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Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

~Romans 13:8

Lesson5-image001Materials Needed: None.

Notes to the Leader: Paul has established that the only reasonable response to God’s grace is to: Offer one’s body to God as a “living sacrifice” in an act of true, spiritual worship; and Allow our minds to be transformed so we no longer think, value, and prioritize according to worldly patterns, but according to the will of God (Romans 12:1-2).

This study examines what it means to be a Christian and respond as Paul has established. This lesson looks at the challenges of obeying both government and God. The study will also cover debt and what the Christian attitude toward debt should be.

How are we to behave and believe if we accept Paul’s position?

  • We are to take a sane and humble view of our own importance, not going beyond the boundaries of faith (v. 3).
  • We are to see ourselves as interdependent parts of Christ’s body with members belonging to each other (vv. 4-5).
  • We are to function within the body with spiritual gifts (graces) that come with each one’s unique personal experience of God’s grace, for the benefit of other members (vv. 6-8).
  • We are to live together as friends and family with a view to how they might serve and demonstrate active love for one another (vv. 9-19).

What do you do or how do you act when someone takes advantage of you, cheats you, or hurts you by doing something wrong?

  • Human nature pushes us to get revenge, to get even, to hurt them back. Paul, however, is about to set some new standards in this lesson.

Section One: Revenge

What did God do when Adam and Eve wronged God by being deceitful and disobedient?

  • While we may not fully appreciate God’s timing, He did send His one and only Son to remove our sins of disobedience and provide us with a way to have eternal fellowship with God? He sent Christ.

Have someone in the group read Romans 12:12:17-19.

Is Paul advocating each Christian to sit back and take it, to become a victim, to be defenseless in an evil world?

  • Not at all. Paul is suggesting an offense, a battle strategy. He states, “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” This is hardly passive. Anyone can tell you that it takes a lot of hard work and effort to do what is right in the eyes of God when all you want to do is hit back.

What are the elements of Paul’s offensive strategy?

  • No retaliation – We can never do wrong to someone else in the name of God. He does not want us to do so.
  • Honesty – the Greek word for “what is right” is kalos, meaning beautiful, good, of good quality, productive; honorable, possessing moral excellence,” etc. To suffer for one’s honesty as a Christian is to be expected, but for a Christian, to suffer for their own dishonesty is a disgrace (1 Peter 4:14-16).
  • Peace – We are called to have a reputation of being peacemakers and peacekeepers rather than troublemakers and fighters (Matthew 5:9).
  • Patience – We are to leave room for God’s wrath (v. 19) and count to ten. Vengeance does not belong to us, it is not a gift. It belongs to God alone.

Have someone in the group read Romans 12:20.

What are we called to do when our enemies strike out at us?

  • Paul falls back on some of Solomon’s own advice, kill them with kindness (read Proverbs 25:21-22).

Why is this so hard for humans to do?

  • We want the score settled quickly.
  • We are quick to hate and slow to love.
  • We believe that somehow this is justice served.
  • We do not trust our God nor His words.

Section Two: Our Christian Response to Government

Have someone in the group read Romans 13:1-4.

Who establishes the very authority that allows governments to exist?

  • God. If it were not for His patience and grace, nothing could exist.

Is there ever a time that we must follow our government’s commands even when they are in direct violation with the Word and Law of God?

  • Never is the only acceptable answer. Remember, it is not our government who we seek to please but our God. Paul uses the Greek word diakonos to describe the role of government.

Do you remember what this Greek word diakonos means?

  • One who renders service to another, one who executes a commission, like a minister. It is a servant. It is also the basis for what the Christian church calls a deacon.

Why might the authority and rule used to control people by governments be part of God’s plan?

  • Without rules and laws, our society would be chaos. If God would leave a nation without government, anarchy would prevent His people from enjoying His grace.

What is the difference between limited authority and absolute authority?

  • Limited authority must be exercised within certain boundaries. In the case of our governments God retains the absolute authority. All government has limited authority.

Have someone in the group read Romans 13:2-5.

Why should Christians (who are part of the world’s real authority system but heirs to the kingdom of God, which will one day overrule all human governments) obey worldly authorities?

  • The Possibility of Punishment – The Greek word used to express “judgment” in v. 2 refers not divine but temporal judgment executed by the civil government whose laws have been violated. The Greek word krima means the temporal or judicial sentence which is executed upon the one disobeying the laws of the state. The Christian is called to obey the laws of the state so long as they do not interfere with his faith as contained in the Bible (Titus 3:1; Peter 2:13; Colossians 3:22; Ephesians 6:1). If for conscience sake, a Christian feels compelled to violate the law, they must expect to suffer the consequences until the law is changed. If legal recourse is open to avoid punishment, it should certainly be taken (see Acts 23:3; 25:10-11).
  • A Matter of Conscience – First, the Christian should ascribe to a set of principles higher than the laws of any human government, the principles contained in the Scripture. Second, the Christian has welcomed into their person the presence of the Spirit of holiness, justice, righteousness, and benevolence.

Read Genesis 9:6. to the group.

When did this authority of government over people come about?

  • This appears to be the first time that God permitted man the authority to rule over one another and hold each other accountable.

Have someone in the group read Romans 13:6-7.

Why should we honor and respect authorities?

  • Because we understand that they are serving God in their offices.

How do we honor authorities?

  • Fulfill the obligations of citizenship (i.e., tribute, loyalty);
  • Respect those in authority;
  • Recognize and honor the office (if they expect honor, give it); and
  • No matter how irritating to the paying of taxes might seem, pay them.

Section Three: Our Debt of Love

Have someone in the group read Romans 13:8-10.

What does Paul tell us about our private debts?

  • Fulfill all personal financial obligations.
  • Directs us to the love debts, the ones that must be paid and the one that can never be paid.

Read Matthew 5:42 to the group.

Is borrowing OK for a Christian to do?

  • Jesus permitted borrowing. However, one’s motives must be carefully examined. If indebtedness s evidence of a lack of faith and a covetous lifestyle, this would not fit Christ’s sanity check on borrowing.

What is the debt that can never be paid?

  • Love. We can never say that we have loved enough.

What were Paul’s examples on loving?

  • Love your neighbor as yourself (v. 9).
  • Your response to your enemies (12:17-21).
  • Your duties as citizens in a secular society (13:1-7).
  • We are to be law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.

Bible Truth Being Taught

The lifestyles of Christians, individually and corporately, are to contrast those of the world.

Our Response

We are to live a life and respond to our neighbors and government in a way that is distinctively Christian.