Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 3 * BOOK 25
PRACTICAL CHRISTIAN LIVING
Now getting back to our study; here in Romans Chapter 12 we have been talking about the gifts that God has imparted to every member of the Body of Christ to fulfill His purpose. A lot of these gifts are most functional within the local Body of Christ, within the local church, but it’s not confined to that. You can use your gift anywhere, anytime. Let’s pick up the Scriptures in verse 17 where we come into our attitude to those `round about us. Not just in our church, but our community as a whole.
“Recompense to no man evil for evil Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”
Now you know the human response: someone does you dirty, then do them dirty in return, but of course that’s just not the Christian principal. We’re to provide things honest in the sight of all men. I’d rather charge too little as to overcharge anyone, and if we have that kind of attitude of our fellow men, that we’re not out to get them, to take advantage of them, but to be a square dealer as we used to call it. Now verse 18, and this will probably raise some eye brows. I guess we have all been hammered with the idea that if you’re a Christian then you’ve just got to let people do to you as they will, because after all you’re in no position to argue with anyone because you’re a Christian. Well I’ve always said that verse 18 is a loop hole.
“If it be possible, (there’s going to be times when it won’t be possible, let’s face it) as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
That’s great, but listen, we’re living in a devil’s world, and it’s not always possible. I have some illustrations in my own experience, of people that have been in my classes, where they have been in the position that they’re a Christian, and can’t do anything about it. I’m thinking about a man several years ago, he and his wife sold a little business that they had made their living from, and he had sold it on a contract hoping that from the contact income he and his wife would have a decent living. But the buyer never bothered to pay them, never gave them any interest, certainly no principal, and he let the business all deteriorate down to nothing. He was telling me about it one night after class, and I said, “Good heavens, man, have you ever heard of a court?” He said, “I’m a Christian, I can’t take the man to court.” I said, “Is he a fellow believer? Is he in the same Church Body that you’re in?” He said, “Oh, no, he’s not even a Christian.” I said, “Then for goodness sake get after him, because that’s your prerogative. Go get you a good lawyer. You don’t have to sit there and starve to death because some crook is not fulfilling his obligations.” He said, “Oh, you really think so?” I said “I know so.” and I showed him this verse. He had done everything that he could in order to make the guy make some payments, and he was almost starving, because somebody was being a deadbeat on his contract. Now do you think that’s wrong to go to a lawyer in those circumstances? No.
Remember when Paul was called before the religious leaders in Israel? Go back with me for a moment to Acts Chapter 23. Here Paul is up before the great religious leaders of his day, and they’re giving him a bad time. Do you think Paul just stood there like a milk toast? No he didn’t, he fired back, and I think once in a while we have to. Now don’t take me wrong; this should not be the common thing to do, but if it’s impossible to do anything else, then you have to exert your Christian right.
“And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, (of these religious leaders) said, `Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.’ And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. (why? Because in Ananias’ mind he was lying. He hadn’t lived in good conscience so he ordered them to strike Paul, and they did. Look how Paul responds.) Then said Paul unto him, `God shall smite thee, thou whited wall (what is that? Paul calls him a blatant hypocrite: “You religious leader, you know nothing of the things of God”): for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?'”
What did Paul do? He exerted his right even as a Christian. We won’t take time to look up the other one, but remember when Paul was brought before the Roman magistrates up there in Philippi, and they had beaten him without trial by jury, and the next morning they wanted him to leave town, what did Paul say:
“But Paul said unto them, `They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.'”
So here Paul exerted his legal privilege, and I see nothing wrong with that. Now I don’t think believers should run to a lawyer at the drop of a hat, that’s not what I’m saying. But when it gets to the place that we have no other way to turn, we do not have lay down, and say “Well, walk on me because I’m a Christian.” So I use this verse for this very basis, that there may come a time when you have to use this verse also.
“Dearly beloved avenge not yourselves, (now this flies in the face of human nature, we always want to get even, but the Scripture says to a believer, “We don’t have to try and get even. Who’s going to do it for us?”) but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, `Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ saith the Lord.”
It may take Him longer than it would us, but He will. What goes around comes around, and it never fails. If God is in control, and you know He is, and someone has misused you, give God time, He’s going to square the matter, and I’d rather have God do it than me. And then the admonition in verse 20 and 21:
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head, Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Well, so much for the practicality of the Christian gifts, and of our dealing with the people around us. Now to Chapter 13, and Paul is going to talk about our attitude toward government. Of course, one of the beauties of democracy is if we don’t like what we see in government we can complain, we can say what we want, because we have that kind of freedom. But here Paul is admonishing the believer to recognize that every central government is there by divine appointment. I know this is hard to reconcile. Was Hitler there by God’s Sovereign divine appointment? Absolutely he was. And regardless who America has in the White House that we may not be proud of, listen, he is still there by God’s Sovereign appointment.
“Let every soul (saved and unsaved) be subject unto the higher powers. (this is speaking of our civil government) For there is no power (no king, no prime minister, no president) but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
Now those of you who have heard me teach for many, many years have heard me say that one of the amazing things to me is that when you start way back there in the Garden of Eden, we find God turned over to human choice pretty much the exercise of his free will. And not only to individuals, but to nations. Nations have been given their free exercise, God isn’t in there constantly haranguing them, but in spite of the fact that He has given individuals, and nations, that exercise of free will, after 6000 years of human history, where are we in God’s program? Right on schedule, and this is what is so amazing that through wars and famines, and revolutions, the world is just exactly tonight where God intended it to be. Now that’s amazing isn’t it? But that’s how He works, He puts in our civil government in a way that we can’t understand or comprehend. Now verse 2:
“Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
Now I know this raises questions. What if someday we should have a completely totalitarian, ungodly government? Well, first and foremost, it’s the believers responsibility to live peaceably under that government. But I think the only place where we as believers will have the right to resist that government is when they go contrary to our Christian experience, and to the commands of Scripture. Then, of course, I think as believers we have every right to say, “Hey, wait a minute I can’t do that.” Until then we are to give ourselves under control of the central government. Then verse 3 is the reason: Why do we have government? So we can pursue joy, happiness, and so on.
“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. (criminal element) Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he (government) is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: (capitol punishment) for he is a minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.”
Now in verse 6 we all kind of rebel at this one, and since government has been given by God to help us pursue our life of happiness, yet in order for government to protect us, to give us this that we need, what do we have to do?. Well we have to pay some taxes. I don’t believe that we have to pay as much as we are, but, nevertheless, the government does need tax money so they can operate. So that’s what he means in verse 6:
“For for this cause (because of all the things that God intended government to do) pay ye tribute (taxes) also: for they (government) are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.”
People paid taxes in Christ’s time, and they’ve been doing it ever since, and they’re getting better at it all the time aren’t they? I mean they can tax you to death now, and act like they are doing you a favor, but a certain amount of it is required if we’re going to have a workable government.
“Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due;… Owe no man any thing, (we can better translate as not defrauding, or taking advantage of anyone. There is certainly nothing wrong with going to the bank, and borrowing money to buy a home for example) but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath (past tense) fulfilled the law.”
Now all it takes to fulfill the Law, is to have love operate in your daily experience. Now then look at Chapter 6 for a moment to see something with your own eyes. Most never realize this complete difference between Law and Grace.
“For sin (or the old Adam) shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
We’re not under the rituals and stipulations of the Law of Israel, we are not under the demands of Israel. That’s all been set aside, and now we’re under Grace, but Grace isn’t a license. That doesn’t mean that we can just do as we please, that we can go ahead and sin as we please, no, that’s not Grace.
“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
Don’t think such a thing, we’re still under God’s providence, but we’re not under His Law as such that if you break it this is what’s going to happen. But God’s mind on sin hasn’t changed. But now we’re under Grace. Now back to Romans 13. Now, since we’re under Grace, love is the dominant force in the life of the believer. Remember, love is the fulfilling of the Law, so when love is operating, look what happens:
“For this, `Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.'” Now where are those statements coming from? The Ten Commandments, the Law. And when you get into the Book of Ephesians, Paul uses the one concerning children.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;”
But you see even though Paul repeats nine of those ten commandments, and I think most of you who have heard me teach know which one he doesn’t repeat, and that is the Sabbath. The Sabbath has absolutely nothing to do with the believer today In fact I suppose I should have a whole lesson on that term “Sabbath.” The Sabbath was strictly the seventh day, as a day of rest for the Nation of Israel. It is absolutely incorrect to call our Sunday the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the seventh day, and it was given only to the Nation of Israel, long before the Law, but when the Law came the Sabbath was incorporated into it. So Paul never makes mention of that commandment concerning the Sabbath because we have nothing to do with that. But the other nine are still part and parcel of our Christian experience. Just because we’re a believer we don’t have a right to commit adultery. or to kill, and all these other things. So love is what keeps us in the straight and narrow.
Usually when I teach this I put two lines on the board, and on the one side it’s love for God, the love for the One Who bought us. And on the other line is love for other people, and so that keeps us then within the guidelines of God’s commandments.
“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: (if you love your neighbor you can’t do him dirty, oh, he may do you some, but if love is operating as much as lieth in us we’ll let God take care of it.) therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Now where is the epitome of love expressed that fulfilled the Law? On the Cross. What put Christ on the Cross? Love, It was His love for lost mankind that set His eyes to the Cross. It was love that nailed Him to the Cross. It was love that caused God to pour out mercy at the Cross. Now when that love has been imparted to you and I as believers, do you see how sensible that becomes? That same kind of love then is our attitude toward the people around us, and even our enemies, if we have such
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep:…”
What kind of sleep? Spiritual sleep, and that’s where the Church is tonight. They are sound asleep. They are totally unaware of all the things that are taking place in this world tonight that are getting the stage set for the coming of that final seven years of human history. They have no idea, and we’re talking about church people who don’t realize how close we are. But Paul says we are in the end times, and if Paul thought we were 2000 years ago, then imagine how close we are now.
“…for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
Let’s go on to Chapter 14. Here Paul is going to deal with the disputes between believers. In Paul’s day one of the biggest things was eating meat that had been offered to an idolatrous temple, and let’s look at just a few things that he says.
“Him that is weak in the faith (do you see who we’re dealing with? We’re not talking about the strong believer, but rather the weak one, maybe a really new believer) receive ye, (into your fellowship) but not to doubtful disputations.”
Don’t bring him in and let him cause a lot of argument, because he sees you eating meat that you bought at the market place, and it probably came from the Temple, and he won’t touch it, so don’t get into a big argument over it.
“For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.”
So what does the weak one become? A vegetarian. Now you know from Scripture when even old Elijah was out there and the ravens fed him, what did they feed him? Herbs and veggies? Meat. And so all the way through Scripture there is absolutely nothing that says we cannot eat meat. Now I know some of you don’t agree with me, but you’re not arguing with me, you’re arguing with The Book. And The Book says that meat is part of God’s diet, and there’s nothing wrong with eating meat. If your doctor tells you that you are absolutely in a position that you can’t eat it, then that’s different. But for the normal healthy individual there’s nothing wrong with meat. So Paul says here, “Don’t let someone come along and say that they are a vegetarian, and you are a testimony of evil when you eat meat.” And that’s what they were doing, and Paul says how you deal with it.
“Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth:, for God hath received him.”
Remember what The Book tells us in Romans 8? Who can judge us? No one because Who alone is the Judge? The One Who died for me. And it’s the same way here. When you come into contact with other believers who may not live the lifestyle that you think they should, remember you’re in no position to judge. You may be able to point them to something in Scripture, but you can’t judge another person. Paul absolutely rejects that out of hand. Now verse 4 and here Paul uses an everyday example.
“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?…”
You’re not his boss. You’re not paying his wages. Are you going to judge him? Don’t judge someone else. You’re not the boss. God is. And in verse 5 he gets into the business of days.
“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it….”
Here again, one person may establish one day, and another person will say, “Hey, to me they are all alike.” Well, that’s the liberty of the Christian faith. We’ll pick this up in our next lesson.