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"Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen.
Revelation 22:20

This is a Home Bible study. It exists to promote the Word of God as it's written, which means nothing added or taken away, and minus opinions.

The Bible is the only source of Divine Truth in the world today. Although it is helpful and informative in many ways, the Bible might not tell us everything we want to know but the Bible does tell us everything we need to know.

My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

Ultimately, you have a decision to make concerning your salvation - no one can make it for you. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator God, has given everyone the ability to make choices - this is is called "Free Will." I pray you consider your choice wisely.

II Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Romans by the Book (Lesson 108)

Home Bible Study ©
Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4

Romans by the Book                                                           Lesson 108

 Charles Caleb Colton said “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery;”circa 1820.
However, the Emperor Marcus Antonius, a.k.a. Mark Anthony, Julius Caesar’s friend and right-hand man, is credited with the original thought, “You should consider that imitation is the most acceptable part of worship and that the gods had much rather mankind should resemble, than flatter them.

There was a time in America when boys admired and preferred to imitate their fathers.  Psychologists and other experts studied the subject from WWII through the 1960’s, when the trend seemed to dissipate.  They learned a father’s relationship with his son was significantly important.  They also learned that when a father established a loving relationship with his son the son’s response was to grow up emulating his dad.  It didn’t matter if the son’s father was masculine or wealthy; love for his son was the key factor.  Fathers and sons in this study who had an underdeveloped relationship whether due to physical or mental abuse, absenteeism or divorce, produced the opposite effect.

Where am I going with this?

You can choose to expend hours each week studying God’s Word; you can read the Bible in a year with one of the many reading programs designed for that purpose.  By doing these things you’d be well on your way to obtaining the “full knowledge of Jesus Christ,” and that’s certainly commendable.  But unless you understand and obey God’s greatest commandment you’ve missed the overall theme of the entire Bible which is:  love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

God is love and He’s demonstrated that love in all he has done and is doing presently.  Our Apostle Paul compares faith, hope, and love and concludes that the “greatest of these is love” (Matthew 22:36-40; John 14:15; 1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 John 4:8).

Whether our earthly fathers are Believers or not, they’re at best shadowy images of the One whom we have been called to imitate.  We were created by God, in His image, and we have been called to emulate Him in our behavior and our speech:  Therefore be imitators of God, as (His) beloved children; (Ephesians 5:1; Romans 8:14-17).

Our Apostle Paul at Romans 12:9 wrote:  Let love be without hypocrisy and then begins to specify the duties of Believers in the church so that there may be continuity and harmony within the Body of Christ.   The first of these is love.   Love for our Father in heaven is what motivates us to imitate Him and live out the remainder of our lives expressing that same (Agape) love toward others.

We show love when we forgive those who have wronged us, when we choose not to seek private justice (revenge), when we do not repay evil for evil, when we respect what is right in the sight of all men, and when we seek to be at peace with everyone, if possible so far as it depends on us, as Paul mentioned in the previous chapter.

He who has God for his Father, will have Him for a pattern, Thomas Watson

It’s been some time since I’ve offered any Bible study suggestions or shown this group how to study their Bible.  Since we’re about to start a new chapter and since a lot of new people have been visiting Home Bible Study© recently, now would be a good time for this worthwhile activity.

Bible reading has found a niche in every Believer’s walk with the Lord but it can’t replace Bible study.  As we mature as Believers, it’s important that we learn to “dig deeper” into the Word of God for ourselves and not depend solely on the instruction of others (2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 5:13-14). 

Before you begin to study your Bible you need to know a few things such as who wrote the book or letter you’re about to study, and who was it written to (who makes up the audience).  For instance the book of Malachi was written to the nation of Israel.  This information is found in verse one:  The oracle of the word of the LORD to (who) Israel through Malachi. 

It would be helpful for you to know something about the historical background, dates, key people, and the economic, political, and social pressures the people were subject to at that particular time.  I’m not saying you need to spend hours poring over reference books.  What I mean to say is you just need to come away from your research with some idea of what life was like at the time the Bible book or letter was written – walk in the people’s sandals for a bit… that’s what I’m saying.

This is how we’re going to approach our study of Romans 13.  In this way, you’ll get some idea of how this works.  Initially, I used the following reference tabs found under “Study” tools located at BibleStudyTools.com:  Bible Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Concordances, and History to get a “feel” for this time period and to help me understand how these Believers “felt” when they received Paul’s command to “submit to governing authorities.”

Please open your Bible at Romans 13.

In chapter 13 our Apostle Paul discusses the responsibility Believers owe to civil authorities and government; a subject that is extremely important to God the Father and at the same time a quandary for these folks Paul’s writing to; by the way Paul only writes to Believers. 

Here are a few of my research notes.  I included these so that you could see what my research produced, so that you could “walk in their sandals for a bit, and see why Paul’s audience was puzzled by his opening statements.

a)      The kingdoms of the world were pagan kingdoms.  The laws were made by pagans, and adapted to the popularity of paganism.   Furthermore, these kingdoms came about out of conquest, bloodshed, and oppression.  Adding to that, many of the monarchs were unprincipled men both in their private and public lives.  For example Nero was a depraved 1st century Roman Emperor who married at least two men.  He wed Pythagoras in a formal same-sex wedding by first putting on a bridal veil that made Nero the bride and Pythagoras the groom.  The Roman historian Tacitus recorded this event.  Nero then engaged in “coitus” with the man in front of all his guests, stating “Everything was public which even in a natural union is veiled by night.”  Whether Believers were to acknowledge and respect men such as Nero and their laws was a serious question indeed.
b)     God’s Gospel was designed to go out to the world to Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel (Acts 9) and this was being done.  Believers confessed their faith and allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ who ruled from heaven; it became, therefore, a question of great importance (and difficulty) for each Believer as to how much allegiance should they give to those in authority here on earth, since Jesus Christ was expected to return to earth to subdue His enemies at any time.
c)      The majority of Believers at this time were Jews and they had lived under Roman oppression since 27 BC.  They regarded the entire Roman system of religion and rule as a form of idolatry and therefore an abomination to God.  For example Caesar Augustus fought his way to power; he used religion as a tool to protect his position and to promote his political agenda.   The Emperor of Rome was already the most powerful man on the planet, but this wasn’t enough for Augustus.  He was determined that the people would view him as their supreme spiritual leader.  The Roman religion already had a number of gods and spirits.  Augustus was determined to add his name to the list.  This wasn’t unusual for the Mediterranean region at that time.  Turning political leaders into gods was a tradition.  There already was a precedent in Roman history with Aeneas, a Trojan hero who escaped after the fall of Troy, and Romulus, the son of Mars, the twin brother of Remus, whom he is said to have killed, and the founder of Rome; both of these were worshiped as gods.  Should the Messianic Jews submit to Roman authority and their laws knowing all this and if the answer is “yes,” “How much submission is enough?” 

That’s it for the notes.  My Bible lesson follows.

Be Subject to Government

Romans 13

1: Every person (Believer) is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

This isn’t the only place in the Bible where you see this command.  Paul gave the same instruction to Titus:  Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.  (Titus 3:1-6)

The Apostle Peter also commands his audience to submit to every human institution:  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.  For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.  (1 Peter 2:13-17)

Now one of the rules of Bible study states when a word or a theme is mentioned repeatedly in the same chapter, book, or the Bible it’s being emphasized by the author of this book (the Holy Spirit), which means:  we need to pay out of the ordinary attention to what’s being said and remember it. 

Again, when Paul says “Every person” he’s addressing Believers specifically and he’s informing them that there is no mayor, city councilman or woman; no king, prime minister, or president that is in a position of authority except from God.  The governing authorities,are the civil authorities established by God to which the Creator God has committed control of human government. 

Who wants to be controlled?

Based on my observations over the years I have found that Christians aren’t much different than non-Christians in their attitudes and responses toward governing authorities.  Compliance is (reluctantly) given but (full) cooperation is not. 

Permit me to insert an illustration.  You and I are just as likely to find a radar detector in the car of a Christian, as you would in the car of an unbeliever.  As a matter of fact, I served with a man in BSF International for years, who also served as a deacon in his church, who always kept the most up-to-date radar detection device in his car.  Christians on the highway slow down as they approach a police car.  They drive carefully and lawfully when a patrol car is following, but as soon as law enforcement is out of sight Christians and unbelievers predominantly drive normally, which is to say illegally. 

Was this deacon aware of Paul’s command that “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities?”  Yes, he was.  Did he ignore it?  Yes, he did; just as many individuals do every day based on my observations and not my judgment. 

This is an ideal time to emphasize this command of the Apostle Paul to every Believer for lawlessness - the contempt for the law is sweeping this nation like a disease.

Lawlessness (Anormia in the Greek language) is the essence of sin.  Not sin is the transgression (parabasis) of the Law or offense (paraptoma); but a much stronger word “Anormia,” literally, lawlessness:  the spirit of the individual to refuse to be controlled, God defines this as sin!  Many people mistakenly believe we’re sinners because we break God’s laws.  This isn’t the Truth; we break God’s laws or the governing authorities’ laws because we’re sinners!

Looking back, sin was in the world 2500 years before the Law was given on Mt. Sinai.  It was because sin already existed that the LORD God brought about His system of “Do this but Thou shall not do this and that” (Deuteronomy 11:13-32; John 14:15).  The nation of Israel had to be taught the difference between right and wrong (Judges 21:25).  All laws, regardless of their content or their intent, arise from a system of values, from a belief that some things are right and others wrong; some things good, some things are bad. 

The fact that the lawlessness of the last days is rapidly approaching can be seen in the fact that social norms have deemed that it’s “wrong to be right.”  “Old Fogy” morals are as out of date as the Bible today; and you can add the United States Constitution to the list according our president and New York Time’s writer Adam Liptak along with two law professors, David S. Law at Washington University in St. Louis and Mila Versteeg at the University of Virginia.  This is Moral Relativism at its worse, which asserts that morality is not based on any absolute standard.  Rather, ethical “truths” depend on variables such as:   the situation at hand, culture, one’s feelings, etc. 

When dealing with the theory of moral relativism, in all its forms, one must be aware that it is morally, spiritually, and socially bereft of the minutest fraction of good.  Therefore, it goes without saying it is diametrically opposed to the existence of God, which in turn undermines any secure foundation for morality, resulting in the widespread moral degeneration that is so common in these last days (2 Timothy 3).

Romans 13

2: Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Romans while Nero was the Roman Emperor (54-68 AD).  Suffice to say, Nero was not a godly man.  He engaged in several illicit acts.  He used to tie Christians to poles in his courtyard and set them ablaze in the evening to light up the area for instance.  One might expect the human side of Paul to encourage Believers to “rise up” against this oppression and savagery.   But instead Paul wrote:  Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities… et al.

As my earlier notes suggest, both the Jews and the Gentiles needed to know from Paul, “Where to draw the line between submission and resistance to governing authorities.
Whoever asked this question goes to the head of the class.  When Paul says, “whoever resists authority” he means rises up against the government or governing authorities; Paul’s talking about revolution. 

What’s implied here, but not said by Paul is the laws instituted by all those in authority shall not violate the rights of conscience or be in opposition to the laws or moral standards set down by God in His Word.  The Creator God has clearly “drawn the line” between good and evil; what is to be done and what is not to be done.  Therefore, human government has a limited realm of authority, but within that realm they are legitimate God-ministering agents. 

So, in regard to civil authorities, if they are rewarding evildoers and punishing those who do well, they are acting outside their legitimate realm of authority.  But this does not nullify their God-given authority to reward good and punish evil. 

Scripture records times when certain men had to choose to “obey God” rather than men (Genesis 39:7-12; Exodus 1:15-17; Daniel 3:8-18, 6:4-10; Matthew 15:1-9; Acts 4:18-20, 5:27-29).

Let me try to illustrate by using one of these biblical examples.  In Daniel chapter 3, Daniel’s three friends were commanded to worship an image of gold.  They refused, and rightly so, for they could not serve God and bow down to an idol.  But the way in which they declined to worship the idol demonstrated a “submissive” spirit.  They didn’t refuse to obey all or some of the king’s commands, just this one.  They knew that disobedience could cost them their lives, and they were willing to pay this price.  The thing they didn’t do was “rise up” promoting the overthrow of the kingdom (government) because of this command. 

Subordinates, no matter your station in life, often are rebellious and contemptuous of those who are in legitimate authority over them in reaction to discipline and any restriction to their perceived freedoms.  However, God has ordained the civil authorities to limit the destructive influence of humanity’s sinful nature upon oneself and others.  Thus, such authority is necessary for the benefit of society. 

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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Friday, August 21, 2015

Romans by the Book (Lesson 107)

Home Bible Study ©
Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4

Romans by the Book                                                           Lesson 107

Hello, and welcome to Home Bible Study©
With the long list of choices at your disposal, the fact that you’ve chosen to be here with us studying the Word of Truth pleases the Creator God and humbles me.  I’m grateful to have you in attendance and I pray continuously “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of your calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

I thought you’d like to know beforehand my goal is to finish chapter 12 this week… not that I’m in any rush to finish.  I enjoy being in the Word because I know it brings me nearer to the goal of becoming more like God’s Son.  But before we get started I’d like to go over a couple items concerning the Body of Christ with you guys.

God’s Church is not just a “called out” assembly, (Ekklesia in the Greek language) it is the Body of Christ:  And He (God the Father) put all things in subjection under His (Jesus Christ’s) feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, (Ephesians 1:18-23).

The context of this Bible passage (v20) reveals that before Jesus Christ could be the head of the church two things had to occur first.  #1:  He had to be raised from the dead.
#2:  He had to return to heaven and then be seated at the right hand of the Father Therefore; God’s Church could not have existed before these events took place.

The Church then is the “Body” of which Christ Jesus is the “Head.”  In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 our Apostle Paul explains how this “Body” is formed:  For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are (what) one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks (Gentiles), whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  Note Paul’s emphatic use of the word “one.”

The fact that God’s Church is oneBody” made up of living members shows that it is not simply an organization but a living organism.  As the human body is for the manifestation of a person’s personality, the Body of Christ is for the purpose of manifesting the personality of the Lord Jesus Christ here on earth.

In effect, each Believer is God’s ambassador in that they have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:4).  We represent our Father in heaven; therefore, it is our responsibility to reflect the official position of heaven.  You could say: we are in this world, but not of the world (John 17:16; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

In order for us to reflect the official position of heaven and reflect Christ’s image here on earth, each Believer is to achieve Spiritual maturity – the act of becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul says we do this by growing in our knowledge of Him.  Makes sense; you cannot grow to be like someone you do not know.  The more we know about the Lord the more we understand, and the more like Him we become.

Paul goes on to say this is an lifelong process:  Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus… (Philippians 3:12-14).

When Paul speaks of obtaining “it, he’s referring to the full knowledge of Christ Jesus.  He freely admitted that he hadn’t already obtained it but he presses on toward the goal…  Likewise every Believer must continually press on toward the goal of obtaining full knowledge of Christ Jesus.  This requires a radical reordering of our priorities, changing over from pleasing ourselves to pleasing God.  We accomplish this by obeying His revealed Word (Romans 12:1-2).

The key to change is consistency and perseverance in doing those things we know will bring us closer to God i.e. Bible reading and study, prayer, fellowship, and service and remembering one simple rule, “keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing:  we are no longer to be (immature) children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ… (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:14-16. 5:1-2).

Please open your Bible at Romans 12:17

Romans 12

17: Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.  Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.  Some say this is a Bible contradiction. 
Doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?” 
Yes it does in Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 19:21.  But no, it isn’t.  God gave Moses the public law and he gave it to the nation of Israel.  They needed a system of laws to administer justice to those who committed evil acts such as murder.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here.  Verse 17 is referring to “private revenge.”
Paul is saying Believers are not to engage in vigilante justice.  He delivered this same message to the church in Thessalonica:  See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.  (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

The Apostle Peter repeats the same command:  To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.  (1 Peter 3:8-9)

You and I don’t need to wonder if someone somewhere is going to take advantage of us or harm us in some way.  Once we understand Satan is the god of this world and both the devil and the world despise God’s saints, we can readily assume the target on our back is real. 

The Apostle Paul, a man who suffered in many ways for God’s Gospel, communicated to the Believers of his day that they too would suffer and be persecuted in the name of Jesus Christ:  Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).  Be that as it may, Paul commands Believers not to repay evil with evil for this is how the world behaves; and we’re not to conform to the patterns of this world (Romans 8:35, 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 4:12). 

The world is influenced and motivated by a love for ungodly behavior, whereas Believers are influenced and motivated by their love for God the Father (Romans 1:18-32).  We’re called to be different than the bewildered and unsaved individuals all about us.   We’re to reflect our Father’s position in heaven and Christ’s image here on earth, each and every day, and in every circumstance. 

A difficult assignment; Mission Impossible!  Ordinarily, but not for someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit.  Paul comments:  I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  (Romans 8:14; 2 Corinthians 12:10) 

No matter the misfortune, persecution, or temptation confronting us we need not repay evil for evil for Jesus Christ is able to strengthen us and can bring us triumphantly through the “storms” of life:   I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:13)

Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  This is how we are supposed to live.  Another way of saying this is, “live in such a way that no one can make an honest accusation against you.  Live your life in such a way so that if someone is going to accuse you of a wrong they’ll have to tell a lie to do it.” (Matthew 26:57-67)

Believers need to treat everyone fairly and honestly.  Sadly, this isn’t always the case.
Christians often mimic the unsaved world’s practices.  True story; my wife and I had to replace the A/C at our home recently.  We used the local Christian directory to locate businesses in our area to get an estimate.  We found three Christian A/C repairmen nearby and scheduled a home visit.  We invited them in for a beverage while we talked about the repair and/or replacement and the expense.  All three talked the-Christian-talk, but they didn’t walk-the-walk.  To say they wanted to over-charge us would be putting it mildly.  All three submitted exorbitant estimates for the same work.  How did we know this?  We had an original estimate to work with from a non-Christian service provider whose estimate was $5000 below theirs on average.  We gave him the job.

A true Believer, in Christ Jesus, is a person who is governed by the principles of doing what is right because it’s the right thing to do.  The true Believer will go out of their way to avoid even the appearance of “evil,” meaning: a true Believer is accountable to God, themselves, and to others.

The Apostle Paul for instance was careful when it came to managing all the contributions he received that were meant for others:  taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.  (2 Corinthians 8:20-21)

Proverbs 10

9: He who walks in integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will be found out. 

Now for verse 18 and it may make some people shake their heads in amazement.  While growing up in the religion of my youth, I was only taught to “turn the other cheek” by the church fathers.  They told me this is what Jesus said to do, so this is what I had to do.  But is this the absolute Truth?  Just because we’re Believers do we have to let people cheat us, mistreat us, or worse?  Not so much. 

Verse 18 is the Believer’s biblical “loop hole.”

Romans 12
18: If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
As Scripture has shown us, we are to do our utmost to preserve the peace.  Yet, Paul is saying our best efforts may not always achieve the desired results.  I mean honestly, Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, and yet His enemies crucified Him. 

Paul is instructing these Believers in Rome (and us) to try and live at peace with everyone, but we are not to compromise our biblical beliefs in the process; it’s not “love me do,” or “peace” at any price.    

As I’ve said before, Scripture is the best teacher.  Please turn with me to Galatians 2.
Here the Apostle Paul opposed the Apostle Peter face to face in Jerusalem to establish the “higher claim” of the Truth of God’s Gospel over the rank and office of Peter.  Paul was willing to endure the pain of conflict with Peter and the other members of Jewish counsel in order to defend the Truth of His gospel (Romans 2:16). 

The order of this confrontation breaks down like this:

a)  Peter’s practice of dining with Gentile Believers. 
b)  Peter’s separation from these same Gentile Believers once James and the “circumcision” group arrived because they might not view his association with Gentiles (the uncircumcised) in a favorable light.
 c)  The separation of the other Messianic Believers from the Gentile Believers due to Peter’s influence. 
d)  Finally, Paul addressing Peter’s hypocrisy and rebuking him (Acts 10; 11).  

Often peace gives way to conflict if the Truth is at stake.  Believers should never compromise their biblical beliefs for the sake of peace.  For example we are not to seek peace with the homosexual community by agreeing with their policies and their lifestyle if it means retreating from God the Father’s position on the subject.  Likewise Believers are not to be “carnal” in their thinking on abortion (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).  God considers the life of an unborn child as valuable as that of an adult (Exodus 21:22-23). 

The Bible clearly states that all human life is created by God for His purpose (Colossians 1:16).  When an individual starts “justifying” what’s evil and what’s not evil based on their own understanding, or according to what’s P.C., they dilute the Truth of God such as when they rename adultery an “affair” and homosexuality an “alternative lifestyle.”

You and I will find occasions when peace is not possible.  Consider the life of David.  He tried to be at peace with King Saul.  But Saul would not have peace.  He relentlessly hunted David seeking to kill him.  However, when David had the opportunity to strike Saul down, he spared his life.  David never took his revenge and God has said we’re not to retaliate against our enemies.  (1 Samuel 19; 1 Samuel 24) 

Romans 12
19: Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 

Seeking our own justice is one of the natural human responses to being hurt or injured.
We all have that old Wild West mentality within us, which is “justice done is justice served.”  Although it’s essential that justice be done; it is equally vital that justice not be confused with revenge. 

Perhaps you come home from a night out with your spouse and find your home’s been burglarized.  The place has been trashed, they’ve marked up the walls, and all your valuables are gone.  You want to get even!  Maybe, you desire to get a bit more than that…  There are few things in this world that cause more anxiety, depression, distress, grief, and sorrow than the loss of one's material goods, especially those material goods for which a family has diligently and honestly labored, and which they still need.

But here’s the thing.  The Bible says we are to avoid the spirit inside us that says seek revenge; we are not to take matters into our own hands.  Put the Glock down, in other words and remember you are Christ’s ambassador here on earth.   

If you’ve been mugged, swindled, or worse you do not have to “turn the other cheek” to these crimes.   You have the right to exert you legal privileges which are guaranteed under the law.  You may seek justice in an orderly manner, when it’s fitting; that is to say we’re not to go running to the court system for every little thing.  (1 Corinthians 6:1-8)

Paul’s command here means we are not to take revenge out of the hand of God or out of the hands of the law, when it’s necessary and inflict it ourselves (1 Peter 2:13-15).  You and I are not the Lone Ranger. 

Romans 12


21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

These last two verses make absolutely no sense to an unbelieving world.  Why would anyone want to show kindness, in any way, toward a proven enemy or someone you dislike? 

The true Believer is aware of the fact that before they were called a child of God they were His enemy.  God didn’t wait until mankind “proved themselves to be worthy” of His attention and His affection.  Scripture says He sent His Son to die for all while we were yet sinners.  We were reconciled to God while were His enemies (Romans 5:6-10). 

Without a doubt the greatest opportunity to manifest the grace of God is in granting forgiveness to those who have sinned against us.  If you think about it, this is the only instance when it works.  Grace can only be realized where sin has occurred.  We can only be gracious to those who have harmed us in some way.  Grace is not only undeserved, it is the opposite of what is deserved.  Justice is served when the perpetrator is punished.  Grace is granted when the evildoer is forgiven at the expense of the victim. 

When people do wrong, they expect to receive payback from those they have wronged.  Getting even is how the world behaves, after all.  But when they receive “kindness” and “mercy” instead, this throws them off balance to such a degree that their hardened hearts often soften. 

Do not be overcome by evil - or surrender to temptation to return evil for evil so that you may: Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity, Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.  (Colossians 4:5-6)

Even though this statement from Paul specifically mentions outsiders his words apply to every conversation.    

In verses 14, 17, and 21 Paul states “do not return evil for evil;” we are in effect to reflect Christ’s image in our daily lives for He:  while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him (the Father) who judges righteously; (1 Peter 2:23) 

The foundation of this entire passage (Romans 12:9-21) is the expression of (Agape) love that is not mixed with any measure of hypocrisy.  Anyone can choose to live their life in a belligerent, spiteful, revengeful way.  It takes a mature child of God to live above the level of this mediocrity and walk in love (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 5:2; Colossians 3:14). 

(To be continued)

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