The Gospel of God
Paul wrote this letter in AD 57 to the Christians in Rome. He wrote it during his third missionary journey while he was in Corinth. He had never been to Rome nor seen these Christians, to whom he wrote, but he had prayed for them and he longed to see them. Rom. 1:9-10 Paul hoped to go first to Jerusalem after leaving Corinth, and then on to Rome and Spain. We know from what’s written about him in Acts that he did go to Jerusalem and was arrested there. After a couple of years in prison he did go to Rome as a prisoner of the Roman Empire. I’m sure it was not the way Paul had envisioned his visit to Rome, but it was God’s way of getting him there, where he had great opportunities to witness to Caesar’s household. Acts 28:30-31
I. Theme and important emphases
A. The theme of this letter is the GOSPEL – God’s plan of salvation for both Jews and Gentiles. The letter to the Romans is “the most comprehensive and systematic statement of the Christian faith in the Bible”. Paul wrote the letter to the Roman Christians as a theological introduction to his hoped-for visit. Because Paul was such an intelligent man with high education, it is not the easiest book in the Bible to understand. Even Peter wrote that sometimes Paul’s wisdom made his writings difficult to fully comprehend. II Peter 3:15-16 But since the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write this wonderful letter, we know that the same Holy Spirit will help us to understand it.
B. We can learn a lot about the major emphases in someone’s writing by noticing what words he uses the most. So when we apply this method to Romans, we find that the primary emphasis is on sin. The word “sin” appears 67 times in this book. But we know that Paul did not just want to point out our sinfulness, even though he does that very effectively. The application of the gospel to our lives is the way to righteousness. So we find the words “righteous” and “righteousness” used 43 times. Of course, they come from the root word “right”. So someone who is righteous is right, not wrong. A third important emphasis is on justification. The words “justify” and “justification” are used 15 times. Justify means to absolve of guilt or pronounce “not guilty”. Someone has defined it like this: if I am justified by God it’s “just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned’. In justification by faith, God declares us “not guilty” because of our faith in Jesus’ death for us.
Read Rom. 1:1-7
II. Set apart for the gospel
A. Paul introduces himself as 1.) a servant of Christ Jesus; 2.) an apostle who has been called by Christ; 3.) a set-apart one. Paul was not a self-made man. He was chosen by Christ to serve. He was called by Christ to be an apostle. He was set apart by Christ for the gospel. How different this is from those who climb the ladder pf the pastorate to finally become the one on top whom the Chuukese call “Juan Peron”, and we call “Head Pastor”. God’s call to Paul through Ananias included the opportunity to witness to kings, but also the opportunity to suffer for Christ’s name. Acts 9:15-16 Paul called himself “the least of the apostles” in
I Cor. 15:9. Today we think of him as the greatest of the apostles.
B. To what was Paul set apart? He was set apart for the gospel. What is this gospel? 1.) It was promised through the prophets as recorded in God’s Word. They may not have fully understood what they were inspired to write, but now the veil has been removed and we can see clearly parts of the gospel in Isa. 53, Psa. 22, Micah 5:2, and many other scriptures. 2.) This gospel centers on God’s Son. In fact, it is His Son! Now Paul clearly defines the dual nature of Christ. He was a man. As to his human nature he was a descendant of David. This was one of the prophesied aspects of the coming Messiah. David’s line would continue forever through his Son who would come. Psa. 89:35-37
C. But Jesus is not only David’s son. He is God’s Son as well. How do we know that Jesus is God? He was declared to be the Son of God by the Spirit of holiness. How did the Holy Spirit declare Him to be God? He declared it with power by the resurrection from the dead. The resurrection was the theme of the apostles’ teaching because it was the conclusive proof of Christ’s divinity. Jesus’ genealogy proved that He was indeed the Son of David. Jesus’ resurrection proved that He was indeed the Son of God. Paul also alludes to the Trinity here when he mentions God, His Son and the Holy Spirit. He identifies Jesus by His name and title: “Jesus Christ our Lord”. He is Jesus, a man; Christ, the promised Messiah; and our Lord, God the Son.
III, Called to be saints
A. It was through this Jesus and for His name’s sake that Paul was called. Jesus Himself appeared to him on the road to Damascus and then the Lord sent Ananias to tell Paul what his calling involved. Paul describes his call here: “We received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith”. Without God’s grace Paul would have been only a blasphemer and a murderer of Christians. God extended His grace to him and gave him the exalted responsibility of being an apostle. But He also promised him suffering. Paul’s job was to call people from among the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. There is no obedience without faith and no true faith without obedience.
B. The gospel is the message of God’s grace extended through the sacrifice of His Son. But it is of no value to us unless we, by faith, turn from our sin to obey and follow Him. Paul now addresses the Roman Christians personally, saying that they also were among those who were called to belong to Jesus Christ. He is writing to all at Rome “who were loved by God” and “called to be saints”. This is the definition of a Christian. He is loved by the God who sent His Son. John 3:16 And he is called by God to be a “saint”. A saint is simply a holy, set apart, sanctified person whom God has loved and saved – not some dead person whom the Pope has canonized. It is to the true saints that grace and peace comes from our great Trinitarian God.
Read Rom. 1:8-13
IV. Paul’s longing to visit Rome
A. Paul is about to get into a very serious and honest portrayal of mankind’s degradation. But first he greets the true believers in Rome with love and commendation, expressing his thanks to God for them. Why? Because their faith had been reported all over the world. They had a good testimony for Jesus. I hope our faith, too, is reported to others, encouraging them to give their hearts to Christ. Paul could say that he was serving God with his whole heart. I hope we can say the same. Once again Paul’s prayer life comes into focus as it does in his other letters. He writes that he constantly remembers them at all times in his prayers. Now he hoped to follow up his prayers by going to see them.
B. Why did Paul want to go to Rome to see them? He said that he wanted to impart to them some spiritual gift to make them strong. He wanted to strengthen them spiritually. He wasn’t talking about giving them some power or anointing that he alone could give, like the false teachers promise today. He adds then, “that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”. Paul doesn’t see himself as a Pope figure, but as a fellow Christian. As Christians we must be willing to both give and receive from our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Paul had planned many times to go to Rome but had been prevented. Our times are in God’s hands. Psa. 31:15a We have to allow Him to choose for us even though at times He may choose hardship and suffering.
Read Rom. 1:14-17
V. Not ashamed
A. Paul felt that he was obligated to preach the gospel to Both Greeks and non-Greeks. He was in Corinth with Greeks when he wrote this, but he was praying and planning to go to Rome. The Romans to whom he wrote were non-Greeks. It’s interesting that here Paul writes about 2 classes of Gentiles. Usually in his letters he mentioned Jews and Gentiles. Next he classifies them as wise and foolish. The Greeks were considered wise because the great philosophers were Greeks. They liked nothing better than to argue about the world and various ideas about our existence, as Paul found when he was in Athens, Greece. Acts 17:21 Paul had a heart for Jews and Gentiles, educated and uneducated, wise and foolish, slave and free. He was eager to preach the gospel to all of them, including those in Rome.
B. Paul’s testimony is verse 16. Is it ours? Paul’s consuming desire was to preach the gospel. He wanted them to know that no matter where he was he would not be ashamed of the gospel. To be ashamed of the gospel is to be ashamed of Jesus Christ – His incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection. Imagine being ashamed of a person who has suffered and died for you! What a terrible thing! Then add to that the dimension that He is God! Imagine being ashamed of the One who created you and then died for you! Sometimes we seem to be ashamed of the gospel because we aren’t eager to tell it to others. We are ashamed of Christ if we don’t try to introduce Him to the people around us.
C. Paul was proud of the gospel because he knew that it was the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. Paul sounds like he is discriminating when he writes, “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” But that wasn’t Paul’s idea. It was God’s idea to first reconcile His chosen people and then through them to reconcile the rest of the world. And Paul is the perfect example of a redeemed Jew who was sent out to rescue Gentiles. We are not saved only for ourselves. We are also saved for others. And if we are not sharing the Good News, it shows that we are ashamed of it and of Christ.
D. “In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed.” How can those who are sinners be righteous? It is only through the substitutionary death of the very Son of God. We cannot rid ourselves of sin; we cannot overcome our evil nature; we cannot be good enough to counterbalance our evil. In fact, we are “without hope and without God in this world”. Eph. 2:12b Righteousness cannot be purchased or earned. It must be received as a gift from a gracious God. And how do we receive it? By faith! Some think that once they have received the gift, their part is done. It’s not! Salvation is by faith from first to last! There can be no end of faith. It must remain active till the last.
Paul concludes this testimony of his by quoting the Prophet Habakkuk who wrote his prophecy 2600 years ago. In Hab. 2:4b the prophet wrote: “The righteous will live by his faith.” This is not written about sinners who are saved by faith, but about those who are already righteous, having received God’s gift of righteousness by faith. In other words, Christians must live till the last by their faith. Another translation reads, “ The righteous shall live from faith to faith.” It means going from one step of faith to another. Each day must be a day of walking in faith, trusting God to help us through that day. If we think we can make it on our own, we will be bitterly disappointed. Let’s remember the song each day: “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”
God Gave Them Over
In our last lesson we learned about the theme of Romans which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Savior. We found the major emphases to be “sin”, “righteousness” and “justification”. Paul identified himself as a servant, an apostle, and a set-apart one. He was called by God to preach the gospel especially to the Gentiles. Paul had done that in many places, but he longed to do the same in Rome. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because he knew that it was the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The righteousness from God that is revealed in the gospel is by faith. This faith is from first to last. And so those who are true Christians are saved by faith and live by faith every day. This is the truth that changed Martin Luther’s life and made him the leader of the Protestant Reformation.
Read Rom. 1:18-20
I. The wrath of God
A. After defining the Good News of which he is not ashamed – salvation for all who believe – Paul describes the “Bad News”. The gospel is God’s grace extended to mankind in the Person of His Son. The opposite of grace is wrath! Just as the righteousness from God is revealed in the gospel, so also the wrath of God is being revealed. The God of love and mercy is also the God of justice and wrath. Why do we need this salvation and justification? Why do we need to be righteous? Because if we continue in our sin, we are under God’s terrible wrath. Col. 3:6 God hates the godlessness and wickedness of men. If you are godless, you believe, live and act as if there were no God to whom you have to give an account someday. This is why many people choose to believe in evolution because it lets them forget about God and take Him out of the picture.
B. These men are not only personally wicked. They also suppress the truth. They deny and cover up the truth, teaching the children to believe in evolution instead of God. Men are doing this in every avenue of life these days – in the world and in the church. The truth about God is being hidden and denied by wicked people. But we may wonder: if they are godless and wicked, is it because they have never known the truth? Paul writes that what may be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain. In the judgment they will probably claim ignorance, but God will remind them that He has made Himself plain to them. How? Through His creation and their conscience.
C. God’s invisible qualities can be clearly seen by anyone. How? Any thinking person can know that only a God with almighty power and wisdom could design and sustain this amazing universe. All we have to do is examine the smallest creature – a bug or flower or our finger – to understand that there has to be a great mind behind it – much greater than ours. This is why the theory of evolution is such an insidious evil. Because God can be somehow “seen” in His creation, the devil has separated God from His creation in the minds of men, so that they don’t “see” God in what He has made. Every day I am led to worship God just by looking at the amazing things He has made. The devil is robbing men and God of that worship. Because they can understand God’s eternal power & divine nature from creation, men will be without excuse when they face God. Psa. 19:1-6
Read Rom. 1:21-25
II. Sinful desires
A. So men have had the chance to actually know God, at least in the sense of knowing something about His power and divinity. Even though they knew about Him they did not treat Him as God – worshipping, glorifying and thanking Him for all He had done. I believe in every culture men have known that there is an Almighty God but they have set Him aside to worship other creatures, things, demons, and even themselves. And so their foolish hearts were darkened. Without the truth there is no light. This describes atheists, evolutionists, idolaters, and every other form of religion. They have made up their own theories and worshipped themselves and their “creations”. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for something else. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” I Cor. 1:20
B. The world is still full of images that are worshipped: chief among them, the image of Mary and of Buddha. Now many of the false teachers are giving the glory to the one made in the image of God – man! They teach that man is a little god. When you “exchange the glory of God” for something or someone else, you also “exchange the truth of God for a lie” v.25. And what is the result? It results in degenerate people who become more and more depraved. It is clear that what we believe about God and our commitment or lack of commitment to Him affects our moral character. We become what we believe in. If we rule God out of our lives we become fools who live only for ourselves and our sinful desires.
C. What does God do as a result of our foolishness? We read the terrible words, “God gave them over”. This is repeated 3 times in these verses. First, “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts”. v. 24 Second, “God gave them over to shameful lusts”. v. 26 Third, “God gave them over to a depraved mind”. v. 28 It’s as if God takes His hands off and says, “Go ahead if that’s what you want.” What did men want to do? What did God give them over to do? We see the progression here. It all starts with sinful desires in our hearts. James 1:14-15 If we don’t curb those desires they become shameful lusts. That’s why pornography is so serious. Finally if we continue on that path we end up with depraved minds. And where does this all start? It begins with worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator Who should be forever praised.
Read Rom. 1:26-27
III. Shameful lusts
A. So God gave up on them and gave them over to what they wanted: “sinful desires”, “shameful lusts” and “a depraved mind”. It’s interesting to me that there is a direct link between taking God off the throne and sexual sin. I guess that’s why in many places the worship of idols is connected with prostitutes as it was in Ephesus and Corinth. Often, as in India, it leads to the abuse of young girls and boys. The missionary, Amy Carmichael, spent her life in India rescuing children who had been sold by their parents to the priests for the “use” of the worshippers of the idols in the temples. If God is not God in our lives, then Satan and his demons will be! And Satan loves to help us in our shameful lusts so that we bring down the image of our glorious God in us to something disgusting.
B. It’s the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as recorded in the Bible. And it’s the sin of the Roman Empire as recorded in history. Sodom and Gomorrah were burned to ashes and the great Roman Empire fell. It’s also the sin we are seeing more and more in our world today, as we follow in the steps of the Sodomites and the Romans. It’s so amazing that when men turn away from God they inevitably go into the degradation of perverted sex. And so we have here the picture of lesbianism and homosexuality. Lev. 20:13 God was the One who invented love between a man and a woman. But when it turns to lust it is ugly. Lust says that the body is the most important part of us. Then it takes what is beautiful and desirable and degrades it to the level of animals or below. Even animals are not homosexual!
C. Notice that it is not only the act of homosexuality that is sinful. It is the lust that prompts the act. That’s why we have to guard our hearts against pornography, whether it’s in movies, on TV, the Internet, in books or magazines. How could this vile sin become so common in our world? It’s exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones. It becomes possible because they “exchange the truth of God for a lie”. Satan always perverts truth into lies and so he perverts the sexual love of marriage into lust and degradation. This lifestyle, Paul writes, causes them to receive in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. This would include their emotional and societal problems, as well as diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea and AIDs, often with terrible suffering for the sinner, and danger to others. We cannot get away with spitting in the face of God!
Read Rom. 1:28-32
IV. A depraved mind
A. A depraved mind is corrupt, wicked, perverted and immoral. Paul writes that they didn’t think that it was worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God. That means that they had that knowledge but refused to keep it, since God was not important to them. If we don’t retain the knowledge of God and commit to follow and obey Him, the natural outcome will be a depraved mind that follows our sinful nature and the devil’s ideas. If you drive God out of your thoughts and your life, demons will take His place. The wholesome, clean mind then becomes a depraved mind. Depraved minds of depraved people caused God to wipe out mankind – all but Noah’s family – with a flood. Gen. 6:5 What are the evidences and fruit of a depraved mind? That mind is full, but not of God’s Word, God’s love, and the Holy Spirit. Instead it becomes filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. Greed is lust. We usually think of it as lust for money but it can also be lust for power, things or men or women.
B. Paul gives a long list of all the kinds of wickedness that a depraved mind thinks up. 1.) Envy or jealousy that leads to all kinds of trouble. 2.) Murder is the result of greed, envy and lust. 3.) Strife takes the place of peace where God is forsaken. 4.) Deceit is Satan’s tool and it becomes characteristic of his followers. 5.) Malice results from hatred and incites people to take revenge. People with depraved minds become: 6.) Gossipers. This seems like a less serious sin, but how often Satan uses it to destroy Christians and churches. II Cor. 12:20 7.) Slanderers. Gossip degenerates into slander which is actually murdering a person’s reputation with your tongue. 8.) God-haters. The love of evil turns people into haters of God. The next 3 go together. Usually when someone is boastful he is also insolent and arrogant. An arrogant, boastful person will be without respect or decency toward others.
C. These people disobey their parents. If this seems less serious than the others, we have to remember that those who disobey parents usually also disobey teachers, policemen, and God! Paul now uses 4 “less” words to describe people with depraved minds. They are senseless – without good sense. They are faithless – not faithful. They are heartless – with no heart of love or kindness. They are ruthless – cruel and mean. What a picture of an ugly person. These people know God’s righteous decree. Even if they have not read Rom. 6:23, in their consciences they know that those who do such things deserve death. Does this stop them? NO! In fact, they not only continue to do them, but also approve of and encourage others who are doing the same things. Psa. 50:18
The Holy Spirit has not painted a pretty picture for us in this chapter, But it is an honest picture of what happens to those who choose to “suppress the truth”, who “claim to be wise” when actually they are fools, who “exchange the glory of the immortal God for images”, who “exchange the truth of God for a lie”, who “exchange natural relations for unnatural ones”, and who “do not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God.” When we choose lies instead of truth and Satan instead of God we lose all the wonderful things God has planned for us. But the Lord has given us a will with which to choose, and He will give us over to our choices, even though it will break His heart. How can we do this to the God who loves us? Let us choose to follow our Lord and His Word of Truth, remembering the quotation that was used at Pastor Simpson’s Memorial Service. “Only one life; twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
The Law, Circumcision and God’s Judgment
The last time we found Paul describing the “Bad News” in contrast to the Good News of the gospel. The bad news, we found, was that the God of grace is also the God of wrath against those who are not only personally wicked, but also suppress the truth from others. Because they don’t want God in their lives, He will give them over to what they want! So He gives them over to their sinful desires, their shameful lusts and finally to a totally depraved mind. We can trace how this has happened in history. God sent a flood to wipe out every human being except Noah and his family. Why? “Every inclination of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil all the time.” Gen. 6:5 We saw it in the judgment on Sodom & Gomorrah because of their sin and homosexuality. We saw it in the downfall of the Roman Empire for the same sins. All of this takes place when men choose to “exchange the truth of God for a lie.”
Read Rom. 2:1-4
I. Passing judgment on others
A. This chapter is a severe warning to Jews as it contrasts faithful, believing Gentiles with unfaithful Jews. Paul brings up some shocking assertions about circumcision and the law. I can see why the Jews hated him so violently. They were proud of and totally dependent on circumcision and the law to raise them far above the level of everyone else in the world. Paul pulls away the veil to reveal that though they were physically circumcised, they were uncircumcised in their hearts. And though they knew the law, they were breakers of the law. He wrote that some Gentiles were ahead of them because without physical circumcision they were carrying out the requirements of the law which were written on their hearts.
B. Now for the second time Paul writes that people have no excuse. What people? Those who pass judgment on others while doing the same things. If we do that we are actually condemning ourselves. God’s judgment will fall on those who do evil – and His judgment is based on truth. Many times ours is not. It’s like calling another person a gossiper while gossiping about her. This is the kind of judgment Jesus condemned in Matt. 7:1-5. If we truly judge ourselves and repent, then we will not have to face God’s judgment. We cannot escape God’s judgment if we are doing and saying evil things. So why doesn’t God quickly judge and punish us? God’s kindness, tolerance and patience are leading us to repentance, so we can make things right with God. But is there a legitimate kind of judging? Yes! In the same chapter in Matt. 7:15-17 Jesus tells us to judge false teachers.
Read Rom. 2:5-11
II. No favoritism with God
A. Indulging in the sins of chapter 1 and passing hypocritical judgment on others will bring us under God’s judgment. Stubbornness and refusal to repent closes the door to God’s mercy and kindness. On what basis will God judge? He will give to each person according to what he has done. Psa. 62:12; Prov. 24:12 Does this mean that we are saved by our works? No! Our Christian life begins with a relationship to God. Without that we are incapable of doing good. But the new birth is only the beginning. This refers to those who as Christians persist in doing good with the desire of seeking glory, honor and immortality in the presence of the Lord. Once we are God’s children we must persist in doing God’s will, not to please men but to please God. To those God will give eternal life because they have spent this life loving and serving God.
B. There will be 2 groups in the judgment as there are 2 groups now. Group #1 has persisted in doing good in obedience and love of God, as well as seeking glory, honor and immortality. God will welcome them into His home for eternity. Group #2 is composed of those who are self-seeking, who reject the truth, and who follow evil. To them there will be wrath and anger. One of Paul’s oft-used phrases seems to set an order: “First for the Jew, then for the Gentile”. He used it in 1:16, and he uses it twice here. In the scheme of God the Jews will be first to suffer trouble, distress and judgment, and they will be first to have glory, honor and peace. Because the Jews are God’s chosen people and have had many privileges, their judgment will also be great if they reject Him. Paul is making a strong point here about favoritism. Both Jews and Gentiles will be judged or blessed, depending on their decision to love or reject Jesus.
Read Rom. 2:12-16
III. The law and judgment
A. Where does the law come into this proposition? Those who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law. In other words, they will not be judged by the law they didn’t know, but by the law of their hearts that they did know. According to 1:19-20 all men have the witness of God’s creation and their conscience, so all are without excuse. On the other hand, the Jews who were fortunate to have God’s law will be judged by it. It is a blessed privilege with a major responsibility. Here Paul gives a similar teaching to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount – especially the parable of the 2 builders. Hearing God’s Word does not make us righteous in God’s sight. Obeying His Word is what causes us to be declared righteous. James 1:22,23,25
B. I’m sure the Jews who read this letter were shocked to read Paul’s assertion that Gentiles without the law could become a law in themselves. How? By doing naturally things required in the law. This must have sounded like heresy to them. How could Paul say this? He showed that the requirements of the law are written on the hearts of some Gentiles. Their consciences either accuse or defend them just as the law would. Those believing Gentiles are closer to God’s truth than the Jews who only follow a form, but whose hearts are far from God and His truth. Those who think that no one knows the secrets of their hearts must remember that the day is coming when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ. And meanwhile, in the present, there are no secrets we can hide from God! Heb. 4:13
Read Rom. 2:17-24
IV. Jews and the law
A. Paul here uncovers the Jewish heart. He, of all people, was able to do that because he was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews”. He was able to look at Jews from 2 vantage points: as a Jew without Christ, and a Jew with Christ. With 4 “if” statements he revealed the arrogance of the Jews. One who called himself a Jew relied on the law and bragged about his relationship to God. He felt that he knew God’s will and approved what was superior. In fact, the Jews were convinced that they were superior. See how they contrasted themselves with the Gentiles. They were guides while the Gentiles were blind. They were lights to the Gentiles who were in the dark. They were instructors to the foolish Gentiles. They were like teachers of infants. All this was because they had in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth.
B. Paul now asked them a series of questions which can all be summed up like this: Do you practice what you preach? Do you live what you tell others to do? These are good questions not only for Jews! 1.) You who preach against stealing, do you steal? The Pharisees were stealing money from people who came to the temple by selling lambs & doves at high prices. 2.) You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? God often accused His people of committing adultery by worshipping other gods instead of Him, their true Husband. 3.) You who abhor or hate idols, do you rob temples? In Mal. 3:8 God accused the Jews of robbing Him by not paying their tithes and offerings. 4.) You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? The people in Malachi’s day dishonored God by bringing crippled animals to offer to God. Mal. 1:8 So he concluded, “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Ezek. 36:22 Instead of leading people to God, they drove them away.
Read Rom. 2:25-29
V. Jews and circumcision
A. The Jews of Paul’s day, and today as well, depended on the rite of circumcision as the proof that they were real Jews. That was what made them superior to Gentiles. But circumcision in itself didn’t make them real Jews – God’s chosen people. If they followed God’s law – His Word and His will – then their circumcision had some meaning. The same is true of us Christians. If we depend solely on our baptism or the taking of Communion we are deceiving ourselves. The question is: Are we obeying God’s Word and walking with Him by faith? Paul wrote that if Jews break the law it’s as if they had not been circumcised. On the other hand, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law should be regarded as circumcised. Paul wrote a shocking thing to the Jews. He said that uncircumcised and despised Gentiles who obey God stand in condemnation against “chosen Jews” who are law-breakers.
B. Now Paul questions whether they are really Jews. This is a very touchy subject. To question a Jew’s Jewishness was asking for the death penalty, and Paul was often threatened with death. He was saying, “You are not really a Jew if you are only one outwardly”. That’s like saying, “You’re not a Christian if you’re only one outwardly”. Even circumcision is not merely outward and physical. Paul said that a man is a Jew only if he is one inwardly. So the definition of a Jew is “one who is chosen, set apart for God, with circumcision being the outward sign of the inward commitment”. That would make the definition of a Christian: “one who is chosen, set apart for God, with baptism and Communion being the outward sign of an inward commitment”. Next is the definition of circumcision. It is circumcision of the heart, by the Holy Spirit. This is what happens in our hearts when we come to Christ. The Spirit cuts away all the evil attached to us and makes us new creatures from the inside out. Paul concludes: “Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.” Most Jews were looking for the praise of men as many Christians are. Jesus talked about this in the Sermon on the Mount. Matt. 6:1, 5, 16
Paul’s words, “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you”, are certainly true of the Jews. But what of us Christians? Is God’s name blasphemed among the unbelievers around the world because of us? Certainly the things taught and acted out on so-called Christian TV have caused many to turn away from Christ. But what about our personal lives? It seems to me that the arrogance of the Jews as pictured in this passage is often true of us Christians as well. Many who call themselves Christians say they rely on the Bible, brag about their relationship with God (whether it is real or not), say they know God’s will, and think they are superior. They think they are guides of the “blind”, the “foolish” and the “infants”. But what about our hearts and our lifestyles? Are we living out the things we know? If not, we are bringing blasphemy on the holy name of God Almighty. Let us be sure we live what we profess and teach.j
God’s Faithfulness and Man’s Sin
What a masterful treatise on theology Paul has written! Maybe he was the only one capable of writing this step-by-step exposition of Jew and Gentile, law and faith, righteousness and sin. We must thank God for the way He went after Paul and rescued him from his murderous pursuit of Christians. God had prepared him from birth with his upbringing, his dual Jewish and Roman citizenship, and his education under the wise Gamaliel. Then the Lord humbled him by knocking him down, and blinding him. God led him to spend 3 years in Arabia and 4-5 years in Tarsus because of his need to know the Lord better and be prepared for the great ministry to which God had called him. We studied in chapter 2 how Paul had knocked the Jews off their high pedestal of pride, letting them know that circumcision and the law did not make them superior. In fact, those outward things didn’t even make them true Jews. Paul dared to write that a man is a Jew only if he is one inwardly, seeking his praise not from men but from God.
Read Rom. 3:1-8
I. Let God be true and every man a liar
A. Paul now questions whether there is any value in being a Jew and being circumcised. After all, if both believing Jews and Gentiles are circumcised in the heart by the Spirit, what is the advantage of being a Jew? Rom. 2:29 The first advantage the Jews had was being entrusted with God’s Word. The Bible is a Jewish book, even though Paul often wrote to Gentiles as he does here. The Jews were honored with godly ancestors, the written Word of God, and the Living Word of God – Jesus! But to whom much is given, from him much will be required. And the Jews have paid dearly for their rejection of God’s Word and God’s Son. But even though some did not have faith, did that nullify God’s faithfulness? Never! “Let God be true and every man a liar”. God will be faithful even though all men are faithless. Paul quotes David in Psa. 51:4 which David wrote after repenting of his sins of adultery and murder. He knew he could be condemned to hell. He was wrong and God was right in judging him.
B. Evidently some were falsely accusing Paul by twisting his message of grace. They misquoted Paul as saying, “Let us do evil that good may result.” That sounds like an argument from the pit of hell. It no doubt originated there. In Paul’s day, as in ours, people like to take scripture or biblical principles and distort them until they say something different. It is true that our unrighteousness illuminates the righteousness and purity of God by contrast. So does that make God guilty when He judges us? Some were saying that because their lying enhanced God’s truthfulness, they should not be condemned as sinners. How, then, could God judge the world? The fact of the matter is that we cannot escape our accountability to God for our sin with bogus arguments like theirs. Today people like to blame God or someone else for their sin, or claim that it’s only the result of evolutionary processes, or that actually there is no such thing as sin. These are the devil’s lies!
Read Rom. 3:9-18
II. No one is righteous
A. We cannot escape the results or judgment for our sin. Jews and Gentiles are all alike in this way. We are all under sin. The Old Testament writers make it crystal clear. Paul quotes David, Solomon and Isaiah in Psa. 14:1-3, 53:1-3, 5:9, 140:3, 10:7, 36:1; Eccl. 7:20; and Isa. 59:7-8. The scripture nails it so perfectly that we can’t escape the truth. “No one” and “Not even one” are repeated 6 times. This includes every single person out of the billions who have lived and are now living. There is no one who can claim that he is not a sinner. This is what makes Jesus’ words so ironic: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He couldn’t call the righteous because there are none! And yet many of those who heard Jesus say that thought they were O.K. They thought their observance of the law and circumcision made them righteous. We still have many in our world today who would argue this point. Maybe we are sinners, but they aren’t!
B. We think that surely there are some who understand and seek God. David writes that no one seeks God! We did not seek and find God. He sought and found us! It is all of grace. It was not just Adam and Eve who turned away in disobedience from God. All have turned away. All together we have become worthless, hopeless, and helpless. No one does good. In fact, our so-called goodness turns out to be filthy rags. Isa. 64:6 Our throats, tongues, lips and mouths give proof of our evil. They are like disgusting open graves. We are clever at practicing deceit, having learned from the Great Deceiver. Gossip, slander and hurtful criticism poison us and all around us – like the poison of vipers that kills its victims. Our mouths are full – not of good food, but of cursing and bitterness. What about our feet? They run to shed blood! We are in a hopeless, lost condition because we have not known the way of peace. And we cannot find that way because we don’t fear, honor and respect God. We have not made peace with God, but are His enemies.
Read Rom. 3:19-20
III. The whole world accountable
A. Paul next goes back to the law. Those who are under the law must follow what it says. What does the law say? It silences every word: the corrupt throats, the deceitful tongues, the poisonous lips, and the cursing mouths. All of those would like to stand up to God - to try to deceive Him or blame Him. But the whole world is accountable to Him whether they want to be or not. The law will reveal their true character and be their judge. And yet those who hope to gain righteousness by observing the law will find that no one will be declared righteous in His sight by trying to keep the law. The fact is that no one is able to keep the law.
B. The rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-23 thought that he had kept the law, but he was deceiving himself. Did he love the Lord his God with all his heart, mind and strength? If he had loved God with everything, he would have followed Jesus because that would have been the primary goal of his life. If he had loved his neighbor as himself, he could have sold his belongings and given the money to the poor. He couldn’t keep the most important commandments in the law. No one except Jesus has ever totally obeyed the law. So what is the purpose of the law if we can’t obey it? It is through the law that we become conscious of sin. Gal. 2:15-16 It is an absolute standard by which we can determine whether we are sinful or not. So those who want to get rid of the concept of sin have to not only eliminate the law, but the whole Bible as well.
IV. Righteousness through faith
A. The question of the ages is: How can sinful man become righteous and make peace with his God? All religions attempt to deal with this problem. Some declare that there is no sin, and that solves it for them. Others declare there is no God and so the problem evaporates. Most give some kind of rules or laws that, if carefully followed, will make us holy and right with God. Paul has given a very convincing argument that indeed we all have sinned. And he didn’t use his own words to prove it. He quoted 8 times from God’s Word. So now we know for sure that God has declared us to be sinners. What hope is there for us? The Jews would turn to the law to be justified, but Paul states plainly, “No one will be declared righteous by observing the law.” So it seems that our case is hopeless.
B. But then Paul explains that there is a righteousness from God apart from the law. And the amazing thing is that the Law and the Prophets testify of this righteousness. Most of the Jews missed this in their studies. Paul had missed it, too, until God humbled him and taught him in Arabia and Tarsus. So now Paul turns to the subject of faith. The word “faith” is repeated 8 times in the rest of the chapter. The righteousness from God comes through faith. Notice that it is from God, it is through faith, that faith must be in Jesus Christ, and it is to all who believe! That is the gospel! So we see that the righteousness we need and want is a gift from God. Only God can make us righteous when we are sinners. What a wonderful gift! But a gift is no good unless it is received. God’s grace has been extended; Christ has come and died; but men are still sinners until they receive God’s gift by faith. Eph. 2:8-9
C. Paul goes on to assure us that there is no difference between Jews with the law and Gentiles without it. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God has glorious plans for us who are made in His image. But as we would say today, “We didn’t make the cut.” It’s like applying for a job and being told, “You fall short of our expectations and needs in this company.” New-agers and Unity cultists say “God is in me” or “I am God”. They will someday here God’s voice saying, “All have sinned and fallen short, including you!” It’s a prophecy of doom for all of us except for what follows:”And are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” The hopelessly lost and eternally condemned can be justified – made righteous, just, holy, and right in God’s eyes. And this is done freely, without cost to us by His amazing grace. How could a God of justice do this? It seems unjust – not right. He redeemed us – bought us back – by the sacrifice of His Son.
Read Rom. 3:25-31
V. A sacrifice of atonement
A. It was God the Father who presented the sacrifice of His Son. Of course, it is true that Jesus was crucified by the Jews and Romans, and we were responsible because of our sin. But actually it was the Father who sacrificed and crucified His own Son! Isa. 53:10 Why would He do that? He knew that there was no other way to redeem us from our lost, sinful condition. So the Father presented His sacrifice just as Jews had given their sacrifices through the centuries. It was a sacrifice of atonement to turn aside His wrath. Once again Paul emphasizes that it is only operative “through faith in His blood”. This is the bottom line of the Good News. What an amazing thing! The Father is atoning for our sin and turning away His own wrath by sacrificing His own Son! “Amazing love, how can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me...?”
B. God did this amazing thing to demonstrate His justice. Of course, it also demonstrates His mercy, but He cannot be merciful and unjust. His mercy must always be linked to His justice. His justice demands that the sinner must die for his sin, but His mercy longs to forgive and reconcile that sinner. The only way that God could be both just and merciful was to sacrifice His Son to bear the condemnation and wrath that should come to us. No wonder Jesus cried on the cross, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” In the past God had left sins committed unpunished in anticipation of His Son’s sacrifice when a Jew by faith and obedience sacrificed an animal for his sins. So God is just because He required the death of a sacrifice to turn away His wrath, and He is merciful as He justifies those who turn to His Son in faith. What a God!
So God’s amazing work eliminates any boasting that we might be tempted to do. The Jews can no longer boast about having the law and circumcision, because those are not able to save them. We Gentile Christians can’t boast because God has chosen us. It is all of grace! All the “boasting” or glory must go to God who did all the work! So we come to the bottom line: “A man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” Trying to keep the law only shows up our sins and our complete failure to be righteous. We have nothing to boast about. We are sinners! All we can do is to humbly bow before our God, confessing our sin, pleading for His forgiveness, and accepting by faith the sacrifice our God - Father and Son - has made for us. We owe our lives, both now and eternally, to our wonderful, Trinitarian God. The Father gave His sacrifice; the Son was the Sacrifice; and the Holy Spirit sacrifices Himself to live in us foolish people. We must tell others this amazing and wonderful Good News! They, too, can have their sins forgiven and be made right with God.
Abraham – The Father of Men of Faith
Last week we studied Paul’s amazing treatise about man’s sin and God’s faithfulness. He quoted 8 scriptures from the Old Testament to show that God had spoken in the past through David, Solomon and Isaiah, making it crystal clear that all men are sinners. No one is good. This means that the whole world is accountable to God. The law cannot justify us. In fact, it condemns us. Our only hope is a righteousness that God can give as a gift. It is a righteousness from God, through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. This includes both Jews and Gentiles because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. God the Father presented His Son as a sacrifice of atonement, so that if we believe in Jesus and accept God’s gift, we are saved from wrath. In this way God can continue to be just while forgiving us and extending His mercy to us.
Read Rom. 4:1-8
I. Abraham believed God
A. In this wonderful chapter, Paul, in his characteristically logical manner, explains in detail how Abraham was justified by his faith, and how he became the father of all men of faith. Abraham was the revered patriarch of the Jews. God often identified himself to the Jews as “the God of Abraham”. What would people think about God if He identified Himself as the God of you or me? Hopefully they would know what a wonderful God He is by the way we live. Abraham is the perfect Old Testament example of a man who was justified by faith. “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” These exact words are repeated 6 times - in Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3, 9, 22; Gal. 3:6; and James 2:23. This must be important – a message God really wants us to get.
B. What does it mean to credit someone with righteousness? If someone works, his wages are credited to him by his employer. They are not a gift. They have been earned so the credit must be given. But can we earn righteousness? Paul has already proved in this letter to the Romans that we cannot earn righteousness. The Jews thought they could earn it by keeping the law. Paul has shown that no one can keep the law. But if a person trusts the God who can justify him, that trust or faith is credited to him for righteousness. His account is cleared, and God stamps “Righteous” over his life simply because of his faith. It’s like having an account of our debts. Because of them we are guilty. Then God writes “Paid in full” over our debts and “Righteous” over our life. Does God have the right to do that? He cannot claim to be just if He simply decides one day to change our account. He can only do it when we believe on the basis of what Christ has already done.
C. David understood this concept. In fact, his very life depended on God’s ability to justify him. Only God’s grace and David’s faith stood between David and the hell of an adulterer and murderer. He knew that there were no works that he could do to make up for or erase his evil deeds. And so he wrote in Psalm 32 about the blessedness of having our transgressions forgiven and our sins covered. The terrible load of our sin can bring us down to the depths of hopelessness and despair. Truly “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” God Himself covers our sins with Jesus’ blood and stamps our lives with “innocent’, “justified”, “righteous”. There is no greater blessing in the world. To our great God be all the glory for what He has done!
Read Rom. 4:9-12
II. Father of the uncircumcised
A. Paul returns to the question of the Jews and circumcision. Referring back to David’s “blesseds” from Psa. 32, Paul asks if this blessedness is only for circumcised Jews or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? He uses Abraham again to make his point. Having established the fact that his faith was credited for righteousness, he asks, “When was that and under what circumstances?” Was it before or after Abraham was circumcised? It was before! Later he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness he already had by faith. Gen. 15:6; 17:10-11 I can just imagine Paul in Arabia discovering this truth with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What a shock it must have been to this circumcised Pharisee who had always been proud of who he was.
B. It seems that this can be related to baptism. Baptism does not save, but it is the seal on the righteousness already present through faith. Abraham’s “circumcision of the heart” took place before his circumcision of the flesh. And so Abraham is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised. Their belief has resulted in righteousness being credited to them. This covers all Gentile believers. Imagine the shock of the Jews in finding out that Abraham is the father of believing Gentiles! He is also the father of the Jews – but not all Jews! The Pharisees told Jesus that Abraham was their father. He told them that their father was the devil! John 8:39, 44 So which Jews are Abraham’s children? Messianic Jews who have accepted Jesus as their Messiah by faith. These include those Jews who not only are circumcised, but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that Abraham had before circumcision. So we see that Abraham’s true children are children by faith.
Read Rom. 4:13-15
III. Father of faith
A. Some Jews would like to argue that Abraham received God’s promises by the law. But when was the law given? The law was given to Moses 430 years after Abraham. So it was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received God’s promise. What promise? It is the covenant promise that God made with Abraham that his offspring would be heirs of the world. Gen. 22: 16-18 God had not given the law at that time. Gal. 3:17-18 It was a simple matter of faith resulting in righteousness. Paul makes a strong point when he writes, “If those who live by the law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless.” To tell a Jew that the promise or covenant of God is worthless is very serious. All his hopes rested on the promise to Abraham, just as all our hopes rest on the promised return of Jesus and our eternal home with Him.
B. The law does not produce faith or the fulfillment of the promise. It points out our sin and so brings judgment and wrath as Paul wrote in Rom. 3:20: “Through the law we become conscious of sin.” Here he writes, “Where there is no law there is no transgression.” You aren’t guilty of breaking the speed limit in your car if there is no speed limit. You are not guilty of not paying your taxes if there is no tax law. So if you get rid of the law, you get rid of sin. That’s the tendency in our world today. People say that there are no absolutes. Everything is relative. You may think something is wrong but if your neighbor thinks it’s right you can’t blame him. If there are no absolutes there is nothing to break. If you do away with God’s law and the rest of God’s Word, you can declare yourself “sinless” and “guiltless”. Of course, that’s only in your eyes, not God’s! So the blessing comes through the promise, not through the law.
Read Rom. 4:16-17
IV. Father of us all
A. The promise can only come by faith. It can’t come through circumcision or obedience to the law. It comes by faith so that it may be by grace. First, it must be all of grace! It is unthinkable and stupid to imagine that we could satisfy and appease the Almighty God by our works. And yet the majority of the world believes this. That’s why Eph. 2:8-9 is so important! God can only be glorified when He saves us by His grace. Otherwise, He would be like the wicked demons who demand certain works of their victims. The second reason why the promise comes by faith and grace is so that it may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring. Wow! We have the guarantee of God Almighty! That’s the best.
B. Who are Abraham’s offspring? “He is the father of all who believe.” That includes not only the Jews who are “of the law”, but also the Gentiles who are “of the faith of Abraham”. He is the father of us all! What a shock for the Jews. When God told Abraham in Gen. 17:5, “I have made you the father of many nations”, Abraham couldn’t even imagine the size of that promise. His world was much smaller than the one we know. But even though Abraham could not fully comprehend the size of God’s promise, he believed! It is simple faith in God that counts. And who is this God in whom Abraham and we believe? He is “the God who gives life to the dead”. God not only raised Jesus from the dead; He will raise us, too. And meanwhile, He gives life to our “dead hopes and dreams”! To finish the definition of our God: “He calls things that are not as though they were.” He is the God of the impossible! Luke 1:37; Matt. 19:26
Read Rom. 4:18-25
V. Father of many nations
A. How many people today actually believe in the God defined by Paul in verse 17? Not many. Hope becomes one of Paul’s themes here, going on to the beginning of chapter 5. How do we describe Abraham’s faith? “Against all hope” – when there was no hope – “Abraham in hope believed”. When we are faced with an impossible situation and all hope is gone, can we still believe in our God, knowing that He will keep His promises? Abraham showed his absolute faith in God by expecting God to keep His promises, and then acting on God’s commands. His first venture of faith was taking off for the unknown and strange land that God told him to go to. He left behind everything familiar and comfortable, not having any idea what he would be facing – only knowing that he was facing it with his God who had called him. Heb. 11:8 This is the challenge that missionaries face.
B. In his second great step of faith, Abraham believed that his God was the God of the impossible. God had clearly told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, but how can you be the father of many when you’re not even the father of one? We like to say, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.” But how much life is there in a 100-year-old man and a 90-year-old woman who has always been barren? Abraham was honest. He faced the facts that he was dealing with a “dead” body and a “dead” womb. How can you bring something live – a child – out of 2 dead things? Looking at the facts, he saw only death, but looking at God he saw the One who brought life out of nothing, and life out of death. Look at Abraham’s reaction: he did not waver through unbelief; he was strengthened in his faith; he gave glory to God; he was fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.
C. In what or who must we have faith? Some teach today that we should have faith in faith. That doesn’t make sense. We must believe/have faith in Him! Who? The One who can raise the dead. For Abraham God brought life out of death – and not just once! He brought a live son out of 2 “dead” people, and then God gave back that son after Abraham was ready to sacrifice him at God’s command. Heb. 11:17-19 This is why his faith was credited to him as righteousness. He believed that God could do the impossible. The God who has power to raise the dead can be trusted to keep His promises. He’s the same One who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. So when we believe in Him He also credits righteousness to us. We can only be justified when we have the faith of Abraham, believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection, recognizing our desperate condition, and repenting of our sins. Then we are “raised from the dead” and given new life by what Jesus did for us.
This 4th chapter of Romans is very special to me because the Lord has used it in my life several times. In 1961 I was praying regularly, asking the Lord to give me the faith of Abraham. He stretched my faith by calling me to Micronesia. That was a very big decision, but I could relate to Abraham’s decision to leave his homeland in Ur. After I had said “Yes” to His call to Micronesia, the Lord tested my faith several times. One day I was doing the ironing while praying that the Lord would give me the faith of Abraham. Suddenly a picture came to my mind. It was Abraham and Isaac climbing Mt. Moriah in obedience to God’s instructions to Abraham to sacrifice his precious son. I sensed the Lord saying to me, ”This is the faith of Abraham. Do you have faith like this? What if I ask you to sacrifice your children?” I had to leave the ironing and go into the bedroom. I got down on my knees and searched my heart. Was I ready to give my children totally to the Lord for whatever His will was for them – sickness, separation, even death? I finally committed them completely to the Lord and His will. I had a new appreciation of the faith of Abraham who, against all hope, believed and obeyed God!
Death through Adam – Life through Christ
In our last lesson we studied the amazing faith of Abraham. He simply believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. And so Abraham, the patriarch of the Jews, became also the father of the uncircumcised Gentiles. How? We, too, are credited with righteousness by our faith. So he is the father of all – both Jews and Gentiles – who are saved by their faith and God’s grace. Abraham demonstrated his faith by believing and obeying God when he was told to leave his country and relatives to go to an unknown land which God would give to his descendants. But an even greater example of Abraham’s faith was when “against all hope, he in hope believed”. God promised that he would be the father of many nations. But how could he when he didn’t even have one child! Abraham faced the fact that at 100, he was like a dead man, and at 90, Sarah’s womb was dead. Yet he believed God’s promise of a son because he knew that God can raise the dead and do the impossible. Heb. 11:11-12 No wonder Abraham is called the father of people of faith!
Read Rom. 5:1-5
I. The hope of God’s glory
A. This is another wonderful chapter inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by faithful Paul. He continues his explanation of faith, grace, righteousness and justification. He begins with “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God.” How can we who are unholy have a relationship with the holy God? We cannot be at peace with God until we are declared righteous. And the only way is by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s all due to God’s grace, but even that falls away empty unless we respond in faith. It is through the Son that we have “gained access”. When you gain access, the door opens to you. What are we let into? We are let into the grace in which we now stand. We are like Esther coming before the king. She was let into his presence when she might have been executed. How wonderful to be objects of the grace of our great God! Now we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, looking forward to seeing Him!
B. Hope does not disappoint us when our hope is in God and His promises. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.” But we also rejoice in our sufferings. Why? Because we know that suffering in the life of a Christian produces characteristics like those of Jesus – perseverance which produces character which produces hope. James 1:2-4 And it is our greatest desire to be transformed into the image of our Lord. Suffering seems to be hopeless, but actually it produces hope because it forces us to look to God and His promises. Thinking about being with the Lord someday gives us a longing for the blessedness ahead. And it’s not a fruitless or vain hope because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us. And so, when suffering or facing death we rest in His love, being assured by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Read Rom. 5:6-8
II. Christ died for the ungodly
A. This hope of the glory of God which carries us through our times of suffering and even death is all made possible by the death of Jesus for us. “At just the right time”…the due time…God’s perfect time…Christ died for the ungodly. This was the mystery that many had tried to figure out down through the ages. Paul wrote often about this mystery that God had finally revealed. Rom. 16:25-26; Col. 1:25-27 What a privilege we have to know about the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ. And beyond that, to have Christ living in us! Why did the Father send Jesus at that particular time? Was it because we were ready and waiting? No! It was because we were powerless! And that’s not all! We were ungodly, too. We were without God and without hope in the world. Eph. 2:12
B. It’s a very unusual thing for one person to offer to die in the place of another person. It’s possible that someone might actually offer his life as a sacrifice for a very good person whom he loves. But Jesus chose to die for us sinners – enemies of God! How can we be sure that God loves us? The creation and the Bible lead us to assume that God loves us. But God didn’t leave any question in our minds. He demonstrated His love for us in a way that we could never forget. It’s like a mother demonstrating her love for her child by getting burned herself to save him from the fire.“ While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Actually God the Father gave Himself in the Person of His Son to die for us sinful, ungodly people. The song says it well: “Amazing love, how can it be, that You, my God, should die for me?”
Read Rom. 5:9-11
III. Reconciled to Him
A. What are the benefits to us in the death of Christ? In the present: “we have now been justified by His blood”. In the future: “How much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him.” There is only one thing that can save us from the eternal wrath of God. It is the blood – the sacrifice of His Son. Paul’s emphasis now turns to “reconciliation”. He uses it 3 times in these 2 verses. We are not saved by Jesus’ sacrifice just so we can escape from hell! We are saved so that we can be made right with God. The most important thing in the entire universe is that we be made right with our Creator and God! That’s what reconciliation is. We were God’s enemies. How can we become friends instead of enemies?
B. If you have 2 good friends who have become enemies of each other, what do you do? You feel sad that they are now enemies, so you look for a way to help them be friends again. Maybe you talk to them and try to get them together. You try to reconcile them to each other. By His death Jesus made it possible for us to be God’s friends instead of His enemies. So we are reconciled to God by Jesus’ death. And we shall be saved through His life. Today He is living out His life in us and making intercession for us with the Father. It is certainly reason to rejoice now that we have received reconciliation by what God has done for us in Christ.
Read Rom. 5:12-14
IV. Sin entered through one man
A. How did we become sinners, condemned to death? Sin entered the world through one man. Sin kills. The end of sin is death. Rom. 6:23 What is sin? It’s rebellion against God – taking the position of an enemy of God – going to war with God. Since God is life, when we cut ourselves off from Him we condemn ourselves to death – and not just physical death, but spiritual and eternal death as well. This is how “death came to all men”. So can we blame it all on Adam and claim that it’s not our fault? No, because we were all in Adam when he sinned, and we prove we are sinners by what we do and the choices we make.
B. Next Paul writes about sin and law. Some probably think that sin didn’t originate until the time that the law was given. Sin was in the world long before Moses gave the law. In fact, that’s why God sent the flood to destroy mankind, except for Noah and his family. However, “sin is not taken into account when there is no law.” There was no way to measure sin without the law – no standard to judge it by. And yet death reigned from Adam to Moses. It’s interesting that Paul represents death as “reigning” or ruling. Death is in control – the final master of man’s fate. But death was not the judgment for breaking the law because God had not given the law. However, Adam broke a specific command of God even before there was a set of laws. Gen. 2:16-17
Read Rom. 5:15-17
V. Grace and the gift
A. Now we come to the wonderful passage in which Paul contrasts the one man, Adam, with the one Man, Christ. The emphasis in these verses is on “grace” and “the gift”. This is the gospel message. The greatest gift of all time came to us by the grace of God, bringing us justification and righteousness in the place of our sin – if we repent and receive the gift by faith. Contrasting Adam and Christ: many died by the trespass/sin of one man, Adam, but God’s grace and gift came by the one Man, Christ, overflowing to many. What was the result of the one man’s sin? One sin brought judgment and condemnation. Death reigned as the result of one sin by one man – what a great tragedy!
B. The bad news is followed by the amazing good news! On the other hand, the gift of God followed many sins. A multitude of sins were committed by multitudes of people, but the gift brought justification to the condemned. So we turn from the tragedy of one man to the blessedness and glory of the gift brought to us by the one Man, Jesus. But how do we get this amazing gift? We simply receive God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness. John 1:12 How blessed can we be? We are the recipient of grace in abundance and the gift of purity and righteousness in the place of our sin and filth simply by believing and receiving! And what else comes to us when we repent, believe and receive? We reign in life instead of having death reign over us. How can this be? It is through the one Man, Jesus Christ! I Cor. 15:22, 45
Read Rom. 5:18-21
VI. Where sin increased, grace increased
A. Paul goes on with his contrasting statements about sin and grace. The result of one sin was condemnation for all men. We see how one leads to all. Then the contrast: one act of righteousness – Jesus’ death in our place – was justification that brings life for all men. So once again we have the contrast between death and life. But does this mean that all men are saved by Jesus’ death? No! All men have the possibility of being saved if they choose to accept the gift. Acts 3:19 Next we have the contrast between disobedience and obedience. Just as through the disobedience of one man many – in fact all – were made sinners, so through the obedience of one Man many will be made righteous. Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8 Jesus, though Himself God, was obedient to the Father in being willing to die in our place. In the Garden He said, “Not My will, but Your will be done.”
B. It seems strange that the law was added so that the trespass might increase. It seems that the law would take care of the sin, but it doesn’t. It only increases the sin by showing it up, like a black spot on a white shirt. The amazing thing is that our God is sufficient for all our needs. Even when sin increased, grace increased all the more. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me..” Sin and death were our rulers. What a hopeless condition! But God knew all about our need and reached down to take care of it. Grace now rules because of Christ’s righteousness resulting in eternal life for those who repent and believe. And it is all possible through Jesus Christ our Lord – the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Heb. 12:2
Reconciliation is a very important subject. To be reconciled to God is the answer to our inner longing. To be an enemy of God casts a long shadow over our entire life. We cannot be “at peace” with the One whom we count as our enemy! Why is He our enemy? It’s because in our inner being we know that we owe everything to the One who made us and sustains us. And we fear having to give an account to Him someday for the way we have misused our lives. This is why the devil helped men think up the theory of evolution. It is a lie! What is the truth? We need to be reconciled to our Creator and Redeemer. As Paul explained it so well in II Cor. 5:18-20, it all begins when we are born again and so become reconciled to God. Then it continues as God gives us the ministry of reconciliation. We become His ambassadors, pleading with people to be reconciled to God. Let us be busy doing this important work the Lord has assigned to us!
Dead to Sin; Alive in Christ
Last week we studied how we can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God even in our suffering. In fact, suffering actually produces hope as we look to God and His promises. The reason we have hope is because just at the right time Christ died for us ungodly people. Jesus’ sacrificial death for us makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God. We who were His enemies can be reconciled to become His friends. Paul gave a wonderful exposition of what one man, Adam, brought to the human race by his one act of disobedience. Through him sin and death entered. In contrast to Adam, the one Man, Christ, performed one act of obedience – His death on the cross in our place. This act of righteousness brought justification to all those who repent, believe and receive the Lord. And so God’s amazing grace offers the gift of salvation to all who will accept it.
Read Rom. 6:1-4
I. Baptized into His death
A. Paul has made it clear that we now live within the grace of God. No matter how great the sin or how many commit it, God’s grace covers. “When sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Some people teach that because we are now living in God’s grace, we are free to do anything we want and He will always forgive us. Others even dare to say that our sinning only increases God’s grace. This is a dangerous game of playing with words and ideas. Paul now clarifies what grace has done for us in the new birth. When we came to Christ we died to sin. How then can we live in it any longer? Col. 3:3; I Pet. 2:24 Paul now discusses baptism. Certainly he is not referring to infant baptism that some practice, but in what we call believer’s baptism which we take part in after we are born again.
B. What is the meaning of baptism? I think for many the meaning has been lost because of wrong teaching. The picture that God has given us in baptism is not as clear when people are baptized with the sprinkling of water. In baptismal immersion, the person goes under the water and is immersed in it. It is the picture of being buried with Christ. As He was buried in the rock tomb, we are symbolically “buried” under water. Col. 2:12 This illustrates what has happened to us spiritually in the new birth. We were buried because we died to our sin when we repented. When we come up out of the baptismal water, it symbolizes our new birth to a new life. It pictures the way Christ rose from the dead through the glory of the Father. Baptism doesn’t save us, but it is a beautiful picture of what has already taken place spiritually in our lives. This teaching has been lost in many churches. There has to be death before there can be life. Baptism signifies the finality of the decision to follow Jesus. Do we have “resurrection life” as Jesus had a resurrection body?
Read Rom. 6:5-10
II. United with Him in death and resurrection
A. If we have been united with Christ like this in His death and burial, then we shall also be united with Him in His resurrection. Can there be new life if there has been no death? Paul then pictures it another way. Our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with. The purpose of doing away with the body of sin is to free us so that we don’t have to be slaves to sin any longer. Obviously a person who is dead is no longer sinning. He has been freed from sin. Our problem is that we are not really willing to die. We want to keep some of the old ways. But if we died with Christ, then we will also live with Him. Since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again. He died to sin once for all, freeing Him to live to God.
B. Our lives are entwined with Christ. His life is in us, causing us to really live for the first time. The wonderfully good news is that “It is finished!” Many things are finished in the death of Christ – and one of them is death itself! Christ cannot die again. It is impossible for Christ to die because death is dead for Him. He is alive forever with LIFE! Death no longer has mastery over Him. Acts 2:24 There was a time when death reigned, but no more. What was this death that Jesus died? Was it just the end of His body? He died to sin. It was not His sin, but our sin. It was once for all – enough, sufficient, finished. And now the life He lives He lives to God. How does this affect us? It means that when we die to sin we are no longer under its control and can now live for God, following in Christ’s footsteps.
Read Rom. 6:11-14
III. Dead to sin
A. Paul goes on to write, “In the same way..”. In other words, in the same way that Christ died once for all, we are to count ourselves as dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. What does it mean to count ourselves as dead? It means to reckon ourselves or think of ourselves as dead. It’s like closing a door on the past, saying, “I am now dead to those things I once did, but alive to God in Christ”. It is a matter of our will lining up with God’s will. Even though we are freed from the mastery of sin, we can choose to allow it to take over again. So Paul gets very practical. It’s one thing to count ourselves dead, but how do we then die each day to those sins and temptations? Paul starts with the negative side. 1.) Do not let sin reign in your mortal body! Don’t obey and follow its evil desires. Col. 3:5,8 2.) Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness. We have the power to choose what our eyes will see, our mouths will speak, our ears will hear, our hands will touch, and our minds will think.
B. So we must be willing to use our self control in not giving ourselves over to sin. But that’s not enough! We must follow through with positive action. 1.) Offer yourselves to God. Each day we give ourselves to God for His use because He has given us life for death. 2.) Offer the parts of your body as instruments of righteousness instead of evil. We have to take our body parts right out of Satan’s hands and put them in God’s hands as our offering to Him. Then our whole body can be used by God for good and blessing. Rom. 12:2 Paul sums it up saying, “Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law but under grace.” We no longer try to please God by keeping many laws. We love Him and enjoy His wonderful grace as we live our new life.
Read Rom. 6:15-18
IV. Slaves to righteousness
A. Again the question comes up. First, Paul asked, “Should we go on sinning so grace may increase?” Now he expands the question of sin and grace to include law. “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” Grace is the excuse some people give for sinning. They say, “It’s no problem. Christ has died and God has given His grace. If I keep falling, He will keep forgiving.” Some even say that Christ’s death automatically forgives all the sins we will ever commit. If so, then what does I John 1:9 mean? It’s clear that if we confess our sins we are forgiven. Paul explains that when we offer ourselves to obey someone we become his slave. If we offer ourselves to sin, we become slaves of that sin. Notice that we are the ones who offer ourselves. No one has the power to control us unless we offer ourselves to him – whether it is Satan or God. God has planted in us a nature with which we can choose. We have been honored with a God-like nature. It gives us the potential of becoming more like God as we choose to obey and follow Him. On the other hand, we become more like Satan as we choose to obey and follow him!
B. We are slaves either way! We are either slaves of sin which leads to death or slaves of obedience which leads to righteousness. It’s our choice! Every day of our lives we choose whom we will serve. A slave has committed himself to obedience because he now belongs to his master/owner. That obedience to God is a good thing because it leads to righteousness. And it’s not a hard thing because we are yoked to Christ who pulls most of the weight. Matt. 11:29-30 When we are yoked with Christ everything becomes easier because He is our Joy, our Light, our Strength, our Hope, and our Comfort. So Paul praises God for the decision that the Roman Christians have made. Thanks be to God for His faithfulness to them and to us in calling us away from the old life into a relationship with Him.
C. To God be all the glory for rescuing us from our slavery to a cruel master. In our past we used to be slaves to sin. What is our present and future? Paul encourages the Roman Christians by commending them for wholeheartedly obeying the teaching to which they were entrusted. Is this where we are? They not only believed but obeyed with a whole heart. This is the crux of the matter. If we are so-called Christians with only a head belief, it will not lead us into slavery to Christ. We will continue to want to be our own masters. That will only lead us back into slavery to sin and Satan. II Pet. 2:19 So the question is; Have we chosen to be enslaved to Christ and righteousness or are we trying to live in two different worlds? May Paul’s words be true of us: “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
Read Rom. 6:19-23
V. Slaves to God
A. Paul is making it as simple as possible. He’s explaining it in human terms so that we can really understand and get the point. What was our past? We offered the parts of our bodies to what we thought were thrills and excitement, but the horrible truth is that we gave ourselves in slavery to impurity and ever-increasing wickedness like that described in chapter 1. All the thrills were actually traps. How pitiful it is when people become enslaved to the very thing they thought would bring them joy and fulfillment. It could be illicit sex or greed or power or fame or drugs. And it doesn’t fade away! It’s “ever-increasing”. What happens when we’re born again? We repent of our sins and put away the old habits and ways. Then we make a point of offering those same body parts in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. II Pet. 1:5-6 We dedicate ourselves to God’s holy ways. The Lord gives us His righteousness when we are saved, but then it is our responsibility to grow in holiness. We do that through our choice of obedience and slavery to our loving Lord.
B. When we were slaves to sin we were free from the control of righteousness. We didn’t care what others or even the Lord thought about the way we lived. It reminds me of the Hawaiian word on so many cars here: “Ainokea”. That’s saying, “I don’t care what you think or what God thinks. I’ll do what I want!” And what benefit did we reap from that way of life? None! In fact, we are now ashamed of what we once enjoyed and were proud of. Sin and shame lead only to death! But a big change has taken place. Now that we have been freed – forgiven and justified – and have become willing slaves of God, the benefits are great. A relationship with our great Lord God! Holiness instead of sin! Joy instead of shame! And eternal life instead of eternal death!
This chapter ends with the well-known verse that we memorized when we were first saved. It sums up what Paul has been teaching in these first chapters of Romans. The verse contrasts wages and a gift, sin and God, death and eternal life. All our sins have been earning us something. It’s like we have been working hard at our sins to earn something. But what are the wages or pay for our sins? What are the benefits we have gained? Death! And this is not referring only to physical death. First of all, our sinful lifestyle causes us to die spiritually as Adam and Eve did that day they chose to disobey God and to obey Satan. Sin causes our bodies to get sick and wear out and finally die. But that’s not the worst kind of death. Eternal death is suffering and separation from God forever. And all the time God is holding out His wonderful gift to us. It is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord who has paid the wages of our sin in His own body. How stupid we would be not to eagerly accept that gift. How do we accept it? By repenting of our sinfulness, believing in Jesus as our only hope, and receiving him into our hearts as our Lord and Master.
Let’s be sure that we share this good news with everyone we know.
Struggling with Sin
Last week we learned how we as Christians are united with Christ in His death and resurrection. Our baptism pictures this as we go under the water as if being buried, and we come back up out of the water as if being resurrected to new life. So we are to count ourselves as dead to sin. But in practical terms how do we daily die to sin and live for Christ? Paul has given us both positive and negative commands that help us. “Do not let sin reign in your body”; “do not offer the parts of your body to sin.” On the positive side: “Offer yourselves to God”; “offer the parts of your body for righteousness”. So instead of being slaves to sin and Satan, we choose to become slaves to righteousness and God.
Read Rom. 7:1-3
I. Married to the law
A. Paul continues on with his exposition of sin and the law, death, grace and righteousness. To fully appreciate his detailed explanations we have to remember that the Jews were under the law. For them it was the most important thing. So how could they change from being slaves to the law to freedom in Christ? It was a major hurdle in the early church as it still is with Seventh Day Adventists, etc. Paul uses an illustration of freedom from law – one to which I can easily relate. It makes sense that the law has authority over a person only as long as he lives. Obviously, once he dies, he is no longer under the control of the law.
B. The example he uses is a married woman. She is bound by the law of marriage as long as her husband is alive. When he dies, she is obviously released from the law of their marriage. One who is dead can no longer control the living. A woman who marries another man while her husband is alive is an adulteress – a sinner. However, if her husband dies and she remarries she is no longer considered an adulteress. A dead man can’t tie her to him. When he dies she is free of the marital bonds, and can marry another man.
Read Rom. 7:4-6
II. Dead to the law
A. Paul now applies his illustration. We have died to the law through the body of Christ. Why is this important? This death releases us to belong to another – Jesus! It’s as if we were married to the law and therefore under its control. When we are in Christ, we have died to the law, releasing us to belong to another – to be married to Christ. Is. 54:5 He was raised from the dead and is now alive. We, too, are raised from our deadness to spiritual things to live a new life in Him. Just as a widow who remarries has a chance to “bear fruit” again – to have children – so when we are married to Christ, we have the potential of bearing fruit to God. We can then produce the fruit of the Spirit. Gal. 5:22-23 And we can witness to others, so that more sons and daughters can be born into God’s family.
B. When we were controlled by our sinful nature, the passions aroused by the law worked in our bodies, bearing fruit for death instead of life. I think it’s kind of like telling a child not to do something. It makes him want to do it. Since we have died to what once bound us, we are released to serve in a whole new way – the way of the Spirit – not the written code. The law of our Husband, Christ, is written in our hearts, and we follow it because we love Him! A love relationship makes it all real. It is no longer just the form of obeying the letter of a dead law. So then we can serve in the new way of the Spirit of God. I recently read the biography of John Wesley. He lived in England in the 1700s. I knew of him before as a great evangelist who brought revival to England and beyond. I found in his biography that he had spent his childhood and young adulthood trying his best to please God without knowing Christ. He spent many hours in prayer and reading the Bible and even forced others to do the same. But it wasn’t until he understood that he could not save himself by his good works that he quit trying and gave his heart to Christ. Our so-called goodness is like the filthy rags used to mop up somebody’s vomit. Isa. 64:6 Good works alone cannot save anyone. Eph. 2:8-9
Read Rom. 7:7-13
III. The law makes sin sinful
A. It seems from Paul has been writing that the law is actually bad or sinful since it cannot save. That’s not what he meant. The law is not bad! It is good because it gives us a standard by which we can measure our words, deeds and motives. Paul says that he would not have recognized sin in himself as sin without the law. As an example he uses covetousness. He would not have known what coveting is unless the law had defined it by telling us not to covet. Ex. 20:17; Deut. 5:21 So we see that covetousness is wanting and lusting after other people and their belongings. The problem is that we might not covet if it were not mentioned in detail in the law. Or more likely, we would be coveting without knowing that was what we were doing and that it was condemned by God. This is the problem of the relativism in which we live in this world. There are no absolutes, so each man defines his own “law”. And for some people there is no God either to define or judge on the basis of His stated rules and principles.
B. Apart from law sin is dead. For New Agers and others in certain cults, there is no such thing as sin. If you eliminate God’s law and God as your Judge, you eliminate sin. What Paul means is that there is no awareness of sin until the light of the law shines into our darkness and reveals the sin we were not aware of. If we refuse to accept God’s judgment and His law we don’t see our sin and so think that we’re O.K. So we feel that we’re “alive” apart from the law because we don’t have to deal with God or His truth. When the law is taken into consideration, sin springs to life. We see the sin as defined by God and then we die because “The wages of sin is death”.
C. The very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. It was as if sin deceived us and through the law put us to death. Before we knew the law we were alive. Then when we found out from the law what is sinful, sin appeared in our lives and we died. The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Those 3 words all mean the same thing. So it seems that Paul is making a very strong point by saying it with 3 different words that all have the same definition. But this leaves us with a question. How can something that is holy and good become death to us? The holy law helps us to recognize the sinfulness of sin. Otherwise, we might think that it’s O.K. or not so bad. When we see the law as the standard of God it helps us to see how far short we have fallen of His standard. Rom. 3:23 It’s like me trying to make myself tall enough to measure 6 feet. No matter how hard I try I can’t add the necessary 10 in. to my height. I will always fall far short.
Read Rom. 7:14-20
IV. Doing what we hate
A. Why is it important for us to see how utterly sinful we are? We will never feel the need of forgiveness and salvation until we see our sin through God’s eyes. The problem is that the law is spiritual, but we are unspiritual. In fact, we are sold as slaves to sin. Maybe that’s the definition of “unspiritual”: “slaves to sin”. As such we are ruled by our sinful nature which is in conflict with the spiritual nature that God wants to plant in us. Gal. 5:17 So we face a daily dilemma. Paul speaks from his own experience: “What I want to do I do not do” and “”What I hate to do I do”. Why is this our daily experience as well? It is the summary of the dilemma of the whole human race. We are caught in the middle of this conflict – slaves! And there’s no way out!
B. So we understand that it is sin living in us that has created this paradox. And finally we see clearly that nothing good lives in us – that is, in our sinful nature. This is why Paul painted such a clear picture of our sinful condition in chapter 3. We have the desire to do what is good, but can’t carry it out. But it’s hard for us humans to acknowledge this lack of goodness – this inability to do what is right. We hate to see ourselves as powerless. Even as Christians we want to believe that we can make it. But there is no way that we can make it alone! We are totally dependent on Christ for salvation. We are utterly dependent on Christ for the power and wisdom to live the Christian life.
Read Rom. 7:21-25
V. Who will rescue us?
A. Paul says that there is a different law at work in our members. It’s a law of contradictions or competition between what we desire in our inner being and what we do outwardly. We are torn in two! Isn’t this what we also experience? In our inner being we delight in God’s law or Word. Eph. 3:16 But in the members of our body there’s a different law at work. It wages war with the law of our minds and makes us prisoners of the law of sin which works in our members. Paul cries out sadly, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
B. How miserable it is to be imprisoned in this sinful body. What divided personalities we are! Is there any hope for us? Can anyone rescue us from this body of death? The glorious good news is that Someone can rescue us! So Paul changes his sorrowful tune to joyous praise: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” There is only One who can release us from our prison. He is Jesus! He entered into our prison and provided the way of escape. Only Christ by His blood and His sacrifice can rescue us. Paul concludes this chapter by summing up the controversy inside us human beings: “In my mind I am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” This sad picture of mankind’s condition leads us to the mountaintop victory of Chapter 8.
How important is the law? It cannot save us so should we discount it? No! It is holy, righteous, good. And it is absolutely necessary as a standard of measurement. Without the law and the rest of the Bible we would have no way to know what God requires. The law is more than a set of rules. It’s a reflection of God’s character. How can we know how we should be if we don’t know how God is? The Pharisees knew the letter of the law, but they had no grasp of the character of God. Matt. 12:7-8 We have to go beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of the law to really know God. And our ultimate knowledge of God comes through His Son. When we know Him we know God! The major function of the law is to cause sin to be recognized as sin. Otherwise, we will go blithely on our way to hell, not recognizing our sin or seeing the need to do something about it. We have no hope of salvation until we see the seriousness of our sin and our need to be saved. It had to be shown by the law that sin is black – not just gray! How can we desire to be different or seek forgiveness until we see the intense blackness of our souls? We must clearly see that we are lost, hopeless, and helpless before we will be willing to humble ourselves before the Almighty, Holy God and seek His forgiveness.
Life through the Spirit
In our last lesson we learned a lot about the law. When we are saved we die to the law. This then allows us to be married to Christ. Then we have a new law that we follow - the law of Christ that is written in our hearts. We follow it because we love Him, not because we have to. So is there any value to the Mosaic Law? It cannot save us, but it is important as a standard of measurement. Its major function is to cause sin to be recognized as sin. We have no hope of salvation until we see the seriousness of our sin and repent. But even as Christians we struggle with our sinful nature. We feel utterly hopeless and condemned by our dilemma. We want to do what is right, but instead, we often do what is wrong. That whole picture changes when we are in Christ Jesus and do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit of God. That brings us to chapter 8.
Read Rom. 8:1-4
I. Free from sin and death
A. So we have passed through the dark valley of sin and depravity that Paul has described and we come finally to the mountaintop of joy and victory. Paul has asked, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” 7:24 His answer was “Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 7:25 He begins with “therefore” and goes on to the glorious news of the gospel. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” John 3:18; 5:24 We are in Christ when we believe in Him and commit our lives to Him. Everyone else is condemned. We are either in Christ or outside of Christ! What a wonderful word – now! There is now no condemnation. We don’t have to wait till the judgment to find out if we are condemned or not. If we are in Christ Jesus we are now uncondemned. It’s interesting that Paul puts it in the form of 2 laws: the law of the Spirit of life versus the law of sin and death. Because of Christ and through Christ the law of the Spirit of life frees us from our slavery to the law of sin and death.
B. The law was powerless to do anything about our sin. Why? It was weakened by the sinful nature. The law becomes very weak because the sinful nature can’t possibly keep the law. Our intentions may be good. But our flesh is so weak that we can’t even carry out the first 2 commandments without help because of our selfishness and greed. So what the law was powerless to do, God did! God stepped in when all else failed. God the Father sent His own Son. Those who do not believe in the Trinity cannot explain this simple statement. It is clear from all of scripture that the Father and Son are two Persons, yet one God. The Father stepped in and sent His Son in the likeness of sinful man – but without sin. Phil. 2:6-8 God the Father offered up His own Son as a sin offering. What amazing love! By sending His own Son, God condemned sin in sinful man. Instead of us being condemned, sin was condemned in us. Finally the righteous requirements of the law can be fully met in us, if we are in Christ, and live according to the Spirit instead of our sinful nature.
Read Rom. 8:5-8
II. Living by the sinful nature
A. Now Paul goes into the contrast between living by the sinful nature and living by the Spirit. So we have 5 statements connected with “but”. Two significant words in these verses are “set” and “controlled”. In the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit these ideas are important. We have to be the ones to set our wills in a certain direction, with the understanding that it will bring us under the control of that One. We are always slaves to one thing or another – to one person or another. We choose our master! Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires. What does the sinful nature desire? It is selfish, greedy, dishonest, deceitful, full of lust, proud, hateful, etc. Our sinful nature leads us into all kinds of evil. So it requires a purposeful turning away and refusal of the sinful nature while setting our minds on what the Spirit teaches through the Word and His impulses in our hearts. So we reject what is not from the Spirit of God and follow what is from Him.
B. The mind of sinful man is death! It’s not just bad; it’s death! On the other hand, the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. That mind s full of God’s life, and where God’s life is, there is peace. Next Paul gives 3 descriptions of the sinful mind. 1.) It is hostile to God. It is God’s enemy that wants to fight Him. 2.) It doesn’t submit to God’s law, but is rebellious against it. In fact, it is unable to submit to God’s law and His Word. 3.) The one controlled by his sinful nature cannot please God. Heb. 11:6 How can an enemy please the one he’s hostile to? It is only by submission and willingness to be controlled by a new master that peace can be made between enemies. This is why repentance is so important, and why Paul has written about reconciliation. II Cor. 5:20-21 We need to become friends with God instead of His enemies. We need to love Him instead of being hostile to Him. We need to submit to God’s Word and seek to please Him.
Read Rom. 8:9-11
III. Living by the Spirit
A. The good news was that the Christians in Rome were no longer controlled by the sinful nature. I pray that this is true of us, also. It is dependent on whether the Spirit of God lives in us. How does He come to live in us? First, we have to do some housecleaning. He will not live in a house or heart full of sin. So we must repent and ask the Lord to cleanse us. I John 1:9 Then, when we believe on Christ and receive Him into our lives, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. John 1:12 It’s interesting that the Holy Spirit, 3rd Person of the Trinity, is referred to in several different ways in verses 2-15: “the Spirit of Life”, “the Spirit”, “the Spirit of God”, “the Spirit of Christ”, “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead”, “His Spirit”, “the Spirit of sonship”. How amazing that God, the Holy Spirit, is willing to live in us! He becomes to us the Spirit of life – the life of God in us. And He is the Spirit of sonship, cementing our relationship to the Father as His children.
B. There are 4 “ifs” in these verses. There is nothing automatic here. It is all a question of our choice and commitment. Once we give our lives to Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. If the Spirit lives in us, we finally have the chance to be controlled, not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit. Finally we can be free of the domination of our old sinful nature. But we must be sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit within us. But what about those who teach that you can be saved and still not indwelt by the Holy Spirit? They clearly deny the truth here: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” If you belong, you have the Spirit. If you have the Spirit, you belong. If you don’t have the Spirit, you don’t belong. That’s crystal clear! I John 4:13
C. What happens in us if we belong to Christ and the Spirit lives in us? Our bodies are dead to sin, yet our spirits are alive because of righteousness. And that righteousness comes from the implanted Holy Spirit. The opposite is true of those who are not in Christ. Their sinful natures are very much alive and active, but their spirits are dead because the Holy Spirit has not made them alive. And there is a great future hope for those in Christ. “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you…” Now we find that the Spirit living in us is the Spirit of the Father as well as the Spirit of the Son. Of course, because the 3 persons are one God! The grand hope is that even these dead bodies will be redeemed. By whom? By the One who raised Christ from the dead. As the Father gave life to Christ’s dead body, so He will give life to our mortal bodies. How? Through the Holy Spirit who lives in us! Hallelujah! I Cor. 15:22
Read Rom. 8:12-14
IV. Led by the Spirit
A. It seems as though living by the Spirit is kind of an automatic thing once we are in Christ and the Spirit lives in us. But what if we are not listening to Him and following His leadership? He will not force Himself on us though He will try to direct us. And He will discipline us when necessary. God has given us a will with which we choose. Jesus, too, had a will with which to choose. That’s why in the Garden, He chose the Father’s will instead of His own when He said, “Not My will but Yours be done.” There is nothing automatic about the Christian life. As we have to choose to repent and believe in order to be saved, so we must choose to live in accordance with the Spirit living in us. Paul writes that we have an obligation – a responsibility. We are accountable! Why? Because we have been given the power of choice. Our obligation is not to the sinful nature, to follow its dictates and succumb to its lusts. If we live according to the sinful nature, we will die. I feel that this can refer to believers as well as unbelievers. If Christians turn back to follow the sinful nature, are they not condemned to die? Heb. 10:26-27
B. So how can we be sure that we will live and not be condemned to die? Paul tells us: “If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” This is a harsh way to deal with things. When you kill something, you get rid of it, once and for all. Col. 3:5-9 So living in accordance with the sinful nature leads to death, whereas putting to death the sinful nature leads to life. We rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our “misdeeds” – evil thoughts, unkind words, careless acts, etc. The Holy Spirit will do this through the Word, our conscience, inner promptings, etc. If you really want to know what your misdeeds or sins are, the Holy Spirit will clearly show you. But your heart has to be open to His leading. What do we do when the Spirit reveals our sins to us? We kill them off by repenting and refusing to go that way again.
I John 3:9 If we fool ourselves into believing that we are God’s sons, but we are refusing to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, we are self-deceived. Paul says it plainly, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Conversely, those who are not led by and obedient to the Spirit of God are not sons of God! It’s either/or.
Read Rom. 8:15-17
V. The Spirit of sonship
A. What kind of spirit did we receive when we gave ourselves to Christ? We did not receive a spirit like the evil spirits of the past which made us slaves to fear. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, set our minds on what He desires, and allow Him to control us, He does not produce in us the spirit of fear. II Tim. 1:7 In other words, we don’t serve and obey out of fear, but we revere the Lord and lovingly and willingly serve Him. The Spirit we received is the Spirit of adoption or sonship. Our hearts rise up in love and adoration, reverence and joy as we cry, “Abba, Father,” “Abba” is the Aramaic for “Father”. In English we might say, “Dad”, or as little children, “Daddy”. We can only rightly call God “Father” when the Holy Spirit lives within, prompting us to do so. The Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are indeed God’s children.
B. Gal. 4:6-7 The totally amazing thing is that as His children, we are also His heirs – “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ”. Everything that belongs to the Father and the Son also belongs to us as His adopted children. But we mustn’t miss the “ifs”. If we are actually His children and if we are willing to walk the way of His Son, we will also inherit with His Son. The way of the Son leads to glory but it goes through suffering on the way. If we share in His sufferings, we will also share in His glory. As some have said, “Without pain there is no gain.” We will look at that in more detail next week.
In thinking about the choices we make that determine our lives and our eternal destiny, I was reminded of my recent study of I Sam. in my devotions. I was struck once again by the pitiful end of a potentially great man – King Saul. He started out well – humble and filled with the Spirit. I Sam. 10:6 But later Saul began to make his own decisions in disobedience to God’s law and His specific orders to him. He took the place of the priest and made a sacrifice. God’s Law clearly stated that only the priests were allowed to make sacrifices. Then when God told him to destroy all the Amalekites and all their animals, he disobeyed, saving King Agag and the choicest animals. When Samuel confronted him, he lied and blamed others. At that point God rejected him as king, even though he continued to reign for some years. I Sam. 15:23 After that he was tormented by an evil spirit. When David came on the scene, it didn’t take long for Saul to become jealous and hateful. He tried many times to murder David, though David had never done anything to him but help him. Saul ended his life by going to a witch for information. He died in battle soon afterward. So we see that a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit became the enemy of God because he followed his sinful nature rather than the leading of God’s Spirit. It’s a serious warning for us. Let’s be sure that we listen to God’s Word and the voice of the Holy Spirit, and then follow His leading instead of following our sinful nature.
More than Conquerors
Last week we came to the wonderful statement that there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. We found Paul making a contrast between living by the sinful nature and living by the Spirit. We are the ones who have to set our wills in a certain direction, understanding that it will bring us under the control of the Spirit or our sinful nature. There is nothing automatic about it. It is a question of our choice and commitment. And Paul is clear that if we do not have the Spirit of Christ, we don’t belong to Christ. If we are truly in Christ, we will have the Spirit living in us. Then we have an obligation, but not to the sinful nature which leads to death. If we put to death the misdeeds of the body, then we will live. We can rightfully call God our Father and know that we are His heirs.
Read Rom. 8:18-21
I. The creation liberated
A. Paul probably suffered more than anyone else we know about, except Christ. So Paul encourages us with the promise: “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” In that glorious day maybe our sufferings will be totally forgotten, or maybe they will be cause for rejoicing at the way God brought us through. At any rate, they will seem as nothing when we live in His glory. And that glory will be revealed in us! It reminds me of C. S. Lewis’ book “The Weight of Glory”. He wrote that we will be incredibly beautiful or incredibly horrible, depending on what we did with our lives and what choices we made. I think the most beautiful ones will be the ones most like Jesus – who shared in His sufferings. I have no doubt that Paul may be the most glorious one in heaven except for Jesus.
B. Even the creation is suffering and waiting for its deliverance. According to the Book of Revelation the suffering of the creation will become worse as we near the end. What is the creation waiting for? For the sons of God to be revealed. When we, God’s children, are finally revealed to all, Christ will reign and the expectation of the creation will be fulfilled. The creation was subjected to frustration. What frustration? The attempt to be what it was designed to be and could not be because of the curse. It was brought under subjection, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it. That One is God who cursed the ground as a result of Adam’s sin. Gen. 3:17-19 So we sinners caused the creation to suffer, and we sons of God will liberate it when we are revealed.
C. The creation then will be liberated from its bondage to decay. It is dying just as we are dying. The hymn writer wrote, “Change and decay in all around I see.” The good news is that the creation will be brought into the “glorious freedom” of the children of God. Even today we who know Christ are free from the threat of decay and death because we know we will be with the Lord and have new bodies. In that day we and all creation will be forever free of all decay and death. How amazing and how glorious! Imagine how Paul felt as he wrote this with his many scars and wounds. II Cor. 4:16-18 Maybe all his scars will be radiating glory in that day as Jesus’ scars will be.
Read Rom. 8:22-25
II. Waiting for our adoption
A. It’s interesting to imagine the whole creation groaning like a woman in labor. A woman in childbirth groans with intense pain, and at the same time eagerly awaits the birth that will end her pain and bring her great joy. The creation is groaning in pain while eagerly awaiting the “birth” of Christ’s kingdom on earth. We also are groaning even though we already have the firstfruits of the Spirit. It’s good, but we long for more. So we groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons – the redemption of our bodies. II Cor. 5:2-4 In this hope we are saved. Here the word “hope” is used 5 times in 2 verses. When we are born again we receive the hope of redeemed bodies and a redeemed world in which Christ is Lord.
B. We are saved from sin, death and hell, but we are also saved to glory, perfect freedom, and wholeness. Hope that is seen is no longer hope because we don’t hope for what we already have. That’s why Paul wrote in I Cor. 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Why is love the greatest? One of the reasons is that while faith and hope are essential now, then our hope will be realized and our faith rewarded. Then all will be love. No wonder we are told again and again to live in love! It is eternal! Meanwhile, if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Read Rom. 8:26-27
III. The Spirit intercedes
A. Paul now continues, “In the same way…” In the same way that we received the Spirit of sonship, so the Spirit continues to help us in our weakness. Even though we are truly adopted sons of God, we struggle with old patterns and ways. We are still foolish human beings unable to always do what is right or to even pray what is right. The Spirit helps us in our weakness of body and our prayer life. It’s amazing to think of God the Holy Spirit interceding for us with groans that words can’t express. We have a hard time finding the words to express our prayers because we often don’t know what to pray for.
B. In this wonderful chapter we find 2 Intercessors – The Holy Spirit and Christ (v. 34), What amazing grace that two Persons of the Trinity intercede for us with the Father! What a blessing! To intercede is to come between, to plead with the powerful one for the weak one. The Father who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. This is an important factor. Even though we love and serve the Lord sometimes we don’t know His will in some situations. Is it the longing of our hearts to know and do God’s will?
Read Rom. 8:28-30
IV. Conformed to His likeness
A. Those who made the divisions in the Bible separated verses 27 and 28, but the thought continues. The Holy Spirit living within us intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will. And God’s will is the greatest desire of those who love God. But is God’s will for us always good? Paul writes that we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. In his last imprisonment just before his execution, Paul wrote II Tim. 1:15: “I know whom I have believed…” If we truly know Him, we will have confidence in His thoughts, plans and ways for us. We will know that He is able to keep whatever we have committed to Him. And we will know that in all things God works for the good of His beloved ones. We certainly can see it in some things, but it’s harder to see in others. So the Lord makes it all-inclusive. “In all things” – good and bad, easy and hard, joyful and painful, God is at work, not just for His glory but also for our good if we love Him.
B. How can we be sure that God is at work to bring about good? We know it from God’s character. He is good, so He must do good for those who love Him. Notice that this is an exclusive promise. It is for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. What is God’s work for those who are called according to His purpose? And what is His purpose? God’s purpose is clearly stated in verse 29. His purpose is that we will be conformed to the likeness of His Son. That is the goal and plan for our lives. We are not to be conformed to the world, but to Jesus’ likeness. Rom. 12:1-2 That way Jesus will be the firstborn of many children of God. Then the Lord will be able to see His offspring. Isa. 53:10
C. How does God work out His purpose in us? This passage does not teach, as some say, that all men are predestined by God to heaven or hell, with no choice. That does not agree with the many passages that teach that we have the choice to believe and be saved through our faith. This passage clearly teaches that God knew ahead of time those who would love Him and answer His call. They are those whom He predestined to be changed into the likeness of His Son. So we have a kind of timeline or schedule of God’s dealings with us: 1.) He foreknew us; 2.) He predestined us to be like Jesus; 3.) He called us; 4.) He justified us by Jesus’ death; 5.) He will glorify us in His kingdom. So God’s work in us advances if we will trust Him and accept the fact that “all things” God brings into our lives are for our good, and aimed toward the goal of conforming us to Christ’s likeness.
Read Rom. 8:31-34
V. Christ intercedes
A. What then is our response to such a wonderful God? Only worship, adoration and awe at His incredible love and power. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The fact is that there is a great demon named Satan and hordes of other demons as well as evil men who can be against us. Paul’s point is: Who can be successful against us if God is for us? Is there any greater gift than the very Son of God? The Father has already given us the greatest gift possible. Will He not also, with Him, graciously give us all things? He will not withhold any good thing from us since He has already given us His best.
B. Paul asks another question: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” Satan is the great accuser. But the Lord who died for us is our Savior and Defender. I John 2:1 He has already rescued us and He will defend us against the enemy’s attacks. God Himself is the One who justifies us. Who then can condemn us? Will God the Father? He has already said that there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Will Jesus condemn us? No! He is the One who died for us, was raised to life, and is even now interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. Heb. 7:25 Our wonderful Trinitarian God is on our side: the Father who gave His Son, the Son who gave His life, and the Spirit who gives Himself to live in us.
Read Rom. 8:35-39
VI. Nothing between
A. Who, then, can be successful against us? Is there anything or anyone that can separate us from the love of Christ that He pours out on us? We have the promise of God that nothing can separate us from His love. But He also tells us that we should expect problems in our lives, like trouble, hardship, persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger and life-threatening circumstances. The Lord promised to be with us, not to keep us from all pain and suffering. In fact, Paul quotes Psa. 44:22 which says that we face death and are like sheep to be slaughtered. Why are sheep slaughtered? As sacrifices. In chapter 12 Paul writes that we are living sacrifices. The point is that we belong to God for His use.
B. It sounds like we are victims, but actually we are conquerors – in fact, more than conquerors! How is this possible? It’s possible through Him who loved us. Paul gives us a list of the greatest challenges and reasons for defeat and says that even they can’t separate us from the love of God. Whether it is life or death, angels or demons, nothing has the power to separate us from God’s love. Whether it is present concerns or worries about the future, they cannot destroy our relationship with our loving God. In fact, there is nothing in all creation that can take us away from God’s love that is demonstrated and lived out by our Savior and Intercessor, Christ Jesus our Lord.
I believe that there is only one person who can take us away from God’s love. Only we have the power to walk away from His love. Nothing and no one can touch us, accuse us, or separate us from His wonderful love – except us! We are absolutely secure in Him as long as we continue to remain in Him. John 15:4-7 If we allow doubts in our minds about God’s love and purposes for us, that can interrupt our fellowship with Him. If we blame God for the bad things that happen to us instead of believing Rom. 8:28, we can lose sight of God because we forget that all He does is for our good because He is good! Let us determine to “trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”.
In our last lesson we learned that the whole creation is groaning and dying, but hoping for the liberation that will come to it when Christ comes back to reign. We, too, are dying physically, but spiritually we are very much alive if we are in Christ. In fact, we are alive forever as God’s adopted children. But while still in these bodies we struggle with sin and weakness. The wonderful news is that 2 Persons of the Blessed Trinity - the Holy Spirit and Christ Himself - are interceding for us with the Father in accordance with God’s will. And God’s will is to conform us to the likeness of Jesus. So we know that in all things God works for our good. This makes it possible for us to be more than conquerors through the One who loved us. We concluded last time with those fabulous promises that nothing and no one can separate us from God’s love.
Read Rom. 9:1-5
I. Paul’s sorrow for his people
A. The next 3 chapters – Romans 9,10 & 11 – are primarily about Israel. In them Paul refers to or quotes Old Testament passages 33 times! It was very important, especially for the Jews in Rome, to see that what he was writing about was fully disclosed in God’s Word. They were not some new ideas that Paul came up with. Paul had deep sorrow and anguish in his heart. Why? Because of his fellow countrymen, the Jews. He insists that what he is saying is the truth, confirmed by his conscience and the Holy Spirit. Why would people think he was lying when he wrote of his concern for the Jews? He was called by God to the Gentiles and sometimes left the Jews when they rejected his message. I’m sure most Jews thought he was against them. That was obvious when they tried repeatedly to kill him in Jerusalem.
B. The truth was, that instead of rejecting them, he loved them and longed for them to be saved. He was like a mother who would give her life for her children. Paul had so much sorrow in his heart for the Jews that he could actually wish that he were cursed and cut off from Christ if only his brothers, the people of Israel, could be saved. Imagine being willing to be lost eternally for others? What a great man of God Paul was! He was in the same class as Moses who was willing to have his name blotted out from the Book of Life for his people. Ex. 32:32 Paul’s people, the Jews, have been blessed more than any other people. They were God’s chosen ones who had seen His divine glory on the mountain. They had received from God the covenants, the law, temple worship, and the promises. The patriarchs were their ancestors. And most significant – humanly speaking Christ was a Jew! Who is He? “God over all, forever praised!
Read Rom. 9:6-13
II. God’s choices
A. Why is Paul concerned that most of his people aren’t saved? Aren’t they the chosen people of God? Didn’t God give them the covenants and the promises? What happened? Did God’s Word fail? Paul makes it clear that God’s Word did not fail. The problem is that all Israelites are not true Israel, and all Abraham’s descendants are not all Abraham’s children! It sounds like an anomaly. Jesus basically said the same thing when the Pharisees claimed to be Abraham’s seed. John 8:39, 40, 44 We might say today, “Not all Christians are true Christians.” The Lord had told Abraham that it was through Isaac that his children would be reckoned. Isaac was the child of the promise and of faith. His was a miraculous birth from a “dead” man and a dead womb. In the same way, we are God’s children, by His promise, by faith, and by a miracle. Abraham had a “natural” child – Ishmael. His descendants are the Arabs and Muslims – enemies of the Jews.
B. Next Paul turns to the example of Isaac’s sons, Esau and Jacob. They were born of the same father and mother, but only one was the child of promise. Even before the twins were born or had done anything bad or good, Rebekah was told by God, “The older will serve the younger.”Gen. 25:23 God even said, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”. Mal. 1:2-3 Does God “hate” anyone? Here “hate” means to love less as in Luke 14:26. Why would God say such a thing? It was in order that God’s purpose in election might stand. What is His purpose? That it is not by works but by Him who calls. We cannot be saved by our works. It is all of faith and grace and is dependent on the calling of God. We must go back to Rom. 8:28-30. The “called according to His purpose” are those He foreknew to be predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. Somehow His election is connected with His foreknowledge.
Read Rom. 9:14-21
III. God’s mercy
A. And so the question arises: “Is God unjust?” He chose Isaac above Ishmael and Jacob above Esau. The only logical answer is: God is God! He is the sovereign, almighty Lord. Since one of His attributes is justice, He cannot be unjust. So whether we can explain what He does or not, we have no right to accuse Him of injustice. Paul quotes here what God said of Himself to Moses in Ex. 33:19. In the final analysis, God does what He pleases and answers to no one. We may have a hard time understanding how God’s sovereignty and man’s free will fits together, but we can never be proud of ourselves for making the right choice. It is all of grace. Somehow God in mercy opens the way for those He knows will respond and be willing to be conformed into the likeness of His Son.
B. Paul now goes to his third example: Pharoah. God raised up Pharoah for a specific purpose. God wanted to display His power and to use Pharoah that the Lord’s name might be honored in the earth. Centuries later the nations still remembered what God had done in Egypt. I wonder if He has also raised up other great leaders on the earth like Hitler and Stalin for this reason? God has no puppets. Men are given choices and wills to choose, but all of this is under the sovereign hand of God. He has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy and He hardens whom He wants to harden. We see this in the progression of the plagues in Egypt. Pharoah hardened his heart. Ex. 9:34-35 Then God hardened Pharoah’s heart. Ex. 10:27
C. So we want to ask: Was Pharoah still guilty even when God hardened his heart? And the second question: Why does God blame us? Now we have to ask what right we have to talk back to the Almighty, Sovereign God. Can we face God with an accusation about why He made us as we are or why He brought us into this situation? That would be like the pot complaining to the potter. Isa. 29:16 The potter owns the clay and has the right to make any kind of vessel he wants to. He can make a beautiful vase for a noble purpose out of his clay. Or he can make a pot to hold his garbage. God is the Great Potter and we are the lowly clay. Isa. 64:8 So Paul tells us to let God be God! We do not have the right to tell Him what to do or to blame Him for what He does.
Read Rom. 9:22-26
IV. God’s people
A. Paul now writes about 2 groups: “the objects of His wrath” (v. 22) and “the objects of His mercy” (v. 23). The God who is not willing that any should perish, patiently deals with those who will perish. II Pet. 3:9 God patiently endures their arrogance against Him. Those who refuse to turn from sin and to Him are then prepared for judgment. Think how many men in history have gone for years in their evil paths and yet God in His patience has not cut them down. Sometimes we would like to see them cut down, but God is more patient than we are. Why did God choose to show His wrath and make His power known even while displaying His patience? He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the “objects of His mercy”. Maybe we cannot understand the extent of His mercy to us until we have seen something of His wrath.
B. We, whom He has called, both Jews and Gentiles, are those who have received mercy. And He is preparing us in advance for glory. We Gentiles were not part of the covenant to the Jews, but God has planned all along to call us “His people” and “His loved ones”. Paul quotes Hosea 2:23 &1:10 to make his point. Though Israel was His chosen people and His loved ones, most would not be saved because of their lack of faith and obedience. And this is why Paul’s heart was broken for them. So God went to the Gentiles, to places where God had said, “You are not My people”. There they would be called “Sons of the Living God.” Praise the Lord that He sent His messengers to Micronesia so that those who had not been His people could become His sons! This was the call and vision that God had given to Paul and now He gives it to us!
Read Rom. 9:27-33
V. Israel’s unbelief
A. If we wonder what the future holds for Israel, we only need to read Isaiah’s prophecy written thousands of years ago. Isa. 10:22-23 While it is true, as the Lord told Abraham, that the number of Israelites will be like the sand by the sea, it is also true that the large majority will not believe and be saved. Only a remnant will be saved. The salvation of some will be at the same time that many will be destroyed as the Lord carries out His sentence. At that time the Lord will emerge as the Judge of all the earth. The judgment will be as serious as Sodom and Gomorrah. Isa. 1:9 But there will be a difference. The Lord will leave descendants – those who believe in Him and accept Him as their Messiah. They will be only a remnant – part of the whole. It will be a small number in comparison with the whole, but not as small as Noah and his family or Lot and his 2 daughters.
B. There is a basic contrast between the Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles did not pursue righteousness and yet obtained it – only by faith. The Jews, on the other hand, pursued a law of righteousness, but did not attain it. Why not? They were pursuing righteousness by their works – trying to keep the law. But no one can be justified by works. Their primary problem was “the stumbling stone” – Jesus. The Lord had said in Isa. 8:14 that He would give Israel a stone that would make them stumble and fall. But in Isa. 28:16 the Lord told them that the one who trusts in that rock will never be put to shame. Jesus is the Rock of Ages to us, but to most of the Jews He was and is a stone over which they stumble because they don’t accept Him as their Messiah and Lord.
Christians have debated the question of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will down through the centuries and the church has been divided into camps. We must believe God’s sovereignty and man’s free will because they are both taught in scripture. A. W. Tozer explains well what I believe in His book, “The Knowledge of the Holy”. God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. Man’s will is free because God is sovereign and has willed for man to have limited freedom. (Illustration of an ocean liner) Certain things have been decreed by the free determination of God, and one of those is the law of choice and consequences. God has decreed that all who willingly commit themselves to His Son Jesus Christ in the obedience of faith shall receive eternal life and become sons of God. He has also decreed that all who love darkness and continue in rebellion against the high authority of heaven shall remain in a state of spiritual alienation and suffer eternal death at last. Whoever is on the Lord’s side is on the winning side and cannot lose; whoever is on the other side is on the losing side and cannot win. Let us trust our sovereign God and be sure we make the right choices!
The Remnant of Israel
We heard from Paul’s broken heart last week as he expressed his great sorrow that his people, the Jews, were not saved. But they are the Chosen People who have been especially blessed by God through the centuries. Paul explained the problem by writing that all Israelites are not true Israel, and all Abraham’s descendants are not all Abraham’s children! It was Isaac, not Ishmael, who was the child of faith and the promise. And it was Jacob, not Esau, who was loved and called by God. Paul’s third example was Pharoah. He is the one who illustrates the fact that God will have mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and harden whom He wants to harden. And so all mankind can be divided into two groups: “the objects of His wrath” and “the objects of His mercy”. We concluded with the understanding of how God’s sovereignty and man’s free will fit together. Man’s will is free because God is sovereign and He has willed for man to have limited freedom.
Read Rom. 10:1-4
I. Christ is the end of the law
A. Paul gives an amazing treatise in this chapter in which he quotes 12 Old Testament passages. The Jews could never say that Paul did not know and honor the scriptures. He knew them perfectly and understood the underlying truths and principles, so that he was able to use them in a convincing way to prove to the Jews what were God’s true intentions that most of them had missed. They were blinded by their own interpretations, and their overemphasis on the law and works. Paul begins this chapter with a statement similar to the one he made in 9:3. He wanted the Jews – and the Gentiles to whom he wrote – to know that he cared deeply for his people, but that they were lost. Paul longed and prayed for them to be saved.
B. He could attest to the fact that they were zealous for God, because he had been the most zealous. Gal. 1:14 The problem was that their zeal wasn’t based on knowledge, just as his had not been, even though he was trained by one of the greatest teachers. What was missing from their knowledge? They didn’t know the righteousness that comes from God – His gift of righteousness! They tried to establish or prove their own righteousness by their works. They didn’t know or accept the good news that Christ is the end or fulfillment of the law, making it possible for everyone - Jew or Gentile - who believes to be righteous. No law, whether God’s or ours, can make us righteous. Righteousness comes only by faith in Jesus Christ. So He is the end of the law.
Read Rom. 10:5-13
II. The Word is near you
A. Moses described the righteousness by the law in Lev. 18:5: “The man who does these things will live by them.” It’s a religion of doing. The righteousness by faith is different. We don’t have to search for Christ above or below. We only have to accept the work He has already done. The Word is not far away or unattainable. In fact, it is in our mouth and in our heart – part of our being. Deut. 30:12-14 The word of faith has to be in our heart as well as in our mouth. Just talk is not enough. It must be deep in our inmost being. But it must also be in our mouth. It makes you wonder if “silent Christians” are real Christians. If we aren’t ready to speak out for Jesus, we don’t really have faith in Him. In other words, our faith must begin on the inside and produce works on the outside. James 2:14
B. So what is this “word of faith” that saves us and produces righteousness in us? It is not, as the “Word of Faith “people say, some command we can give the Lord that He has to obey. The gospel message is neatly spelled out here in verses 9 & 10. 1.) If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and 2.) believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then 3.) you will be saved! In the next verse the 2 parts are reversed and put in the order of our experience. 1.) It is with your heart that you believe and are justified. It must be real in our hearts. We are justified only by the faith in our hearts. Then 2.) it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Our commitment must be of the whole person in order to be real. Paul makes a strong point of saying that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. The same Lord is Lord of all! Then he quotes the promise in Joel 2:32.
Read Rom. 10:14-17
III. Faith comes from hearing
A. Paul makes it so clear. The Word and salvation is not something unattainable, beyond our reach. It is in our mouths and in our hearts. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord with a heart of faith will be saved. But there is a major problem. Paul makes it a matter of logic.
Step 1 - How can they call if they don’t believe?
Step 2 – How can they believe if they haven’t heard?
Step 3 – How can they hear without someone telling them?
Step 4 – How can they go & tell unless they’re sent?
So we go back to the beginning – the sending out of God’s messengers. If some are willing to go to far away places to spread the gospel, how can they go unless others send and support them financially and in prayer? We would not have been able to minister in Micronesia if others had not been willing to send and support us.
B. God’s messengers have beautiful feet because those feet carry the good news to the lost and dying. I’m sure that Paul’s feet were anything but beautiful from a human standpoint. They were probably scarred and calloused from all the miles he walked over rugged terrain. I haven’t seen many missionaries who actually have beautiful feet, but in God’s eyes they are. Paul, other missionaries, and all of us, are “sent ones”, giving out the good news so that the lost can believe and call to the Lord to save them. But even when the good news was given by people like Paul, not all Jews accepted it. Isa. 53:1 It’s not enough for the message to go out. It must also be believed. And where does that saving faith come from? It comes from hearing the word of Christ.
Read Rom. 10:18-21
IV. Found by those who didn’t seek
A. What was the problem of those Jews who didn’t accept the good news? What is the problem of many Gentiles and Jews today who refuse to accept the good news of God’s love? Is it because they didn’t hear? Paul quotes Psa. 19:4 to prove that God’s message has gone out to the ends of the earth. Psalm 19 tells us that the message goes out to all the earth through God’s creation. Paul reminded us in Rom. 1:18-20 that men are without excuse because God has been revealed through His creation. Any thinking person anywhere must realize that only a great, almighty God could create all the wonders we see in this world.
B. Didn’t Israel understand after all that the prophets, Christ and the apostles had spoken to them? Evidently they did understand, but they were disobedient and stubborn. So Moses said that God would make them jealous and angry by the nobodies – the Gentiles without understanding. In Isa. 65:1-2 the Lord said that He was found by those who didn’t seek Him, and revealed to those who didn’t ask for Him. That describes us Gentiles. How wonderful is His love for us! Then God weeps over His chosen ones as He holds out His hands to them and they don’t even care. What amazing patience our God has!
Read Rom. 11:1-6
V. A remnant chosen by grace
A. Paul has given us the picture of a broken-hearted God extending His hands of love all day long to His people. So he begins this chapter by asking, “If this is the picture of God, has He then rejected His people?” I would say that most of them have rejected Him! Paul writes that he himself is proof that God has not rejected His people. After all, Paul was a true Israelite. So the one writing this letter is one of those whom God had saved. And he was not the only one. God had promised to save a remnant of His people. Paul explains it by saying that God did not reject His people whom He foreknew. So we come again to the foreknowledge of God. He knew ahead of time which of the Jews would not reject Him.
B. Besides himself, and the remnant of believing Jews of his time, Paul also gives proof by using Elijah. Elijah thought that he was the only faithful Jew left when the persecution under Ahab and Jezebel was hot and heavy. But God said that He “had reserved for Himself” 7000 who had not bowed to Baal. They chose not to bow, and God foreknew that they would be faithful, so they were chosen by grace. God’s grace extended to them as it did to Paul and other believing Jews of Paul’s time. Was this because they were holier than the others? No! It was all of grace, not works. So we see the sovereignty of God and the will of man working together to accomplish God’s purposes.
Read Rom. 11:7-10
VI. Unbelieving Israel
A. Israel tried so earnestly to obtain God’s favor, but they missed it. The zeal of Paul is a perfect example. He tried so hard to please God without knowing Him. But God foreknew that Paul would respond when he finally understood that Christ had died for him. So he was among the chosen or elect. Others did not respond as he did. What happened to them? They were hardened. We either respond with a tender, repentant, submissive spirit or our heart is hardened.
B. It sounds from the passage Paul quotes (Deut. 29:4) as though God purposely gave them eyes that couldn’t see and ears that couldn’t hear. But we must remember that God is not willing that any should perish. His foreknowledge allows him to know the hearts of men beforehand. If they will respond they are the chosen or elect. If they will harden their hearts, then they are also hardened by Him. Paul quotes David as pronouncing doom on those who would not turn to God. What should have been a blessing for them became a snare and a trap. Jesus became a stumbling block instead of the Rock of Ages.
When we feel discouraged we need to remember Elijah. Maybe we think we are the only ones in our neighborhood or in our school or at our job who know the Lord. It may be true that there aren’t very many. But there are surely some. 7000 was a small number out of all the thousands of Israelites in Elijah’s time. It was the remnant of faithful Jews at that time who had not worshipped the false God Baal. I Kings 19:18 Jesus told us that it will be this way at the end. The true and faithful Christians will be a remnant. Matt. 24:10-13 Let us determine that we will be among the remnant who will be faithful to the end.
The last time we learned that Paul quoted from Deuteronomy about how the Word is not far away from us. The word of faith is in our hearts and in our mouths. How are we saved? By believing in our hearts and confessing with our mouths. It must be the commitment of the whole person, not just knowing something about Christ. But how can people believe if they have never heard, and how can they hear if no one tells them? God’s messengers have beautiful feet because they use them to spread the gospel. We found that most Jews have rejected Christ. But has God rejected them? Paul used himself as an example of the fact that there was a remnant of Jews who were saved. And he used God’s words to Elijah that there were still 7000 of His people in Israel in Elijah’s time who had not bowed to Baal. So as we are in the end time we should be encouraged to know that though many Christians turn away, there will be a remnant who will be faithful.
Read Rom. 11:11-16
I. Salvation for the Gentiles
A. Paul asks another question similar to the one in Rom. 11:1. He is asking if the situation for the Jews is now hopeless. “Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?” The clear answer is “No!” There is still hope for those who will turn and there is a remnant that will be saved. But, meanwhile, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Salvation for us Gentiles has made the Jews jealous and angry. When Jesus spoke in His hometown of Nazareth about God’s love for the Gentile widow of Zarephath, the people tried to kill Him by throwing Him over the cliff. Luke 4:24-30 When Paul was In Jerusalem speaking to the crowd they tried to tear him limb from limb when he mentioned that the Lord had sent him to the Gentiles. Acts 22:21-22 Paul had to be rescued by the Roman soldiers. Paul reasons: if the failure of the Jews has meant riches for the world, and their loss has meant a gain for the Gentiles, how much greater blessing the world will share in later when the Jews, too, come to Christ.
B. Paul is writing primarily to the Gentiles in the church at Rome. He identifies himself as the apostle to the Gentiles. God had sent Ananias to tell Paul this after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was hoping that his ministry to the Gentiles would make the Jews jealous and want to be saved, too. When God turned away from them it meant that He turned to the rest of the world to offer His salvation. How much more wonderful it would be if the Jews also responded. It would be like a resurrection of the dead and would be incredibly glorious. Paul refers back to Num. 15:18-21. Moses had told them to offer to God part of the dough. That made it holy. But actually the whole dough was then holy. If the root of the tree is holy it also makes the branches holy. It’s as if the believing Jews were the lump of dough and the root of the tree. We Gentiles have to be careful not to be proud because God has saved us. We need to remember that the beginning and foundation are in God’s chosen people, the Jews.
Read Rom. 11:17-21
II. Wild olive branches
A. When we Gentiles think about how the Lord turned to us when most of His own people rejected Him, we could become proud and feel that we are more important than the Jews. Down through history Jews have been despised by Gentiles, even Christians. I think it is a sign of true spiritual understanding when Christians come to respect the Jews for God’s sake, even though many are still rejecting the Messiah. Paul warns us that we must be careful not to be proud and boastful because our position in the tree is precarious. Israel is the true olive tree and some of the branches have been broken off because of unbelief. We Gentiles from a “wild olive shoot” have been grafted in among the true branches and now share in the nourishing sap of the true olive root. Should we be proud of that? No! We don’t support the root. The root supports us!
B. We could think, “Branches were broken off so I could be grafted in”. We have to remember that they were broken off because of unbelief. Unbelief or faith is the deciding factor. We stand only by faith and God’s grace! So instead of being arrogant, we should be afraid. If God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare us either. If we at any point turn to unbelief instead of faith, why should God not do with us what He did with them? So we understand that we must continue in faith, walk by faith, and abide in Christ. If we do not, He will not spare us either, but will also break or cut off our branches as we read in John 15:2, 5-6.
Read Rom. 11:22-24
III. The kindness and sternness of God
A. So what does this teach us about our God? We must understand His full character – of kindness and sternness. Are these opposites? No! They are 2 dimensions of our holy God. He is kind and stern. A good father or mother will model these characteristics. Unfortunately, we often mix them up, being stern when we should be kind and kind when we should be stern. That’s because we are not holy. As we grow to be more like Jesus, our character more closely reflects His. The sternness of God is seen toward those who fell. Does that mean there is no hope for them? No! Paul reminds us that God is even able to graft in the very branches that He broke off.
B. What about us Gentiles who are enjoying His love and kindness? Can we rest in the certainty that we are the “elect”? Can we take His kindness for granted? We can only rest in His kindness if we continue in His kindness. We must continue in our faith, dependent on His grace. Otherwise, we can also be cut off. II Peter 1:10 Some people teach that no matter what you do you can never lose your salvation. But it’s clear that Paul is teaching here that we must continue in our faith in order not to be cut off. What about those who have been broken off because of unbelief? Repentance and faith can bring them back where they can once again be grafted in. So does God change His mind? No, we do! And he deals with us according to His unchanging principles: believe and be saved; reject and be lost!
Read Rom. 11:25-27
IV. All Israel saved
A. So when we look at the branches of the olive tree we see that the Jewish branches were broken off because of unbelief. The Gentile wild olive branches only stand by faith, and so continue in His kindness. Otherwise, we, too, will be cut off. And the Jewish branches which turn to faith from unbelief can be grafted in again. So the question for both Jews and Gentiles is: Do we stand in faith or persist in unbelief? Paul goes on to reveal the mystery in the hope that we Gentiles will not be proud and conceited. Israel had experienced a hardening in part. Not all Jews were hardened. Think of the apostles and all those who came to faith at Pentecost and soon after. But the hardening of the rest of the Jews would remain that way until the full number of Gentiles has come in.
B. The Gentiles are even now being gathered as the gospel is preached around the world. When Christ returns all Israel that remains alive will be saved. Isaiah and Jeremiah both wrote about this. The Deliverer (Christ) will come from Zion. He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. It’s interesting that the Jewish people who consider themselves the godliest are viewed by the Lord as “godless”. The same thing is true of Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, etc. Many Jews will be slaughtered by the Anti-Christ. The Jews who are alive when Christ returns will repent when they see the One whom they crucified, and recognize that He is their Messiah and Lord. Zech. 12:10 Then the Lord will take away their sins. Isa. 59:20; Jer. 31:33-34 This covenant is the hope of the Jewish people.
Read Rom. 11:28-32
V. Mercy on all
A. We have to remember that when Paul writes that “all Israel” will be saved, he means all true Jewish believers who are Abraham’s children. Rom. 9:6-7 He doesn’t mean all people with Jewish blood. He has made it clear in Rom. 11:4-5 that this “true Israel” will be a remnant of those who are Jews by blood. The unbelieving Jews are at the same time enemies and yet loved. They are enemies because of their unbelief, and to bring the Gentiles to the Lord. As far as election is concerned, they are loved for the sake of the patriarchs. Only the remnant will be saved. Rom. 9:27 The remnant is composed of those whom God knows will finally repent and turn from unbelief to faith. They are loved because of the patriarchs to whom God gave the covenant because God’s call and His gifts are irrevocable. God does not change His mind even though man does.
B. The Gentiles were disobedient, but they received mercy because of the disobedience of the Jews. The Jews became disobedient in reaction to God’s mercy to the Gentiles. So God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all. God turned to the Gentiles when the Jews rejected Him. When the Jews saw God’s mercy to the Gentiles it made them more angry and disobedient. So God is reaching out in mercy to both Jews and Gentiles, though none of us deserve it! It should be our prayer that many Jews and Gentiles will turn from their disobedience to rest in the mercy of our great, merciful God.
Read Rom. 11:33-36
A. Paul ends this difficult section of his letter (chapters 9-11) with an exalted doxology, which is a hymn or prayer of praise to God. What can we say after all the thinking and reasoning and figuring out of God’s dealings with Jews and Gentiles, wild and natural olive branches, and clay in the potter’s hands? All we can do is bow in wonder at the feet of our God who is so very great. Those who think they are “little gods” have not yet seen the Big God! We can’t measure how far He is above us. Our tiny little finite minds cannot begin to grasp the magnitude of His all-encompassing knowledge of everything – past, present and future. Unlike us, along with His knowledge He has wisdom. He not only knows; He knows what to do with what He knows! He is all-wise, never failing, never foolish, never deceitful, never evil.
B. Who has known the mind of the Lord or been His counselor? Do we give Him advice? Isa. 40:13 We creatures of His design can only seek His counseling and submit to His will. It’s not up to us to tell Him what to do, even though the Word of Faith people say that we can do that! I guess they haven’t read this. Have we ever given to God so that He owes us something? We owe Him everything. He owes us nothing. This is what God told Job in Job. 41:11. Paul’s summary statement says it all, and it is this that we should keep in mind as we close. Everything is from Him as Creator! Everything is through Him as the One who sustains us and keeps us alive. And everything is to Him – it all belongs to Him. What can we say? We are totally amazed and can only give Him all the glory He deserves forever! So let us do that with our words and our lives!
We learned in our last lesson that salvation for the Gentiles has made the Jews jealous and angry. Paul had hoped that this would make them want to be saved, too. But we Gentiles have to be careful that we are not proud because we are only the wild olive branches that have been grafted into the true Jewish olive tree. The natural branches were broken off because of unbelief, and we stand only by our faith and God’s grace. We, too, could be cut off if we do not continue in faith. And so we looked at the kindness and sternness of God – both aspects of God’s character – and remembered that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are dependent on God’s mercy. Paul concluded with the wonderful doxology of praise to our great God, reminding us that “from Him and through and to Him are all things’.
Read Rom. 12:1-2
I. Be transformed
A. In the first 11 chapters of Romans Paul has outlined in detail our sinful condition and God’s mercy in rescuing us. He goes on here to write, “Therefore…” in the light of what God has done, we need to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. It seems strange to think of giving our bodies as a spiritual act of worship. We tend to think of giving Him our hearts as spiritual and not our bodies. But what is a sacrifice? It’s a live body offered up to death in worship of the One to whom it is given. So we offer our bodies to live – and, if necessary, to die - for Him. God wants more than our things. He wants us! When we do this, it is a holy and pleasing act to God, just as God was pleased with the holy lamb sacrifices given by the Israelites, and the one great holy Sacrifice of His Son, the Lamb of God. And so this is our spiritual act of worship. But it is not just a one-time ritual. We are then to live according to what we have done, every day offering ourselves to God. The doing is not so hard. The living is!
B. The world has a pattern that most are conformed to. We can’t afford to do that as children of God. The world pays back evil for evil, curses rather than blesses, and tries to get revenge, or to control and manipulate. How can we escape that way of life? Only by being transformed into the likeness of the Son who prayed, “Father, forgive them”, as they crucified Him. But how can we be transformed to be like Him? It is by the renewing of our minds. Our minds need to be renewed, remade and remodeled. To be conformed to the world is to be made just like the world’s pattern or model. To be transformed is to be made completely different, actually to be conformed to the life and pattern of God’s own Son. The Lord is willing to do that through His Word and His Holy Spirit. He changes our worldview to His worldview and our culture to His culture. When our character is changed & transformed we can then discern and approve of what God’s will is. And is His will hard or unreasonable? No! It is good, pleasing and perfect. That takes us back to Rom. 8:28-29.
Read Rom. 12:3-8
II. Use your gifts
A. Paul now speaks out of the grace given to him. He certainly was one who received much of God’s grace. II Cor. 12:9 Only God’s great grace could forgive Paul who persecuted the Lord’s people to their deaths. Acts 22:4-5 He also knew about being proud and thinking highly of himself. So he counsels us to properly evaluate ourselves. We need to see ourselves as unworthy sinners and nobodies, but at the same time to know that we are precious and loved children of the Almighty God. And we need to think of ourselves not only as individuals, but as members of a body. Paul uses our human body to illustrate Christ’s body. It is one body with many members, all having different functions and yet all belonging to each other. Eph. 4:16; I Cor. 12:21 If my fingers and toes refuse to serve me, I am severely handicapped. So in Christ’s body each small member is important and necessary to the function of the body.
B. We each have different gifts. We must never forget that they are gifts from God, not something we have gained by our superiority. The only reason we have these gifts is because grace has been given to us. But it’s not enough to have gifts. We must use them! And so Paul instructs us about the use of these God-given gifts. If a man’s gift is prophesying which is preaching, he must use it in proportion to his faith. The marginal reading I think is more accurate: “he must use it in agreement with the faith”. In other words, it must be biblical. Right next to the gift of prophesying we have the gift of serving. Maybe we would put “serving” at the bottom of the list, but the Lord puts it near the top! But it must be faithful serving. If we have the gift of teaching we should teach, and if we have the gift of encouraging, like Barnabus, we should encourage. Acts 4:36-37 Contributing to the needs of others is a gift of grace, and we should do it generously. Leadership is also a gift. Showing mercy to others is a gift. God loves a cheerful giver, whether he’s giving money or mercy. II Cor. 9:7
Read Rom. 12:9-13
III. Live out your love
A. Next we come to 18 short statements regarding our relationships with others. I think that each of these could be printed out as a motto and hung in our homes as reminders. For instance: Love must be sincere. What a good reminder to us. I guess we could say that it isn’t actually love at all if it isn’t sincere. If we say that we love God, our obedience will show whether our love is sincere. I John 2:3-5 If we say that we love others, our treatment of them will show whether it is sincere love or a hypocritical imitation of love. The next statement is a clear choice expressed in strong, emotional words. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. We are not to just avoid evil or turn away from it. We are to actively hate it! On the other hand, we are to cling - like a child to her mother, or a drowning man to a rope – to what is good. As we cling to good we repulse, reject and refuse evil.
B. Paul continues with his short and succinct sayings. The next two speak to the way we treat one another, especially our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. When we are devoted, we care deeply and look for ways to demonstrate our love by encouraging, teaching, helping, comforting, and correcting. But when we do these things it’s not from a higher position looking down on others and their needs. It is coming alongside them as Jesus and the Holy Spirit do for us. Sometimes we lose our enthusiasm for the service of the Lord and others. So Paul writes: Keep your spiritual fervor in serving the Lord. How do we serve the Lord? Half-heartedly? Because we have to? We should not be lacking in zeal for the most important Person – our Lord!
C. Next Paul emphasizes 3 important characteristics of a true Christian. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Are we joyful, patient and faithful? Sometimes when things are tough and we are in physical or emotional pain, it’s not easy to be joyful. In those times we need to remember that our joy is found in the Lord and His promises in which we hope. Neh. 8:10b What about when we are experiencing affliction? Maybe we don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s interesting that a patient who is sick must be patient. I guess that’s why we call sick people “patients”. Needless to say, we must be faithful in prayer. Eph. 6:18 The next short “mottoes” have to do with generosity. Share with God’s people who are in need. This should extend to both material and spiritual needs. Sometimes people are lonely and need a friend. Sometimes they are hungry for some encouragement from the Word. And sometimes they’re just plain hungry. Practice hospitality. We should be generous with our food and our house, except in the case of false teachers and cultists. II John 10
Read Rom. 12:14-16
IV. Live in harmony
A. Paul’s next emphasis is on the way we treat or respond to others. First, to persecutors. Persecution was on the rise in the Roman Empire and the Christians were the first to be persecuted. As hard as it is, we are to bless and not curse our persecutors. If we curse them we will become like them! Matt. 5:10-12 In the body of Christ, we must rejoice with those who are rejoicing over good things – not be jealous or covetous. And when our brothers and sisters are grieving, we must mourn with them. In other words, we must feel with the victories and defeats, the joys and sorrows of our fellow Christians. We should care enough to naturally rejoice or mourn with them and try to help them.
B. Instead of arguing and fighting we must live in harmony with one another. Singing in harmony means not only to sing different parts like soprano, alto, tenor and bass. It also means to adjust your voice to others as to pitch and volume so that the outcome is beautiful to hear and well balanced. Harmony is not created by competition. One voice that is louder and out-of-tune spoils the harmony. Micronesians are good singers and able to create beautiful harmony, but are our churches also harmonious or full of friction and competition? Pride is hated by the Lord. It is the sin of the devil. So we must be careful not to be proud of our position, our culture, or our education. On the other hand, we need to associate with and care for people of low position.
Read Rom. 12:17-21
V. Overcome evil with good
A. Paul goes on to tell us how to treat our enemies. Repaying evil for evil makes us just as bad as they are. This includes evil deeds, evil words and even evil thoughts. The natural tendency of our sin nature is to pay back evil when someone hurts us. We are to be imitators of God. Eph. 5:1 If Jesus had repaid evil for evil we would all be in hell. We need to be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. That doesn’t mean that we should be men-pleasers. But we please God when we do our best not to offend others in our dress, our ways and our words. We must be good examples, but also good on the inside. Before Paul said we should live in harmony. Here he says we should live at peace, as far as it depends on us. That means we must not take revenge. If we take revenge we are taking it out of God’s hands. Paul quotes Deut. 32:35. God has that right. We don’t!
B. Next Paul quotes Prov. 25:21-22 to remind us of God’s solution. When we have been treated badly, first of all we are to let God take vengeance and not do it ourselves. Secondly, we are to respond by feeding our enemy and giving him drink. Instead of gloating over the fact that he is in trouble we help him. On our part, this is kindness, but to our enemy it feels like burning coals on his head. This is because he cannot stand kindness in response to hatred. It makes him really ashamed that we would be kind to him when he has mistreated us. That’s probably the worst punishment he can have until the Lord makes him pay. The bottom line is: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. If we follow our evil nature we will be overcome by evil because we respond in an evil way. If we respond in a Christlike way, we will overcome evil and Satan with good!
I heard a story about a little boy who lived in a valley surrounded by mountains. One day he was playing outside and decided to call out to whoever was out there. He said loudly, “I hate you”. To his surprise, a voice came back really strong, “I hate you”. He tried again. Again the voice told him he hated him. The boy was very sad and almost crying when he came into the house. He told his mother that there was a boy out there in the mountains who hated him. His mother told him to try telling the boy that he loved him. So he went back out and shouted, “I love you!”. Sure enough, the voice came back shouting, “I love you!”. Of course, the voice was the echo made by the mountains, but it can teach us a lesson. If we give out hate we will probably get it back. If we give out love, most of the time we will get love back.
Living Right in the Darkness
Last week we heard the Lord call us
to give our bodies as living sacrifices, and not be conformed to the world, but
transformed into the likeness of Christ. We studied about the gifts that God
has given us. Whatever gift or gifts we have been given need to be used
for the Lord and others. Paul gave us a series of short statements that help to
guide our lives in doing God’s will. They center on love, goodness and honor.
Then we were urged to rejoice with our brothers and sisters in Christ in their
joy, and to mourn with them in their sorrow. Instead of arguing and fighting we
need to live in harmony with others in the body of Christ. Paul also gave us
instructions about how to treat our enemies. We must not repay evil for evil.
Instead we must let God take vengeance if we are mistreated. Instead of trying
to pay back we should feed our enemy – thus heaping burning coals on his head.
Paul ended chapter 12 with a wonderful motto which we should hang on our walls:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome
evil with good.”
Read Rom. 13:1-2
I. Submit to authority
A. Paul now writes about our responsibility to the government. We are to submit to the governing authorities because God has established them. We Christians must be good citizens. I’m sure that was hard for the Jews to accept because Rome governed Israel. How could it be that God had established a pagan empire like Rome in which the emperor was regarded as a god? Rome certainly was wicked in many ways, but what government in this world is not wicked? Even Israel had wicked kings like Ahab. In spite of Rome’s sins, the Roman Empire was used by God to bring peace over a large area of the world, to establish a stable government, and to build roads for travel and aqueducts for water supply. All of this made it possible for people like Paul to be able to spread the gospel.
B. “There is no authority except that which God has established.” How can we think of people like Nero and Hitler and Saddam Hussein in these terms? They were terrible, murderous tyrants. However, they could not be in their places if God had not allowed it. John 19:11 They did their terrible work for awhile and were then removed. Perhaps we need to think of them as God’s tests for the Christians. Man is fallen, and yet God uses the governments of fallen men to accomplish His will on earth. It doesn’t mean that everything they do is God’s will, but He is able to use even the evil to accomplish His goals. The holocaust under Hitler was dreadful and he and the Germans will have to answer for the 6 million Jews they murdered. However, the holocaust finally woke up the world to understand that the Jews must have their own homeland as God had promised. Even the persecution that took place in the early church was used by God. Those early Christians were willing to die for their faith, but they didn’t try to overthrow the Roman Empire. They left that to God! So must we!
Read Rom. 13:3-5
II. Do what’s right
A. We are not to rebel against authority. If we do, we bring judgment on ourselves. We should obey the laws, pay our taxes, and respect the officers of the law. Tit. 3:1 It’s true that usually rulers hold no terror for those who do right. Of course, there is the exception when a Christian is persecuted for doing right. Paul knew all about that! But here he is talking in generalities – not specifically about persecution of Christians. He’s referring to a situation like this. A police car is following your car. If you have been obeying the rules of the road, you don’t have to fear him. In fact, he would commend you for driving the right way and obeying the laws. But if you went through a red light or are driving over the speed limit, you need to watch out because he may stop you and give you a ticket.
B. It’s interesting that we are to regard government authorities as God’s servants. I Pet. 2:13-14 Some of them surely don’t seem like servants of God. But it is God’s intention in organized society to have His police “servants” who have 2 jobs: to protect us and to be agents of punishment for wrongdoers. Even in a fallen world, laws and those who enforce them are designed for our good. Without them we would be open to anarchy and gang control. So this is why we must submit to authorities: to avoid punishment and for conscience sake. So should we do what’s right only to avoid punishment? My first motive for obeying the rules of the road should be my love for God and desire to please Him, and keep my conscience clear. My second motive should be to avoid punishment. Our love for God should always be the primary reason for our obedience.
Read Rom. 13:6-7
III. Pay what you owe
A. Should Christians pay taxes, especially when they know that many who are running the government are corrupt? Here Paul tells the Roman Christians to pay taxes to the corrupt Roman government. Jesus paid His tax and made it clear that we are to give to Caesar - or the government – what is his and to God what is His! Matt. 22:21 If the authorities, in spite of their failures, are God’s servants, then we are obligated to do what they say and pay what they require. They do work for us and so must be supported by us. Paul writes that we owe different kinds of debts to people. We owe debts of taxes, revenue, respect and honor. We should faithfully pay those debts. If we owe taxes or revenue we are to pay them. And we are also to pay respect and honor to those who lead and help us.
B. This means that ordinarily rebellion against authorities is wrong. However, when it comes to our respect and honor for God, that must come first. The apostles said that they must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29 Wasn’t that refusing to submit to the authorities? Yes, it was. But what was the reason for those words? They were told to stop teaching about Jesus. When the government tells us we can’t be Christians and can’t talk about Jesus, then it’s time to obey God rather than men. Who has the final word in our lives – the government or God? Someday the world government will order us to take the mark of the Beast. God has told us not to take that mark. So whom should we obey? Rev. 13:16-17; 14:9-10
Read Rom. 13:8-10
IV. Love your neighbors
A. There are 3 important principles of Christian living that we can learn from verse 8. 1.) Always pay your debts in a timely fashion. No debt should remain outstanding. These days it is common to owe ongoing debts for a car or house that we are buying, but the payments should be made on time. 2.) There is one continuing “debt” that we have – to love one another. It never can be cancelled or paid off. It is the debt we owe to others because of the price paid for us by our Lord. We owe the debt of respect and honor for others, starting with the Lord! 3.) He who loves his fellow man has done what the Jews have tried and failed to do down through the centuries. He has fulfilled the law. So when God tells us to love one another, it’s more than just a nice idea. It’s a debt! Jesus was the fulfillment of the law. How? He loved us till His last breath. “Greater love has no man than this; that he give his life for another.” John 15:13
B. When we love others, we fulfill the law. Gal. 5:14 If you truly love someone, you will not commit adultery with him or her. Nor will you break someone’s heart by committing adultery with his/her mate. Obviously, you can’t murder someone whom you love. Instead, you will be like Jesus, rescuing him from heartache and death by giving your time, energy, money and talents. If you love your brother you will definitely not steal from him, violating his rights and his personal property. If you love others, you will rejoice in the good things they have, not covet them for yourself. All the commandments are summed up in the one rule in Lev. 19:18. So we see that love is the fulfillment of the law.
Read Rom. 13:11-14
V. Behave decently
A. I think that verse 11 refers back to all of chapters 12 and 13. All the admonitions Paul has given must be taken seriously. This is not a light matter or momentary desire to do what’s right. It is urgent business if we take into account “the understanding of the present time”. Paul lived in a perilous time and we do, too. So he says that we must wake up from our slumber. Have we been sleeping? I think we will agree that at times we have been. So we need to wake up: love one another; hate the evil and cling to the good; continue serving the Lord zealously; be joyful, patient and faithful in prayer; bless out persecutors and refuse to seek revenge; obey the authorities and pay our debts. Why is this so important in the light of our times? It’s because time is running out. “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” But haven’t we already been saved? Yes, if we have given our hearts to Christ we have been saved from sin and eternal hell. But our complete “salvation” from this world and all its trials hasn’t happened yet. Christ will “save” us either by death, like Paul, or by His coming again. Heb. 9:28
B. So Paul pictures his time and ours as “night”. For us Christians the night is almost over and the day is almost here. Unfortunately, for unbelievers, their “day” is almost over and their “night” is almost here. It means we need to use our opportunities wisely – to live for Him and walk close to Him. Eph. 5:15-16 This is for the saving of our souls, but it can also work toward the saving of those who are heading into darkness. If we don’t live right before them, how can they find Him? So we must put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light – God’s armor. Even though Paul says we Christians are in the night, he tells us to behave decently as in the daytime. Most people don’t live in obvious sin in the light. They wait till darkness to live in “orgies and drunkenness”, “sexual immorality and debauchery”, “dissension and jealousy”. We can easily agree that the first four things are “deeds of darkness”. But are we Christians who have put aside those things guilty of the last two – dissension and jealousy? They are also indecent behavior. Are we Christians who consider ourselves “good” tearing apart Christ’s body by our arguments and jealousy?
Paul closes chapter 13 with a positive and a negative statement. We want to ask, “How can we live as people of the day in this night”? On the positive side, we need to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. On the negative side, we must not allow ourselves to think about how to gratify or satisfy the desires of our sinful nature. In Col. 3:5 Paul told us to kill off the desires of our sinful nature. In Col. 3:10 Paul told us to “put on the new self”. Here he says to put on or clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. If we keep feeding the sinful nature like people do with pornography or filthy movies and TV, our sinful nature will grow strong and take over. It will lead us to ruin! Instead we must ask Christ every day to take over, to teach us, to fill us with Himself, and to use us for His glory. That way we put on the new self that is filled with and committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is an important word for our times!
The Weak and the Strong
In our last lesson we learned about the importance of submitting to the governing authorities. Paul made it clear that there is no authority except that which God has established. God accomplishes His will on earth even through murderous tyrants. So we are to obey the laws, pay our taxes, and respect the officers of the law. We found that our highest motive for doing this should be our love for God. Our desire to avoid punishment should only be secondary. There is only one case in which we as Christians can refuse to obey. That is when we are ordered to do something that God has told us not to do. Then we must follow the apostles’ words: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” If we truly love our neighbors we will be fulfilling the law because love will do no harm to its neighbor. We are living in the night as Christians, looking forward to the day when Christ returns. But we must live as people of the day, clothing ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and not following the desires of our sinful nature.
Read Rom. 14:1-4
I. Passing judgment
A. This whole section – chapter 14 and most of 15 – is about the weak and the strong, judging others, and living for the Lord. The judgment referred to is not the discernment needed to identify false teaching. Matt. 7:15 We must keep and use discernment in those matters. It is our only protection against the wiles of the devil, especially in this day when many serious and dangerous false doctrines and practices are abroad. This whole section is dealing with “disputable matters”. Those are things in which there can be a difference of opinion among Christians. They are things like eating and drinking and what day is sacred – not core doctrines of our faith. We are not to put down or despise those who see things differently than we do.
B. Paul begins by saying that we should accept the one whose faith is weak. An example used elsewhere is the eating of meat that has been offered to idols. A person with strong faith will say that it doesn’t matter where the meat comes from because everything is from God anyway, and the idols are nothing. A brother with weaker faith will remember when he offered meat like that to those idols. To him, the meat is still tainted with idol worship which he knows is evil. Another example is the drinking of wine by Christians. If their faith is strong they will know it is only the juice of grapes and it will not harm them to drink a small amount. But the former drunkard or the small child watching will not have the same understanding. They need to consider more than their own desires. What will become a stumbling block to those watching?
C. There are things in our cultures that may be offensive to people in other cultures – like the way we dress. Some people feel that they need to be vegetarians and not eat any meat at all. The problem is that our sinful nature makes the “strong” person look down on the “weak” person, and the “weak” person condemns the “strong” person. Both are accepted by God if they do what they do in good conscience. If God accepts both, Paul says, then we should accept one another! Every Christian is a servant to the Great Master. Do we have the right to judge and condemn the servants of someone else’s master? Obviously, they are responsible to Him and He is responsible for them. To his own master he stands or falls. And the Lord, his Master, will make him stand if he is in right relationship with Him.
Read Rom. 14:5-8
II. Living to the Lord and dying to the Lord
A. Which day is sacred or are all days the same? I’m not sure whether Paul is referring to Saturday and Sunday. Of course, the Sabbath was sacred to the Jews, but after Jesus’ resurrection the Christians made Sunday their sacred day. I think we can get some help with this question from what Paul wrote in Col. 2:16-17. I’m sure there were problems in the early church about whether the Gentiles should follow the Jewish calendar of holy days and feasts. But actually, isn’t every day the Lord’s day? All the days belong to Him. We should be doing each thing for the Lord, giving Him thanks every day of our lives. He doesn’t want us to be tied up in legalism.
B. The one who eats meat should do it to the Lord, giving thanks to Him for it. The vegetarian who abstains from meat should also do it to the Lord. This attitude prevents gluttony, legalism, and a spirit of martyrdom. In all things we should glorify the Lord! We don’t live to ourselves alone or die to ourselves alone. We might interpret this as referring to our responsibilities to others. That would be correct, but it is not Paul’s emphasis here. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die we die to the Lord. We are to live in relationship to the Lord. If we live that way, when we die we will also die to the Lord. Paul wrote, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Phil. 1:20-21 Whether we live or die we belong to the Lord. Paul summed it up well in Col. 3:17.
Read Rom. 14:9-12
III. Giving an account
A. As Paul examines the question of who has the right to judge, he says that Christ died and returned to life so that He might be the Lord of all – the dead and the living! He is the only one qualified and appointed to be Judge. So Paul asks us why we think we have the right to judge our brothers or look down on them when they think differently than we do. This is the kind of judging referred to in Matt. 7:1-3. This is not referring to doctrinal differences. It is all about “disputable matters”. The core doctrines of Christianity are “indisputable”. They are to be accepted as truth and followed by all. In fact, those who do not adhere to the core doctrines are not our brothers in Christ!
B. Paul makes it clear that he is referring here to eating or not eating meat, observance of sacred days, etc. These are the kinds of problems that people emerging from a pagan background have to deal with. What we need to remember is that we all have one Judge before whom we will stand. So we must ask ourselves why we then judge or look down on our brother. We will all stand before the Great Judge at His judgment seat. In Isa. 45:23 the Lord foreshadowed through Isaiah what would be written later by Paul in Phil. 2:10-11. The accountability is very personal. Each knee will bow and each tongue confess Jesus as Lord. We will not judge any other person or testify against him. Each of us must give account of himself or herself to God.
Read Rom. 14:13-18
IV. No stumbling blocks
A. Paul concludes that we must stop passing judgment on one another. Criticism and gossip are probably the most common sins in the church. Paul say to “stop”! Instead of being critical or judgmental we are to be careful that we don’t put a stumbling block or obstacle in our brother’s way. How do we do that? We do it when we are not sensitive to the conscience and understanding of others. We don’t care what they think. We go ahead and do what we want. Paul believed that no food – in fact, nothing - is unclean in itself. But when another person thinks of it as unclean, it is unclean to him. This would refer especially to food contaminated by demon worship. So if Paul went ahead and ate this questionable food in front of a “weak’ brother, he was no longer acting in love. Eph. 5:2
B. Paul next gives 2 strong “Do not” commands. “Do not let your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died”. Obviously this is an important commandment, whether it refers to meat or anything else that might offend a brother and lead him astray. It’s a serious sin to be callous toward others out of selfishness and willfulness. Men’s souls are too important to be trifled with. The second “Do not” says that we should not allow what we consider good to be spoken of as evil. We think it is enough if our conscience is clear on an issue. We feel that it is O.K. for us. But we must consider our brother’s conscience as well. What is O.K. for me may be evil for him. If we know that something is offensive to another, we should avoid it for the sake of Christ and our brother.
C. Paul sums up his theme by writing that the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking. God’s kingdom is so much more important than arguments about “disputable matters”. If we keep someone from God’s kingdom by doing something with our “liberty” that offends him, we have not acted in the principles and spirit of God’s kingdom. The spirit of the kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. So what I do or say must be full of these fruits of the Spirit if I am a member of His kingdom. And my ways must promote these fruits in my brother who is also a member of the kingdom. If we serve Christ in this way we are pleasing to God and approved by men who otherwise might be offended. It’s a matter of denying self for the sake of our brothers and sisters.
I Cor. 10:23-24
Read Rom. 14:19-23
V. Making peace
A. So what is our responsibility to the body of Christ? We must make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification. God’s desire for His children is that they live together in peace and that they seek to mutually edify each other. We dare not destroy God’s work for the sake of food, drink, clothes, sacred days, or any other “disputable matter”. Paul writes that all food is clean. The only thing that pollutes food is our insistence on eating or drinking something that is offensive. Paul includes drinking wine in his next statement. That is important for Germans and other Europeans who believe it’s O.K. for Christians to drink. In Micronesia they can destroy the work of the kingdom by doing what they do at home in Europe.
B. It’s interesting that Paul concludes this section by saying that we should not be so quick to talk about what we think is right or wrong in the area of “disputable things”. Instead we should keep it between ourselves and God. We can condemn ourselves by what we approve if we are not following our conscience and the leading of the Holy Spirit. The man who has doubts about whether he should eat or drink certain foods is already condemned because he is acting in doubt, not in faith. Then we have Paul’s summary statement for this whole subject: “Everything that does not come from faith is sin”. If we can do it or say it in faith, it’s O.K. But if not, we are condemned. If we cause our brother to stumble, that, too, is sin, not being in faith, love and obedience. I Cor. 8:9-11
I think we can find help on this subject by recalling the experience of Peter in Acts 10. Peter had lived his whole life following the dietary laws which forbid the Jews from eating certain kinds of meat. He was sure that he was right in doing that – and he was. But one day God gave him a vision of those forbidden animals and told him to kill and eat. 3 times he had that vision. Each time he refused to eat the meat presented. God told him, “Don’t call impure what God has made clean.” Then the Lord sent him to the house of Cornelius, an “impure” Gentile. Peter had never defiled himself by entering the home of a Gentile. But that night Cornelius and his whole family were saved, filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized after Peter preached the gospel to them. We mustn’t let “disputable matters” keep us from spreading the gospel and helping our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s do our best to be inoffensive so that we don’t drive others away, but instead draw them to Christ.
Unity of Jew and Gentile Believers
In chapter 14 Paul carefully explained the importance of not passing judgment on others because they do things differently than we do. Paul worked at unifying Christian Jews and Gentiles, as well as the “weak” and the “strong”. The strong were described in chapter 14 as those who are not easily offended by others or by human laws. They enjoy their freedom in Christ without using it as license for evil. The weak are more sensitive to human rules and their culture, and therefore are more easily offended. The strong must not look down on the weak, but help to lift them up and encourage them. If we do things the way we want, not caring about the impact on others, we are not acting in faith, but in the flesh. That becomes sin.
Read Rom. 15:1-6
I. Build each other up
A. Paul’s admonitions to the weak and strong seem to be directed especially at the tensions between Jews and Gentiles. It was humanly impossible to bring such diverse peoples together. They were traditional enemies. So Paul continually emphasizes peace and unity. He asks the strong to bear with the failings of the weak. In order to do that, they have to deny themselves rather than please themselves. We as fellow believers must try to build one another up, not tear one another down. When Paul writes that each should please his neighbor, he doesn’t mean that we should be men-pleasers instead of God-pleasers. Pleasing our fellow believers simply means to consider their needs and consciences and not offend them. Even Christ did not please Himself. If He had, He would not have died in our place. He accepted the insults that should have fallen on us. We are the sinners!
B. Is the Old Testament relevant to our day or should we dismiss it as ancient history? Paul says that everything written in the past was written to teach us! Ii believe that during Paul’s years in Arabia the Lord revealed all the mysteries of His will in the Old Testament which Paul had studied but not understood. He found out what we, too, must learn. It is through endurance in seeking God’s will and the encouragement of the scriptures that we have hope. “Hope” is one of Paul’s themes here. Paul wants the Jew and Gentile Christians in Rome to realize that the same God who gives endurance and encouragement will give them a “spirit of unity among themselves”, as difficult as that seems to be, humanly speaking. How is it possible? If each will follow Christ, then all can follow Him together. No one in this world can bring together diverse cultures, languages, and opinions into one unified, loving family. Only Christ can do that. Then we can join our hearts and voices to glorify “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Notice that He is the God of Jesus in His humanity, and the Father of Christ in His deity. Rev. 1:5b-6
Read Rom. 15:7-13
II. Accept one another
A. How is this unity achieved? First, God makes us one as we become part of Christ’s body. Then, we actively accept one another in the same way that Christ accepted us. Paul summarizes the unique plan of God in verse 8. Christ has become a servant of the rebellious Jews! Phil. 2:5-7 If the King of glory can humiliate Himself like this, surely we can also become servants. Does this mean that He only loves the Jews? We have to read on to find that answer. He did this on behalf of God’s truth which are the promises made to the patriarchs. What do the promises say? That the Gentiles will glorify God for His mercy. So Paul quoted some of those promises God made to the patriarchs about us Gentiles. It was unheard of in David’s time as King of Israel to talk about praising God among the Gentiles and singing hymns to His name. II Sam. 22:50; Psa. 18:49 Moses believed and wrote that the Gentiles would rejoice with God’s people, the Jews. Deut. 32:43 Psa. 117:1-2 encourages the Gentiles and all nations to praise the Lord.
B. But how could we Gentiles praise the Lord unless He reached out to us? And so He did – first, through Jesus being a servant of the Jews, and then through Paul and others serving the Gentiles. Isaiah foretold that the Root of Jesse would spring up. Isa. 11:10 Notice that Jesus was both the Root and the Son of David, son of Jesse. So we see that He is both God and man. He will not only rule Israel. He will arise to rule over the nations. He will be King of Israel and King of kings, and the Gentiles will hope in Him. He is our only hope. We Gentiles were “without hope and without God in the world.” Eph. 2:12 Paul closes this section with a kind of benediction for Jews and Gentiles. Paul wanted them to see how God has planned that they would know Him and be united in Christ. Now he prays that the God of hope would fill them both with all joy and peace as they trust in Him.
Read Rom. 15:14-16
III. An offering of the Gentiles
A. Paul seems to be encouraging the Christians in Rome by complimenting them. He writes that he is convinced that they are “full of goodness”, “complete in knowledge”, and “competent to instruct one another”. Most of them had never met Paul so they might misunderstand why he was writing to them in such a straightforward way. They might want to ask why he wrote so thoroughly about the basics of the faith. He admits that he has written quite boldly. That’s for sure – especially on the sinfulness of man in chapter 3 and man’s degradation in chapter 1. Why has Paul written to them like this? It’s because of the grace that God gave him to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles.
B. Paul had the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God. This was his driving ambition for all that he did. In calling him, the Lord also gave him a motive for what he was to do. He was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles so that they might become an offering acceptable to God and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. That’s why he wrote in Rom. 12:1-2 that we need to offer ourselves to Him as acceptable sacrifices. God promised in Isa. 66:18-21 that He will gather all nations and tongues and they will see His glory. He promised to send some to the nations – even the “distant islands” – which have not heard of His fame and seen His glory. And God will even select some of these “aliens” from the islands to serve Him as “priests”. I Peter 2:9 So Micronesians are in God’s prophecy!
Read Rom. 15:17-22
IV. Preaching the gospel to the unreached
A. Paul wrote about himself to those who didn’t know him in Rome. He wanted them to know how God had called and used him. He was not glorying in himself, but in Christ Jesus. The Lord had used Paul’s speaking and miracle done in the power of the Holy Spirit to lead Gentiles to follow Christ. Paul had “fully proclaimed” the gospel of Christ all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum – 3 times in 3 missionary journeys. Illyricum was on the border of Macedonia, now in the Balkans. Paul tells what his ambition is: “to preach the gospel where Christ was not known”. He was called by God to go to places and people where the gospel had not been preached. He was the first pioneer missionary.
B. Paul did not want to build on someone else’s foundation. That’s a worthy calling, but it’s not for everyone. Some of us are meant to build on another’s foundation, edifying the Christians and discipling others so that they can then take the gospel to the lost ones in their area of influence. Paul writes that he has been hindered from going to the Christians in Rome because his call was to the unreached people in Asia Minor, Macedonia and Greece. I think Paul is here quoting one of the passages God used to direct him and assure his call to the Gentiles. Isa. 52:15 God assures us there that those who have not been told will see and those who have not heard will understand. What a comfort when we think of all those around the world who are still unreached.
Read Rom. 15:23-29
V. To Jerusalem, Rome and Spain
A. We wonder why Paul wrote that there was no more place for him to work in those regions. Certainly there were many places he could have gone, but I think the Holy Spirit had prevented him from going to them as He did in Acts 16:6-8. The churches of Macedonia and Achaia/Greece had been pleased to make a contribution to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Evidently Jerusalem was going through hard times, and the Jewish Christians even harder times as the persecution increased. If Paul wrote this in 57 AD, it was only 13 years before the Romans crushed and destroyed Jerusalem. Actually, the Jewish Christians who were driven out, and those who left to preach the gospel in other places were blessed because they were not there to be crucified or burned alive when the Romans conquered.
B. Paul felt that this offering from the Gentile Christians for the poor Jewish brothers was very important. For one thing it validated his claim that the Gentiles had responded to the gospel. It also was a step toward uniting the Jews and Gentiles in the early church. Paul encouraged them in it. He told them that it was only right that the Gentiles who had shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings should help them with material blessings. It is important for us as well to share material blessings with those who help us spiritually. Paul was determined to complete this task of taking the offering of the Gentiles to the poor Jews. He considered it important enough to be willing to face death. He wrote that he planned to go to Spain and to visit them in Rome on the way. As far as we know, he never went to Spain, but he did go to Rome – as a prisoner of Caesar. However, God used him as a prisoner to reach many people he could not have reached otherwise.
Read Rom. 15:30-33
Paul was not ashamed to ask for prayer for himself. We know from the letters he wrote to the churches that he was a great prayer warrior, praying for the hundreds or thousands of people he knew. But he realized that he needed the support of their prayers, too. He urged them to pray “by the Lord Jesus Christ” and “by the love of the Spirit”. What a good reminder for our prayers! It’s interesting to note Paul’s specific requests for prayer. Now we can look back and see if those prayers were answered.
1.) He asked for prayer to be rescued from the unbelieving Jews in Judea. In Acts we learn that it was Roman soldiers who rescued him from the mob that wanted to kill him. And it was the Roman commander who sent him away in safety when Paul’s nephew informed him that there was a secret plot to kill Paul. God uses amazing ways to answer! 2.) He asked that they pray that his service to the saints in Jerusalem would be acceptable. Evidently it was, and the poor Christians there were very grateful.
3.) He asked that by God’s will he might come to them with joy and be refreshed. I don’t think that Paul knew that he would reach Rome only after 2 years, a shipwreck and as a prisoner. But the Lord rescued him from all kinds of danger and brought him to Rome. And some of Paul’s greatest letters were written while he was in prison. One of them, Philippians, is full of joy!
Paul’s emphasis in chapter 15 was the importance of unity among the believers – both Jews and Gentiles. We should build each other up rather than pleasing ourselves. For those who question the importance of the Old Testament, he wrote that everything written in the past was written to teach us. He made it clear that we can achieve this unity by accepting one another in the same why that Christ has accepted us. Paul quoted several passages to show that it was God’s plan that the Gentiles would praise Him. In fact, the Gentiles were to be an offering to God. Paul made it clear that it was his goal to preach the gospel where it had not been preached. He was planning to go next to the unreached area of Spain. But first he must take a trip to Jerusalem to deliver the collection of Gentile Christians for the poor Jewish believers there. We saw that Paul’s requests for prayer were answered by God, though not in the ways he anticipated.
Read Rom. 16:1-7
I. Worthy saints
A. In this chapter of personal greetings Paul writes specifically about 30 individuals and groups of people. Paul knew a vast number of people, and had personal relationships with them. He obviously had a good memory of these individuals or had heard about them from others. It gives me the impression that he was praying specifically for them. He also sends greetings, not only from himself, but from 8 others as well. This chapter gives the whole book the quality of a letter, which of course it was. But since it is such a systematic presentation of doctrinal truth, it’s easy to lose the sense of letter as we read it. It’s interesting to note that 9 of the people mentioned were women. Paul begins by introducing and commending a woman named Phoebe. I think she must have been the one who delivered Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome. Paul calls Phoebe “a sister”, “a servant of the church”, and “a great help to many people”, including Paul. Paul asked that the saints in Rome receive her and give her any help she might need.
B. The next people Paul greets are Priscilla and Aquila, whom he calls, “my fellow workers”. Paul met them in Corinth. They had to leave Rome because Claudius Caesar had ordered all Jews to leave. Acts 18:1-3 They worked together in Corinth and later went to Ephesus where they served together for awhile. I think it was in Ephesus where “they risked their lives for him”. Now they were back in Rome with a house church meeting in their home. Paul wrote about them because he wanted the Christians in Rome to appreciate the wonderful people God had sent to them. We, too, need to encourage appreciation of others. It was not a light thing in those days to have a church meeting in your home. Of course, it meant extra work for the host and hostess. But, also, with the persecution growing in Rome, it was dangerous. If the Romans began hunting down Christians, they would aim first at the people who opened their homes for Christian gatherings. We don’t know much about Epenetus or Mary, but know a little about Paul’s relatives, Andronicus and Junias. They had been in prison with him, though we don’t know whether that was in Philippi, Jerusalem or Caesarea. He says they were “apostles” who had been “in Christ” before he was.
Read Rom. 16:8-16
II. Hard workers
A. We don’t know anything about Ampliatus except that Paul loved him in the Lord. Paul uses this expression “in the Lord” 4 times here. Ampliatus may have been a young convert for whom Paul was affectionate. Urbanus was a fellow worker and Stachys a friend. Apelles was tested and approved in Christ. He may have gone through some of Paul’s trials with him. He greeted the households of Aristobulus and Narcissus, and his relative, Herodion. Tryphena and Tryphosa were possibly twins, judging by their names. At any rate, they were commended by Paul as hard workers for the Lord, as was Persis. It’s comforting to know that Paul acknowledged not only the men who were apostles or leaders, but the women also who served the Lord faithfully.
B. Probably the Rufus mentioned here is the son of Simon who carried Jesus’ cross. Mark 15:21 I wonder why he is identified as “chosen in the Lord”? Actually we are all chosen if we belong to Christ. Eph. 1:11 This brings us back to Rom. 8:29. Somehow it all works together that God foreknew that we would choose Him and that He predestined or chose us. We don’t have to worry about what happened first or second. All we need to know is that we who choose Him are the chosen. But in the case of Rufus, maybe the choice of Simon to carry the cross caused his whole family to be chosen in a special way – including Rufus’ mother. The rest who were greeted are named in a group with all the saints. They are told to greet one another with a holy kiss, probably similar to what they still do in Turkey and other countries. We see that Paul had a very personal interest in people. He knew their names and remembered what they had done. It is a good principle for Christian ministry of any kind.
Read Rom. 16:17-19
III. Divisive and deceptive people
A. Paul feels that it is necessary to end his letter to the Roman Christians with a strong warning. It is similar to warnings he gave in I & II Timothy. I Tim. 6:20-21; II Tim. 3:1-5. Peter, too, gave warnings to the early church about these false teachers. II Pet. 2:1-3 What is Paul’s warning here to them and to us? “Watch out!” “Keep away!” We are to be watchful and careful about those who cause divisions. Divisive people are not God’s favorites. In fact, divisiveness is one of the things God hates. Prov. 6:16-19 We have to remember that in all Paul’s letters the church is viewed as one whole. Anyone who intentionally tries to divide or break up that body of Christ is a divisive person working for Satan, not for God. One of the things false teachers do is put obstacles in people’s way. Instead of leading the believers to higher ground, free in the worship of God, they tie them with unscriptural demands like “the anointing” or “slain in the spirit”. Paul wrote that anything that was contrary to the teaching they had learned was an obstacle and divisive.
B. We are not only to watch out for these people. We are to keep away from them! Their influence is like gangrene or yeast in the dough. Paul writes plainly: “They are not serving the Lord Christ”, even though they may appear to be serving Him. How can you be serving the Lord while doing things that harm His body? If they’re not serving the Lord, whom are they serving? They are serving their own appetites! They have an appetite for money, for power, for fame, and for a reputation that they are holier than others. What methods do they use to accomplish their goals? “By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.” What a picture of TV evangelists! Unfortunately, they are quite successful because there are so many naive Christians who don’t study their Bibles. It seems that the church is full of infants with very few mature swimmers who can hold their own in the waves of false teaching. Eph. 4:14
C. Paul goes on to encourage them after his warning. He is glad to have heard of their obedience. It has given him joy. But he wants them to be wise about what is good – grow and mature in their understanding of God’s will, and be discerning about false teaching. He doesn’t ask them to be wise or know about evil. Instead they are to be like innocent children when it comes to evil. I Cor. 14:20 This is what Adam and Eve were until they disobeyed God and became guilty of evil and gained the knowledge of evil.
Read Rom. 16:20-24
IV. Fellow workers
A. Verse 20 is an amazing verse. It is the promise that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under their feet. The God of peace is at war with the enemy. And so, when we have peace with God we, too, are at war with Satan. God is in the business of crushing Satan. That’s what Jesus did at the cross. He made a fool of the one who had been laughing at Him. Col. 2:15 The amazing thing is that the God of peace is actually a warrior! The second amazing thing is that He crushes the enemy under our feet! God does the crushing, but He does it under our feet! That has got to be Satan’s greatest humiliation. No wonder he wants to eliminate us. At the same time that we are in this warfare, Paul prays that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ will be with us. Grace, peace and warfare don’t seem to go together, but that’s the story of the Christians life!
B. Next, Paul sends greetings to the Christians in Rome from those who were with him in Corinth when he wrote this. Timothy, Paul’s fellow worker and son in the Lord was there with him in Corinth. I Tim. 1:2 He also had with him some relatives, probably from Tarsus. Perhaps he had recruited them to travel with him when he passed through Tarsus on his way east. Tertius also sent greetings. He was Paul’s scribe or secretary who wrote the letter for him. Paul usually used scribes to write for him as he dictated. II Thess. 3:17 He may have had eyesight problems or injuries to his hand or both. Whatever health problems he had, Paul still had his brilliant mind and sensitive heart to the end.
Read Rom. 16:25-27
V. Final benediction
A. Paul’s closing benediction reminds us that God is the One who can establish us by the gospel. He calls it “my gospel” to differentiate it from the false “gospel” being taught by others, as we learned in Sandy’s study in II Corinthians. II Cor. 11:4 Here, as in Ephesians and Colossians, Paul refers to the “mystery” which had been hidden, but is now made known through the prophetic writings. Eph. 3:6; Col. 1:25-27 What is this mystery? It is Christ! In fact, it is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is Christ in Jews and Gentiles, bringing them together in one body as they had never been in the past. This is the goal: “That all nations might believe and obey Him.” And it is all planned and carried out by the only wise God to whom belongs glory forever through Jesus Christ!
I would like to close the study of Romans with a personal testimony. In 1961 the Lord gave my husband and me each a clear personal call to serve Him in Micronesia. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, leaving our pastorate, most of our belongings and our friends in Indiana, and our relatives in Connecticut. We didn’t know if we could be missionaries and learn the language in a foreign place. We didn’t know what would happen to our children there. But we did know that the God of Abraham could do the impossible. So we moved ahead in our plans. Then my husband had a heart attack. In those days there was not bypass surgery. He might die or become handicapped. One of the promises God gave me in those days was Rom. 16:20. He promised to crush Satan under our feet. After almost 4 months of hospitalization and some recovery at home, John was not able to do his pastoral ministries, let alone go to Micronesia as a missionary. But then the Lord showed us we needed to call our people to church to pray for healing. And John was healed! All glory goes to the God who is able to crush Satan under our feet!