Reading through the Bible together
Paul begins with clarifying the relationship of the Christian to civil authority. We are to be subject to the higher powers, but the highest power is God. He has given authority to the civil leaders. So there should be no need to fear if one keeps the law of God and the laws of the land. The civil authority ministers for God and enforces the law against evildoers (v. 4).
Based on the fact that civil authority ministers for God, Paul then appeals to the Christian to obey by following one’s conscience and in being honest in all things. He implores the believers to pay taxes to all relevant authorities (v. 5). He says to respect and honor civil leaders, and concludes this section by encouraging Christians to love one another, for if we truly love each other we are living by the law of God. He reminds us how we should love our neighbors, and explicitly uses the last five commandments to remind us of how love should work (vs. 8-10).
In the last part of the chapter, Paul makes an appeal for Christians to awake out of sleep. While this appeal applies to any generation that has ever lived, it is especially applicable to those who are living just before Jesus returns. In fact, in the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus describes His church as sleeping (Matt. 25:1-13). Paul exhorts us that because we know the time in which we are living, it is time to wake up and not sleep. Now more than ever is our salvation nearer than when we first believed. The night of this world is almost over. Now is the time to cast off the works of darkness and to put on God’s armor of light.
Paul tells us that our lives should be an open book. We should live honestly with nothing to hide. We should not be engaged in disorderly behavior or in drunkenness (v. 13). And in a spiritual sense, Seventh-day Adventists should not be drinking from the wine (false doctrines) of Babylon. Most of the world is drunk with the wine from her spiritual adultery. We should be spiritually pure and sober, faithful to the message God has given us as a people. Paul closes by saying that what we really need is to put on Jesus Christ and His righteousness. As we do so, we will not focus on the flesh, walk according to the old man of sin as seen in Romans 7, but with the help of Christ have a transformed mind that prepares us to face the final crisis.
Norman McNulty, M.D.
Neurologist, Lawrenceburg, TN, USA