"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Study in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans – “On the Road of Righteousness” Chapter Thirteen: Awakening to Uprightness

~ by James Fire

Awakening to Uprightness

Now we continue in our study in this awesome epistle by the apostle! As with the previous chapter and the ones following, Paul turns from the doctrinal to the practical (as he most often does in his epistles). In this chapter we will examine the practical aspects of civil duties and obedience to “the higher powers” which God has ordained Himself. Then he gets into the love we have as a result of the spiritual rebirth in Christ which fulfills the law of God, and in turn leads us to sanctified living.

Evil Shall Not Overcome

In today's world one is hard pressed to find a government that is just and supportive in its protection of its people; some governments are even extremely tyrannical and despotic – speaking primarily to the Marxist-Socialist forms as well as the Islamic Sharia nations (whose subjugation and oppression of non-Muslims and even Muslim women is notorious!). What is the Christian's stand in the light of such conditions we find the world over, politically speaking? We shall examine these issues and more in Chapter Thirteen as well, as we travel on the road of righteousness!

At the end of ROMANS 12, Paul writes: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (ROM 12:21). 
Evil can corrupt us in one sense, by encouraging bitterness and cynicism because of all the wicked powers of evil in this world, or even severity of attacks by the enemy (consider Job). We must always keep our hearts focused on the LORD, and never succumb to Satan's lies, that "God doesn't love you, otherwise why would you be suffering so?"

We may not know the 'why's' of God's plans and purposes in our lives and the route He takes as He leads us from trial to trial. But let us not 'trade in' what we know about God for what we don't know (Why THIS trial LORD? Why didn't You prevent this LORD?). We know that God is love, that He is All-knowing, that He is All-powerful. That He is full of compassion and tender mercies. 

So if the One Who offered up His very own Son for our sins as His testimony of His love for us, then we must acknowledge that trials and suffering in our lives are methods and means by which God is doing a great work in our lives - even if we don't understand how this works! 

We shall overcome evil in this sense, by cleaving to the truth of God's Word and believing His faithful love and purpose in our lives, and rejecting the lies and deceptions of the enemy!

This is the conduct of a Christian in any circumstance; we are accountable to the LORD always, and if we are obedient to Him, then our conduct will be good. Let us keep this in mind as a yard stick of sorts as we examine this chapter.

Subjection For the LORD's Sake

ROMANS 13:1-2

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation

These powers are authorities in government, we know this by the context of these several verses. The admonition here is that we keep ourselves under the authority of government officials where civil matters are concerned. Our God is a God of order, and the political form of government known as Anarchy would not be in accordance to our God of order. We know the term “law and order” and the two go hand in hand. 

So that order may be maintained, there must be enforced law, and law is legislated and enforced according to the order that establishes it. When God made the different aspects of His creation in the first Six Days, at the conclusion of these, He pronounced that His ordering of things was “good”. So must we do 'good' by maintaining the order that God established in our society.

Paul's admonition goes on to say that those who resist this order shall receive civil and temporal damnation (or “judgment”); this has nothing to do with spiritual issues of salvation vs. damnation) because these orders in and of this world which is “ordained of God” (ACTS 23:2-5), just as He has ordained the nations themselves using the division of languages as a basis for these designations (GEN. 11:7-8).
God will ordain at times even the basest of men as rulers in this world (DAN. 4:17) who will abuse their power as a contrast to the One Who is the Messiah, whose rule will be one of order, righteousness, justice and peace.

Praying For Our Leaders

Aside from citizens being submitted to authorities and thereby keeping law and order according to the will of God, the saint is to honor God by likewise doing so (TITUS 3:1-3), and by praying for them (1 TIM. 2:1-2). It is often tempting to forego praying for our political officials when they are despised for what they stand for (things that God Himself despises: the endorsement of sinful lifestyles, the murder of the unborn, socialist policies which use 'taxation' as a justification to steal from the have's and give to the have not's) but we are nonetheless obligated to pray for them.

ROMANS 13:3-5
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

Paul elaborates here that rulers are not something to be feared by those who are doing good, and obedient to the law; those who are criminal in intent will flee for fear upon the sight of those flashing blue and red lights atop a black and white unit. The apostle reminds his readers that these are “minister[s] of God” and “revenger[s] to execute” punishments upon evil doers.

This presupposes that the government is established to enforce just laws by which good and obedient citizens may live without fear of predatorial criminals, who themselves would have every reason to fear, should the law find them out!

Obeying The Laws of the Land

So there are two reasons for the Christian to obey the law of the land: to live a life without fear, and also because our conscience holds us bound to follow the LORD's commands (2 COR. 1:12; 1 TIM. 1:5; 1 PET. 3:16), such as these notable ones before us (See also: 1 PET. 3:13; 4:14-16):

ROMANS 13:6-8
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. 
8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

Are we obligated to obey a government that enacts laws that are contrary to the Word of GOD? We will get into that in just a moment . . . 

Taxes are never a favorite subject of mine in the study of Scripture, nor am I overjoyed in having to pay for them; yet they are a form of economic obligation whereby those civil servants whose station in any nation for the preservation of law and order are furnished with finances necessary to fulfill their respective tasks. Not only taxes and tariffs (“tribute” and “customs”) are to be given willingly by the saints of God, but also respect (“fear”) and honor to all officials in their capacities of duty.

No where in Scripture can we find an admonition clearer than that given by the LORD Jesus Christ Himself on this very subject:

MATTHEW 22:16-21
16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 
21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.

We Are To Obey Corrupt Institutions Also?

We understand that the money system that we (and nations the world over) are subjected to is not a just system, nor is it supported by our Constitution; that it is a fiat currency printed as a private property of a central banking system (the Federal Reserve), and that it is essentially illegal.
Are we then permitted to forego any obligation in taxation, because it is an unlawful system? There could be an argument made for this case, no doubt; however, for myself – I will “render to Caesar the things that are [belong to] Caesar's” and let the LORD deal with the illegal activities and and lawless deeds perpetrated by the creators of this 'Creature from Jekyll Island'. However, we are not made in the image of any other than GOD - this image was marred when Adam fell, but restored to us saints, through Christ.

He purchased us with His own blood, and so we belong to GOD, regardless of what any corrupt government may claim - GOD's authority overrules any dictates or declarations of any human institution!
We are to be indebted to no one – to pay our bills in a timely fashion (I've spoken with Christian and non-Christian businessmen and they complain the most about their (fellow) Christians who owe them money for services rendered!).
To be indebted is a poor witness indeed; but I'm not speaking of indebtedness where loans are concerned necessarily. Yet even where these are concerned, Christians ought to be timely in their monthly payments – to do otherwise is displeasing to the LORD of justice and fairness.
We are allowed one aspect in life, where we owe others: that is to love one another, and by so doing fulfill the law (JOHN 13:34-35; 2 JOHN 1:5-6). Since love is the fulfillment of the law, one must wonder how and why those who espouse Hebrew Roots Movement dogma and the requirement to “keep the law” cannot simply rest in this truth, that all one need do is love the LORD and others, and thereby all the particulars and details of the law are kept in the spirit in which they were intended.
Respecting and obeying the authorities is the theme of these verses, but the question arises on the matter of authorities and governments that are corrupt, dishonest, even unjust or cruel.
Are we obligated to obey them as well? 
It's noteworthy to consider that the Roman government itself was extremely corrupt in the LORD Jesus' day, and even more so during the days of the apostle Paul; nowhere in Scripture does it state that we are allowed to disobey these authorities where civil matters are concerned.
Should any government enact laws that would insist on our disobedience to God and the truth of His Word, then we must speak as Peter spoke to the Jewish authority of the Sanhedrin (in this case, they demanded that they stop preaching this Jesus and His gospel):

ACTS 4:19-20
19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 
20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
In this case, the apostles resisted the command of this political/religious authority in keeping silence regarding the Person of Jesus Christ and followed rather the command of their LORD and Savior (MARK 16:15).

A Broken System of Checks And Balances

Here in America we have had the privilege of a "great experiment" as it was called, fully realized in the writing and implementation of the Constitution of the United States of America, a constitutional republic based on just law – in the case of America, the law as found not on the precepts and philosophies of man's intellect (as was the case in Greece, under Plato's guidance) but in the Holy Scriptures.

Not many Americans can rightly guess who the leader of our nation is; most will say the President of the United States. In reality he is the head of the Executive Branch; others may indicate Congress, but they are the representatives of the Legislative Branch, and the Supreme Court is the authority of the Judicial Branch.

However, all three Branches and their respective leaders have all made oaths and swore to uphold and protect the 'leader' of our nation, that is, the Constitution itself which is to guide our government in policies concerning the people and rightful rule.

The fact that our Constitution is being dismantled and replaced by Socialists and their own proclivities in order to abrogate the freedoms and rights of the American people, and further to form a more perfect union of iniquity and perdition with the forming global government is in evidence.

What are we as Christians to do? Continue to pray for our officials. Continue to obey the civil laws where they don't overtly contradict God's Word. Continue to share the Gospel, pray for our nation, and to show forth all of these things with an eye towards prophetic Scripture in hailing the nearness of the Great Tribulation as well as the LORD's return and the coming Judgment.

It's very easy to get worked up and angry at the injustices we witness and those we anticipate in our near future, as well as the stripping away of our Constitutional rights as Americans. It's understandable how we would want to restore our nation and stand united with one voice against the bloated Federal government and declare that “Enough is enough!” To restore the just and fair Balance of Powers to the Three Branches of government as outlined by our Constitution so that Washington once again becomes a servant to the people and not the other way around.

However, we as Christians are obligated to keep our allegiance to the Kingdom of God first and foremost and to understand the mind of the LORD in these last days. It is to our credit to lay the injustices perpetrated against us at the nail pierced feet of “the Judge of the whole Earth” and not seek vengeance ourselves (GEN 18:25; ISAIAH 63:4; ROM 12:9).

Consider what PSALM 37 tells us regarding the evil leaders of this world system:


Abiding By The Law of Love

ROMANS 13:10

10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

On the issue of the grace of God and the Law, consider these two articles, beginning with: Where Are You: Law or Grace? - Part One

MATTHEW 22:37-40
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 
38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Do You Know The Time?

ROMANS 13:11-12
11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

“Knowing the time” is in reference to the knowledge and awareness of where we stand in relation to the prophetic time clock that God holds in His eternal hand. Paul here refers to the night and to darkness which have the spiritual implications of iniquity, disorder and lawlessness which will only increase as we draw nearer to the end times; in Paul's own estimation, “the night is far spent, the day is at hand” - the night of man's sinful and corrupt rule, culminating in the very reign and ruin of “the man of sin” (2 THESS 2:3) and the day, which is “the day of the LORD” (2 PET. 3:10) where the LORD Jesus Christ will have direct interaction with the church, Israel, the world and all creation at large and assume the rightful rule as LORD of all, the MESSIAH of ISRAEL!

“...our salvation is nearer than when we believed.” What can this possibly mean? Aren't we who are the body of Christ, Christians that are born again in Jesus by His Spirit already saved? Certainly! But this refers to our very bodies which are still corrupt, prone to sin via the carnal nature and in need of redemption, which will occur when we meet the LORD in the air on that glorious Day (ROM 8:23; 1 COR 15:50-54)!
The provision of the armor of Light by the LORD of Light has two purposes: to expose those things that are hidden in the dark of this world, and to protect the wearer from any invading darkness. 

I heard it said once that, "God provided His armor for us to insulate us in the world, not isolate us from the world."
And as was stated by Coriakin the Magician in The CHRONICLES of NARNIA – 3: Voyage of the Dawn Treader: 
To defeat the darkness out there, you must first defeat the darkness that is inside yourself.” 
Light spiritually speaking refers to the very opposite of darkness: order, law, purity and holiness, understanding and discernment.   See also: 1 JOHN 3:2; JAMES 5:8; EPH 5:14-16.
ROMANS 13:13-14
13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

Verse 13 refers to such darkness; verse 14 is the light as given by the LORD to His children – as we “put on” the LORD Jesus Christ, we find incredible liberty that enables us for the first time in our lives to walk in the Spirit, to follow the LORD and to resist sin (GAL 4:31-5:1,16-18).
Putting on this “armor of light” is synonymous with “putting on the LORD Jesus Christ” - which protects us from personal peril and also any harm from the enemy's vicious assaults as we venture into his kingdom of darkness to rescue Satan's slaves of sin from their miserable plight of bondage and corruption.

This concludes this study and we shall now venture forward to Chapter 14 and the near conclusion of this epistle to the Romans by the apostle Paul, on this Road of Righteousness!

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