Christian Obligations Over God, Neighbor, and Government
These are the readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
God’s Word for This Week
The apostle Paul wrote frequently about the obligations and duties resting upon Christians in their capacity as church members, citizens, and neighbors. These can be summarized in the law of Christian love, an ideal which, out of gratitude to God, believers strive and work for all the days of their lives.
First Lesson – Ezekiel 33:7-11
Who is held responsible when a wicked man dies in unbelief?
The reading speaks of dual accountability: a.) the unrepentant sinner is clearly responsible for his unbelief and will pay the penalty for his guilt, and b.) the watchman who fails to speak up to “dissuade” the unrepentant sinner also bears responsibility. God is admonishing us against neglect and indifference.
What is God’s immutable will for all mankind? (v.11)
How much more emphatic can God be? “Turn! Turn from your evil ways and live!” His gracious will is the salvation of all.
Second Lesson – Romans 13:1-10
What are we ultimately guilty of when we resist or disobey our government?
In his providence, God has vested power with the incumbents of governmental office. They are our superiors (in the sense of the 4th Commandment) according to God’s establishment and designation. If we resist the authority God has instituted through our disobedience or rebellion, we are guilty of resisting God himself.
What is the Christian’s attitude toward paying taxes?
For necessity’s sake, Christians are subject and duty-bound to government. It’s part of our obedience to God. Since the government is established for the benefit of society and the protection and defense also of believers, we cheerfully pay for its support.
What does the phrase the obligation of Christian love mean?
God’s injunction is clear and simple. Be under obligation to no one except in this: love your neighbor with the same love with which we regard our own interests. This is the one duty that can never be discharged adequately or exhausted completely.
Supplemental Second Lesson – Galatians 2:11-21
Being your brother’s keeper will lead at times to uncomfortable situations or even confrontations. Here Paul tells how he had to oppose Peter to his face. Paul did not do this out of jealously of this reputed pillar; this was no power play pitting the apostle to the Jews against the apostle to the Gentiles. This had to do with the eternal salvation of everyone involved. Trusting in anything other than Christ is like sleeping in a burning house. Paul took his job of being a watchman seriously: if righteousness could be gained through the Judaizers’ demands, then Christ died for nothing! So Paul woke his sleeping neighbor with the harsh reality of Peter’s hypocrisy. But the Word did its work; Paul didn’t merely keep his brother; he won his brother over.
Gospel – Matthew 18:15-20
What is the primary purpose of church discipline?
The purpose of this entire passage is to show how a weak and erring brother or sister may be won back to Christ, even if it be a matter of difficult work.
Which step in church discipline is perhaps the hardest and thus often skipped?
The first step, speaking to a brother/sister face-to-face, is often bypassed. Problems are only escalated when we publicly expose him/her by talking about it with others first.
What is meant by the congregation’s power to “bind” and “loose”?
Christ gives his church the power to forgive the sins of the penitent but to retain the sins of the impenitent. These are the keys that lock or unlock the door of heaven. Needless to say, God gave this power for edification, not destruction.