February 8, 2015: Daily Bible Reading with Commentary for Romans 13-14
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Context: The relationship between Christians and the Roman government was not a pleasant one. Previously, the Roman government had expelled all Jews (and Christians, as the government believed them to be the same). They also received the blame from Emperor Nero as to starting the fire of Rome. Paying respect to the Roman government was not a high concern for the early Christians. Paul reminds them that no matter how unfair the government may treat them, they are to submit themselves to the government, pay taxes, and obey the law, including accepting punishment for failing to obey the law. The only exception is if the law goes against the Lord. We must also remember that just because something is legal, for example, abortion, it does not mean that it is right or pleasing in God's eyes. In addition to the tension between Christians and the government, Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians often clashed over following the Lord's law. Jews were accustomed to following the strict Laws of Moses and demanded that Gentiles do the same. Gentiles were coming from pagan lifestyles which included relatively few restrictions. They did not wish to follow the restrictive Jewish laws, nor did they understand why they should do so. Paul shows that he is more concerned about the disunity than the actual issue itself. Each person has their own weaknesses, their own temptations, therefore, we cannot judge others for theirs. We are to treat one another with love, and not make life difficult for fellow believers. In the end we will all have to answer to the Lord for our choices.
World History: The philosophies presented in Romans, and throughout the New Testament by Paul, were not entirely his own. Around AD 50, the Jerusalem Council (recorded in Acts 15) took place. It was here that the Christian community established the early church doctrine. Paul expanded the doctrine and explained it to Jews and Gentiles through his extensive writings.