In this chapter Paul discusses the Christians duties to the state.
“He said, “This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots.” He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. “He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers.” He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants. “He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants.” He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work. “He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants.” (1 Samuel 8:11-17)
- The Romans who occupied the country of the Jews charge them taxes to support their empire. The Jews hated having to pay these taxes to the Roman government. They Jews were already angry that the Romans ruled their land. Some of the Jews, the Zealots, would attack the Romans every change they would get. It is probable the Jewish Christians also had the same thought towards the Romans. The Romans viewed the Christians as being a part of the Jewish religion. Paul’s teachings was not to oppose the Romans.
- Paul’s position was that the state existed to protect its citizens from crime and attack. The state had a system of punishment and reward. Those who broke the law were punished and those who were abiding in the law were rewarded. Paul himself had received protection from the Romans against angry Jews. (Acts 18:12-16)
- There are benefits that the citizens of the state enjoy. One that was advantageous to Paul was the good Roman roads on which he traveled as he preached the gospel message.
- Those who govern are servants of God. (Daniel 4:17)
Not many years after this letter by Paul was written, the Roman government began to fight against the Christians. The Christians suffered greatly from the cruelty of the Romans. Many Christians died and the Christians in Rome especially suffered.
Even as the Romans were attacking the Christians they did not fight back. Jesus had taught people how to react in such situations. (Luke 21:12-19) Paul did not mention any trouble at the time of his letter but he was addressing about these kinds of trouble.
The lesson of Paul and for the Christians was to obey the civil authorities. As a Christian we should be ideal models in society. Christians should pay their taxes and obey the law. They should respect their leaders as appointed by God. (Daniel 2:21)
In Rome the Christians followed the advice of Paul even when the Romans attacked them. But the Christians did not obey the law that commanded them to worship Roman gods. Neither did they recognize any law that insulted their Lord Jesus Christ. When the Christians were told they could not tell the message of Jesus they did not obey. But they did obey every law that did not oppose their Christian faith.
The Christians in Rome were a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ and a testimony to those around them. Still the Christians suffered greatly for their faith. Through God’s help they were able to be noble and brave, even as they were dying they still spoke of God’s goodness. Their eyes were set upon the Kingdom to come and were not afraid to die for their faith.
Even though the Christians suffered greatly because they remained steadfast in their faith in Jesus many saw their sincerity and became Christians as well. The Romans thought they could destroy the Christians when in fact their numbers increased during their persecution. Several centuries later the Roman government made the Christian religion their official religion.
All authority in is established by God the sovereign ruler of the universe. (Psalms 62:11) Opposition to civil authority is also opposition to God. The exception is if the governing power becomes wicked then Christians do not and should not obey. We must pay our taxes to the government and we must render unto God what is due to Him. (Mark 12:17) Our first obedience is unto the Lord. As when Peter was told by the Jewish authorities that the Apostles were not to speak of Jesus, still they continued. (Acts 4:18-20) Daniel was told that he could not pray to His God but he risked his life in disobedience and continued to pray to God. (Daniel 6:10)
God has established four authorities here on earth.
- The government over all citizens.
- The Church over all believers.
- The parents over children.
- The masters over all employees.
Rulers over people have a right to punish wrong behavior. But for the citizens that obey the law there is not fear. People who disobey the law are the ones who need to fear. The Sword is the sign of the judge’s right to exercise power over the unlawful. The avenger is from the civil authorities and God’s wrath is not meant here.
Christians must obey the law of the government. Not for the sake of avoiding punishment but to maintain a clean conscious.
The Jewish land was under the rule of the Roman Empire and therefore taxes were due from the Jews to the Roman government. They had to pay taxes in their increase and all persons between the ages of 14 and 65 had to pay a personal tax. The Romans also made the Jews pay an income tax. There were also custom taxes on imports and exports from the business community. There were transportation taxes on Roads, markets and harbors. Paul regarded the tax collectors as government officials and preforming a public service and Christians should respect them for that position.
Christians should pay their debt to the state and they should pay their personal debt as well. Christians also have a duty to love one another, not just other Christians but to love everybody. (John 13:34-35)
Paul list five of the Ten Commandments that deal with the relationships we are to have towards one another. (Exodus 20:13-15, 17) Paul also sums of the relationship laws with the commandment from Jesus “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) Paul urges us as Christians to serve one another in Love. If we as Christians show real love towards one another, then we are obeying the law completely.
Paul gives warning that as Christians we need to wake up for our Lord is coming soon. Christians must be in expectation of that time because then is when we will receive our new resurrection bodies. That is the time that our salvation will be complete. Nobody knows when this time will come but the truth is that it is closer now than ever before. (Matthew 24:36) We are like servants whose Master is on a journey and we do not know when He will return. Until He does return we are to carry on our duties faithfully until that day. (Matthew 24:45-50)
Christians are never to be lazy or slothful as this is the day to accomplish the work of the Kingdom. God has given the Christian important duties to do. (Matthew 28:19-20) Paul compares the Christian to that of a soldier. The soldier cannot behave in the manor that he wishes he must obey the commands of his captain. Neither can Christians behave in the manner of their choosing but behave in a manner that is pleasing to God. The Christian must remember that he is involved in a spiritual battle and like the soldier be dressed for that battle. As Christians we must be properly dressed to protect us in the battle we are involved in. (1 Thessalonians 5:8 Ephesians 6:11-18)
When Paul speaks of the dark night his thoughts are on the power of the devil and the power of sin. (Job 24:13-17 explains this idea. Many evil people would wait until nightfall before they carried out their wicked schemes. For example, most thieves prefer to steal by night. They are afraid of daylight, because people may recognize them.) Paul also writes that the dark night is near over and the opportunity for people who do evil things is nearly over. Christ defeated the devil and the power of sin on the cross when He died for us. When Christ returns our salvation will be complete.
In verse 13 Paul lists behaviors that people should not have. These are evil things that often happen in the night. Often when people act this way they are regretful the next day. They are ill because they have partied too much. They become ashamed because the use of alcohol has influenced them to do stupid things. They have upset their husbands or wives and their friends have become angry.
This is not the behavior the Christian should become involved with. These evil activities belong to the night. Christians do not belong to the night, if night means things that are sinful and of the devil. Christians belong to Christ, they have been purchased by His blood, and He will soon be here.
As a Christian we must always chose the right behavior and must live in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord. We are followers of Jesus Christ and must walk as He walks, talk as He talks, and we serve Him and not the sinful human desires.