Romans 13

Introduction: Chapter 13 continues the practical application section of the letter. In it, Paul focuses on the Christian as a citizen. He addresses two primary areas of conduct: our relationship to civil authorities and our relationship to other citizens.

I. The Christian and Civil Authorities (13:1-7)

A. The first sentence of the chapter clearly states how the Christian should act toward those who are in positions of authority in government, which would include police officers, council members, legislators, governors, and presidents: be subject to them (13:1).

B. The reason? Because all authority ultimately comes from God and God is responsible for the existence of civil government (13:1).

1. This means, then, that “resisting” (being hostile toward) authority figures is to resist God’s appointed servants. When one does that, he can expect to “incur judgment” (13:2).

2. Civil authorities are in place to enforce laws that govern conduct. If we want to live without fear of them, then we should live in harmony with the law (13:3).

3. But if we break the law, then we should be afraid (13:4). Why? Because civil rulers are servants of God (13:4, 6) who are carrying out God’s wrath on his behalf (13:4-5).

4. This vengeance on God’s behalf includes the right to “bear the sword,” a phrase that clearly refers to capital punishment (13:4).

C. Another result of being subject to civil authorities is our responsibility to pay taxes (13:6-7). In short, we owe civil government our taxes, respect, and honor for the roles they fulfill as ministers of God.

II. The Christian and Other Citizens (13:8-14)

A. Drawing on the idea of paying what is owed, Paul summarizes how we should act toward others by emphasizing the need for love. The one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the demands of the law (13:8).

B. He explains what he means by that statement in 13:9-10. The individual commandments that govern our conduct toward others – like prohibitions against adultery, stealing, etc. – are “summed up” in the general command to love one’s neighbor. Since love does no wrong to a neighbor, to love is to fulfill the law.

C. In the remainder of the chapter, Paul highlights the urgency of molding our character into what God wants it to be.

1. It is time to wake up to our responsibilities because our time on earth draws closer and closer to an end (13:11).

2. That being true, we should “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (13:12). We should distance ourselves from immorality (13:13).

3. We should clothe ourselves with the Lord and not live to gratify the lusts of the flesh (13:14).

Conclusion: The bottom line is this: no one should ever be a better citizen or a better neighbor than a Christian.

What Exodus Teaches Us About God

Exodus does not merely tell the facts about the life of Moses, the ten plagues, the Jewish people escaping Egyptian slavery, and the Ten Commandments. It draws the reader ever closer to the God who made all that happen. What do we learn about God in the book of Exodus?

God Keeps His Promises. God had promised Abraham that he would make a great nation out his descendants (Gen. 12:2; 15:12-16). The book of Exodus emphasizes God’s intention to fulfill those promises (Exo. 2:24; 3:6–8, 15–17; 4:5; 6:2–8; and also 32:13).

God Wants to Be Close to His People. One of the themes emphasized in this great book is God’s presence among his people. He appears to Moses (3:1-4:17). He descends to the top of Sinai in the presence of the people (19:16-20). He shows himself to Moses, Aaron, and 72 leaders (24:9-11). He reveals his glory to Moses (34:1-10). Most of the second half of the book (chapters 25-40) focuses on the tabernacle, through which God promised to dwell among them (29:43-46; 40:34-38).

God Can Still Use Those Who Struggle With Self-Confidence. In chapters 3 and 4 Moses wrestles with accepting God’s charge to deliver the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery. Moses saw nothing in himself that would qualify him for the task God set before him (3:11). He didn’t want to be asked a question that he could not answer (3:13). He was fearful that the people wouldn’t believe him if he did answer (4:1). He didn’t think he was eloquent enough to effectively communicate what God wanted (4:10). But God’s consistent responses changed the focus from who Moses was to who God is (3:12, 14; 4:5, 11-12), and that made all the difference.

God Deserves the Credit for Our Victories. We succeed only by the power he supplies (13:9, 14; Col. 1:29; Eph. 3:16). “Our God will fight for us” (14:14).

The Laws of God are Tests of Our Faith (15:25-26). How we relate to God’s commands tells us the nature of our relationship to God himself (cf. John 14:15; 15:14; 1 John 5:3). We cannot successfully argue that we have faith in God if we consistently live without regard for his instruction.

God Deserves to be Feared (20:18-21). Interestingly, Moses says in Exodus 20:20, “Do not fear” and then says that “the fear of him” should be before the people. The first reference to fear in that verse is connected to the end of verse 19. They were afraid that God was trying to kill them. Moses is telling them not to be afraid of that. The second reference is to the proper fear of God, which includes the dread of punishment for wrongdoing as well as the offering of reverence that God deserves. In that sense, it is proper to fear God (Prov. 1:7; Psa. 19:9; Matt. 10:28; 2 Cor. 5:11; Heb. 10:31; 12:28-29).

God Deserves to be Worshiped (20:22-26; 22:20, 29-30; 23:13-19). God instructed the people to build altars “in every place where I cause my name to be remembered” (20:22-26). In addition, there were three times each year that the people were to observe feasts: the feasts of Unleavened Bread, Harvest, and Ingathering (23:14-17). These celebrations reminded the people of God’s worthiness to be praised. All of the instructions regarding the tabernacle, its furniture, and the work of the priests (chapters 25-40) also stressed the importance of their worship to God (Psalm 18:3; 29:1-2; Rev. 4:11; 5:12-14).

There is tremendous practical value in studying the Old Testament (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:14-17). The book of Exodus reminds us to trust God, draw near to God, be confident in God, be grateful to God, obey God, fear God, and worship God. Those are reminders we need every day.

Abraham’s Early Mornings

I have never been a “morning” person. At times I wish I were. Without an alarm clock pounding my eardrums, I can easily sleep much longer than I should. I just don’t naturally wake up early under normal conditions. If, however, the day promises something out of the ordinary and pleasant (e.g., the beginning of a vacation), I’ve been known to wake up before the alarm clock goes off. As hard as it normally is, the prospect of an unpleasant day makes getting up that much more challenging and pulling the covers over my head that much more alluring.

That’s one component of Abraham’s faith that makes it so amazing. There are three instances in his life in which the Bible says that he arose early in the morning – and he knew on all three of those days that what he had to do would not be pleasant. Yet, instead of hiding under the covers, he got up early to face each day.

Sodom and Gomorrah

God left no doubt regarding the evil character of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 13:13; 18:20; 19:13; 2 Pet. 2:7-8). Though he had been patient with them, God’s longsuffering finally reached its righteous end. When he told Abraham of his plan to destroy the cities of the plain, the faithful patriarch interceded on behalf of his noble nephew, Lot, who lived in Sodom (Gen. 18:22-33).

God promised Abraham that he would spare Sodom and Gomorrah if ten righteous souls could be found there, but it was not to be (Gen. 19:13). God rained fire from heaven and engulfed in his wrath those sinful cities.

Note carefully how Genesis 19:27 begins, “And Abraham went early in the morning” to inspect the damage. There is little doubt that Abraham feared Lot would suffer the same fate as the wicked. Abraham knew that the cities were overcome with iniquity. When he spoke with God earlier, he didn’t seem confident that God would find the agreed-upon ten righteous souls that would have spared them. That deep anxiety for the welfare of his kinsman and the nagging feeling that it might be Lot’s last day did not make for a pleasant morning. Still, Abraham arose early to face the challenge.

Hagar and Ishmael

Moses records in Genesis 21 the joyous fulfillment of God’s promise to bless Abraham and Sarah with a son through whom God would establish Abraham’s lineage and bring the Messiah into the world. Isaac brought laughter and joy into the lives of his aged parents (21:1-7).

But Sarah’s animosity toward her handmaid, Hagar, who had previously given Abraham a son, intensified. Sarah demanded that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away (21:8-10). Even though Ishmael was not the son of promise, he was still Abraham’s son, and the thought of sending him away “was very displeasing to Abraham” (21:11). But God counseled the patriarch to do as Sarah requested (21:12-13). His response? “So Abraham rose early in the morning” and sent Hagar and Ishmael away (21:14).

Isaac

While Isaac, the son of promise, was still a young boy, God tested his father (Gen. 22:1) by instructing him to sacrifice Isaac on an altar. Abraham had waited long for Isaac to be born. The boy brought him great joy. And now God commanded him to take his life. How did he respond? “So Abraham rose early in the morning” to obey the Lord (22:3). His confidence that God would provide another sacrifice (22:8) or that he would raise Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19) probably tempered his emotions somewhat. But surely no one would argue that it was a pleasant morning.

Abraham, no doubt, arose early to some wonderful mornings. But the three above are the only ones specifically mentioned in the Bible. How brutal they must have been! How tempting it might have been for him to keep rolling over and sleeping just a little longer. Yet, instead of hiding under the covers, he rose up early and met the challenges of the day.

Life brings with it many unpleasant days. But the with the help of God and the faith of Abraham, we can throw off the covers, confidently rise from our beds, and face what each day brings. Regardless of what today brings, it is still a day created by the Lord, and in it, we have plenty of reasons to rejoice and be thankful (Psa. 118:24; 1 Thess. 5:18).