direction is determined by your perspective and your perspective is determined by knowledge. How you confront a problem depends entirely on how much you know and the more knowledge you have the better equipped you are. Well, what does the Bible have to say about knowledge?

            Go to Proverbs 1:7. See that word “knowledge”? It has everything to do with perspective. Solomon is saying, until you see things from the right perspective they’ll never quite fit together. We all know people who have a skewed perception of things and as a result they never have any peace, they never really find any meaning in it all. What is worse is this is how more and more people are choosing to live. The last part of that verse says, “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The language used indicates the type of person that not only doesn’t care about having a better understanding, they look down on those that do. How accurately that describes that whole Hollywood bunch, that has the President in their hip pocket; they could care less about Bible truths, or the things that this country was founded on that made us who we are, they blindly ignore lessons from the past. The fact that the rich and famous are regulars at White House functions should outrage those that elected him, because they certainly don’t reflect those that put him there. Whenever our elected officials routinely rub elbows with people that don’t reflect the electorate, something is wrong. Like so many he has forgotten his place. It is not to brunch with the elite or entertain the entertainment industry, it is to serve as “the minister of God” “for good”. He is not alone, each generation has less of a “conscience” or self-knowledge, note Psalm 111:10. Paul penned similar sentiments back in Romans 11:20. “Be not high minded, but fear.” In that lesson we said that the best way to interpret “fear” is to know your place in respect to God. We are a people that increasingly have forgotten our place. Look at what that verse in Psalms says, “a good understanding have all they that do his commandments”. In other words, “all they that do his commandments” know their place; the word “understanding” points back to that. The current generation has been dubbed the “Me Generation” and isn’t that so true. They are selfish, lazy, narcissistic, know-it-alls. They demand what mom and dad have, out of some delusional sense of entitlement. As a result they never fully develop a “conscience” or a self-knowledge. The reason that is important is because our “conscience” is our meager attempt at “rightly dividing” “the knowledge of good and evil”, something we weren’t designed to do in the first place.

            Our national “conscience” has been damaged, form decades of sinful squalor; don’t think that hasn’t affected us as a people. Ever notice how our sense of humor keeps getting dirtier and dirtier? If you watch TV you know exactly what I mean. Comedy today is just a slew of one profanity after another. The light hearted comedy of yesteryear seems almost silly in comparison to the adult four letter word rants of today. Our sense of humor is warped because our perspective is warped. And our perspective is warped because our “conscience” is warped. Notice how this plays out. Paul has been talking about submission to government authority. This is a power that is easily corruptible and abused. Now, rarely has that power fallen in the hands of true believers. But you would think that when it does the people would be overjoyed. Not today! Who would have ever thought a politician would be demonized for being, of all things, a Christian? But that was the case with John Ashcroft and Sarah Palin. It was one witch hunt after another form an anti-Christian left; they were the butt of countless jokes, many of them tasteless and mean spirited. But yet this same crowd is accepting of a President that has a twenty year membership in a certain Chicago church, whose Pastor is notorious for making prejudice and anti-American remarks. However, it seems during those twenty years he hardly attended because he was blindsided by those sound bytes during the campaign. Can you see the hypocrisy?

            This of course happens because we are a nation without a “conscience”. People used to know that we are all lost and “undone”, that hell is hot and Heaven is sweet. We used to cherish knowledge, invest in it; we don’t any more. We used to be a nation of investors, like a Spirit led Paul advised in the previous chapter, we used to invest in one another. Somewhere along the line we stopped doing that too. How is it nowadays that people accept the counterfeit and reject the Rembrandt? It is our lack of “conscience” and the lack of knowledge and understanding that goes along with it, it limits our perception. And that changes our direction. We went from a nation of investors to a nation of consumers. One is others oriented, the other is me oriented. That is how the “Me Generation” got its name. They like to over spend, live outside their means. They get it from Hollywood. Let’s not forget that this is the generation that was raised by the television. No one on TV ever really works but somehow magically has money. Just think of the impact on a developing mind. It explains why mom and dad get treated like ATMs today. Then there is that Hollywood bunch themselves; so many of them seem to have more money than they know what to do with so, they adopt foreign children and buy over priced things, all for the sake of setting the next trend. All the time you hear of one of them failing to do what verse six says, “pay ye tribute” and getting caught for it. The truth of the matter is good government is expensive, heck bad government is expensive. Paul just gave us several reasons for submitting to authority but back in verse four he said that government “is the minister of God to thee for good”. That word “good” means benefit; well, benefits cost money. Even more descript is the word “ministers” here in verse six, it differs from the one used in verse four. It refers to one’s duty to perform or provide services or benefits. The literal Greek word means public service, the same language would have been used, for instance, when they would have referred to their town hall. City or town halls have a vested interest in the surrounding communities who benefit from the services they provide. Or at least they should because Paul says their role is to be “attending continually upon this very thing”. This applies to local, state and federal government as we know it. Of course what gets the ball rolling is the revenue generated from taxes. “For this cause pay ye tribute”, Paul says. That “cause” being to avoid the “wrath” of the government, “for conscience sake” and of course to fund the services a government provides.

            Verse seven serves as a point of transition into the next few verses. He has talked about subjection to terrestrial law but in the next three verses he goes on to talk about submission to Heavenly law. If you look closely you can see a subtle transition take place in verse seven. “Render therefore to all their dues”, he says. First is, “tribute to whom tribute is due”. He starts off on the same note as the previous verse by talking about taxes. Then we have “custom to whom custom”, the idea here is pretty much like our sales tax. Next is, “fear to whom fear”. This refers to a respect for civil authority. It is too bad that a lot of our politicians these days aren’t respectable people. That is a contributing factor in our loss of “fear”. Our elected officials are meant to be the noblest among us. But instead we find out that a good number of them are not only self-serving but crooked too. It devalues the offices they hold. That is the best way to interpret “honor to whom honor”. That word “honor” suggests a fixed value. Even though the people that hold public offices may not always be the most respectable people, the offices they hold do garner a certain amount of acclaim.

To Heavenly law v. 8-10

            It is here that the Apostle makes his final reference to the law, a topic Israel was unrelenting on. It is as if he is reaching out one more time to the staunch Jew that might be led of God’s providence at some point to read this letter. “Render” from the previous verse means to give or pay back in the sense Paul is using it. “Owe no man anything” therefore means to pay a debt back. The OT is very clear on financial responsibility, Ecclesiastes 5:5. Whether of God or among men this is just commonsense. Don’t get yourself so indebt that you have to borrow money just to meet your living expenses. Don’t waste your money, be fiscally responsible. Some have went so far as to suggest that the language in Romans means a Christian should not borrow money. I think that is a stretch given certain verses but when you take into consideration how prone we are to overspending, that might be sound advice. God has promised to supply all our need, not all our greed. A debt we do owe is “to love one another”. The word he uses for “love” here is not “agape” but rather the word it comes from, “agapao”. It has more of a basic meaning. It is a welcoming kind of love, a mutual fondness. In fact that whole phrase is geared toward mutuality, “love one another”. As Christians we are to love “one another”. John 13:34 & 35 tells us why. Jesus says, “if ye have love one to another” then “shall all men know that ye are my disciples”. Christians are supposed to be known for their “love”: not their over priced clothes, not their fancy buildings and certainly not their debt.

            We are to “love” each other but what about those that are lost or just the rest of the world for that matter? Let me ask you something. Are you a heterosexual? If you are it means your affections fall on members of the opposite gender. Paul uses that word “another” twice and while the first usage of that word bears a meaning of mutuality, the second usage is a different word and has a different meaning. In the Greek it is the word “heteros”, it is where we get the word hetero from. The word hetero means the other of two or the different of two. It is our love for each other and everyone else that sets us apart from the crowd. No other religion, nation or political body will ever do as much for a lost world as believers have. It has been our love for the living God that has driven believers throughout the ages. “We love him, because he first loved us.” For that reason we should want to please Him, thus we follow the law. Not because we have to but because it brings us closer to Him. Loving “thy neighbor as thyself” is just part of that; that is how Paul “comprehended” it.

            “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor”, Paul says. There are a couple of things that need to be brought out here. First, “neighbor” means pretty much anybody you come in contact with. Second, he cites five of the Ten Commandments, for the specific reason that they deal exclusively with our relationships with other people. Third, is that word “ill”; it is the same word used for “evil” in verses three and four. Remember, it is a mode of thinking, feeling and acting. Every one of those things can and do happen, everyday. It would happen far less if we would “not covet”. Paul cites it last for a reason. The word “covet” has an interesting history. Did you know that somewhere down the line “cupid” comes from this word? When you think of “cupid” you think of hearts, and flowers, an overweight baby in a saggy diaper wielding a bow and arrow. A cute facade to some but coveting has nothing to do with “love”. It is lust and lust can lead to some bad decisions. Lust can lead you to “commit adultery”, it can lead you to “steal”, “bear false witness”, even “kill”. It did Cain; he thought about it, felt it and finally acted on it. Finally, note the word “love”. In this instance it is “agape” love, Paul steps up the force of the word to make his point. This kind of “love” overrides all other emotions, even on your worst day. Let me ask you something. Who does “he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” sound like? It sounds just like Christ. He “fulfilled” the law for us. He loves us that much, that is how “love is the fulfilling of the law.” Every time we “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”, “we establish the law.” Go read Romans 3:31 & 8:3-4 again.

4a.) I will not sleep v. 11-14

v. 11-12 Wake up

            The Jews went out of their way to bring trouble to believers and the Romans weren’t far behind. With the persecution coming from every side, it would have been easier to fade into the woodwork than to “earnestly contend for the faith”. But that is exactly Paul’s sentiment, “knowing the time”. By “knowing” he means to recognize. Recognize what? Recognize “the time”. It goes back to what he just talked about, “the fulfilling of the law”. “And that” points specifically to it, as opposed to a general reference to the entire length of the present discussion. Wake up as believers “making a difference” in whatever society you find yourself. So many believers are spiritually asleep. So much so, you would think they are “dead” or unsaved. You could easily make that mistake when you read Ephesians 5:14-18. It sounds very much like an appeal to the lost but shockingly it is an exhortation to the saved. “Redeeming the time”, sounds very much like what we are reading in Romans, doesn’t it? It means to take back possession of what was lost. Christ paid the price so, that He could do it for His “creation”. And we can take back the “light” we’ve lost while we slept. Paul’s analogy of “night” and “day” serves a variety of purposes. For one, during the night we lose the revealing power of the light. As Paul goes on to say in a couple of verses, it is at “night” that we do things that we never would in the “day”. In this sense “night” is representative of Man’s spiritual darkness or depravity, “day” and “light” represent understanding and righteousness. You “sleep” at night, being in the unredeemed flesh Christians have a tendency to fall asleep and let carnality reclaim us. When Paul says, “awake out of sleep” he means “arise from the dead”. For we were “raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father”. By that same power we can reclaim our lost ground, just like the light of day reclaims the earth from the night.

            Have you noticed the Apostle’s preoccupation with time in these verses? We are to know “the time”. By “time” Paul means era. The time of the Law, its era, had come to an end; that is what is to be recognized. His word selection draws it out for us. In English we see the word “time” twice but in Greek they are actually two different words. The first is a general time reference but the second is more specific. The same is true for the word “now”. It all points towards a new age, an age of grace. I could see tears welling up in Paul’s eye as the Spirit led him to pen, “for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” And it is here that his fixation on time is explained. The “day” he is speaking of is Christ’s return, the rapture of the Church and our glorification. In Paul’s “night” and “day” analogy let’s say the “night” represents the time Jesus is absent from this world and the “day” refers to when Jesus said, “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again”. Well, we are nineteen hundred years down the road and if the Apostles were under the impression that “the day is at hand”, you can’t help but think “that now it is high time”. “The night is far spent”, after all. Paul’s analogy could also have real life application to it. In a sweltering climate, when is the best time to get work done? In the cool of the day or early in the morning. How does God know you are serious? He knows because He said, “those that seek me early shall find me.” “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead”, stop going through the motions, don’t show up just to check out.

v. 12-13 Clean up

            Three times Paul shouts a resounding “let us” to this. The “therefore” tells us why Paul is so emphatic about it. Jesus is coming back! Now, “of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father”, He knows. Scriptures teaches that we may not know the exact time but the circumstances leading up to it, prophecy has foretold. That is part of what Paul means by “knowing the time”. Putting it all together; Christ has fulfilled the law for us but many a believer takes that for granted. We use it as an excuse to “sleep” or not live “through him that loved us”, in short we don’t produce any fruit. What does our Bible have to say about producing fruit? Ephesians 2:10 It says, “we should” because “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works”. Those “good works” include but are not limited to the law. Our reward at the “judgment seat of Christ” is contingent on those things. That “time” is drawing nearer. I Thessalonians 5:1-11

            Something in those verses hits on what Paul says next, “putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.” In Romans it harmonizes with, “cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” It has a Christian soldier aesthetic to it. Ephesians 6:11 Any skilled combatant will tell you that method yields results. Did you know Satan has a method? This verse in Ephesians reveals it. Traced back to the Greek that word for “wiles” is where we get our word method. “Put on the whole armour of God”, Paul doesn’t just say that; he says it because if we are going to stand against the method the devil is going to use on us, we better be fully protected. Having on just some of the armor isn’t good enough, Satan’s method of attack will uncover the weak spot. We’ve studied at length the method he employs: thinking, feeling and acting. The very first person ever born on this earth shows us how vulnerable we really are. “Resist the devil”, James says. By that he means stand your ground, just like Joshua was ready to do when “he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” Of course then he found out he was speaking to the “captain of the host of the Lord” but he was ready to hold his ground if it came to that. Now, the Jews of Paul’s day didn’t have anyone close to a Joshua but I could easily imagine Paul’s characterization of a Christian soldier in “the whole armour of God” being based on Roman soldiers. History tells us that these were some bad mamma jammas. There uniforms said everything that needed to be said, just like that we are covered in a “robe of righteousness”. And just like a soldier has no business taking off his armor, we have no business taking off the robe of Christ’s righteousness to fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

            “Let us walk honestly”, Paul says. Two things that need to be pointed out there are “walk” and “honestly”. Your “walk” is what everybody sees, it is how you live. We are to do that “honestly”. In the pictorial language of the Greeks it meant to have a quality of elegance, grace and dignity. Those words describe too few Christians these days, what is sadder is more of us mirror the portrayal of the rest of the verse. That word “honestly” has everything to do with respect. We aren’t respecting the righteousness of Christ that we are robed with when we casually cast it off like some soiled garment so, we can go out and be worldly. Honestly is when our sanctification is just as real as our justification. Watch how you conduct yourself Christian. Remember, fit into society but don’t go along with it. That is exactly what Paul means when he says, “not in rioting”. The word he uses for “rioting” traces back to a festival held in honor of some ancient wine god. This “party”, you could call it, predictably got out of hand ever year. The world would say what do you call a party? Paul would ask, how is group intoxication a party? Rioting is just putting it in neutral and going along with the crowd, go back to I Thessalonians five. Look at verse six again; “let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” By “sober” it means in control, making decisions. When you go along with the crowd, you are not the one making decisions.

            If you still got I Thessalonians 5 notice that next verse, verse seven. It says, “they that be drunken are drunken in the night.” People use the cover of darkness to hide their sin. It is when we think we can’t be seen that our true intent comes out. Of course, “drunkenness” embarrassingly has the same effect on people. By that, in Romans, Paul means an intentional, habitual intoxication. It isn’t any surprise that Christians who “sleep” sometimes drink. There is an interesting parallel there. People who drink get to the point that they lose control. Christians who sleep experience a similar phenomenon. When we live in the flesh and not the Spirit, we lose that control that Christ died to give back to us. Paul explains that in Romans chapter six but you can read Jesus own words on the matter in John 8:32. While “rioting and drunkenness” often go together, so do “chambering and wantonness”. Both of these have to do with sexual excess. The first, “chambering” is exactly what it sounds like, it is the physical act behind closed doors. The second, “wantonness” has to do a mental attitude towards sexuality. Someone who is “wantonness” is someone who is shameless in their sexual lusts and desires and therefore has no restraint. When a people have no shame, they have no boundaries. These last two can go together as well, “strife and envying”. James 3:16 elaborates. You ever know someone who just argues to argue? Doesn’t even know why they are arguing, that is the “confusion” James speaks of. This sort of person is unstable on a good day and on a bad day, capable of “every evil work”. Even worse is when that person just wants to be an irritant. When they have no regard for how their actions affect those around them, that is called “strife”. The word Paul uses for “envying” is where the English word zeal comes form. We can put so much energy into these others things and never be any better off then when we started. That kind of selfishness comes with a price. After WWII US forces occupied Japan for some time. While we were there an investigation of the Japanese War Department’s archives was launched. Among the things they found was a chronicle that accessed our national character. The Japanese used it to determine when to attack Pearl Harbor. By their observations the Sunday after a Friday payday was the greatest window for a surprise attack. They had observed that when payday came on a Friday servicemen spent Saturday boozing up and come Sunday, they were in no shape to fight. What was once reverenced as the Lord’s day, the Japanese had deemed our national hangover day.

v. 14 Grow up

            We need to walk “as in the day” and this last verse tells us how; “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ”. That phrase “put ye on” is an interesting one, depending upon its usage it has a range of applications. Fitting with Paul’s admonition to “put on the armour of light”, here it means to sink into. Imagine someone putting on a suit of armour, it envelopes them, dwarfs them. Christ dwarfs us, at least we are to let Him; “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Often times we are more like Jacob in Genesis 28:20-22. He could easily be a member of the “Me Generation”. It reads like a list of demands; “keep me in this way that I go”, he sounds like a spoiled child. What would Paul have told him? Grow up!

            “Let us walk honestly, as in the day”, you know what he means by that? He means, for too many Christians their spiritualness is a bunch of “put on”. We put so much energy into the afore mentioned things, we make “provision for the flesh”. Go read II Corinthians 6:7. It says, “by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left”. You ever noticed how animated a magician or an illusionist is with their hands? The purpose of that is to divert your eyes away from what they are really doing. It is called “sleight of hand” and we Christians can be very good at it, when it comes to making provisions for the “flesh”. That word “sleight” comes to us from Old Norse and it is where we get our word sly from. We can be very sly with our sin. How so? As important as that question is, there is a bigger one at hand. The Bible says to “make not provision for the flesh” so, why do we do it? We do it to “fulfill the lusts thereof”. But why? Sin is an addiction. That word “lusts” is as close to addiction as you are going to find in an ancient language. We didn’t even coin the term “addiction” as so until around 1900. What is an addiction? It is an overpowering desire. That is exactly how lust is defined. One is physical but make no mistake both are spiritual. That is why we go out of our way to make “provision” or feed the flesh and then by sleight of hand try and hide it; just like an addict. It can get to the point that we let those things control us. Go back to the last half or Romans chapter seven and see if what Paul says doesn’t sound like what countless addicts have said.

            It says, “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ”, “by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left”. Going back to that sleight of hand metaphor; the “right hand” is the one you have out in front, the one you want everybody to see, while the “left” is the one that doesn’t get noticed so, it is free to do its own thing. That kind of righteousness is a “put on”, a mature Christian should never “put on”; I Peter 4:1-4 tells us what a mature Christian is. When Peter talks about someone that “hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin”, he is talking about the Christian that no longer has to “put on” because they’ve grown up. They have victory in their life because they are not struggling with their addiction to sin anymore. Peter relates back to what Paul says in Romans perfectly. You’ll remember Paul’s great concern for time well, Peter shares it. A mature Christian is someone that comes to the determination that “he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh” addicted to the “lusts of men”. Instead, the rest of his time is devoted “to the will of God.” His conclusion is based on that word “suffice”. It means to get enough. When are we going to get enough of our own filth, problems we created and consistently letting our Savior down?

B. With one mind and one mouth 14:1-15:14

1b.) Unified in weakness v. 1-15

            Chapter twelve spoke to us as believers, chapter thirteen spoke to a nation of believers and now chapter fourteen brings principle and practice together. Call it liberty. These next twelve verses deal with it exclusively. By “liberty” I mean the kinds of things the Bible doesn’t really speak on. Some have gone on to build entire doctrines around such things; this however, is error. Collectively the last leg of this current section centers on unity but if you’ve ever tried to get everyone in your family together in one place, at one time, for the same purpose then you know how liberty can get in the way of unity. Put that on a national scale and you easily have our political scene. So, how do we come together as “one body”, “with one mind and one mouth”? To answer that question we must look at our roots, Revolutionary Americans. They were unified in their weakness and through their faith they became strong. They came together as “one body”, to speak “with one mind and one mouth”. Unlike so many Americans today, they did not sleep. Too many Americans, believer and nonbeliever alike, are asleep: they are asleep in their complacency, they are asleep in their apathy, they are asleep in their materialism, they are asleep in their sinful condition, they are asleep spiritually. Meanwhile the “body” of America atrophies. The Church, as well, in America suffers from those same maladies. Were it left up to the Americans of our day “the shot heard round the world” might have never been fired.

            Back then they could say, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”. They were united by a commonality. What were those commonalities? They held “these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” On the one hand I could see why a government with communistic/socialistic tendencies would oppose such a belief system. That kind of governance is oppressive to its people by nature. They, by force when deemed necessary, drill it into the citizenry that rights are granted by the government. So, the truth that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” threatens them. But on the other hand, when Christians are told by their God to “be subject unto the higher powers”, for the life of me I can’t understand why any government wouldn’t want a Christian people. What bound Revolutionary Americans together were the things they agreed upon, as a nation we need to get back to that. It led to a bunch of farmers defeating a superpower. You can’t go back and take an honest look at history and not believe in “divine providence”. What they did was exactly what we see Paul, led by the Spirit, map out here: they squared away individual responsibility, chapter twelve, so that collectively they could deal with the communal responsibility, chapter thirteen and in chapter fourteen into fifteen for unity’s sake. For posterity’s sake our corporate responsibility, beyond denominational dividing lines, is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” as well as to “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

Remaining commentary is being written.