Series: Followers of Jesus
Message: In the World
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 13:1-14 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Humans learn from the past? If it were that simple, I don’t think we would have seen the disaster with the judges and kings as outlined in the Bible. I don’t think we would have had the eternal quest to conquer lands, countries, and people that continues to this day. History is supposed to help us correct our trajectory. Yet we can barely cope with listening to our parents or grandparents, let alone entire generations, giving advice!
If we would listen to history, we could have a different future.
Paul’s idea in Romans 13 is not new. We catch glimpses of this concept peppered throughout the First Testament. Never lose sight, God reminds us. He will work through all kinds of situations. He will allow empires to rise. Some of these were used as teachers for Israel when Israel failed. Yet none of these empires has ever been perfect or above reproach.
Many people have tried to suggest that Romans 13 is a glitch in Scripture, a poorly-edited piece. But if you look at the historical context when Paul wrote these verses, it makes more sense. Christianity Under Claudius by F. F. Bruce points out that the Roman government had reached the limits of its tolerance with the Jewish people. It was around this time that Paul himself encouraged those who followed Jesus—for the sake of the Gospel—not to rebel against the government. He told them, pay your taxes. Do what is right to enable the Gospel to be preached to all people. In Romans 12, he ends with exhortations not to seek revenge, but instead encourages the early Christians to love their enemies, to bless those who persecute them. Does any of that sound familiar? Like the way of Jesus perhaps?
We often read into Romans 13 things that are not said. Paul has not contradicted the rest of the Bible. He does not say that the counsel from Peter, in Acts 5:29, is to be ignored. He does not say that Daniel’s three friends were wrong and should have bowed down to the statue or that Daniel himself should have stopped praying and worshipping God in defiance of the Babylonian empire. He does not say that Jesus was wrong when He informed Pilate that his power, temporal though it was, came from God.
Far from it.
Paul is saying this: If there is way to speak truth to power, the way is to lift up Jesus. When you do, expect a riot to take place. Yet stay firm in Jesus. The Spirit of God speaks to our conscience and convicts us to know Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and He calls us to defend those who are weaker. We should always avoid doing anything that will cause others to stumble (Matthew 18:6).
—stand for those who cannot stand.
Recalibrate: How do you know when you should submit to authority and when you should speak up?
Respond: Pray for wisdom.
Research: Read one of the suggested commentaries on this passage.
Remember: “If you love your neighbor, you see, you have fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8, KNT).
Japhet De Oliveira is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and is co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).
The Bible says, in Romans 13:14, to clothe ourselves with Jesus. Play dress up with your little one, either making superhero capes out of kitchen towels or putting on funny hats or making robot clothes out of boxes. Love covers us. When we clothe ourselves with Jesus we are ready for anything.
When my son was very young, he loved superhero costumes. He would put on his favorite for that day and play with his toys, having the best time ever. He has now grown out of the costumes, which is very sad because they were so much fun. At the very end of Romans 13:14, Paul tells us to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the best costume ever and you will never grow out of it, because it is not made from material, it is made from love. Wearing Jesus is the most awesome outfit ever!
We conclude this week’s journey with a simple ending. We’ve talked about “following Jesus” all week and it’s been good news across the board. It’s good news for nobodies and for outsiders and privileged people and for Adams and Eves with apple juice dripping from their chins and. . . . It’s good news for those who know that they never have to go anywhere that Jesus hasn’t already gone, even into a grave. . . . Good news, indeed! But the simple conclusion goes back to the first premise: Following Jesus means He leads. Duh. It’s the most important decision any of us will ever make. (But where would you ever want to go without Him? Really?)