Romans Bible Study Lesson 56

Printer friendly version

The Believer’s Responsibility

Romans 13:8—14

Romans 12:9—13 instructs us how to treat fellow believers. Verses 14—21 tell us how we should treat unbelievers, even enemies. We are to let God take care of avenging a wrong. Paul then explains in 13:1—7 how we are to put ourselves under governmental subjection since God has put them in power. We even need to pay taxes: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” (Matthew 22:21)

Verses 8—10

After telling us that we need to pay our taxes Paul extends that admonishment to cover all situations. We are to owe nothing to anyone. We are not to be in debt. Does this apply to charging items with a credit card or taking out a mortgage or taking out a loan for a car? Doesn’t this put us in debt to someone? Not really. As long as you are faithfully making payments then you really are not going against this principle. The problem comes in when you fail to make a payment or fail to send in your taxes on time. To owe somebody something means they expected payment but you failed to do so.

Paul seemingly puts us under the Law by quoting Jesus who was quoting the Law in Leviticus 19:18. We will be in fulfillment of the Law if we love our neighbors as ourselves. Why would Paul tell us how to fulfill the Law if we are not under the Law (Romans 6:14)?

First remember that Paul earlier told us that we are not under Law. He certainly did not change his mind seven chapters after writing that. Second, we must understand that there is nothing wrong with the Law. The Law was given to Israel from God and what He told Israel concerning right and wrong in civil dealings stands today. Paul was merely saying that love fulfills this part of the Law. Just because we are not under the Mosaic Law does not mean we are unrestrained. Paul shows that we are under the Law of Christ, not the Mosaic Law. We fulfill the Law of Christ when we bear one anther’s burdens and we will bear one another’s burdens when we love each other.

1 Corinthians 9:19—2119 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

The Law was needed because Israel did not practice love, either of God or of neighbor. If you love, you will be operating within the domain of the Law and you will thus fulfill the Law. Love supersedes the Law. The Law was Israel’s standard of behavior and no part of the Law is bad or evil. Like the Law, love is not bad or evil and therefore will do no wrong to a neighbor. Love should be our prime motivation in all our dealings with others. Instead of being under the rule of Law, we are now under the law of the Spirit and are to be in subjection to the law of Christ. The Law was good but did not have the power to help people to obey it. The Holy Spirit has taken over the role of the Law. He helps us know right from wrong but He also gives us the power to obey Him.

Wake Up and Serve the Lord

Verses 11—14

We have a very limited time on this earth so every moment we spend here needs to be used wisely as we focus on serving the Lord. Instead of sleeping we need to be awakened because the time is short and our ultimate salvation—when we are finally caught up to be with the Lord—is getting closer and closer. We use our time wisely when we walk in step with the Holy Spirit, and when we walk in step with the Holy Spirit we are living God’s will. By studying and meditating on Scripture, specifically the 13 books written by the Apostle Paul to the Church the Body of Christ, we will gain the wisdom and understanding of how we can walk in the Spirit. We can walk as the unwise in the power of self or we can walk as wise by considering the old nature (self) dead (Romans 6:11) and become alive unto Christ (Galatians 2:20).

Ephesians 5:15—17 15Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Since the darkness of this age is passing on and a new day of light is coming we need to put aside anything that does not please Christ and put on the armor of light. I believe this armor is actually Jesus Christ as mentioned in verse 14. When we take off our deeds of darkness we are considering the old nature to be dead. We are to shed the old nature as a snake sheds its old skin. We are then to put on Christ so that when people look at us all they see is Christ. When we do this we will not do those things that please the flesh but instead we will only do what pleased the Lord because we are allowing Him full control of self.

1 Thessalonians 5:5—6 5for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

Ephesians 5:8—10 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Lightconsists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

I need to make a clarification about putting on Christ. There is a sense in which all believers have put on Christ. Positionally (how God sees us) by being baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit we have put on Christ never to take Him off. Practically (our present experience) we need to live out lives as if our old nature is dead and we operate in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Judging One Another

Romans 14:1—4

Now that we know that we need to treat each other in love Paul now tells us that this even includes the area of judging. He compares two Christians, the strong and the weak, and makes the case that neither one is to judge the other as far as what the other deems will please the Lord.

The person who is strong in the faith is the one who understands the Mystery as revealed to Paul. They understand that they are not under the constraints of the Law and that anyone in Christ has the freedom to do what he wants as long as it is done for the Lord.

The weak in the faith are not those who are living in sin. This passage does not refer to a moral weakness but to those who put themselves under Law thinking that doing so will please the Lord. Today we would call the weaker brother legalistic.

The interesting thing is that the stronger brother thinks of himself as being stronger because he doesn’t put himself under legalistic practices while the weaker brother thinks he is superior because he does put himself under a form of Law. Both types of Christians tend to look down on each other. It’s interesting that Paul does not condemn the strong or weak Christian but only condemns their judging of each other.

One big issue in Paul’s time was about eating. The Mosaic Law was very clear about what could and couldn’t be eaten. People who wanted to practice some of the eating laws were condemned by those who didn’t. However, this passage goes beyond obeying the Mosaic Law. There were those who thought it would be pleasing to the Lord to become vegetarians. This is not the issue. The real problem was that the vegetarians were condemning the meat eaters and the meat eaters were condemning the vegetarians.

We, in this age, can also be guilty of the same thing. If a Christian consumes wine those who think it is a sin can condemn him while the wine drinkers condemn the non-drinkers for being legalistic. The Bible does not prohibit drinking wine but cautions that it may not be wise to do so as we will see later.

Paul finishes this section by telling the condemner to basically mind your own business since the person he is condemning is only accountable to the Lord.