We are called to no longer conform to the patterns of this world, because our citizenship is in heaven. But what do we owe this world? The sermon text for this message is Romans 13:1-8.Greensburg Church of the Nazarene
**not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript**
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world.” Paul, the same writer of that verse, also wrote in Philippians 3:20, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” In these verses, Paul is communicating to Christians, both of his day and ours, that you and I no longer belong to this world.
While we belong to the kingdom of heaven, here we are. We live on this giant blue spinning ball, sucking in air and striving to get from this earthly life to the next. Since you and I are no longer of this world, it seems a waste to expend any energy to save this world destined for destruction. As believers in Jesus Christ, what do we owe this world? By world, I mean people.
READING THE TEXT: Romans 13:1-8
1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath, but also because of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. 8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (NRSV)
This is the Word of God, for the people of God, thanks be to God.
IN THE TEXT: Truth about authority
***(v1-2) Love God by adhering to order***
As I mentioned in the opening, Paul writes in Romans 12:2 that we are not to conform to the patterns of this world, instead we are to conform to the ways of God. The ways of this world are based on wickedness and violence. God’s beautiful creation is one of order and structure, so are His ways.
Even though Christians are not of this world and are to conform to the ways of God, this does not give us exemption from the governing authorities. Governments operate under God’s authority, to provide order for humanity, a race prone to wickedness and violence.
Even though believers are citizens of heaven, they are also still citizens of this world. For Christians to conform to the ways of God, they are to conform to the governing authority as a way of God. To love God, His people follow the rules of their leaders.
***(v3-5) Love God by doing what is good***
As Paul continues in verses 3-5, the apostle is clearly assuming that the rulers are living up to the purpose of government. He assumes the laws are just. The lawmakers are honorable in making just laws, and the law keepers are upright in their enforcement. Christians are not to be blind governmental loyalists, to love God is to stand up to even the government’s injustice.
The purpose of the government is to keep order and prevent anarchy, which is what would happen if people had no one to keep them in line. God has given governments the authority to punish those who refuse to submit to law and order. Living in submission to the governing authorities is to keep the government off your back. Lawless hooligans have every reason to fear them, but law-abiding citizens have no reason to be afraid.
For the Christian, submitting to the earthly leaders is more than trying to stay out of trouble. A believer seeks to do good for more than a stay out of jail card. It is so as followers of Christ they can go through this life with a clear conscience before God. Knowing that they have loved God by doing what is good is enough. But they also know their rebellious behavior will lead to the authorities finding objections to the gospel. They love God by doing what is right so that His light shines, and it leaves those living in darkness without excuse. Including our earthly leaders.
***(v6-7) Love God by loving others***
In verse 7, Paul uses the word “pay.” A payment is not an option, it is something a person is obligated to pay. Paul says Christians are to pay someone whatever they are due. If taxes are due, then pay them. Pay respect and honor to those who have offices that are owed respect and honor. And what is really at the heart of respecting and honoring someone? Love. Christians love God by loving others, that includes submission to the earthly governing authorities.
Keep in mind who the ruling kingdom is as Paul wrote this passage. He is living under the authority of the Roman empire, writing a letter to Christians living in the city of Rome. Rome was ruled by the Caesars, who believed they were owed worshipped and ruled with brutality to secure their power. A man named Nero was Caesar at this point, an extremely evil and violent dictator. Even under such circumstances, Paul is telling Christians to love God by loving others through submitting to the government. Theologian NT Wright commented, “…for Paul being able to say, ‘the existing powers are ordained by God’… is part of Christian maturity…”. A Christian who refuses to pay taxes, disregards laws, and openly rebels against order fails to love others, thus failing to love God who is the author of order.
FROM THE TEXT: Truth about love
What do we owe the world? Based on the passage written by Paul, the answer is love. That is what Jesus, our Lord and Savior, gave, how can we expect to give anything less? Love is what you and I as Christians owe everyone. What does this love owed the world look like?
This love rejoices in the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6) Isn’t that the point of a justice system? To have laws so those who practice evil can be brought to justice and those who submit be protected? Justice can only exist through truth.
This love covers over sin with truth. (1 Peter 4:8) It covers sinful actions, lies, and mistaken assumptions. By covers over, I am not meaning that those things are swept under the rug and ignored. Love confronts evil and stands tall at its onslaught, absorbing evil and its effects so they stop at love’s doorstep.
When love absorbs evil, all that is false is removed so all that remains is the truth. Love reveals the truth. The Bible tells us that we are to “love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:18) Our loving actions, directed toward God and others, reveal the truth. Think about the three men in the fiery furnace. Standing before Nebuchadnezzar, they did not call him names. They told him about God, and when God came through the flames with them Nebuchadnezzar was confronted with God. Daniel gets tossed in a lions’ den because of an unjust law, one King Darius knew was a trap. How does Daniel respond when Darius comes to check on him the next morning? Daniel responds in love after the truth confronted Darius. Our love, even directed toward the government, even when it is unjust, will reveal truth. And through truth, love sets captives free.
BEYOND THE TEXT: Pay everyone with love
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” God’s word is calling for us to pay everyone with love, regardless of any excuses we have to offer. If this is indeed God’s word, then it demands our response. How will you and I respond?
Season 1 Episode 33, "Most important question." The text for the message is from Mark 8:27-30, part 1 of a series called The Son of Man. The question we are trying to answer is "What is the most important question?"