Life & Letters of Paul

  1. Focus on Rom 13:1-7 and the readings form Gorman and Brauch. Explain how Paul’s admonitions about subjection to governing authorities should be understood in light of their original context. What were the circumstances and main concerns that Paul seems to be addressing in this passage? In what sense are believers called upon to “be subject to” and “fear” the authorities? Conclude with your reflections on how this passage might apply to contemporary times

Paul’s admonition about the subjection to governing authorities should be understood in the aspects that connect authority with God. God provides authority to human being hence those at exist in the authority have been ordained by God. He provided various reasons as to why it is significant to submit to the authorities and one of them is about respecting the authorities and avoiding any anti-roman protests. Since it is part of God’s will to provide human civil authorities as a way of governing the world, it is important to show God respect and obey Him (Brauch, 1989).  Also, Paul decided to explain about submission through providing an example of how people paid taxes to the authorities. Taxes were considered as a mandatory law that citizens were supposed to pay to the Jewish leaders and Paul emphasized that it was important for them to obey the law and pay taxes accordingly (Gorman, 2016). Hence “whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted” Romans 13:2.  However, he condemned the act of extortion from the authorities where citizens were forced to pay more than what was needed. Additional to that, the same issue of taxes is connected to instances where Jewish leaders asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes. Hence, Jesus responded to their questions by telling them that they were supposed to pay to the Caesar what belongs to them. Also, when Christians submit to the authority they are also submitting to God and worshiping Him.

- +

In the scripture, we learn that Paul was mainly addressing the issue of civil authorities and Christianity.  He asserted that “God established every government in the world but it is important for Christians to understand that the main authority comes from God” Roman 13:3. God has ordained every angle of authority such as the government, family, and local churches to protect His people and dismisses the aspect of individuals coming between God’s plans. Also, Paul proclaimed that individuals that are disobeying the authority are bringing condemnation upon themselves. Judgment will come in two forms where the government has the right to impose punishment on the law-breaker and also God punishes individuals that disobey Him. Similarly, the government bears the “Sword to uphold the law” in a nation Roman 13: 4. Likewise, Paul identifies the issue of civil disobedience against bad laws and declared that when a government is commanding Christians to act upon things that are disobedient to God’s words, individuals have the right to resist. Hence, it is vital to obey God rather than men.

In relation, to the contemporary times, the scripture connects the issue of taxation with how nations are gaining riches at the expense of the poor.  Taxation is a sensitive topic that individuals have a big problem with and most people believe that leaders are extorting them in terms of taxation. Hence, Paul warns his readers against the opposition of excessive taxation. Additionally, during Jesus times, the Roman-Jewish Christians suffered from the anti-Jewish rules that were imposing high taxation rates on the poor. Also, some of the Jewish Christians had developed anti-roman sentiments since they were associated with the Palestine origin. Thus, Paul advises the contemporary society against joining a revolutionary group that opposes authority. 

  1. Focus on Philippians 2:1-13 and the reading in Gorman. Note that this so-called “Christ hymn” of Phil 2:6-11 functions not only as the centerpiece for this letter but also as the basis for dealing with particular problems in the Philippian community. It also provides the motivation for godly living. Briefly explain the content of this passage (noting what comes before and after the "Christ hymn") and then reflect upon how this passage could be applied to church conflicts in contemporary times.

The “Christ Hymn” by Paul gives a reflection of the importance of Christians looking to the interest of other people the same way they attend to their self-interest. In Christianity, Inner reflection is supposed to go beyond agreement and the level of shared models of loyalty and cohesion (Gorman, 2016). Paul also asserted that the Philippi church incorporated many people from different level of society thus regardless of differences in the social status, people were supposed to behave in a manner that is desired by God. Through the perspective-taking in the form of cognitive self-arousal, we get to see the importance of the adaptation of other individuals’ perspectives in establishing appropriate emotional states Philippians 2: 5. Moreover, Jesus Christ is presented as the best role model for Christians to emulate. Jesus Christ humbled Himself before God and people hence Christians should follow His ways of obeying God. Also, Paul asserts that Jesus Christ was created in the form of God but does not count equally as add on that, Jesus Christ also took in the form of a servant that was created in the likeness of God. Thus Paul advised Christians especially leaders in the church of Corinth to stop taking advantage of their position to improve their living standards. Jesus lived as an ordinary human being despite having higher authority as the Son of God. He also cared about the poor and never took advantage of people’s wealth (Gorman, 2016). Therefore, in the “Christ Hymn”, Paul is empathizing that it was wrong for the Greek and Romans society to create competition among various classes in the society. Similarly, verses 6 and 7 of the scripture gives a clear example of Paul’s believes on what the followers of Jesus Christ should emulate. Jesus Christ exercised his freedom of choice and did not live in involuntary conditions.  Hence it is vital for the parishioners to live by Jesus Christ’s example to promote a righteous community.

The passage can be applied to churches in the contemporary times as a way of advising Christians to emulate Christ’s ways. God exalts believers that humble themselves the way Christ did hence Christians gets rewarded when they live a life that is not of self-denial. Also, motivation is the key towards submitting to God and other people for the glory of God and avoiding selfish actions. Thus, in the end, God rewards Christians that serve Him and lives a righteous life. Moreover, the contemporary society is facing the problem of leadership. Therefore, the passage gives advice to churches to avoid hierarchical in favor of self-organizing. Besides, the mega-churches that exist in the society are mostly concerned with money and directed by the desire to have riches and power. However, Paul’s words emphasizes on the importance of understanding that Jesus took on the form of slave and shared human nature to serve God Philippians 2:5-11. Also, the act of service and being humble is one of the main characters that churches are supposed to practice instead of concentrating on money.

  1. Focus on the so-called "Household Table" section in Eph 5:22-6:9 and the discussion in Gorman (pp. 603-605). Summarize the arguments of Gorman regarding Paul's instructions regarding wives, children, and slaves. Are there important cultural differences between Paul’s time and our time that should be taken into account? How do Paul's teachings relate to contemporary discussions of marriage and family life?

Gorman (2016), arguments regarding Paul’s instructions on wives, children, and slaves are directed towards the concept of responsibilities and respect. Paul asserts that “the Household table” that consists of the wives, children, and slaves have a connection with Christ and the church.  Paul asks “wives to submit to their husbands the same way the church submits to Christ” Ephesian 5: 22. Besides, Paul main message was directed towards the act of submission to the Lord’s sake in every authority. Thus, Gorman (2016), suggests that the stability of the society is based on well-running households. Similarly, He supported the concept of children obeying their parents since it leads to a fruitful and long life. Children are also recommended to walk in ways that pleases God in order to receive His blessing.  To slaves, Gorman (2016), asserted that they should treat their managers and employees with respect since they are under God’s authority. Additionally, managers are not supposed to exploit their slaves and hence follow God’s teachings authority.

One of the important cultures that were practiced during Paul’s time and is not in our present time is the act of comparing marriage with the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church. The conception of submission in our present time is slowly declining and women are becoming heads of the family as they ignore husbands’ roles in the society. The scripture asserts that “it is important to submit to one another in the fear of the Lord” Ephesians 5:21. Also, submitting to the Lord Means that wives need to respect their husbands as the head of the family and husbands to love their wives the way Christ loved the church.

Cultures during Paul’s era are not different from the contemporary times because both societies struggled with the issue family issues and marriage. Currently, there are many single mothers that are forced to raise their children alone because their husbands neglected the role of being the head of the family.  Being the head of the family means that the man is supposed to be a good example to his children and the wife through showing love and taking care of the family financially and physically. Additionally, with regard to children respecting their parents, it is significant for the modern generation to adhere to God’s teaching about obedience and respect. Parents also need to learn their children through understanding what provokes them to anger and when to discipline them. Parents can as well teach their children in God’s way through disciplining them calmly and talking them about the motives of their hearts.

  1.  Focus on 1 Timothy 3 and the reading in Gorman. Note the list of qualities required for leaders in this letter and discuss the problems or issues in the community that these particular qualifications address. How might the qualities required of overseers/bishops and deacons provide guidance for church leadership today? Are any of the requirements irrelevant or inappropriate for some reason? Defend your answer.

According to Gorman (2016), leadership involves the aspect of trust for the followers to provide honor to their leaders. Also, Paul’ addressed the problem in Ephesus where many individuals did not respect the authority and its offices. He asserted that honor is attached to a position that is admired in the society hence for the people to instill confidence in their leader they should be the chosen leaders that are trusted.  Additionally, Paul emphasized on the aspect of household as a prerequisite for church leadership. His concept was related to the Ephesus Christian household where the household was supposed to include wife, children, and slaves. However, the householders were in disorder forms and experienced political subversion. Also, Paul asserted that if leaders had strong marriages, their leadership was also expected to be strong. However, he was also not demanding perfection in marriage but rather emphasizing on consistent faithfulness characterized by submission, sacrificial love, and honor. Hence, a leader is supposed to have his or her private and public life in balance. Being a believer facilitates spiritual maturity and seeing leadership as a platform for personal growth in Jesus Christ. Paul also believed that leaders that want to serve the community should “first be tested” 1 Timothy 3:10. Testing leaders on leadership role helped in identifying if they were capable of leading the society. Also, leadership involves having faith and believing in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

Today, Bishops and Deacons are supposed to be dignified and avoid being hypocrites. Also, with the current issues where bishops are caught up in scandals of drinking and infidelity, it is important for the society to only allow dignified bishops that will live as an example to its congregation. Also, deacons that live in God’s ways and serve its people will always have the confidence to walk in faith and earn their community’s respect. Similarly, deacons and Bishops before they are given their leadership roles, are usually being tested and given basic training that will help them serve the community. Likewise, the church needs to stop the act of thrusting recent converts because of their influential positions into church’s leadership that they are not ready to occupy.

However, despite Paul providing good qualities of leadership, there are other qualities that are irrelevant especially the concept that allows only married individuals to take leadership. Today, any individual that is willing to serve the Lord and lead Christians into Godly ways can be church leader after undergoing the required training. Also, Paul asserted that leaders should adhere to the rule of “one-woman man" 1 Timothy 5:14. Thus meaning that even a leader that was once divorced and remarry is not allowed to acquire authority in the church. Such a qualification is not appropriate and only restricting genuine people with talents and skills to serve the community from having power.