Sunday: Roman Law

Read Luke 2:1-5. What lessons can we learn from the ways in which these two faithful followers of the Lord interacted with their political environment?

Roman Senate in session picture from Wikimedia commons
A medieval depiction of the Roman Senate
picture from Wikimedia commons

Since the time of the early republic, the Romans recognized how important written laws were for the governance of society. In fact, the system of constitutional law established by the Romans remains a foundation of the legal systems found in many of today’s democratic societies.

For the most part, Rome allowed vassal kingdoms to maintain their own customs, but all subjects were expected to obey imperial and senatorial laws. Obviously, this included Joseph and Mary.

Roman law was concerned with order in society. As such, it not only addressed issues of government but also legislated behavior in the domestic arena. In addition to stipulating the procedures for selecting people to public office, Roman law also dealt with things such as adultery and master/slave relationships. Many of the social codes are similar to the ones found in the Old Testament and other societies.

All attempts to understand the culture in which the New Testament books were composed must take into account the fact that the Roman Empire formed the political backdrop for the world in which Jesus and the early church lived. Many things taking place in the New Testament, from the death of Jesus to the imprisonment of Paul, make much better sense when we understand whatever we can about the environment of their times. Of course, one doesn’t need to be a scholar of Roman history in order to understand that which we need for salvation. However, when it is possible for us to obtain it, historical knowledge can indeed be helpful.

Despite the amazing providences of Mary’s pregnancy and the obvious hand of the Lord in it, these two people still obeyed the law of the land, which required them to leave their home, even when Mary was quite far along in her pregnancy. Would it not have been better simply to have stayed home, considering the extraordinary circumstances? What might their actions say to us about how we should relate to civil law? (Think how easy it would have been for them to have justified not obeying.)



Sunday: Roman Law — 21 Comments

  1. It is good for us as Christians to obey the civil law without excuses however we need to be sure that the civil law isn't in conflict with the moral law

  2. the issue is when civil law contradict God's command..but the holy Ghost will help us he did for Daniel and friend of not worshiping idols.

  3. These two faithful saints of God have shown as an example of how a true christian should relates with his/her government. Even Apostle Paul wrote in Titus 3:1 to obey magistrates and to be ready for every good works so that those of the contrary may have no evil to say about us (Children of God). But this we should do with clear view of God's will

  4. Obeying the law is a principle that every Christinan must follow, but -as mentioned before- as long as it doesn't contradict the moral and spiritual laws. Now a days we see a constant pressure to ignore moral and religious laws, it is important to keep in mind that the time will come when truly Christians will have to decide to follow God's law and or the world's.

  5. Joseph and Mary showed us what we should do when called upon to do our civil duties. Even though they had to travel nearly 90 miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem to pay their taxes. Tax evasion is inappropriate in most countries. The Pharisees wanted to trick Jesus by asking Him 'is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not''. In Mark 12:17 Jesus answered, ''Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's''. Jesus confirmed their civil responsibility to pay their taxes.

  6. It's interesting the fact that God relied on the obedience of this couple to civil law in order to fulfill the prophecy concerning the place where the messiah was born. If they didn't obey that arbitrary and senseless human government law Jesus would'n be born at Bethlehem but at Nazareth, contradicting Micah's prophecy.

    • It is true that God's prophecies are always fulfilled whatever man may think, will, wish, say, or do. All prophecies about Jesus would have been fulfilled hadn't Judas betrayed Him.

  7. Never thought of it that way! Yes, Joseph and Mary could have justified their staying home, due to her condition. A very inconvenient situation for them. But, they obeyed. Shows character!

  8. A decree today is out in our country the USA Obama care. Yet a large number say it takes away our freedom and our right to choose. Some say the Government is taking away our right to live with death panels and I was a witness to one already. It was like being in arena with lions ready to kill innocent people. There's a fine line oh so fine.
    Today what would you say to Hispanics who are Christians but not legal in the USA or other countries.

    • Your question on illegal immigrants is an interesting one that faces a lot of countries other than the USA. In Australia we struggle with those immigrants who arrive in Australia by boat. The issue is establishing the balance between compassion and the need for orderly immigration. The issues are complex and it involves more than just being illegal. In the USA for example, while there is a determined effort to keep Mexicans from crossing the border, a sizable proportion of the lower-paid labor force is made up of illegal workers. So we have a tacit recognition that those workers are in fact doing something useful in the community.

      In Australia there are two main issues 1) The highly dangerous nature of the people trafficking to get these folk to Australia and 2)the lack of compassionate treatment once they get here.

      For us as Christians, I think that our duty is to show compassion and understanding and to ensure that our governments are sensitive to the needs of people. Sometimes the legal systems, while necessary, become dehumanized to the extent that they are brutal. Christians have a responsibility to see that does not happen.

    • That is a very touchy topic so let us not call names when blogging. I have travelled to many countries to either live or on business. There is not any country in this world who do not have others living there who are not legal. This is something only our heavenly father will have to judge. Let us name many of the people in the bible who were alien in another country not their own. I liked the way Paul referred to christians as ALIENS, FOREIGNER, STRANGER AND PILGRIMS. Right now I am not of this world (illegal) because heaven is my home.

  9. Roman law prepared the world for the dissemination of the gospel. It prepared the way for God's incarnation in humanity to make a difference world-wide.

    Roman law made it safe to travel on the Roman roads that tied the world together. Roman law provided the political stability that allowed the first Christians to disseminate the Good News that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to be one with us - not just for a brief life on this earth but forever.

    All this makes evident that above all the apparent confusion and turmoil of this world, God sits enthroned and orders things according to His will.

    • I like this comment.

      I never really thought about it that way. EGW says that the entire "world" finally came under one system of thought at that time (not referring to law but more to religion and culture--away from animism to more rational religions that appealed to the mind and the metaphysical)

      This helped the gospel spread.

      I think the same thing is happening today in preparation for the final spread of the gospel.

      More to the point, I think that many posters have brought out that the civil law must not conflict with God's law. The Fugitive Slave Act comes to mind, although I wonder about it in light of Philemon.

  10. If they would have stayed home, we would have never had the song,"Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem".....Have a good week, and never lose your sense of

    • Things seemingly been ordained by God for them to go to Bethlehem for the fulfillment of prophecy, the two cooperated with God's will, they also rendered obedience to the law of man.

  11. I just like to share this Bible verses at Romans 13:1-8 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:1-8 KJV)

  12. We will take their example that in their faithfulness to God they still consider where they live to obey the laws that are their.

  13. We as christian should obey the all law as long as it does not contradict that of GOD.Blessed day.

  14. We as christian should obey cival law as long as it does not contradict that of GOD.Blessed day.


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