Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Walk in Newness of Life.

Walk in Newness of Life.
Colossians 3-4

In the final two chapters of Colossians, Paul moved into the practical application of the doctrines he had been teaching. After all, it does little good if Christians declare and defend the truth, but fail to demonstrate it in their lives. There are some Christians who will defend the truth at the drop of a hat, but their personal lives deny the doctrines they profess to love. "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him" (Titus 1:16).

This section completes Paul's exhortation to the Christian to live a holy life. It continues the illustration of garments: "Put off... put on" (Col. 3:8-10). He exhorted his readers to put off the graveclothes of sin and the old life, and to put on the "graceclothes" of holiness and the new life in Christ.

The emphasis in this section is on motives. Why should we put off the old deeds and put on the qualities of the new life? Paul explained four motives that ought to encourage us to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).

The Grace of Christ (Col. 3:12-14)

Grace is God's favor to undeserving sinners. Paul reminded the Colossians of what God's grace had done for them.

God chose them (v. 12a). The word elect means "chosen of God." God's words to Israel through Moses help us to understand the meaning of salvation by grace: "The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people. But because the Lord loved you ... hath the Lord brought you out [of Egypt] with a mighty hand" (Deut. 7:7-8).

God set them apart (v. 12). That is the meaning of the word holy. Because we have trusted Christ, we have been set apart from the world unto the Lord. We are not our own; we belong completely to Him (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Just as the marriage ceremony sets apart a man and a woman for each other exclusively, so salvation sets the believer apart exclusively for Jesus Christ. 

God loves them (v. 12). When an unbeliever sins, he is a creature breaking the laws of the holy Creator and Judge. But when a Christian sins, he is a child of God breaking the loving heart of his Father. Love is the strongest motivating power in the world. As the believer grows in his love for God, he will grow in his desire to obey Him and walk in the newness of life that he has in Christ.

God has forgiven them (vv. 13-14). "Having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:13). God's forgiveness is complete and final; it is not conditional or partial. How is the holy God able to forgive us guilty sinners? Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. God has forgiven us "for Christ's sake" (Eph. 4:32), and not for our own sake.

Chosen by God, set apart for God, loved by God, and forgiven by God. They all add up to GRACE! Now, because of these gracious blessings, the Christian has some solemn responsibilities before God. He must put on the beautiful graces of the Christian life. Paul named eight graces.

1. Put on... tender mercies (Col. 3:12). 
2. Put on... kindness (Col. 3:12). 
3. Put on... humbleness of mind (Col. 3:12). 
4. Put on... meekness (Col. 3:12).
5. Put on... longsuffering (Col. 3:12). 
6. Put on... forbearance (Col. 3:13). 
7. Put on... forgiveness (Col. 3:13). 
8. Put on... love (Col. 3:14). This is the most important of the Christian virtues, and it acts like a "girdle" that ties all the other virtues together. All of the spiritual qualities Paul has named are aspects of true Christian love, as a reading of 1 Corinthians 13 will reveal. Love is the first of the fruit of the Spirit and the other virtues follow—joy (Col. 3:16), peace (Col. 3:15), longsuffering, gentleness, kindness, and meekness (Col. 3:12).

When love rules in our lives, it unites all these spiritual virtues so that there is beauty and harmony, indicating spiritual maturity. This harmony and maturity keep the life balanced and growing. The gnostic system could never do this.

The Peace of Christ (Col. 3:15)

In this verse Paul turned from character to conduct. How can a Christian know when he is doing God's will? One answer is: the peace of Christ in the heart and in the church. When the believer loses his inner peace, he knows that he has in some way disobeyed God.

The word translated "rule" is an athletic term. It means "to preside at the games and distribute the prizes." Paul used a variation of this word in his Letter to the Colossians: "Let no one declare you unworthy of a prize" (literal translation, Col. 2:18). In the Greek games, there were judges (we would call them umpires) who rejected the contestants who were not qualified, and who disqualified those who broke the rules.

The peace of God is the "Umpire" in our believing hearts and our churches. When we obey the will of God, we have His peace within; but when we step out of His will (even unintentionally), we lose His peace.

When a Christian loses the peace of God, he begins to go off in directions that are out of the will of God. He turns to the things of the world and the flesh to compensate for his lack of peace within. He tries to escape, but he cannot escape himself. It is only when he confesses his sin, claims God's forgiveness, and does God's will that he experiences God's peace within.

When there is peace in the heart, there will be praise on the lips: "And be ye thankful" (Col. 3:15). The Christian out of God's will is never found giving sincere praise to God. When David covered up his sins, he lost his peace and his praise (Pss. 32; 51). When he confessed his sins, then his song returned.

The Word of Christ (Col. 3:16)

This means, of course, the Word of God. The false teachers came to Colossae with man-made traditions, religious rules,, and human philosophies. They tried to harmonize God's Word with their teachings, but they could not succeed. God's Word always magnifies Jesus Christ.

It was not the word of false teachers that brought salvation to the Colossians; it was the Word of the truth of the Gospel (Col. 1:5). This same Word gives us life and sustains and strengthens us (1 Peter 1:22-2:3).

The Word will transform our lives if we will but permit it to "dwell" in us richly. The word dwell means "to feel at home." If we have experienced the grace and the peace of Christ, then the Word of Christ will feel at home in our hearts. We will discover how rich the Word is with spiritual treasures that give value to our lives.
However, we must not think that Paul wrote this only to individual Christians; for he directed it to the entire church body. "Let the Word of Christ dwell among you" is a possible translation. As it dwells richly in each member of the church, it will dwell richly in the church fellowship.

There is (according to Paul) a definite relationship between our knowledge of the Bible and our expression of worship in song. One way we teach and encourage ourselves and others is through the singing of the Word of God. But if we do not know the Bible and understand it, we cannot honestly sing it from our hearts.

The Name of Christ (Col. 3:17)

In modern society, we pay little attention to names. But the ancient world held a man's name to be of utmost importance. Often, during Old Testament days, God changed a person's name because of some important experience or some new development As Christians, we bear the name of Christ. The word Christian is found only three times in the entire New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). The name was given originally as a term of contempt, but gradually it became a name of honor. The name of Christ, then, means identification: we belong to Jesus Christ.

But His name also means authority. A man's name signed to a check authorizes the withdrawal of money from the bank. The President's name signed to a bill makes it a law. In the same way, it is in the name of Jesus Christ that we have the authority to pray (John 14:13-14; 16:23-26). Because Jesus Christ is God, and He has died for us, we have authority in His name.

Bearing the name of Jesus is a great privilege, but it is also a tremendous responsibility. We suffer persecution because we bear His name (John 15:20-21). I have noticed in conversations that you can tell people you are a Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or even an atheist, and there will be little response. But if you tell people you are a Christian, and bring the name of Christ into the conversation, almost immediately there is some kind of response, and it is usually negative.
Every parent tries to teach his children to honor the family name. In just a few minutes, a person can disgrace a name that it has taken his ancestors years to build. For example, the Hebrew name Judah is a respected name; it means "praise." The New Testament equivalent is "Judas"—and who would name his son Judas?

Note that Paul again mentioned thanksgiving in this Colossian letter. Whatever we do in the name of Christ ought to be joined with thanksgiving. If we cannot give thanks, then we had better not do it or say it! This is the fifth of six references in Colossians to thanksgiving (Col. 1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2). When we remember that Paul was a Roman prisoner when he wrote this letter, it makes this emphasis on thanksgiving that much more wonderful.

As we review these four spiritual motivations for godly living, we are impressed with the centrality of Jesus Christ. 

We forgive because Christ forgave us (Col. 3:13). It is the peace of Christ that should rule in our hearts (Col. 3:15). The Word of Christ should dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). The name of Christ should be our identification and our authority. "Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:11).

Since we are united with Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have all the resources we need for holy living. But we must be spiritually motivated. Because we have experienced the grace of Christ, we want to live for Him. Because we have enjoyed the peace of Christ, we want to obey Him. We have been enriched by the Word of Christ, and ennobled by the name of Christ; therefore, we want to honor and glorify Him.
Can we desire any higher motivation?

Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - New Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 2.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Faithful, Thankful, Purposeful

Colossians 3-4

Never underestimate the power of speech. A judge says a few words, and a man's life is saved or condemned. A doctor speaks a few words, and a patient either rejoices ecstatically or gives up in despair. Whether the communication is oral or written, there is great power in words. I am told that for every word in Adolph Hitler's book Mein Kampf, 125 persons lost their lives in World War II.
The power of speech is a gift from God, and it must be used the way God ordains. In the Book of James, the tongue is compared to a bridle and a rudder, a fire and a poisonous animal, and a fruitful tree and a fountain (James 3). These three pairs of pictures teach us that the tongue has the power to direct, the power to destroy, and the power to de-fight. The tongue is but a little member in our bodies, but it can accomplish great things for good or for evil.

~ Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - New Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 2.

Paul points out four ministries of the tongue in this chapter.
1.  Praying (2-3)
2.  Proclaiming the Word (3-4)
3.  Witnessing to the Lost (5-6)
4.  Sharing burdens (7-9)

Let me point out three reminders I see in the admonish Paul gives the church to pray.

1.  Faithful
VS. 2 "CONTINUE earnestly in prayer..."

I am guilty of not praying faithfully and consistently if God doesn't answer my prayer immediately.  Continue to pray faithfully even when you don't see the answer as quickly as you thought you should.

2.  Thankful
VS. 2 "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with THANKSGIVING."

I am guilty of asking God to fix my problems and then failing to THANK Him when He answers my prayers.  We have a ladies Connect Group that keeps track of their answered prayers.  I love that they praise God for every answer to prayer.  I travelled to Springfield a week or so ago and when I got back they marked it down as another answered prayer.  THANK God everyday.

3.  Purposeful 
VS. 3 "meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak they mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains."

Paul asked them to pray.  He gave them the purpose for their prayer.  He wanted the church to pray that God would open the door for the GOSPEL to be presented.  Let's pray for God to give us opportunities to share the Gospel.  Let's pray for God to give opportunities for our missionary partners all over the world to share the Gospel.

I often get stuck praying the comfort prayers and fail to pray for God to use me to reach the lost.  Let's pray FAITHFULLY, THANKFULLY, and with PURPOSE.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

In JESUS we have Redemption

 Colossians 1-2

The famous Scottish preacher, Alexander Whyte, was known as an appreciator. He loved to write postcards to people, thanking them for some kindness or blessing they had brought to his life. Those messages often brought a touch of encouragement to a heart just when it was needed most. Appreciation is great medicine for the soul.

The Apostle Paul was a great encourager, and this epistle is a good example of the grace of thanksgiving. In this section (which is one long sentence in the original Greek), he gives thanks for what Christ has done in the lives of the Colossian Christians. But he also mentions thanksgiving in five other places in this letter: Colossians 1:12; 2:7; 3:15, 17; and 4:2. When you recall that Paul wrote this letter in prison, his attitude of thanksgiving is even more wonderful.

Like Paul, we should be grateful for what God is doing in the lives of others. As Christians, we are all members of one body (1 Cor. 12:12-13). If one member of the body is strengthened, this helps to strengthen the entire body. If one church experiences a revival touch from God, it will help all the churches. In this expression of thanksgiving, Paul traced the stages in the spiritual experience of the Colossian believers.

They Heard the Gospel (Col. 1:5b-7)

The Good News of the Gospel was not native to their city. It had to be brought to them; and in their case, Epaphras was the messenger. He was himself a citizen of Colossae (Col. 4:12-13), but he had come in contact with Paul and had been converted to Jesus Christ. This was probably during Paul's great three-year ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:10).

They Believed in Jesus Christ (Col. 1:4)

It is possible to hear and not believe, even though the Word of God has the power to generate faith in those who hear (Rom. 10:17). Millions of people have heard the Good News of salvation and yet not believed. But those who believe in Jesus Christ receive from God the gift of eternal life (John 3:14-18).

They Were Discipled (Col. 1:7)

Epaphras did not simply lead the Colossians to Christ and then abandon them. He taught them the Word and sought to establish their faith. The word translated "learned" in Colossians 1:7 is related to the word disciple in the Greek language. It is the same word Jesus used: "Learn of Me" (Matt. 11:29) or, in effect, "Become My disciple."

They Became Faithful in Christ (Col. 1:6, 8)

The Word of God is seed (Luke 8:11). This means the Word has life in it (Heb. 4:12). When it is planted in the heart, it can produce fruit. "All over the world this Gospel is producing fruit and growing" (Col. 1:6, niv).

You cannot keep silent once you have experienced salvation in Jesus Christ. Is your Christian life the kind that encourages others and makes it easy for them to witness? Is your church fellowship so exciting that even the unsaved are taking notice?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bold Faith

Acts 25 

Acts 25:11
For If I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if here is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them, I appeal to Ceasar.

·       Boldness of Paul
                  Acts 9:29 | Acts 13:46 | Acts 14:3 | Acts 18:26 | Acts 19:8 | Acts 28:31

I am amazed that Paul asked people to pray that God would give him boldness and courage to share his faith.  I would consider Paul to be one of the greatest missionaries to ever live.  I can't imagine that he was scared to share his faith.  As you read the book of Acts you see his courage to share his faith over and over.  As I read the book of Acts and study the life of Paul I am convicted of how often I let fear keep me from sharing my faith.  I believe many believers today are like me.  They allow fear to keep them from being a witness of God.

This week we have had heard of two reports of our Hallmark Kids sharing their faith.  A seven year old shared his faith with a classmate and she told him that she didn't go to church.  The next day he took an invite card to give to her.  Yesterday a five year old boy met up with a friend at the park and shared Jesus.  He told the other boy that Jesus loved him and died for him so that he could go to heaven.  WOW! This is amazing.  These kids were challenged in KidsChurch to make disciples and they had boldness and courage to do exactly what God ask all of us to do.  

Paul was bold, these students were bold.  Let's be bold.

·       Total Surrender
                  Philippians 3:7-8 | Philippians 1:21 | Acts 20:24 | Acts 25:11

Have you heard the story about the chicken and the pig who were discussing what to have for breakfast?

The chicken suggested, "Let's have ham and eggs." To which the pig responded quickly, "No way! For you that's just a contribution, but for me that's total commitment!"

Philippians 1:21
21  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 

Philippians 3:7-8 
7  But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
8  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 

Paul completely gave his life up for the sake of the Gospel.
Paul surrendered everything have you?
What are you holding back?
What have you kept from God's control in your life?

·       What are you afraid of?
                  Acts 24:25
Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have CONVENIENT time I will call for you.”

Two Questions to consider. 
1.     What is God convicting you of?
                  Salvation? | Baptism? | Tithing? | Missions Giving? | Serving? | Sharing your faith?

2.     How Will You Answer?

2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Let't be like Paul and these young HallmarkKids...
Let's surrender completely to God and be BOLD in our FAITH.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Be of good cheer, Paul.

Acts 22-23

Chapters 22-23 relate the events surrounding Paul's imprisonment in Jerusalem and his transfer to Caesarea.  After he was arrested, Paul addressed the Jewish mob in the temple courtyard - the same mob that moments before sought to kill him.  

Paul's speech included a description of Jesus' call in Paul's life - a c all he was being obedient to follow, even in chains.  When the angry crowd abruptly ended Paul's speech, he was taken in to the Roman barracks.  

A Roman centurion was ordered to flog him.  Paul revealed his Roman citizenship to the centurion, who quickly informed his commanding officer.  From that point on, the Romans treated Paul much differently.  This situation grieved Paul deeply.  

In the midst of such circumstances, God reminded Paul that He is always at work and that He would empower Paul to preach the Gospel in Rome.  God's WORD and God's WORK in our lives strengthens us to continue living for HIM.

  • How does God's providential love and care for Paul speak to a difficult situation you are facing this week?
  • What from Paul's example encourages and challenges you most?

~ Robby Gallaty (Foundations page 238)

Monday, November 13, 2017

I cried during Homeward Bound

Acts 20-21

I confess and may need to have my man-card revoked for crying during the 1993 movie, Homeward Bound.   Did you cry?  Shadow comes over the hill and Peter runs out to embrace him and I admit I hid my face in shame because I was crying.

Today in the reading of Acts 20 we read about Paul shedding a few tears.

Acts 20:31
31  Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
Paul was writing to the Ephesian church and reminded them that there is sacrifice involved in serving the Lord.  Paul sacrificed everything for the sake of the gospel.  Paul daily took up his cross to follow Jesus.  He surrendered his will to God's will everyday.  As I read the journey's of Paul I am challenged to do more for the sake of the Gospel.  I am reminded that I give up so little and yet God has given me so much. I am reminded that sharing the Gospel is my responsibility and privilege.

Acts 20:24 
24  But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

Paul, through his example, reveals to us how we should serve the Lord each day.

1.  Humbly (19)
2.  Boldly (20)
3.  Obediently (22)
4.  Totally (24)
5.  Passionatley (31)
6.  Prayerfully (36)

Let's take a moment to focus on number 5.  Paul served the Lord passionately.

Acts 20:31
31  Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.

He says he cried for the sake of the gospel and for the people to whom he ministered.  I thought about three different reasons Paul cried.  Let me point out three reasons I believe Paul cried.

1.  Tears of PRIDE for those who believed and became followers of JESUS.
2.  Tears of PAIN for the sufferings Paul endured for the sake of the GOSPEL.
3.  Tears of PASSION for those who would not or had not placed their faith in JESUS.

Paul served the Lord with passion.  He was passionate for those who did not know Jesus.  Today I evaluate my life and my passion.  Today you should evaluate your life and your passion.

When was the last time you passionately prayed for the lost? 


Friday, November 10, 2017

Can't we all get along?!

Romans 15

Disunity has always been a major problem with God's people. Even the Old Testament records the civil wars and family fights among the people of Israel, and almost every local church mentioned in the New Testament had divisions to contend with. The Corinthians were divided over human leaders, and some of the members were even suing each other (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 6:1-8). The Galatian saints were "biting and devouring" one another (Gal. 5:15), and the saints in Ephesus and Colossae had to be reminded of the importance of Christian unity (Eph. 4:1-3; Col. 2:1-2). In the church at Philippi, two women were at odds with each other and, as a result, were splitting the church (Phil. 4:1-3). No wonder the psalmist wrote, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Ps. 133:1).

Some of these problems stemmed from the backgrounds of the believers in the churches. The Jews, for example, were saved out of a strict legalistic background that would be difficult to forget. The Gentiles never had to worry about diets and days. The first church council in history debated the issue of the relationship of the Christian to the Law (Acts 15).

Unfortunately, we have similar problems today with many "gray areas" of life that are not clearly right or wrong to every believer. Some activities we know are wrong, because the Bible clearly condemns them. Other activities we know are right, because the Bible clearly commands them. But when it comes to areas that are not clearly defined in Scripture, we find ourselves needing some other kind of guidance. Paul gave principles of this guidance. He explained how believers could disagree on nonessentials and still maintain unity in the church. He gave his readers three important admonitions.

Receive One Another (Rom. 14:1-12)

It is not our responsibility to decide the requirements for Christian fellowship in a church; only the Lord can do this. To set up man-made restrictions on the basis of personal prejudices (or even convictions) is to go beyond the Word of God. Because God has received us, we must receive one another. We must not argue over these matters, nor must we judge or despise one another. Perhaps St. Augustine put the matter best: "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity."

Edify One Another (Rom. 14:13-23)

If we stopped with the first admonition, it might give the impression that Christians were to leave each other alone and let the weak remain weak. But this second admonition explains things further. The emphasis is not on "master-servant" but on "brother." It is the principle of brotherly love. If we love each other, we will seek to edify each other, build each other up in the faith. Paul shared several facts to help his readers help their brethren.

Young Christians need the kind of fellowship that will protect them and encourage them to grow. But we cannot treat them like "babies" all their lives! The older Christians must exercise love and patience and be careful not to cause them to stumble. But the younger Christians must "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). As they mature in the faith, they can help other believers to grow. To gear the ministry of a Sunday School class or local church only to the baby Christians is to hinder their growth as well as the ministry of the more mature saints. The weak must learn from the strong, and the strong must love the weak. The result will be peace and maturity to the glory of God.

Please One Another (Rom. 15:1-7)

Paul classified himself with the strong saints as he dealt with a basic problem—selfishness. True Christian love is not selfish; rather, it seeks to share with others and make others happy. It is even willing to carry the younger Christians, to help them along in their spiritual development. We do not endure them. We encourage them!
Of course, the great example in this is our Lord Jesus Christ. He paid a tremendous price in order to minister to us. Paul quoted Psalm 69:9 to prove his point. Does a strong Christian think he is making a great sacrifice by giving up some food or drink? Then let him measure his sacrifice by the sacrifice of Christ. No sacrifice we could ever make could match Calvary.

A person's spiritual maturity is revealed by his discernment. He is willing to give up his rights that others might be helped. He does this, not as a burden, but as a blessing. Just as loving parents make sacrifices for their children, so the mature believer sacrifices to help younger Christians grow in the faith.

Paul shared the two sources of spiritual power from which we must draw if we are to live to please others: the Word of God (Rom. 15:4) and prayer (Rom. 15:5-6).  Paul closed this section praying for his readers, that they might experience from God that spiritual unity that He alone can give.
This suggests to us that the local church must major in the Word of God and prayer. The first real danger to the unity of the church came because the Apostles were too busy to minister God's Word and pray (Acts 6:1-7). When they found others to share their burdens, they returned to their proper ministry, and the church experienced harmony and growth.

The result of this is, of course, glory to God (Rom. 15:7). Disunity and disagreement do not glorify God; they rob Him of glory. Abraham's words to Lot are applicable to today: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee... for we be brethren" (Gen. 13:8). The neighbors were watching! Abraham wanted them to see that he and Lot were different from them because they worshiped the true God. In His prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed for the unity of the church to the glory of God (John 17:20-26).

Receive one another; edify one another; and please one another—FOR HIS GLORY

Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - New Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Wake up, Clean up, Grow up

Romans 13-14

Our Relationship to the State (Rom. 13:1-14)

God has established three institutions: the home (Gen. 2:18-25), government (Gen. 9:1-17), and the church (Acts 2). Paul was writing to believers at the very heart of the Roman Empire. As yet, the great persecutions had not started, but were on the way. Christianity was still considered a Jewish sect, and the Jewish religion was approved by Rome. But the day would come when it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for a Christian to be loyal to the emperor. He could not drop incense on the altar and affirm, "Caesar is god!"

 Paul explains four reasons why the Christian must be in subjection to the laws of the State.

For wrath's sake (vv. 1-4). 
It is God who has established the governments of the world (see Acts 17:24-28). This does not mean that He is responsible for the sins of tyrants, but only that the authority to rule comes originally from God. It was this lesson that Nebuchadnezzar had to learn the hard way. (See Dan. 4, and especially vv. 17, 25, and 32.) To resist the law is to resist the God who established government in the world, and this means inviting punishment.

Rulers must bear the sword; that is, they have the power to afflict punishment and even to take life. God established human government because man is a sinner and must have some kind of authority over him. God has given the sword to rulers, and with it the authority to punish and even to execute. Capital punishment was ordained in Genesis 9:5-6, and it has not been abolished. Even though we cannot always respect the man in office, we must respect the office, for government was ordained by God.

On more than one occasion in his ministry, Paul used the Roman law to protect his life and to extend his work. The centurions mentioned in the Book of Acts appear to be men of character and high ideals. Even though government officials are not believers, they are still the "ministers of God" because He established the authority of the State.

For conscience's sake (vv. 5-7). We move a bit higher in our motivation now. Any citizen can obey the law because of fear of punishment, but a Christian ought to obey because of conscience. Of course, if the government interferes with conscience, then the Christian must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). But when the law is right, the Christian must obey it if he is to maintain a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:5, 19; 3:9; 4:2; Acts 24:16).

The United States Government maintains a "Conscience Fund" for people who want to pay their debts to the Government and yet remain anonymous. Some city governments have a similar fund. I read about a city that had investigated some tax frauds and announced that several citizens were going to be indicted. They did not release the names of the culprits. That week, a number of people visited the City Hall to "straighten out their taxes"—and many of them were not on the indictment list. When conscience begins to work, we cannot live with ourselves until we have made things right.
Romans 13:7 commands us to pay what we owe: taxes, revenue, respect, honor. If we do not pay our taxes, we show disrespect to the law, the officials, and the Lord. And this cannot but affect the conscience of the believer. We may not agree with all that is done with the money we pay in taxes, but we dare not violate our conscience by refusing to pay.

For love's sake (vv. 8-10). Paul enlarged the circle of responsibility by including other people besides government officials. "Love one another" is the basic principle of the Christian life. It is the "new commandment" that Christ gave to us (John 13:34). When we practice love, there is no need for any other laws, because love covers it all! If we love others, we will not sin against them. This explained why the Ten Commandments were not referred to often in the New Testament. In fact, the Sabbath commandment is not quoted at all in any of the epistles. As believers, we do not live under the Law; we live under grace. Our motive for obeying God and helping others is the love of Christ in our hearts.

Does "Owe no man anything" refer also to the Christian's financial practices? Some people believe that it does, and that it is a sin to have a debt. J. Hudson Taylor, the godly missionary to China, would never incur a debt, basing his conviction on this verse. Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, had the same conviction. However, the Bible does not forbid borrowing or legal financial transactions that involve interest. What the Bible does forbid is the charging of high interest, robbing the brethren, and failing to pay honest debts (see Ex. 22:25-27; Neh. 5:1-11). Matthew 25:27 and Luke 19:23 indicate that banking and investing for gain are not wrong. Certainly no one should get into unnecessary debt, or sign contracts he cannot maintain. "Thou shalt not steal." But to make Romans 13:8 apply to all kinds of legal obligations involving money is, to me, stretching a point.
In this section, Paul has centered on the very heart of the problem—the human heart. Because the heart of man is sinful, God established government. But laws cannot change the heart; man's heart is still selfish and can be changed only by the grace of God.

For Jesus' sake (vv. 11-14). We have come a long way in our reasons for obeying the law: from fear to conscience to love to our devotion to Jesus Christ! The emphasis is on the imminent return of Christ. As His servants, we want to be found faithful when He returns. The completion of our salvation is near! The light is dawning! Therefore, be ready!

Paul gave several admonitions in the light of the Lord's soon return. The first is, "Wake up!" Relate this with 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, and also Matthew 25:1-13. The second is, "Clean up!" We do not want to be found dressed in dirty garments when the Lord returns (1 John 2:28-3:3). The Christian wears the armor of light, not the deeds of darkness. He has no reason to get involved in the sinful pleasures of the world. Finally, Paul admonished, "Grow up!" (Rom. 13:14) To "put on" the Lord Jesus Christ means to become more like Him, to receive by faith all that He is for our daily living. We grow on the basis of the food we eat. This is why God warns us not to make provisions for the flesh. If we feed the flesh, we will fail; but if we feed the inner man the nourishing things of the Spirit, we will succeed.

In other words, a Christian citizen ought to be the best citizen. Christians may not always agree on politics or parties, but they can all agree on their attitude toward human government

Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) - New Testament - The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.