Lesson 283: Romans 12:12…

Romans 12:12 Be . . . faithful in prayer

Paul was a prayerful person, and wanted the church to be prayerful as well. Even back then, busy schedules and other priorities could crowd out prayer. So Paul called believers to be faithful in prayer. This means having a regular time and place for seeking God (Matthew 6:9).

But prayer can become routine unless we add variety. The most practical way to do this is to underline verses in the Bible, and pray them back to God. Prayer becomes conversational as God speaks to us through his word, and we speak to God about his word.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Thank you, Father, that you are the God of heaven and earth, not just the Milky Way galaxy. Thank you for calling the stars by name and numbering the hairs of my head. Thank you for making the grass green, the sky blue, the birds sing, and the crickets chirp. Help me live in your world as one who is fully alive, and to give you glory as I enjoy what you have made.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Father, I confess my sins to you, not in general, but in particular. Forgive me for being rude to my wife and impatient with my children. Forgive me for watching television when I should be reading your word. Forgive me for spending too much money on comfort and not enough on your kingdom. Thank you for the privilege of coming clean before you and receiving your forgiveness. 

If we read a chapter of the Bible before we pray, we can underline the verses that we want to talk to God about. This will help us grow in our knowledge of God’s word, and in our relationship with him. Prayer will be less of a duty and more of a delight.

Romans 12:16 Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position

One of the first things Paul noticed as he preached the gospel is that not many wise, noble, or influential people responded (1 Corinthians 1:26). Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith (James 2:5), wrote James. Belonging to a church will put us in fellowship with people of various backgrounds—and that is a good thing.

Years ago I was part of a singles group that could be a little exclusive. And yet, one of my friends went out of his way to invite a young man who did not fit in very well. He was mentally and socially challenged, with an underdeveloped sense of hygiene. But every week my friend invited him to be part of our group, and to join us for every outing. 

Perhaps he was thinking of something Jesus said. [W]hatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40). God wants us to be willing to associate with people of low position because that is what he has done for us. The King of glory has made us his friends (John 15:13). He reached down, to lift us up.

Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

Whenever people hurt us, we naturally want to hurt them back. And to be sure they get the point, we prefer to hurt them more. In return for a slap, we want to throw a punch. But that road doesn’t lead to anywhere worth going. A better way, says Paul, is to overcome evil with good

One lady told her attorney that she wanted a divorce, and because her husband was evil, she wanted to hurt him badly. The attorney advised her to go home and treat her husband like the most wonderful man on earth. Then, when he was happier than a king, she should file for divorce. That way he would know what he was losing, and it would break his heart.

About a month later the attorney called to ask if she was ready to file for divorce. Why would I want to divorce the most wonderful man on earth? she said. By treating her husband wonderfully, he became wonderful, and they became happily married. She overcame evil with good.

Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God

When believers in Rome came under the authority of Jesus Christ, they wondered about their relationship to ungodly governments. If Jesus Christ is King, and the government does not acknowledge him, are Christians obligated to obey their ungodly government? The short answer is, Yes. Paul saw government as established by God.

This is a little surprising since the emperor at this time was Nero. He committed many evil deeds, and even killed his mother. He likely set fire to a poor part of Rome to make space for new buildings. When the rumor that Nero started the blaze would not go away, he blamed the Christians. Then he began a persecution in which many Christians were burned, crucified and thrown to wild animals. 

Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome before this event. But if he required them to support a government led by Nero, then Christians should support their government whenever possible. When a government breaks down, chaos erupts. Theft, murder and rape go unpunished. This is why Christians should think of government as a gift from God to be valued, obeyed and supported.

The only time Christians should disobey the government is when it commands something God forbids. We must obey God rather than human beings (Acts 5:29), said the apostles. Otherwise, we should Be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

Romans 13:3 Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended

Christians should obey the law out of principle, but also out of fear, since whoever breaks the law must live in fear punishment. [Rulers] are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (Romans 13:4), wrote Paul. If you break the law, God may send the police to punish you.

I received a speeding ticket for exceeding the limit by twenty miles an hour. I was upset at the time, but I thanked the officer for doing his job. I do not like to be punished for breaking the law, but I like to live in a place where the roads are kept safe from people like me. Because of the punishment, I am a safer driver today.

Reflection and Review
How do we benefit from prayer?
Why does God want us to associate with people of low position?
What is your attitude toward the law?