Sep. 16. Various Christian Responsibilities Explained Rom. 12:1-13:14
Paul utilized a great portion of his letter to the Roman Christians explaining how one is saved through faith in Christ instead of the works of the Law of Moses. He also reminded them that the gospel had been presented to the Jews first, but after their rejection, it had been extended to the Gentiles. The latter part of his letter dealt with acceptable Christian living.
The Jews had for many generations, under the Law of Moses offered dead animal sacrifices to God. Christ had offered Himself as a sacrifice for all mankind. Paul admonished the Romans to present a different type of sacrifice—their bodies as a LIVING sacrifice.
As previous sacrifices involved a death, a living sacrifice entails a death also. One dies to sin, rejecting the sins and so-called pleasures of the world and grasping a spiritual life of service for Christ.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church a few months earlier, he had pointed out the different abilities of Christians. He made these same observations to the Romans. As the human body has different organs with different functions, the church also is made up of different members with differing abilities and functions. Christians are to perform these functions vigorously but with humility. All members are essential.
The family is the closest human relationship on earth. Paul explained how brothers and sisters in the church are to have that same kind of loving kindred relationship with one another. They were living in a world of sin, hate and persecution. It was and is imperative that Christians have a deep love and affection for one another in order to defend themselves from the world. When one member of the physical family is in pain or rejoices, all members are affected the same way. The same care and concern should be present within the spiritual family. That also includes sharing their blessings with the needy Christians.
Paul commanded the Romans to abhor (hate) what is evil. Jesus said that one is to love his enemies. Christians are to hate the sin, but to love the sinner. People of the world today still have a problem with Christians speaking out against sin. They think that when a Christian condemns a sin, that he is actually judging and hating the person that is involved with the wickedness. Christians should avoid leaving that kind of impression when rebuking sin.
The apostle Paul, stated, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” If you cannot be at peace with your neighbor, be sure that it is his fault.
Human nature leads one to seek revenge for evil that is done against him. Paul admonished the Romans to leave vengeance to God who will repay the evildoers. Instead of seeking revenge, Christians are to do good to their enemies. Being kind and helpful to one’s enemies can make them ashamed and even lead them to Christ. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
As Paul continued his admonitions regarding Christian living, he turned to the relationship that Christians are to have with civil governments. During the earliest history of the world, one finds that God had placed authorities to oversee the civil affairs of man. It is the responsibility of the government to punish the evildoers under their authority.
According to Paul, it is man’s responsibility to obey the laws that are enacted by the government. This command is as binding on Christians as any other that the Holy Spirit guided the apostles to write. One who breaks the laws of government breaks the commands of God. Think about this when you are exceeding the speed limit on the local highway.
However, when the laws of the land are in direct conflict with the laws of God, Christians “must obey God rather than men.”
Paul said, “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
Christians are expected to show their love for God and their fellowman by completing their obligations regarding spiritual, governmental and social debts. They will do good and not evil to others. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself.
Paul urged the Romans to become alert to the occasions that they had to serve others. One does not know how much time he has before Christ will return or that death will end all opportunities for service. He encouraged them to turn from the sinful fleshly works of darkness and to clothe themselves with the spiritual works of light.
Sep. 17. Relationship Between Strong and Weak Christians
There were some weak Jewish Christians in the Roman church who needed special care and encouragement. They still observed some of the outdated laws and traditions of the Old Testament.
The Law of Moses forbade eating certain kinds of meats, but Paul stated that under the new law all meat is fit for human consumption. God has not given a law forbidding certain meats. It just doesn’t matter. Therefore, a person eating meat should not condemn one who does not eat meat. A person who does not eat meat, also should not condemn another who does eat meat. If God is silent on a matter, man also should be silent on the same matter.
There were persons who felt the need to keep the Sabbath day, new moon or other special festival days as days of worship. God has directed that the first day of the week be utilized for worship, but if someone wanted to worship on the Sabbath or another day also, it was permissible as long as he did not bind it upon other Christians. Other Christians should not condemn him for worshipping on other days as long as the first day or Lord’s Day was not forsaken.
Paul urged the Romans to remember that Christians do not live to themselves, but to the Lord. Christians must leave the judgment of those matters up to the Lord who is the Judge. One should remember that he is not the judge, but will himself stand before the judgment seat of Christ. There are some judgments necessary for Christians to make. They must recognize false prophets and their false teachings and in areas of specific commandments, erring brothers are to be admonished.
One of the most sobering thoughts in the Bible was stated by Paul regarding the judgment. “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” This is personal. One person will not be judged for another. Instead of being so intent on condemning his brothers for their weaknesses, one needs to keep his own soul prepared for the ultimate judgment.
The Law of Moses specified certain meats to be clean or unclean. Paul pointed out that under Christ, no food is unclean. However, if a brother felt for some reason that a kind of food was unclean, it then became unclean to that individual. Because of Christian love, one must refrain from actions, which within themselves are acceptable to God, but would cause a brother to violate his conscience. A selfish attitude is contrary to the love of Christ.
It is a little thing for a person to forgo certain desires or pleasures. Those things are not the goal of Christian living. Paul stated that peace and edification of one another are the things that are acceptable to God.
A person’s conscience is that wee small inner voice that warns him of evil. Paul urged the Romans to avoid doing anything that would cause another to violate his conscience.
The weak brother should be taught the differences between the old and new laws in a spirit of love. The teacher must not force his personal opinions upon others, but he should guide his hearers to the truth.
If one’s faith leads his conscience to believe a certain action is sinful, he indeed sins when he indulges in that action. Paul stated, “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith, for whatever is not from faith is sin.”
As Paul continued his thoughts regarding relationships with weaker Christians, he admonished the stronger Christians to respect their weaknesses. Strong Christians must use Christ as an example of forgoing pleasures of this life in order to please others.
The Romans were told how the examples of God’s relationships with His people during the Old Testament eras were to encourage and admonish Christians during the New Testament dispensation.
Since Jesus had died for all, Jews and Gentiles alike, Paul admonished the Romans to work together and receive one another as equals. They were to be like-minded as they glorified God.
Paul quoted several Old Testament prophecies regarding the future relationships between Jews and Gentiles. Those prophecies showed them that it was God’s plan from the beginning to include the Gentiles in His promises.