Friday, August 26, 2016

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 28, 2016

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(We should follow the pattern of JESUS’ love)
(Romans 12:1-2 & 13:8-14)

   Romans chapters 12 and 13, along with 1 Corinthians 12, presents to us, the Christian image of what the Holy Body of CHRIST, which is the Church, should look like. Paul has already shown how GOD has moved to provide and impart righteousness in chapters 6-8. Now, he moves on to the more practical issues that go to the heart of Christian theology, and what the attitude of the true Christian should be like.
    CHRIST does not ask that we die for HIM, but rather, HE asks that we live for GOD. Paul says we should strive to be a living, acceptable, Holy sacrifice to GOD, and not allow ourselves to be conformed to the world, but rather, to be transformed from it (Romans 12:1-2).
    As GOD’s messenger, Paul warns us to (anakrino judge – judge ourselves first) be honest in our estimation of ourselves, by measuring our value by how much faith GOD has given us. And in doing so, we will be able to function better in the body of CHRIST. And just as our bodies have many parts that must work together in unison, so it is with the body of CHRIST, which is of course, the Church. Those two verses (Romans 12:1-2) constitute what a Christian’s relationship with themselves and each other, in the body of CHRIST, should be like.
    In Romans 13, verses 1-7, Paul admonishes Christians on how we must relate to the government, as we all must live in this world, and at one and the same time, be set apart from it. Here Paul reminds us that all the governments of man are servants of GOD, but few recognize it in the conscience sense. Governments are used and manipulated by GOD to achieve HIS purposes, whether they know it or not. Human governments must, at least, enforce a minimum amount of justice, lest that government be in danger of collapsing on itself. If criminal behavior were allowed to go unchecked, human society would come to an abrupt and tragic halt.
    In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul lectures on obedience to the authority that GOD has vested in mankind. Out of respect and reverence for GOD, a Christian must show respect for the governing body of any particular city, state, or country, in which they reside. We must pay our taxes and obey the laws of that society at all times (Romans 13:1-6).
   At first sight, this passage tends to provoke a surprising reaction from most Christians because it seems to suggest absolute obedience on the part of a Christian to conform to civil law. However, it is a commandment that also shows up a few other times in New Testament scripture, notably, 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13-17. 
    I suppose one could debate that these passages were written during a time before the Roman government had begun to persecute Christians. However, we know for a fact that, in the book of Acts, often the secular magistrate served as a safe haven for those same Christians who were attacked by their own Jewish brothers for preaching the doctrine of CHRIST. And even later, in fact, years after persecutions had begun, during the reign of the Emperor Claudius (Acts 18), the Christian teachers still stuck to their guns.  It was this persistent, consistent teaching that continued even when those persecutions escalated during the reign of the Emperor Nero, when both Paul and Peter were reported to have been martyred.
    We can see quite vividly how the unchanging Word of GOD prevailed in strong Christian hearts down through the ages, even when it seemed unbearably difficult to obey HIS commands. Paul saw rebellion and insurrection against governments as a direct negation of Christian principals and doctrine. Paul correctly saw that no one can completely separate themselves from the society in which they live.
    Everyone enjoys certain benefits from being a part of an organized government. And everyone has a responsibility to dedicate a part of themselves to the safety and welfare of their respective municipality, state, and nation. For instance, we should all pay our taxes, because our taxes supplies the need of those who work in government functions such as the military, law enforcement, fire fighting, garbage pick-ups, etc. (Romans 13:6-7).
    Paying our debts is also something that all of us struggle with from time to time, however, in order to satisfy and fulfill GOD’s requirement, we must all try and make sure we eventually get our debts paid. In fact, Paul says that the only debt that we should leave owing is “the debt of love for each other as Christians”. That is a debt, Paul says, that we should never finish paying. If we continue to love our neighbor, we will continue to fulfill the requirement of GOD’s Law (Romans 13:8).
    The commandments against adultery, murder, stealing, coveting, etc. are all summed up in the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. If you love your neighbor, you won’t commit adultery with their spouse. If you love your neighbor, you won’t kill them, or steal from them, or despise them with envy of what they have, or own (Romans 13:9-10).
    The end of all things is near, for each of us, personally. For, that is the warning that the ancient prophets, and New Testament writers and thinkers all leave us with. And that is the warning that Paul gives us here in this passage starting in verse 11. Because our time here on earth is short, that gives us greater reason to want to do that which is right in the eyes of GOD. It is time to shed our evil ways like dirty clothes, and then, re-dress ourselves in the armor of right living. We must become decent and true in everything that we do so that our behavior will be accepted by both man and GOD (Romans 13:11-13a).
    The days of wild partying, getting high, engaging in all sorts of immoral living, and fighting with each other because of jealous and envious motives, must end, especially among those who profess to be Christians (Romans 13:13b). Just as Christians are a part of the body of CHRIST’s Church, they are, just as well, a part of the body of their nation, and should serve as a GODly example, or “light”, to the world at large. As I have said many times before, we, as Christians, are responsible to show the world, through our behavior, that Christianity really does produce the best men and women.
    In this world, and, in the world to come, there can be no such thing as an isolated individual. Paul clearly understood GOD’s intent in secular governments and he also clearly understood GOD’s intent in the Church as well. He clearly and correctly saw, both the Church, and the secular nation, as instruments in the hands of GOD, both unwittingly poised for a time when GOD would choose to awaken them for use in HIS OWN grand and divine plan. GOD always has a way of showing us that HE is subject to no one’s will but HIS OWN. And we might as well come to rest in that thought, lest we continue to be disappointed in our position in a world that only GOD, can, and will, control.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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