31. Romans: Results

Course: New Testament Survey - Acts to Revelation

Lecture: Romans: Results

Having dealt this his argument, in chapters 5-9 Paul then deals with the results of this righteousness. Now that we’re righteous, what comes with it? We heard the whole debate as to righteousness as a standing with God. In other words, I have been attributed the sentence of being righteous; that already is my standing – I am justified. It will take place in the final day, but I’ve already been given the sentence; I already know what it is. God is faithful – he’s not going to change it all of the sudden. On the final Day of Judgment, when you appear before the great judge, he pronounces you righteous. You are justified. And that pronouncement has already been given to us in a sense now, but it awaits that final day. So now I have righteousness.

The next question that comes up is: if I have righteousness, does that have anything to do with the way I live? If I am pronounced righteous, can I then live like the devil? After all, living does not determine my righteousness; I already have that standing. And therefore, is this standing simply a legal kind of a situation, having nothing to do with life? Is that a clear question? A lot of Baptists in practice live that way, right? For instance,

“I got saved 48 years ago.”

“Have you been to church since?”


“What kind of life do you live?”

“I’m going to be one of those that will be ‘saved though by fire.’”

Maybe not.

So, what’s the relationship? One of the things that you have to realize is that the metaphor of justification is a legal metaphor. It pronounces how we stand before God. People want to make it more than that, because they want to somehow say that if you’re justified you have to live a life like a truly justified person – a life of holiness, etc. I think what we have to realize is that there are metaphors that the Bible uses to describe the Christian life. This metaphor deals with our legal standing before God. There are passages in Romans that make that very clear. If all that happens to us when we are converted is that we are pronounced righteous, then there is no necessary connection between that standing and how we live.

But when we’re converted, more happens to us than simply being pronounced righteous. Besides being baptized and having a confession of faith and repenting and believing, something else happens that’s part of the conversion experience. We are born again. We are given a new nature. And the result is that, in light of this, it is not the metaphor ‘justified’ that deals with Christian living; it is the experience of conversion (which includes being justified) that deals with Christian living. And so in that experience of conversion, more happens. We are transformed. We are changed. We become a new creation in Christ Jesus. And because of that aspect of it, life now proceeds in a path of holiness. Justification has nothing directly to do with that, except that justification is part of the experience of being converted. And ‘converted’ means something. ‘Converted’ means more than just being pronounced righteous; it means the transformation of life in Christ. And if a person has been justified, and shows that he’s never been born again, I would have to question whether he’d ever been justified. So, when we’re converted, there is more associated with that than simply being pronounced righteous. The metaphor is an attempt to explain an aspect of our salvation, but no metaphor is big enough to cover it all. And there are some people, especially some Lutherans who want to pack the word ‘justified’ with all sorts of things. What ‘justified’ means is to be declared righteous. That’s all that it means. But the experience of being declared righteous includes other things that cause one to have to live differently. And Paul is going to deal now with some of the results of righteousness, and some of these other things that take place.

In Chapter 5, he deals with the fact that if we are “… justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ [v. 1b].” Now that is not the subjective experience of “feeling” at peace with God. I remember when I became when I became converted, I had a wonderful experience of an inner, deep peace with God. That’ true, but that’s not what Paul is talking about here. What he means here is that the war has ended – the war of God vs. Bob Stein has come to an end. There has been a peace accord. This is something very objective. That inner feeling of peace – the realization of all that’s taking place is wonderful. That’s not what he’s talking about. He’s talking about an objective thing. The war has come to an end. And we rejoice now in the hope of sharing in the glory of God, and he talks about some other things that we’re not going to look at.

Verses 12-21 hit a digression. We have the first major parenthesis, where Paul somehow has to deal with the issue of how Adam fits into all of this. We’ve talked about sin, etc., but where does Adam fit in all of this? And so he now digresses for a minute and talks about the influence of two great individuals in world history. One is Adam, and the other is Jesus (v. 12), “Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” He’s talking about the origin of sin in the human race – it comes through one man, Adam. The latter part of v. 12 has frequently in reformed circles been understood this way: “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all men, because all men are reckoned as being sinful.” All men are attributed the sin of Adam, and therefore we’re guilty, we’ve sinned, and Adam’s sin is imputed to us, and therefore we’re sinners that way.

I don’t think that’s the best way of understanding this verse. There’s an interesting passage in the Book of 2 Esdras, where the writer in chapter 7 [vv. 118-119] says, “O Adam, what have you done? For though you alone sinned, what good is it, if being promised eternal life, we all sin?” Now there’s a tie between Adam and the individual, but it’s not that Adam’s sin is attributed to them. But the influence of Adam’s sin causes us to sin, and therefore what good is it if we’re now promised life and we’re now sinning? What have you done to bring this state about? And I think that fits better the understanding of Paul here: sin enters the world through one man, and death through sin. But it passes on to all of us because we are sinning. It doesn’t matter how or why – we are sinning, and we affirm one way or another what Adam has done, and thus it is passed upon us. And so I think we all sinned and therefore death also passed upon us.

Now in v. 13 you have again a digression that is going to have to be dealt with shortly, “Sin was indeed in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.” Even before there was a law there was death, and so death reigns from Adam to Moses even before the law is here. You don’t need the law for death; death already existed here, and now he wants to go in vv. 15-21 and do the comparison,

“If many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For, if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in eternal life through the one man Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Now you have this kind of comparison, and in v. 19, “As by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” In v. 18, these are synonymous parallels, the same thought being repeated, “As one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.” It looks almost universalistic here, except you have to realize that this is a balanced form of poetry. And the second line talks about many being made sinners and many being made righteous, so the “all” shouldn’t be pushed too much. But how do you word something that’s in poetic form? We could look at 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall many be made alive”? That’s not balanced poetry. So you shouldn’t press the imagery – elsewhere it’s very clear Paul believes that not everyone will be saved. There is a judgment and a separation at the end of judgment.

So now he’s dealt with how that one man, Adam, brought death into the world, because somehow what he did brings about our sinning, and our sinning therefore brings trespass and death. But on the other hand, there’s another man who comes. And through that one man a greater gift is given, and that is acquittal, life, and righteousness. So he’s dealt with the first little parenthesis, Adam and Christ. Now he’s writing a theology really for the church in Rome, and that issue has to be dealt with in some way.

In chapter 6, he does deal with this issue of whether a person who is reckoned righteous can live in sin (6:1), “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” The idea here is, if God is really a wonderful savior, forgiving me of my sins, can I make him even more wonderful by being even more of a sinner? Paul says, “God forbid!” The logic may be alright, but the logic loses sight of the fact that when we became justified, other things took place as well. And now he deals with that (6:2-4), “How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” He talks almost certainly about Christian baptism here when he says (v. 4), “when we were immersed [associated with our conversion] … we entered into a newness of life,” (elsewhere this is translated, ‘born again’ or ‘became a new creation’) and the result is that that new life has to manifest itself. The person whose life has been changed is going to live differently; that’s why we cannot abide continually in sin. We can walk in newness of life. There’s a new quality of life. Our old self was crucified with him. There’s a sense in which the old nature was nailed to a cross when we believed in Jesus. It doesn’t mean it was eradicated or anything like that, but it has been dealt a mortal wound. And therefore, something has happened. We’ve died to sin.

How does that involve justification? It doesn’t involve justification as a metaphor; it involves what happens when you are justified however, because other things take place. And these other things include this dying to sin – this being made into a new creature in Christ, being given a new heart, a new life. If you were an adult when you came to know the Lord, is there not a sense in which things became different? Is there not a new desire that happens in a person’s life, a new longing to live differently than the way one did? And even if you committed the same sin, it was not the same; because the new creature in Christ could no longer enjoy it. Whereas once one relished those sins, now there’s a guilt, a distaste for it; and that leads to repentance. So something has happened – we were not the same people we once were. What has that got to do with justification? Nothing specifically, but when you become justified other things happen as well. And these other things are what Paul is talking about here in chapter 6.

Having said that we died to sin, he then says in v. 12, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies.” Have you ever thought that’s kind of a silly way of wording things? How many times do you command dead people not to do something? If you’ve died to sin, how can you ever sin again? If you died to sin, why do you say “Let not sin therefore reign any more in your mortal bodies”?

What we have here, and we’ll look at it more closely in Colossians, is the relationship between the indicative and the imperative in Paul. 6:1-11 is the indicative (“you died to sin,” etc.); 6:12-14 is the imperative. Why the imperative, if the indicative is true? Notice (and this is most important), the imperative never precedes the indicative; it’s always the other way around; it’s the indicative which forms the basis of the imperative. It is never, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies to make you obey their passions so that you may be buried with Christ ….” It’s never that way; it’s always the other way. “Having died with Christ, therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies.” The indicative is always the basis for the imperative. And what I’ll argue in more detail at another time is that the indicative is a statement about what we are in the total understanding of eternity. We have died with Christ. Sin will never reign over us anymore -- that’s a sure thing. In light of all that we are in Christ, that is true.

However, all of that is not yet fully realized. And therefore, in this in-between time, between what we are in Christ and what we will fully be, realized in Christ, the imperatives come. And the imperatives deal with this in-between time of not fully having realized all the things. We died with Christ, to be sure. Sin will not reign over us – that’s right; that’s sure. But that’s both a promise and a prediction. In light of eternity, all of that is true. And it’s in light of eternity that we’re told to so live. The situation is just like the little boy who was a prince being raised to be the king. He lived as a little boy in light of the reality that was to come, and his tutor would say to him, “Sire, kings do not do that.” He wasn’t the king yet, but he was the king in the future. And we have died with Christ; therefore sin can’t have dominion over us. It’s a dead issue. We’re victorious; we’re more than conquerors. But in this time between what we now are and what we ultimately will be, there are imperatives that follow.

Then he goes on and says, if the first hypothetical question was to increase God’s grace by sinning more, the second would be, “Well, if we’re not under the law any more, but under grace, why don’t we sin? Let’s enjoy it.” Paul argues, no, you have a new slavery. The slavery to sin is over; you are slaves of God, and therefore you are committed to him and you must live accordingly. And in chapter 6 you deal with that moral kind of tension that he deals with. Justification involves more than a pronouncement of righteousness. There’s associated with that act of being justified (even though the metaphor doesn’t deal with any of this) other things that take place.

Now in chapter 7 he finally wrestles with the issue concerning the law. He deals with another kind of argument in 7:1-5, but we’ll skip that for a minute. Verse 7, “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means!” We’ve talked about the law; it’s come up time and time again. How do we deal with it? Let’s look through Romans and see how this issue keeps coming up:

• 2:12-13, here he’ll deal with the law, “All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”

• Then when you get to 2:25, “Circumcision is indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision ….”

• 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

• 3:21, “… the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.”

• 3:31, “Do we overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”

• 4:13-15, “The promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but there is no transgression where there is no knowledge of sin.”

• 5:13, “Therefore sin came into the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.”

• 7:5-6, “While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit ….”

Alright, now, we’ve had enough of this. What are we going to say about the law? And we have here another parenthesis. And the parenthesis means that we’re dealing with an issue, not necessarily that this is the logical place where we’re talking about sanctification, etc., in the Christian life. I think he simply at this point is going to deal with the law, and where this is located doesn’t really deal with the main question of who this person is, that he describes. In 7:14 ff.,

“We know the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh, For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want [Who is the “I” here?], ….

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Now, the main question of chapter 7 is: Are we talking about Paul himself (very unlikely)? Is Paul talking hypothetically about humanity under the law, and that humanity is not Christian? Is this a non-Christian or a Christian approach in 7:7-25? There’s lots and lots of debate on that. I remember one time in Holland, if you said that this was the non-Christian experience, this was heresy. It’s interesting how theologians like to call anybody who disagrees with them a heretic.

Or, in 7:7-25, is it a Christian who’s going through this? And the arguments are numerous in that regard. Some argue that this can’t be an unbeliever, because he wants to do what is right. On the other hand, you do have to admit that after reading chapter 6 about how “sin will no longer have dominion over you,” and you read chapter 7, it doesn’t seem like the same person. What’s happened? Has he lost his salvation somewhere in between? It’s a real struggle. My own view is, I think what Paul is talking about is the idealized unbeliever. This is not Paul himself; he’s not talking about an individual; he’s talking about the Law. And what’s the problem with the Law? The problem is that humans can want to keep the law, but they can’t do it. The law: I want to do what it says, there is in me a desire to do what it says, but I simply can’t do it. I need some help; I need rescue, and that rescue will come in Jesus Christ. And so he inserts here not a Christian experience, even though we’re starting from 3:21 on, talking about the Christian and his relationship to God, here he says, “Let’s talk about the law. Let’s pause for a minute, and let’s talk about the law.”

There’s no real problem with the law. The law is good. The problem is not the law; it’s that I cannot keep the law. So the question is, what about the law – it seems that the law doesn’t make a Jew any better off than a Gentile. It really doesn’t mean much. No, the law is very special. But what’s the problem with the law? Is the law sinful? No. If you have a series of MRI’s on your back, and the doctor looks at these and says that you have some degenerative disks and you need back surgery, is there anything wrong with the MRI? Do you curse the MRI? Do you curse the x-ray, or do you say to the x-ray, “Heal me!” The law does that. It is the x-ray of our lives, and it reveals our sin. There’s nothing wrong with that; but you can’t have the law heal you. It is not able to; it is weak, Paul says. It cannot perform that function. And therefore, there’s nothing wrong with it. The trouble is me. I can look at that x-ray of the law, and it tells me what I should do. And in fact, in my best moments I really want to do it. But the problem is that I have a problem. It’s within me. I can will to do it, but I can’t be helped. And the cry out (v. 24), “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” -- I find that very hard to associate with a Christian; it’s much more of an unbeliever’s cry, that he needs some sort of help. And the help will come in chapter 8 for the Christian, because what the law cannot do, God now will give provision for.

Why don’t we simply say that the “I” here represents Paul? When we look here at what Paul says about his pre-conversion life, it doesn’t square with it. He thought himself righteous. He thought he was very comfortable with the law. And so, this does not really portray Paul’s pre-conversion experience, because he says, “…with regard to the law I was blameless ….” When he met Christ on the Road to Damascus, he wasn’t suffering from all this inner guilt and sense of sin and saying “I was expecting something like this might happen one of these days; I’ve been fighting it.” He’s totally taken by surprise. And so, it doesn’t seem to fit. He’s a very satisfied, self-righteous Pharisee.

On the other hand, if you wanted to use some other way of describing it, it would become very cumbersome. You’d say, well a person can want to do this or that; or a person can will to do this. But I think he’s looking back at this as the kind of experience that an unbeliever ought to have. At the best moments this is what an unbeliever should experience, the desire to keep the law, but the inability to do it.

In Galatians, Paul talks about the Spirit lusting against the flesh [Galatians 5:17]. But in this chapter, there is no Spirit. And the question you have to ask is, “Can you describe the Christian struggle in living apart from the Spirit?” The next chapter is going to talk about the Spirit, and so it seems that chapter 8 is really about somebody else. But the lack of the Spirit in this struggle also argues against it being a Christian struggling. I think he’s simply saying, “Let’s talk about the law, and a person’s relationship with the law. What can the law do? What can’t they do? Actually, the best thing the law does for me is, it’s an x-ray and shows that I have sinned and I need grace. But it can’t help me.”

I think if we continue the “I” in chapter 9, he says in his best moments he serves the will of God this way, but the flesh causes him to sin. In the best moment, the unbeliever can want to keep the law, but they can’t do it. But chapter 8 is going to change that. Chapter 8 reads this way (8:1), “There is therefore no condemnation now for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Now the reason for that, in the next verse, “For, the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death,” and the law here means not the written code, but rule of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, which has set me from the rule of sin and death. The Spirit now has changed my life. He continues in vv. 3-4, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh [chapter 7] could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Many people have said in v. 4 that “the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” refers to a positional status, so that we are reckoned through Jesus Christ as having fulfilled the law. I don’t think chapter 8 really deals with that. I think chapter 8 says that the reason why we’re no longer under this condemnation is because now through the Spirit of God we are enabled in a way to keep the law that we never had before. And we live differently. And the things we once were in bondage to, we are no longer in bondage to.

I think for instance of the drug addict who comes to know Christ and is remarkably delivered. All during that time, he could want to keep what he knew what was right, and to avoid drugs, but he couldn’t. But now through the Spirit, there’s no more of that condemnation. For he walks the life he can because the Spirit has enabled him to do this. Again, it’s far from perfectionism or something like that. But on the other hand, I think we have to realize that chapter 8 is talking about the way the Christian life is to be lived, even though Paul is fully aware that he’s writing from a church where that’s really not that often experienced. Think of his writing this while he’s in Corinth. You almost expect him all the time to say, “Well, you’re not living in Corinth here. I know there are exceptions,” and keep on qualifying it in some way. But he’s not going to qualify it; he’s going to deal with the general principle. Don’t we have to in some way say that Jesus Christ changes lives, and that the life that we once lived, we no longer live? We live now a different kind of life. Isn’t there some sense in which you and I have to look at our lives and at least be able to say, “By the grace of God I’m at least less worse than I once was.” That’s what Paul is talking about here.

But what kind of comfort does that give to a person who’s living in continual sin? I don’t think Paul wants to give comfort to that person. I think he wants to say that this is the way life should be lived. And Paul goes on and says (v. 5), “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit.” Now it’s pretty apparent that the words “flesh” here and “Spirit” don’t simply mean the physical body and the soul. Because Paul can’t say, “You are not in the physical body any longer.” The word “flesh” here is a theological term. It’s not a physical term, it doesn’t denote anatomy; it denotes a person who has fallen, and under the domination of Adam and his sin. And he says that that’s not what we are any more. We are in the Spirit; there’s been a change. As in Adam, the life in the flesh, all die; in Christ shall all be made alive. We’re in the Spirit and there’s no condemnation because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed us from that rule of sin and death that way. Verses 12-13, “So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Again, we see what we saw in Galatians, where you have this struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. It’s very distinctly a Christian struggle between flesh and Spirit. In chapter 8, the Spirit’s present – it’s a Christian struggle. I think chapter 7 is not, because the Spirit is not there.

Now, this section ends in a kind of doxology, beginning at v. 31,

“What shall we say to this [all that we’ve covered so far]? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

And that ends, then, this section here. And Paul then goes on again in another kind of parenthesis in chapters 9, 10, and 11, about Israel and its future. What about Israel? His last chapter addressed “What about the law?”; these chapters address “What about Israel?”. And then in chapter 12 he will come to his moral exhortations and proceed as follows (vv. 1-2), “I bid you brethren by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable, and perfect.”

In chapter 13 there is a parenthesis on the relationship of believers to the state. It’s the only place in Paul’s writings where he deals with this. Does he do it because of what happened in AD 49, when Jewish Christians and Jews who are not Christians got involved in a riot, and the Jews were expelled from Rome? Is that partly why he deals with this issue of how the Christian should relate to the state? This is only in Romans, interestingly enough – not in Corinthians or any of the other letters. And here he has a very strong positive view towards the state. Essentially he’s saying they are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. If you don’t want to worry about them, do what’s good and you’ll receive approval. A major issue comes up of course which Paul was not concerned about. When Paul wrote about Rome, it was a reasonably good government. Nero had not lost his mind and begun his persecution of the church. Time and time again, Paul was rescued from dangers (from beatings and from persecution) by the Roman government because he was a Roman citizen. It was very positive in his mind. And so, he sees the Roman government here as being positive, an instrument of God with God’s authority behind it; and therefore you should obey your government. It rewards good; it punishes evil.

Now, the issue arose among Christians in Germany during and before World War II of what their relationship to the government should be. And government propaganda, which was a “Christian” government emphasized this passage, and said essentially, “Government’s authority comes from God; obey your government.” Is this a universal acceptance of every government in the world – that government is of God and Christians ought to obey it? Well, look carefully at how he describes this government in chapter 13: it rewards good, and it punishes evil. That’s the government he’s talking about. If you have a government that rewards evil and punishes good, we’re not talking about that government here in chapter 13. And therefore it’s not a true government; it’s an illegal government, and therefore you should not obey it. Of course you always have that you should obey God rather than man. So the struggle you have here is, if you look at the government described, that is the kind of government we should obey.

I remember when I began my teaching career during the Viet Nam demonstrations, and they were talking about resistance to the government, holding demonstrations of civil disobedience, etc., and I was wrestling with that – should I pay taxes to my government knowing much of this is going to war, etc.? I thought of this passage, and I thought to myself, “What was the Roman government like that Paul said we should obey?” It collected taxes. And what did it collect taxes for? Very little of Roman taxes went to social welfare. It went to supporting the legions, to military domination, to building roads so that the army could move quickly, etc. And I concluded that my government was less bad than that government. Therefore, if Paul said we should obey that government, then I should obey mine even more. So that helped me work through that particular aspect of chapter 13.

There are other things, and we don’t have time for them all. We flew through many parts of this great book, but I hope this gives you a feel for this great letter of Paul.