24.5 Romans – Submitting with treasures

OK, if Paul hadn’t already hit close enough to home in pulling out this example of serving authorities and an exercise in how to apply the teachings of Romans 12, he closes the discussion with not only hitting the heart, but also the pocketbook.  Taxes!

The great economist, John Maynard Keynes, quipped, “The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward.”  But Jesus says, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

This hits us at every level.  In Matthew 6:21, Jesus tells us that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  He says this in conclusion to imploring His followers to store treasures in heaven rather than on earth.  But money is one of the items that we struggle to not label as “mine.”  I work hard for it.  It is paid to me.  It is mine.  Right?  But Jesus warns against this.  If we take this as our treasure, then not only do we miss out on heavenly treasures instead, but we dishonor God.

We dishonor God because we convey the belief through our actions that God is a God of scarcity.  If we need to cling to money and horde and protect it and keep it from the evil tax collectors who are going to misspend it anyway, then, we convey the belief that there is a limited amount of wealth that God can and does provide.

Does that fit with anything else you know about God?  Is He a God of scarcity, where we need to get our slice of the pie?  That is not what I know about God, the creator of Heaven and Earth.  God is a God of abundance.  All of it belongs to Him anyway.  Paul’s first letter to Timothy warns us that “The love of money is a root of all evil.”  We cannot serve two masters and we cannot love money and love with the love of God.

I am clearly not one who enjoys writing the check for taxes.  But in recent years, as my faith has matured, I see it for what it is, a way that God challenges me to see things for what they are and rejoice that I am confident in trusting fully in Him.  There is nothing I have missed out on by paying taxes.  There is a lot I miss out on if I put money before God.

I love how Paul concludes this section.  Give to everyone what you owe them: taxes, revenue, respect, honor.  Don’t be confused, this is not about money.  It isn’t even about authority.  It is about giving like God gives.  It is about loving like God loves.  It is about overcoming evil not in the way man would do, of fighting evil with evil a quid pro quo, hand for a hand.  Our God is a God of abundance.  Out give the enemies.  Out love the oppressors.  Out honor those who are not acting honorably.  Out respect those who act disrespectfully.  Do the same for those who love and give and honor and respect as well.  Because, here is what we know to be fact:  We cannot out love or out give or out honor or out respect our God.  Everything we have, everything we are and everything we desire to be is from Him and of Him.

My Answers:

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. Money is stuff, there is no shortage of it in the world and God controls the allocation of it in the same way that He controls everything else. Do not operate from scarcity, but from God’s abundance

Establish justice (pay for the operation of police, courts and lawmakers)
insure domestic tranquility (homeland security
Provide for the common defense Redistribution of wealth
Promote the general welfare Establish and develop foreign trade and markets
Secure the blessings of liberty Pay what is rightfully and fully due

EX: Honor father and mother
LV: stand up in presence of aged, show respect to elderly
1T5: Double honor to the elders who direct the affairs of the church, especially preachers and teachers
1T6:God, the blessed and only ruler
1P2: Show proper respect to everyone as submitting to God’s authority

By loving them with God’s love. For seeing them as God sees them. Not by lying or by being pacifistic, but by overcoming them with the Love of God and His truth.


24.4 Romans – Submitting as a witness to others

When you live the life of a believer, you get noticed.  When you truly follow God and Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, others notice – both those who see you as an example, and the forces of evil who see you as a threat.

One of the reasons we are to love like God loves is because of the fact that others are watching.  If our lives do not look any different, then are we truly any different?

Paul goes from explaining this in Romans 12, to challenging us with one of the harder scenarios for doing it in Romans 13, submitting in love to authorities.  So let’s look a couple examples of this through scriptural examples.

Daniel chapter 1 tells us that the king of Babylon conquered Judah and ordered that some of the Israelites from the royal family and nobility were to be brought into the king’s service.  Four young men were chosen from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  The three, besides Daniel, we commonly know by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  Verse 8: “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”  Think about that for a second as an example of what Paul is discussing.  The authority placed over Daniel was the greatest enemy you might imagine.  This ruler and his staff had not only overthrown Jerusalem, the Holy city and carted off Daniel into service to the king, but this is the same king who defiled the temple of God and stole articles from the temple.  So what does Daniel do?  He asks permission to not eat their food.  And the result?  Verse 9: “Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel”.  We see this time and time again with these 4 young men.  Not only do they “cling to what is good”, but they fully submit in full confidence that God can overcome anything… even to the point of 3 of them being thrown alive into a fiery furnace!

The best example for us is Jesus.  Jesus did not lack for oppressive authorities, both throughout His life and in His “trial” and crucifixion.  Jesus did not hide from the authorities.  In almost every situation, we have notes of the side conversations that were initiated when the authorities approached Him to question what He was doing.  What we witness Jesus doing is loving them in the way God loves (not hard for Him to do since He is God, right?)  That clearly did not mean that He went along with what they said or did.  What He never failed to do was to speak truth to them.  Sometimes the truth may have sounded harsh such as calling them a “brood of vipers”.  But, it was, in fact, the truth and God loved them enough to appear in front of them in the body of the Son of God and speak the truth to them and warn them of whom they were serving (which was not Him!).  Even at His trial and death, Jesus fully submitted to earthly authorities, even with legions of angels at His command, He instructed Peter to put away the sword and healed the ear of the guard.

Just like these two, others notice how we interact with authorities in our lives.  Our hearts, our words, our faith and our actions should all be saying the same thing.  We accept that God is in control and we obey His call to love as He loves.

My Answers:

Because, in one way or another, all leaders bring some level of organization either toward or against something. God is the Master of all things and uses them and their position of authority to shape things for an eternal purpose and for His love of us, even when we do not understand.

They are God’s servants. They are established by God. They are instituted by God.
God works all things for the good of those who love Him. (including leaders and especially leaders)

I need to be cautious that I am not labeling in situations where I firmly disagree. It doesn’t mean we all have to agree on the same course, ideologies or fiscal policies, however, we should not resort to name calling, but instead should recognize that we both want what is best for the citizens even if they are wrong (:-))

24.3 Romans – Submitting to honor God

The first and primary reason we are called to submit to authority is to honor God.  Since God is completely in control the authorities over us are there only with the provision of God.  That does not mean they necessarily follow God or obey His commandments, nor does it mean they practice what is good and right; but, as Romans 8 says, “God uses all things for the good of those who love Him.”

This also forces us to recognize that if an authority is put in place only by the provision and authority of God, then, by logical extension, we are put in a place of submission to these authorities by the exact same power.  If we argue, fight or resist this position, we argue, fight and resist God.

So, what do we do when we just don’t like it?  Let’s go back and apply what Paul tells us is honoring to God in Romans 12:

Do not lose our moral compass or lower our convictions:  Hate what is evil, cling to what is good

Live your life as one who serves, lifting others up even when it means more work for you: Honor one another above yourselves

Do not curse and condemn those in authority: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Do not participate in the currency of evil and wickedness, but stay above the fray: do not repay anyone evil for evil

Let revenge and judgment to God: Do not take revenge

Be an example of giving and trusting God, instead of getting an hording: if enemy is hungry, feed them, give them drink, heap coals on their head

Do not be overcome but be an overcomer: submission does not mean giving up or giving in, it means coming under and being strong

Doing these things is an act of obedience to God.  Doing these things under difficult and oppressive authorities is an act of obedience to God.  Our place is to obey and honor our God and trust in Him in all things and in all ways.

My Answers:

God, because God has established and instituted them

It recognizes and praises the utmost authority of God in all things and situations. We serve God and, thus, serve those he establishes and institutes.

To remain outside of our times of punditry and slander, but to keep a clear focus on God. Also, not to be dissuaded by the sinfulness and deceit of earthly rulers. God knows what He is doing.

24.2 Romans – Submit to Authorities = God is the Authority

Did it strike anyone else as slightly amusing that Paul goes from a discussion about “love in action” in relationship to our enemies and evil and then immediately transitions into politics?  It sounds like things were not significantly different in Rome at the writing of this text than they are with government officials today.

But, the key point of Paul’s writing is not so much about the officials themselves, and, in some ways they are a stand-in for a bigger commitment and message.  The main thing in Paul’s writing is our attitude toward God.  If we acknowledge that God is the creator of everything and if we acknowledge that everything belongs to God and if we acknowledge that God is sovereign and firmly and actively in control of all things and if we acknowledge that there is no power that is mightier than God that could force something into existence that God does not allow, then we truly recognize that God is completely in charge.

If you are like me, that logic plays out and you are nodding your head in agreement.  God is in charge.  Got it.  Believe it.  But, Paul has to go and make it hard.  If we believe that God is completely in charge then that means that every authority over us is allowed to be there because God has allowed it.  Even the liars.  Even the cheats.  Even the adulterers.  Even the murderers.  Even the leaders of old who covered the streets in blood, the leaders who incited war, the leaders who practiced genocide.  Each were allowed to be in authority only under the authority of God.  To say otherwise is to say there are things outside of God’s control.

In Paul’s day, this included the leaders who were hunting down Christians to torture and kill them.  Even the leaders who incited the crowd to have Jesus hung on the cross.

Clearly, Paul is not saying we need to ignore evil and just go along.  Instead, he is telling us that the things he said at the close of chapter 12, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” applies in all situations, even the extremely difficult situation of submitting to authority.

My Answers:

To come under, to obey, to be within another’s authority and/or control. All are to submit to governing authorities because they have been established by God.

They disagree with their practices or policies. They differ on world views or find them to be lacking or evil. I struggle to submit to the authority of dictators who subjugate their people through lies and theft, particularly those who neglect children and persecute the church. Fortunately, those are not my authority so God has protected me, but they are authorities that God has allowed to come into power for a season.

When ordered to disobey God. Our first directive is to love the Lord our God and give Him our full devotion. Our second is to our earthly authority. If the second contradicts the first, then we must respectfully decline and submit to the consequences.

23.5 Romans – Battleplans

Finally, Paul returns to our interactions with enemies and describes what it looks like to respond in love.  It may seem strange that I’m discussing love and labeled this section as battleplans, but do not mistake that we are in a battle with the forces of evil.

Our first directive is that we do not battle as the enemy does.  We see evil for what it is, trash and worthless, not a currency to be traded.  If we deal in evil, we become infected by evil.  Not only is this an important aspect to keep in mind, but it addresses how we are to deal with the evil things that we may have allowed into our lives in the past.  Objects of the occult, books, pornography, magazines, inappropriate movies and any other items that do not honor God and lead others to God should be removed and destroyed.  These are not items, despite what value the world may place on them, to be sold or traded.  Do not participate in the currency of evil or of evil things.

We are not to take revenge.  Our mission is to continue moving the battleline forward, not to stop and engage in side skirmishes.  We need to trust and understand that God is with us and that it is His role and His alone to the people who have fought for the forces of evil in our lives.  Remember we hate what is evil, not who is evil.  Our mission of love is to entrust the people to God’s judgment.  Paul reminds us that we are to “leave room for God’s wrath”, but in Romans 9 he also reminded us that God will show mercy to whom He will show mercy and have compassion on whom He will have compassion.  It is not our role or mission, ours is to love, not judge.  He emphasizes and illustrates this with the analogy of pouring burning coals of fire on their heads.  The fire of God is beneficial or harmful in how it is received.  If received as a new believer, it is a tongue of fire as in Acts 2, that alights on the head and brings the Holy Spirit.  If received as a non-believer, it is a lake of fire, as in Revelation 20, that brings eternal turmoil.  As fire in the physical world can bring light and warmth, it can also bring pain and destruction depending on how it is received and used.

In conclusion Paul emphasizes, do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.  We are to play offense, not defense.  Jesus did tell us to “turn the other cheek”, but this is in contrast to the idea of vengeance that Paul already dispelled, not as an encouragement to pacifisms or yielding power and authority to allow evil to attack.  Jude 1:3 tells us to “contend for the faith”.  We are given power, the power of the Holy Spirit, to love what is good, to hate what is evil, to go and spread the good news of Jesus Christ in the face of evil which must retreat in the power of the name of Jesus.  We are told to put on the full armor of God not so the enemy might overcome us, but so that we might “stand up” in the faith.

My Answers:

the need to get even or ahead. The emphasis on snarkiness. Neither of these, but I don’t like to feel cheated or taken advantage of, so I tend to be defensive in these areas.

1. Jesus, died for the sins even of those who beat and killed him
2. God, Adam and Eve, banished but redeemed
3. Moses/Aaron, fell down praying to God, plague was stopped
4. David against Saul, rose to be a man after God’s heart
5. Paul, beaten and stoned, continued to preach – His witness was multiplied

To pray for them and turn them over to God. Every sin against a believer is also a sin against God. God’s will and wrath trumps our own. Do not take revenge but leave room for God’s wrath. Rom 12:9. I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy and have compassion on whom I will have compassion says the Lord, Rom 9:15

Only through the power of the Holy Spirit. But, with the power of the Holy Spirit, this is what comes naturally, for love is the nature of the Spirit of God.

23.4 Romans – Whom to Love

We talked about how to love, now Paul turns to whom to love.  If it didn’t seem like an battle that we couldn’t accomplish on our own strength before, here come the details of the mission brief:  “Bless those who persecute you.”

Persecution is persistent infliction of hostility and ill-treatment.  Paul doesn’t start with those who sometimes annoy you, his 5 word sentence is to bless those who stand not only in opposition to you but who are on the attack against you.  Your direct enemies.  Paul picks this up later in the chapter, so let’s put it on a parking lot for now and focus on the other parts of this paragraph.

He encourages us to be aware of the harmonies of life.  As the book of Ecclesiastics notes, there are seasons in life, just as there are seasons in the year.  Our role, as part of the body of Christ, is to be in harmony with those seasons with other believers.  When others are rejoicing, we are to rejoice, when they mourn, we are to mourn.  We are to be humble servants not conceited and judgmental.

Note that to do this we must serve as part of the body of Christ.  We are not to sit on the sidelines as others rejoice or mourn, we are supposed to be active with them.  Serving is not a talent or spiritual gift, it is part of worship and an expectation of all believers.

My Answers:

first through prayer and the strength and will of the Holy Spirit. By not taking a stand over things of this world (e.g., money) but letting go.

To live in harmony with others, rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn, don’t be proud but be willing to associate with those in low position and do not be conceited. To honor and respect those working hard and menial jobs, greet them by name and thank them for their service.

Pride is placing me above you – it does not yield harmony or show respect of love.

I have been helped the most by those who have come along side and prayed with and for me.

23.3 Romans – The Nature of Love

Reading Romans 12:9-13 reminded and emphasized to me that my nature is not a nature of love.  Paul starts with, “Love must be sincere.”  Let’s pause there for a moment and really look at that.

There is no ebb and flow in sincerity.  The definition of sincere is, “free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings.”  It isn’t a sometimes sincerity, other times false.  It isn’t sometimes with pretense other times without.  The sentence is very succinct and clear.  “Love must be sincere.”

That means, when I am angry at a loved one, I can’t fake loving them in the moment of anger.  I can’t love them under the pretense of reconciliation.  I can’t show love to an enemy to get them to bend my direction.  Love must always, in all situations and at all times be completely real and authentic, not only in its delivery, but that it proceeds from genuine feelings.  Not just to select people, but to everyone, including the guy who cut in front of me in line or who honked at me.

That is not my nature.  I freely admit what is so thoroughly documented in the bible, I am of a sin nature.  I want to do what is right, but my emotions betray me.  My heart longs for holiness, but my thoughts turn to evil.

But, the nature of the Holy Spirit, who now lives in me and who, as noted early in Romans 12, I give my life over to, is a nature of sincere love.  Even with all the effort I can muster of my own, I can’t love in this way.  But, this is the natural way for the Holy Spirit to love.  It is how He loves me and accepts me and lives in me.

But, Paul doesn’t stop there, he goes on to note that we are to have a discerning love, as the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of discernment.  We don’t love everything, we love what is good, what is of God, and we hate what is evil, that which is of sin and Satan.  Note that he says to hate WHAT is evil, not that we hate WHO is evil.  Even those who practice evil and wickedness are loved by God.  They are sheep without a shepherd and Christ’s death on the cross was as much for their benefit as for yours or mine.

We accomplish this through the unity of the church.  We, like soldiers, have an individual job to do, we are called to be “devoted to one another in love” as the body of believers, a troop united on a mission of God, equipped by God through the power of the Holy Spirit, led by God in the presence of the Lamb of God, to Love as God loves.

My Answers:

Those who belittle faith, who do not love and harm children. Those who find themselves more important than others

do not take your spiritual foot off of the gas but instead stay strong and devoted to the path God has given for your life.
Don’t compare or whine or feel guilty about not doing things – do them, make them happen, be bold, stay true. Show up!

To be lacking in zeal. I believe. I have spiritual fervor (inner strength), but I am still too timid and not zealous and bold enough in my witness to others. Why? Baggage: avoiding potential client at the cost of others eternal life.

23.2 Romans – Called to a life of love

In the previous verses, Paul discusses spiritual gifts.  He makes particular note that we are given spiritual gifts not as a reward or as something to place on a shelf, but as a tool to be used.  He runs through a handful of examples of spiritual gifts and, after each, implores the recipient to use the gift.

In the benediction at the end of the book of Hebrews, we are reminded that God both calls and equips us.  He equips us for everything good and calls us to do His will.  As one called in to service we have 2 roles and responsibilities. One is our individual role.  This is the specific responsibility that God has given us to use the equipping of the spiritual gift to carry out.  It may be teaching, preaching, prophecy, caring for someone who is sick, the poor, widows and ophans, as just a few examples.  But, as Paul said earlier in this chapter, while we each have our individual roles to play, we are also united as one body and as such we all have a shared calling and equipping.  We learn in the verses of Romans 12:9-21 that unified calling and mission is LOVE and we are equipped for this mission through the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.

This should not surprise us; that of all the attributes of God the one He places as prime in our life is Love.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son…”.  The greatest command is to “love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.”

As one body, we dress in a uniform to the rest of the world.  That uniform includes the full armor of God, but the mission we share is a mission of Love, a life of love, united and empowered by the love of God.

My Answers:

Love must be sincere – God’s love for us is sincere and it is through His mercy that we have faith and in faith offer ourselves to Him and His holiness as a living sacrifice

Love is giving, not receiving. Love those things that honor God, but not evil. Be at peace in all things.
Society says to love everyone and allow them to perform evil without reproach or repercussion. Love is a token to trade and to receive and to bargain with.

P8: Fear the Lord=Hate evil, pride, arrogance, evil behavior, perverse speech
P13: Righteous hate what is false but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame
E3: a time to love and a time to hate a time for war and a time for peace
I61: Lord loves justice; hates robbery and wrongdoing – God is faithful and true
A5: Hate evil, love good, maintain justice, seek God’s mercy
L14: If one does not hate mother, father, brothers, sisters and own life, cannot be my (Jesus) disciple

22.5 Romans – Gifts of the Spirit

Now we come to the object of our warnings, preparation and training, the power tool itself: gifts of the Spirit.  In the job that we have been given to perform in being given the opportunity to be part of the construction of God’s body of believers, we are also equipped with special power tools.  Depending on the job we are assigned, we need and are given a different tool.

Paul’s message first and foremost is, whatever tool you have been given, use it.  The tool is not a decoration.  It isn’t something to put on a shelf.  It is a tool and tools are to be used in building.  He gives examples of some of the tools: prophesying, teaching, serving, etc.  This is not an all-encompassing list, but only a few examples and admonishes to go with them.  The job of any craftsman is to fully execute the use of their tools in their craft.

In 1 Corinthians 12, these are called the Gifts of the Spirit.  We need to pay close attention to that title.  They are not the gifts from the Spirit, they are the gifts of the Spirit.  The gifts belong to the Spirit.  The Spirit resides in us, as believers, and He brings gifts into our life.  All of our talents and interests are from God, but talents and interests are not the same as the Gifts of the Spirit.  I may be 7 feet tall and have a talent of reaching high things.  I may be very petite and nimble and able to move through a crowd with natural grace.  Those talents and everything about me are from God, but they are different.

The gifts of the Spirit are the tools that God gives me to perform the work that He calls me to do.  When He calls me into new work, it may require new tools.  Just as there are seasons of the year, they may be seasons in my life that I am called into different areas of work and God may supply different tools of and through the Holy Spirit.  God may also use the talents He has given me, but more often than not, the areas of highest impact into which we are called to serve are those completely outside of our natural strengths and areas of comfort.  Remember that Moses argued with God that he was not a gifted speaker for God to use him as the mouthpiece to Pharaoh.  But, over and over again, we see that God uses the small, the weak, the few, the outcasts, the misfits, the sinners, even coming as the son of a carpenter to a couple from Bethlehem.  It is in all of these ways that God is glorified.  The mighty things accomplished are not from those we would expect with their innate abilities.  The lasting things come from those who rely fully on the power in the tools of the Spirit.

I don’t have an issue with gifts assessments that are used in some of our churches, but I think we need to keep in mind that they are only a snapshot of a single frame in the movie of our life.  If it reveals that I have a Gift of the Spirit present in my life at this time, then, as Paul says, I need to be using that gift diligently, cheerfully and fully.  But that does not mean that the Holy Spirit, alive and powerful in me, is limited to only that gift/tool.

My Answers:

1C7: Each has their own gift from God
1C12: Different gifts, all from the Spirit, different service, one Lord, different working, same God
E4: Believers’ gifts from Christ to build up the body until all reach unity in faith and maturity
1P4: Do all things through the gift and power of God for His Glory

Prophesying, In accordance with your faith
Serving, then serve
Teaching, then teach
Encouraging,then give encouragement
Giving, then give generously
Leading, do it diligently
Mercy, do it cheerfully

Giving, Teaching and Encouraging.

22.4 Romans – Unity and Maturity

In today’s lesson we venture outside of Romans into another of Paul’s letters to the Ephesians.  He picks up the theme in this letter about the body of Christ, but focuses on how to maintain unity.  This is along the lines of the difference between a body and a healthy, toned body.  In the overall function of the body we look for balance and unity.

I thought it was very interesting how Paul prescribes to accomplish this unity: Start with Yourself!

  1. Me: live a life worthy of the calling you have received
  2. Me: be completely humble and gentle
  3. Me: be patient
  4. Me: bear with one another in love
  5. Me: make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit

Did you notice that nothing in his prescription of unity and maturity was about fixing other people or getting them to change?  This isn’t in contrast to supporting others and encouraging them and holding them accountable to the commitments they have made, but the focus of unity always starts with me.

How quickly we are, particularly in our interactions with other believers, to start with them instead of me.  The pastor needs to do this or say this.  The elders should have…  The music leader needs to… The teacher was not… They said… She did… He didn’t…  Them, them, they, they, others.

My Answers:

Believers. Christ and each other – united through the calling each has received

Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace

Contributing financially and in service, mostly in teaching and volunteering. When called saying, “here I am”. I erode unity when I don’t reach out to others but focus on my own needs and thoughts after worship. By not being bold and reaching out.