Love Your Neighbor


Romans 13:5-7

Submit to Government

13 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

We are to render obedience to the magistrate because of God’s command to do so. But  two cases are investigated  when we are to not obey our government: when commanded to do what God forbids and to forbid what God commands. An examination of the role of the Christian and taxes and their relation to how we should vote is presented.

 

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Secure in the Love of God


For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38–39

 

Knowledge of God’s creation and sovereign providence, question and answer 28 of the Heidelberg Catechism tell us, enables us to be patient in adversity and thank the Lord in all things (Job 1:20–21; 1 Thess. 5:18). But there are more benefits to knowing God’s sovereignty, namely, assurance of salvation and confidence that we will persevere in a state of grace until the end of our lives.

 

The Heidelberg Catechism looks to Romans 8:38–39 as a proof text for the benefits of assurance and confidence. It is easy to see why the authors of the catechism chose this passage when we consider Paul’s words in their immediate context. Following his discussion of the believer’s war against remaining sin in Romans 7, the Apostle directs us in Romans 8 to the work of Christ and our justification by faith alone to assure us of our reconciliation to the Father and to give us hope for sanctification (growth in holiness) (vv. 1–16). This faith is sovereignly worked in us by the Holy Spirit and rooted in our Creator’s sovereign predestination of His people, a predestination that also includes our glorification, the consummation of our redemption in the life to come (vv. 2, 15, 29–30). Romans 9 stresses God’s sovereignty in salvation, His right to show mercy and effect the redemption of His elect. The placement of today’s passage between the aforementioned sections of Romans shows the essential link between the Lord’s sovereign providence and the assurance that God cannot stop loving His people. Once our Father decides to set His special, salvific love on us, nothing can separate us from that love (8:38–39).

 

This special love is “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39), which gives us further confidence that God’s people are forever secure in His love. The Father and the Son are united in their purpose to save the elect. God the Father has loved us in Christ Jesus His Son, and He has given us to the Son. Therefore, to let anything or anyone separate us from His Son would diminish the love He has for His Son. After all, those whom the Father has gifted to His Son cannot be taken from the Son, for the perfectly loving Father would never take back His gift to His Son (John 3:35; 10:27–30). John Calvin comments, “If, then, we are through [Christ] united to God, we may be assured of the immutable and unfailing kindness of God toward us.”

 

Coram Deo

When Paul says nothing can separate us from God’s love, he means that even we cannot snatch ourselves from His hand. If we have true faith, we will maintain that faith until the end. Times of doubt may arise, and it is even possible to fall into grievous sin. Yet if we belong to Christ today, we will belong to Him forever. This should encourage us to draw near to the Lord even when we feel far from Him. If we come humbly, He will not reject us.

 

Passages for Further Study

 

Jeremiah 15:21; 31:3b
Hebrews 7:23–25
James 4:8a
1 John 5:11–12

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Patience in Trials


Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’” (vv. 20–21).

Job 1:20–22

The Heidelberg Catechism, in expounding and applying Scripture, repeatedly asks questions with this format: How does the knowledge of doctrine x help us? This is certainly a biblical way to consider God’s Word. After all, the Lord did not reveal Himself simply to give us abstract doctrines, but gave us objective truths that have many subjective benefits. We see this principle in texts such as John 20:30–31. The Apostle John gives his purposes for not recording every miracle of Jesus, explaining that he tells of specific signs that we might “believe Jesus is the Christ” and thereby “have life in his name.” The objective truths of Jesus’ person and work are revealed so that we might subjectively receive and enjoy salvation.

In a similar manner, the Heidelberg Catechism points us to the benefits we enjoy by knowing certain theological truths when question 28 asks: “How does the knowledge of creation and providence help us?” The answer makes several points, including that this knowledge grants us patience in our trials. It uses today’s passage as one of the proof texts for this contention, which makes sense given Job’s response to his trials and his confession of the sovereign providence of the Lord.

Long ago, Satan wagered that Job, an upright and blameless man, would curse God if the Lord were to allow Job to lose everything. This bet and Job’s initial affliction are described in Job 1:1–19. Clearly, what happened to Job would test the patience of any person. But even when he learned that his possessions were lost and his children dead, Job did not give up hope but acknowledged that both good and ill fall under the rule of God’s decree (vv. 20–21).

Job did not claim the Lord was entirely absent from his suffering; rather, he accepted that the evil he endured was possible only according to God’s sovereign will. Moreover, Job did not say that what happened to him and his family was itself a good thing. A patient response to suffering does not deny pain’s severity or the difficulty of seeing how the Lord is working for our good in some cases. Instead, patient sufferers acknowledge their troubles honestly before God. They realize that tragedy is not good in and of itself but that God uses it for good. And they continue to believe He is praiseworthy, even when they find it hard to worship Him.

Coram Deo

When we are suffering, we are often strongly tempted not to praise God. Matthew Henry notes that Job adored the Lord when he was blessed and when he suffered. “When all was gone he fell down and worshipped… . Weeping must not hinder sowing, nor hinder worshipping.” It is precisely in our pain that we most need to worship alongside God’s people, even if all we can do is sit in the pew and weep.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 71
Habakkuk 3:17–19
Acts 5:17–42
2 Cor. 11:16–12:10

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Learning to Love


Love is a popular topic, one that evokes warm feelings and a rush of spiritual adrenaline. Every year the polls indicate that the chapter of the Bible voted “most popular” is 1 Corinthians 13. This is the famous “love chapter” of the Bible. That this chapter holds such perennial appeal for Christians indicates something of the profound concern we have for the matter of love.

1 Corinthians 13 is a double-edged sword, however. It not only comforts us with an inspiring and exalted rhapsody of love, it also presents a portrait of the nature of love so clearly that it reveals the flaws and warts of our feeble exercise of love. It shows us how unloving we are. It sets the bar, presenting a norm of love that condemns us for falling so miserably short of it.

Perhaps our delight in the love chapter rests upon a superficial nod toward this biblical paean of love. Maybe we read its eloquent words as if they were merely the lyrics of a romantic ballad. But once we probe the content of the chapter, discomfort inevitably sets in.

The ultimate norm of love is God Himself. His love is utterly perfect, containing no shadow that would obscure its brilliant purity.

 

Coram Deo

Prayerfully study 1 Corinthians 13. How does your love measure up to these standards?

Passages for Further Study

1 Corinthians 13:1–3

Imitating the Father


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If we are to search out the depths and riches of the meaning of God’s love, we can approach our quest in two ways. We can work from the top down or from the bottom up. By working from the top down, we can focus on everything the Bible says about the character of God’s love, seeing the full expression of the declaration that “God is love,” and then seeing how that dimension of God’s character is to be reflected by His image-bearers.

Or we can proceed from the bottom up, reflecting on God’s commandments to us regarding love, and discern from this light of His law something of His own character that stands behind His law and out of which His perfect law proceeds.

The apostle Paul calls us to imitate God, which is carried out by walking in love (Eph. 5:1–2). Next, this imitation is viewed as an imitation of Christ—in that Christ, as the new Adam, perfectly demonstrates the character of the Father’s love. He is the Beloved of the Father. He is the supreme lover of God and lover of our souls as well. He shows love both in its vertical and horizontal relationships.

Coram Deo

Meditate today on God’s love and the supreme example of love, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Passages for Further Study

Reflecting on the Past


In biblical categories of time, an important distinction is made between chronos and kairos. This distinction carries within it the assumption that individual moments can have a dynamic impact on a whole life. The New Testament distinctive is like this: chronos refers to the normal linear passing of time; moment by moment, day by day, year by year. Kairos refers to a specific moment within time that is of crucial significance. It is the moment that gives lasting significance to history. Examples of kairotic moments in the Bible would be the exodus, the anointing of Saul, the exile, the birth of Jesus, and the cross.

 

Perhaps the closest thing we have to this distinction is the words historical and historic. Every event that takes place in June is historical, but not every event is historic. Historic events change the course of history and become the cause of future celebration, mourning, or memorial. The signing of the Declaration of Independence was historic, as were the first human steps on the moon.

 

Within our private individual lives, there are also historic moments, special events that shape and mold our personalities and the direction of our energies. Each of us has fruitful moments in our lives. What we want the most from life will often be “meshed” or “disguised” beneath the veneer of our nostalgic memories. If we delve more deeply in these memories, we can discover a great deal about who we are. Reflections on things of the past you might prefer to forget may provoke feelings of guilt and/or fear. Yet we must live with our past.

 

The historic in our lives defines our history. There is a real sense in which we are our history. I cannot disassociate my identity from the past. Even if I become a “new person” in Christ, I still carry the “old man” around with me until I die.

 

Coram Deo

What feelings emerge when you reflect on your past? Are there unresolved issues you need to resolve?

 

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 30:1–3

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