Category Archives: Topical

Romans 13:1-7 – under the authority under God


Romans 1:16-17 Know the gospel. Paul is so impressed by the gospel of God – the good news that is the all God’s work to save us. We are saved by faith and credited the righteousness of Jesus. How incredible is that!

Romans 12:1-2 The gospel is life changing. So, the knowledge of God’s mercy and grace will affect our lives. You can’t embrace the gospel without seeing how transforming it is on us. God has shown us such great love and we are now devoted to him because of it.

Romans 12:9-21 The change is a reflection of who God is. Our lives will be defined by love – sincere, genuine, true blue love – the kind of love that comes from the Father.

Romans 12:19-21 Our knowledge of God allows us to love others and let God avenge evil. God is the ultimate authority in the whole universe. The logic behind loving our enemies is that God will bring justice when the time is right – leave it to him. With the ultimate almighty God on the side that we are now on, where does that leave us in relation to the authorities in this world – how should we relate to governments?

Also, if we are to live at peace with all and to love our enemies, how can God maintain justice in this age?


Verses 1-2 – notice how often the word ‘authority’ appears in these to verses. The authority in view here are the rulers of your culture and city and country etc. it refers to those who, mostly, are elected by the people to be in charge. But notice who is ultimately in authority over all of this process. God is always in charge and no matter who is in power at any time, they are in power because God has allowed it, he has ordained it and he has, to some degree, orchestrated it. These verses tell me that the people in authority are hands and legs for God. They are established by God and instituted by Him.

So living out of sync with the government is to live out of sync with God. You can’t rebel against the government without making the statement that you do not trust God.

It won’t surprise me if every Growth Group will have somebody ask something like: what if the government is evil or communist or unfair or money hungry or….? There’s no doubt that there will be examples that we can either invent or recount that would make this instruction difficult. What do the words say though? They tell us that it is God who has instituted and established these authorities. God does not make mistakes. The promise is not for godly governments but for God ordained authority. We diminish God’s sovereignty if we claim that some governments are in power that God would not have put there. So, governments serve God in bringing order and justice (with a little ‘j’ to this world).

The Christian is just as subject to the land’s authority as the next person but even more so when they learn here that doing so is to be obedient to God.

Verses 3-4 – The rulers of this age serve God to protect those who follow the law and to judge those who break it. Even though we Christians have direct access to speak with God and request his help in all things, we are also subject to the laws of the land. God is not the God of disorder but of order. He will use even an ungodly government to serve his purposes.

Verse 5 – here is the sum of it all. Two reasons for submitting to government: a) they have the power and right to punish us if we do not submit and b) God has put them there and rebelling against them is to rebel against God.

Verses 6-7 – the words here are straight forward. Notice though that we are told here that we owe the government! We pay taxes because we owe them for the work that they do. They are God’s servants but they are also ours. Without them, we have anarchy or strife or mayhem or…I don’t know. It is God’s plan that we operate under the authority of others.

Don’t bad mouth the government. Don’t skimp on taxes or whinge that we have them. But go beyond paying taxes by paying the government respect and honour. Even in our Australian culture of cutting down the tall poppies, we Christians have a call from God to pay respect and honour to those who govern us.


What we have here is an insight into how God governs from above. He orders the affairs of people to accomplish his will.

The bible has many examples of how this all works. Daniel was a man of God who worked in close relationship with the kings of Babylon. He respected the kings in everything that he did. He showed respect and honour and served the king more impressively than any of the other men in the king’s court. Only when a law was made that directly offended God did Daniel choose to obey God over the King. Daniel’s reputation was not of a man who rebelled against authority, but of a man who was always God’s man first.

Joseph has a similar story to Daniel. He always did his best to serve whoever he was a servant to. It didn’t matter that he came from the chosen people of God. He found himself, under God’s will, to be subject to Pharoah. And he obeyed.
Even Moses showed respect to Pharoah while following the commands of God to request that the people of Israel be set free.

It’s Isaiah 46:11 that captures the interaction between God’s plans and man’s plans. In that verse, a man of prey is summoned from the east to fulfill God’s purposes. This was an enemy of Israel that God called upon to conquer Israel for their rebellion. The army that defeated Israel would not feel like they were accomplishing God’s will – they just feel how powerful they are in their ignorance of the almighty. But God knows that they are doing exactly what God has designed for them to do. This is the sovereignty of God.
Finally, The Lord Jesus Christ stood before governor Pilate and submitted to the punishment that Pilate ordered to occur. Jesus respectfully informed Pilate that He was not jus ‘a’ king but the one with all authority. He said this calmly and Pilate concluded that there is no guilt in Jesus. Read John 19:11, 35-37 at least to see some interaction between Jesus and Pilate as the one in authority being questioned by the one who was placed in authority by Jesus.

We live in a world where people are n charge. The Christian faith celebrates this and recognises it as a gift from God.


Our governments are really great. We have plenty of avenues to question them, request change from them, disagree with them and vote against them. These can all be done in a perfectly legal way that doesn’t involve assassination or civil war. Praise God for the order that we have in this country.

Pray for our government that they will be fair, wise and just. That they will care for the vulnerable and only ask from their country what they need to ask.

Speak well of all the politicians. Agree or disagree but do it with great respect and honour.

Know that God has got everything under control. This really is the underlying point of the seven verses. Nothing is above God.

Prayer for the week

Sovereign Lord, we pray for your guidance over those who are in authority in this land. We thank you for the peace that we enjoy and ask that this will continue. Please help our governments to be wise and thoughtful in their decision making. Help us too, Father, to respect, honour and care for our governments by the words we use of them, the way we interact with them and the taxes that we owe to them. Amen.

Romans 12:9-21 – Keep to the left of evil!


Romans 1:17 told us that ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ Paul took us through the content of that faith in chapters 1-11 to say that we must devote our trust in God fully for our righteousness. Chapter 12:1-2 began the new phase of Paul’s teaching on how to take this faith into the rest of your life. We are to offer God our bodies and our minds. The way that we use both of these parts of us: what we DO and what we THINK are to be given to God and moulded by the truth of faith. God is God and we are his creatures that needed rescuing.

This next section of Romans continues the theme of how to live out our faith around other people. Although God is in the business of saving and forming his church (the body of Christ, verses 3-8) we also need to live in a world which still hates God.


The NIV breaks these verses up into 3 paragraphs plus an indented quote. The ESV divides the passage into 2 paragraphs only (9-13 + 14-21). It’s interesting to work out where the paragraph breaks should go, if anywhere! Do you see any clear reasons for breaks?

Verse 9 opens with the charge to love and not to take part in evil. Verse 21 wraps up the whole section with a similar sentiment: don’t be swallowed by evil but kill it with the energy of good. So, the whole section seems to lean toward embracing the light side and staying away from the dark! There is a vibe of combating evil with good instead of with evil. As if two wrongs don’t make a right. If evil comes barging up behind you, huffing and puffing and blowing out smoke from its ears, keep to the left and let evil pass!

The section seems to offer a list of examples and areas of life where love is put into practice and evil is left for God to take care of. The message is: don’t take part in it.

So, let’s go through the verses and see what we see.

Verse 9. Remember the binary use of the words love and hate back in Rom 9:13. Love doesn’t refer only to those things that you are passionate about and hate only those things that you are passionate against. You are either for something or against it. Often when reading the scriptures we need to look into the way that the bible writers use words and not rely on our contemporary use of them.

Having said that, we are told that love needs to be more than just ‘an act of your will.’ Verse 9 tells us that love must be sincere. The ESV uses the word, ‘genuine.’ Not faked or pretend but something that you earnestly want to portray and practice. We can’t pretend to be Christians and we can’t pretend to love others. If this is a struggle with you and somebody else, then pray about that. Ask for God’s help as you put your trust in Him to sanctify your relationships.

‘Hate what is evil.’ This shouldn’t be misunderstood as ‘hate those who are evil’ since later (v14) we are instructed to ‘bless those who persecute you.’ But verse 9 must be talking about the practice of evil. Hate and abhor it. The positive reaction to evil is to ‘cling to what is good.’ Paul says elsewhere to focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Phil 4:8). Don’t gaze at the negative and try to hate it, but set your eyes on the good things in life – the things that God blesses. Distract evil with good.

Verse 10. I like the way the ESV puts this verse: ‘Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.’ It’s great to see family members getting along peacefully and enjoying one another. This may happen too rarley (!) but when it happens, it’s beautiful. We’re not being told to just love your brother though, we’re told to love one another. The way you do that is to put the other person first. Compete to see who can elevate the other higher! Encouraging one another like verse 7 said is a great way to promote honour and respect. How can we put that challenge into action?

Verse 11. Being fervent is to show passionate intensity – hot, burning or glowing! What a description of how to be spiritual! The question is, have you ever been this? We all display emotions and passions differently, so this really is a question for you to ask of yourself: am I passionate about the gospel? Am I 100% for King Jesus. Verse 11 defines zeal and spiritual fervour as ‘serving the Lord.’ Is this a priority to you? At home and at work and on the beach and in the city – do you do all things out of a clear understanding and dedication of your faith. Jesus said to ‘seek first the kingdom of God’ (Matt 6:33). Do you remember the zeal you had when you first became a Christian? Do you remember the passion you had for God when/if you were a teenage or young adult Christian? Has life and responsibility squashed that? The warning of the parable of the four soils will tell us that zeal for the gospel is important, or else the business of life will push it out of our minds and lower on our priority list.

How can you fan the flame of your passion and zeal for God? I listened to a good sermon today online and it reminded me of something I had not thought of for a while – it put a smile back into my faith.

Verse 12. ‘Be joyful in hope.’ I could write pages on these four words! It is hope that ought to give us joy! To think that we would not be joyful in hope is odd but then Paul thinks that this needs to be spelled out. There is no reason why we should think of all the promises of God that we look forward to in the resurrection and not produce joy in us. But, it’s one thing to know the content of the gospel and quite another to know that the gospel is for you! It’s one thing to know that Jesus died on the cross for sins – quite another to know that Jesus died on the cross for YOUR sins. It’s one thing to know that heaven will be a great place (I suppose) quite another to know that Jesus has gone away to prepare a place for YOU and he prayed for YOU while he thought about going to the cross (John 17). Like a child who can’t stop smiling on Christmas eve, our faith, when we meditate on it, when we talk about it, when we hear encouragement from one another about it, our faith is a prepaid eternity of rest and play. There might be a long time to wait for it, but the thought of it should warm our hearts and make us smile.

When afflicted: be patient like a person who knows there is relief coming.

Your prayers: constant, unshaken, trusting in the one who is listening.

Verse 13. Two more aspects of love is to share and to welcome. Both of these things we are simply told to do.

Verses 14-16. I’d like to make a broad statement about these 3 verses. They seem to tell us to embrace everyone. If someone is attacking you: embrace them. If someone is celebrating: cheer on their team. If someone is crying out: give them your shoulder. If someone seems different to you: be a chameleon and become like them. Don’t distinguish yourself from everybody else but sing with them.

Verses 17-20. The sentences on their own here are fairly straight forward and clear – it’s the principle that might be hard to understand. The principle comes down to who the Judge of this earth is – and it is God. Deuteronomy 32:35 is quoted in verse 19 as well as Proverbs 25:21,22. Our job is to be God’s holy people who were called out of darkness to live in the light and be a light to the world. It is God’s business to avenge and he will do it very well. When we show compassion and love and kindness and care in the face of hostility and anger and hate, then, if that person doesn’t repent and turn to Christ, it will be like adding heat to the fire on judgement day. When Jesus told the crowd to love their enemy, he didn’t intend for the enemy to get away with everything. He just meant to leave the justice to God.

Verse 21. It will harm us when we get into battle to fight against evil to try and overpower it. We will be swept up in the same evils. The best tool against evil is to embrace righteousness. Replace evil with good.


  • Love, in all it’s forms, is the best weapon we have.
  • Love and hate; light and dark; good and evil; our choice is not to convert the latter but to be the former.
  • Don’t focus on what HATE and EVIL isn’t – focus on what LOVE IS!


  • There are many applications here. The trick is to move beyond the general principle and to put some real examples into place.
  • Cling to what is good. Keep passionate about serving the Lord. Show love to those around you. Practice being good.
    • How do you practice being good in the church and in Growth Group?
    • How do you practice being good in the workplace?
    • How do you practice being good while commuting?
    • How do you practice being good in the shopping centre?
    • How do you practice being good in your own home?

Prayer for the week

Dear Father God, we praise you for the example of the Lord Jesus Christ who succeeded in all the challenges that Paul lists for us this week. We ask for your Spirit to guide us, to teach us and to provoke us toward love and good deeds. Because of the mercy that we have received and learned from you, help us to show love and mercy to everybody we meet. Thank you for the hope you have placed in our hearts. Help us to cling to that hope with all the joy that it brings. Amen.


Romans 9:1-29 if God is not for us…

How much are you willing to get to know God? What if you discovered something about God that was upsetting to you? What could you do about that? Paul has been describing the position of rebellion that we are all in and the size of God’s grace and mercy to redeem us and make it right. God has been truly amazing in his mission to save his people. But what about those who are not his people? How should we think about the fact that not everybody is saved?

Romans 9-11 are three chapters of a block of thought. That is, for the next three chapters, Paul will take us through the theology of God’s promise being fulfilled for the true Israel and not for the blood line of Abraham. God never promised that he would save everyone.


Romans 8:31-39 celebrated the confidence of knowing that if God is for us, then we have God on our side. Verses 37-39 proclaimed how nothing and nowhere can remove us or transport us away from the love of God. God is for us and God loves us! The condition? We are to be ‘in Christ Jesus’. Then, Jesus will intercede for us. Then, the Spirit will work in us to transform us.

Who then is responsible for our salvation? Did we choose Jesus? No, it is God who chose us (v33). It is God who chose us and is therefore for us and loves us. It is in his love for us that he has chosen us.

Paul has, from the beginning of Romans, claimed that salvation comes to all who believe. There is a human expectation in salvation. It does not find fruit in anyone who does not believe. But even belief and faith come from the fact that God has chosen us.

Romans 9:1-29 contemplates this question: who has God chosen? Wasn’t it the Jews? And doesn’t that make all who were not chosen, innocent?


Romans 9:1-5

Paul proclaims the Jews as priviledged and blessed in huge ways and laments that not all who are Jews will be saved.

Paul still has a national pride.

He also has great love for his nation which will be damned unless they believe.

Notice his passion for the lost. This is a passion for both the people and for the message of the gospel.

Notice how linked the gospel is to the Jews – it is through Abraham’s offspring that came salvation!

Romans 9:6-9

The children of Abraham are not by blood but by promise! The rules have not changed. It has always been about God choosing one instead of another! Isaac and not Ishmael.

God has not broken his promise. He has not changed his mind. He has not had second thoughts. No, the word of God has not failed. We just need to work hard at understanding his word.

Romans 9:10-13

So, if the story of Ishmael and Isaac was not convincing enough, check out Rebekah’s kids: conceived at the same time and yet even before they were born, God had decided which child he would bless.

It is not by works but by the calling of God. I wonder, if Esau had proven to live without sin, would he then still be glorified? I’m thinking yes, hyperthetically, but this is not possible. Unless God redeems us, we are marked by our own sin and rebellion.

“Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.” Rom 9:13

“Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” Mal 1:2-3

I chose Jacob and rejected Esau – this is really the essence of the quote.

How do we juggle the contrast between this statement and the statement that God does not show favouritism? How do we juggle the contrast between this statment and the statement that God so loved the world?

The quote from Malachi is a message of love toward the Jews to remind them of how God has loved them. They received all the blessings of God while Esau has not. We are best to understand the meaning behind love and hate as chosen or rejected – elected or rejected. Along with the election comes the blessings of God. Rejection is absent of that.

Douglas Moo writes: ‘”Love” and “hate” are not here, then, emotions that God feels but actions that he carries out. In an apparent paradox that troubles Paul (cf.9:14 and 19 following) as well as many Christians, God loves “the whole world” at the same time as he witholds his love in action, or election, from some.’ (Moo, Douglas, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1996, p587).

Romans 9:14-18

Paul wants to defend the statement of grace that means it is not about us choosing God but about God showing mercy to whom he chooses.

Consider what this means for those who are saved – it is God who knew you before you knew him, it is God who determined to save you, it is God who sent the gospel message to you, it is God who justified you, and it is God who is glorifying you (Rom 8:29-30). But for the grace of God, you would be Ishmael, or Esau, or Pharoah.

Consider Pharoah. God did not determine to save him. But in the story of Pharoah, he saw all the marvelous works of God. He spoke to God’s messenger face to face. He was asked to obey the will of God. But he didn’t. His heart was hard. There was no desire in Pharoah to seek God. There was no heart yearning from him to know and understand the truth. Did God harden his heart? Yes. Is God to blame for his evil? No.

Romans 9:19-21

This is the obvious objection from anyone who is curious about predestination and election. If it is not in us to choose God, then when God doesn’t choose us, that’s his fault and not ours. Paul’s answer smacks of rebuke. This is the wisdom of God.

Reflect here on what it means to worship God. He is not the God who we construct and mould. He is the God who moulded and created us! Let’s get that straight.

Romans 9:22-29

Paul focuses our attention on the correct angle to consider this topic. It is a miracle that anybody is saved! Some are objects of God’s wrath and others are objects of his mercy. Praise God that for the benefit of those he has chosen, he made his own Son the object of his wrath! For our sake, he hated the son in the same way that he hated Esau. He chose to bless us at the expense of his beloved and eternal Son.

He has made us his people who were once not his people. And we can be part of the promise even though we are not blood children of Israel. But we are now children of Abraham and children of God’s because of the love shown to us in Jesus!


While a discussion on predestination is important and useful – don’t lose focus on why this passage is put here! We are saved at the mercy of God. The focus in on his salvation rather than his exclusion.

The purpose for Paul writing this section only underscores the need for the gospel. You cannot just sit on your ancestry, upbringing, western culture or any other identity to declare that you are saved! You can’t even declare you are one of God’s children simply because you attend church regularly. No, we must hear the gospel, understand it and embrace it!

Predestination or election does not mean that we don’t do anything either. We know that Esau was rejected because he thought lowly of his birthright. We know that Pharoah was unsaved because of the way he responded to God’s word. We know that a true Israelite by faith – a spiritual child of Abraham – is a child of God because of their changed heart and love for the gospel.

Notice that Paul is certain of the continuity between the Old Testament and the New. Between the God of the Jews and the God of the Christian. He sees Christianity, not as a new religion, but rather a continuation of the true Israel.

How can you know if you are one of his elect? Simple, listen to God’s word, consume it, respond to the gospel in faith. Only the elect will declare with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that he was raised from the dead. If you know this and you know the life changing implications of this, then you are loved by God and praise him for that!


Love The Lord your God a) because he has made you (vv20-21) and b) he has loved you.

Preach the gospel to all. Only in eternity will we know who has been called for glory.

Read the bible for all its worth! There is so much to learn. There is so much to struggle with. There is so much knowledge of God to still discover. The gospel begins for us with God’s knowledge of us! We spend so much time in our lives getting to know things that don’t know us – like stars in the sky, devices that we carry in our pockets, celebrities who don’t know you exist, and about TV characters and their lives – how much time do we spend getting to know the very person who knows you better than you know yourself and who loves you more than you can ever imagine.

Know your Old Testament. The gospel didn’t begin with Jesus in a manger or even with Mary being met by an angel. It began, in once sense, with a man named Abraham who God chose to bless. Learning about the life of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob gives us great insights into the gospel. It shows us how God loves those who are not lovely, trustworthy or brave. That God blesses families even though they hate one another. That God drives his promises forward despite disbelief, deceit and tragedy. How much do we need to hear stories like that to help us battle with our own lives and our own faith.