Archive for the ‘Romans’ Category

Romans 16

Romans 16 is Paul’s list of those whom served alongside him during his ministry.  We always think of Hebrews 11 as God’s Hall of Fame, but Romans 16 could be Paul’s.  He begins calling our Phoebe, a woman whom Paul calls a “servant of the church” who has obviously been a helper to many.  “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at  Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well”. She’s evidently on her way to Rome and Paul is sending an advanced commendation of her work.

He next calls out Priscilla and Aquila, who were fellow workers that served with Paul and Apollos.  “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life”.  But more than helping, they had been willing to risk their own lives for his.  We don’t know how it happened, but it obviously made a significant impact in Paul’s life.  He goes on to list dozens of people that were important to him personally, and to his ministry among the churches.  Many of the names are unknown except for his mention here, but they made his hall of fame!

  • Epaenetus, who was  the first convert to Christ in Asia
  • Mary, who has worked hard for you
  • Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my  fellow prisoners
  • Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord
  • Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ
  • my beloved Stachys
  • Apelles, who is approved in Christ
  • the family of Aristobulus
  • my kinsman Herodion
  • the family of Narcissus
  • workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa
  • the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord
  • Rufus, chosen in the Lord
  • also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well
  • Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them
  • Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister
  • Olympas and all the saints with him

Know any of these names?  At best, they got a passing mention elsewhere.  But Paul moves quickly to the meat of his farewell – that the church needs to stay diligent to follow the truth and be of one mind.  “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles  contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them”.  God’s plan for His church is unity.  It is not about division or argument or splintering.  And it certainly is not about church splits and personalities.  God’s church needs to be focused on Scripture and obedience to God’s Word.

Paul knew there would be some who would work to destroy the church from the inside.  That’s where division comes from.  It isn’t something that is done to a church.  It is something that is done by a church.  It comes from inside the walls when motives are wrong.  “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive….I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil”.  Paul wants the church to stay true to God’s truth.  Don’t be swayed by those who would move us from obedience to God’s truth.  As Christ Followers, we must stay true to the Word and obey it casting aside the words of man that try to pull us away.

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Romans 15

Romans 15 has Paul reminding us that we need to be focused on serving others.  Life is not about me.  The world does not revolve around me.  God has a task for us, and that is to pour ourselves into those in our patch.  “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves”.  Life is not about collecting all the stuff we can accumulate and focusing on our own desires.  We aren’t to spend all our time focused on ourselves, as the world tells us, but look for ways we can serve others who can benefit from our help.

Our life needs to be about lifting others up, those who are weaker or in need.  Paul challenges us to look outside our walls and the normal groups of people we associate with.  “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up”.  We’re to be ‘people builders’, not collectors of stuff and money to spend on ourselves. Our efforts need to be on pleasing God, not man, which means we need to love people as God does.  Jesus didn’t come to earth for Himself. Scripture tells us “For Christ did not please himself”.  Jesus came and gave Himself, taking abuse and suffering on the Cross for God’s glory.  That’s how we need to live as well, others first.

Paul prays for the church.  “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Did you ever wonder what the church should look like?  There is the picture – one of endurance, encouragement and harmony glorifying God.  We should never run out of gas in serving those in need.  We should always be encouraging people in their walk with Jesus.  And we should do it in unity together.  That’s how we glorify God.  Paul continues praying “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”.

So what does that really look like for you and me.  Paul gives us an overview of how he has lived as a Christ Follower.  “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named,  lest I build on someone else’s foundation”.  Paul’s life was not about himself.  It was preaching Christ and Him alone.  What do you tell the world you’ve done?

Romans 14

In Romans 14, Paul tackles the challenge of judging one another.  We all tend to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others and judging one another for deeds and actions.  Paul says we need to stop.  “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him”.   We are not sitting on the judgment seat – that belongs to God alone.  While we may think that we are in control, that is absolutely not the case.  And certainly we aren’t the king of the patch we are in.  “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself”.

We’re part of God’s world.  It’s not our own.  And the sooner we understand that life is not about us nor does it revolve around us, the better for all.  We live in God’s world, like it or not, and He alone calls the shots.  “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then,  whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s”.  So the truth is that this is God’s world.  We don’t sit on the power seat we like to believe we do.  “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God”.

We’re all going to stand before God and have to give account.  That’s what lies ahead for each of us.  And as we approach that throne, Jesus says “every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God”.  It’s not the other way around where God will be on His knees thanking us for what we’ve done for Him.  No, in fact quite the opposite.  We will be explaining what we’ve done with what He’s entrusted to us.  “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God”.  We’re not the judge.  We are the judged.  And we should not be spending our time judging those around us.  It is not our place.  That belongs to God alone.

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother”.  We need to live based on helping each other walk in obedience to God.  That’s how we can serve each other well. “Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men”.  Life is not about how much stuff we can accumulate or how much press we can generate, it is about how well we love each other and serve our God.  Are you focused on how you live, rather than what those around you are doing.  God will only ask you on judgment day to explain your life – not those you may have pointed fingers at in your patch.  Focus on what you will be held accountable for!

Romans 13

Romans 13 has Paul continuing to teach us how we are to live.  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities”.  Contrary to what society seems to think today – we are to obey those in authority, not resist and ignore them.  They are only in that place because God has allowed it.  “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God”.  It’s not accidental they are in that spot.  God expects us to submit to them.  “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment”.  It’s not optional or up for discussion.

That goes even further.  “Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience”.  There is a price to pay for disobedience here that includes God’s judgment.  It also covers the payment of taxes to authorities.  “For because of this you also pay taxes….Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed…” We are not freed from the payment of taxes, but in fact, are required to do so as followers of Christ.  Taxing authority is another of the things God has allowed.

But he doesn’t stop with taxes….“respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”.  Paul makes it simple for us.  We are to submit to authority and love those in our patch.  “For the commandments….are summed up in this word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.  That covers a significant number of the Ten Commandments God gave as the foundation of the law.  We simply need to love each other.  It’s really not that complicated at all.

If we love each other, we put the needs of each other above our own.  We are focused on what is good for all, not for self.  Life is not about me at that point.  What we need to do according to Paul is to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires”.  If we don’t fight the temptation to make self the most important, we’ll fail to love others.  It’s easy to love ourselves.  But God expects us to love others first.  That’s the example Christ gave us on the Cross.  It’s not natural or even easy at times.  But it is what we are called to do.

Romans 12

Romans 12 has Paul giving us a lesson on how we should live.  He begins with the challenge to be a living sacrifice to God.  That is how we truly worship Him, but offering up ourselves to Him.  “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”.  We are not our own.  God created us, and Christ died for us.  So our worship of God begins with giving back our all to him.  It is part of how we worship and glorify Him – to live as truly His.

Paul goes on to remind us not to just fit in to the world around us.  In fact, we need to stand out.  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.  It’s easy to just fall into the trap of doing what everyone around us does.  But Paul tells us to be transformed – to be made different and new – by renewing our mind.  We do that by taking in God’s Word which helps us know God’s will and discern what we should do.  The guage should not be those around us – but what God has told us through His Word.

He goes on to talk about the body of Christ and how God has equipped each of us with spiritual gifts.  These are often referred to as the motivational gifts – those core to who we are and how we live.  “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

  • if  prophecy, in proportion to our faith
  • if  service, in our serving
  • the one who teaches, in his teaching
  • the one who exhorts, in his exhortation
  • the one who contributes, in generosity 
  • the one who leads, with zeal
  • the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness”

Seven motivational gifts that provide the foundational needs of a church to function.

Paul then goes on to make a long list of behaviors that should define how we live as a body:

  • “Let love be genuine 
  • Abhor what is evil
  • hold fast to what is good
  • Love one another with brotherly affection
  • Outdo one another in showing honor
  • Do not be slothful in zeal
  • be fervent in spirit
  • serve the Lord
  • Rejoice in hope
  • be patient in tribulation
  • be constant in prayer
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints
  • seek to show hospitality
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep
  • Live in harmony with one another
  • Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly
  • Never be wise in your own sight
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all
  • live peaceably with all
  • never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God
  • if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

That’s a long list of behaviors that should flow out of the church.  For that to happen, they have to flow out of each of us that make up the church!

Romans 11

Romans 11 has Paul explaining salvation and how it will come to the Gentiles and the Israelites, God’s chosen people.  They had it to themselves in the beginning, but now God has expanded His offer of mercy and grace to all.  That is the means we will be saved.  Through grace – undeserved merit from God – through His Son Jesus Christ. And grace alone is all that is needed to be saved.  There are no works that can accomplish salvation, but grace and grace alone. “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace”.

It is a gift of God that we must receive, not in pride as someone who is special or unique, but as someone unworthy that is undeserving.  That truly is our state as humans.  We are sinners that are lost and on a path to eternal separation from God.  But because of His love, He has made a way.  It’s a free gift, but we must be careful that we “do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you”.  We’re not going to slip by on our own.  God isn’t allowing anyone to have eternal life with Him that is not righteous as He demands – Jew or Greek.

He knows all and is the only One who determines the future.  “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways”!  God is in control – has been since the Creation – and His ways are the only way.  When it comes to our righteousness, He knows we have already fallen short.  We can’t become righteous on our own.  We have to have a way to be set free from sin and the penalty associated with it.  That’s what the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus did – it provided a way for us to be set free from sin through God’s mercy and grace.

Truth of the matter is that we are toast without His provision of salvation through grace.  There is no other hope.  God has a plan, and it is perfect and free to all who will receive it.  But we must do exactly that – receive it fully and make it our own.  It is based on a relationship with the Savior – the Son of God who gave all that we might live.  That was God’s plan to set us free.  We serve an amazing God, and “from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever”. He is worthy of our praise.  He is our provider, and protector and the One who has given us hope through Christ our Lord!

Romans 10

Romans 10 has Paul explaining the truth of salvation.  We are saved by righteousness.  “Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them”.  In the time before Christ, righteousness was based on what people did – how they lived or the sacrificial system God had in place to free them from sin.  But then it all changed.  “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”.  We are no longer freed from the penalty of sin through the law.  It is now the shed blood of Christ that gives us righteousness through God’s grace – IF we believe.

What’s it look like to believe.  Paul makes it pretty simple – “if  you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.  Two simple steps to belief:

  • Confess Him as Savior
  • Believe in His power over death

There aren’t  a lot of hoops to jump through.  It all comes down to our basic being.  “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved”.  Heart and mouth – confess and believe – that’s what salvation is all about.

And it is the same for all.  There are no favorites in God’s plan for salvation.  “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him”.  God sees all His creation for what we are – sinners in need of a Savior.  And He had pity on us and provided us an answer because of His mercy and grace when He sent Jesus to die on the cross.  Because of that love, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.  Not some, not a few chosen, but everyone who receives Christ as Savior will be saved.  That’s a very open invitation to all mankind.  Believe and you can have eternal life.

Paul goes on to discuss the argument that some have not heard about Jesus.  In fact, that is certainly still the truth today.  But that alone is no excuse because God has made Himself known in many ways.  And the simplest way to know the truth of salvation is that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”.  We have the written Word that contains the formula for life and salvation.  Christ’s words are recorded for all mankind for all of history to read and know, and as we do, we can find faith that will lead us to Jesus and His saving grace.  God has a perfect plan to save us.  We simply need to seek and find it and make it our own.

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