In chapter 12 Paul says that Christians must not hurt those who do wrong things against them. In this chapter Paul says that the government must punish the evildoer.
First, Paul says that every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. God is a God of order. If there is no law, there can be no order. Therefore God has made governments to give law and keep order. God did not say that only one kind of government is right. The government may be a kingdom or a democracy. But God wants all men to be under a government. Anarchy (where there is no law and everyone does what he thinks is best) is not right.
We must not resist (oppose, fight against) authority. Religions which tell people to fight against the government are against God. When some were fighting against the South African government they said that the government was “illegitimate”. God’s word does not argue about such things. Whether you think the government is doing right or not, whether you think those men have a right to govern or not, you must submit. Every government of men will do things which are not best, and sometimes they do things which are very wrong. At the time Paul wrote these words the Roman government was in control. That government did many wrong things. It even put Christians to death because they would not worship the emperor. But still the command was, “Do not resist”.
God gave government. Therefore the job of government is good. Until recently the Jehovah’s Witnesses taught that the governments of men came from Satan. They were wrong. Government comes from God.
Rulers need to know what their job is. The government is a minister of God to you for good. Its job is to be a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. In general, this is what governments do. There is much corruption and laws are sometimes evil. But God has decided that we must be ruled by governments of men. And they usually punish evildoers.
Of course, if the government tells us to do something which is against God’s law, we must refuse to obey. When the Jewish court commanded Peter and the apostles not to teach or preach in the name of Jesus, Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). In such a case we must resist, but we do no more than is necessary to obey God. We do not fight against the government.
The government does not bear the sword for nothing. This means that the government has been given the sword by God to punish the evildoer. A sword is used to kill. This verse shows that the government has the right to kill the criminal. In fact, that is what God has ordained. In all of the Bible God has commanded that those who commit serious crimes should be put to death.
Here Paul gives two reasons to obey the government. The first is because of wrath. We should be afraid to disobey because the government will punish us. This is its God-given duty.
But the Christian has another reason to obey the government. He must obey for conscience’ sake. Maybe the government will not find out that we disobey. Maybe we can escape punishment. But we know that we cannot escape from God. We must have a good conscience. If we do not have a good conscience we cannot be saved. The Christian knows that he must obey the government. Therefore he obeys because of his conscience.
Servants of God should be paid for their labour, and rulers are servants of God. God has given the government the right to get money by taxing the people. It cannot do its work without money. The Christian is a citizen of the kingdom of God, but he is also a citizen of the country where he lives. He has duties to both. Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
Remember that Caesar, the ruler of the Roman Empire, was a heathen. He did not worship God. His army had conquered Israel and the Jews did not like to pay taxes to Caesar. Often we find ourselves under a government which we do not like. The command from God is just the same. “Pay taxes”.
If government is going to work in the right way the citizens must give it the proper honour. We must respect the rulers and give them the tax which they ask for. We may not like the man who is ruling us but we must honour him because of the office which he holds.
We must pay our taxes. If we do not pay them, we “owe” them. We must pay everything which we have promised to others. It is a sin for Christians to go to a shop and agree to pay for something and then not pay. We Christians must be very careful about getting into debt. It is a sin when we cheat someone by not paying what we have promised.
What we do owe and can never pay is love to one another. I must always keep “paying” this debt. I must always give love.
He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. All of God’s laws which tell us how to treat other people are fulfilled when we love. If we love, we will not murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, etc. Love is the unselfish desire for the good of the one we love. We will not do anything to harm the one we love.
The Old Testament commandments told how we must act toward one another. Those commandments are still true and are a part of the New Testament. They are true because they are the actions of love. Jesus said that there are two commandments upon which the Law hangs. In Matthew 22:37-40 we read: “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
No one ever committed adultery when he had a proper love for the people he was harming. Adultery comes from selfishness. The one who commits that sin does not care how much he hurts people. The same can be said about murder, stealing and coveting.
Loving our neighbour is the second commandment. The first is to love God with all our heart. We must love Him even more than we love ourselves or our neighbour.
To fulfil law is to obey what it says. God’s law is good. When we love, we do what that law says to do. God has given law to help us. Everything is from love. When we love our neighbour, we will work those things which will do good to him.
When we do something which is not God’s will, it is not good. Jesus said that He could call angels to rescue Him from death, but He said, “How then would the scriptures be fulfilled?” The scriptures taught that He must die for the sins of all men. He had to die to fulfil the scriptures. Therefore Jesus obeyed the scriptures and did not call the angels.
We fulfil a command when we obey it. There is a purpose to every command. The commands are given to bring good to man and glory to God. When we love our neighbour, we carry out the purpose of the law. We do good to him.
Time is passing. Opportunities to do good slip away with time. We must be doing the Father’s will NOW. We cannot call back the opportunities we missed.
It is the hour for you to awaken from sleep. This means we must stop being lazy. We must begin to care for our brother. We must be busy doing good to him. Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). Peter wrote, “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles” (1 Peter 4:3). The Christian has no time for the works of Satan. And the Christian must not spend his days doing nothing to carry out the will of his Father in heaven.
When our sins are forgiven we are saved. Therefore Christians have salvation now. But in this verse we find that there is a salvation in the future. Now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. What is it?
This salvation was nearer than when the Roman saints believed. They did not yet have it. It was the salvation from the body which dies and goes to the grave. It is the salvation into the glorious liberty of the sons of God (Romans 8:21). As long as we live on the earth we will get sick, get hurt, and die. When our bodies are raised from the dead, then our salvation will be complete.
In this verse Paul uses the words “night” and “day” with a special meaning. “Night” means the wicked world, the world of men who do not listen to the law of God. They are in darkness, the night of wickedness.
Paul says that the night is almost gone. Wickedness has become very great. It cannot become much greater. Also, this world will pass away. It will not last forever.
Paul then says, the day is near. He does not say how near. It is nearer than when they believed. It is near because it is the next thing in God’s plan. It is the day when Jesus will come and the saints will be raised (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is what the Christian is living for.
Paul then says plainly, Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. The deeds of darkness are all sorts of evil. The armour of light are the good deeds we do to obey Jesus. Those deeds give us a shield, a protection, against evil.
We walk in the light of God’s word; that means we walk in the day of righteous living not in the night of wickedness. We know that God sees everything we do. We cannot hide because He can see in the darkness. If we always act so that God will be pleased, we will not need the darkness to cover what we do.
Six things are listed. They are things which are darkness and which must be left behind by Christians. Carousing means drunken feasts and dances in which people do many wrong things. Drunkenness means to drink alcohol and become affected by it so that our behaviour changes.
Sexual promiscuity means to have many sexual partners. This was the way men worshiped some of their gods. It is the way the world says to have a good time. Sensuality means all kinds of evil sexual things. It includes pornographic pictures, moving one’s body in a way to arouse sexual desire in those who watch, putting one’s hands on another’s body in order to cause lust. Strife is all kinds of arguing and fighting. Jealousy is when a person feels bad toward another person because that person has what the first person wants.
Since we leave the works of darkness behind, we do not plan ways in which we can do those things any more. We must put on the Lord Jesus Christ. This means that we work hard to do what He wants us to do. We grow more like Him each day. Sometimes we fail to be what we want to be. We do not stop trying. By the grace of God we will put on the Lord Jesus Christ!