Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Romans 13
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie

This week Floyd Landis finally admitted that he was guilty of doping when he won the Tour de France in 2006. For four years he denied it vehemently. He even wrote a book proclaiming his innocence entitled (ironically) "Positively False." He set up a website and took donations for his defense. Although I didn't contribute, I chose to believe him. Now, in admitting to his own doping, he has also leveled accusations against numerous other cyclists, including Lance Armstrong. Why would anyone believe him now? Four years of living a lie, and now suddenly he's telling the truth?

What this episode is more instructive of than anything else is how deeply sin runs through our nature. Not only can we deceive others, but we are even capable of deceiving ourselves. 1 John 1:8 says: "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." Of course, if we claim to be without sin the only one we'll be fooling is ourself.

That's why I love Romans 13:5-6 so much. "Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing."

April 15th is not exactly the happiest day of the year for many Americans. It's a great American tradition to moan and grumble and complain and whine on April 15th as we pay our taxes. What does Tax Day prove? It proves that we need a Savior! Huh? How so?

Why did you write your check to the IRS? Was it because you're thankful for all the things the federal government does for you? Was it because you delight in providing for those who govern full time? Was it because you wanted to give God glory by being a responsible citizen? Probably not.

Most likely, you wrote that check to the IRS so that you wouldn't have to go to jail. You wrote it to avoid the interest and penalties you would owe if you didn't pay on time. But Paul tells us that "it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience." So unless you wrote that check to the IRS with a smile on your face and a good feeling in your heart, you still need a Savior.

The point of my whole discussion is this. Many times we do the right thing. Floyd Landis did in finally admitting to his doping past. But doing the right thing doesn't necessarily make us right, because we often do the right thing for the wrong reason. When that happens, we're just as wrong in the eyes of God as if we had done the wrong thing. And when we're wrong in the eyes of God there's only one hope - the grace God offers us through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ.

So, the next time you pay your taxes, whether quarterly or next April, put a smile on your face - not because you love paying taxes, but because you have a gracious Savior who makes you right with God even when you do the right thing with the wrong motives.

Pastoral Commentary for Romans 13
Author: Pastor Zach

When I was in high school, I was befriended by a Jehovah's Witness. She, of course, was all too happy to try to "convert" me to the doctrine of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. One of the hallmark doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses is that although Christ may have had a special relationship to his heavenly Father, he was not the God of heaven and earth, incarnate in human flesh. Troublingly, the Witnesses even have their own skewed translation of the Bible, the New World Translation, which polemically mistranslates passages that clearly declare the divinity of Christ. For instance, the New World Translation renders John 1:1: "In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." Compare this to the New International Version which translates: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

When my friend first showed me her "translation" which calls Jesus "a god" rather than "the God," I was horrified. And although I did not know Greek at the time, I quickly began researching the original Greek grammar behind the English translations of this passage and I stumbled across something called Colwell's Rule. This rule was first formulated in 1933 by E.C. Colwell in an article he published for the Journal of Biblical Literature. In it, he states: "In sentences in which the copula is expressed, a definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb." Don't know what that means? That's okay, neither did I. But I did know that this made the translation of Jesus as "a god" very tenuous and unlikely. And I did know that Jesus was no second-rate divinity. He was and is the one, true God.

And so, I told my friend about Colwell's Law. I also gave her a veritable plethora of resources refuting the theology of Jehovah's Witnesses. And I made an appeal to her to believe in the Bible rather than in a centralized, and somewhat enigmatic, Watchtower society. My friend, however, remained un-persuaded. She told me, "Well, I guess you'll just have your beliefs and I'll have mine."

I was shocked. She refused to agree with me when it came to Christ's divinity! I was at a loss. After all, my study was impeccable. My linguistic theory was unimpeachable. My logic was irrefutable. How could she not agree with me?

I have since learned that there are many people who do not agree with me, no matter how persuasive I may think I am. I will often joke with my wife Melody and tell her, "You know, this world would be a much better place if everyone just agreed with me." But everyone does not agree with me. And this is where our reading for today from Romans 13 comes into play.

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law" (verse 8). According to the apostle Paul, love is the order of the day. But notice who we are supposed to love: our "fellowman." The Greek word for "fellowman" is heteros, meaning "different." In other words, Paul is encouraging us to love not only those who think as we do, believe as we do, dress as we do, and act as we do, but to love those even who are different from us. He is encouraging us to love even those who do not agree with us - even when we have impeccable study, unimpeachable linguistic theory, and irrefutable logic. We are to love everyone.

Is there anyone who is different from you or disagrees with you whom you have failed to love the way you should? If so, now is the time to repent of your unloving heart and reflect God's love toward that person. Mind you, loving someone different from you does not necessarily mean that you accept their positions or actions, especially if they're sinful or false, as are those of the Jehovah's Witnesses, but it does mean that you treat others the way Christ would treat them: with care, concern, and compassion. After all, love - true love - has a way of bridging divides, breaking barriers, and binding up brokenness. And that's something that we all need... no matter how heteros we might be from each other.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2020-06-05 08:09:17