Vs. 2, “I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.” Paul is writing the final greetings with Phoebe being the carrier of the letter to the Romans. But what is striking is the amount of believers that Paul is acquainted with (vs. 3-16). Question: How did Paul know all these people, yet never visited the Rome? There is some debate on this, but in the end we see how relational Paul was with others. The church in Rome was a growing church, but that didn’t mean they were going to be without troubles (vs. 17-20). Paul makes sure to warn the Romans to avoid and have nothing to do divisive and false teachers. We see a beautiful ending to Romans as Paul concludes by giving out shout out to those who were close to him.
Regarding application…Be Innocent. Vs. 19, “Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” Question: How do we be innocent in a world of evil? It amazes me how much innocence is lost these days. We live in a world where evil is increasing (Matthew 24:12). Young people are exposed to more and more sex, drugs, etc. The sexual innuendos on media (even in commercials) are understood quite clearly. I believe there is a grave danger in being too relevant in this world. We must live in this world to be a light and testimony, but we shouldn’t be like the world (Romans 12:1-2). When we encounter temptations, God always gives us a way out (I Cor. 10:13). Think of young Joseph when Potipher’s wife came to him. Turn to the good and set your mind on things above, not this world (Colossians 3:2). It’s not easy to avoid such things, but God has given us the game plan to win in His word and the relationship we have each day with the Lord Jesus!
Vs. 15, “I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me.” Isn’t that great? We are an absent-minded people. That is why it is so powerful to be encouraged by God’s Word and each other. In the first section of our chapter, Paul is continuing the topic of weak in strong from the previous chapter (vs. 1-6). And one of the applications of working with each other is accepting each other (vs. 7-13). Paul reached out to both Jew and Gentile, but God gave him a special heart for the Gentiles (vs. 16). While he wanted to go to seem them soon, Paul needed to take the offerings from the Gentile churches back to the mother church in Jerusalem (vs. 27). It’s so important to support what God is doing in His church!
Regarding application…Accepting One Another. Vs. 7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Question: Why would we accept each other? Because it simply brings praise to God! Of course, there are other motivating factors that need to be taken into account. We are instructed and commanded to love each other throughout Scripture. Additionally, in our passage today as well as Jesus’ prayer in John 17, we are to be unified. Question: Are you an accepting person? I would love to say I am, but we know it’s not easy to accept those who are different than us. Yesterday, I was guest speaking at a church and there was a new person who attended. He didn’t dress or act like the others. Myself and others reached out to him. But I wonder if I would have reached out to him if I wasn’t at church? There is world that needs to be accepted and loved. A place where they can go to call church their home. Let us do our part in accepting those who are different.
Vs. 2, “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” This certainly seems like an odd issue about the foods we eat, but it was actually quite divisive. The underlying problem was the fact that they were judging each other (vs. 13). Remember that the early church in Rome was made up of two main different cultures: Jews and Greeks (Gentiles). In theory, the walls were now broken down, but the cultures ran deep. Question(s): Who were the weak in faith? Who were the strong in faith? There is a bit of ambiguity concerning the interpretations of these two groups. However, The Jews held to very strict ways of eating and the Gentiles did not. The Jewish Christians took it to the extreme that if they didn’t know where the meat came from (i.e. pagan sacrificed meat sold in the local market), they would just abstain from meat all together. The Gentile Christians saw it as no big deal. Both were incorrectly judging others.
Regarding application…Making Every Effort. Vs. 19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Question: Giving effort for what? Edifying or building up others. In fact, we should do everything possible to build up rather than tear down. Just because it’s okay for you doesn’t mean it’s okay to do. I may love to drink a red wine for my steak dinner, but if I invite a Christian brother over who is dealing with alcoholism, that would be stumbling him. Our traditions and ways of doing things doesn’t always mean we should exercise it. So I caution all of us to be more aware of how others are affected by our ways. Have a blessed week and turn to the Lord’s word!
Vs. 1, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Question: Why is Paul exhorting us about obeying authority (vs. 1-7)? Seems possibly oddly placed! However, in the context of practical Christian living, there is a reason for this. One of the things we must bear in mind is this: They were all waiting for Jesus’ return. Two thousand years later we are still waiting, but they had no idea it would take this long. There was a tendency to throw caution to the wind and just avoid anything that had to do with the world. One of the extremes was not submitting to authorities. Paul wanted to ensure that as believers we still have a responsibility to be living testimonies. Remember, one of the overarching themes in Romans is the sovereignty of God. God is in control, even with human government. Sure, there are times when there are evil rulers and times when we must disobey a direct order of leaders if it goes against our faith. We read recently in Acts 5:29, where Peter declared, “We must obey God rather than men.” Paul then segues into reminding us of our ultimate responsibility is love (vs. 8-10). And lastly, Paul admonishes us to wake up from our spiritual slumber (vs. 11-14). The time in which we live has a sense of urgency and responsibility. We may not be perfect, but we must make every effort to live in such a way. It goes to the core of our hearts and intentions.
Regarding application…Debt of Love. Vs. 8, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” I think most of us can certainly concur with the understanding of what a debt is. Did you know that our country as of March 29th, 2012 is 15.589 trillion dollars in debt? I guess that makes my thousands of dollars in debt look like chump change. In reality, we are all in debt for something. Jesus paid the debt of the consequences of sin for us. Question: Can we pay Him back? There is nothing we can do to pay him back. However…we can honor Him by loving each other. Love is the fulfillment of the Law. Loving is the one debt we don’t stop trying to payoff. Question: Are you loving the Lord? Are you loving others? Let’s do this brothers and sisters.
Vs. 1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” It’s important to look at the word Therefore, it is word that lets the reader understand that there is now a transition. Paul shared with us some incredibly rich theology about the deeper things of God in the first eleven chapters. Question: So now what? Now it’s time to consider how do we make this Gospel apply to our lives. No matter the knowledge we attain, it doesn’t mean much if we do not do something about it. I love how Paul gives us insight in what Godly living in attitude and action looks like. The way we approach our relationship with the Lord, ourselves, the church, and our adversaries are all dealt with.
Regarding application…Hold On! Vs. 9, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” The word cling comes from the Greek word: κολλάομαι. This gives the understanding of unite, join, associate, hold on. We must hold on so tightly that we literally don’t want anything else. Question: What are you holding onto? Sure, there are the usual suspects; drugs, alcohol, immoral relationships, careers, money, etc. But, as I think deeper into this thought…these aforementioned things are but the tip of the iceberg. There are things deep in our hearts that we have a tendency to hold onto. When we hold onto our hurts, our low self-esteem, our selfishness, etc., we turn in shame to the things that are only temporary fixes. The transforming love of Christ is the one thing that we can hold onto that will not disappoint. So, in the midst of your current struggles with the world, exercise your spiritual life to hold on tightly to the Lord!
Vs. 6, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Earlier in chapter 9:6, Paul answered one of the questions that arose, “Has God’s word failed?” Not at all! God’s sovereignty and grace is not limited to how we interpret God. He is in control and thank the Lord that we do not have to make such huge decisions. But not only is God in control, He is faithful to His people Israel as well as Gentiles. And one day, God will bring all of Israel back to Him (vs. 26). Many scholars point to this chapter where Paul is teaching the understanding of Dispensationalism (God working in different ways in the Old Testament, New Testament, End times, etc…) Dispensationalism is a system of interpreting the Bible as God working through Israel and the Church. There are different forms of this belief and some have a more progressive view. But setting aside how we interpret this, Paul’s underlying message is clear: God is ever faithful.
Regarding application…Has God Forgotten? Vs. 1, “I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.” Question: Have there been moments in your life where you have felt forgotten? Where you didn’t feel valuable? Where you have felt rejected? I believe if we are all honest with our deep thoughts and hearts, we have felt way this even towards God. There have been moments in my own life where I have asked myself where I God in all of this? In the midst of the sadness in the world, has God forgotten us? Yet, in our deepest heart, God has implanted the knowledge of Him (Ecc. 3:11). We’ve been taught in Romans how we are without excuse (Romans 2:1). God has not forgotten us. Many years ago, we had a Youth Retreat up in Oregon and we had all piled in a van. We had our activities at a local lake/park and went back to the campsite. As we pulled out, in the rearview mirror, I saw two of my students running towards the van! We had forgotten them! Thankfully, everyone was okay and nothing horrible had transpired. While we can have forgetful minds, God never forgets us!
Vs. 9, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” A wonderful memory verse! This verse is a response to the context before it (vs. 1-5), for many were trying to attain righteousness apart from God (vs. 3). Question: What happens when we don’t submit to God? We create our own standard of righteousness (vs. 3). Paul of all people could comprehend the error of thinking for he was a Pharisee. Paul understanding the full light of Scripture quotes the Old Testament in the book of Joel (we read recently) and Isaiah. That is one of the many reasons why we should know the bible! Yet, many of the Jews were still hung up on their issues of pride for they could not understand how the Gospel was now given to all (vs. 18-21). Remember, God is sovereign and who are we to question His grace?
Regarding application…Do You Hear? Vs. 17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” The message was given to the Jews first and then the Gentile. But not everyone hears. The Lord sent His word out to all the world (vs. 18) as Paul quotes Psalms 19. Last semester, my theology course required us to memorize all of Psalm 19. I can see why Paul would think of this Psalm as he was building his case for the sovereignty of God. If you have the time, I encourage you to read that Psalm today. This aspect of hearing is not from our ears, but from our hearts. Question: Do you hear? God is calling us to Him. The more we hear, the more we can be a part of sharing this good news! Let the word of God dwell in you richly today!
Vs. 20, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?” It is only natural for us as His creation to ask and wonder about how God works. Paul uses this chapter to expound upon the sovereignty of God. Though God chose Israel to be a light to the world, sadly many of them had turned away from Him (vs. 1-5). Now, the church was also comprised of Gentiles and how would they be able to see God’s purposes from the Old Testament? The creator of the universe has every right to do whatever He pleases. Israel’s failure is not God’s failure (vs. 6). We see God’s sovereign control and choice with how God dealt with Isaac over Ismael and Jacob over Esau. It’s easy to think God is unjust, but who are we to question (vs. 14)? God knows our hearts and we trust His ways are better than ours. In the last part of our chapter, Paul uses OT Scripture to backup his point (vs. 24-29). Paul quotes the prophet Hosea whom we read recently to show the Gospel is for Gentiles. And he also quotes Isaiah that we read last year to show the Gospel is for Israel (at least those whom will turn to Him).
Regarding application…Mercy of God. Vs. 16, “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” Paul gives us a perspective we don’t look at too often. He challenges us to step back and look at God’s sovereign will over the centuries. Scripture as a whole is all part of a puzzle that is interwoven together to bring about a completion. The mercy of God is extended to all, but it’s our choice on whether we want to accept the mercy of God. Question: Why would anyone ever reject it? I suppose that’s one of those questions that never have an easy answer to. When I think about my own life, it starts to make a bit of sense. I have an adopted sister who happened to be nearly the same age as me. She lived a very difficult life before she was adopted into our family. I recall there were times when I felt slighted that so much attention and mercy was given to her. I was a bit jealous during those years. Yet, for my sister, she needed that extra amount of love and care. In the bigger picture, I think this is what can happen to many of us too. We want God’s mercy and love, but get jealous when we see it given so freely to others whom we think don’t deserve it. Our hearts can harden. Take time today to thank God for being an object of mercy rather than wrath. Also, pray if there is anyone in your life you can extend mercy too and reach out to them in love.
Vs. 1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This verse is a continuation from what Paul has been discussing the last couple of chapters. Therefore, in light of our old nature sin and flesh, we now have NO condemnation. Brothers and sisters, this chapter is one of the most amazing reminders of what God is offering to those who believe. Throughout this chapter, the Holy Spirit is mentioned numerous times to teach us that we are not alone in this life. We have a new power source. We are not controlled by our old nature (vs. 8). We can now call God our Father and know that we have a future with Him in His glory (vs. 15-17). Even though we suffer in our present world (vs. 18), The Holy Spirit intercedes for us (vs. 26), and God works for the good in all things (vs. 28). It was Romans 8:28, that was one of the very first verses that was shared to me and helped me find much comfort! And lastly, Paul addresses for us many of our own questions and doubts in our walk with the Lord. Question: What happens now? Can anything separate us from the promises of God’s provisions? Paul goes on to elaborate (vs. 35-39).
Regarding application…Nothing can separate You. Vs. 39, “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul lists sixteen things that cannot separate us and to ensure that nothing else is left out…he tell us nor anything else in all creation. Question: Do you know what this means? Nothing…absolutely, nothing will separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus! The last few chapters have all been about this topic of being sanctified (Holy) in the Lord. It’s a process that is not easy. While we are new creations, we sometimes avert back to our sinful tendencies. But God seals the hearts of those who believe in Him. Let that truth linger and fill your heart today. As you go about your work day, school day, family life…find the peace that Jesus leaves us. This peace is here because of the Jesus conquering death by the resurrection!
Vs. 24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Don’t fear, Jesus is here, He is resurrected…It’s Easter Sunday! The conquering of death on the cross through the resurrection gives us the ability to no longer be living under the old Mosaic Law. Paul uses the illustration of marriage to give us an example of a marriage whom the wife loses her husband (vs. 1-6). If the wife loses her husband, she is no longer bound to him. Illustrating how death can bring a new nature and relationship. Jesus death brought a fulfillment of the Law and grace. Our death brought a new way of life through the Holy Spirit (vs. 6). Paul makes sure to address a natural question that would arise in the church: is the Law sinful then (vs. 7-12)? The Law reveals our sin and in the grace of God we are able to overcome the result of our sin nature and have life in Christ. We then transition into a very difficult passage that many seem to not completely understand (vs. 13-25). Question: Is Paul talking about his life before Christ? Or is Paul talking about his life as a struggling Christian? There has been much debate concerning this passage. Upon deep study with this passage in Seminary and looking at the full context of the Bible, I hold the belief that Paul is referring to his life before Christ. Question: Does this mean that we as Christians no longer struggle with sin? We still live in a sinful physical body so it still knows how to sin (Douglas Moo). But, we now have power from the Spirit to say “no” and flee from temptation (I Cor. 10:13). In Hebrews, we are exhorted to train ourselves to be Godly (Hebrews 4:7).
Regarding application…Jesus Saves. Vs. 25a, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” In tomorrow’s passage, we will be expounding upon what Jesus’ power does for us. But in light of this difficult passage on sin and our struggles, it is Jesus who can and does change us. He saves us. We were once dead to sin and dying. We tried to be good on our own, but no Law or human law could make us right. When I was in 2nd grade, I wrote a full page of New Years resolutions. Why? Because, I began to realize how bad I was. How I wasn’t good to my mom. How I could be nicer to my sisters and brother. So, in my human effort, I had hoped these resolutions would solve my problems. But, my desire to be good lasted only a short while and I reverted back to my old self. That is why we need Jesus. As we celebrate our risen King, bring thanksgiving to Him today!