Responsibilities of the Redeemed

Bible Book: Romans  13 : 1-14
Subject: Christian Living; Obedience;

Romans 13:1-14 (NASB)

In the preceding chapters Paul has dealt at great length with the lostness of all men, their need to be saved, and he has emphasized that the only way to be delivered from the slavery of sin is by grace, through faith in the crucified, risen Son of God. Romans 3:23-24: “23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;”

Then, in the remainder of the book he tells us how we, once redeemed, are to live out our faith. We’re looking today at three powerfully important duties of Christians—and I’ve entitled this message “Responsibilities of the Redeemed.” I’ve taken a cue from C. Norman Bartlett in his commentary, Right in Romans, and am using an outline similar to his. This chapter divides itself into three parts:


Paul points out that Christians are to respect and obey the laws of the land, and he explains why in verses 1-2: “1 Every person [psuche, “soul”] is to be in subjection to the governing authorities [huperexousais, literally “authorities above”—the KJV translates it as “higher powers”]. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority [literally, “So that he who sets himself against the authority”] has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation [literally, “judgment”]."

It seems obvious that Paul is speaking here of civil government—whether it be national, state, or local. He certainly is not saying that God approves of every government, not by any stretch of the imagination, or that he approves of every policy or activity of any government; but he is saying that the institution of government, as such, has been established by God, and therefore Christians are to obey the law. He is saying further—and he clearly is speaking generally at this point— that to resist the authority of government amounts to resisting God, in that God has ordained government to give order and stability to society.

1 Peter 2:13-15: “13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

Of course, Paul is not advocating blind obedience to government authorities; he is not saying that we are to obey laws which brazenly contradict the moral laws of God set forth in the Scriptures. In Acts we read of Peter and John clashing with the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council, to whom the Roman government had delegated almost unlimited authority in religious matters. Here’s the account of that confrontation in Acts 4:18-21: 18 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all [a]in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened;

So, when it comes to a showdown between the moral law of God and man-made laws, it’s no contest. But to the extent that those laws are not a blatant contradiction of our duty toward God, we are to obey them.

In verses 3-4 He explains one of the reasons we are to obey the law: “3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it [“he”] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it [“he”] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is [“he is”] a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”

In 1966 a rock group called the “Bobby Fuller Four” recorded a song entitled “I fought the law, and the law won.” It was a top ten hit that year, and in 2004 “Rolling Stone” listed it as one of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” That’s pretty amazing to me, considering the song’s goofy content—but it did have a catchy tune. Here are some of the lyrics: “I’m breakin’ rocks in the hot sun; I fought the law and the law won. I needed money ‘cause I had none, I fought the law and the law won”—and it goes on in that same vein.

Well, it was a goofy song, but at least it did convey a sobering truth—and that is, that if you resist authority, you’re going to find yourself in trouble!—not always “in the hot sun” and not always “needing money and having none”—but in trouble, nonetheless!

“the sword” speaks of the punishment that may be inflicted on lawbreakers, and  probably includes capital punishment for the crime of murder. Some folks sincerely oppose capital punishment, but it is clearly taught in the Old Testament, and I find no indication in the New Testament that God ever revoked it.

In verse 5 Paul gives still another reason that Christians are to obey the law: “Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.”

Years ago Evangelist Angel Martinez preached a sermon on conscience, and he entitled it, “The Policeman in Your Heart.” People are born with an innate realization that there is a difference between right and wrong (Romans 2:15). Conscience is far from perfect, of course, and can be woefully corrupted (1 Timothy 4:2), but when a person’s conscience is functioning properly it can serve as a nudge in the right direction, and the closer a person walks with God, the more dependable his conscience will be—and to violate what Paul calls “a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:5) brings inner turmoil and misery.

You'll pay

The knowledge of your acts will weigh
Heavier on your mind each day.
The more you climb, the more you gain,
The more you'll feel the nagging strain.

Success will cower at the threat
Of retribution. Fear will fret
Your peace and bleed you for the debt;

Conscience collects from every crook
More than the worth of what he took,
You only thought you got away
But in the night you’ll pay and pay.

Sometimes Satan tries to dupe us into thinking that just compromising our moral behavior in a seemingly small way wouldn’t cause any real problem, but once we’ve given in to that temptation we find out differently.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar wrote:

Small was the thing I bought,
Small was the thing at best,
Small was the debt, I thought,
But, O God!—the interest.

In verses 6-7 Paul went on to point out some areas in which our consciences should motivate us to obey the law, and he further admonished us to give respect and honor where it is due: “6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”


In verse 8 Paul reminds us of a second requirement of the redeemed: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
He is clearly telling us that all of our other debts should be paid in full—and that would include monetary debts as well as obligations of various other kinds. However, he says, “Don’t consider your debt of love ever paid off.” We are under a divine mandate to keep on loving others as long as we live.

When a lawyer asked Jesus to identify the greatest of all the commandments, Jesus answered that the first and great commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. But then he went on to say in Matthew 22:39-40: “39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” James 2:8 refers to loving our neighbor as ourselves “the royal law.” In other words, loving others reigns supreme among our obligations as the people of God.

In verses 9-10 Paul explains why love reigns supreme among our obligations to our fellow men: “ 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

If you and I love others like we should, that will cover everything else. If we love a person, we won’t mistreat him in any way. That’s why loving others is the fulfilling of the law.

In the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus taught us that our “neighbor” is anyone we encounter who needs our help—and in the Sermon on the Mount he made it clear that we are even to love our enemies and those who hate us and curse us and terribly wrong us (Matthew 5:43-46).

Love can be a marvelously effective weapon—sometimes melting the hearts of enemies.

Edwin Markham wrote:

He drew a circle that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;
But love and I had the wit to win;
We drew a circle that took him in.

Another wonderful thing about love is that no one can keep you from loving them. They may refuse to listen to us, to even look at us—but there are two things they can’t keep us from doing; they can’t keep us from praying for them or loving them. Rick Allen, a dear friend of mine, said to me early in our friendship, “Paul, I love you; and there’s not a thing you can do.”


That brings us, then, to a third requirement of the redeemed, which Paul points out in verses 11-14: 
11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Paul is pointing out the urgent need for redeemed people to “get with the program,” as we might express it today. He is reminding them—and us— that Jesus’ return is getting closer every day, and that therefore their salvation is nearer than when they first believed. He is speaking here of what 1 Peter 1:5 calls “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Salvation is a three-stage and three tense process:

  • Past tense: when we were converted, we were by the grace of God forever saved from the eternal penalty of sin.
  • Present tense: Now, as we study his Word, pray, worship, witness, and serve, we are day by day increasingly saved from the power of sin.
  • Future tense: But when we meet Jesus in death, or if he comes for us in the air while we’re still alive, we will then go to heaven and be forever saved from the very presence of sin.

Paul was exhorting those Roman Christians, and us, to “wake up!”—to realize that “the night is far gone”—meaning that this world of sin and “darkness” is “on its last leg,” and the day of our Lord’s coming is “at hand.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6: “so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober”). Paul says, “With our Lord’s return so imminent, you need to clean up your act, getting rid of any of the works of “darkness” that have crept into your lives. (1 John 3:3, “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”)

In verse 13 he names some of the repulsive sins that had characterized their lives prior to their conversion, and he says, “When you were saved you left this type of ungodly behavior behind, but if you have let down your guard, and backslidden, and allowed any of those filthy practices to slither back in, you need to repent and get rid of them immediately.” Look again at verse 12: “So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light”—and that’s a powerfully significant phrase: “put on the armor of light.”

The “armor of light” apparently” is the same thing Paul referred to in Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” In Ephesians 6:12-18 the various components of that armor are named. The “armor of light” is that divine armor that will enable us to repel the darkness of sin, and—as 1 John 1:7 says—“walk in the light.” (Psalm 89:15; Isaiah 2:5; 9:2; John 8:12; 11:10; Ephesians 5:8; Revelation 21:24)

Wearing the “armor of light” not only protects us from Satan’s attacks, but it also equips us to be the right kind of ambassadors for our Lord. Here’s how Paul put it in Philppians 2:13-16:
13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

In verse 14 Paul says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” by which he apparently is describing the process of spiritual growth. He uses the imagery of putting on clothing. “Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” means daily reasserting and reaffirming our allegiance to him, and asking him for strength to resist temptation.

A man told of going into a mining district where in every direction things were dirty and dingy.  He saw coal dust on the houses, trees, and grass. But near one of the mines, right in the midst of all that dinginess, he saw a beautiful white flower. He was puzzled as to how that flower could remain clean in that atmosphere, and he asked a friend about it. The friend took a handful of coal dust and threw it directly on the flower.  The dust fell to the ground and the flower was as clean and white as ever. The friend said, “You see, that particular type of flower has an enamel which prevents the dirt from clinging to it, and that’s the reason it is clean.”

If we as believers will spend time daily on our knees and in his Word, Christ will be for us a spiritual enamel to repel the moral filth of the unregenerate world—he will be for us an “armor of light” to ward off the fiery darts of Satan—he will be for us a “robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).

The old saying that “clothes make the man” may or may not be true in the secular world, but I’ll guarantee you, on the authority of the Word of God, that spiritual clothes “make the man!” Every morning, when you and I get up, we decide what we’ll wear that day. Some days we put on work clothes; some days we put on casual attire; some days we put on our “Sunday best” for some special occasion—but I want to challenge you, and challenge myself, to remember that whatever else we may wear, every morning we need to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

What did Paul mean when he said, “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires”? He meant that we are to avoid places and circumstances in which we would be  particularly vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

In a certain small community in the days of the old West, there was a man who had a weakness for alcohol, and most every day his horse was tied to a hitching post outside the local saloon. One day a passerby noticed that his horse was hitched outside of the local Methodist church. This passerby asked the man, “Why is your horse tied outside of the Methodist Church?” The man replied, “I  was converted last night in the Revival Meeting, and now I have a new hitching post.”

To “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” means to be careful about our “hitching posts!” Many a person is brought down in moral defeat because of carelessly being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So, those are three powerfully important responsibilities of the redeemed. But, before a person can fulfill the responsibilities of the redeemed, he must first be redeemed—and the Bible leaves no question as to how to experience that miracle. Romans 3:26 speaks of our Lord as “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” If you’ve never done so, the wisest thing you could ever do would be to repent of your sins and surrender your life, in faith, to the crucified, risen, living, coming again Lord Jesus Christ—and you have this wonderful promise in Romans 10:13: “13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

He will give you a new destiny—a home in heaven instead of hell; he will give you a new direction for your life—a new set of “want to’s"; and he will give you a new inner dynamic, namely, the indwelling Holy Spirit, to motivate you and energize you as move in that new, God-honoring direction.

One of the grandest men of God I ever knew was Ted Manzke. We served together at Hannibal-LaGrange College (now University) in Hannibal, Missouri. Ted was a radiant Christian, and a zealous soul-winner. Often as he spoke about the glorious gift of eternal life that Jesus bought and paid for on the cross, and which he offers to all who will simply reach out and receive it by repentance and faith, Ted would exclaim, “What a deal! What a deal!” I say, “Amen! How can you pass up a deal like that?”

Isaiah 55:1, “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.”

Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”