Live as a Godly Neighbor

Explore the Bible Series

January 22, 2006


Background Passage: Romans 13:1-14

Lesson Passage: Romans 13:1-10, 12b-14


Introduction: At first glance Chapter Thirteen seems an abrupt shift from the general theme of the previous section.  However, careful examination suggests that Paul continued to develop the theme introduced in Romans 12:1-2.  What does it mean to have a renewed mind?  What thoughts and behavior patterns characterize people with renewed minds?  As Paul concluded the thoughts recorded in Romans 12, he detailed directions for Christian relationships.  In particular, Paul ended the last chapter with a prohibition against taking personal revenge (See v. 19).  He continued that stream of thought in Chapter Thirteen.  Our current study outlines the believer’s relationship to the civil government.  The civil authorities exist, in part, to administer justice in cases where one person has wronged another.  God ordains these leaders to keep social order, protect the helpless, and bear the sword in times of national threat.  Personal acts of revenge, aggression, or violence are forbidden.  The state holds the power of the sword.


Perhaps a quick review of this section, as we have studied the last few weeks, might prove helpful. 

  1. (Romans 12:3-8) Believers value and participate in the local church.
  2. (Romans 12:9-16) Believers love their brothers and sisters in Christ.
  3. (Romans 12:17-21) Believers show kindness to their enemies.
  4. (Romans 13:1-7) Believers submit to God-ordained authority.
  5. (Romans 13:8-10) Believers fulfill the law by loving their neighbors.
  6. (Romans 13:11-14) Believers understand that they live on the threshold of eternity.



Lesson Outline:


I.                    Paul’s Principle Stated (13:1-2)

A.     “Be subject”: Paul used the word “hupotassestho” which to render appropriate submission to one in authority.  The New Testament uses this word in several contexts.

1.      James 4:7 uses the word to describe the Christian’s submission to God.

2.      Ephesians 5:24 uses the word to describe the wife’s submission to her husband.

3.      Ephesians 5:24 utilizes the word to reflect the church’s submission to Christ.

4.      I Corinthians 16:16 employs this word to depict the church’s submission to her leaders.

5.      I Peter 5:5 uses the term to refer to young men deferring to their elder men.

B.     “He who resists”: This phrase translates the Greek word antitasso.  This term means to order opposition to a superior, and the word was often used for insubordination in military settings.

C.     “…will receive condemnation upon themselves”: Literally: They will bear judgment upon themselves.


II.                 Paul’s Directions for Submission to Civil Authority (13:3-7)

A.     Recognize God-given authority (vv. 3-4):

B.     Motives for submission (v. 5)

1.      “…not only because of wrath”: It is difficult to determine if the wrath Paul mentions here refers to the wrath of earthly rulers or the judgment of God.  Perhaps, in some sense, Paul included both concepts in his statement.

2.      “…for conscience’ sake”:  Paul recognized the value of sensitive, clear conscience.  The conscience is not an infallible guide for ethic conduct because it can be sear and scarred by a life of sin.  Nevertheless, a clear Christian conscience is a precious thing (See I Timothy 3:9 and I Peter 3:16).

III.               Love as the Fulfillment of the Law (13:8-10)

A.     “Owe no man anything except to love one another” (v. 8).  Some teachers see this verse as an absolute prohibition against any form of indebtedness.  This position proves difficult to defend in light of other passages that allow borrowing under certain circumstances.  This verse must be interpreted within its context.  Paul has argued that Christians owe their submission to the governing authorities, and this verse insists on believers “paying” that “debt.”  Paul’s injunction here may not refer to financial arrangements at all. 

B.     “Love does no wrong to a neighbor”: How does a believer avoid harming his neighbor?  By obeying the law of God.

1.”You shall not commit adultery”

2. “You shall not murder”

3. “You shall not steal”

4. “You shall not covet”

5. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”


             IV. The Approaching Day of the Lord (13:11-14)

A.     Christians must live in the awareness of the imminent presence of God’s Kingdom (v. 11).  Paul encouraged the Roman believers to arouse from the sluggish drowsiness that characterized their old manner of life and awaken to the coming Day of the Lord. 

B.     The coming Day demands that Christians put aside their former conduct and clad themselves with the armor of light (vv. 12-13).  The New Day demands a new adornment.  Living in the light of Christ will equip believers with the weaponry needed to ensure their victory. The apostle pointed out several qualities that must not characterize believers.

1.      carousing: the lack of moral restraint

2.      drunkenness

3.      sexual promiscuity

4.      sensuality: open shameless behavior that shocks public sensibilities (Vaughan and Corley)

5.      strife

6.      jealousy: malignant ambition (Vaughan and Corley

C.     “But put on Christ”: “putting on Christ refers to clothing the soul in the moral disposition and habits of Christ.”  (Vaughan and Corley)