Focus Passage: Romans 13:1-14
In Romans 13, Paul continues to lay out the practical implications of surrendering our lives to Christ as living-sacrifices (12:1). One way we show our love for, and obedience to, Christ is by living in submission to the civil authority He has ordained and placed over us, namely the government. This doesn’t mean that we must blindly follow the government, even if doing so would cause us to sin. If forced to choose between obeying God or government, we must obey God. Paul makes clear, however, that government is a good gift from a gracious God and is necessary for maintaining civil peace and order because of the corruption of the human heart.
Therefore, the civil government serves both a protective function and a teaching function. It protects in that it maintains civil peace and order by holding people accountable for their actions. It teaches in that it reminds people that our actions have consequences, and that ultimately, we are accountable to God, not government, for those actions. This is why Paul says, “whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (13:2, ESV). Whether it is paying taxes, or submitting to government in some other way, the Christian shows his submission to God’s authority by also obeying the civil authority God has ordained.
Believers should also demonstrate their surrender to God by the way we live toward others. Paul reminded the Romans in 7:4 that they had died to the law. They were, then, not simply to avoid adultery, murder, theft and covetousness with regard to their neighbors. They were instead to show unconditional love to their neighbors, as God had shown unconditional love to them. One commentator said, “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.” That is a strong motive indeed!
In light of Christ’s promised return, we should be watchful and faithful, starving our flesh and living for Christ’s glory in every aspect of our lives.