I am a bit doubtful whether I should name this episode ‘What I believe Romans means’ or ‘What it definitely means’. Let’s just begin, and we’ll find out the most appropriate title along the way, okay?
There is no Authority Outside God
We have discovered in the fourth episode that we, as Christians, need to be focussed completely on God. That is an attitude we ought to adopt voluntarily, but how about those who are in some sort of ruling position?
Paul’s opening statement is clear on this: “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Whatever exists, whatever breaths, all there is, it is there because God allows it to be there. It is because of this knowledge, Jesus could basically tell Pilate that the only reason he could rule was because God permitted it (John 19:10-11). Even though many rulers don’t think they have to submit, they are submitted under God’s ultimate rule—whether they like it or not.
I am not saying here that, because God permits someone to rule, He likes the way they do it. Permitting or allowing, is not the same as approving. It is like that thing with my car. I can only park it before our house where the main path is. Everybody that needs to go out or in the village will have to pass my car. Many love to look at themselves in the reflection… And you know how it is! When you look at your reflection you cannot do that with your eyes only. So, many of them touch my car. What’s the problem, you say? Well, many of our neighbours work hard in the rice field and have muddy hands. After a few days my mirrors and windows are stained with all sorts of interesting blots. I mostly ignore it. I don’t feel like standing there as a guard, so I allow it to happen… Doesn’t mean I like it!
I know, this isn’t exactly the same as God who allows stuff to happen but it is to see the difference between allowing and approving. You see, for God all things work together towards something great. He even uses to bad things in a way we have no idea about. For me, the smudged windows just mean more work before I want to travel out off our area.
Nope, God is in absolute control! Look at Pharaoh. Boy! Did he thing he was someone! But what do we see? God was just using him as a pawn in a game (which of course was no game but a big demonstration of God’s unlimited power over any so-called Egyptian god). Or look at King Ahasuerus, aka Xerxes in the book Esther. Xerxes was the god-king, creator of everything, ruler of the souls. Right… But in the meantime we read nowhere in the book Esther that he actually makes any decision by himself. God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, but He is conspicuous by His absence. You just know God is there and He is acting on Xerxes. Xerxes is an excellent example of Proverbs 21:1
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, As the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”
So, this text unquestionably means that God is sovereign over everyone and everything.
Christians Should Obey Just laws
I also believe that Christians should obey just laws. Hold your horses!! When I say ‘just laws’, I definitely do not say that all so-called just laws are obey-able. For example, we see that governments make laws concerning marriage. The laws seem to be just but there is no way that humans can decided what a marriage is and what not. Marriage is a God-given institute and as such can not be redefined by governments. Even though a law is deemed, by the people, as just, we, as Christians, have to look deeper and find out whether our Christian world-view permits us to acknowledge such a law.
That being said, I would like to go a little further by saying that we shouldn’t ignore all dumb laws. There are many rules that are just silly. In the Netherlands dog owners need to pay a tax per dog. Officially they should get places in return, where they can let their dogs run freely. Well, I have more often than not seen that this isn’t happening. And in a tiny, cramped country like Holland that can become smelly real quick. Nevertheless, I would say: “just pay the dumb tax”. No fun being fined and punished for something dumb like that… “Yeah, I had to go to the judge because I let me dog pooh freely without paying tax”. Doesn’t really sound Kingdom-minded, does it?
To Keep Your Conscience in Check
I also believe that it is good to have a governing power above us. Paul says in verse five: “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” You see, most of us are orientated towards wrong stuff. I know, we do our best but in the end we like to drive too fast or earn just some extra bucks. It is good to have a governing power above us that can punish us for wrong deeds. It is an extra restrain.
Selling you car and not telling the new owner that you turned back the odometer. You can get a few hundred buck more but the sword of the government is always hanging above your head. Okay, that went well. You’ve sold it, and now you can buy that sports car. You love to drive it to the max right? But hold on, the police is nearby!
I hear you! Christians love to obey God and as such don’t need an extra restrainer… Apparently God knows better.
By the way, this is one way to look at this verse. Others will argue that ‘conscience sake’ refers to our conscience towards God. That we should be subject to our rulers not only because we fear the sword if we break the law, but also because we fear the Lord. God knows our hearts. This makes keeping the laws of our land not just a matter of outward abidance, but also of inward obedience to the Lord God. With outward submission, you are honest concerning speed limits because you’re afraid that if you aren’t, you might get caught by the police. With inward obedience, you are honestly obey as you want to have a pure conscience before God, because you know He can read your odometer of your car as well.
I believe Paul tackled both these reasons in one. A good conscience if it comes to sin and a clean conscience towards God.
Stay out of Debt
“Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”
Paul uses two words for taxes. Tribute refers to direct taxes, such as property tax and income tax. The second, custom, refers to more indirect tax, like sales tax and customs when you import something. I believe, although we often disagree with how our tax is spent, we should pay our taxes. As I said in the previous episode, there is no honour in being punished for doing wrong. Some might say what about abortion clinics? They get funded by tax money. Yes, that’s horrible, I agree! But in a democracy we can protest through proper channels, and we can vote for those who agree on de-funding abortion clinics, but we aren’t free to opt out of paying our taxes.
This is, at least to me, the most obvious reason of this verse. I believe that is also means that we should stay out of debt. If we read a little further we hear Paul say: “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”
Christians must avoid useless expense, and be thoughtful not to have any obligations they have not the possibility to resolve. This also means that Christians shouldn’t get involved with dubious speculations, and They are also to stand aloof from all venturesome speculations and reckless agreements. We should stay away from that whatever may expose us to the danger of not being able to repay our debts to our creditors. We shouldn’t spend more than we have, especially not that which you owe to others.
Not owing someone can be seen as a deed of love. This is why Paul uses the second great command right after this passage. None of us like it when someone owes us something which he or she can’t repay. So, if we don’t like it, we should not do it ourselves, right? Not many of us see, being in debt, as a sin, and honestly I don’t believe it is always a sin. But, there are cases in which it is a sin to be in debt. If you want to borrow money or anything else, and you already know you can’t repay it? Just don’t do it than. Even don’t do it when you are in doubt whether you can repay or not. It is an act of love to stay out of debt. We call it the golden rule, love you neighbour as yourself. Do to others as you want them to do to you.
This episode turns out to be a bit shorter than the others. I still, don’t know what the proper title of this episode should be. Either ‘What I believe Romans means’ or ‘What it definitely means’, or maybe you know a better title? Let me know in the comments!
I am also very curious of what you think this text must mean. Are there any ‘musts’ I have missed? Or maybe you disagree on my analysis? Again, let me know in the comments
I prefer reading your comments on Odysee.com. You’ll find the link to my Odysee channel in the description below. There you also find my invitation to create an account on Odysee. If you accept that invitation we both receive some free LBC. I emphasise my channel on Odysee because I have a hard time opening YouTube and Bitchute with our crappy internet connection here in the countryside on Madagascar.
The next episode is going to be the last in this series. Last but not least because we are going to see what we, as Christians, should do with this text. I have already been thinking quite a bit about the application and I think it is going to be intriguing.
Finally, I would like to ask you whether you have an idea about a possible new series. Are there topic you would like to study a bit more? If not, I’ll stick to my initial plan to tackle the best apologetic arguments one by one.
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We’ll see each other next time.
God bless you!