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Continuing his great application of his rich theology, Paul presents a logical progression of how we are to live as followers of Jesus.  Having looked in chapter 12 at how worship through our service and love our brothers and sisters in Christ.  In chapter 13 he continues this theme of love, but this time Paul wants to tell us how love lives well in society.

Beginning with looking at the civil authorities, out obedience to the law of land is part of the Christian’s integrity.  Paul affirms that civil leaders are appointed by God’s authority, therefore they are to serve as his agents in the moral law.  This does not mean that Christians simply sit back and take what comes their way.  If the civil authorities are not leading in a Christ-centred way, then we take a stand for what is right and true – we obey God rather than man.

This leads Paul into the second part of the passage as he considers how love keeps us from sinning.  Sacrificial love means we stay on the path of light and not on the path of darkness.  Living in the light means we stay true to the gospel, whereas walking in the darkness will only lead to sin.  Paul urges us to be sincere in our love of Christ so that we can live well in the church and in society.

Romans – The heart of the Gospel is a teaching series from Annalong Presbyterian Church. Find out more at

David McCullagh:

If you're joining us and trying to catch up where we're at, we've covered 12 chapters of Romans and really from chapter 12 onwards, Paul has started his practical application of what is his deep and rich theology. And what he does from chapter 12 onwards, he He approaches this very logically. He moves from one state to another so that we can simply follow along and adopt it in our own lives. And as systematic as he was in the theology of the first 11 chapters, where he stated a position and then answered those who would disagree. He again embarks on a logical progression of how we are to live as followers of Jesus. And although we will see that chapter 13 comes to us in two parts, it really has one overall message for us. And that message is the love of Jesus compels us to live well in society. And so perhaps a verse that pins this for us for tonight is verse 10 in chapter 13 where Paul writes, Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. This is Paul's centerpiece for this chapter. And he begins by speaking about authority and our submission to those over us. Now the world has taught us to be wary of authority. We are encouraged, actively encouraged, to question everything we are told, to be suspicious about ulterior motives and that more so particularly following the coronavirus pandemic. But Paul wants us to take a look at this from the perspective of our security in Christ. That's what his first eleven chapters has been talking about. Paul has been teaching us what it means to live for Christ so that we will be secure in him. And so from that perspective, we need not fear what we're about to approach in chapter 13. We don't need to fear which political system is running the country, who the first minister, prime minister, or president may be. Because we can be sure that we will be kept by Christ, because our kingdom is not In autumn, or in the autumn of 1561, young Queen Mary of Scotland had a series of conversations with the Scottish reformer, John Knox. A Catholic, Mary claimed that Romans 13 gave sovereigns the right to vote. to determine the religious convictions of their subjects. Therefore, Mary said, Knox was wrong to urge people to receive a religion that their princes disallowed. His teaching, she concluded, must be false, since God commands, here in Romans 13, subjects to obey their monarch, their monarchs. And this was a very comfortable and, as you can imagine, convenient position for the Scottish Queen to take. But Knox famously replied, Madam, as right religion took neither its origin nor authority from worldly princes, but from the eternal God alone. So are not subjects bound to frame their religion according to the appetites of the princes? And besides, God commands queens to nurture his people. Yes, but you are not the church that I will nourish, Mary retorted to him. And to this, Knox replied, Your will, madam, is no reason. In other words, just because you want And you see Mary and John Knox were two voices in debates about church and state authority that Europeans debated intermittently for centuries. Queen Mary's view represents one of four main points. positions on church state relations. Now, don't switch off at this point, but some may be interested in this. I want to let you know what they are because inevitably the majority of us here will probably agree on one of these, but there may be differences of how we understand it. And so the first one is Aristotelianism, state authority centered in monarchs who control the Theocracy, the church establishes civil law. and so controls the state, and that's indeed what happened in the magisterial reforms of the Reformation. Constantinianism, where the state favours the church, and the church accommodates the state. In many ways, what England has been used to with an established church. And then there is Caperianism. Church and state recognize that each has authority in its sphere. Both seek constructive collaboration without domination. And whenever Northern Ireland was formed in 1921, that is how this state settled on not having an established church. Perhaps you didn't know that there was so many ways of looking at this relationship between church and state. And each one hinges, or falls, on Romans chapter 13. Isn't it amazing how from one passage you can get four different approaches to this? Well, Knox was in no support of Mary, Queen of Scots, so he was no Aristian. In fact, years earlier, his fiery proclamation of justification by faith alone had nearly cost him his life when Catholicism controlled Scotland. A court sentenced him to row as a galley slave. That typically meant a very slow death, but Knox had survived and regained his freedom. And after his release, he studied in Geneva under John Calvin in the 1550s. And when he returned home to preach and to galvanize Scotland's Calvinist lords, he led the drafting of the Scottish Confession. And in sections 11 and 18 of that confession, It is declared that Jesus Christ is the only head of his kirk. And if you don't know your Ulster Scots, kirk is simply church. So understanding this position that Knox lays out, of which the Presbyterian Church in Ireland subscribes to and believes, and I don't think anyone here would challenge that Jesus Christ is the only head of his kirk, we can now approach the relationship between church and state as presented in Romans 13. Part of a Christian's integrity is civic responsibility. And this begins with a sense of obligation to honor governing authorities. And this is what Paul writes in verse 1. Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. by God. Now just read that for a second, isn't that so encouraging to know? As our history has been shaped and indeed will be shaped, no one has authority over this land, this island, this united kingdom, or indeed any country in the world that has not been instituted by God. You see this sense of instituted by God has a theological basis and it is God's sovereignty as expressed in his establishment. Of the institution of human governments. In general, the authorities act legally, and they uphold the social order that God has established. And we see this time and again in scripture, the formation of the children of Israel. As they were gathered at Mount Sinai, they were gathered around the Ten Commandments, principles by which they were to worship God. God and how they were to live together as a people. Then as the law was further explained in Deuteronomy, they understood more of their rights and their entitlements and what it meant to live as a people in the promised land as those 12 tribes that we were looking at this morning. And then of course in the teaching of the law that that revival of what it meant to live for God as the exiles returned to Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah. Scripture has made it clear what the expectation of how people are to live in God's way, because God has always made known what his way is. And we know that non compliance with God's way results in punishment. And God has delegated certain punishment to these authorities. As verse 4 goes on to say, For he is God's servant, speaking of the magistrate, for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain, for he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. And whenever you look at the majority of rules in the world, they are grounded on what we would agree with in Scripture. You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. We think these are good laws and of course we do and there is punishment for them through the civil and magistrate's courts. But there are other laws, embezzlement, fraud, sins of consequence that we were thinking about this morning. It's it not right that they should be punished too by the civil magistrate for the betterment of all people? And so certain responsibilities have been given to the civil magistrate by God. To ensure that there is punishment for these things that go against, ultimately, what God's best is for us. And so civil authorities should hold the standard of the law that ensures a cohesive society in which we may live. And in doing so, it serves out punishment, but that punishment should not be served as something it relishes. Verse 3 tells us that when we live good lives and follow the law, then we need not fear those appointed to rule over us. But when authorities overstep, Believers may need to do what we're told in Acts chapter 5 and verse 29, obey God rather than men. They may need to say to a king whose command is blasphemous, we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up as Daniel and his friends did in Daniel chapter 3 and verse 18. Jesus defied the extra biblical Sabbath, ordinances of his time. Paul's counsel in Romans 13 assumes a government acting within its God appointed parameters, and when it does not, then other, uh, other measures may be necessitated, necessitated. Unfortunately today we see abuse of power in countries where governments want to remain in power and so they persecute the opposition or intimidate their voters. In this case, followers of Jesus do not obey tyrants when they require what God forbids. Revelation 13 develops this theme in a vision of government run amok. In that vision, a terrible beast emerges from the sea. It has ten horns signifying power and seven heads, each with a crown signifying rule and authority. The dragon, the Satan, welcomes and summons the beast and gives him power to blaspheme God and to wage war against God's people, and this is what we read in Revelation 13, verses 1 to 7. But this beast represents the power and authority of government in the service of evil. At worst, godless government seeks to coerce Christians to bow to evil. If social pressure fails, evil powers may use force to compel compliance. Evil governments even receive worship, and Revelation 13 verse 4 tells us that. And during the life of the Apostles, three Roman emperors, Gaius, Nero, Domitian, claimed to be gods and attempted to compel people to worship them. Sadly, emperor worship was simply a long tradition, because that's what happened at the time of Egypt with the pharaohs, and indeed Alexander the Great also claimed to be a deity. Communist totalitarians, even in our lifetime, often style themselves as the father of the nation. And so they put up statues in their own honor and plaster pictures of themselves throughout their cities. To this day, governments are prone to make promises that only God can keep and to demand allegiance that only God deserves. Now democracies are less prone to self defecation because anyone can publicly criticise leaders. It is hard to worship a leader whom the press will criticise in the morning and then they become the end of the jokes at night by a comedian. But democracies still promise god like gifts such as food and security from cradle to grave. You see, we need both Romans 13 and Revelation 13. Rulers are a gift, worthy of respect, and rulers can also think of themselves as God. So ordinarily, disciples are the most loyal citizens in a nation and in a state. We obey and we serve the government. We don't rebel unless the authorities issue commands that contradict God's will. If we must choose between God and man, we We obey God. We prepare to disobey if necessary. But notice verse 5. This should only be done when there are no other options, for Christians must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath, but also for the sake of their conscience. We obey because it is what God wants us to do. This means even the mundane things of paying taxes is an expression of obedience to God and love for him. Since what happens whenever we pay taxes, it provides practical means of financing the governments that God establishes. Now I'm not encouraging revolution. And on the whole, we agree with a lot of what those in authority over us have to say. This is good because any politician, president or king is only in office for as long as the Lord allows. But there are issues, ones that we have faced and are facing in Northern Ireland. The redefinition of marriage, abortion law changes. and RSE in our secondary schools that we should and must speak out against. Whenever I was in training and we were finishing that there was a discussion about what this redefinition of marriage meant and what would it mean that if it ever was forced on the church. And a group of us have said that we will submit back our license to marry to the state. as a way of saying we do not agree. To this point, the state has not forced a redefinition of marriage on the church to act as its people. But if that day comes, we will hand back to the government the license it gives us to marry because we will not take part in what is biblically wrong. We must obey God and not men. Because it is a fine balance to live well for Christ in obedience to the civil authorities. And an obedience to Him whenever we are challenged with these things. When the wind of the world would have us simply go along with it. But Paul continues in verse 8 by what seemingly is a shift in thought, but it actually centres on love. We obey civil authorities because of our love of the Saviour and our desire to obey Him. And we also live well with others because of that same love. And this becomes a challenge to us. We all like to think that we are right and we don't really like to admit it when we're wrong, but God's love compels us to love. Paul helpfully says this in verse 9 when he says for the commandments, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and any other commandment are summed up in this word, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. How do you not commit adultery? How do you not murder? How do you not steal? How do you not covet? Well, you let the love of Christ rule in you, so that as you love your neighbor, you will remain true to what that love is. And complying with these laws from what we call the Decalogue, is essentially showing love for one's neighbor. This doesn't mean laws against adultery, murder, theft, or coveting are no longer valid or needed. They are. For one thing, they offer abiding light for civil law, in which they were frequently included in many of the Western laws, up until relatively recently. These specific laws instruct believers in living lovingly. And law teaches that sorts of behavior responses God expects and by his spirit empowers when people receive his grace in the gospel. For as Paul goes on to say in verse 10, love does no wrong to a neighbor therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Now the word love here you is agape love. One of the three words for love. Agape love is sacrificial love and this changes everything because when we love sacrificially it means that our outlook changes. It becomes less of us and more of others. So as we live sacrificially in society by living in agape love we are doing what God expects of us. In verses 11 to 14, Paul puts a time constraint on all of this, and an urgency to love well. We love now because time is not on our side, as he says in verse 11. Besides this, you know the time that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep, for salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. And here we see the New Testament's view of time, which Jesus divides into this age, and the age to come in Matthew chapter 12 and verse 32 and again in Luke chapter 18 and verse 30. We live in this age but Jesus is the one who has inaugurated the age to come so that's why Paul says the hour has come and the Christian must stay awake. When Paul says that salvation is near he means that the day of complete restoration grows ever closer because salvation is always near. or at hand, and passages such as James chapter 5 and verses 8 and 9, and 1 Peter chapter 4 and verse 7, and Revelation 22 and verse 10, all confirm this for us, because the Lord can deliver His people at any time. He can also return at any time, but today it is nearer, for one more day has passed. And so the Christian lives between the time when sin and darkness reign, And the time when the light of Christ rules completely. If we are sleepy and complacent, well then it is time to wake up. So that we don't relapse into the life of darkness that Paul spoke of in verse 21 of chapter 1. Now, you can't blame a heating system that's too warm for you to drift off to sleep. But aren't we in danger of falling asleep? Aren't we in danger of simply going through this life, ignoring the urgency of the time in which we're living? Christ will return, none of us know when. This is the day by which we are to live, And serve because salvation is always near. And Paul continues in verse 12 by saying, The night is far gone, the day is at hand, so then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Whether we perceive it or not, the night of sin is running out of time. The day of Christ and his light is drawing closer, and we should live accordingly. And Ephesians 6 has a lengthy description of the disciples armor, but here the armor in Romans chapter 13 is simply light. And what this encompasses are actually three lights. It is the light of Christ, the light of the gospel, and the light of scripture. To know the light, to know the truth, and to live by it is the best defense. against darkness. This is the gospel call, as John, in his prologue, wrote. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it. You see, we can trust Jesus. We really can. Because he is the truth. Just as pure light shines strong, so Jesus is the truth and strength of our salvation. And what we are to do is to know this salvation. As Paul concludes this chapter by telling us how to live, to live in it, and how to walk in it. He says let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and in drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. When we walk in the daytime, we can see, but we're also seen. This means that we are kept on the path that leads us to Christ. Walking in the darkness where our acts can be hidden. Leads us to sin as we saw this morning in Genesis chapter 49. We can never really get away from the consequences of our sin Because unrepented sin will stick to us. We need to walk in the light so that we will know God's goodness, we will know his grace, and we will know his love. If sin still has a hold on your life, flee from it. Because trust me, that sin isn't worth it. Flee. Run. As Peter tells us, the evil one is prowling round like a lion. And trust me, if a lion came out through that door tonight, you would run. Flee the sin. It's not gonna do you any good. And do what Paul tells us to do in verse 14. But put on Jesus Christ. And make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires. And the image here is like putting on a new, well fitted jacket. It's wonderful when I got married, all my clothes seemed to fit me better because I had another opinion. And I think all men discover that whenever they get married. But you know what it's like to have a good raincoat? To have a good suit jacket, to have any form of jacket, to have it on and to have it fit well is comfortable and it looks good. And this is what we're to do with Jesus. It is like putting on that well fitted new jacket. And as we put on Christ, we invoke him and we practice the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, the studying of scripture, and obedience of who he is, as he has called us in the first half of this verse. And it calls us to loving behaviors that invite his life altering presence into us by the Holy Spirit. And in doing so, we give no head space in planning or daydreaming about the sins that we can commit with the flesh. And this is our tendency, to drift away from God, but put on Christ. Like that perfect jacket, stay close to Him to know His love, so that we can show His love. And as John writes in his first letter, in chapter 4 and verse 7, Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God. It's a wonderful thing to know God. Not just in head knowledge. Because we can all easily say, I believe God exists. But Satan says that too. To know God is to know Him as our Saviour. That in our hearts, we commit to Him through His Son, Jesus. Knowing that we are free to live for him and not fear whoever our ruler may be. Dare I say, not fear if we ever receive a government in Westminster to rule over us who would clamp down on us, or indeed a government from Dublin that in time may rule in a way that we do not want. We can stand firm because we are not of this world. We are of a kingdom that is much greater and much better and more secure. Why are you trusting anything else? Put on Christ, each and every one of us. Put on Christ, and stay close to him, so that as we know his love, we can demonstrate his love, and thereby know what is the true heart of the gospel. Let's pray. Our Father God, for this your word we give you thanks. It takes our minds away from the temporal affairs of this world. And allows us to focus on our security in Christ. So may it be true for each and every one of us that we will flee sin. It'll do us no good. And may we put on Christ like a well fitted jacket. So that we will live in his ways and his ways alone. May we each know and be honest with our own hearts tonight. Amen. May we take our stand for what is true for the gospel, where it supports the government of the day, or where we need to obey you rather than man. Give us the conviction of our hearts and the strength of our feet to stand firm on what this truth is. And may the heart of the gospel ever compel us to live for you all the days of our life. So Father, hear us as we pray in response to you this night, in Jesus name.

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