ROMANS CHAPTER 13:

THE CHRISTIAN'S DUTY TO CIVIL LAW AND

 TO THE LAW OF LOVE FULFILLED IN CHRIST JESUS

 

Beloved Heavenly Father,

You have written the Law of Your Son on our hearts so that we might be guided by the Holy Spirit in every aspect of our lives'in our relationships within the faith community and within the greater civil community in which we live and work.  We understand that we have an obligation to pray that our civil leaders will be guided by the justice of Your moral law and that we must support those moral decisions of our civil leadership, but we also understand that when the Church rules that civil authorities stand opposed to justice and to Your higher Law that we must oppose injustice with dignity, integrity, and firmness of character.   Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study of St. Paul's teaching on obedience to the Law of justice and love. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

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Jesus to Pilate: "You would have no power over me at all if it had not been given you from above..."  John 19:11

 

"By me monarchs rule and princes decree what is right; by me rulers govern, so do nobles, the lawful authorities."  Proverbs 8:15-16

 

"Listen then, kings, and understand; rulers of remotest lands, take warning; hear this, you who govern great populations, taking pride in your hosts of subject nations! For sovereignty is given to you by the Lord and power by the Most High, who will himself probe your acts and scrutinize your intentions." Wisdom 6:1-3

 

"The Lord Jesus Christ himself...is said to be the clothing of the saints."

Origen, On First Principles 2.3.2

 

Please read Romans 13:1-7: The Christian's Duty Toward the Civil Authority

"1 Everyone is to obey the governing authorities, because there is no authority except from God and so whatever authorities exist have been appointed by God.  2 So anyone who disobeys an authority is rebelling against God's ordinance; and rebels must expect to receive the condemnation they deserve.  3 Magistrates bring fear not to those who do good, but to those who do evil.  So if you want to live with no fear of authority, live honestly and you will have its approval; 4 it is there to serve God for you and for your good.  But if you do what is wrong, then you may well be afraid; because it is not for nothing that the symbol of authority is the sword: it is there to serve God, too, as his avenger, to bring retribution to wrongdoers.  5 You must be obedient, therefore, not only because of this retribution, but also for conscience's sake. 6  And this is why you should pay taxes, too, because the authorities are all serving God as his agents, even while they are busily occupied with that particular task.  7 Pay to each one what is due to each: taxes to the one to whom tax is due, tolls (literal = tribute) to the one to whom tolls are due, respect to the one to whom respect is due, honor to the one to whom honor is due."

 

In this section of his letter Paul addresses the Christian's duty to set a good example as a citizen.  It is interesting that he discusses the Christian's place in Roman society apart from any religious considerations based on faith or on Christ and yet every Christian, Jewish and Gentile, would have been familiar with God's pronouncements concerning civil authorities.  In the Old Testament Book of Proverbs Yahweh declared: "By me monarchs rule and princes decree what is right; by me rulers govern, so do nobles, the lawful authorities" [Proverbs 8:15-16].  This was true in ancient times just as it is true today.  In conformity with Scripture the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in CCC# 1918, "There is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God."

 

Question: How does Paul identify civil authorities in Romans 13:1?

Answer: As God's servants'literally as God's deacons and ministers [see Inter-linear text].

Question: How many times in this passage does Paul identify the civil authorities as God's servants?

Answer: Three times according to the literal translation: Romans 13:4 (xs 2), and 13:6:

 

Those civil authorities who hold the responsibility for maintaining civil order and for providing just laws only serve according to God's pleasure.  Therefore, St. Paul maintains, it is our responsibility as Christians to support and respect the civil authority and the laws enacted through them.  St. Thomas Aquinas commenting on Romans 13:1 wrote: "...natural generation is not the only grounds for calling a person 'father.'  There are all kinds of reasons why some should be given this title, and each of these kinds of fatherhood deserves corresponding respect.  [...].  Kings and princes are called fathers because they should look after the welfare of their people. Them also we honor with our obedience.  And we do so not only out of fear but out of love; not only for reasons of human convenience but because our conscience tells us to act in this way.  The reason for this is based on the fact, as the Apostle says in this passage, that all authority comes from God; therefore, one must give every one what is his due." Aquinas: On the two commandments of love and the ten commandments of the Law, IV

 

The Catechism teaches that authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of society and when it employs morally licit means of providing for that good. 

Question: The Church teaches that "the common good" of society is understood to be "the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily" CCC# 1906.  What are the three essential elements necessary to promote the common good of society?  See CCC # 1907-09.

Answer:

  1. Respect for the person
  2. The social well-being and development of the group itself
  3. The stability, peace, and security of the group

 

Question: Why are civil laws necessary? How does Paul define failure to obey the civil laws of society?  See Romans 13:2-4.

Answer: Civil laws are necessary to prevent chaos, to protect, and to promote the good of the community as a whole.  One who rebels against the laws of society rebels against God.  Civil laws are in place "to serve God and you and for your good."

Question: What just punishment do law breakers deserve?  See Romans 13:3-4

Answer: Whatever punishment is justified under the civil law'even the death penalty ["the symbol of authority is the sword"]. See CCC# 2265-67.

 

Question: What two reasons does Paul give for obedience to the civil law?  See Romans 13:5.

Answer: Fear of retribution from the state and for the sake of Christian conscience.  Notice that the obligation is not simply from fear of punishment.  The Christian has a responsibility to act reasonably as befits a representative of the One True God.  Mere outward behavior and conformity is insufficient and unworthy of the higher calling of the Christian.  In the context of their Christine faith the Christian "conscience" convicts the Christian of the divine will of God which supports their civil example.

 

Question: What example does Paul give under civil law which Christians are obliged to be obedient?

Answer: Paying taxes.

Question: Can you think of three examples in the Gospel where Scripture supports obedience in paying taxes?

Answer:

  1. Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for the census that would be used to number the population for taxation [Luke 2:1-5].
  2. Jesus paid the yearly tax levied for the upkeep of the Temple in Jerusalem [Matthew 17:24-27]
  3. Jesus' teaching to the Pharisees that one should "pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar'and God what belongs to God "[Matthew 22:12-22; also see Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26; 23:2]

 

Question: For what reason does Jesus tell His disciples they should pay the required tax in Matthew 17:27?

Answer: To be a good example of upright behavior and not to contribute to the downfall of others.  Has it occurred to you that you preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ through your Christian way of living?  St. Francis of Assisi was fond of telling his brother's "preach the Gospel always and when absolutely necessary use words." These are words every Christian should live by example.

 

We have been discussing laws that are imposed by the civil authority that are not in opposition to God's divine Law even when those laws may be inconvenient or not completely just, however...

Question: Under what circumstances would civil law not be binding upon the conscience or actions of Christians?  See CCC# 1902-03 and Matthew 22:18-22

Answer: When civil laws stand in direct opposition to the Law of God such laws are no longer binding upon the Christian.  The Christian then answers to the higher moral authority of God just as the civil authority is answerable to God for laws which they impose upon society which are in opposition to God's divine Law. 

 

In Jesus' exchange with the Pharisees in Matthew 22:15-22 He asked them to show Him the coin with which one paid the Roman tax.  In the use of the coinage of a country one acknowledges the sovereignty and accepts the benefits of the government the money symbolizes.  The coin bore the image of Caesar and Jesus told them to pay Caesar, the image on the coin, what belonged to him'"pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar..".  However, Jesus continued the teaching when He said'"and God what belongs to God." 

Question: Although the coin may belong to Caesar because it bears his image, in whose image was Caesar made and to whom does Caesar belong?  See Genesis 1:27 & 5:1.

Answer: According to Genesis 1:27 and 5:1 Caesar was created in the image of God and therefore Caesar belongs to and is accountable to God. It is the duty of every citizen to pay to the government what is accounted as due and to give that government allegiance and obedience so long as this does not encroach upon what is owed to God as supreme sovereign. However, one must not forget that God reigns as supreme sovereign over the leaders of every nation.

 

Are Christians obliged to obey civil laws that are contrary to the Law of God?

Those who are critical of Christian civil disobedience exercised in opposition to abortion and other "right to life" movements use Romans 13:1-8 to condemn Christian activism, for example, demonstrations at abortion clinics.  Where should the Christian stand on such issues'are they to stand by silently as the courts of the land have approved laws that are contrary to God's Law and therefore morally reprehensible, or are Christians to actively resist such laws?

 

Please read Proverbs 8:15-16; Wisdom 6:1-11; and the Gospel of John 19:10-11.

Question: Ultimately, from whom do civil authorities receive their authority? 

Answer: From God

Question: To whom are unjust rulers and judges answerable and how will they be judged?

Answer: They receive their positions of power because God has allowed them to be placed in those positions of civil authority, and they are answerable to Him.  He will judge them according to the just exercise of the power He has given them. 

Question: How do these passages impact upon the Catholic civil representatives who deny responsibility to obey the teachings of the Church in matters of civil law when those teachings conflict with the wishes of the civil population he represents?   What about Catholics who vote for such representatives?  See CCC#1868-69.

Answer: The Catechism teaches that we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them by participating directly or by approving of them.  When a Christian votes for a candidate who has announced that he or she supports a law that is contrary to the teaching of the Church that Christian is cooperating in the action of committing that sin and will be held accountable by God. 

 

Paul wrote in Romans 1:18, "The retribution of God from heaven is being revealed against the ungodliness and injustice of human beings who in their injustice hold back the truth."  Paul continues this passage with a list of sins and perversions that are contrary to God's law and ends in verse 31-32 with the warning, "They are well aware of God's ordinance: that those who behave like this deserve to die'yet they not only do it, but even applaud others who do the same." And Paul might have added, not only do they applaud them but sometimes they even vote them into public office!  Perhaps all civil authorities prior to running for office should read the Wisdom chapter 6 passage to understand the peril they face if they act without justice in exercising their duties to the community and to the nation, and perhaps all voters would be well advised to read Romans 1:18-32!  [Also see CCC# 1897-1903; 1913-23; 2238; 2273].

 

Some Biblical scholars suggest that Romans 13:1-7 was not part of Paul's original letter but was added later by Church authorities who wanted to promote Christian obedience to civil law.  However, there is an historical connection to the time period in which Paul is writing which may account for his concern that the Christian community of Rome obey the laws of the Roman Empire.  In the late 50's there was considerable unrest in the Roman capital and indeed across the Empire, centered on the heavy taxes imposed by the Roman Empire at home and in the 10 Roman provinces.  The unrest in Rome was such a problem in 58AD that the Roman Emperor, Nero suggested to the Roman Senate that while the regular established taxes should continue that all indirect taxes should be abolished'a suggestion which the Senate rejected.  The Roman Senate was, however, concerned enough about the civil unrest to legislate, at the emperors insistence, reforms to curb tax abuses in the year 58AD.  "That same year, repeated demands on the part of the people, who denounced the excessive greed of the revenue collectors, made Nero doubt whether he should not order the repeal of all indirect taxes, and so confer a most splendid boon on the human race.  But this sudden impulse was checked by the senators... [...]. Accordingly the emperor issued an edict that the regulations about every branch of the public revenue, which had hitherto been kept secret, should be published; that claims which had been dropped should not be revived after a year; that the praetor at Rome, the proprietor or proconsul in the provinces, should give judicial precedence to all cases against the collectors; that the soldiers should retain their immunities except when they traded for profit...[...].  However, the repeal of the two percent and two-and-a-half percent taxes remained in force, as well as that of others bearing names invented by the collectors to cover their illegal exactions." Tacitus, Annals 13

 

You will notice that in Romans 13:7 Paul specifically mentions the paying of taxes and tribute.  Writing in the mid-winter early in the year 58AD Paul may have been concerned that if the Christians joined in any demonstrations against the government over the issue of excessive taxation that a sever response by the Roman authority against the community could threaten its continued existence.  Then too, this part of Paul's letter may have been included to assure the leaders of the Roman faith community that in his promised future visit Paul did not intend to cause discord by inciting the community to disobedience against Roman rule.  The Roman persecution of Christians had not yet begun but this Christian community, more than any other Christian community, was profoundly aware of the importance of operating within the bounds of Roman law and the necessity of recognizing imperial authority.  It would be the question of unfair taxation that would contribute to the Jewish Revolt against Rome 8 years later in 66AD and ultimately to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70AD and the literal end of the world for the Old Covenant people.

 

Please read Romans 13:8-14: Christians as the Children of Light Living the Law of Love in the New Covenant

"13 The only thing you should owe to anyone is love for one another, for to love the other person is to fulfill the law. 9  All these: You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and all the other commandments that there are, are summed up in this single phrase:  You must love your neighbor as yourself.  10 Love can cause no harm to your neighbor, and so love is the fulfillment of the Law.  11 Besides, you know the time has come; the moment is here for you to stop sleeping and wake up, because by now our salvation is nearer than when we first began to believe.  12 The night is nearly over, daylight is one the way; so let us throw off everything that belongs to the darkness and equip ourselves for the light.  13 Let us live decently, as in the light of day; with no orgies or drunkenness, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy.  14 Let your armor be the Lord Jesus Christ, and stop worrying about how your disordered natural inclinations may be fulfilled."

 

Again Paul returns to the subject of Christian love'it is the core'the central requirement of Christian life and it is how Jesus commanded us to behave towards one another: "Love one another as I have loved you."  Holiness is at the core life giving love flowing from the Trinity into the soul of the believer'a holy love that is meant to flow outward from the soul of every Christian to every person they meet so that the whole world will be transformed by Christ's life-giving love.  St. John wrote to the faithful of the Church in 1 John 4:7-8 "My dear friends, let us love one another, since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love."    

Question: What advice does Paul offer on the subject of debts owed?

Answer: He advises that we should not be in debt to any man and that the only debt one should owe is a debt of love.  In Paul's mind to be in debt to someone makes you the "slave" of that other person to whom you are indebted.

 

Question: In Romans 13:8 Paul says that to "love the other person is to fulfill the law." And then he will conclude this passage in 13:10 by writing "Love can cause no harm to your neighbor, and so love is the fulfillment of the Law."  What "law" is Paul referring to? Hint: see Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 22:34-40

Answer:  Paul is referring to Jesus' summation of the entire Law of Moses when He said: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets too" [Matthew 22:37-40].  Paul also expressed this summation of the Law in Galatians 5:13-14: "After all, brothers, you were called to be free; do not use your freedom as an opening for self-indulgence, but be servants to one another in love, since the whole of the Law is summarized in the one commandment: You must love your neighbor as yourself."

 

Question: In the Galatians 5:13-14 passage and in Romans 13:8 Paul only refers to one commandment but in Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus summarizes the Law in two commandments.  Is there a discrepancy?

Answer: No.  In those passages Paul understands that under the Law of the New Covenant one's neighbor includes all members of the human family and not just one's ethnic kin group as under the Old Law of Moses [see Leviticus 19:18] because we have all become one human family in Christ, as Jesus teaches in His discourse on the Last Judgment in Matthew 25:40, "In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me."  In Galatians 3:28 Paul affirms Jesus teaching on the brotherhood of Christ by saying, "There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female'for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  Therefore, in Romans 13:1 Paul only refers to one commandment since the second commandment of love of neighbor includes the first from which it is empowered'which is love of God.

 

Question: Paul goes on to list 4 commandments that are directly related to "love of neighbor" from the 10 Commandments [see Exodus 20:13-17 and Deuteronomy 5:17-21].   What are they?

Answer:

1.      You shall not commit adultery

2.      You shall not kill

3.      You shall not steal

4.      You shall not covet

The number 4 in Scripture represents the earth and therefore in quoting these 4 Paul is summarizing the total of the laws of conduct that order our right relationship with our brothers and sisters in this life and he makes this clear by quoting Jesus' commandment to love that sum up all the other commandments concerned with man's relationship with man: "You must love your neighbor as yourself."

 

Question: How is "love the fulfillment of the Law", as Paul states in Romans 13:10?

Answer: Through faith in the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is a gift of God's grace, we are now enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit through our baptism to live lives of self-sacrificial love'to love as Christ loved us.  This love generated by the power of the Spirit enables us to fulfill from our hearts the Law of Moses as promised by the 6th century BC prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:31-33: "Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a new Covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, but not like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, even though I was their Master, Yahweh declares. No, this is the covenant I shall make with the House of Israel when those days have come, Yahweh declares.  Within them I shall plant my Law, writing it on their hearts.  Then I shall be their God and they will be my people."

 

Question: Paul identified love as one of the three theological virtues and a gift of the Holy Spirit in his earlier letter to the Church at Corinth [he is writing this letter to the Romans from Corinth in the winter of 58AD].  How does Paul define genuine Christian love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-23?  Please read that passage.

 

Returning to Romans 13:11-12: "11 Besides, you know the time has come; the moment is here for you to stop sleeping and wake up, because by now our salvation is nearer than when we first began to believe.  12 The night is nearly over, daylight is one the way; so let us throw off everything that belongs to the darkness and equip ourselves for the light."

There is urgency in Paul's writing in this passage!

Question: What does Paul mean when he says that we should "stop sleeping and wake up" and "the time has come" and that "the moment is here"?  How is it that "our salvation" is near?  See 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Corinthians 10:11.

Answer: St. Peter in his first great homily on Pentecost Sunday identified this age of man as the Last Days or the Final Age'the Messianic Era [Acts 2:17].  Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:11 wrote that all the events recorded in the Old Testament were written down for our benefit: "Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were described in writing to be a lesson for us, to whom it has fallen to live in the last days of the ages."  We are in the interim period between the first Advent of Christ and His return'the Day of the Lord's Coming in Glory, also called by the prophets "the Day of Yahweh" [see Amos 5:18] and prophesized by Jesus in Matthew 24:29-44.  Paul calls this interim period between the first and second Advent of Christ "the day of salvation" because it is the period of time allowed for conversion and entrance into heaven.  Even though the duration of this interim period is uncertain, in terms of the entire scope of human history it must be viewed as a short period and we must all use this "time" that has been given us and "the moment" of this period wisely because without warning the end will come swiftly'either to each of us when our individual life's journey ends in physical death or with the awaited 2nd Advent and the return of Christ the King.

 

Romans 13:12: "12 The night is nearly over, daylight is one the way; so let us throw off everything that belongs to the darkness and equip ourselves for the light

Question: What do "night" & "darkness" and "daylight" & "light" symbolize in this passage?  See Ephesians 6:12; John 1:9; 8:12-13.

Answer: Night and darkness represent the force Satan exerts over man and the world while daylight and the light is the power of Christ. 

 

The theme of light vs. darkness in the New Testament is most often expressed 3 ways and "light" is both literal [Matthew 17:2] and symbolic [Matthew 4:16]:

  1. Light as the sun: The sun is the light of the universe and lights man's way as he goes about his life daily and yearly. In the same way what shows the way to God can be compared to the "light" that is the sun.  In the Old Testament the "light" that showed the way to God was the Covenant bond with the Patriarchs before Sinai and after Sinai the "light" was the Covenant expressed in the Law of Moses and in sacred Scripture'the Word, that lighted the way for man to find God [see Psalms 119:105; Proverbs 4:18-19; 6:23; Ecclesiastes 2:13; Romans 2:19].  But in the Age of the Messiah, that "light" which shows the way for man to find God is Jesus Christ [John 1:9; 8:12; 12:35; 1 John 2:8-11], the "light of the world".

 

  1. Light as life: Life cannot exist without light and conversely the dark is symbolic of death.  In this imagery darkness represents all that is associated with death, suffering and enslavement while light symbolizes life, liberation and salvation' especially the salvation and deliverance of the Messianic Age [see Job 30:26; Isaiah 4:22-23; 9:1; 45:7; Matthew 4:16; Luke 1:79].  In the Messianic Age this "light" of life is even available to the Gentile nations of the earth [Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47] through Jesus Christ who is the true light of the world [John 1:9, 8:12; Ephesians 5:14]; and the Living Word of God [John 1:1-5]. 

 

  1. The contrast between good versus evil:  The battle is between Christ the good King and Satan and his forces of evil [Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 6:14-15; Colossians 1:12-13; 1 Peter 2:9.  Each man and woman has to choose which King or empire they chose to serve: the Kingdom of Christ or Satan's kingdom of Darkness [1 Thessalonians 5:4ff; 1 John 1:6-7; 2:9-10]. Christians who serve Christ the King are "children of the light" while those who reject Christ and thereby chose Satan are "children of darkness" [John 12:36; Luke 16:8; Ephesians 5:7-9; 1 Thessalonians 5:5].

 

In 2 Corinthians 4:4 St Paul writes of "the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ."  It is Jesus who is the true "Light" for He is the one emissary of God who is "Light": "God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all" [1 John 1:5] and in the Gospel of Matthew 5:14 Jesus describes His disciples as "the light of the world" because His "light" shines in their lives'as St. Peter writes of Christians in 1 Peter 2:9 "But you are a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a people to be a personal possession to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light."  The coming of Christ is the "wonderful light"'He who is the "Light" of the world makes the distinction clear between one person or another because His light shows the true nature of each individual'there is no middle ground [John 3:19-21; 7:7; 9:39; 12:46; Ephesians 5:12-13].  At the 2nd Advent the darkness will be overcome by the light [John 1:5; Romans 13:12; 1 John 2:8], "darkness" will disappear forever along with sin and death [Revelation 20:14], and God will be the light of His servants: "And night will be abolished; they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever" [Revelation 22:5].

 

Romans 13:13: "13 Let us live decently, as in the light of day; with no orgies or drunkenness, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy.  14 Let your armor be the Lord Jesus Christ, and stop worrying about how your disordered natural inclinations may be fulfilled."

How beautifully Paul urges the Christian to put off sin and to put on Christ'wearing Him as our protection'clothed for battle against sin in the armor of His grace.  Paul is calling every Christian to get ready for battle and to bear arms in preparation for the reign of Christ, but the arms we are called to bear are not burdensome because the arms we are called to bear are those of the Light!  Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul's Epistles: "Paul wants everything the law forbids not to be desired, or if it is desired, to be overcome.  [...].  To put on Christ means to cut oneself off from every sin and wickedness, so that at the wedding banquet one will not be found without a new garment and be shamefully thrown out into the darkness." [Referencing Matthew 22:11-14]

 

Question: How many sins does Paul list in Romans 13:13 and what is the significance of this number?

Answer: He lists 6 sins.  Both man and the beasts were created on the 6th day. It was the 7th day and man entered into "God's rest", thereby being separated from the animals.  It is sin that identifies man with the beasts and separates him from God; therefore, 6 in Scripture symbolizes man in rebellion against God.

Question: Can you think of some men in Scripture who stood opposed to God who were identified by the number 6?  See 1 Samuel 17:4; Daniel 3:1; Revelation 13:18

Answer: Goliath was 6 cubits and a span tall; Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar's statue was 60 cubits high and 6 cubits wide; and the number of the Beast from the sea is 666!

 

Paul admonishes Roman Christians to avoid sin just as he wrote to the Christians of Ephesus in Ephesians 4:17-5:20 to turn away from sin and to persevere in holiness.  In that letter he also used the same light and darkness imagery.  Please read that passage.

Question: Why does Paul warn the Christians of Rome and Ephesus and those of us reading his words in every century to be careful to avoid falling into sin?  What danger do we face and why does he warn us in Ephesians 4:16 of the urgency to "make the best of the present time"?

Answer: We must be ready for Christ's return by living lives of holiness or, like the 5 foolish virgins of Jesus' parable in Matthew 25:1-13, we will not be ready for the "Return of the King" when Jesus warned: "So stay awake, because you do not known either the day or the hour!" And as St. Paul warns in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17: "We can tell you this from the Lord's own teaching, that we who are still alive for the Lord's coming will not have any advantage over those who have fallen asleep.  At the signal given by the voice of the Archangel and with the trumpet of God, the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, and only after that shall we who remain alive be taken up in the clouds, together with them, to meet the Lord in the air.  This is the way we shall be with the Lord for ever."

 

Those of us living in the "moment" before the coming of Christ must be prepared for His Second Advent.  St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem [315-386AD] wrote on the twofold coming of the Christ:

"We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first.  The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.  In general, what relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects.  There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from the virgin at the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming. Like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future.

 

At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger.  At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment.  In the first coming he endured the Cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels.  We look then beyond the first coming and await the second.  At the first coming we said: 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'1 At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'2

 

The Savior will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged.  At his own judgment he was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against him when they crucified him and will remind them: 'You did these things, and I was silent.'  His first coming was to fulfill his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity.  Malachi the prophet speaks of the two comings. 'And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple'3: that is one coming.  Again he says of another coming: 'Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the Day of his entry, or who will stand in his sight?  Because he comes like a refiner's fire, a fuller's herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing.'4

 

These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: 'The grace of God the Savior has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.'5   Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.  That is why the faith we profess has been handed on to you in these words: 'He ascended into heaven, and it seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.'6 

Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day.  For there will be an end to this world, and the created   world will be made new."  St Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Instruction

 

St. Cyril's quotes: 1 &2 = [Matthew 21:8; Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13; Psalm 118:25]; 3 = [Malachi 3:1]; 4 = [Malachi 3:2-3  ]; 5= [Titus 2:13 ]; 6 = Apostles Creed

 

Questions for group discussion:

What defines reasonable and necessary Christian resistance to civil law which opposes the Law of God?  Considering cases of civil disobedience in the "right to life" movement, abortion, etc.'what constitutes reasonable and necessary action and when can that action become beyond what is approved by the Church?

 

What is the Catholic Church's stand on voting for candidates who openly support abortion or assisted suicide or other issues that are contrary to the moral teaching of the Church?  See CCC# 1753; 1868-69; 2270-75; 2281-82

 

Catechism references for Romans chapter 13 [*indicates Scripture quoted in citation]

13:1-2

1899; 2238*

13:8-10

1824*; 2196

13:1

1918

13:8

2845

13:7

2240

13:9-10

2055

 

Resources used in Romans chapter 13:

The Interlinear Bible Greek-English, volume IV

The Teachings of the Church Fathers, Ignatius Press

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Liturgy of the Hours

Chrysostom's Commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans

Romans, Joseph Fitzmyer

Romans, Brendan Byrne

Navarre Commentary'Romans

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture'Romans

Strong's Concordance

Modern Catholic Dictionary

Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, 1999

Understanding the Mass, Charles Belmonte, [Scepter Publications, Princeton New Jersey, 1989].

Christianity and the Roman Empire, Ralph Novak

Caesar and Christ, Will Durant

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.