Archive for June, 2019

Romans 1:26-32

In Romans 1:26-32 Paul continues to talk about God’s response to those who failed to recognize who God was and is from Creation and the world around them. He just allowed them to pursue their own passion with no filter on what they did. “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

God “gave them up” – we see that phrase three times in Romans 1 – Paul wrote this from the city of Corinth, where every sort of sexual immorality and ritualistic prostitution was practiced freely. The terminology here refers to this combination of sexual immorality and idolatrous worship. “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Sin begins in the mind, and is encouraged by the enemy who tells us that it just doesn’t matter. But Paul and this chapter make clear the price of sin – in the here and now – and in eternity. It is a bad outcome either way.

Paul gets in our face with concrete examples of the kind of things which are not fitting. Notice how “socially acceptable” sins (such as covetousness, envy and pride) are included right along with “socially unacceptable” sins (such as murder and being unloving). There is no differentiation between sins in God’s eyes. Sin is sin, and carries a price. “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”

Like knowing God, we normally know that we are sinning as well. God is clear through scripture that there is a price to pay for sin – it is death and eternal separation from Him. This isn’t some little punishment. Eternity is a very long time. But when we sin, Paul is clear we deserve to die. “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” The other part of our willingness to choose sin – as it is always a choice – is that we often try and drag others along with us. We tend to want to have others as part of the activity. That doesn’t change the outcome – eternal separation from God is the price we pay – but somehow it makes us feel better about it.

Romans 1:20-25

In Romans 1:20-25 Paul makes it clear that God is evident all around us. God shows us something of His eternal power and divine nature through creation, by the things that are made. He has given a general revelation that is obvious both in creation and within the mind and heart of man. This is not a mystery at all – God has clearly revealed Himself to all who are on the planet. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Bottom line, trying the “I didn’t know” card isn’t going to cut it.

We will all stand before God someday. And when we do, there will be no excuses. The problem is not that man did not know God, but that he did know Him – yet refused to glorify Him as God. Therefore, mankind is without excuse. Instead of glorifying God we transformed our idea of Him into forms and images more comfortable to our sinful hearts. We made idols out of Him. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

But God doesn’t force us to love and obey Him. He leaves it to our choice. In His righteous wrath and judgment, God gives man up to the sin our evil hearts desire, allowing us to experience the self-destructive result of sin. This phrase is so important Paul repeats it three times in this passage.  “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for the lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

We make a mistake when we think that it is God’s mercy or kindness that allows man to continue in sin. It is actually His wrath that allows us to go on destroying ourselves with sin. Paul uses a very specific word her – it is not a lie, but the lie. The lie is essentially idolatry – which puts us in the place of God. It is the lie you will be like God. Man will never even approach God, yet we continually try to elevate ourselves or those around us to God status. It’s the fault Satan had – he wanted to be like God. And that was what he promised Adam and Eve in the Garden if they would only eat the fruit. We know that was the lie then, and it is still what he attempts to do even today!

Romans 1:17-19

In Romans 1:17-19 Paul tells us simply that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God. This revelation of God’s righteousness comes to those with faith, fulfilling Habakkuk 2:4: The just – that is, the justified ones – shall live by faith. “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” William Barclay explains the meaning of this ancient Greek word dikaioo, which means I justify, and is the root of dikaioun (righteousness): “All verbs in Greek which end in oo… always mean to treat, or account or reckon a person as something.

If God justifies a sinner, it does not mean that he finds reasons to prove that he was right – far from it. It does not even mean, at this point, that he makes the sinner a good man. It means that God treats the sinner as if he had not been a sinner at all.” That is the kind of love God has for us as sinners. When we are made righteous, He no longer sees any of our past sin! The righteousness of God revealed by the gospel does not speak of the holy righteousness of God that condemns the guilty sinner, but of the God-kind of righteousness that is given to the sinner who puts their trust in Jesus Christ. How amazing is His love!

There is an opposite situation in the world around us. God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against the human race, and the human race deserves the wrath of God. We are not worthy of righteousness or salvation from our sin at all. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” We sometimes object to the idea of the wrath of God because we equate it with human anger, which is motivated by selfish personal reasons or by a desire for revenge. We must not forget that the wrath of God is completely righteous in character. God is righteous and just and holy and we are held to those standards and fall short.

Paul’s goal here is not to proclaim the good news, but to demonstrate the absolute necessity of the good news of salvation from God’s righteous wrath. Without God’s righteousness, we are doomed to eternal separation. And the argument that some don’t know or understand doesn’t stand up when measured against scripture. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” The problem is not that man does not know God, but that he did know Him – yet refused to glorify Him as God. Therefore, mankind is without excuse.  We must understand God because that is the standard we will be held to. His Scripture tells us that story.

Romans 1:13-16

In Romans 1:13-16 Paul makes clear that this visit has been a long time coming.  He has intended to come for some time, but circumstances always got in the way. “I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.” His mission here is clear – he is coming to share the gospel to build up the believers but also to bring others to know Christ.  Paul is single-minded in his desire to serve God in every situation no matter where he happens to be.

Paul recognizes that he has some debt to the Romans and other people in the world. After all, the Roman Empire brought world peace and order; they brought a common cultural, and an excellent transportation system to the world. Paul used all these in spreading the Gospel; so he can best repay this debt by giving Rome the good news of Jesus Christ. “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.” Paul was a tireless evangelist, working all over the world because he believed he had a debt to pay, and he owed it to the whole world. He never stopped until his death.

Paul had never been to Rome, and he did not found the Roman church. This makes the Book of Romans different because most of Paul’s letters were to churches he founded. It seems the church in Rome began somewhat spontaneously as Christians came to the great city of the Empire and settled there. “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”  Paul makes it clear that he is eager and ready to do whatever God wants Him to do. He said it many times in scripture:

  • Paul was ready to preach and to serve (Romans 1:15).
  • Paul was ready to suffer (Acts 21:13).
  • Paul was ready to do unpleasant work (2 Corinthians 10:6).
  • Paul was ready to die (2 Timothy 4:6).

Paul was eager to march with Christ alone to the center of this world’s greatness entrenched under Satan with the message of the gospel.

And he marched with confidence and boldness. Paul reveals his heart and made clear that he was not embarrassed by a gospel centered on a crucified Jewish Savior and embraced by the lowest classes of people – Paul is not ashamed. He knows  the good news of Jesus Christ – has inherent power. We do not give it power, we only stop hindering the power of the gospel when we present it effectively. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The gospel’s power of salvation comes to everyone who believes. God will not withhold salvation from the one who believes; believing is the only requirement. And it is open to all!

Romans 1:8-12

In Romans 1:8-12 Paul moves on from his opening monologue to thank God for the church in Rome. It was a high profile church in that day. At the same time, these Christians had to be strong. The Christians of Rome were unpopular and came under the persecution of Nero. Many were mistreated and even martyred, which is eventually what happens to Paul himself. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” The people of Rome wanted to be known as the highest of churches, but there were other congregations equally as faithful.

Paul wanted the Roman Christians to know he prayed for them, and praying for an opportunity to visit them.  Paul is very clear that he wants to come visit the church there. “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.” As if his word isn’t enough, he is specific to let them know that God is his witness that he is praying faithfully for them ‘always’. We need to take a cue from Paul and pray not only for our own church, but those around us.

Why are Paul’s prayers powerful? Because he is all in when serving God.  He served with his spirit – the very inner being of who he was – without ceasing.  This was fervent, never ending prayer for the churches Paul served and cared about. It is so easy to say you will pray for someone, and then fail to do it. He wanted them to know that he really prayed. And beyond prayer, he wanted them to know that he intends on finally making a trip to visit them. It had been on his docket for some time, but up to this point it hadn’t worked out. Even now though, he realizes that God determines whether that will happen or not. He is completely submissive to God’s direction.

Paul not only longs to see the believers in the church at Rome, but he intends to make an impact when he gets there. “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” He wants to share his spiritual gifts and encourage them. But Paul’s desire to visit the church in Rome was not merely to give to them, but to receive as well, because Paul realized that in their mutual faith they had something to give to him. Encouragement can be a two way street if both parties are walking in obedience as Christ Followers.  That’s what Paul wanted to find when he got to Rome!

Romans 1:3-7

In Romans 1:3-7 Paul continues with his long winded opening statement to the church in Rome. He makes it clear that his message is about Jesus. This is the center of Paul’s gospel, the “sun” that everything this else orbits around. The center of Christianity is not a teaching or a moral system, it is a Person: Jesus Christ. Paul makes clear that Jesus is unique in two ways:

  1. In the flesh, He was descended from David
  2. In the Spirit He was declared to be the Son of God

And through both, He was resurrected from the dead.

“….concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord….” Paul goes even further by declaring Jesus as Lord. He’s not just human and the Son of God – He is Lord. Paul calls Jesus ‘Yaweh’ in the Greek – the deity one worships. Jesus is fully God and worthy of our worship and obedience. Lordship is such an important part of our relationship with Him as a Christ Follower. He is to be the driver in our life – the One whom we obey in every situation.

He was holy in all things, and through His resurrection has given proof that He is not a mere human, but part of the Trinity Himself. Through Christ, we receive two things:

  1. Grace – God’s riches at Christ’s expense – His favor to help us walk in obedience
  2. Apostleship – a relationship with Christ Himself

The result of those is obedience when we allow them to impact our life. Paul’s gospel impacts individual lives. It isn’t interesting theory or philosophy, it is life-changing good news. “….through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations….” The stakes for obedience are high – it is a representation of His name among the nations. Our walk with Christ impacts people all around us. Obedience matters.

The gospel is big enough and great enough for the whole world; it must go out to impact all nations. Paul is making that clear to the church in Rome. “….including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” God’s call is to all of us and we are loved by Him as Christ Followers. His call is for us to be ‘saints’, not because we already are, but because His call makes us so. Paul was thankful for the good reputation of the church in Rome. Because of its location, this church had a special visibility and opportunity to glorify Jesus throughout the Empire.

Romans 1:1-7

In Romans 1:1-7 Paul opens his letter to the church in Rome with a very long sentence (seven verses long). And he doesn’t appear to stop for a breath. But before we dig in to what he wrote, let’s get some background on this book. It is generally agreed that Paul wrote Romans from the city of Corinth as he wintered there on his third missionary journey. He had been a Christian preacher for some 20 years by this time. On his way to Jerusalem, he had three months in Corinth without any pressing duties. He perhaps thought this was a good time to write a letter to the Christians in Rome, a church he planned to visit after the trip to Jerusalem.

While Paul planned to go to Rome, the Holy Spirit warned him about the peril awaiting him in Jerusalem. So Paul determined to write them a letter so comprehensive that the Christians in Rome had the gospel Paul preached, even if Paul himself were not able to visit them. Because of all this, Romans is different than many of the other letters Paul wrote churches. Other New Testament letters focus more on the church and its challenges and problems. The Letter to the Romans focuses more on God and His great plan of redemption. It became a regular part of every meeting at the Roman church.

Paul’s self-identification is important as he begins his letter. He is first a servant of Jesus Christ, and second called to be an apostle. The translation of the word to ‘servant’ is not as strong as Paul likely intended – it was more closely a ‘slave’ – someone with complete and utter devotion to another. The idea of being an apostle is that you are a special ambassador or messenger. Paul’s message is the gospel (the Good News) of God. It is the gospel of God in the sense that it belongs to God in heaven. This isn’t a gospel Paul made up; he simply is a messenger of God’s gospel and he has been set apart to deliver it as God’s messenger.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures”.  Other New Testament letters focus more on the church and its challenges and problems; Romans focuses more on God. Romans is ultimately a book about God. But as God is taught about, Paul also expresses God’s love for man through the gospel. This gospel is not new, and it is not a clever invention of man. Paul’s world was much like ours, where people like “new” teachings and doctrines. Nevertheless, Paul didn’t bring something new, but something very old in the plan of God.

Proverbs 31:26-31

In Proverbs 31:26-31 King Lemuel’s mother continues with her expose on the excellent wife. She begins by describing a woman filled with wisdom. She is a beautiful person on the inside. She has what is often described and valued in the Book of Proverbs—wise speech and words that show the law of kindness. Both her deliberate speech (she opens her mouth) and her spontaneous words (on her tongue) are marked by wisdom and kindness. “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” This is one of the most important characteristics of this woman who with all her eminence and excellence, was of a meek and quiet spirit.

She is observant of her family and what they are doing. The choice to watch so carefully means that she does not choose to sit idly by or being consumed by her own selfish ways. “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” Trapp wrote “She hath an oar in every boat, an eye in every business; she spies and pries into her children’s and servants’ carriages, and exacts of them strict conversation and growth in godliness: she overlooks the whole family no otherwise than if she were in a watch tower.”  She is paying attention to everyone and everything all the time.

A woman of such character and wisdom rightfully receives the blessings and praises of her family. Both her children and her husband not only see, but also speak of the blessedness of the woman who brings such blessing to their household. This is not only a description of the excellent wife, but also an exhortation to children and a husband to bless and praise the mother and wife of godly character. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Her husband praises his wife with words that encourage, reward, and nourish her. Every home can have a wife and mother that stands apart like this excellent wife; then every husband can legitimately feel “I’ve got the best wife” and children feel, “We have the best mom.”

King Lemuel’s mother noted the passing nature of outer beauty and the deceitful nature of manipulative charm. In contrast, a woman who fears the Lord has beauty that does not pass and charm that does not deceive. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs begins with a strong connection between wisdom and the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Here the collection ends describing the excellent wife as being filled with the wisdom, beauty, and charm that marks a woman who fears the Lord.

Proverbs 31:21-25

In Proverbs 31:21-25 King Lemuel’s mother continues to define the excellent wife. She has the wisdom, diligence, and preparation to ready her household for all kinds of challenges and adversity. Her fear of the Lord and the wisdom that flows from it invites God’s blessing, even being able to clothe all her household in prestigious scarlet. “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.” Some wonder why scarlet clothing would be connected to the fact that she is not afraid of snow for her household. It has been suggested that the scarlet color of the clothing makes her children easy to find but that is not likely since it doesn’t snow much in this area.

She is a talented seamstress and can make what is needed for her family. With God’s blessing on her wisdom and diligence, the excellent wife makes good things for herself, and enjoys personal marks of God’s material blessing on her family since her coverings are of fine linen and the royal color purple. “She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.” Purple dye was costly because it comes from a seashell off the Phoenician coast and is connected with those who have wealth and luxury.

She is a loving and supportive wife who lives with respect and honor for her husband, who is known by those around them. She sees such a blessing on her family and household as her husband is esteemed and honored among the elders of the land. All this is the blessing of God that often comes to the wife who walks in virtue, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord. “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” He is married to a woman who is held in high esteem. And her complete management of household affairs gives him time to devote himself to the interests of the community.

Besides caring for her family, she also is able to make more than they need and sell the excess. She cares deeply for her family, but her mind and vision goes beyond them to the outside world where she does good for herself and her family. “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.” Her willingness to sell some for the sake of her family shows that her first priority isn’t in what is in her closet or what she wears. “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” When it comes to character, she is one of the best dressed, clothed with strength and honor, so that she shall rejoice not only in the present day, but also in time to come.

Proverbs 31:13-20

In Proverbs 31:13-20 King Lemuel’s mother continues to educate him on an excellent wife. Using wonderful poetic images, she described not the resume of a godly woman, but life-like examples of the busy, hard working, and creative character of the virtuous wife. A woman who attempted to complete each of these tasks would be exhausted and potentially discouraged. Yet her character can be evident in a wise and godly woman’s life in its own way. “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.” She knows how to seek and find things that are necessary resources for her family and home.

Next an excellent wife is compared to a merchant ship. An excellent wife provides food for her family and home after the pattern of a merchant ship, which operates on time and with hard work. If required, she even rises while it is yet night to either get or prepare food for her household. “She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.” It wasn’t uncommon for many families in Biblical times to have servants or hired workers. The excellent wife wisely manages and cares for those who work for her too, showing her compassion and care even beyond her immediate family.

The next area that is called out is that of making a business decision – to buy some land and plant it. The excellent wife is forward thinking, combining her creativity with hard work. She thoughtfully (considers) invests and uses the profits to better her family and their future, in this case by planting a vineyard. “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” What is described here is a lot of hard work. But she is willing to go beyond the bare necessities and do things that may be challenging, but will produce a good return.

The excellent wife is noted for her strength. “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” She is wise and experienced enough to get good materials and merchandise for her home. Her wisdom teaches her to buy oil for her lamp, of such quality that it burns through the night and does not go out. “She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.” She knows how to use the tools and technology available to manage the home well. “She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.” And she is a woman of compassion who helps those around her. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”

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