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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
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
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).
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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