About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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West To Rome Romans 13:1-7

 

The apostle Paul's home town was in the Roman town of Tarsus, which is in eastern Turkey today.  He relocated to Antioch at the request of Barnabas, which is in present day Syria. (Acts 11:25-26)  Paul traveled west from Antioch on his first and subsequent apostolic missions.  Why did Paul head west and not north, south, or east?       

 

I can understand why Paul didn't head south.  The gospel had already been preached south of Antioch.   Besides, after Paul met Jesus he preached in the south until he wore out his welcome.   

 

Obviously, whatever direction Paul went, it was God's will.  Acts 12:4 says, "the two of them, (Paul and Barnabas) sent on their way by the Holy Spirit went down to Seleucia (that's south) and sailed from their to Cyprus ". (that's west)  On another trip Paul anticipated travelling north through Asia and Mysia until he reached Bithynia.  That changed when "the Spirit of Jesus" told him to go west to Macedonia. (Acts 16:6-10)  Jesus wanted Paul to go west, not north.  I don't claim to have the mind of God on this, but I think the reason for my geography lesson and why Paul headed west is relevant for us today.          

 

Throughout Paul's travels he preached that Jesus, the Christ, was Lord over all things in heaven and earth, which included the super state in which he lived, that is, the Roman Empire.  Paul's message was politically and socially incorrect according to Roman law and culture.  There was no Lord in the Roman Empire other than Caesar.  He was worshipped as being a god.  So, if Paul was to establish the fact that Jesus was the supreme authority in the empire, it only makes sense that he had to take this message to the center of the empire.  He had to go west from Antioch to Rome, which eventually led him to Caesar himself. 

 

Romans 13:1-7 has been debated for years.  What I've heard most from the debate is that Christians are to submit to the "governing authorities". (verse 1)  The reason for this submission is more important than the submission itself.  We often miss this point.   

 

Paul was arrested and "appealed to Caesar" to plead his case. (Acts 25:14)  When he reached Caesar's court he defended the gospel more than himself.  He was more intent on preaching the Lordship of Jesus than defending his civil rights.  We should learn from that. 

 

Many scholars believe the book of Romans, including chapter 13, was Paul's legal defense before Caesar.  Imagine Paul standing before Caesar saying, "Christians are to submit to your rule sir".  Caesar scratches his head and asks, "then why don't they?  I'm executing them on a daily basis for lack of submission".  Paul answers.  "We are to submit to you because 'there is no authority except that which God has established'". (Romans 13:1)  In other words, Paul tells Caesar that he's not the top dog in the empire.  Caesar's authority has been established by God and therefore he must submit his life and the empire to the God Paul serves.  Only then could Christians fully support Caesar.  Romans 13:4 says that the governing authorities are "God's servants".  That puts Paul and Caesar in the same social stratosphere.  They're both servants.  Such talk was treason.  In today's words, "Paul was a threat to national security".         

 

Paul headed west into the heartland of Roman civilization to tell Caesar that he must submit himself and his empire to the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ. This aspect of the gospel message hasn't changed.  Like Paul, we must preach the Lordship of Jesus, not only to individuals, but to our national leaders.  It's not politically or socially correct, but this has always been the gospel mandate.  Of course, this message didn't go over well in Paul's day, and won't go over well in our day either.  The nations of the world have always been at odds with Jesus and always will be.  Still, national leaders must be warned of  the consequences of not submitting to Jesus.

 

Imagine yourself in the Oval Office at the White House.  "Good day Mr. President.  It's a pleasure to meet you.  I'm a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. No sir, that's not a new denomination. I'm a Christian.    You're a Christian too?  Good!  Then you'll concur with the apostle Paul's admonition to governing authorities like you. O, you take issue with Paul on certain things?  I heard about that.   Anyway, Christians across this nation would like to support you more than they do, but there's just one problem.  No sir, it's not Obama-care.  Despite the common consensus that the American electorate voted you into power, Paul, in Romans 13, says that your presidency has been established by Jesus. No sir, that doesn't exactly validate your presidency.  It means you're obligated to serve Jesus by handing your life and the nation over to Him.  In all good conscience Mr. President, we can't fully support you until you fully support Jesus.   No sir, this has nothing to do with going to church.  P p p par pardon me sir". Your conversation abruptly ends.  President Obama picks up his phone.  Your whisked away by a couple of security guards to the nearest psychiatric hospital.  A CIA agent deems you to be a wacko and a threat to national security.  No more airplane flights for you.  You're on that dreaded no fly list.   

 

While in the psychiatric hospital you wonder why Christians thought the gospel was just about getting their sins forgiven and going to heaven.  The basis of the gospel is that Jesus is both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:26)  As Christ, He's our Saviour.  As Lord, He's the supreme authority over all things, including our nations and our leaders.  This gospel was never intended to be preached only to individuals to get them to heaven.  It was also meant to be preached to the nations of this world and their leaders, just as Paul preached it.  That's why Paul went west to Rome , instead of north, south, or east.

 

This age won't end until this gospel of the Kingdom is preached to all nations. (Matthew 24:14)  Just as Paul obeyed the call of God to preach to Caesar, prophets of God today are beginning to hear the same call.  The Lordship of Jesus will be preached to the nations, and then the end will come. 

 

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