A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Christian's Duty to the Citizens of the State
The principle of love has various aspects to the sphere of its display. These are introduced in verse 9, "Thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; thous shalt not covet." If the state orders you to do any of those things, you have a right to refuse. "Thou shalt not bear false witness" is not in the best manuscripts, but the principle is there. Adultery, murder, theft, and coveting form the basis of all human law. You cannot think of a single statute that does not deal with some form of these things.
You may wonder why Paul does not say, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." Why does he confine himself to mere human relationships? Paul is here discussing the state. Certainly, in a limited sense, the state has nothing to do with our relation to God. But it has everything to do with our relation to our fellowman. Paul keeps out the name of God entirely and confines himself to only human relationships.
Verse 10 defines more clearly to whom love should be shown. This is toward the "neighbor" in the state, any man who exists along with us as citizens of the state.
The Christian's Duty in View of Christ's Coming
Paul comes last of all to the great incentive to do all these things. Do all this "knowing the time" or "the season." You are to work hard at this, and be diligent and zealous in these thing he has been talking about, because you are aware of the spiritual situation of the age.
What about the time? "It is high time to awake out of sleep" because "no is our salvation nearer to us than when we believed." Do not get the idea that we are not saved. There are three tenses to salvation: past (we have been saved); present (we are being saved); future (we shall be saved at the coming of the Lord, when He redeems our bodies).
Be wakeful, be watchful, because the Lord is coming. When He comes, what is He going to do? He is going to set up His kingdom. If there are imperfections in the government of today, in that day there will be no imperfections. The very closeness of His coming ought to make us more diligent in doing the things He lays down in this chapter.
The "night" of sin on this earth is far spent. It has extended ever since Adam. If it was "far spent" nineteen hundred years ago, what is it today? The Morning Star had already appeared. The first coming of Christ was His coming as the Morning Star, the precursor of the day. When He comes the second time, He will come as the "sun of righteousness"; the sun will rise and the day will break!
Verse 12 declares that we have a duty: "Cast off the works of darkness," those things that men do in darkness and in secret. We live in the night, but we are sons of the day, therefore let us put off those things. Perhaps there may be a reference here to plotting against human government in secret, for in the days when Paul wrote, the realm was full of secret societies (from which some of the societies today claim descent). These societies were plotting to take the government from the hands of those in authority. Instead of the works of darkness, we are to wear "the armour of light." This armor is described at some length in the sixth chapter of Ephesians.
In verse 13 Paul says, "Let us walk honestly" - honorably, becomingly, decently, beautifully attractively, is what the words suggests. This means "not in reveling and drunkenness," signifying intemperance, "not in chambering and wantonness," pointing to immorality. These are the sins of men in relation to men.
Verse 14 brings us to the final exhortation - "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh." Conduct yourself as though there were no flesh. Do not make provision for it, because it is supposed to be dead in the sight of God. In what respect do we "put on" Jesus Christ? In everything, of course. Our attitude toward God, toward our fellowmen, and toward the state should be what Hi attitude was.
Three passages illustrate what will be our attitude if we "put on" Him.
The Pharisees asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, a Gentile power (Luke 20:19-26). His answer: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's." If you put on the Lord Jesus Christ in you attitude toward the government, you obey the powers that be in the things where they have a right to command you, but obey God in the areas that belong to Him. Peter was asked if the Lord paid tribute money (Matthew 17:24-27). Peter did not know, when they asked him if his Master paid tribute, but he said "Yes," in his impulsive fashion. He knew his Lord was right, whatever He did. When he came into the house, the Lord asked him, "What thinkest thou, Simon? The kings of the earth, from whom do they receive toll or tribute. From their sons or from strangers?" Peter answered, "Strangers," to which Jesus replied, "Therefore, the sons are free." We are free from all human government, in a sense, because we are the son of God, and our allegiance we owe to Him. But Jesus didn't wish to mislead anyone in exercising His freedom from the state, so He requested that Peter go to the sea and catch fish. In the mouth of the fish was the coin to pay the taxes for Christ and Peter. Perhaps Peter was thinking about that incident as he wrote in 1 Peter 2:13-17, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance ... Honour the king."
The supreme example of our Lord's attitude toward human government is seen when He submitted to the men who came to arrest Him. Peter saw his Lord going into the hands of the authorities and, pulling his sword, said, "I am going to defend Him, even though these men came from the government itself." But listen to what the Lord said: "Put up thy sword into the sheath" (John 18:11). "All they take take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matthew 26:52). "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11). Men may talk about injustice, but never in all the history of human government has there been such an awful miscarriage of justice as in the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of our Lord, but He submitted! He did it because He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, but there is also a second consideration: He knew the government was wrong, and so He committed Himself not into their hands, but into the hands of the Father, the righteous judge, who shall in His good time set all things right.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 82