Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday School Lesson:Embrace Duty

These are the notes I took with me into our Sunday School Class Lifegroup at Calvary Baptist Church on Sunday the 16th. Scripture quotes are from the NET Bible. Anything in bold is quoted directly from Lifeway material.
The title of today's lesson is, "Embrace Duty." I found that interesting. I have run across many people in life who will grudgingly carry out their duties, and many who will run from their duties, but very few who will embrace their duties. Why do you suppose that is? Have you ever felt more like running from your duties than embracing them? What would make you feel that way?

13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 13:2 So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment 13:3 (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation, 13:4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be in fear, for it does not bear the sword in vain. It is God’s servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer. 13:5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience. 13:6 For this reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants devoted to governing. 13:7 Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
I can't tell you the number of times that people have quoted this passage to me as proof that whatever government does, we are supposed to put up with it. Everytime I hear that, I can't help but think of one of the images I've seen from the time of the American Revolution, a kind of seal, like a state seal, that said, "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." Many of the founders of our country--on at least one occasion, no less than Benjamin Franklin--said that God had aided us in our revolution. And that brings up the question: if all authority is there by God's appointment, presumably that means that a successful revolution or change of government is also by God's appointment. How do you know when you're on the right side of God's will?

What does it mean here for a person to resist the authorities?

What does it say here that authority is for?

Why does it say here that you pay taxes? There are some people--I won't name the political party--who say that all taxation is basically institutionalized theft. What does this passage say to that point of view?

If you had to make your decision based on this passage, is it possible for government to collect taxes for purposes that are not legitimate governmental purposes? How would you determine from Scripture what government's legitimate role is? Is it possible for a divinely instituted government to overtax its people?

How do you show respect and honor? At the time Paul was writing this, to the best of my recollection, the Roman emperor Caligula was not long gone from the scene. This man was one of the most debauched rulers in human history. Many people, even at the time, thought that he was quite insane, or at least hopelessly perverted. How do you show respect and honor when the people occupying public office appear to be completely corrupt or twisted?

What's the difference between submitting to authorities and unconditionally obeying them?

13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 13:9 For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
How many people in here are debt-free? How many people wish they were debt-free? Do you think that this verse is even talking about money? What else might it be talking about?

How do you go about loving a neighbor who was clearly not smart enough to vote the way you thought he ought to?

13:11 And do this because we know the time, that it is already the hour for us to awake from sleep, for our salvation is now nearer than when we became believers. 13:12 The night has advanced toward dawn; the day is near. So then we must lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the weapons of light. 13:13 Let us live decently as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in discord and jealousy. 13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires.
I told my mother the other day that I only knew one thing for sure about the time of Jesus' return: that it is now about two thousand years nearer than when Paul wrote. What does it mean when Paul says that the day is near, and yet two millennia have passed?

This is hardly the only place in the New Testament where believers are told not to indulge in certain things. Why did the New Testament writers warn so often about avoiding these things? Wouldn't you think that Christians would just naturally and willingly avoid carousing, drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality, discord and jealousy? Isn't that your experience?

How would a person go about making provision for the flesh? How do you avoid that? What do you do when you are around people who are making provision for their flesh?
Those interested in more on the subject of government and Scripture may enjoy this old post by Evil Conservative.

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