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September 12, 2010

“B” Students - #2

God wants us to be His students. Of course, the word student is our modern way of noting one who studies or follows a particular discipline. Our word has an interesting etymology. Student is Latin for “applying oneself to” which is related to the Latin studium “painstaking application.” God surely wants us to give “painstaking application” to His truths in our lives. In the previous issue we have already seen that God would have us to be His by being saved, separated, and transformed. Let’s continue to look at what God would have us “B.”

“B” Devoted to One Another

A changed heart and a changed mind lead to new behaviors. Paul continues to build on this idea in Romans the twelfth chapter when, after he reminds us to renew our minds, he tells us to be devoted to one another. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” (Romans 12:10-16). The word he uses for “devoted” here means to treat like family. It is to be a reciprocal affection.

Do we notice Paul’s expanded description of what it means to be devoted to one another? When we truly are devoted to someone, we love them like a brother, we give them preference, we pray for them, we are hospitable to them, we rejoice and weep with them, and we understand our relationship with them. Beyond all of this, who does this behavior indicate that we serve? The answer is clear — we are “serving the Lord” when we are devoted to one another.

All people, even family members, have situations arise where there may be conflict. If we are devoted to one another, these situations have a remedy. Paul reminds us, “bless and do not curse.” Where do we learn this behavior? It is part of our being saved, being holy, being transformed — we learn it from God himself: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

It may be easy for some of us to be devoted to our physical families. Are we even more devoted to our spiritual family? When we are as devoted as we ought to be, this attitude carries over to even our secular relationships. Paul tells us, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Galatians 6:10). This idea of doing good to all men ties us to our next “B.”

“B” in Subjection

To be in subjection is to “know our designated rank or place.” Can you imagine how terrible a world would be where no one respected their fellow man or did not respect any authority? Those who are saved, holy, transformed, and devoted can’t be like this. In continuing with Paul’s message in the letter to the Romans, notice:

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.

“Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:1-10).

Notice how closely and how tightly Paul connects “being in subjection” to “loves his neighbor.” Notice also that loving our neighbor is following God’s commandments — not suggestions, but commandments. This is true in the Old Covenant with Israel and in the New Covenant with His people today.

Actions like lying, stealing, murdering, adultery, covetousness, and yes, disobeying the laws of governing authorities shows not only disrespect for our fellow man, but disrespect for God. Transformed people will sometimes come into conflict with the “powers,” but our attitude is to be reflective of one who is saved and holy — we belong to God. Paul, Peter, John, and many unnamed Christians in the first century came into conflict with Jewish and Roman leaders, but they didn’t show dishonor; they were in subjection and knew their place. Jesus, too, was in conflict with the Jewish authorities. He was in subjection the the Old Covenant Law. In fact, He was the very fulfillment of that Law that the Jewish leaders were supposed to be keeping themselves! What approach do we take in times of difficulty? Look at the next “B” in the following issue and let’s find out.

— S. Scott Richardson Sr.

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