Sunday, April 29, 2012

Romans 13 and the American Revolution

Was the American Revolution a Biblically Justified Act?

A New Testament examination of the Founding Fathers' motives

BY: David Barton


Some people contend that the American Revolution represented a violation of basic Biblical principles and embodied rebellion, or a spirit of anarchy. They argue from Romans 13 that since government is of God, then all government decrees are to be obeyed because they proceed from God.


But this is only one of two theological interpretations of Romans 13--interpretations representing a debate that has existed among American Christians for centuries.


On one side was the belief that when government speaks, God requires us to obey.
This same theological position resulted in the "Divine Right of Kings" philosophy which reasoned that since the King was chosen by God, God therefore expected all citizens to obey the King in all circumstances; anything less was rebellion against God.


The other interpretation of Romans 13 was set out in a 1579 work by Frenchman Philippe du Plessis Mornay, which was printed in English as "A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants." This treatise took the position that government being ordained of God was referring to the general institution of government rather than to each distinct government.


God ordained government in lieu of anarchy. Yet, there clearly have been governments in recent years that promote anarchy, rebellion, and wickedness (e.g. Qadafi in Libya, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Idi Amin in Uganda). Has God endorsed those governments?
If so, He has contradicted His nature and is commanding submission to the very things that He hates--which isn't possible.


Most Christian denominations during the American Revolution all believed that Romans 13 meant they were not to overthrow government as an institution and live in anarchy, but that this passage did not mean they had to submit to every civil law. (Note that in Hebrews 11, a number of those who made the cut in the "Faith Hall of Fame" as heroes of the faith were guilty of civil disobedience--including Daniel, the three Hebrew Children, the Hebrew Midwives, and Moses.) Furthermore, the Apostles in Acts 4-5 also declared they would obey God rather than civil authorities.


The real key to understanding civil disobedience and Romans 13 under this latter view, then, is to determine if the purpose of opposition is simply to resist the institution of government in general (which would be anarchy and would promote a rebellious spirit), or if it is to specifically resist bad laws, bad acts, or bad governments.
The American Founding Fathers embraced the second interpretation of Romans 13, and therefore strongly opposed "Divine Right of Kings" theology, which was derived from the first interpretation of Romans 13. For example, Founding Father James Otis in a 1766 work argued that the only king who had any divine right was God; beyond that, God had ordained power to people.


Despite their rejection of the theory that the King spoke for God, a generally submissive attitude prevailed among the Americans. The Founders pursued peaceful reconciliation; it was Great Britain that terminated the discussions. After the separation had occurred--following years of peaceful entreaties--some British leaders specifically accused the Americans of anarchy and rebellion. To this charge, John Quincy Adams responded:

"[T]here was no anarchy....[T]he people of the North American union, and of its constituent States, were associated bodies of civilized men and Christians in a state of nature, but not of anarchy. They were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of the Gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledged as the rules of their conduct."

The spiritual nature of the American resistance became so clear that even in the debates of the British Parliament, "Sir Richard Sutton read a copy of a letter relative to the government of America from a [Crown-appointed] governor in America to the Board of Trade showing that....If you ask an American, 'Who is his master?' He will tell you he has none, nor any governor but Jesus Christ."

Therefore, under the Framers' understanding of Romans 13, the American Revolution was not an act of anarchy or rebellion; rather it was an act of resistance to a government that violated the Biblical purposes for which God had ordained civil government. In fact, so cognizant were the Founders that they would account to God for what they had done and be justified in His eyes, that the flag of the Massachusetts Army proclaimed "An Appeal to God," and the flag of the Massachusetts Navy likewise declared "An Appeal to Heaven."

Additionally, the original State constitutions were overtly Christ-centered in their wordings and appeals. Quite simply, the Framers and most American Christians of that day believed they had conducted themselves in a manner in which they were not in rebellion to God or the Scriptures.

The second factor which the Framers believed gave them Biblical justification was the fact that they did not initiate the conflict. The Framers had been committed to peaceful reconciliation and had pursued that course for 11 years before the separation from Great Britain. There was no desire to raise arms against England, their mother country and the land of their birth.

Nevertheless, in the last two years of their peaceful reconciliation attempts (e.g., as in May 1776 with their Olive Branch Petition), their entreaties and appeals were met solely by military force. In fact, King George III dispatched 25,000 British troops to invade his own Colonies, enter into the homes of his own citizens, take their private possessions and goods, and imprison them without trials--all in violation of his own British common law, English Bill of Rights, and Magna Carta.

The Framers cited Biblical justification to defend their homes, families, and possessions. In their understanding of the Scriptures, God could bless a defensive war but not an offensive war. In fact, so reticent were they to separate from Great Britain that it was a full three years after King George III had sent armed troops against his own citizens in America before they announced their separation.

John Adams authored a manifesto that reflected submission to God: "We, therefore, the Congress of the United States of America, do solemnly declare and proclaim that...[w]e appeal to the God who searcheth the hearts of men for the rectitude of our intentions; and in His holy presence declare that, as we are not moved by any light or hasty suggestions of anger or revenge, so through every possible change of fortune we will adhere to this our determination."

The fact that they had been attacked completely changed their status in the eyes of God, for the Bible justified self-defense against an aggressor.

Some pacifists have noted that the American Revolution resulted in a loss of life, and therefore cannot be justifiable in the eyes of God. This position demonstrates a lack of Biblical understanding about life. Clearly, protecting innocent life is a recurring theme in the Bible. Since God is the author of life, and since He alone holds the keys of death, He is to determine when life is to end. However, taking of life is not always taking of innocent life. God allows humans to take human life on three occasions: for the cause of civil justice; for military conflict, and in defense of one's life, family, or property. Therefore, the fact that the American Revolution was a defensive rather than an offensive war made all the difference in whether it could be a righteous war.

A final indication that the Framers believed they were engaged in a defensive war was the fact that throughout the course of the struggle, the conflict was often described by the Americans as a civil war rather than a revolution. Only in later years was it called a revolution. Under the view of Romans 13 as understood by the Framers, the American Revolution was indeed a Biblically justifiable act.

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Romans 13:1-7 - Trusting God’s Authority


We have been studying our response to the gospel. In Romans 10 we confess and believe; in Romans 11 we trust in the sovereign calling of election; in Romans 12 we begin to worship by serving God especially in church, being living examples of renewal, and trusting in the justice of God.

If you thought it was hard trusting God with justice, you might find this week even harder. Today we look at civil authority and how God's redeemed are commanded to respond to authority.

Definition of Authority

Though this passage is directly linked to what authority is, a proper definition of authority needs to be understood for your class lest confusion set in because of preconceived notions of authority. Random House defines authority as:

au·thor·i·ty [uh-thawr-i-tee, uh-thor-]noun, plural au·thor·i·ties.

1. The power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.

2. A power or right delegated or given; authorization: Who has the authority to grant permission?

3. A person or body of persons in whom authority is vested, as a governmental agency.

4. An accepted source of information, advice, etc.

1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

This word subject means under control, or in submission; our example in submission is marriage. 1 Peter 3 says wives should be subject to their own husbands, not because he's always right, but as an act of faith, realizing that we all are given a part of God's plan to fulfill, and we each will give account of how we do it.

Primary to all authority is God's authority. "There is no authority except from God." Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 28, "all authority has been given to me." In the complexities of the Trinity one finds the granting of Authority from the Father to the Son. We must understand God as the Source of Authority.

From this we also see in verse one that other forms of authority only exist because God allows them to exist. This is a very important point to make. From the beginning of the discussion on authority Paul is stating that however you feel about those in authority over you, your choice to be compliant or rebellious are not primarily directed at them but God: God is the Source of all Granted Authority.

2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

If you resist authorities you resist God and will incur His wrath. Often we do not think about the affront to God that our tiny revolts have, but according to this verse they can and will incur judgment.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

Why do authorities exist? Authority exists for Order. God allows governing authorities to have power so that God can do His will on the Earth. The ruler who must judge only applies that judgment to the one who is in need of it: the bad person. Those who are good should have no problems with government or any authority over them since that authority exists to make life ordered for the individuals that make up that particular community.

What about corrupt authorities? This is an excellent question and shows the nature of the flesh coming out. Please note that even though this rationally seems to be a good question it has already been covered in verse 1. Since God grants authority then authorities are accountable to God. Now for us it gets tricky since our government puts the authority into the law and grants men only a temporary right of enforcement. But we still must submit to authorities except for the specific case when obedience to God requires us to be disobedient to men.

In Exodus 1 midwives defied the Egyptian order to kill infant boys because they feared God. The circumcision of Jewish male children was a sign of them being separated to God, meaning that they belonged to God

In Daniel 3 Shadrach Meshach and Abednego break the law in refusing to worship idols . And in Acts 5 the apostles defy the Sanhedrin Council when they order them not to preach in the name of Jesus, and they famously refuse saying "we ought to obey God rather than men". So that is our line in the sand, we only rebel against authorities when required to obey a direct commandment of God.

Effects of Authority

Continuing on, Paul shows us what are the benefits of submitting to authorities. First, when we do what is right We receive Approval, and avoid wrath.

4 For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

The words here are a strong admonition: Be afraid. The divine nature of authority comes with the divine mandate to punish. When Paul says, "He does not bear the sword in vain," he is referring to the ability of rulers to inflict punishment.

In both of these cases we must note that The Authorities are Servants. They are servants of God to provide order or to punish chaos. In the latter case the authority is an avenger of God and is granted such only from God. Once again our ability to submit to authorities is our ability to submit to God, which is our spiritual act of worship.

5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake.

Verse 5 makes it clears that we should ever be trying to submit, not just for the sake of avoiding punishment, but also for having a clean conscience. There are many issues in this life in which we subvert authority and are not always caught, however in our conscious we know if we are righteous or not. Our example of marriage in 1 Peter 3 concludes with the warning "that your prayers be not hindered". So we see that our submission to authorities is our submission to God.

6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

As the saying goes there is nothing certain except death and taxes, so too in Paul's day. Perhaps you are reminded of Jesus' saying to render to Caesar what is Caesar's. This is the same sentiment here. We pay taxes in subjection to authorities for two reasons: one, because God has granted them that authority, and two, because they deserve it as the servants of God.

In verse 7 the taxes or tribute was the property tax or head-count tax due to live under the protection of a government. Customs is that which is paid to enter or leave a territory under authority. Fear is the respect paid to the controlling force. Honor is the value, the set price or rate of exchange, you understand that when you see a price in the store that is what you will owe to take that item home.

Practice of Authority

In conclusion, Paul sums up the command to submit to authority by saying, "do what your authorities tell you to do."


  • How are we revolting against authority in our lives?
  • In practice, do we deal with authority as a spiritual matter?
  • What are the limits of opposing authority?
  • If you do not like a ruler, such as a Bush or an Obama, are you still righteous in your attitudes and actions to them?
  • At work, have you considered your boss as a servant of God in your life? What are the implications of the work environment in which the boss is seen as a servant of God for you?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Romans 12:17-21 – Faithful Justice

[Romans 12 began with the famous call to be a living sacrifice. First we studied the attitudes of service (humility, unity, and diversity). Then we looked at the process of living renewal, or how to behave in our bodies representing what Christ has done in our spirit. Most of the examples last week were about being a blessing to others. This week is a little more challenging as we look at bad relationships and bad people.]

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.

[The Old Testament idea of "eye for an eye and tooth for tooth" was never meant for individuals, but rather was the guideline for human government regarding civil and criminal punishment. In modern terms we would say "make the punishment fit the crime". But because of our sinful human nature people then and now misused "eye for an eye" as the justification for personal retribution. But if we focus on our entitlement for revenge to each offense, where is the place for faith in that? More on this a little later.

The second idea here is our public regard for good things. Many studies have shown that people feel good after doing good deeds, but there is also a second hand effect. People who simply observe good deeds are also elevated in mood an attitude. In modern culture we have the idea of pay-it-forward; to respond to good that has been done to you, by rendering good to someone else. This is a Christian ideal; that we take all the good that God has rendered to us and use it as motivation to render forgiveness, grace, and mercy to the world around us. The Christian living a life of good works seeking virtue in all things can motivate the people around us to seek God and virtue as well.]

18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

[One of the big problems with personal retribution is contentious people will always present you with offenses to repay. If we take-the-bait and allow ourselves to be drawn into these cycles of conflict with others, we can allow someone to steal our peace.

I've seen plenty of people who live life with a chip-on-their-shoulder always waiting to pounce on someone who offends them. What a terrible way to live! How insecure do you have to be to live a life of conflict just so everyone will "know who they are messing with"? If you questioned someone like that, they would probably say they are just demanding the respect they are entitled to. But who really respects that kind of insecurity? I would much rather be known as a peace maker than as someone you had better not cross.]

19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.

[Now we can expand on the idea introduced in verse 17. Don't be one of these contentious people who have to avenge every wrong done to them. Now this was confusing to me at first because "give place to wrath" sounds like we are to allow ourselves room for wrath, to let ourselves be angry; but in context that doesn't make any sense. The conjunction "but rather" tells us this is a contrast or alternative to avenging ourselves.

Te answer to this paradox is the second half of this verse, the idea that justice belongs to God, quoted from Deuteronomy 32:35


"Vengeance is Mine, and recompense;

Their foot shall slip in due time;

For the day of their calamity is at hand,

And the things to come hasten upon them."


So here is our alternative; instead of avenging ourselves, we trust in the God of Justice. God has prepared a punishment for every offense and if we will trust in Him and are patient we don't have to avenge every wrong ourselves. One way we live by faith is by trusting in the perfect justice of God. Though God requires civil governments to punish crimes, he wants us as individuals to "wait on the Lord" and trust in him.]


20 Therefore

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

If he is thirsty, give him a drink;

For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."

[Now to some this verse is just crazy; first we are told not to avenge ourselves, now we are asked to provide for the basic needs of our enemies. In addition to that I hear different opinions on the meaning of the last part of the verse, so lets dig in and figure it out. First of all this passage is quoting an Old Testament passage:


Proverbs 25:21-22

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;

And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;

For so you will heap coals of fire on his head,

And the Lord will reward you.


So if you had asked why you should give food and drink to your enemy; the answer is the promise that the Lord will reward you. Here we have a chance to work on our theology a little and learn that God gives us a choice in doing good; we can receive a reward from men now or a reward from God later.


Matthew 6:1-4

"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.


So one of our principles in living by faith in God is to do things on earth that hold no promise of benefit or reward in this life; trusting only in the promise that God will remember all of the things we do motivated by faith.


So now let's tackle the other difficulty in this passage; what does it mean to say that "For so you will heap coals of fire on his head"? I have heard people say this means to make your enemy ashamed of his behavior, or to make them paranoid expecting they are being setup by your kindness. But really both of those are based on predicting the response of men, but this passage is talking about the response of God.


Our other clue is how this concept of burning coals is used throughout the Bible.


In 2 Samuel 22 David cries out to God to save him from his enemies, and God becomes angry at his oppressors including a "devouring fire proceeding from His mouth" that kindles coals of fire.


Psalm 11 speaks of the wicked oppressing the righteous and God responding by raining coals of fire on the head of the wicked.


Psalm 18 is almost a direct copy of 2 Samuel 22 where again the coals-of-fire is the anger of God against the wicked.


And finally in Psalm 140 David again cries out to God to deal with his oppressors and I want you to hear what he says.


Psalm 140:9-13

"As for the head of those who surround me,

Let the evil of their lips cover them;

10 Let burning coals fall upon them;

Let them be cast into the fire,

Into deep pits, that they rise not up again.

11 Let not a slanderer be established in the earth;

Let evil hunt the violent man to overthrow him."

12 I know that the Lord will maintain

The cause of the afflicted,

And justice for the poor.


So to put all of this together; every time you see burning coals used like this in the Bible it is the punishment of God against the evil. And David spells it out for us, expressing his faith that "the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted". Therefore we understand Romans 12:20 to mean that just as God does not reward acts already rewarded on earth; likewise God has no need to avenge those who avenge themselves. If instead we return kindness for abuse, trusting in the justice of God, we are rewarded and our adversaries are punished.]


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

[Some people don't seek revenge because they feel helpless and week. But we can overcome evil with good, because we trust in the faithful justice of our God. We don't forgive others because we predict that they will change their behavior, we forgive because we have already been forgiven.


Those who are easily offended are giving control of their lives to people who don't really care about them. To allow others to steal your peace and waste your time plotting how to get even is wrong for anyone; but really dumb for people who know the God of all justice.


Psalm 140: 12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted,

and justice for the poor.




  1. Why is it wrong to seek revenge?
  2. Why do we need patience to trust in God's justice?
  3. How does kindness put burning coals on the wicked?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Romans 12:9-16 – Living Renewal

[Romans 12 presents the transition from the doctrine of salvation by grace to living by faith. Romans 12 begins with the plea to be a living sacrifice, a walking transformation from what you were as a servant of sin, to what you are because of your conversion. Last week began with the renewal of the mind, the attitudes of service that allows a common faith to bind us together in one body.

Without the renewing of your mind the gifts of the Holy Spirit cause Christians to become puffed up in their own conceit, worship their gifts to glorify themselves, instead of worshiping the Lord and glorifying him in the use of those gifts. Even the unredeemed expect that Christians should be different. The fact that they see so many professing Christians, who are not behaving Christians, may be the greatest hindrance to the gospel today.

I think a lot of people are nominal Christians, skeptics or even unbelievers; yet they all want to know what born again looks like. Last week we talked about the new attitudes of humility, unity, and diversity. This week we will look at the new behaviors that follow those new attitudes.

Behave Like a Christian

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

[Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hypocritical love makes a show, and then vanishes, because what it really loves is attention. Real love doesn't need attention it only needs opportunity to be expressed in actions that make a difference.

In the contemporary world we are told not to judge, to be tolerant of everything, sometimes they even invoke Jesus as an example of this behavior. But they forget that even when Jesus forgave he called for change, "go and sin no more". Abhor evil, this exact form of the Greek word is used only once in the Bible and it means to completely separate yourself from the things that defile you. And in contrast we are to firmly attach ourselves to the things which are good or godly.]

 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

[In terms of behavior these 4 verses are packed, but it is really one sentence and one continuous thought and that is how Christ's followers should love and show affection to each other.

I've always loved the old Christian practice of referring to each other as brother and sister; reinforcing the idea of a Christian family. Why this matters is that in this world we are strangers and pilgrims, but in the church we belong to God and to one another. What this looks like begins with honoring one another, pay attention to each other; don't come to church with a self-serving attitude but rather take delight in being together for God's glory.

The next we way show our love for each other is in service. Being diligent never lazy, not waiting for someone else to serve, or dreading your turn, but having a zeal or enthusiasm, a willing spirit for serving God and each other.

Verses 11-12 talk about what love looks like in times of trouble. The clear meaning is that when we face adversity, we are supposed to face it together with the love and help of our church family. Begin with hope, we know that no trial last forever but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of this, so we don't act like hard times are the end of the world. Patience and prayer are the correct ways to respond to the difficulties of life.

But sometimes as we are praying we also need to add tangible physical help. It may be money or meals or visits. Sometimes younger couples need a night off from their kids, or someone older might need help cleaning their house. If we esteem each other highly and are humble ourselves, the other things should flow naturally. Finally hospitality, you can really encourage someone who is struggling by inviting them over for a meal and a time of fellowship, sadly sometimes it seems that hospitality is becoming rare in our culture.]

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

[This is a hard one for many people; even if we have a natural affection for God's elect we don't feel the same about those who treat us badly. I don't think this means only religious persecution, but can be applied to anyone who makes life difficult. Bless them don't ever curse people, but remember Jesus on the cross saying "father forgive them". Often people who abuse others have been abused themselves. You can be their epiphany of a better way in Christ when you refuse to return a curse for a curse.]

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

[Now some of you will see this a common sense but when you see someone crying you don't say "hey beautiful day isn't it". You need to sit down and find out what is troubling them. Likewise when someone is rejoicing over good news, take the time to rejoice with them. When we do this we make life richer for ourselves and for each other.

To be like-minded means living in harmony, not being contentious or easily drawn into conflict. Don't be too proud, understand the Jesus hung out with the humblest of the humble, the people that no one else would touch. Enjoy the company or ordinary people. And finally don't be wise in your own opinion. Some people are really quick to offer an opinion but far too slow to lend a hand.

So chapter 12 is all about living out the renewal of salvation; being a walking a talking object lesson of spiritual regeneration. In my opinion, this is what the world is waiting to see from those who claim the name of Jesus. Recently there was a story in the news that illustrated this point.]

By Jeff Schapiro , Christian Post Reporter

April 4, 2012|2:31 pm

A few months ago Patrick Greene was an atheist who was threatening to sue Henderson County, Texas, if the county didn't remove a Nativity scene from its courthouse lawn. Today he is a believer in Christ who underwent a radical change of heart that was catalyzed by the compassion of one Christian woman.

In late 2011, Greene joined the fight against a Nativity scene that had been set up outside the courthouse in the town of Athens, Texas, threatening to file a lawsuit over it. Shortly after he made his threat, however, he discovered that his ability to see was rapidly deteriorating and he would soon be blind, so he withdrew his threats and left the Nativity alone.

That's when Jessica Crye, a Christian woman from Athens, asked her pastor, Erick Graham of Sand Springs Baptist Church, if they could help Greene. As a result of her kindness, thousands of dollars in donations have gone toward helping Greene, who has reconsidered his view of God as a result.

"There's been one lingering thought in the back of my head my entire life, and it's one thought that I've never been able to reconcile, and that is the vast difference between all the animals and us," Greene told The Christian Post on Tuesday, as he began to explain his recent transformation from atheist to Christian. The theory of evolution didn't answer his questions, he says, so he just set those questions aside and didn't think about them anymore.

But when the Christians in a town that had reason to be angry with him showed him a gesture of love, he began reconsidering his beliefs altogether. He eventually began to realize that evolution would never have the answer to his questions, he says, and it was at that time he began to believe in God.

"I kind of realized that the questions I [was] asking you just had to accept on faith without doubting every period and every comma," he said. He later began studying the Bible, both the Old Testament and the Gospels, and also discovered his belief that Jesus is the Son of God.


  1. What is the difference between real love and hypocritical love?
  2. What should brotherly love look like in the church?
  3. How is a living renewal different from a social gospel?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Romans 12:1-8 Humility, unity and diversity

Romans 12

Attitudes of Service

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

[By this time Paul has fully explained how God has enlisted us in His plan for the redemption of mankind. For the elect, the church, love and good works are to be our calling to card to the lost world. Now if we have been willing recipients of the grace of God through faith, then that same faith is to form the basis for a redeemed life.

Jesus said "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Even back in Romans 2 speaking of the judgment of God, Paul promises that God will render to each of us according to how faith is applied to our earthly lives.

"eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality" v.7

"glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good" v.10

The clear message in all of these is that given time, the spiritual rebirth of salvation will be evident in the physical lives of Christ's redeemed. Just as true repentance produces faith, true faith will produce the fruit of righteousness. So we know that God will not be fooled by a false profession that produces no spiritual fruit.

"if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness,if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off." (Romans 11:21-22)

Now in Chapter 12 he will lay out the framework for service, which he calls the reasonable or rational response to receiving the mercy of God. Some translations render "reasonable service" as "spiritual worship", so let us look at service as a form of worship.]

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

[The first step to service that is an acceptable form of worship is renewal. Just as the natural man did not keep the Law, our natural minds must be renewed for an effective Christian life. This mental transformation from a temporary fleshly focus, to an eternal spiritual focus enables us to "test" or prove the will of God in our lives. Renewal is begun in the repentance that leads to salvation, and continues throughout our journey of sanctification. This what you read, listen to and study, literally what is your daily meditation. The rest of this passage will explain certain necessary attitudes this renewal will produce.]

3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

[The first attitude of service is humility. Even your faith is a gift of God, so in the church human pride will be the first of our fleshly attitudes to be destroyed. Human pride is deadly to the spiritual health of a church; everything done here should be for God's glory not mine, and not yours. Be careful not to think too highly of yourself, remember the path you were on before God rescued you.]

4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

[The second attitude of service is unity. We are different people but one body in Christ. Of all the things that divide us in society (race, wealth, culture, politics) our unity in Christ Jesus, one faith, one baptism, should be stronger. The church is the assembly of the elect; what should be obvious in that is that we are supposed to assemble, to gather, for worship and for service. Don't be afraid to share the life of faith with people you perceive as different, because what God has done for each of us is the same. While the grace of God may have found you in a different place than it found me, the transformation and the destination is the same for all of God's redeemed.]

6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

[The final attitude of service is diversity. I can't do every task in the church, nor am I supposed to. God equips each of us for service according to His purpose. Just because your gift or ministry is different from mine, does not make it less valuable. All are necessary, to the church, and all gifts should be used by the church and for God's glory. Some are preachers, others teachers, others gifted in one-to-one personal ministry, still others in giving liberally, or leadership and organization, even those who just encourage and restore all the broken people who come here looking for a change. What a beautiful endowment we have from God in the diversity of gifts and callings among all of God's people. I can't do every ministry, but I can pray for and support every ministry and every minister as valuable, worthy and important in the church.

This is our reasonable service to God; to seek the renewal of our minds in the essential attitudes of service: Humility, unity, and diversity. And when we serve God according to His calling with these attitudes we bring glory to God and His church.]

Romans 11:30-36 – Rebellion, mercy, wisdom, and glory.

30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

[In verse 30, Paul once more reminds us that the Jews are the chosen people. When God was calling and working primarily through the Jews, he was calling them to be separate from our ancestors who followed all kinds of idolatry. But because of their disbelief and their rebelliousness, God showed mercy to the Gentiles, offering them salvation evidenced by the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:34-46, Acts 11:17). This is a pivotal moment in the Text when we as Gentiles gain access to God's mercy.

But when God once again turns His mercy back to the Jews as we have discussed the past two weeks, they will receive the same salvation, the same grace, through the same atonement of Jesus the Jewish Messiah.

Verse 32 harkens back to many other statements in Romans regarding the judgment of sin. Since the Jews chose, disobedience God has committed them to the path they chose. In Galatians 4:22, Paul also writes, "But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God's promise of freedom only by believing in Christ". Remember the addictive nature of sin, lies beget lies, anger more anger, violence becomes a way of life; we are imprisoned by disobedience and without Christ's mercy, we would remain imprisoned. The purpose of the Law was to reveal our sinful nature; we must now look to Christ and His mercy to free us from our sin.]

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

[In moments of weakness we sometime question God, and those in rebellion frequently question God; but we are all unequipped for the answers. In terms of predestination we emphasized the foreknowledge of God, but timeless knowledge is just one feature of God's wisdom. In terms of strategic thinking we are playing tic-tac-toe while God is playing three dimensional chess.]

34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?"

[When trying to understand the sovereignty of God, the thing to keep in mind is all of His actions reflect His attributes. Even when you can't completely understand the mind of God, the time you invest looking will give you glimpses of His glory.

Isaiah 40 says "Behold your God" as if pointing to a painting or sculpture by one of the great masters. But what that chapter describes is the wisdom of God, and how he reveals it, even in little bits, to us.

Jeremiah 23 says "who has stood in the counsel of the Lord", and the chapter is speaking about false prophets, people who will replace the Word of God with the 'wisdom' of man.

While it may seem a sully choice people trade the Glory of God for all kinds of worthless things.]

35 "Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?"

[In Job 41, after Job has finally gotten frustrated enough to question God, He answers Job by telling of all the things that are under His control; declaring "Everything under heaven is Mine". Does God owe anything to anyone? In reality everything, including us, belongs to Him.]

36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

[The things made by God reflect his nature and character, which means they reflect His Glory. The Psalmist said "All creation declares the Glory of God" and Romans has told us creation demonstrated His eternity (an ancient creation), His power (a vast creation), and his authority (a well ordered creation). But what about people, we see lots of people who do not seem to give Glory to God.

You see, in his perfect plan even the rebellious, disobedient, and disbelieving will reveal his perfect justice, when they are judged. And those who trust in the Lord will reveal His mercy. But all will combine to reveal His glory.]

  1. How do react to the idea that God has a wisdom that you can never fully understand?
  2. Do you praise God for the decisions He's made in your life, even those you might identify as negative or bad?
  3. How can we give glory to God in every aspect of our life?