1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. 8Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
11And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
1But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
The apostle Paul indicated in the book of Romans that Christians are citizens of two kingdoms, spiritual and civil; therefore, as Christians, we have a responsibility to obey both.
The world often judges Christians by the way these responsibilities are carried out. We can be good citizens without being good Christians, but we cannot be good Christians without being good citizens. Because of our actions, people can either glorify God or speak evil of the good we do. Romans 14:16 states Let not then your good be evil spoken of.
Our conduct can cause men to bless God or blaspheme and slander the name of God. Jesus gave us guidance in the Sermon on the Mount. We are to let our lives shine before the world so that people can see our good works and hopefully, then, they will bless God and be converted.
Divine intention: The fact civil government is ordained of God, Romans 13:1 above, does not mean God approves of a government that is corrupt, officials that are ungodly or legislation that is unjust. In its fundamental nature, civil authority was instituted by God to be beneficial to citizens. People sometimes twist the law to their advantage, but it was initiated to protect the good and resist or punish the bad. If we break the law and suffer punishment, we cannot blame the law for our own sin. Paul was not advocating blind obedience to a government that openly defies God and morality; rather, he was stating a general principle.
The security of any society depends upon a stable government and obedient citizens. Lawbreaking will imperil any society. History has proven what happens when civil authority is ignored and people do that which seems right in their own eyes.
Christians, of all people, should respect authority, obey the laws of the land and pay their taxes and debts. These responsibilities should be carried out, not out of fear of punishment, but because this is one way of practicing the principles for Christian living as set forth in God’s Word.
The Christian has a higher principle for submission than fear. Paul believed that the believer should submit for conscience sake, Romans 13: 5, above. This means that the believer has an obligation toward God to obey civil authority.
In verses six and seven above God set up governments to be His servants. Although they are not infallible, the people who work in government service are still worthy of honor. Public servants give full-time service to governing. They need to be supported by the taxes of those whom they govern. This is also why we pay taxes.
The first part of verse seven could well read: pay your debts. Failure in this area has destroyed the testimony of many Christians. Building up incredible short-term debts, then filing for bankruptcy for inability to pay is not God’s way. Whatever a Christian owes, he should pay. As Christian citizens we have a God-given obligation to translate Christian principles into civic responsibilities.
Paul’s exhortation to let no debt remain outstanding is followed by except the continuing debt to love one another, Romans 13:8, above. There is no way that we can repay the debt of love that Christ demonstrated for us in dying to pay for our sin. In the same way, we owe a debt of love to everyone, Christians and unbelievers.
As Christians, we never arrive at the point in our relationship with anyone that we no longer have an obligation to love that person. We can never say, “I’ve loved that person enough. I will love him or her no more.” We must love them continually and forever. Christian love is to be genuine, free from insincerity. Christians are bound by a family tie. As the family of God, it should go without saying that we love one another as Christ loved us.
There are many questions regarding worship, divine guidance and daily living that cannot be settled by rules, but there is one principle that includes everything in its all-embracing power. That is the fundamental principle of love. For this reason, Paul emphasized a debt that we can never cancel. This is a debt Christians never pay off. If our lives are dominated by a love for God, and a love for our neighbors, then no other law is needed. The law of love fulfills all other laws.
In verse 9, above, Paul’s claim that if a man honestly seeks to discharge this debt of love, he will automatically keep all the commandments. Love never seeks to destroy, but always to build up. We are living some 1,900 years closer to the day of redemption than the Roman Christians to whom Paul wrote this letter. We must be keenly aware that our final destination is nearer than when we first believed in Christ.
Time is precious and we must keep ourselves alert to make the best use of the time for Christian living. Paul gave several admonitions in the light of the Lord’s soon return. The first is “Wake up.“ See 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11, above. Let’s look at verse 6 and be reminded: therefore, let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober.
The second instruction is “Clean up.“ We do not want to be found dressed in dirty garments when the Lord returns. 1 John 2:28 reminds us, And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He shall appear, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. Then, 1 John 3: 3, And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.
The Christian wears the armor of light not the deeds of darkness. He has no reason to get involved in the sinful pleasures of the world.
Finally, Paul admonished, “Grow up.“ Verse 14 of Romans 13, above, states but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
To put on the Lord Jesus Christ means to become more like Him, to receive by faith all that He is for our daily living. We “grow” on the basis of the food that we eat. That is why God warns us not to make provisions for the “flesh”. If we feed the flesh, we will fail, but if we feed the inner man the nourishing things of the Spirit, we will succeed as a follower of Christ. In other words, a Christian citizen ought to be the best of citizens.
In verse 11 of Romans 13, above, Paul told his readers to wake up and be ready for the coming of Christ, the Rapture. A casual reading of the daily newspaper will indicate to us that we are living in a day when Christ could come at any moment. It is believed among Pentecostals that the coming of Christ is twofold: (1) the Rapture, when saved people are caught up to meet the Lord in the air before the Great Tribulation and then (2) the revelation of Jesus Christ and the redeemed coming with Him from Heaven when Christ returns with His saints at the end the Great Tribulation.
At the rapture, Christ comes in the air for His saints. At the revelation, He comes to the earth with them. He must come for them before He comes with them.
At the rapture, Christ comes as the Bridegroom to take unto Himself His Bride, the Church. At the revelation, He comes with His Bride to rule the nations and stand on the same Mount Olivet from which He ascended. The rapture may happen at any moment.
The Christian life is not so much empty of the things of the world as it is filled with the things of Christ. Our lifestyle reveals the quality of our commitment to Christ.
Trust and do are words that go well together. We should have faith and that faith should work. Trusting God equips us for holy living. It would be good to study 1 Thessalonians 5. Our golden text is in verse 15: See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Never in the history of Christianity has chapter five of 1 Thessalonians been more relevant than it is today.
The mark of the church that the world notices is not the beauty of its buildings nor the landscaping nor the degrees that are attached to the pastors and workers nor the trained professional choir and staff; rather, it is these words of Christ in John 13:35, By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if you have love one to another. This is where the Church differs from the world. The world hates and returns evil for evil. The Church, the redeemed of the LORD, loves and returns good for evil.