Romans 16

Vs. 16, “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.”  In an unprecedented list (twenty-seven people), Paul encourages the church in Rome to greet each warmly (vs. 1-16) with a holy kiss.  Numerous people are given honor for their love and devotion to the Lord.  This reveals the type of person Paul was when it came to building deep friendships.  He certainly appreciated others.  In the next section of our closing chapter (vs. 17-20), Paul reminds the church in Rome that not everyone was to receive such a friendly greeting.  It’s quite notable the action on to which Christians should take regarding false teachers and people of ulterior motives; avoid them (vs. 17).  And lastly, Paul gives some ending “shout outs” to a few people before ending with a beautiful benediction (vs. 21-27).

Regarding application…Innocent about Evil?  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.”  There is some irony from Paul because earlier he had just warned everyone to be mindful of evil ways (vs. 17-18).  Question: What does Paul mean by this?  Remember that Rome was like any modern-day metropolitan city.  I live in the greater Los Angeles area and there is always the danger to get caught up in the glitz and glamor.  Unlike the small farming town I grew up in, evil is much more prominent and in your face in the big city.  The point is: we don’t always have to experience evil to know to stay away from it.  Though we have witnessed evil in history and sometimes before our very eyes, we would be wise not to get caught up in it.  When I wanted to be a police officer, I used to get intrigued on reading real life crime stories.  But, it was quite disturbing and I realized that some evil is best to stay away from.  This is what I believe Paul was conveying to us.

Romans 15

Vs. 5, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.”  Question: Why should we be willing to humble ourselves to please another?  Because Jesus did not come to earth to be served, but to serve others (vs. 1-7).  If Christians are making sacrifices to not cause others to stumble by their dietary practices; how much more of a sacrifice did Jesus make on the cross?  Paul continues to share evidence that the Gospel (though given first to the Jew) was always intended to go out amongst the Gentiles (vs. 8-13).  I love how Paul opens up Scripture and teaches us from God’s revealed word!  Paul’s closing words span the rest of the next two chapters.  Question: Why so long?  Remember, Paul had neither planted or visited the church in Rome.  He wanted to ensure they understood God’s purpose in using him to encourage a church he does not yet know (vs. 14-24).  Paul did not want them to be ignorant of the mission God had called him to (vs. 25-33).  The church in Jerusalem was poor and struggling.  Paul’s goal by planting new churches in the Gentile regions was to muster enough of an offering to bring relief for them.  There is something special about supporting each other that brings people closer together.

Regarding application…Boasting in Christ.  Vs. 18, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done.”  There is a tendency to see this as conceited, however I have an example.  Take for instance; You are participating in the challenge of climbing a ropes course.  The daunting challenge is climbing a ladder with rungs spaced out far from each other.  The only way you can do it is to have a partner.  If the two of you make it to the top;  no unselfish person is going to claim how great they are for achieving this on their own.  Paul was boasting how Jesus was the one who helped him achieve his goal.  If Jesus is the second person, He could easily make it to the top on His own.  But, Paul realized that any achievement was because Jesus had helped him the whole way.  That is not boasting in the human way of understanding; it is giving props to the Lord!  As Thanksgiving weekend is still fresh in our minds, let us remember who it is we should ultimately be thankful to!

Romans 14

Vs. 13, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”  Paul did not want to end his letter to the Romans without discussing some of their division.  Because the church in Rome encompassed both Jew and Gentile, interpretations on faithful living were sure to come (vs. 1-3).  Both groups needed to stop trying to prove they were in the right; the strong were those who realized their freedom in Christ, while the weak were those who held on to their old legalistic ways.  The only one we must submit to is the Lord Jesus (vs. 4-9).  In the end, we as believers will all stand before the judgment seat (vs. 10-12) and be accountable for our actions.   Paul then admonishes the believers to make every effort to be of encouragement to each other (vs. 13-23).  They were to not only accept their differences, but make efforts to accommodate each other.  Both had things to work on regarding interpersonal relationships and growing in knowledge of the Lord.

Regarding application…Accommodating Others.  Vs. 19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”  I think this is one of the big challenges of our church today.  We all have different personal and cultural backgrounds.  While food was a big issue in the early church, I think we deal with our own issues today.  For example, our conversations at church should be thoughtful towards others.  I think we’ve all been in a group setting where there may be two or three outsiders who don’t get the inward jokes and past reminiscing.  Rather than thoughtlessly carry on, we as believers should steer the conversation where everyone can be involved.  Think about ways you can be more accommodating towards others in the church, work, and home.

Romans 13

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.” It seems out of place for Paul to address the topic of submission to government (vs. 1-7).  Yet, Paul had to address this topic because there was the danger of some who felt there was now no need to submit to ungodly governments.  It is important for us to remember that God is sovereignly in control.  It’s also essential to look at this with the broader context of the Bible.  The only time we have the green light to rebel is when human government is in direct defiance against God’s will.  Take for example when Peter and John disobeyed the Sanhedrin’s command to remain silent (Acts 4 & 5).  Paul transitions well from exhorting us to pay our debts to realizing the debt of love is a continuing one (vs. 8-10).  It is love for God and others that will be represent the spirit of the law.  Paul ends our chapter (vs. 11-14) with a strong exhortation to remember that our time is limited.  We should not so easily linger and procrastinate in living out our faith.

Regarding application…Wake Up!  Vs. 11, “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”  The temptation every morning for many is to hit the “Snooze” button!  But, Paul really gives us that sense of urgency to wake up from our spiritual slumber.  The world is going to live in darkness and sin (vs. 13), but the night is nearly over (vs. 12).  Paul’s admonishment could very well apply in our lives today.  There is growing danger for Christians because access to living in sin is so easy now (clubs, internet, love of money, etc.).  I like how Paul tells us after we wake up we must clothe ourselves with Jesus.  What powerful reminder as we live our lives daily!  Question: Are you awake?

Romans 12

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.”  If Paul’s letter to the Romans was like my quiet time reflection format; the last four chapters would be the “regarding application.”  Paul took us down a road of deep understanding and theology in the first eleven chapters.  Paul now gives us practical ways we can take the deep things of God and apply it to our lives.  Because of God’s great mercy, we are able to offer our lives unto Him (vs. 1-2).  Just as Jesus was obedient to the Father, we too follow the same path.  The church in Rome would be most effective when everyone (Jew and Gentile) were working together as one (vs. 3-16).  Each of us has received at least one gift to serve the body.  It’s also important to remember Paul’s encouragement to the church in Corinth about elevating one gift above another (I Corinthians 12).  When the church comes together, the ingredient that binds us is love.  In the midst of living for God, there will be antagonists and enemies that will rise up (vs. 17-24).  We must remember that it is God who will repay evil.  Our task is to represent Jesus’ love.

Regarding application…Humble Living.  Vs. 16, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”  What a challenge for the church today!  None of us are immune to the dangers of division.  I mentioned spiritual pride yesterday, and the same thought comes to mind today.  Question: Are we humbly living our lives?  The test that we can administer to ourselves is asking if we tend to think our way is the best way.  While our particular way could be best for us, it’s not always about ourselves.  When we live in community, we must remember that there are others involved.  I’m quite convicted myself as I ponder how I approach ministry from a younger generation vs. older, from a Korean-American culture vs. Korean culture, etc.  Take time in your day to consider how you can specifically live in harmony with others in your church.

Romans 11

Vs. 5, “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.”  Previously, we read that Israel has stumbled over the rock of Christ (Romans 9:33).  The nation has chosen to turn away from God’s promises.  However, God did not abandon the Israelites in their Paul’s present time.  There would be a remnant (vs. 1-10) of people that still trusted in God.  Some had felt that God had forsaken the Jews, but Paul wanted to make sure they understood that was certainly not the case.  In fact, God would use their hardened hearts to bring salvation to the Gentiles and return the Israelites back to Him as the future unfold (vs. 11-24).  God will use the church and eventually, the remnant of Israel will return when Christ comes back!  Paul uses two imageries (dough and olive tree) to illustrate God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel.  The olive tree is a important reminder to both Jew and Gentile that the boasting and arrogance against each other needs to stop.  Paul elaborates on the mystery of God’s salvation plan (vs. 25-36).  God chose Israel to be a blessing to all nations and that is at work even today.  But, He has not forgotten Israel. There are differing interpretations regarding what Paul meant when he stated, “all Israel will be saved” (vs. 26).  I believe that Paul is talking about the Jews who are living and put their faith in Jesus when He returns.  In closing (vs. 33-36), all Paul could do now is to share a song of praise for God’s sovereignty!

Regarding application…Spiritual Pride.  Vs. 18, “do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.”  Paul was speaking in the context of Jews and Gentiles attitudes towards each other.  There was a danger in the early church for division with the two groups.  While the Gentile were growing in faith, they needed to remember that the root (Israelite patriarchs) was the reason that salvation also came to them.  When I think about the church today, an easy comparison is the older generation vs. the younger generation.  There is always the danger for spiritual pride and superiority when it comes to how we live and grow in the church.  The differences in culture can be nearly like that of Jew and Gentile.  The older generation of the church has their ways of doing worship, serving, etc. while the younger generation has new ways of doing things.  Let us not fall into this prideful way of thinking.  Take time this week to be thankful for our differences and support each other in the church!

Romans 10

Vs. 12, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.”  This was an important truth that everyone in the Church of Rome needed to understand; the Gospel is for all.  Though Paul had some tough admonishments to give to his own people, he had a deep love for the Jews who had rejected Christ thus far.  Question: Why?  Because Paul had lived just like them prior to the road to Damascus.  He knew they were zealous for doing what was right, but had forgotten the original intent (vs. 1-4).  Little did they realize that the law pointed them towards Jesus (vs. 5-13).  They needed to get over the fact that the blessings of Abraham’s covenant had always included all nations (Genesis 12).  Unlike the rigorous old covenant laws, Jesus was offering them salvation by simply confessing and believing.  And lastly (vs. 14-21), Paul took the time to share some OT passages to prove to the validity of his statements.  This is a wonderful reminder how important the Old Testament is to our lives.

Regarding application…Hearing the Message.  Vs. 17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  Paul is referring to the Gospel truth of Christ.  Today, I preached from Matthew 13 regarding the Parable of the Sower.  Jesus reminds the crowds “He who has hears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9.  God has given us the message through His word (seed) and through the testimonies of others.  Question: How are we going to respond?  When I preach to my church members, it’s always interesting watching the reactions of those in the congregation.  Some are listening quite intently, while others seem to be in far away place (daydreaming, or tired from a long weekend).  We can’t control the response of others, just like Paul couldn’t control the response of the Jews.  But, that did not deter him from preaching the Gospel to them.  Likewise, we not only should respond to the message, but also be the voice sharing the message!

Romans 9

Vs. 8, “In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”  Some have been confused to Paul’s thoughts as we enter this chapter.  One of the things we want to remember is that Paul was a Jew who had strong ties and love for his people.  But, God also put in him a calling to share the Gospel to the Gentiles.  At this point, there were many Jews who still had a hard time reconciling the God of the old covenant to the transition in believing the prophecies came true in Jesus and the church age.  God was at work from the beginning by choosing the Israelites, but the Gospel was for all.  It seems the tables have turned and the receptive Gentiles now had a bit of swagger.  But, Paul wanted to remind everyone both Jew and Gentile each has had fair chance.  As wonderful as God’s unfailing love is, there is much heartache in the realization of those who do not respond (vs. 1-13).  In the end, God’s ways are higher than our ways (vs. 14-18).  It is slippery slope we walk on to decry that God is not just and question to him (vs. 19-29).  In the end of our chapter, we are reminded that salvation does not come from what we do, but faith (vs. 30-33).

Regarding application…Mercy of God.  Vs. 16, “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”  We are going to have our questions about life.  We are going to have our questions to God about why certain things transpired in our own lives or the lives of others; some will be answered, some will have to wait.  Yet, it is the overarching mercy of God that rests on His creation.  It was mercy that we were not destroyed after the garden.  It was mercy that we are given life.  It was mercy that God sent His one and only Son.  We are objects of mercy, but God cannot force our hearts to respond to him.  I believe Paul pointing out Pharaoh’s harden heart (vs. 17) is a stark reminder of what happens when we turn from the mercy of God.  Take time today revel in God’s mercy and let it be a reminder not to take for granted the life and opportunities to serve Him and love others.

Romans 8

Vs. 1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Personally for me, this is one of my most favorite chapters in the Bible!  There is truth that resounds and rises above this dark world: we are new creations (vs. 1-13).  The old sinful nature from our previous chapter no longer has reign in our lives.  God offers a new life through the law of the Spirit rather than the law of sin and death.  Because of this truth, we are bound by the Spirit to live a new life and put away our old life (vs. 12-13).  The next section is very dear to me (vs. 14-17, 23), because it outlines the reality of us being adopted by God as sons and daughters.  Though we hold a precious promise, we must remember that we will not be immune to suffering (vs. 18-30).  In the midst of our struggles, God will provide for us and prayerfully intercede for us through the Holy Spirit (vs. 26-27).  In the midst of those questions we might have, Paul reminds us that God works for the good of those who love him (vs. 28-30).  The end of our chapter (vs. 31-39) is one of the most powerful passages that give the security we have as believers!  Because we are more than conquerors through Christ, Paul goes on to list 16 specific things that cannot separate us from the Lord.  And if that wasn’t enough, he adds one more “nor anything else in all creation.” (vs. 39) just to make sure we get the point.

Regarding application…Nothing Can Separate!  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.”  Brothers and sisters, it is so important to know that we have the assurance of salvation.  It is an incredibly sad thing to live a Christian life in fear that you could lose your salvation.  There are just a few passages that are unclear regarding possible loss of salvation.  But there are far more like our chapter today, that clearly show the assurance of salvation.  My professor at seminary stated, “clear passages interpret unclear passages” Because the clear ones far outnumber the unclear.  Outside of the unpardonable sin (Matthew 12) of not believing Jesus in the first place, there is nothing that can separate us.  Hold onto this promise for God’s love is unfailing!

Romans 7

Vs. 4, “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.”  Paul uses another illustration to elaborate on understanding law and grace: marriage (vs. 1-6).  The only thing that can release another from marriage is death.  Likewise, the only thing that can release another from the old covenant law is death.  Practically speaking, it is the believer that dies (vs. 1, 4) so that this death can bring freedom from the law.  When Jesus came into the scene, he offers a new relationship, which supersedes the previous one.  Question: Is the law sinful?  This was one of the dangers that Paul knew would come up, so he addresses this (vs. 7-12).  God’s law is holy and perfect (vs.12), but it was sin that corrupted the hearts that received the law.  No matter how much a person strived to live by the law, their sinful nature was at work.  Paul ends this chapter with quite a vivid picture of the struggle with sin (vs. 13-25).  I took a course at Seminary that went in-depth to understanding what Paul is describing in this passage.  It’s important to note that Paul is describing his previous life while under the law.  We will understand this more when we read Romans 8.

Regarding application…A New Way!  Vs. 6, “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”  We are not released from obedience to God, but we are released from the penalties of God’s law!  If we were a vehicle, it would be like going from gas powered to solar powered.  Gas is limited and constantly needs to be refueled (law).  But, a car powered by solar is always going to have the sun as an unlimited source.  As Christians, our sun is the Son of God!  Going along with the illustration, as vehicles, we still need to abide by the traffic laws.  It’s just that we are being powered by a new way through the Spirit.