Showing posts with label Romans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Romans. Show all posts

Monday, April 14, 2014

Romans 16

In conclusion, Paul took time to thank a long list of friends at a church which he had not visited. It is assumed that many of these leaders probably met Paul during their travel to eastern province.

Paul in his note commended Phoebe, who was a servant of the church in Cenchrea. Greetings were sent to Priscilla and Aquila. Greetings to several others were sent and instructed to greet each other with a holy kiss.

He gave them a final warning about deceivers, whose disruptive behavior he knows quite well.
Romans 16:17-19 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
Among other names, Paul also included the names of Timothy and also Tertius who drafted this letter. After learning the personality of Paul, I can only imagine how many corrections Tertius would have made to this letter!

He concluded praise of God, who has revealed what had been kept a mystery. While signing off, Paul's thoughts return to the wisdom and glory of God.

Romans 15

The language of Paul softens when he approaches the final two chapters.

He begins by asking them to to undertake Christ as the role model. He blesses those readers saying, "May Lord give them Christ's attitude." Being Christian means pleasing others, and we should give priority to others than self rights.
Romans 15:5-6 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Regardless of the background we come from, we must do everything in our capacity to promote oneness. He wishes the Romans saying, "May your be filled with love for others and joy and peace by the Holy Spirit."

He then speaks personally about him. He glorified God in the work God has done through him. For more than twenty years, he has been the apostle of the non-Jewish world. He established numerous churches in Cyprus, Syria, Turkey and Greece. Paul desires to come to Rome. After completing his work of delivering the money given by gentile churches to Jerusalem, he plans to visit Rome on his way to Spain. His immediate plans are to go to Jerusalem. However, he asks the Romans to pray for the success of his visit there.

Romans 14

Among Christians, there were certain matters of conscience which they disagreed. The issue of meat became mainstream discussion. There was a problem with the meat that was served. Certain meat was being sold in the market after it was sacrificed to pagan gods. If you recall, Jews had strict dietary laws differentiating clean and unclean animals. Further, there were kosher laws on how animals should be slaughtered. This raised a conflict between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Hence, Paul is addressing these issues.

He begins the chapter by talking about vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Neither the vegetarian nor the non-vegetarian is superior, as God has accepted both of them, and He is the Only One who can judge both those groups.
Romans 14:2-4 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Further, none of us has the right to judge someone for particular practices or observances, because they are done from conscience. If one considers a particular day sacred while other does not, it is a matter of their own conscience.
Romans 14:6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 
It is inappropriate to judge another human being, because we too will face judgment before Jesus. Paul is convinced that no food is in itself unclean, but if anybody considers certain food unclean, then he has no argument against them. To him, quarrel over food are destructive and unprofitable. He calls their attention to higher things than food or drinks.
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Paul makes a recommendation - keep your food belief between yourself and God.

Romans 13

Paul teaches moral responsibility including submission to authorities. He said that authorities that exist today were established by God. Government officials derive their authority from God, and must therefore be obeyed.
Romans 13:5-7 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Next, Paul emphasized the importance of love. He demonstrated how all those commandments can be combined into a single commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Romans 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

He encouraged Christians to put on the armor of light.
Romans 13:13-14 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Romans 12

Here is an interesting preface by Martin Luther:

St. Paul teaches the true liturgy and makes everyone Christians priests, so that they may offer, not money or cattle, as priests do in the Law, but their own bodies, by putting their desires to death. Next he describes the outward conduct of Christians whose lives are governed by the Spirit; he tells how they teach, preach, rule, serve, give, suffer, love, live and act toward friend, foe and everyone. These are the works that a Christian does, for, as I have said, faith is not idle.

God, out of His great love, at a great price, saved the lives of His people. For those of us who want to thank Him back, Paul offers us the key. What can we offer to God, who owns the entire world, and is the creator of this entire universe?
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Our bodies are a living sacrifice to God - that is what we can give Him. Once we offer ourselves to God, we will be transformed by our renewal in the Spirit.

Next, we have to be humble. As a body has many members, so the church has diverse gifts of the Spirit, such a prophesying, ministering, teaching, etc.
6-8 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Finally, put love into action. Paul mentions a long 'to do list.' I do not feel like skipping that list - hence adding it here.

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 11

Despite all their disbelief and actions, did God cast away Israel? Certainly not! When Elijah appealed to God against Israelites, God said there were seven thousand who did not bow down to Baal. Similarly, at the present time, there is a faithful remnant, as there was during the time of Elijah.

Israel's blindness is partial and temporary. This gave the Gentiles an opportunity to learn about God and experience His mercy. Therefore, the Gentiles should thank the Jews and never disparage them.

Paul remarks that Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. Lord has mysterious ways, beyond our understanding.
Romans 11:26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
    he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
God's purpose is to show His mercy to the entire mankind.

Romans 10

Paul wants good things to happen for Israel - salvation and nothing less. Though Jews are energetic about God, they are doing things backwards. Israel was seeking to establish its own righteousness rather than submit to the righteousness of God.

Whoever, Jew or gentile alike, calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Romans 10:9-10 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 
Paul mentioned another encouraging verse:
Romans 10:11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
The task of the messenger is to make sure that everyone hears the good news. To be saved, someone has to believe. To believe, they have to be heard. To be heard, someone should preach to them. To be preached, someone has to be sent.
Romans 10:15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Israel has heard the good news, but they still rejected it. Isaiah foretold Israel’s rejection of the gospel in Isaiah 53:10.

Romans 9

While Paul found excitement in proclaiming God's glorious provision in Christ, he felt distress for God's own specially chosen people - Israelites. This was because they refused to believe in the promised Messiah. The gentiles were quick and eager to accept the gospel.

Paul went on to define who God's children are. He refutes the claim that just because they are children of Israel, they are Israelites. He says, "It is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

Lord, the maker of Heaven has an indisputable right in doing what he feels is right, out of what He makes. We may not understand why God chooses a certain way.

Paul gives example of Jacob and Easu, who both were physical descendants of Isaac. Paul quotes God speaking to Moses
Romans 9:15 For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
    and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
In conclusion, Paul tells us that God deals with individuals with either mercy or judgment, and no one has the right to find fault with His proceedings.
Romans 9:18 Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.
In closing this chapter, Paul wrote that Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness obtained it by faith. However, the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, did not attain their goal. The reason is that Israelites did not pursue righteousness by faith but by works.

A tough nut to crack - Romans

We crossed the halfway mark through Romans. Below is exactly how I feel about Paul and the Letter to Romans.

Romans is quite deep. If you have taken a dip in it, you know what I am talking about. 

Without doubt, Romans is left-brain material with numerous well thought logic and arguments. Those who love pure logic and reasoning will love this. 

Imagine that awesome feeling when one tames a 'wild horse' - that is how I feel now. By going through it the rough way, I now have discovered a method to make this book interesting to my readers (maybe next time). 

What a writing by Paul, to an audience he did not even meet. 

Romans 8

Those who walk according to the Spirit rather than according to the flesh are not condemned. God has done what law was unable to do. We are indebted towards the Spirit, and not towards the law. Those who live according to the desires of the flesh cannot please God. They have their minds set on what the flesh desires.
Romans 8:6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 
The Spirit of God is alive and actively at work in everyone whose who belong to Christ. Even our bodies that die will be raised to life by God's spirit.
Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 
The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will give life to us because the Spirit lives in us. We therefore have an obligation towards the Spirit, and not towards the flesh.

Living in the Spirit means living as a child of God, becoming adopted, and being joint heirs with Christ.
Romans 8:14-17 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

The Spirit helps us in weakness. Another encouraging statement:
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 
Another awesome one:
Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  

Romans 7

Earlier, Paul made it clear that the law cannot save us, and we cannot make our passage up into heaven by keeping laws. Further, the law has authority only over those living things.

Paul quotes an example that a wife is bound to her husband by law only till the time of his death.

In a similar fashion, when our sin dies, we are no longer bound to those law which condemns us. The new life God gives us releases us from God's law.

A reader should not get the wrong idea that God's law is not good - on the contrary, it is holy. However, it's existence creates an awareness by revealing and defining sin. None of us, including Paul would have any idea what sin was, if there were no laws.

Next, Paul quotes a personal example - which is true for all of us. As a Jew, he knew God's law and found himself condemned by it - to the point of despair. Paul knew what was good and right, yet he was unable to do it, as sin held him prisoner. Paul cried out, asking who could save him? None other than God, through His son Jesus Christ.

Romans 7:21-25 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 6

God provided us a way for our sins to be forgiven - by means of His Grace.

So, shall we go on a sinning spree so that grace may increase? Wonder who came up with this absurd idea!

We, Christians, are joined in Christ when we share His death and resurrection. Baptism is the means by which we do that. Baptism signifies that we go into water as sinners and bury our old life. We emerge from water being resurrected into a new life.
Romans 6:4-5 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his
Earlier, we were considered dead to God. Once we cleanse ourselves, He considers us to be alive.

Once baptized, Paul advice us not to allow our body to continue sinning. Instead, we are supposed to offer our bodies to God as an instrument of righteousness.
Romans 6:12-13 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
Paul tells us that once we offer ourselves as obedient slaves, we are slaves to the one whom we listen to. In this case, now we are slaves to righteousness, which leads to holiness.

Paul gives us some food for thought:

  • When we were slaves to sin, we were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did we reap at that time? 
  • Now that we have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit we reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Paul concludes the chapter with a popular verse:
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Food for thought:
Sin does not stop God’s grace from flowing, but God’s grace will stop sin.
~Joseph Prince

Romans 5

In this chapter apostle Paul is extremely happy and filled with joy. Here Paul explains the grace and mercy of God in the clearest possible manner. He conveys us that message and shares with us what it is like and how great it is for us.

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has given us a new standing in front of God. In other words, we are now gifted with life, peace, hope and the Holy Spirit.

How is it that the death of one man Jesus Christ results in the pardon of billions of others?

The answer can be found in the solidarity of human race. Sin and disobedience began with Adam at the Garden of Eden and spread to all his descendants. All of us share the impurity of sin and it's inevitable consequence.

In the same token, the obedience and actions of one 'righteous man,' Jesus Christ, has made acquittal and life freely available to all of us.

Therefore, we received death through Adam, and life through Jesus Christ.

Paul spoke about the value of sacrifice
Romans 5:7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.
This is where we should appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus, on behalf of us on the cross. He did it for us. Further, in all these, Lord is displaying His enormous love for you and I. He wants us to join His heavenly abode one day.

Romans 4

Once again - this is difficult to digest. Hence, making it as simple as possible. Many of us will have to read this multiple times to understand it.

Abraham was not justified by works, but declared righteous through faith. Works involves earning merit, whereas grace is a freely received gift. Paul quoted David speaking the same thing about God crediting righteousness apart from works in Psalm 32.

Abraham was counted righteous before he was circumcised. Abraham was not counted righteous because he was circumcised. Note that here the law of circumcision – is a sign of righteousness, not a cause of it. God’s promise to Abraham was based on the principle of faith, not law or works.

Our inability to keep the law, however, means that it becomes a vehicle of God’s wrath towards us. Faith is related to grace in the same way work is related to law.

Grace and law are the principles, and faith and works are the means by which we pursue those principles for our relationship with God. If we believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, faith shall be imputed to us in the same way that it was to Abraham.

If that did not help, here is another attempt using 5 points

1. Salvation comes not through works, but through grace.

2. Salvation comes not through human works, like circumcision, but through God’s grace which produces faith.

3. Salvation comes not through law, because we are unable to keep the law.

4. Salvation comes not because a person is a physical descendant of Abraham through Isaac, but because all who believe are spiritual descendants of Abraham and share his faith in God.

5. Salvation comes not through our abilities, for like Abraham, our abilities may be weak or fail.  But God is able to fulfill all that is needed.  If God could call the dead womb of Sarah to life, he can call those who are “dead in trespasses and sins” to a new life in Jesus.

Romans 3

Paul is making a strategic move here. He is mentally calculating those questions Jews will fling at him and addresses them one by one.

Here are those 'high level questions' he came up with:
1. Do the Jews have any sort of advantage over others?
2. What happens when someone failed in their trust - does God go back on His promise?
3. Why not do evil things in order to highlight God's goodness?
4. Are Jews better off than other people?

1. Do the Jews have any sort of advantage over others?
Answer: God has entrusted the Jews with His revelation - the oracles of God were committed to them.

2. What happens when someone failed in their trust - does God go back on His promise?
Answer: God will never go back on His promises, and keep His word. The fact that some Jews did not believe does not mean that God’s faithfulness has no effect.

3. Why not do evil things in order to highlight God's goodness?
Answer: God is a just God and end does not justify the means. Man’s unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God – does this mean we can be sinful, so good may come? Certainly not!

4. Are Jews better off than other people?
Answer: No. Everyone is in the grip of sin and the law makes them aware they have sinned. Both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

Paul then speaks about Righteousness through Faith.

This is a bit complex passage to understand, and contains valuable points. So pay attention and maybe read it couple of times to digest.

- God is righteous and just.
- Man, Jews and Gentiles, all of us, are under the power of sin.
- Sinners cannot enter God's presence.
- How do we set things right? The law that was given to man, was not fully adhered to.
- Therefore, a new way had to be identified.
- This new way was the death of His innocent Son, Jesus Christ, which provided the means of our forgiveness.
- God dealt with sin and showed Himself true to His promises.
- Faith is the only channel through which God's pardon can be received. However, all of us who are believers are not justified by our own faith.
- We receive God's merciful kindness, also known as "Grace," through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

Image credits: 
Joe McKeever:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Romans 2

This chapter is aimed towards those Jews, though he does not state it explicitly until verse 17. They were quick to judge others and therefore, Paul mentioned that those who judge others are themselves condemned. He briefly mentioned how God will repay each one of us. The moralist presumed upon the goodness, forbearance, and long suffering of God, and eschewed humble repentance.
Romans 2:6-8 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
Lord judges everyone by the same standard. People who do not have God's law and those who do, both parties will be judged. They will not be judged by what they know, but based on what they do.

He told them how they failed to follow the law properly, acting hypocritically by proclaiming allegiance to Jewish law while sinning surreptitiously.

Paul reminded them that God’s ancestral promise to the Jews, symbolized by circumcision, does not bring automatic salvation. He wrote to them that circumcision of the heart, in the Spirit, was more important than circumcision in the flesh.
Romans 2:28-29 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

Image credits: 
Joe McKeever:

Romans 1

Paul's whole life mission is captured in his first sentence.
Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. 
It was during the winter of 57–58 A.D., while Paul was in the Greek city of Corinth, where he wrote the longest single letter in the New Testament, which he addressed to "God’s beloved in Rome." As he was not familiar with those churches in Rome, he first introduced himself. He then wrote a flattering greeting, filled with warm, human feelings, contained in verses 7-15.

Then he went on to describe the essence of God's power to save.
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed - a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
With a penetrating analysis of human condition, he said everyone - Jews and Gentiles alike, are under God's judgement. He explained how humans in general refuse to acknowledge God. God lets them do what they want, and they sink deeper and deeper into their perverse and perverted behavior.

Paul wrote about sexual immorality practiced by both men and women of those days.
Romans 1:26-27 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Apart from all these actions, their conscience cannot be heard either.
Romans 1:29-32 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

My Thoughts
Do we think we are better off than those Roman citizens of Paul's days?

I do not know what the heart of a bad man is, but I know what the heart of a good man is - and it is terrible. ~Ivan Turgener (Russian poet and novelist)

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Blessings from my kitchen: 
Joe McKeever: