Setting

In view of God’s mercies, Paul urged believers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Starting from the previous chapter, the letter to the Romans turns its focus to applying the Christian faith to daily living. The present chapter extends beyond the community of believers to the world at large and teaches how we as Christians ought to submit to governing authorities, love our neighbors, and walk in the light.

Key Verse

(13:1, 8, 12, ESV)

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Outline

  • Submission to Authorities
    (13:1–7)
  • Loving Our Neighbor
    (13:8–10)
  • Walk in the Daytime
    (13:11–14)

Segment Analysis

  • 13:1–7

    1.

    What reasons does Paul give here for why Christians should submit to governing authorities?

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    1. They are instituted by God (v. 1)
    2. Those who resist will incur judgment (v. 2)
    3. They are God’s servants (v. 4)
    4. Not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience (v. 5)

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  • 2.

    According to this segment, what is the function of governing authorities?

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    They carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer (v. 4).

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  • 3.

    Should we as Christians submit to governing authorities whose policies we do not agree with? Explain your reasons.

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    The governing authorities in the days of Jesus and the apostles were mostly made up of individuals who were unbelievers and who often committed acts of cruelty. But even so, Jesus and the apostles never instigated a rebellion against the government. The Bible’s teaching to submit to authorities does not depend on whether one agrees with the political views or conduct of those in office. Regardless of what the governing authorities believe or practice, God has put them in place to reward the good and punish the evil (v. 3–4). For this reason alone, we should submit to them, honor them for their service, and be law-abiding citizens (cf. 1 Pet 2:13–17).

    In the event that governing authorities bid us to do what is contrary to our faith, then we need to obey God rather than men (cf. Acts 4:19–20). We can see numerous examples of this among the saints in the Bible. Even though they did not engage in protests nor show contempt for governing authorities, they remained loyal to God when they came under the pressure or persecution of political rulers.

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  • 4.

    Give some examples of how the principle in verse 5 applies to other areas.

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    Our conscience is the knowledge of right and wrong that bears witness within us. Verse 5 teaches us that we should be subject to governing authorities not only out of fear of God’s wrath but also with a desire to do what is right in God’s eyes. For example, we faithfully carry out our duties on the job because we want to please the Lord.

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  • 5.

    In what ways are we indebted to our government?

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    To varying degrees we all benefit from the services of our government, including using infrastructures such as roads and traffic lights or being protected by law-enforcement. It is only proper for us citizens who enjoy these benefits to pay for them through taxes and fees. Although not all civil servants are men and women of good character, the fact that they dedicate themselves to serve the public is commendable. In this sense, we also owe these civil servants our respect and honor.

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  • 13:8–10

    6.

    Why should we think of loving others as a perennial debt?

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    The debt to love one another comes from the debt we owe God for His great love (cf. 1 Jn 4:10–11). Our gratitude for what the Lord has done for us motivates us to love others. We express our gratitude to the Lord by loving the very people He loves.

    Another way of looking at this Christian debt of love is to recognize that God’s commandment to love is a lifelong commitment. We can never say that we have already done enough and stop loving others. When it comes to loving others as ourselves, we are always debtors.

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  • 7.

    In the command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” what is the significance of “as yourself”?

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    The addition of “as yourself” in the commandment “You shall love your neighbor” gives us a practical way to measure the way we love others. When we are not sure how to or how much to love another person, we can ask ourselves what we would do for ourselves in the same situation. This is also known as empathy, to put ourselves in another’s shoes. The “golden rule” laid down by our Lord Jesus—“Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them”—follows the same principle (Mt 7:12).

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  • 8.

    Explain the rationale of verse 10.

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    Many of the prohibitions that God has commanded, such as the ones listed in v. 9, pertain to not doing harm to our neighbors. If we have love, we would naturally not intend to do harm to others. Therefore, having love enables us to fulfill the requirements of the law.

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  • 13:11–14

    9.

    What is the meaning of the analogy of waking up from sleep?

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    The analogy of sleeping is associated with the imagery of night and darkness, which represent evil and shameful deeds (Eph 5:3–14; cf. 1 Thess 5:4–10). Sleep in such context is symbolic of spiritual dullness. The Bible often encourages us to do the opposite, which is to be awake and vigilant (Mt 25:13; 26:41; Mk 13:37; 14:38; Lk 12:37; 1 Cor 16:13; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:6, 10; 1 Pet 5:8; Rev 3:2; 16:15). Therefore, to wake up from sleep means to be spiritually alert, putting off sinful deeds and living daily to please the Lord. This teaching coincides with the exhortation of Rom 12:2, to not be conformed to this world (i.e. not sleep) but be transformed by the renewal of our mind (i.e. wake up).

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  • 10.

    How is salvation nearer to us now than when we first believed?

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    The Bible speaks of the salvation of believers as both a present reality (e.g. Eph 2:5, 8; 2 Tim 1:9) as well as a future hope (e.g. Rom 5:9; 2 Tim 4:18). Romans 13:11 refers to the latter. Our final salvation will come when our Savior comes from heaven and when our lowly bodies will be transformed to be like His glorious body (Php 3:20). This is the salvation we eagerly await, and it is drawing closer each day.

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  • 11.

    Why do you think proper Christian conduct is called “armor of light”?

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    Living for Christ involves struggle. We wrestle against the rulers, authorities, the cosmic powers of this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph 2:12). To prevail in this spiritual struggle and to stand firm to the end, we need to put on the armor of light. Paul exhorts believers that since we belong to the day, we ought to be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation (1 Thess 5:8). A rooted and strong relationship with the Lord, expressed through our daily Christ-centered actions, is like an armor of light that shields us from the attack of the evil one and dispels the forces of darkness.

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  • 12.

    Cite examples of the following and explain why it is important for believers to avoid them: a. Orgies and drunkenness; b. Sexual immorality and sensuality; c. Quarreling and jealousy:

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    a. Orgies and drunkenness:

    “Orgies” is defined as excessive feasting. An example of this is indulging in the company of godless friends who only seek pleasure and excitement or tell filthy jokes. “Drunkenness” may be literal (excessive consumption of alcohol) as well as figurative (immersion in pleasure). A person whose mind and heart are occupied with how to please his flesh has little interest in carrying out the word of God, such as caring for others or being a light in the world.

    b. Sexual immorality and sensuality:

    God detests sexual immorality and will judge the sexually immoral (Heb 13:4). We as Christians must honor the divine institution of marriage. Even things that are suggestive of sexual immorality and arouse wrongful desires, such as media that promote ungodly values or contain sexually explicit images, are detrimental to our spiritual health and can draw us into temptation.

    c. Quarreling and jealousy:

    James reminds us that jealousy, disorder, and selfish ambition are unspiritual and demonic whereas the wisdom from above is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits (Jas 3:13–18). Quarreling and jealousy come from pride and ego. When we always want to outdo others, the result is contention. Such contentions destroy relationships rather than build others up.

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  • 13.

    What does it mean to you to put on the Lord Jesus Christ?

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    The analogy of putting something on symbolizes acquiring a new identity. Therefore, to put on the Lord Jesus Christ is to be like Him, having His true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24; cf. 1 Jn 3:2–3).

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