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ROMANS 12 - 16

CHRISTIANITY IN THE COURTROOM

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
ROMANS

 

Introduction and theme: The gospel of God (1:1-17)

The need for the gospel: Man's sin deserves God's righteous wrath (1:18-3:20)

The need met by the gospel of God (3:21-8:39)

A problem caused by the gospel of God (9-11)

Practical responses to the gospel of God (12-16)

Conclusion (15:14-16:27)

 

Introductory Information about the Book of
Romans

1. The book of Romans:  In Paul's time, Rome was the central city of the world and of the Roman Empire.  Nevertheless, Paul, who was God's chosen Apostle to the Gentiles (nations other than Israel), had not yet gone to and personally ministered to this most important of Gentile cities.  See Romans 1:5-13, 15:22-24  In his letter to the Roman Christians, Paul provides a summary of Christianity to the Christians of the key city in his world.  In Paul's letter to the Romans we find him dealing with the most crucial of issues -- that all men, Gentiles and Jews alike, can be saved from God's wrath by faith in the Gospel of God.  Then, Paul explains to the early Christians of Rome (and to us) how belief in the Gospel of God will lead, by the power of God, to transformed lives.

2. The church at Rome:  Though Paul had not been to Rome, the church there was thriving.  "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world." (1:8)  Though the church at Rome was strong, there were also strong attacks on the basic message of the Gospel.  Paul wrote this letter to them to strengthen them, so that they could resist the attacks that they were facing and would face.  See 15:14,15, 16:17-20

 

THE MESSAGE OF ROMANS

     How do you stand before the righteous and almighty God?  Is He upset with you and condemning you?  Does He accept you?  How can we know the answers to these questions?  The book of Romans, probably more than any other book in the Bible, gives us the facts on how we each stand before God.  The facts presented to us in this book determine our righteous and legal standing before the holiness of God.  In a court of law, it makes no difference whether we feel that we are innocent or guilty.  What is important is, are we actually innocent or guilty?  Also, it makes no difference whether or not we feel innocent or guilty before God; what is of supreme importance is whether or not we are innocent or guilty.  In the book of Romans, Paul clearly presents to us the facts about our standing before God and how that should affect our lives.
     In Romans there is a legal battle between Paul, who represents the Christian position that we can only get right with God by faith through grace, and an imaginary Jewish religious legalist, who argues against the Christian position and says we must earn our standing before God as he believes he has.  Paul handles each charge with the same type of skill that Perry Mason handled a court case in his famous television series.  Paul successfully argues that the Jewish religious legalist needs God's grace as much as the lowliest pagan!
     In Romans one through four, Paul establishes that we are all sinners who stand condemned before a holy God.  Both the pagan or non-religious person and the religious person are sinners and incapable of meeting God's holy standards.  There is only one way we can be saved from God's judgment and that is "apart from the law", "freely by his grace", and "through faith" in Jesus Christ's "sacrifice of atonement".  What we could not do, Jesus did by giving Himself as a sacrificial and just payment for the sins of mankind.
     In Romans five through eight, Paul explains how our new standing before God affects the way we who have believed in Christ are now to live.  We are no longer in a law and punishment relationship with God.  Before, we were under law, but now we are under grace.  How will our brand new relationship with God affect our new lives?  There is no better place to receive the answer to this question than in Romans five through eight!
     In Romans nine through eleven Paul focuses on an issue that has been caused by the gospel of grace: Why has God turned from Israel as the centerpiece of His plan and is now focusing on the church that is made up mostly of Gentiles?  The Jewish religious person understandably believed that Israel alone continued to be God's chosen people and that the church and Paul had started a heretical group that was something like one of our modern-day cults.  How does Paul answer them?  In his answer he deals with some subjects that continue to be controversial issues today: subjects like "election," predestination," "God's sovereignty and man's responsibility," and "God's future plans for Israel – Has God completely and forever eliminated Israel from His plans?" These are just a few of the subjects that are dealt with in Romans nine through eleven.

In Romans 12-16, the final section in the book of Romans, Paul gives us the practical and appropriate responses that we should make to the gospel message.  We are forgiven by God because the Father sent His Son to die in our place to completely pay the penalty for our sin.  God's wrath was fully propitiated or assuaged by His Son dying for us on the cross.  God's righteous anger toward us because of our sin and rebellion has been permanently satisfied when God's wrath was poured out on His Son rather than on us.  We have also become new creatures when we identified in faith with Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.  We are no longer under the law, but under grace.  We now have resurrection power to live a godly life.  What shall we do now that we have a new position with God and have become new people in Christ?  Shall we "go on sinning so that grace may increase"?  The answer to this question is an emphatic, "no!"  What we see in the remaining chapters of Romans is how we who are under grace and not law should live!

PRACTICAL RESPONSES TO THE GOSPEL OF GOD (12-16)
1. Towards God: true worship (12:1-2)

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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."

Thought Question #1:  What is the "therefore" there for?

 

 

Thought Question #2: What are some reasons, based on what has been taught so far in the book of Romans, why you want to give your life as a living sacrifice to God?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  How can you be a "holy and pleasing" sacrifice to God?

 

 

Thought Question #4:  What does Paul mean by "the patterns of this world"?

 

 

Thought Question #5:  What are ways that you can most easily "conform to the patterns of this world"?

 

 

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy,"  There is not a better place in all of Scripture to ask the now worn-out question: "What is the therefore there for?"  Paul has completed eleven chapters of doctrine about God's mercy toward us.  Now, he urges the church at Rome to make the appropriate responses to the God who loved them so much that He gave His own Son to save them from the punishment that they (and we) so justly deserved.  This is the pattern in the New Testament: the truth about our sin and God's mercy are presented first, and then we are urged to make the proper responses.  We are not asked to serve God until we first understand why we should serve and how we are able to do it.

As a soldier should not be sent off to war until he is made to understand why the war must be fought and until he is properly prepared to fight in the war; so, a Christian should not be urged into Christian warfare until he or she understands why the spiritual warfare must be fought and how we have been enabled to successfully fight in this spiritual war.  We must understand sin and its destructiveness; and we must understand how God's mercy has freed us from the penalty and power of sin.  Doctrine must always precede duty.  See Ephesians 4:1 and Colossians 3:1  Otherwise, duty becomes just a legalistic burden and not a joyful pursuit.  As a young person I was told in church about what I should do, but I was not told how I could do it.  It was nothing more than a legalistic requirement that I was unable to do.

How does an understanding of God's mercy motivate us to give our complete lives to God?  Ray Stedman refers to a line from the hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross":  "Love so amazing, so divine.  Demands my soul, my life, my all."  God's life expressed toward us has been expressed fully in love and mercy.  Now, how should we respond to His love and how should we act toward others?  Also, God has wholeheartedly and fully loved us, for He could do no other, for He is love! See I John 4:8,16  How, now should we live?  You see, it makes no sense, now, for us to not love or to love half-heartedly.  As Paul said in Titus 2:14: "God gave himself to us" so that we would become a people who would be "eager to do what is good."  Next, consider II Corinthians 5:15: "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."  There is no other pure reason for doing what is good.  We are to love "because he first loved us." (I John 4:19)

If we comprehend fully the consequence of our sin and the loving price that was paid for our sins, we will be easily motivated to love God and serve others.  Jesus said that the church in Ephesus lost their first love. See Revelation 2:4  They had been, at first, fully motivated by love, but the fire of that first love had cooled so that they were serving merely out of duty.

In Romans 1, Paul pointed out that we should look on all God has done in creation and the appropriate response is that we should be grateful.  We should look at all that God has done for us to save us and to make us joint-heirs with His Son and we should be fully motivated to give our entire life to Him.

I believe that I grasped this simple reality immediately as a new Christian.  I had been living in a thoroughly worldly way in a college fraternity.  I had come to see the emptiness of my life.  God brought my brother Lynn to me shortly after he had become a Christian while overseas in Thailand during the Viet Nam war.  God opened my eyes and heart to understand the gospel.  I knew at once of God's love and that I was forgiven and saved for eternity.  I can remember thinking as I was walking to class shortly after Jesus had come into my heart; "I am completely taken care of for eternity; now, I must focus on helping others to know about God's love also."  Hopefully, I still have my first love.  Hopefully, because of the mercies of God, I have given my whole self to God as a living sacrifice.

They (and we) are urged "to offer [their] bodies as living sacrifices."  Giving our body is a way of saying that we are to give our whole selves to God, for we cannot give our bodies to God without giving the rest of ourselves as well.  Ray Stedman mentions that God wants more than for us to be with Him "in spirit."  He wants each of us to be with Him with our body and our spirit.  When we give our total self to God, we, then, purposely choose to give every moment of our life to God, so that our body will be wholly available to Him so that He might use it as He chooses.  This involves choosing His will and His purposes over our will and our purposes, decision by decision for the rest of our lives; as "living sacrifices." to Him.  We each, then, are giving ourself back to the One who gave us our life and gave His Son to rescue us from eternal damnation.

The Greek verb that is translated "offer," is in the tense that states that we should make a one-time "offer."  This one-time "offer" will, then, begin a life-time offer of our whole life to Jesus.  It is similar to the two "I do's" at a wedding.  Previous to the wedding, both the future husband and the future wife should have each already determined that they are now willing to completely end the singles' lifestyle, and they are now committed to begin the married lifestyle.  When they both say "I do" at the wedding, it is to be a lifetime decision to live as husband and wife, and to leave the singles' lifestyle completely behind them.  So, Paul asks us to make a lifetime decision to give our body, our all, to Jesus as a "living sacrifice." See Romans 6:13,16,19

Paul says that the sacrifice that we are to offer is a "living sacrifice."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives the following illustration of what it means to choose to give your life to God as a "living sacrifice":  "There was once a godly Christian physician here in London, a Dr. A. T. Schofield, and I think he puts this truth very well in an incident that he wrote about in one of his books.  He tells us that he once owned a dog which he used to take out for walks.  The dog was young and, of course, he was on a leash.  There was the dog straining at the leash, wanting to get free.  After training the dog for some time, Dr. Schofield felt that he could now allow him a little freedom.  So one day, after they had walked for a certain distance, he unfastened the leash and off went the dog.  In his new-found freedom, he rushed about wherever he liked, and soon raced right out of sight.  But he did not remain long out of sight; he came back to Dr. Schofield and continued to trot by the side of his master.  There was no leash, the dog was absolutely free, but in the escapade, in that great thrilling moment of absolute freedom and independence, the dog had made some great discovery.  Perhaps he had been frightened by other dogs, or perhaps somebody had cursed at him or thrown a stone or beaten him with a stick, I don't know, but the dog, somehow or other, had come to the conclusion that the essence of wisdom as far as he was concerned was to trot by the side of his master – he was choosing to do it.  That was a voluntary slavery.  He wanted to be there under his master's control and guidance.  Somehow he had come to understand that it was the best thing for him." "Taken from Romans Exposition of chapter 12 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 2000 by Banner of Truth."  As the dog chose voluntarily to give himself to his master; so we are to also voluntarily give our lives to our Master!

The "sacrifice" that we offer to God is not a slain sacrifice the people of Israel offered to God before the Tabernacle and the Temple.  The sacrifice that we offer is all of ourself to live for God each day of the rest of our lives.  Luis Palau says that Jesus' words that we are to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him means that each time our will crosses His will, we are to choose His will.  This certainly is what is meant by giving our body as a "living sacrifice" to Him. See Mark 8:34

"holy and pleasing to God"  Jesus' sacrifice for our sins has made us who are sinners acceptable to our holy God, and has made it possible for our lives to be an unblemished and pleasing sacrifice before Him.  Ray Stedman focuses on a misconception that many non-Christians, new Christians, and even long-time Christians can have.  We can think that we must first clean up our lives and then we can commit our lives to God.  The obvious problem this produces is that we are unable to clean up our lives sufficiently so that they are "holy and pleasing to God."  The only way our lives can become "holy and pleasing to God" is through the blood of Jesus cleansing us and making us "pleasing to God."  The famous hymn gives this message; we can come to God and give ourselves to God "Just as I am."  In short, God has done all that is necessary to make you and me holy and acceptable to God.  He has sprinkled Jesus' blood on our sin-stained robes and He has given us pure white robes which are the righteousness of God's Son.  He has indwelled us with His Holy Spirit.  He can now take our living sacrifice and use it for His holy and glorious purposes. See Romans 8:28

"this is your spiritual act of worship"  "Spiritual" can also be translated "reasonable."  It is a translation of the Greek word logikos.  Wuest offers the following ways to translate this word: "rational, agreeable to reason, following reason."  "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyrigh 1973 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Giving ourselves to God is "reasonable" for us to do.  It shows that we believe that God is all-loving, all-wise, and all-powerful.  True worship of God takes place when we show by our total lives and from the heart that we adore Him, believe in His love, and totally trust in His great wisdom.

There are many things we can do with our bodies.  We can indulge them, abuse them, and use them for selfish and prideful pursuits.  But, the most reasonable use of our bodies is to give them to God, so He can use them to fulfill His high and eternal purposes.  We will regret all other pursuits that we give our bodies over to.  "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desire.  Do not offer the parts of you body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness." (Romans 6:12-13)

The Greek word translated "worship" can also be translated "service."  Wuest observes that this Greek word is used in Hebrews 9:6 of the "service" of the priests in the first room on the Tabernacle of God that is described in the Old Testament.  Our appropriate priestly service to God and worship of God is for each of us to give our body as a living sacrifice to the One who gave Himself fully to us.  It is the only reasonable response to what God has done for us.

Barclay gives us the following interesting background on the word that is translated as "worship":  "The word in verse 1 which we along with the Revised Standard Version has translated worship, has an interesting history.  It is latreia, the noun of the verb latreuein.  Originally latreuin meant to work for hire or pay.  It was the word used of the laboring man who gave his strength to an employer in return for the pay the employer would give him.  It denotes, not slavery, but the voluntary undertaking of work.  It then came to mean quite generally to serve; but it also came to mean that to which a man gives his whole life.  For instance, a man could be said latreuin kallei, which means to give his life to the service of beauty.  In that sense, it came very near meaning to dedicate one's life to.  Finally, it came to be the word distinctively used of the service of the gods.  In the Bible it never means human service; it is always used of service to and worship of God."  "The Letters to the Romans from by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world."  How, specifically, do we give our bodies as "living sacrifices" to God?  Paul gives the details in 12:2.  First of all, he tells us what we are not to do.  He instructs us that we are no longer to "conform to the patterns of this world."  First of all, what does Paul mean by the "world"?  He is, of course, not speaking of the world or earth that God created.  Nor is he speaking of the world that "God so loved." (John 3:16)  Instead, he is speaking of the world system that is orienting the people on this planet to live as if there is no life on the other side of the grave and to live as if there is no God.  It is a system that encourages us to live for ourselves.  Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.  It is the world system that Paul describes in Romans 1:18-32 that ignores God and defies God.  Wuest refers to a German word for the world system, zeitgeist, which means "the spirit of the age."  "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyrigh 1973 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

By the way, the world is not a list of "no-nos" such as not playing cards, not going to the movies, etc.  It is living for yourself and yourself alone and choosing to ignore God, His moral standards and His holy purposes.  It is not a list of activities that we are not to do; it is a selfish and godless heart attitude.  It is, of course, possible to be very worldly while not doing anything on a list.  The Pharisees of Jesus' time were very worldly, though, they did not do a number of "sinful" things and did a number of "religious" activities.

Now, what does Paul mean by "conform""Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world."  Both the Greek word that is translated "conform" and the Greek word that is translated "transform" are in the present tense, indicating that we must continually determine not to be conformed to this world and continually seek to be transformed.  We give our bodies as a living sacrifice in a one-time life commitment of them to God, and then we choose day by day and minute by minute not to be conformed to this world.

An illustration of what is meant by conforming to this world that has stuck with me through the years is what happens when Jell-O is put in a Jell-O mold.  The Jell-O conforms to what is outside of it; it conforms to the Jell-O mold.  The mold completely determines the shape of the Jell-O inside of it.  The shape that our lives end up taking can be determined by the world system outside of us.  The Phillip's translation of this verse captures this description of conforming:  "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within."  Wuest interprets the Greek word for "conform" as follows: "'conformed' is sunschematizoSchematizo refers to the act of an individual assuming an outward expression that does not come from within him, nor is it representative of his inner heart life.  The prefixed sun adds to the meaning of the verb the ideal of assuming an expression that is patterned after some definite thing." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyrigh 1973 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

What, then, is the "the pattern of this world"?  It is, without question, the very opposite of God's ways.  In short, it is selfishness.  We live in a "me first" world.  We are not to live like the "me first" world.  We are not to live like the "me first" world that is all around us.  In the "me first" world, it is all about me:  How can I indulge me?  What can I get for me?  What do people think about me?  The Apostle John summed it up in this way: "Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man [the lust of the flesh – how can I indulge me?], the lust of the eyes [what can I get for me?] and boasting of what he has and does [what do people think about me?] – comes not from the Father, but from the world." (I John 2:15-16) (These 3 areas may be called lust, greed, and pride.)

One approach to not being "conform[ed] to the patterns of this world" needs to be mentioned.  Some in the history of the church have thought that the best way not to be worldly is to become completely separated from this world by either becoming some sort of monk or by drawing up a list of worldly activities that Christians cannot do, such as "do not dance."  But, worldliness is essentially selfishness.  It is possible to become a monk or a rule follower and be very proud about it-be a very selfish monk or rule-follower.  The Pharisees are an example of very proud religious people. See Luke 18:9-14  Worldliness is not determined by where you are or what you do or do not do, but who you are in your attitudes.

So, first of all, we are to give ourselves as living sacrifices to God by continually not allowing ourselves to be conformed "to the patterns of this world."  Next, Paul tells us what we are to do: "but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." 

The Greek word translated "transformed" is the word from which we get our English word, "metamorphosis." (metamorphoomai)  It describes a process similar to the transformation that takes place when a caterpillar goes through the metamorphosis process and changes into a butterfly.  Here, it describes the transformation that takes place as Jesus' life in us begins to become more and more our character and personality.  As winter transforms into spring, so the Christian is to be transformed more and more by Jesus Christ who lives in us.

So, "conformed" speaks of the selfish and humanistic world system on the outside of us molding us so that we become like what is fashionable in our corrupt society; whereas "transformed" speaks of the life of Christ inside of us changing us until we become He who lives in us.  "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."  Which do we want to become; like the corrupt worldly system or like Jesus Christ?

Now, how do get "transformed"?  Paul says the transformation takes place by the "renewing of the mind."  In the book of proverbs there is a contrast between wisdom personified as a woman appealing to our reason and the world personified as a harlot appearing to our sensual and selfish desires.  If we respond to the harlot, we will be "conformed" to this world.  If we respond to God's wisdom, we will "be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind."  When our mind is enlightened by God's Spirit, God's word and God's wisdom, we see that His ways are the exact opposite of world's ways.  Instead of living to advance, we live to advance God's kingdom.  Instead of seeking to serve ourselves, we will seek to serve God and others.  Instead of living by no rules, we will seek to do what is wise and good.  Lies, manipulation, and doing what is convenient to us is replaced by living in the light of His truth and love; submitting replaces rebellion.

When we become Christians, we have also gained the spiritual capacity to see the worlds as God sees it.  But, this change is just the capacity for a new life, not the final product.  We need to diligently seek after this new Spiritual outlook on life through prayerful reading, studying, memorizing, and application of God's word.  God's word is the only place where we can find this truly dependable God-given perspective on life! 

It is a process that is made possible by our new God-given capacity.  Our motives need to become inclined toward desiring wholeheartedly to gain God's perspective on life.  As we see and love God's ways, the old worldly perspectives are replaced by God's new and spiritual outlook on life; we become transformed from within.  God's Spirit within us becomes united with our new Spirit-enlightened way of thinking. See Titus 2:11-15; Ephesians 4:17-24; I Peter 2:9-12

"Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  As we begin to understand God's will and obey Him, we will come to agree that living God's will for us is the perfect life for us.  Should we be surprised that our Designer knows best how we can experience the most fulfilling life? 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that salvation is not just deliverance from sin and its penalty, but is primarily salvation that results in our being able to live according to God's "good, pleasing and perfect will." See Titus 2:14; I Peter 2:9  Paul expands on what he is saying here in Colossians 1:9,10: "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God," (Colossians 1:10) See also Titus 2:14; I Peter 2:9

In short, we are to go from those who have been living in moral darkness to those who now see what is good, what pleases God, and what s the very best way to live. See Ephesians 5:8-10; Philippians 1:9-10  In the darkness, we hated God's will; in the light we love it.  We now "approve" of it; we find it "good, pleasing and perfect."  Psalm 119 is 176 verses of the author of this Psalm describing how much he loves God's will. See Psalm 119:97 in particular.  See also Psalm 1:1-2

In much of the remainder of the book of Romans we find Paul describing God's will which is "good, pleasing and perfect."  May we each allow our mind to be renewed and may we each be "transformed" as we who have offered our bodies as living sacrifices" to God to seek to understand and obey God's perfect will.

2. Toward our self: true humility (12:3)

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."

As our minds are renewed we will begin to think of ourselves as we ought to think of ourselves. It is human for us to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think of ourselves.  John Stott points out that the word for think is phronein; the word for thinking more highly of yourself is huperphronein or hyperthink; it is proud thinking.

This appears to be the opposite of the present emphasis in our society on self-esteem.  This teaching on self-esteem urges us to esteem ourselves more than we presently do.  Paul, on the other hand, says here that our problem is that we think too highly of ourselves.

How can the many who tend to have what is called an "inferiority complex" think too highly of themselves?  The truth is that even those are obsessed with feelings of inferiority are thinking too highly of themselves, for they are obsessed with themselves.  We all tend toward thinking that we are the most important person in the universe.  The fact that we feel inferior becomes the most important of issues to us.  We, then, must do all that we can so that we will feel more important.  But, when we come into the light, we see that God, not me, is the most important Person in the universe.  Instead of seeking to fit everyone into our plans, we are to seek to find out where we fit into His plans!

Paul exhorts us here to think of ourselves "with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given" each of us.  In short, God's book and the book of Romans have revealed to us much about each of us.  We learned in Romans 1-4 how fallen each of us is.  In Romans 5-8 we learned that we are unable to obey God apart from God's grace through Jesus Christ and God's Spirit.  Apart from God's Spirit, our flesh is hostile to God.  So, it is only by God's Spirit and God's gifting of us by His Spirit that we are able to do anything of any value.  This way of looking at ourself is looking at our self with "sober judgment."  We cannot do anything for God; only He can do His work in us and through us.

So, first of all, we must have the "sober judgment" about who each of us is as a fallen man or woman made new by God's grace and by God's Spirit.  But, as will see in verses 4-8, we need also to learn, as God opens our eyes and hearts to understand, what spiritual role God has gifted us to fulfill in Christ's Body the church.  Because we all tend to want to be the star and the center of attention, we can overestimate our importance and our role within His church.  Instead, we are to humbly seek God's light on the role He wants us to play and the role at which we can be the most helpful and effective.

A key issue with regard to "measure of faith" is brought up by John Stott.  Is the "measure of faith" the same for all Christians, thereby it is referring to the faith that each of us received when we became Christians; our faith to see that we are sinners, Jesus is the Son of God, and the Bible is the word of God.  Or, does each Christian have his or her own unique amount of faith enabling us to believe in God's special gifting of us within the work of the Body of Christ?  There is evidence, I believe, that Paul is speaking of both.  For Paul has been revealing to them throughout this book what is true of every Christian.  But, he refers here to a special and unique grace given to him at the beginning of this verse: "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:" 

Paul had been given by God the unique gifting and ability to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. See I Corinthians 15:9-10; Ephesians 3:7-8  As we will learn in verses 4-8, God has also uniquely gifted each of us for a special ministry role within the church of Christ.

What does Paul, then, mean by "measure of faith"?  The answer, I believe, is found in I Corinthians 12:4: "There are different kinds of working, but the same Spirit." See also I Peter 4:10-11  Every one of us has been uniquely gifted by God.  God has given us the ability to believe that we can function with supernatural ability in the area that God has gifted us in.  Paul describes the supernatural gifting that God gave him in Colossians 1:29: "To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me."

Ephesians 4:7 is particularly significant:  "But to each one of us grace is given as Christ apportioned it."  Now that Jesus is no longer physically present with us, He has given to each of us who are members of His body unique gifting so that we can be effective in fulfilling an important role within the work of His body.  We, then, are to look to God to enable us to believe that we have this unique area of gifting.  What do we believe that we can do within the ministry of Christ's church?  That is the area that should become the primary focus of our ministry.  It is somewhat like what happens on the college campus.  A student needs to choose some field of study to be his "major."  Another subject area can then become his "minor."  The students are, then, required to take certain classes in their major and minor areas.  So, a spiritual area of ministry should also become our major area of ministry.  We may also discover what we are to make our minor area of ministry.  But, because all of us, to one degree or another, are to minister in all areas of ministry, we should not limit ourselves to only our primary areas of gifting.  For example, someone may have the gift of mercy, but we are all to be merciful.

3. Toward the church: true community (12:4-8)

"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."

Thought Question:  What do these verses tell you about your highest purpose in life?

 

 

As our minds are renewed and are transformed from self-centered to humble thinking, we will begin to see in an increasing way that each of us has a specific function within Christ's work in the same way as each part of our body has a specific function within the work of our physical body.  So, each of us is a member of Christ's body; and as the human body functions effectively only as our body parts work together, so the Body of Christ functions effectively only as we work together.  As has been mentioned, each member of the church has been gifted with different spiritual abilities.  It is only when each of us fulfills our unique responsibility within the total functioning of the church that we are able to see the full expression of Christ's life and ministry operating in our modern world.

Ray Stedman points out that if we desire a good study on what the church is to be like, we can look at our body in the mirror; for the church is to function like a healthy and normally functioning human body.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who was a doctor before becoming a pastor, points out something else about how the human body gives us an important lesson on how the church is to function.  When our human body is healthy and functioning well, we do not think much about it.  It is only when some part of our body is sick or not working well that we think about that part of the body.  At the time that I am writing these words, my wonderful wife Shirley is just about to go in for surgery on her injured right knee.  She and I have thought a lot about this knee during the last few months.  So, we think of parts of Christ's body most when they are not healthy.

Also, just as the human body is one body with a great diversity of parts with a diversity of functions, so Christ's Body is one body with a great diversity of parts with a diversity of functions.  You and I are part of the diversity of Christ's body.  The glory of Christ's Body occurs when each of us within Christ's Body, as different as we are, are working together in our areas of gifting toward one goal and are expressing together the life of Christ.  We are teaching, showing mercy, serving, trusting God, leading and more-just as Jesus would be doing if He were here.  Actually, He is here-living through us!

Here, we see our purpose in life.  Our purpose is to be part of a team; to be part of a Body.  Just as one hand has no purpose if it is all by itself, so you have no purpose if you are all by yourself.  But, the hand has a very important purpose within the functioning of the whole body.

During the time that I am writing these words, what is called "March Madness" is taking place.  The men's and women's NCAA basketball tournaments are taking place.  The teams that advance in the tournament are those who have learned to play as a team.  In the same way, we as members of the Body of Christ are to learn to play as a team.  But, if we learn to work as team, we will have accomplished much more than winning a basketball tournament; we will be showing our world what Jesus Christ is like. 

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."

Thought Question #1:  Look at this list of spiritual gifts and the lists of gifts in I Corinthians 12:7-11, 28-30; Ephesians 4:11-13; and I Peter 4:10-11.  Which of these spiritual gifts do you believe God has given to you?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses in Romans 12, how should you seek to exercise your spiritual gift? (In what ways are you doing that now?)

 

 

How can you know what your spiritual gift is?  God has given you or will give you the faith to believe that you can successfully accomplish God's work in some specific way in today's world.  What we find in these verses is one of the lists of spiritual gifts that is given to us in the New Testament.  Other lists of gifts are found in I Corinthians 12:7-11, 28-30; Ephesians 4:11-13; and I Peter 4:10-11.  The lists of gifts in these sections of verses are not identical to each other.  Therefore, each of these lists of spiritual gifts is incomplete.  What we can be confident of is that each of us has at least one supernatural and spiritual area of gifting.  Our main function within the Body of Christ is to eagerly minister to others in that area of gifting.

The list in I Corinthians 12 is followed by the love chapter I Corinthians 13.  What is pointed out there is that love is an essential part of exercising our spiritual gift.  "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)  We can only discover our spiritual area of gifting as we reach out in genuine love to others.  The first verse in Chapter 14, immediately following the love chapter is as follows:  "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts." (I Corinthians 14:1a)  If we are focused on others and seeking their best in love, the way that we will best love them will be in our area of spiritual gifting.  It is interesting that the verses immediately following these verses on spiritual gifting in Romans are on love: "Love must be sincere . . . Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." (Romans 12:9,10)

Let us look now at the individual areas of gifting that Paul mentions.  First of all:  "If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith."  I believe I have seen individuals who are gifted in the area of prophesying.  A young friend of mine would hear something on Christian radio.  He, then, got so excited about it that those who rode on the city bus in Portland with him would hear about what he had heard on the radio and everyone else he came in contact with would hear about it.  I was struck by the potential in the Lord that this young man had.  But, he needed a more in-depth and systematic understanding of God's truth.  He was encouraged to attend Multnomah Bible College by both me and another, which He did.  He also attended Dallas Seminary and has become an international proclaimer of God's truth.  I believe that he has the gift of prophesy.  He is gifted to speak forth God's truth with power and effectiveness.

We find a description of this gift in action in I Corinthians 14:3:  "But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort." See also I Corinthians 14:31: "For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged."

The gift of prophecy is to be exercised "in proportion to your faith."  This indicates that as a Christian walks in obedience to God, God opens His eyes to see what God's will is. See Romans 12:1-2  Paul exercised his gift of ministry as he wrote these words in Romans 12: "for by the grace given to me I say to everyone of you." (Romans 12:3)

Next, in the list is found the gift of serving: "If it is serving, let him serve."  As an Assistant Pastor in a church some years ago, I came to appreciate an elderly man who obviously had the gift of serving.  He would regularly drop by the church building to see if there was anything to fix or anything he could build that would improve the ministry of the church.  He would cluck his tongue as he walked around the church building looking for something he could do.  I thoroughly enjoyed hearing him doing his clucking as he walked outside my office.

Next, we come to the gift of teaching: "if it is teaching, let him teach."  This is the area where I believe that God has gifted me.  I find my greatest joy in the spiritual life in benefiting from the writings of gifted teachers and from teaching others what God has taught me through them.  I have quoted from the writings of many of them; I have quoted from the writings of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Stott, Ray Stedman, Warren Wiersbe, and Kenneth Wuest in these pages.  There are many others I have learned from.  The list would be very long.  One more example that I should give is John McArthur.  I ministered as an intern in the church where he is the pastor.  I devoured the tapes of his sermons and still have many of them.

It is interesting, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, that there is often a distinction made in the New Testament between prophesying and teaching. See Acts 13:1; I Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11  "Teaching is the ability to impart knowledge and information to instruct the mind.  Prophesying goes much deeper.  It instructs the heart and moves the will.  But teaching instructs the mind and is the basis for understanding many of the truths of Scriptures.  Therefore the gift of teaching is a great gift, and widely distributed in the body." "Taken from From Guilt to Glory Volume II by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."

The one with the gift of teaching will be one who devotes himself to a life of studying the Bible. See II Timothy 1:13, 2:15, 3:14-17

The next gift in Paul's list of spiritual gifts is the gift of encouragement or exhortation.  "If it is encouraging, let him encourage."  The Greek word translated "encourage" is parakaleo.  Barnabas was called "son of encouragement."  He was a one-on-one type of minister.  He encouraged the Apostle Paul shortly after Paul became a Christian. See Acts 4:36, 9:26-28  He encouraged Mark when Paul gave up on him---when Mark decided to back out of the first missionary journey. See Acts 15:36-39  Those who have the gift of  "encouragement" are those who love to come alongside those that need counsel and encouragement, just as Barnabas came alongside Paul and Mark when they needed to be encouraged.

The next gift is the gift of giving: "if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously."  There are those in the church that I attend who have this gift.  I do not know for sure who they are, but when the church has a financial need or someone in the church has a financial need they "give generously."  They enjoy giving and they enjoy giving without anyone knowing that they are giving.  The Greek word translated "generously" describes someone who gives sincerely without hypocrisy.  It is giving in the spirit described in II Corinthians 9:7: "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." See also Matthew 6:1-4

The next in the list of gifts is the spiritual gift of leadership: "if it is leadership, let him govern diligently."  The Greek word for leadership describes someone standing up in front of a crowd and taking leadership.  Those who have this gift are to work at it "diligently."  They are not to, as Ray Stedman points out, "wing it."  They are to be diligent to do a good job at leading.

The final spiritual gift is the gift of mercy:  "if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."  This is a gift that I am very familiar with.  I have seen it exercised, at the time that I am writing these words, for over 35 years.  My wife Shirley has the gift of mercy and she has exercised it all the time that we have been together.  She has worked for 17 of those years with the elderly.  Her radiant smile when she is with them puts a smile on their faces.  I have seen her put a smile on the face of those who are terminally ill.  In one case, a dying man called her his angel.

What is your area of spiritual gifting?  The Body of Christ is incomplete when you are not diligently ministering in your area(s) of ministry.  Do what you do with diligence so that Jesus' ministry that has been given to you is completed to His church and through His church.

4. Practical responses to the Gospel of God: Toward other Christians

(12:9-21)
The summary response to the gospel of God toward other Christians is the first words of verse nine: "Love must be sincere."  The Greek word for "sincere" means "without acting."  Our Christian love should not be something we merely act out, but it should be genuine and from the heart. See I Timothy 1:5; I Peter 4:8; Romans 5:5  It is easier for us to put on a loving face than it is to genuinely love and care for others.

In these verses, Paul describes what this "sincere" or pure love is like.  This description of love by Paul in this chapter in Romans is the equal of his description of love in I Corinthians 13, though it is not as well known.  What is pure and genuine love like?  Paul gives us, in these verses, a list of qualities that will always be present whenever love is authentic.  Are we genuinely giving our lives to Christ and are our minds are being genuinely renewed?  How can we tell?  Our minds are being renewed if our love is becoming more genuine!  The description given below of the characteristics of true love provides us with a standard for measuring whether or not we are giving our lives in love as a living sacrifice to God.

a. True love is morally pure. (12:9b)

"Hate what is evil cling to what is good."

Thought Question:  Think of someone that you know who is presently doing what is evil; how does hating the evil help you to love that person?

 

 

Most every Christian has heard the saying, "We are to hate sin, but love the sinner."  Actually, we cannot genuinely love our fellow Christians unless we hate sin.  Sin is always destructive and is the very opposite of what God created us to be like.  There are no words to adequately describe the ugliness of sin in the eyes of God or how abominable it is to Him.  If we love God and love our fellow Christian, we will do what Paul commands us to do here: we will "Hate what is evil."

We Christians often find ourselves in a dilemma at this point.  We discover that a Christian brother of sister has been involved in some type of sinful behavior.  What should we do? Some respond by overlooking the sin and continuing to be kind to this person.  Others respond by despising and rejecting him or her.  Which is the proper response?  Actually, both responses encourage sin to become an acceptable behavior in our church.  The first response allows the sin to continue.  The second response turns one's church into a legalistic and Pharisaical church, full of "holier than thou" people.  Clearly, neither response is the proper response to sin in the church.

The proper response is similar to what we would do if our house were on fire.  We would not immediately destroy the house.  Instead, we would try to put out the fire so that we could save the house.  The house is valuable and fire is destructive.  In the same way, our fellow Christian is valuable to us and to God.  The sin is destructive.  We want to get rid of the evil and not our fellow Christian who is doing the evil.

So, genuine love will lead us to detest and abhor the evil.  We will be in complete opposition toward it being, in any way, a part of the church.  So, Paul's description of genuine love starts out with the command to "hate."  We are to "hate" that which is the very opposite of love! See Psalm 97:10; Amos 5:15; James 1:21

Next, Paul says that we are to "cling to what is good."  With the same type of energy that we are to "hate what is evil," we are to "cling to what is good."  Wuest points out that the Greek word translated "cleave" in the KJV ("cling" in the NIV) could also be translated, 'glue to yourself what is good.'  In II Timothy 2:22, Paul says:  "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart."  We are to glue ourself to what is good; we are to pursue it with all of our heart.

What does clinging "to what is good" have to do with our love being "sincere" and genuine?  The theme of the book of Titus appears to be "doing what is good." See Titus 1:8,16, 2:3,7,14, 3:1,8,14  When we do what is evil, we do that which destroys others; when we cling to that which is good, we do that which is good for others.  My personal definition of love that came out of my study of I Corinthians 13 is that love seeks wholeheartedly to do what is genuinely best for others regardless of the cost or the circumstances.  True love clings "to what is good."

b. True love is devoted love. (12:10a)

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love."

Thought Question:  Think of any example of when you have been "devoted" to a Christian brother or sister in 'brotherly love."  Describe why it was the type of love that a family has toward one another.

 

 

Paul describes in these words the type of close family love and commitment that exists within some families, whereby nothing can come between them and sever their devotion to one another.  The word Paul uses that is translated "devoted" is philostorgos.  It describes a family type of love.  Paul is saying that we should have the same type of bond with each of our fellow Christians that we have with the members of our human family.  The Greek word translated "brotherly love" is philadelphia. Our city of Philadelphia is supposed to be the city of "brotherly love.  So, we are to be devoted to having brotherly love toward our fellow Christians.

While I am writing these words, my wife has just completed surgery on her right knee.  She can only get around with a walker.  Since she is a dear part of my family, her handicap is my handicap.  But, at the time I am writing these words, a good friend in the church has just completed total hip-replacement surgery.  He is also part of my family.  Since, he is a dear part of my family, his handicap is my handicap.  We are to be "devoted to one another in brotherly love."

c. True love is humble love. (12:10b)

"Honor one another above yourselves."

Thought Question #1:  Give an example of a time when someone has honored you above himself or herself.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Give an example of a time when you have honored someone above yourself.

 

 

Self-love results in our desiring that the honor we receive would exceed the honor that others receive.  True love seeks that others will be honored over us.  Paul describes this feature of genuine love in Philippians 2:3:  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."  I will use a phrase that was popular when I was a child.  We should not "toot our own horn," but we should toot the horn for others.  There is much that I see in my fellow Christians that I respect and appreciate.  That, certainly, is true of you also.  You and I are to honor those whose service to the Lord is exemplary.  Paul, himself, heeds his own advice in this very book: "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. . . . She has been a great help to many people, including me." (Romans 16:1-2)

Some might say that when we commend someone as Paul commends Phoebe here that we are taking away their eternal reward.  But, Jesus in Matthew 6:1-18 is speaking against someone "tooting his own horn."  He is not speaking against our honoring others.

d. True love is zealous. (12:11)

"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."

Thought Question:  We all have times when it is hard to be zealous about our spiritual service to God; on a scale of 1-10, where is your spiritual zeal in ministry at right now (10 is the highest)?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  If your zeal for God is lower than you want it to be, how can you increase your spiritual zeal?

 

 

Love is an uphill struggle, when we become half-hearted about our concern for others, we also cease to truly love them.  If we only love others when it is convenient for us or when it is easy to do, we also have ceased to have genuine love for them.  True love involves wholeheartedness, zeal, and work.  True love cares and does something about it, whether it is convenient or not, whether we are rested or tired, and whether it is easy or hard.  True love is also diligent love.

Can you imagine someone saying, "Our church is a very loving church, we just are not very enthusiastic about it"?  No, a very loving church is also a very enthusiastic, zealous, and fervent church.

In Romans 10:2 we learned that Israel was "zealous for God, but their zeal. . . [was] . . . not based on knowledge."   But we see in this verse that there is a zeal that is based on knowledge.  A zeal that comes from an understanding and appreciation for God and His love toward us is a zeal that is "based on knowledge."  It will result in zeal in "serving the Lord." 

Depression, discouragement, and laziness are the opposites of being zealous in "serving the Lord."  Timothy was encouraged "to fan into flames the gift of God, which is in [him] through the laying on of hands." (II Timothy 1:6)  Like what can happen to any one of us, he was beginning to grow weary and discouraged in the battle.  Paul encourages him to get the fire going again.  I, personally, have enjoyed going to conferences outside of our local church at least once a year.  I almost always come back with my spiritual fire rekindled and burning hot.  Sometimes we need a time of rest like Elijah needed after his intense spiritual battle on Mount Carmel with the followers of Baal. See I Kings 18:16-19:18  His time also included a mountain-top experience.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out the following:  "When we are ill, we are never quite as ill as we think we are, we always add on a certain proportion . And it is easy, therefore, an easy thing to get rid of that extra bit that we put on psychologically.  So we can always do this much---we can rouse ourselves."  "Taken from Romans Exposition of chapter 12 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 2000 by Banner of Truth."  Depression and discouragement are often the result of self-pity.  We can choose to rejoice always or we can choose to feel sorry for ourselves.  Because we have God's Spirit in us, there is a great deal that we can do to keep "our spiritual fervor."  God's Spirit never loses His spiritual fervor!  "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline." (II Timothy 1:7) 

I personally believe that the whole book of II Timothy is directed toward encouraging Timothy to keep his "spiritual fervor."  Paul was in prison and Timothy, who was Paul's primary replacement, was facing strong opposition and beginning to grow weary in the battle.  II Timothy undoubtedly rekindled the flame in Timothy.

e. True love is joyful. (12:12)

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

Thought Question #1:  What are some reasons why it is hard for you to keep on loving someone right now?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How does this verse encourage you in your love for that person?

 

 

God's work involves loving people.  The people we love, though, can resist God and His ways.  What do we do when it gets hard to keep on loving them?  Paul tells us what we are to do in these verses.

True love does not give up on people.  Love "always hopes, always perseveres." (I Corinthians 13:7)  True love joyfully believes the best for people, does not give up on them in the midst of struggles, nor does it ever get lazy in praying for them.

What does Paul mean by "Be joyful in hope"?  We can rejoice in hope for the following reasons:  "But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ (II Corinthians 2:14).  "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." (II Corinthians 10:4)  ". . . Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (I Corinthians 15:58)  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)  ". . . we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:2)  We can rejoice "in hope" because we have God's own word that our efforts in love will be fruitful!  When you and I are at the end of our energy and strength, and when the obstacles are piling up in front of us, we can rejoice that the battle is not ours but His.  We can rejoice in the hope that He will always lead us toward His triumph.

Next, we are to be "patient in affliction."  Earlier in Romans Paul said, "We also rejoice in sufferings."  We rejoice in sufferings "because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3,4)  Now, listen to Paul's words in II Corinthians 4:  "We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."  What does all this "affliction" produce in Paul and his followers?  ". . . death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." (II Corinthians 4:8,9,12)  We can be "patient in affliction" because God uses it to produce a death to relying on ourselves and living for ourselves alone, and a greater reliance on God.  As the Christian song says, "through it all I have learned to trust in Jesus." see Psalm 119:65-67, 71; John 16:33; II Corinthians 12:9,10; II Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 12:3-13; I Peter 1:6,7, 4:12)

Listen to Martyn Lloyd-Jones' words: "The moment tribulation comes, you are humbled.  You discover your pride and self-interest.  You discover the rebellious spirit that is in you.  You may have known that it was there.  You may have thought that your faith was well-nigh perfect, but trials come and you find yourselves feeling a grudge against God.  Then you see what a poor Christian you have always been." "Taken from Romans Exposition of chapter 12 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 2000 by Banner of Truth."   When we see the benefit of trial, we can rejoice in our trials, for it is from them that we see our need and more clearly see how much we need God's life and strength so that we can be "patient in affliction."

Finally, Paul exhorts his readers and us to be "faithful in prayer."  There are a number of exhortations in the Bible to be "faithful in prayer."  It is part of our "struggle" against Satan's spiritual forces.  Paul exhorts us to pray continuously. See Ephesians 6:1-18, especially 6:18.  See also I Thessalonians 5:17; Luke 18:1  It has been my recent observation that exhortations to prayer are found at the end of many New Testament letters. See Romans 12:12, 15:30-33; Ephesians 6:18-20; Colossians 4:2-5; I Thessalonians 5:17; Hebrews 13:18,19; James 5:13-18;  I John 5:14,15  I believe that these exhortations to prayer at the end of these letters is the very logical next step after we come to understand God's purposes as they are revealed to us in these books.  We are to pray that God's will be accomplished "on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)  The more we understand God's will, the more the heart of someone whose heart is pure will desire that God's will be done.  This heart for God's purposes will lead to our being faithful in prayer.  Godly Christians are also prayer warriors.

f. True love is sacrificial (12:13)

"Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality."

Thought Question:  Think of someone who has been hospitable toward you.  Who have you been hospitable toward?

 

 

The Greek word that is translated "Share" is koinoneo."  Wuest describes its meaning in the following way: "to enter into fellowship, make one's self a sharer or a partner."  "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyrigh 1973 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  Simply put, we are to become partners with our fellow Christians to the degree that their needs become our needs.  Then, we respond to their needs as if they were our own needs.  We give what we have to supply where they are lacking.  This is exactly what took place in the early church:  "All believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." (Acts 4:32) See also Acts 2:44-45, 4:36-37  Incidentally, what is described here is not communism.  Communism forces people to share what they have; Christianity is to lead to voluntary sharing with those in need.  

"Practice hospitality." 

The Greek word translated "practice" describes someone eagerly pursuing "hospitality."  Then, the Greek word for "hospitality" is philoxenian; literally it means "lovers of strangers."  Barclay poignantly describes Christianity as "the religion of the open hand, the open heart, and the open door." "Taken from The Letter to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Maybe you have known those who were particularly eager to open their homes to others.  Then, you know those who are always having people over for Christian fellowship or those who open their homes to someone who is temporarily homeless.  They are examples to all of us of what true love looks like.  True love is not only a feeling, it is a feeling followed by action. See Galatians 6:2,10; James 2:14,15; I John 3:16-18

g. True love is forgiving: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do

not curse." (12:14)

Thought Question:  Who is making your life difficult right now?  How can you "bless" them and "not curse" them?

 

 

True love will enable us to continue to love someone even if he or she is very unloving toward us; it enables us to love right through the insults and the persecutions.  This Greek word that is translated "bless" "is eulogeo: the word logeo "to speak" eu, "well," thus, to speak well of a person, to eulogize him." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  So, we are to "speak well" (eulogize) of those who persecute us.  What usually happens when someone attempts to make our lives miserable?  Do we speak well of them? See Luke 6:27,28

A very hard reality, that each of us who are Christians needs to realize is that if we seek to follow Jesus Christ and His style of life, we will get the same type of treatment that he received: "no servant is greater than his master.  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. . . " (John 15:20) See Matthew 5:9-12; John 16:18,19,33; II Timothy 3:12

Notice, that Paul does not merely say that we are not to retaliate against those who persecute us; we are to actively seek to bless them and to be seeking after their good!  How can we do this from the heart?  We need to remember that God did this to us.  When we were hostile against God; he nevertheless pursued after our blessing; He continue to seek our good. See Matthew 5:43-48

h. True love is empathetic. (12:15)

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."

Thought Question #1:  Who is there in your life right now that you can rejoice with?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Who is there in your life right now that you can mourn with?

 

 

It is normal for us to be sensitive to our individual needs and moods.  True love is this type of sensitivity turned outward, beyond ourselves, toward others and their needs and moods.

Ray Stedman believes that Paul places "rejoice" with others before "mourn" with others because it is harder to "rejoice" with others than it is to "mourn" with them.  It is easier to stoop down to help someone than to bless someone when they are succeeding in some way; particularly if they possess more than we do or are succeeding better than we are.  Such ugly words like pride, envy, and jealousy make it hard for us to enjoy it when someone is doing better than we are.  But, true love enjoys it when any type of good happens to those we love.  When we truly love someone, we want the very best to happen to them.

Also, love reaches out to those who are suffering even when we are doing well.  True love is costly.  It results in our carrying the burdens of others as if they were our own burdens.

True Christian love produces such a union with one's Christian brothers and sisters that we begin to hurt when they hurt and smile when they smile. See   I Corinthians 12:14-26; II Corinthians 11:28-29

i. True love is humbly devoid of status-seeking. (12:16)

"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."

Thought Question:  How can you apply this verse to yourself in your everyday life?

 

 

Paul is disclosing to us here that in the Christian life we are not to seek after personal preeminence.  On the contrary, we, in love, are to seek out those who are the neediest and the lowest in our society.  In James 2, James describes this very same attitude:  "Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here’s a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,'" (James 2:2-3)  This is the very opposite of the attitude that we as Christians should have.  We should not seek after companionship primarily with the rich and lofty in our society, but we are to reach out to those who are the most aware of their own neediness (which can be the rich, but is usually the poor). 

God showed to us this type of humility.  His Son was not born in a palace, but He was born in a manger.  He was born to humble parents and lived a life of service to the lowliest in society. See Philippians 2:3-8; Ephesians 4:2-3

Martyn Lloyd-Jones captures the attitude that we as Christians are to have, that is the opposite of seeking to elevate ourselves in society or in the minds of others:  "so Paul means, first that we are to avoid becoming intellectual: we are to use our intellects, but God forbid that any of us should ever become intellectuals!  You are to try to understand the doctrine, yes, but the moment you become proud of your understanding, it is of no use to you.  That is 'minding high things,' ["proud" in the NIV translation] being rather pleased at yourself for your learning and your understanding and your knowledge.  No, no, says Paul, go in for humble things." See Psalm 84:10; Micah 6:8; Matthew 11:19; Romans 1:22; I Corinthians 8:1,2; James 2:5, 3:13, 4:6  Martyn Lloyd-Jones goes on to say that Paul is not talking about some high person condescending to rub shoulders with the lowly.  "No, no, Paul means 'become one with them.'" "Taken from Romans Exposition of chapter 12 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 2000 by Banner of Truth."

j. True is love is gracious. (12:17-21)

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 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.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Thought Question #1:  Think of someone that has recently mistreated you; according to these verses, what are you to do and what are you not to do with regard to that person?

 

 

Do not!  "Do not repay anyone evil for evil."  It is my conviction that the primary cause of the problems in marriages that are going through severe struggles is that one (or both) of the marriage partners is (are) returning evil for evil.  Returning evil for evil begins a vicious circle of ugliness. See James 3:14-16, 4:1-2  Returning "evil for evil" can lead to the problems in a relationship quickly getting out of control.  It can lead to church wars also.  Christians, though, are to be different than the world.  Jesus said: "Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well." (Matthew 5:39-40) See I Peter 2:23  We, as Christians, are not to be those who strike back.  In I Corinthians 13, we are told that love "keeps no record of wrongs." (I Corinthians 13:5b)  The simple reason is that we are to desire the best for others and not the worst for them-even if they have wronged us.

Do!  "Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody."  Something regularly happens in basketball games that is the very opposite of what Paul teaches here.  Here is what happens: one basketball player gets elbowed and then he, in return, elbows the one who elbowed him.  Which player usually gets a foul called on him?  It is almost always the second player-the player who retaliated.  Also, who ends up looking worse in the eyes of those who are watching the game?  It is the second player who often looks worse.  He is mad for getting the foul called on him, since he was the first one fouled.  He storms around, and often gets pointed to as the hot-head.

If we react when someone offends us, we also end up looking not very Christian to those who are watching us.  Instead, we are not to seek to return evil for evil.  In that way, we are being "careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody."

Notice, that Paul says, "be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, "when someone acts in an evil way towards you, the danger is to react instinctively, automatically." "Taken from Romans Exposition of chapter 12 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 2000 by Banner of Truth."  Instead of reacting, we are to think carefully of what response would not make a scene and would present the best Christian witness.

Do!  "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  In relationships we can only do our part.  If someone is determined to hate us and be against us, we cannot control what that person chooses to do.  But, we can control our part – our side of the relationship.  As James says, we are to be peacemakers: "Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:18)  It is our Christian responsibility to do all that we can do to be at peace with every man and woman.

This does not mean that we seek peace at any price.  For example, we are not to compromise what the Bible teaches so that we can be at peace with someone.  The so-called ecumenical movement encourages seeking unity even if it means watering down the Bible until most everyone can agree with it.  Peace, at this cost might mean that we will say that God is love, but not create disunity by saying that God is righteous and that sin will be punished.  That is not the type of peace Paul is talking about here.  He was very strong toward those who were teaching error. See Romans 13:17-19; Galatians 1:8; Titus 1:10-14

Do not!  "Do not take revenge, my friends,"  Ray Stedman told a story I have retold many times.  It illustrates powerfully what happens when we do choose to "take revenge."  "As a boy in Montana I used to watch cows in the corral.  They would stand peacefully until one cow would kick another cow.  Of course, that cow had to kick back.  Then the first kicked harder and missed the second and hit a third.  That cow kicked back.  I watched this happen many times.  One single cow kicking another soon had the whole corral kicking and milling and mooing, all mad as could be.  This happens in congregations." "Taken from From Guilt to Glory Volume II by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press." 

Do! "but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord."  Paul makes it clear that revenge is never our part.  We are to do all that Paul has said that we are to do and we are not to do all that Paul says we are not to do in these verses.  We are not to return evil for evil, but we are to return good for evil.  When we do that, we are to turn over the rest to God.  He alone is to have the role of the avenger.  He will handle this role in a totally just and gracious way as best fits the situation.  We do not handle vengeance or revenge well at all.  That is why it is never appropriate for a policeman to seek to find and arrest a man who just raped his wife.  He will not handle the situation in a just way.  Certainly, he is not likely to be gracious.

Ray Stedman points out Jonah's attitude toward Nineveh.  The Assyrians were wicked people who treated the countrymen of the nations that they conquered in an extremely cruel and heartless way.  Jonah ran away from God when He was directed by God to preach that their city would be destroyed in 40 days unless they repented.  Jonah did not want to give them a 40-day opportunity to repent.  He wanted revenge against this cruel nation, but God chose to be compassionate if they repented.

Who would you and I rather have as our judge, someone we offended or God?  Who, then, should be the judge of those who have offended us?  We should allow the perfect Judge to be the final judge of those who have sinned against us.  He, alone, will deal with them perfectly.  Jesus, Himself, followed this pattern:  "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:23)

How will God's vengeance come to those who do evil to us?  It may come by someone in authority.  "He is God's servant, and an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." (Romans 13:4b)  God's wrath may come from the natural consequences of sin:  "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness." (Romans 1:18)  The very practice of sinfulness with all its ugliness is part of God's wrath.  God may also choose to express His wrath against those who do evil to us:  "Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm.  The Lord will repay him for what he has done." (II Timothy 4:14) See Psalms 69:23-28, 104:35  The ultimate judgment of God will take place when all men will see Jesus Christ. See Revelation 20:11-15; II Corinthians 5:10; II Thessalonians 1:6-10  And the Lord may also choose to bring our enemy to repentance as he brought Paul, the persecutor of the early church, to repentance.  As Barclay said, "The only real way to destroy an enemy is make him your friend." "Taken from THE Letter to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that Paul's attitude was different toward Christians who had failed, as compared to Alexander the metalworker who hated him and was opposed to his message.  "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.  May it not be held against them." (II Timothy 4:16)

What about police and military personnel responding to lawbreakers and enemy forces?  They are not taking personal vengeance, but they are acting as representatives of their governments.  Policemen and soldiers are not to do their work out of hateful passion, but as peacemakers, who are doing what is unpleasant, but necessary.  It is interesting that Paul follows this section on not taking revenge with what is contained in Chapter 13 about the role of government.  And one role of government is to "bear the sword." (Romans 13:4)

Do!  "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.'"

One might easily feel after what Paul said so far, that Christians are to passively take all the abuse that people dish out to them.  But, we are to do something.  We are to respond to those who wrong us by doing good to them.  Paul quotes Proverbs 25:21-22 that makes this point:  "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink."  Our natural and human response is to want to have him suffer like he has made you and me suffer; but, the Christian response is to continue to seek his best.  If he has a need, we are to help him out.

Proverbs 25:21-22, that Paul quotes, then explains what the result will be if we return good for evil: "In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head."  Since you would not like someone to put burning coals on your head, you might think that this is some type of punishment.  But, actually, it describes someone of that time coming to a neighbor after his fire had gone out and asking if he could have a few burning coals from his neighbor's fire so he could restart his fire.  The borrower of the burning coals would carry them back to his house in an insulated pan on the top of his head.  As he carried the burning coals home would usually be very appreciative of his neighbor's generosity for the burning coals would soon transform his ice cold home into a toasty place of warmth.  If he had been cruel in the past to his generous neighbor, he would probably feel ashamed of how he had treated this neighbor who had now been so generous to him.  And that is exactly what Paul is saying here; being generous and kind to our enemies is our best hope of winning them from our enemies to our friends.  Barclay said, as was mentioned earlier:  "The only real way to destroy an enemy is make him your friend." "Taken from The Letter to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes an essential point about what Paul is teaching in this section.  By returning good for evil, the enemy's offense has not made us like him in our spirits.  The evil that someone does to us can have two evil effects on us.  First of all, the evil itself has a painful effect on us.  Second of all, it can turn us into being an evil person also.  But, by seeking to do good to the one who does evil to us, we may overcome the evil and good may result; but, secondly, we do not also become evil.  Barclay quotes Booker T. Washington:  "I will not allow any man to make me lower myself by hating him." "Taken from The Letter to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." 

Do!  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that "Paul is not merely teaching us to hold a balance, as it were, to hold evil at bay, merely not to give in to sin.  No, no, Christians are to overcome evil, they are to be 'more than conquerors' (Rom. 8:17). . . They are to be victors."  "Taken from Romans Exposition of chapter 12 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 2000 by Banner of Truth."  Some time ago, I heard a jovial but strong youth facility administer tell me that when he had worked in a state boys institution where juvenile offenders were serving a sentence for crimes they had committed, he found it a challenge to win over the very toughest boys.  He was seeking to "overcome evil with good." 

Certainly, the Christian life is very similar.  We are going to face persecution.  Paul said in II Timothy 3:12 the following:  "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . . . ."  How, then, can we possibly win?  We can only win, if in spite of the persecution, we maintain a godly and loving attitude, returning good for evil.  Jesus continued to love those who hung Him on the cross:  "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34a)  Stephen, as he was about to be stoned to death, said:  "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." (Acts 8:60a)  Jesus and Stephen, even though they were about to die and to be killed by their enemies, did not lose but they won!  We also win when we choose to not return evil when evil is done against us.  We win when we choose to do good to those who have done evil against us.  We, then, are overcoming evil with good; even when those who are doing the evil are continuing to do the evil.

5. Practical responses to the Gospel of God: Toward the state

(Romans 13:1-7)
See also Titus 3:1-2; I Peter 2:13-17
Giving to God our life as a living sacrifice will result in a changed life in a number of ways.  We have been describing how it will change our attitude toward God.  We will begin to worship him by the way that we live our entire life.  We will live it in humble obedience to His will.  This new pattern of our life will transform us.  Giving our self as a sacrifice to God will transform the way we look at and treat our fellow Christians.  We will truly love each other and we will begin to function as one body: the body of Christ.  In these verses, we learn that giving ourself as a living sacrifice to God will transform the way we think about and act toward governing authorities.  We will truly submit to them from the heart.

a. Everyone should submit themselves to governing authorities. (13:1-5)

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience."
See Daniel 4:17

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that Paul suddenly begins to talk about our Christian responsibility to submit to government authorities? (Is there any natural transition from what he was writing about before, etc.?)

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Did God establish rulers such as Nero, Adolph Hitler, and Joseph Stalin?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What are some reasons that we who are Christians have a better reason to submit to governmental authority than the person who is not a Christian?

 

 

Why does Paul suddenly begin to talk about governing authorities?  We see some possible reasons that Paul brings up this subject in chapter twelve.  In this previous chapter to this chapter, we found Paul's exhortation to us who are Christians to do all that we can to be at peace with others (12:18).  A primary function of government is to maintain peace in our world. See I Timothy 2:1-2  Also, Paul emphasized in the very next verse (Romans 12:19) that vengeance is God's responsibility and not ours.  One of the ways that God takes vengeance on those who do evil is through the government that he has established: "He [governmental authority] does not bear the sword for nothing.  He is God's servant, and agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer."  So, God's purpose for government is that it is to preserve peace and to punish evil.  Barclay's summation is correct:  "Paul saw in the state an instrument in the hand of God, preserving the world from chaos.  Those who administered the state were playing their part in that great task.  Whether they knew it or not they were doing God's work and it was the Christian's responsibility to help and not to hinder." "Taken from The Letter to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

It is our responsibility as God's children to obey these authorities who have been "established by God" to reward good and punish evil.  "Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority?  Then do what is right."  In a Focus on the Family video title, "Essentials of Discipline," there is, at one point, a frantic policeman who is trying to slow down speeding automobiles by screaming at them.  This helpless policeman takes no other action.  He only screams at the cars.  You and I know what would happen if policemen were not allowed to take any action when a driver goes faster than the speed limit.  Drivers would soon learn that they could drive as fast as they wanted to drive with no serious consequences.  In a short time, our roads would become very dangerous.  Because of our selfishness and foolishness, God has established that there will be governing authorities to rule over us who are not weak and helpless like the policeman in the Focus in the Family video.  They can do more than only scream at us and plead with us; they can punish us for doing what is wrong by dispensing various types of prescribed consequences.

They even have the authority from God to take a life: "Whoever sheds the blood of a man, by man shall his blood be shed. . . ." (Genesis 9:6)  That is what Paul was referring to in verse four when he says: "for he does not take the sword for nothing."  The "sword" represents government's authority from God to punish and even to take a life.

Government is accountable to God to administer their punishment in a fair and just way.  It is their responsibility before God to reward what is good (the "Medal of Honor," for example) and punish what is wrong.

Who are the "governing authorities" that Paul talks about in these verses?  We can easily believe that he is talking about our President, Congress, judges, governors, policemen, and mayors.  But, there are also "governing authorities" everywhere we turn.  For, they include health authorities, the IRS, waste management, and the list goes on and on.  They are all established by God, and each is "God's servant" to enable us to live in an orderly, safe, and healthy environment.  We are to submit to their authority, for their authority comes from God.  When we rebel against them, we are rebelling against God and what he has established in our society.

What about governing authorities who are corrupt in some way?  Are we to submit to them?  Does Paul mean that such monsters as Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin, and Saddam Hussein and his two evil sons were God's choices to rule over their respective countries?  Listen to how John Stott answers this question:  "He cannot be taken to mean that all the Caligulas, Herods, Neros, and Domitians of New Testament times, and all the Hitlers, Stalins, Amins and Saddams of our times, were personally appointed by God, that God is responsible for their behavior, or that authority is in no circumstances to be resisted.  Paul means that all authority is derived from God's authority, so that we can say to rulers what Jesus said to Pilate.  You would have no power . . . over me if it were not given to you from above."  "Taken from Romans by John Stott.  Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones provides us with this thought:  "Whether God ordained that Nero, in particular, should occupy the imperial position, Paul does not actually tell us, but what he does say is that Nero's office had certainly been ordained by God." "Taken from Romans Exposition of chapter 13 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 2002 by Banner of Truth." 

John Stott also gives incidences in the Bible where it was necessary for the people of God to disobey the governmental authorities: the midwives in Egypt who did not kill the baby boys of the Hebrews (See Exodus 1:15-22); Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not fall down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar (See Daniel 3); Daniel continued to pray to God even when it was in direct disobedience to a king's edict (See Daniel 6); and the early Apostles continued to preach the gospel when the religious authorities of Israel ordered them to stop (See Acts 4:18-20, 5:27-29).  Today, our government allows abortion, a practice that it should be prohibiting.  Our government is rewarding people for doing what is wrong.  When government is acting in this type of untoward manner, it is to be resisted.  But, most often, our government officials require that we do what is right and punish us for doing what is wrong.  In all but a few cases we are to submit to our governing authorities.

Let us, now, consider how we are to respond to government.  Since they have the authority from God to punish us for doing wrong, we, as Christians, should be careful not to do what is wrong.  Ray Stedman had the following to say about how we should act with regard to governing authorities:  "If you are driving down the freeway and want to be free from having to look constantly in your rear view mirror, then keep down you speed."  "Taken from From Guilt to Glory Volume II by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."  His example provides us with the pattern that we as Christians should follow in every area of our lives where we are under governing authorities.  If we do not want to fear punishment, we need to always obey those over us.  And, as Paul says in 13:5, "not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience." 

 When Paul says, "because of conscience," he is saying that we as Christians have a much higher reason for submitting to "governmental authorities" than those outside of God's church.  Most obey "government authorities" simply because they are afraid of being punished if they are caught disobeying.  For example, the person who drives the speed limit only because he does not want to get a ticket is obeying the government to avoid paying a fine.  We who are Christians have a much higher reason for submitting to government.  We recognize that men are sinful and rebellious by nature and that we need government to restrain our selfish and sinful desires.  Without government, we will be back to the old West, where the lawless were in charge.  We also recognize that when we submit to government, it is the wisest way for us to live.  So, we should not just obey because we fear being punished if we disobey, we should conscientiously obey because it is the right thing to do.  For example, we should not just abide by traffic rules when a policeman is watching us, but we should keep them all of the time because it is the right thing to do.

b. Therefore, give them what they deserve-taxes, respect, and honor (13:6-7)

"This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."

Thought Question:  How do these verses help you in your attitude toward paying taxes?

 

 

Those who hold positions of authority in government are to be treated as if they are ministers in God's service, for they actually are ordained by God for service in government just as pastors and evangelists are ordained for service in God's church.

We understand that there are those who are called to full-time service in the church who deserve to be paid for their work of ministry.  So, there are those who are called to full-time service in government: "who give their full-time to governing."  They also deserve to be paid for their service.  God's servants in government are to receive what we give to our full-time Christian workers; we give them respect and financial support.  There are a number of ways that we provide financially for our public servants in government: income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, service fees, and more.  There are also a number of ways we show respect for those who serve in government: standing when a judge takes his place on the bench, saluting an officer in the military, Memorial Day, serving on a jury, and others.

In short, Paul provides us with a different view of government than we often hear in our society today.  We who are Christians should see government and those who serve in government not as a curse, but as a blessing from God; and we should treat them accordingly.

6. Practical responses to the Gospel of God: Toward our neighbors

(13:8-10)
We will see in these verses that true citizenship is expressed by loving our fellow man.

a. Be in no one's debt. (13:8a)

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another,"

Thought Question:  Does Paul mean that a Christian can never go in debt, even in buying a house?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

We are not just to not to be in debt to government, we are not to be in debt to anyone.  But, what does Paul means when he says "let no debt remain"?  Is Paul speaking of financial debt?  Does this mean that Christians are not to have a credit card?  Does this also mean that a Christian cannot borrow money to buy a car or a house?  Wiersbe points out that some of the most respected Christians of all time, J. Hudson Taylor the founder of China Inland Mission and Charles Spurgeon known as the Prince of Preachers believed that Christians are never to go in debt.  Warren Wiersbe points out, though, that the Bible does not condemn borrowing money. See Exodus 22:25-27; Nehemiah 5:1-11; Matthew 25:27; Luke 19:23  Kenneth Wuest agrees with Wiersbe.  Listen to what this Greek scholar had to say about, "let no debt remain."  The language of the A. V. [King James Version] prohibits the Christian from contracting legal debts such as mortgages and business loans.  But that is not Paul's thought here. "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyrigh 1973 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  Wuest's point is that in the context, Paul is speaking about love and not finances.  We are not to be a selfish person who does nothing but receive from others.  Instead, we are to see ourselves as those who are not to be in others' debt continually, but having no debt with regard to loving others.  This attitude is the very opposite of believing that the world owes us a living.  As Christians, we are in debt to God for His sacrificial love for us and we are to pay our indebtedness to Him by loving others.  Paul had this very attitude:  "I am obligated [in debt] both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and to the foolish." (Romans 1:14) See also Romans 8:12

So, we are to love each other to the full as Jesus has loved us.  We are not to leave any act of love that we can do for another undone.  "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another,"

b. Fulfill the law by loving others, for love fulfills the law. (13:8b-10)

"for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal, 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

Thought Question #1:  How do you believe that we fulfill the requirements of the last part of the Ten Commandments when we love people as we love ourself?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Many psychologists say that we must love ourself before we can love others, so they emphasize that we must learn to love our self; is Paul teaching this in these verses?

 

 

We do not steal from someone we love, nor do we murder them or covet what they have.  Where there is genuine love, there is no need for a law.  If everyone genuinely loved each other, we would not need the law.  Years ago, I heard J. Edwin Orr, who was an expert on revivals, describe what took place in the Welsh revival.  He said that it affected everyone so thoroughly that the police were not needed.  When some of the policemen in that area were asked what they now did to keep busy, they said that they had formed a singing group and sang at church gatherings.

In the beginning of verse eight that we just covered, Paul said, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another."  Our debt to others is to love them.  Ray Stedman mentions that we owe someone money, we tend to think of what we owe them whenever we see that person.  We should have this type of attitude toward everyone.  We should see them as someone to whom we owe the debt of love.

We are told to love our "neighbor."  Who is our "neighbor"?  There are those who live next door to us, those who sit with us in church, those we work with, and those we come in contact with each day.  We are in debt to each one, and the debt we owe them is to love them.  Our neighbors are, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, those who share the very same life struggles as we face.  They are in the same spiritual battles as we are in, whether they understand anything about the spiritual realm at all.  Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan to accentuate the point that our "neighbor" is he or she who is in need.  And, everyone is in need of God and His love; they are in need of God's love expressed through you and me. See Luke 10:25-37 

Paul concludes this section with "Love does no harm to its neighbor."  "Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law."  All of the prohibitions in the Ten Commandments are directed to others, prohibiting us from doing harm to others.  Adultery, murder, stealing, and coveting that Paul mentions do harm to others.  Years ago, once more, I heard John MacArther say that we do not need a sign over the bathtub that says, "Do not drown your child."  We do not need this law because we love our children and we would not ever think of doing such a thing toward someone we love.

What the law does, quite simply, is show us where we are lacking in love and where we are coldheartedly selfish.  We can only steal from someone if we do not care for them-when we only care for our self.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that the law does not only tell us what we should not do, but it also tells us what we should do.  What we should do is love them; and, if we love them, we will not steal from them.  We do not fulfill the Ten Commandments when we don't do things; we fulfill them when we do something.  We fulfill them when we love.  As Paul says here, "love is the fulfillment of the law."  We may not steal from someone, but if we even covet what they have, we have broken the Ten Commandments.  Paul had this covetous desire and knew he was breaking the Ten Commandments. See Romans 7:7-13  What can stop us from coveting selfishly what others have?  If we genuinely love people, we will desire that they fully enjoy what they have.  Love "does not envy." (I Corinthians 13:4)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that love is not a beautiful feeling that does nothing.  True love will result in action that is the very opposite of stealing from them, murdering them, etc.  It gives to them, rather than takes from them.  It is action that will result in you and me, from the heart, being obedient to the Ten Commandments.

What do Paul and Jesus mean by "Love your neighbor as yourself"?  These words are found in Leviticus 19:18 in the Old Testament.  Jesus said that these words were one of the two commandments.  "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39)  Notice that Jesus does not say there are three commandments: Love God, love others, and love your self.  Because every one of us is already loving ourself or seeking our best, so we do not need the third of these commandments, "love your self."   We may not like our self, but we do want the best for our self; we already love ourself.  What we need to do is love others as we already love our self. See Galatians 5:14; James 2:8

7. Practical responses to the Gospel of God: Toward the world – true

separation from the world (13:11-14)
"And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies 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 sinful nature."

Thought Question #1:  What is this "salvation" that "is nearer now than when we first believed"?  Have we not already received salvation?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  When was a time in your spiritual life that you awoke from a spiritual slumber and became wide awake to what God wanted you to do?  Do you need to be awakened like this right now?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What do you find in these verses that motivate you to wake up to how God desires you to live?

 

 

"And do this, understanding the present time."  We are to choose to live the kind of life that Paul described in verses 8-10, a life of love that fulfills God's law, because we understand "the present time."  What does Paul mean by the "present time"?  Paul explains what he means by the "present time" in the remaining verses of chapter thirteen.  The present time is this period of time that we live in that is drawing nearer and nearer to the time when Jesus will return, when the moral darkness of our "present time" will be replaced by the light.

"The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed."

What does Paul mean by "our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed"?  Were we not saved at the very instant that we believed in Jesus' death for us on the cross?  In the Bible, though the word, "salvation" can refer to a number of different aspects of our salvation: (1) our salvation from the penalty of sin began the instant we believed (See Romans 3:21-17); (2) our salvation from the power of sin is taking place right now as we overcome the sinful flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit in us (Romans 8:4); (3) and our salvation from the very presence of sin will not occur until our sinful bodies are transformed into our holy and spiritual bodies, and God eradicates all sin. (Philippians 3:20-21; I John 3:2)  It is this third aspect of salvation that we have not experienced yet, but is drawing nearer.  There is a lot of controversy over what the end times will be like, but as I have said many times, there is one thing I am sure of.  I am sure that we are closer to all that is predicted about the end times at this very moment than we or anyone else has ever been before. (You are even closer to that day as you read these words than I was when I wrote them.)  This is Paul's point: the Roman Christians were closer to the time of future salvation than when they "first believed."

There is an immediate concern that we have as we read and consider Paul's words that he wrote to these early Roman Christians.  Paul said that "the night is nearly over."  Yet, he said these words 2000 years ago!  Was he mistaken?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that God, to whom "a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day," (II Peter 3:8), thinks not in terms of events such as years, life-spans, or even centuries; instead, He thinks in terms of great events in His plan.  His great events are the birth, life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ; and the beginning of the church.  The very next great event in His schedule is the return of Jesus Christ.  It is near because it is the next great event on God's calendar.

Now, let us focus on the words: "The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber."  Listen to Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments on these words of Paul's:  "'sleep' means a lethargic condition.  Paul is telling Christians that they must rouse themselves; they must shake themselves out of this condition of lethargy and torpor and sleepiness into which they have fallen.  They must do it themselves." "Taken from Romans Exposition of chapter 13 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 2002 by Banner of Truth."  We are to not go to sleep or if we are slumbering, we are to wake up and become alert. See Ephesians 5:4; I Thessalonians 5:6-8  The routines of life can lull us into drowsiness.  Many of us have gone to a spiritual retreat and have come back on fire.  What happened is that we were awakened out of our spiritual drowsiness.  We came back to being alert to what God wanted us to do in this dark world.  Paul exhorts us to wake up right now in this type of way.   

"The night is nearly over; the day is almost here." 

In verse eleven Paul said these words, "understand the present time."  The Christians in the church in Rome were, as we who are Christians are today, enlightened by God's Spirit to understand the times.  Paul said something similar in I Thessalonians 5:4:  "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief." See also I John 2:21

"So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy."

Throughout the Bible we find a contrast between light and darkness.  Darkness, in short, is mankind choosing sin over God and His pure ways and, then, blinding themselves from seeing the wickedness of what they are doing.  Jesus said the following:  "This is the verdict:  Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposes." (John 3:19-20)  We who are Christians, on the other hand, are now in the light.  We know what is wrong; we know that Jesus died for our sins; we are those who have chosen to confess our sins; and we are seeking to what is right. See I John 1:5-10; Ephesians 4:17-5:14; Colossians 1:9-14; I Peter 2:9

We Christians are to be different from the world.  And as the world gives in more and more to sensual fleshly and sinful pleasures, we are not to be lulled to sleep by the increasing moral darkness around us, but we are to "wake up."  We should wake up to the fact that the increasing sinfulness of the world shows us that the time of our Lord's return is drawing closer and closer.  Ray Stedman, in a message on these verses, pointed out that Paul does not urge us to hurry up, because the Lord's return is drawing near, but to "wake up."  We are to "wake up" to the fact that we cannot allow ourselves to follow the world and also to be enticed into giving in to the greater and greater temptations that are occurring as we draw nearer and nearer to our Lord's return. See I Thessalonians 5:1-10

What it comes to is what someone has said: "only one life will soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last."  The lists of pleasures that Paul lists, "orgies, drunkenness, . . .sexual immorality, . . . debauchery" are selfishness at its worst.

The world entices us and promises us that selfish pleasure will give us the fullest life; in other words, complete selfishness = complete happiness.  But, instead of leading to happiness it leads to what comes next on Paul's list-"dissension" and "jealousy."  Selfishness leads not to unity with others but to division from others, as we all are selfishly fighting for the biggest piece of the pie for ourselves.  It leads to jealousy when others get the biggest and the best and we don’t!

What does Paul mean by "the day is almost here"?  He is speaking of a future day or time when the Lord will reveal Himself in great power to judge the world.  Listen to Paul's words in II Thessalonians:  "God is just.  He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you . . . This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (II Thessalonians 1:6-8)  This day, called "the Day of the Lord," is nearer to each of us than it was when we first believed.  It is much nearer to us than it was to the Christians of the past.  There are many, many references to this day, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Almost the whole book of Revelation is about that day.  It is completely certain that there is a day ahead when sin will be fully exposed for how putrid it is to God.  This should fully motivate us not to participate in it, but rather "behave decently, as in the daytime." See I John 2:28, 3:3; Ephesians 5:6-8; I Thessalonians 5:4-8; II Peter 3:11-14

"Rather clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ."  What does Paul mean by these words?  When people look at us, whom do we want them to see?  Do we want them to see the old man or old woman, the selfish and self-centered person we were before we came to know Jesus Christ, or do we want them to see Jesus?  Christ is in us, so we now have a choice as to how we are to live.  But, we need to choose Christ's life.  Paul symbolizes this choice using putting on Jesus Christ as we put on our clothing.  He, for example, is compassionate.  We now, then, have the ability to be compassionate.  So, what if we come in contact with someone who is going through a difficult time?  This person needs our prayers, may need financial help, or may just need our ear.  We clothe ourselves with Christ when we show Christ's compassion to them. See Colossians 3:12; I Peter 5:5

Notice that Paul says, "Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ."  "Rather" than what?  "Rather" than "orgies and drunkenness" and the other selfish things mentioned in verse thirteen.

Also, "Rather" than thinking about what Paul mentions next: and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature [flesh]."  Today, pornography over the internet has an evil hold on many a man. II Timothy 2:22 says: "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart."  "Flee" is another way of saying, "do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature [flesh]."  Do not allow your mind to focus in on or to think at all about that which is enticing to the evil and fully selfish part of us.

Let us summarize what Paul is saying in these verses.  We have two options before us as a Christian: the worldly and selfish life and the Christ-motivated life.  For those of us who became Christians later in life, we lived the worldly and selfish life for one period in our life.  But, even for those who became Christians very early in life, the worldly and selfish life is just as much a possible choice.  Now, we must choose against this worldly and selfish type of life and choose for Jesus' loving and pure type of life!  Because we, as Christians with His life in us, are truly able to live His type of life, we should choose to live His type of life.  "But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it." (Romans 8:10-12)

8. Practical responses to the Gospel of God: Toward the weak in faith: true

tolerance (14:1-15:13)
In I Timothy 4:14, Paul says that "everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving."  Yet not everyone's faith is strong enough to believe that this is true.  As a result, there are those within the true church who sincerely believe that God requires that they must deprive themselves of that which, in actuality, God created for them to enjoy.  Those who recognize their complete liberty to enjoy these blessings from God tend to look down with contempt on their narrow-minded fellow Christians.  On the other side, those who voluntarily deprive themselves of some enjoyment for spiritual reasons tend to be legalistic and condemning toward their "permissive" and "liberal" fellow Christians.  These attitudes, of course, do not foster a spirit of love and unity within the church.

In Romans one through eight, Paul taught the church at Rome about the grace of God.  Unfortunately, knowledge about God's grace is not enough, for as Paul explains in I Corinthians 8:1, knowledge alone "puffs up."  What is needed are knowledge, humility, and love.  In Romans 14:1-15:13, Paul gives us a list of principles that will enable us to live in unity with those who disagree with us about what is and what is not acceptable in these areas where the Bible does not clearly teach that something is wrong.  Paul was directing his instructions to the strong and weak in faith in the church at Rome.  It appears that there were those in the church at Rome who believed that they were still under the Old Testament regulations that required that they must abstain from certain foods and set aside certain days.  Today, there are also differences among Christians about what we are and are not allowed to do in those areas where the Bible does not clearly tell us what to do and what not to do.  For example, should a Christian go to the movies or rent movies?  If it is okay to watch some movies, which movies is it okay to watch?  These principles in these verses will be very helpful to us as guidelines about how to make decisions in these areas without dividing the church over where to draw the lines in each case.  This section provides us with critical instruction, for without these guidelines, a church and the people in a church will dispute about these disputable matters. 

a. Principle #1 (for the strong in faith): Accept and do not despise those who

are weak in faith. (14:1-3a)
"Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not,"

Thought Question #1:  Who, according to these verses, are the strong and the weak in faith?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What are some "disputable matters" in the church today that you are aware of?

 

 

Who are the strong in faith?  Some would look to those who live in monasteries and practice an ascetic style of life as the strong in faith.  But, according to Paul's definition in these verses, the strong in faith are those who believe that God wants them to enjoy what the weak in faith cannot enjoy without feeling guilty about it.  Peter was weak in faith when God told him in Acts 10:9-15 that it was okay for him now to eat food that had been, according to Old Testament instructions, unclean.  Peter could not consider eating this food because he felt guilty eating it.  His faith was weak with regard to eating this food.  Compare Acts 10:9-15 with the list of unclean food in Leviticus 23.  Peter was weak in faith, even though God told him that it was now okay for him to eat it.  Notice, Paul's problem was not that he was strongly tempted to eat these previously forbidden foods, but that he could not eat them without feeling guilty.  John Stott points out that there is a difference between the weak in faith and those, like the alcoholic, who are weak in resisting temptation.  He says that "What the weak lack is not strength of self-control but liberty of conscience."  "Taken from Romans by John Stott.  Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press." 

Paul's focus in these verses is on those who are strong in faith in some area.  We may, though, be strong in faith in one area and weak in faith in another area.  For example, we may feel guilty about playing pool, but feel that there is nothing wrong with playing cards.  These are both games that some Christians feel are sinful and other Christians believe that there is nothing sinful about them.  Paul's instruction in this verse is that we must "accept" our brother or sister whose faith is "weak."

Ray Stedman points out that it is not our option to accept or not accept those whom Jesus accepts.  Their faith may be weak in this area, but it is not weak in believing that Jesus died for their sins.He, then, goes on to tell of a time when someone challenged him on a theological point and he challenged him right back.  It resulted in an argument that lasted over an hour.  He later apologized for his part in the argument.  His main regret was that he did not at first clearly emphasize what he and the other Christian brother agreed upon before they talked about their area of disagreement.  This is an application of Paul's words in these verses that we are to "accept" one another.  The topic that Ray Stedman disputed about had to do with prophecy, and this certainly is one of the "disputable matters."

Wuest concludes that the Greek word that is translated "disputable matters" gives the meaning, "a doubting as to which is correct."  The weak in faith, then, are those "whose anxious mind will not be at peace; no censure of any kind is implied in the word."  He translates 14:1 as follows: give the weak in faith a "cordial welcome, not with a view to a critical analysis of (his) inward reasonings." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

"The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not,"

"Look down" may also be translated do not "despise" or "be contemptuous" of the weak in faith.  Paul says do not be critical in looking at them.  Much of the divisions in the church occur because one group in the church begins to despise or "look down" on those who do not believe exactly as they believe.

Not only are we not to despise them, we are to accept them.  John
points out that the meaning of "accept" means more than merely tolerating someone that is difficult to deal with, but it means that we "accept" them into one's inner circle of love.  We are to "accept" our fellow Christians, even though they may disagree with us on some "disputable matters," just as Jesus Christ has accepted them. See Ephesians 1:3-14  As Paul states in the end of verse 3: "for God has accepted him."  We find the same thought in the seventh verse of the next chapter: "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."

b. Principle #2 (for the weak in faith):  Do not condemn the strong in faith.

(14:3b)
"and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does,"

Thought Question:  Is there a Christian that you do not accept or "condemn" or do not accept because of a disagreement over a "disputable matter"?  If the answer is yes, how can you change your attitude toward that Christian brother or sister?

 

 

There are some activities that the Bible does not, for a number of reasons, clearly say whether they are wrong or right.  For example, there were no television sets in Paul's time and no television shows.  There are, therefore, no clear statements in the Bible about whether or not a Christian should or should not watch television; and if it is okay to watch some television shows, there are no clear statements about which television shows to watch and which television shows not to watch.  There may be some who believe they are completely free before God to do something that is in this area where no clear guidelines are given.  For example, they may have concluded that watching television is not a sin as long as one uses discretion in what they watch.  Someone else may not have this type of freedom.  For example, they may believe that it is sinful to even own a television set.  They may even feel that the television-owning person is either not a Christian or, at the very best, a seriously backslidden Christian.  But, there is nothing at all in the Bible that prohibits owning or watching a television set.  What, according to these verses, should the non-television owning Christian's attitude be toward the person who watches television?  According to this verse, he should not condemn him.  Paul will explain the reasons why we should not condemn our Christian brother in the following partial verse and the next verse.

c. Principle #3 (for the weaker brother):  We have no right to judge how

someone serves his master. (14:3c-4)
"for God has accepted him.  Who are you to judge someone else's servant?  To his own master he stands or falls.  And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand."

Thought Question:  What do you find in these verses that helps you in your attitude toward someone who disagrees with you on a "disputable matter"?

 

 

Paul reveals something here that is true of any of us when we start having a condemning or critical spirit toward our fellow Christians.  When you and I are looking upon our fellow Christian, we are being critical of them as if he or she were our servant, and accountable to us and to our standards.  Paul says here in the most pointed way:  "Who are you to judge someone else's servant?"

Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains, Paul's point was much clearer to the people of Paul's time than it is to us:  The "apostle takes up and uses an illustration – an illustration that was quite familiar to people at that time . . . The rich had many servants in the New Testament time, many of them slaves . . . So Paul, in effect, says, 'What would you think of a visitor who took it upon himself or herself to criticize and to judge and to correct the servants of the host?'  You know that sort of thing is not done.  It would be very rude of you to correct another man's servant.  Anybody with a sense of delicacy or appropriateness would not dream of doing such a thing.  It is an uncouth person who tells off or openly criticizes the servant of another person in that person's house.'" "Taken from Romans Exposition of chapter 13 by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 2002 by Banner of Truth."

The application to us today is obvious; other Christians are God's servants and accountable to God for their service; they are not our servants and accountable to us.  When we start criticizing them, it shows that we have an arrogant attitude and are putting ourselves in God's place and treating them as our servants.  May each of us remember this truth when we begin to have a critical attitude toward our fellow Christians.

Paul also points out, that though we may be critical of a Christian brother or sister, God accepts him or her.  Who, then, are we not to accept this person?

Next, Paul points out that to God alone this servant of God "stands or falls."  And because of God's grace, he stands, "for the Lord is able to make him stand." See Philippians 1:6; I Peter 1:3-5; Jude 24-25; Romans 8:25-30  We tend to put others under the law – our law.  They stand or fall based on how well they do at measuring up to our law.  But, we as Christians all fail to measure up to God's law and also fail to measure up even to the requirements that we so easily put on others.  We and our fellow Christians stand before God, acceptable to Him, completely because of God's grace.  If God accepts the Christian that you or I are judging, who are we not to accept him or her?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the point that what Paul is teaching here does not do away with church discipline.  But, it does do away with an arrogant and self-righteous approach to church discipline. See Galatians 6:1-5

d. Principle #4:  Each person needs to be fully convinced in his or her mind

(14:5-12)
"One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind."

Thought Question:  According to this verse, what should we allow each other to do when we have a disagreement over a "disputable matter" such as should we treat Sundays like the Sabbath and whether or not we should celebrate a holiday like Christmas?

 

 

What Paul presents in this verse (14:5) and in the following verses is the pattern we are to follow in these disputable or controversial matters.  In these difficult areas, we are not to conform to what others are doing nor are we to make our decisions and then demand that others conform to us; but we are each to decide for ourselves before God what we believe is right and wrong and let others make the same decision for themselves as well.

Here, Paul applies this method of dealing with "disputable matters" to the controversy between those who believed that some days were sacred and those who believed that all days are alike.  He was probably referring to whether or not they should set aside the Sabbath, the Passover, and other Jewish festival days.  Today, there is also the controversy about what our attitude should be toward Sunday, Easter, Christmas, and other Christian holidays or seasons.

Let us apply Paul's method to one's attitude toward Sunday and toward Christmas.  There are some in the church who believe that Sunday should be treated somewhat like the Sabbath in the Old Testament.  Of course, they would not require that all rules and regulations in the Old Testament be kept, for if someone broke the rules of the Sabbath in the Old Testament, that person was to die. See Numbers 15:32-36; Exodus 3:15  Also, the Sabbath in the Old Testament was not on Sunday, but on Saturday.

There are also those who believe that we should not celebrate Christmas because of its roots in paganism.  What should we do?  We should each individually determine what we believe God would have us to do, and also let others do the same.  We should not, then, look down on those who come to a different conclusion about these matters.  As Paul says in Colossians 2:16:  "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day."

Paul goes on in Colossians 2:17 to say that the Sabbath days and the other Old Testament regulations he mentioned "are a shadow of the things to come, the reality, however, is found in Christ."  The weaker brother is one who feels conscientiously compelled to treat these days somewhat as they were treated in the Old Testament.  But, they do this before the Lord.  Those of us who see these days as being no different than other days should not look down on them.  We will see why as we continue on with Paul's reasoning in the following verses in Romans 14.

(1) For what we do, we do before the Lord and not before men. (14:6-9

"He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living."

Thought Question:  How can these verses help you to have better attitude toward your Christian brother or sister who disagrees with you in an area where the Bible does not give a clear position that a Christian is to take?

 

 

Since becoming a Christian, we are to no longer think of ourself as being alone.  Instead, we are to think of ourself as living in a constant and active relationship with our living Lord.  That is the essence of the Christian life, being united with Him and seeking to do what He wants us to do.  That is what makes our lives Christian

So Christians, who fit the description of Christian above, who believe that some days are more sacred than other days do it for their Lord, and those who worship the Lord in the same way on each day of the week also do it for their Lord.  Though someone may be mistaken in what they do, they still can do it while genuinely seeking to obey their Lord.

Another aspect of our relationship to the Lord is that our goals have changed.  Every part of our life and even our ultimate death is now directed toward God's goals for us.  So, though, there are dedicated Christians who disagree with us on "disputable matters," we all have one goal.  That goal is to further God's kingdom.  Though there are many different viewpoints within Christianity on many "disputable matters," there is agreement among all Christians that God's "will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  If we focus on the higher goal that we are all united on, rather than focus on all the areas that we are divided over, we will experience our oneness in Christ.

Still another aspect that unites two Christians who are on two sides of a "disputable matter" is that they both believe that God is pleased with what they have chosen to do and they both can "give thanks to God" for what they have chosen to do in obedience to Him.  For example, one family enjoys watching a television movie and is thankful to God for the family time that they spent with each other and for the good theme in the movie; while another family believes that it is wrong to own a television set, and is thankful to God that their family time is not cluttered up with a television set dominating their home.  Both are doing what they believe God wants them to do and "give thanks to God."  What attitude should these two families have toward each other?  It should not divide them, for each family has chosen to do what they believe God allows or wants them to do.  They both love the Lord and are seeking to do things His way.

It is possible, of course, that television watching can dominate a Christian's life and rule in one's life rather than the Lord ruling him or her.  That is another issue that Paul is not dealing with here.  Here, he concerns himself with Christians disagreeing over what is acceptable and unacceptable in "disputable matters."

Paul, though, points out in Galatians 4:10-11 that those who misunderstand the Old Testament regulations can fall back into a works relationship with God and can, thereby, fall from a grace relationship with God.  This does not mean that they could lose their salvation, but they could lose the power and joy of their salvation.  So, not doing something that one believes is sinful can, if it becomes legalistic, hinder one's relationship with God. See I Timothy 4:1-5; Colossians 2:16-23

"So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living."

Jesus' death and resurrection becomes the basis upon which the Christian bases his or her life.  We should not be primarily focused on some disputable matter, but we should primarily be focused on our identity with Christ in His death and resurrection.  One aspect of worldliness is living as if this life we know right now is all there is to life.  The Christian, though, is focused on a future day when he or she will resurrect just as Jesus did.  When that occurs we want Jesus to be pleased with the way we chose to live this life.  Particularly, we desire that we live this life for His sake and for His higher purposes.  Though we do not agree with other Christians in everything, we are united with them in our belief that we will one day be resurrected and face Jesus.  This is true of every single true Christian.  We are one in this!

(2) For we will stand before God's judgment seat (14:10-12)

"You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God."

Thought Question:  What is there in these verses that helps you to have the proper attitude toward a Christian who disagrees with you on a "disputable matter"?

 

 

What should determine the attitude that we have toward our fellow Christian when he or she disagrees with us on one or more of these "disputable matters"?  We should have the same attitude now that we will have when we stand before Jesus at the judgment seat.  At that time we will not be despising and judging our fellow Christian.  No, then, we will be concerned about how Jesus judges us and we will not be concerned about judging other Christians.

Here we are told that it will be "God's judgment seat."  But in John 5:22 we learn that ". . . the Father judges no one, but entrusted all judgment to the Son."  So, at God's judgment seat we will be judged by Jesus Christ.

This perspective is really very freeing.  In these areas where it is not really clear as to what a Christian is to do or is not to do, we do not need to be troubled about it.  We simply leave it to the Lord to judge them at the final judgment seat.

There is a time, though, when we are to judge our brothers.  When a fellow Christian is clearly sinning, we are to confront them on their sin.  Paul, himself, makes that clear in I Corinthians 5:12-13: " . . . Are you not to judge those inside [the church]? . . . Expel the wicked man from among you." See I Corinthians 5:1-13

Notice how Paul starts this section of verses:  "You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother?"  This, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, is the first time in this section on "disputable matters" that Paul mentions that those we disagree with in these areas are our brothers.  We treat family differently than we treat others.  Whether we agree or disagree, they remain our family.  There is a bond between family members that is different than the bond between us and those who are not a part of our family.

Now, lets us apply this to the church at large.  For example, we are all family, even if we disagree over how and when we are to be baptized.  We are not to treat Christian brothers and sisters as enemies when they disagree with us on these lesser matters.  They are not to be treated as rivals (like how rival inner-city gangs look upon each other).  They remain our Christian brothers and sisters.

e. Principle #5 (for the strong in faith):  Do not put a stumbling block in the

path of your Christian brother. (14:13-22a)

(1) Do not put a stumbling block in the path of your Christian brother by

doing something that distresses your brother. (14:13-15)
"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, what is a "stumbling block"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What does Paul mean by "destroy your brother"?

 

 

Here we find, for the first time, Paul's own view on the eating of meat.  He reveals himself to be strong in his faith and it was okay for him before God to eat any food: "no food is unclean in itself."  He is "fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:6) that it is okay for Christians to eat meat. See also I Corinthians 8:8  Paul had no doubt whatsoever that it was okay for him to eat meat.

When Paul says that he is "in the Lord Jesus," he is emphasizing that he has not come to this conclusion himself and on his own, but his conclusion has come to him from his relationship with Jesus Christ.  He could eat meat with a free conscience completely maintaining his relationship with Jesus Christ.

Here we need to consider a very important point.  Some food can be poisonous, some food can be unhealthy; and even some food can be healthy for some and not healthy for some (for example, sugar is healthy for most people but unhealthy for a diabetic).  But, that is not what Paul is talking about here.  He is saying that no food is morally wrong or sinful to eat.  God had declared certain foods unclean in the Old Testament; but it was not because they were sinful.  He declared them unclean to symbolize that there are some activities and practices that are sinful and unholy.  We see in the New Testament that God chose to discontinue this symbolic teaching about moral uncleanness.   God told Peter that what was unclean was now clean. See Acts 10:9-17, 27-30  Paul fully believed that God had made this change, and he was now conscience-free to eat what was previously considered as unclean.

Paul teaches here, however, that we can become a "stumbling block" for those who believe that something is morally wrong for them to do if we do what they believe is morally sinful.  We can in this way perplex them and even draw them into doing what they believe to be sin.  Therefore, as the Son of God deprived Himself, even to the point of dying for us in a human body, we should be willing to deprive ourselves of some Christian freedom so as not to distress our weaker brother's conscience.

How does this teaching apply to some practices in our modern world?  They are many activities where one Christian believes that he can do the activity and another Christian believes it is sin.  Some of these activities are the following: playing cards, dancing, television and movie watching, wearing make-up, drinking alcohol, and others.  An activity that we believe we can do and not sin before God may be an activity that another Christian may believe would be sin if he or she did it.  We should be careful and deprive ourself of doing this activity whenever we believe it will become a "stumbling block."  For example, someone believes that it is sinful to watch television on Sunday, and we believe that it is not sinful to watch television on Sunday.  We, then, should choose not to turn on the television when we have that person over for lunch on Sunday.  He could be put in an awkward position if we did turn on the television.  That person may feel like he was sinning by being in the same room with a television turned on or he could enjoy watching something and then feel afterwards that he had sinned.  We would, then, have become a "stumbling block" to him.

Here is an illustration that helps me to understand what Paul is teaching here, and it may help you as well.  Two young girls are learning in a gym class how to use the balance beam.  One girl is very athletic and picks it up quite quickly.  She urges the other girl who is very awkward to move across the balance beam as easily and as quickly as she has just done.  But, because of her urging, the awkward young lady falls and hurts herself badly.  The agile girl became a "stumbling block" for her awkward friend.  She should have been patient with her friend.  In the same way, we need to be patient with those whose consciences are not as quick to be free from guilt in areas where we are free.

Paul begins this section of verses with these words:  "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another."  Another proper way to put this is that is easier for us to understand today is, "let us stop being so critical of each other."  Not only can we be a "stumbling block" by flaunting our liberty in front of Christians who lack freedom of conscience in our area of Christian freedom, but we can also be arrogant and critical of them.  The girl in the previous illustration can also add insult to injury by making fun of the other girl's awkwardness.  We are not to be critical of those who are still awkward in their Christian liberty; even though it is very easy and human for us to do this type of thing.

When Paul says "stop passing judgment on one another," he is saying stop having a judgmental attitude toward each other.  Instead of focusing on others and what we think of their Christian performance, we should focus on how we can not be a hindrance to others.  How many interpersonal problems in churches would be removed if we who are Christians would follow Paul's instructions in this verse?

Paul concludes this section of verses with these words:  "Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that the Greek word translated "destroy" is the same Greek word that is translated "perish" in John 3:16.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." See also I Corinthians 8:11  Can we who are strong in the faith cause someone who is weak in the faith to perish or be destroyed eternally?  It clearly cannot mean that, for the book of Romans tells us that nothing can separate us from God's love. See Romans 8:28-39  Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that if he thought that his behavior could result in someone being eternally destroyed, he would completely isolate himself from all people for fear he might cause someone to be damned.

What Paul does mean is that when a Christian who is weak in faith does what he believes to be sin, his fellowship with God is destroyed at that time.  For that person is doing what is against his own conscience.  He becomes confused and disoriented by his decision.  Where will it go from there?  He may choose to also go against His conscience in other areas or he may feel guilty about everything.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones spends considerable time in his commentary on Romans at this point focusing on the importance for each of us who are Christians to live in accordance with our conscience.  In I Timothy 1:18-20, Paul urges Timothy to "hold on to . . . good conscience," and he warns him not to be like those did not hold on to their consciences and "shipwrecked their faith." See also I Timoty 1:5, 3:9, 4:1-2; Titus 1:15  It could also be said that they "destroy[ed]" their faith or "destroy[ed]" their walk with God.

(2)  Do not put a stumbling block in the path of your Christian brother by

becoming responsible for something good being called evil (14:16)
"Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil."

Thought Question:  How can we cause something we consider to be "good to be spoken of as evil"?

 

 

What is pure and good for us can become evil if it has a destructive effect on our Christian brother or sister.  The words "spoken of as evil" is the Greek word "blasphemeo" from which we get our English word "blaspheme."  Our Christian testimony can be ruined if we make some "disputable matter" an ugly issue.  Is it worth it?  Paul's point is that it is not worth it.  We who are strong in faith are to choose to avoid making it an issue by choosing not to exercise our freedom to do something when it will create a divisive and ugly issue.

This does not mean, though, that we are to be manipulated by the legalists who have set their own rules for our behavior.  Jesus created controversy by not going along with the rules of the Pharisees. See Matthew 12:1-14, 15:1-14

Ray Stedman gives an example of how, when Paul's principles taught in these verses are not applied, it can get very destructive:  "I once heard of a church that got into an unholy argument over whether to have a Christmas tree at their Christmas program.  Some thought a tree was fine; others thought it was pagan.  They became so angry at each other they actually had fistfights over it.  One group dragged the tree out, then the other group dragged it back in.  They ended up suing each other in a court of law and, of course, the whole thing was in the newspaper for the entire community to read.  What else could non-Christians conclude but that the gospel consists of whether or not you have a Christmas tree?  Paul says this is utterly wrong.  The main point of Christian faith is not eating or drinking or having a Christmas tree.  The main point is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  A non-Christian, looking at a Christian, ought to see these things, not wrangling and disputing and fighting and law courts, but righteousness." "Taken from From Guilt to Glory Volume II by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."

(3) Instead, make it your main concern to serve God and further His

kingdom by seeking after righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit rather than being contentious among yourselves about what food you can eat! (14:17-18)
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men."

Thought Question:  Why is the kingdom of God, righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" and not what we eat or drink?

 

 

We tend to focus on the minors, rather than on the majors.  We tend to focus on external religious regulations rather than on holy and pure internal motivations.  But, it is the holy and pure internals that show that we are being ruled by God and a part of His kingdom: "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that Paul is at least to some degree scolding the Roman Christians.  "You are focusing in on external minutiae and ignoring what is most important about the kingdom of God.  Jesus was certainly scolding the Pharisees when He said these words:   'Are you still so dull?' Jesus asked them. 'Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?' But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'" (Matthew 15:16-18)

We define what we believe Christianity primarily is by what we put our primary emphasis on.  Paul says here that our primary emphasis should not be on rules and regulations about secondary-external matters.  Jesus made the same point when chastising the Pharisees:  "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." (Matthew 23:23)

So, then, what should we make our primary emphases as we seek to live in obedience to our king?  Years ago, I heard Paul Sailhammer, who was the youth pastor with both well-known pastors John MacArthur and Charles Swindoll, tell the familiar story of a group of blind men and an elephant.  These blind men touched various parts of the elephant and came to wrong conclusions about what an elephant is from what they touched.  For example, the blind man who touched the elephant's ear concluded that an elephant was a large leaf.  What is an elephant?  It is more than its parts.  Paul Sailhammer then emphasized to us that, like an elephant, Christianity has many parts.  Then, he asked, "In Christianity, what sums up everything in Christianity?"  He concluded, and I agreed with him then and agree with him now, that the kingdom of God sums up what Christianity is in total.  Christianity is God's rule in Christian's lives, and ultimately God's rule over everything.  And, as Paul says here, the kingdom of God is "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."  Christianity does not start with us, but with God and our proper relationship with Him.  God's rule is present in our lives when we exhibit God's character of "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." See Romans 14:8; Matthew 6:33

First of all, "righteousness" "in the Holy Spirit" is to be the goal of Christians as we seek to be like God and to obey Him.  There is some disagreement as to whether this "righteousness" refers to the righteousness we have by faith in Jesus Christ:  "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God." (Romans 5:1)  Or, is Paul speaking here about the practice of righteous behavior?  Ray Stedman said that it is the former – righteous positional standing with God through faith in Jesus Christ; and Kenneth Wuest believed that it is the latter – a righteous lifestyle.  Certainly, both can be true, for the kingdom of God includes both being right with God and doing what is right.  The kingdom of God is both who we are before God and what we do. See I John 2:29, 3:7

An argument that supports the position that Paul is speaking here of the righteous relationship we have with God through the faith in the blood of Jesus Christ is that earlier in Romans Paul speaks of us becoming justified or righteous with God through faith.  Then, he says that this right relationship with God also means that we have peace with God and that enables us to "rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-3)   So, there we have in three verses, "righteousness, peace and joy."  On the other hand, because since Romans 12:1 Paul has been emphasizing our Christian lifestyle, it also fits that he is talking about a righteous lifestyle here.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones appears to solve the problem of which righteousness Paul is talking about here using the following reasoning.  The Roman Christians were emphasizing minor issues within Christianity; and these minor points were becoming what were most important to them.  We also can do the same type of thing.  But, what is central to Christianity?  It is our relationship with Jesus Christ!  Our relationship with Jesus Christ includes both our righteousness by faith and our righteous lifestyle.  We should not allow disagreements on peripheral matters to become the cause of a loss of our righteous, peaceful and joyous relationship with God.

Among sincere Christians we have many areas of disagreements.  Some of the issues that divide us are as follows: spiritual gifts, Calvinism, the proper form of baptism, church government, prophecy, and others.  None of these issues should prevent us from having a righteous, peaceful, and joyous relationship with God and with each other.  This, I believe is Paul's point here.  As we continue on in these verses, I believe we will see that it is exactly what Paul's point is. See Romans 14:19-20, 15:5-7

Now, let us focus on the word, "peace."  Again, there is the "peace" with God spoken of in Romans 5:1.  But, there is also the peace among Christians spoken of in Romans 14:19: "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification."

There is a major difference between a Christian who is a "peacemaker," as Jesus refers to those who are in His kingdom in Matthew 5:9, and one who is constantly inspecting other Christians to see whether or not they agree with him or her on every single point.  One prizes his relationships with other Christians; the other demands uniformity.  One pursues love and peace; the other is combative and often unloving.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones refers to the last group as "spiritual detectives."  When we are "spiritual detectives," we look for faults in others, despise them, slander them, and feel that it is our job to root them out of the church.  We are supposed to love them.  We are to be seeking after their best and not seeking out their faults.  What happens immediately is that we lose what is most important to Christianity; we lose love, peace, unity, and joy. See James 3:13-18; Luke 2:13-14; Ephesians 2:17, 4:1-6

Finally, let us focus on "joy."  Following the pattern of "righteousness" and "peace," there is both the "joy" that comes from our relationship with God and with other Christians.  John said that he knew "no greater joy than to hear that [his] children are walking in the truth.  "Joy" is also a fruit of the Holy Spirit. See Galatians 5:22  We do not want the world to see that God's Spirit has given us the ability to argue and divide over secondary matters, but that He has given us individually "joy" in our relationship with God and "joy" in our corporate relationship with each other.

In closing, Paul says, "because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men."  "Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" will please God and win the respect of men.  May we be successful as we walk in God's Spirit to avoid division over trivial matters and seeking unity, peace, and joy-bringing glory to God.  The kingdom of God is not what we eat, whether or not we smoke, whether or not we have a beard, what type of music we have at 10:30 or 11:00 A.M. on Sunday mornings, whether or not we use the King James Bible or the New International Version, whether or not we wear make-up or do not, whether or not we have an organ or do not, whether or not we have pews or do not; but the kingdom of God is whether or not we have a righteous, peaceful, and joyful relationship with God and others.  We were not given the Holy Spirit for these other reasons, but we were given the Holy Spirit so that we can have godly and loving relationships with each other!

(4)  Do not put a stumbling block in the path of your Christian brother by

making every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification. (14:19)
"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification."

Thought Question:  How will the practice of this verse by all parties help in relationships in a church and in a marriage?

 

 

Paul knew that making what they ate or did not eat their primary focus would tear down their relationships.  They needed to focus, instead, on what they could do to promote "peace" and on what would build up their relationships.  How can we apply this today?  Are there areas of controversy within the church where some Christians say that there is something that is wrong to do and some Christians say that the same practice is right or okay to do?  Should we make it a primary goal of ours to straighten them out?  No, according to Paul, we should make it our primary concern to maintain harmonious and peaceful relationships.

Notice that Paul says, "make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification."  The verb that is translated, "make every effort" is, according to Kenneth Wuest, "'to run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing, to run after, to pursue,' metaphorically, 'to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire.'"  "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  We are to pursue peace "peace and mutual edification" like a lion pursues its prey.  "Peace and mutual edification" should be the earnest pursuit of each Christian. 

We who are Christians are one.  "There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:4-6)  We are to eagerly seek after that which will maintain this unity and this peace with each other.  "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:2-3)

We are also to pursue after building up one another.  "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29)  So often, our focus is on our own views; what we believe others should believe and do.  When we focus on the needs of the other person and how we can build them up, we will not arrogantly gripe and complain about what they disagree with us on, but we will seek to help them and to build them up.  We will see the areas where we disagree out of concern for them, not out of concern for ourselves and how others are not conforming to what we believe they should be doing.

(5) Do not put a stumbling block in the path of your Christian brother by

doing anything that is destructive to your brother or causes him to stumble (14:20-21)
"Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall."

Thought Question:  Give an example where a Christian could cause another Christian to stumble by doing something that God allows a Christian to do.

 

 

Paul immediately gives an example of how a Christian brother can do something which will not build up another Christian, but will tear him down.  Paul, here is speaking of some activity that is okay for a Christian to do, but where a weaker Christian genuinely believes that it is a sin for him to do it.  The stronger Christian, who knows that God allow him to do it, needs to be careful when he is with a weaker Christian who believes that it is sinful to do.  Here is an application of Paul's reasoning for today's world.  Suppose a Christian is raised in a home where it was taught that playing pool is sinful.  Some feel that playing pool is sinful because it is often played in bars.  The stronger Christian recognizes that pool is just a game with wooden sticks and balls and is not sinful.  He could put social pressure on the weaker Christian which would lead to the weaker Christian playing pool.  But, the weaker Christian could still feel that he had disobeyed God and sinned.  To him, it was sinful.  The stronger Christian will have caused him to do what he believed to be sin and has caused him "to stumble."  See I Corinthians 8:7-13

One thing needs to be pointed out at this time:  Paul is not talking here, once again, about the pharisaical legalist who seeks to control the behavior of others.  The legalist is in no danger of being influenced to do what he believes is wrong by those who believe it is okay to do it.  If the stronger brother drinks a glass of wine, the weaker brother who believes it is wrong may be tempted to take a drink and, then, do what he believes is sinful.  The legalist would not be tempted to take a drink, but he would seek to condemn anyone who drinks alcohol. See I Timothy 5:23; John 2:1-11

What does Paul mean by, "Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food"?  It appears that the "work of God" that could be destroyed is the unity of the church and what God has worked to accomplish in the church.  We are to maintain the unity of the church and to build it up, not destroy and tear it down.  So, we should seek to be careful that our actions edify and not tear down "the work of God."  In this case, a loving Christian is to limit his Christian freedom for the sake of the weaker Christian.

(6) Do not put a stumbling block in the path of your Christian brother by

keeping your beliefs about these controversial issues to yourself. (14:22a)
"So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God."

Thought Question:  Give an example of a time when you should keep silent about something you do that you are completely free before God to do.

 

 

Even telling others what you have the freedom to do can be destructive.  If it does not edify, we are not even to talk about it.  Paul is speaking against, as John Stott points out, "parading" what we believe we are free to do.  This type of speaking creates unnecessary problems.  It is best to keep our opinions about these types of controversial areas to ourselves.  Speaking like this is like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube.  Trying to take back our words after they have been spoken is like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.

f. Principle #6:  Do not do anything that in you own conscience you believe is

wrong. (14:22b-23)
"Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin."

Thought Question:  What does Paul mean when he says "everything that does not come from faith is sin"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why is someone "blessed" if he "approves" of what he does and "does not condemn himself" for doing it?

 

 

There are areas in life where it is not immediately obvious what is right and what is wrong.  For example, should Christians attend movies?  If it is okay for them to attend movies, which movies is it okay to attend?  Paul gives us instruction in these verses about how to make these types of decisions.  We need to seek for ourselves what we believe is acceptable and what is not.  Our conscience becomes our guide.  We should not do anything that we believe is wrong to do.  If we believe or have faith in something as being acceptable before God, then we can do it; and whatever we do not believe as being acceptable before God, we should not do it.  Anything we do that we believe God sees as sin, we sin if we do it; even if it is not a sin to do.

Let us focus on the words, "Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves."  In these words we find a key to the happy life; the "joy in the Holy Spirit" in 14:17.  When we can thank God for something we can enjoy it fully.  If we buy something nice, and then feel guilty for buying it, we will never be able to enjoy it.  But, if we see it as a wonderful gift from God that He desires that we enjoy to the full, then we can enjoy it without any feelings of guilt.  "Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves!"

Paul, here, is encouraging Christians who are strong in faith.  It is wonderful to be free to enjoy what one believes God approves of; even if some are not conscience-free to do it and to enjoy it.

g. Principle #7 "The "strong" are to bear with the failings of the weak and not

please themselves. (15:1-3)
"We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.'"

Thought Question:  What is the difference here between being a people-pleaser and doing what Paul encourages us to do here?

 

 

The Greek word translated "weak" is adunatou.  The "a" at the beginning says that one is "without" dunatou.  Since dunatou means "power," the "weak" are those without power.  The "weak" are those who do not feel that they are able to do certain things that the "strong" realizes that he is free to do.

A key principle when we are seeking to decide what to do when someone else does not feel free to do it is to ask, "What is best for them?"  Love seeks to do what is best for the other person.  Selfishness seeks to do what is best for me.

In verse 2, Paul says: "Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up."  In Galatians 1:10, Paul says, "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ."  Is Paul here in Romans 15:2 contradicting what he says in Galatians 1:10?  Is Paul here in Romans instructing us to be people-pleasers?  The difference is that in Galatians 1:10 Paul is speaking of pleasing people only for our good.  This type of people-pleasing is a cowardly practice that chooses to seek to make people happy rather than seeking to do what is right.  What Paul is speaking of in this verse is seeking to please one's "neighbor for his good."

Part of building up our neighbor can include helping him or her to grow in understanding of their Christian liberties.  But it should only be done in such a way that results in the building up of our Christian brother or sister. See Ephesians 4:14; II Timothy 2:24-26

Next, Paul says, "For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.'"  Jesus did not leave heaven because He was thinking only of Himself; He knew He would be mistreated, mocked, insulted, and murdered.  If He could bear all of this, cannot we bear with those who are weaker in faith?  The Greek word translated "bear" in verse 1 is bastazo.  It refers to bearing something that is burdensome to us.  Jesus bore many burdens so that it would result in our good; we should also be willing to bear the difficulty of enduring our weaker brothers' mistaken ideas of Christian freedom because we want what is good for them. See Psalm 69:9; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 12:2,3; I Peter 2:23

h. Principle #8: Learn from the Scriptures through difficulties so that you

might maintain a spirit of unity. (15:4-6)
"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

Thought Question 1:  Why do you think that Paul puts this verse in here about the purpose of the Old Testament?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Who is one person in the Old Testament whose life of faith has encouraged you to persevere in your walk of faith?  Please explain why his or her life was an encouragement to you.

 

 

Some today, see minimal value in reading and studying the Old Testament.  Paul would not agree with them.  Instead, he says "everything" in them was meant to encourage us to "have hope." 

How can what is written in the Old Testament encourage us in our modern-day world to have hope?  We can be encouraged to endure by reading of those in the Old Testament who endured and were rewarded for their faith, endurance, and hope.  In Hebrews 11, there is a whole list of those who believed that God rewards those who put their trust in Him.  For example, Abraham left his home in what is now Iraq and traveled across a wilderness to what is now Israel because he trusted in God's promise to him.  Abraham did not see the fulfillment of God's promises to him, but we know that the ultimate fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham was Jesus Christ who was a descendent of Abraham's son Isaac.  The promise to David in Psalm 69:9, that Paul quotes here in verse 3, ("The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.") was also fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  So, what is written in the Old Testament is a great encouragement to us to endure in our faith as Abraham, David, and many others have done before us.

Why does Paul suddenly put this verse in here about how the Old Testament was written to be an encouragement for us so that we will persevere?  You may come up with a different reason than I did, but I believe that one reason Paul inserted this verse in his letter at this time is that we are not to live just for ourselves and just for the moment, but we are to "to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." (15:1)  We are to live for what are God's ultimate purposes.  We are to bear up with difficulties and difficult people for their good and for God's ultimate purposes just as people of faith bore with difficult people in the Old Testament times.  They were rewarded for their lives of faith and sacrifice and so will we be rewarded if we follow their pattern and also live faithfully and sacrificially as they did. See Hebrews 11:32-40 

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Thought Question:  Think of someone who has a different view than you have on a "disputable matter"; what do these verses tell you about how you can live in unity with that person?

 

 

We who are Christians rarely agree with each other on everything.  How, then, can we ever be unified?  Paul gives the answer here: in answer to prayer, God will give us the "endurance and encouragement" to bear with each others' areas of disagreement so that we will be able to genuinely from the heart and in true unity, glorify God together.  Many mouths can be united as one in expressing together God's glory!

Paul speaks in these verses and in verse 4 of two ways that we can be enabled to have this "endurance and encouragement"-through the word of God (15:2) and through prayer (15:5-6).  Paul prays for them that God will give them "endurance and encouragement" so that, in the end, they will be united and be able to together, glorify God. See Ephesians 4:1-6

 i. Principle #9: accept one another as Christ has accepted you (15:7-13)

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: 'Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.' Again, it says, 'Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.' And again, 'Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.' And again, Isaiah says, 'The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.'"

Thought Question:  What wisdom does Paul gives us in these verses that are helpful to you so that you can maintain unity with your Christian brothers and sisters?

 

 

There are many issues that we as Christians can divide over.  Division is undoubtedly what was taking place at Rome; they were dividing over what Christians have the liberty to do and do not have the liberty to do.  They were also dividing racially between Jews and Gentiles.

Paul's exhortation is to "accept one another."  Then, he begins to give a number of reasons why we should "accept one another."  First of all, we should "accept one another" because Christ has accepted us.  Jesus accepted and served the Jews.  He came to serve the Jews in fulfillment of God's promises to the Patriarchs who were the fathers of the Jewish people. See Matthew 15:24  Jesus' ministry as described in the Gospels was almost completely directed to the Jews.  But, as Paul says here, He ministered to the Jews for His second purpose, which was to reach all the nations.  It is important here not to skip over a phrase in verse 9: "so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy."  We who are Gentile Christians deserve eternal punishment, but we get eternal life.  We have become recipients of God's wonderful mercy.  May we ever glorify God for His mercy! See 11:32; Titus 3:5

Next, Paul quotes from the Old Testament to demonstrate that God's purpose was always to use the Jews to reach the nations.  In I Samuel 22:50 and Psalm 18:49, David praises God "among the Gentiles" or among the nations.  God being praised among us who are not Jews was always part of God's plan.  Moses proclaimed: "Rejoice O Gentiles with his people [the Jews]" (from Deuteronomy 32:43, a song of Moses about God's ways with Israel).  David proclaimed in Psalm 117:1: "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples."  Finally, Isaiah says, "The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him."

In Genesis 12, God made the following promise to Abraham the first father of the Jewish nation: "and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you."  The Jewish people had become jealous of the Gentiles.  They were jealous that the Gentiles were beginning to believe in God.  Instead, they should be rejoicing that God was fulfilling His purpose to bless the nations through them.

Paul closes this section with these words:  "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Because of the mood of the verb translated "fill" (optative mood), Paul is praying: "may this happen."  May God "fill" you with "hope," "joy," and "peace."  Paul's desire is that they would be filled "with all joy and peace," so that they would "overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

In Hebrews 11:6, the author says, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."  Then, early in Romans we read: "we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:2b-5)  Though the Christian life and ministry will always be a struggle, we look forward to God giving us success and we look forward to an eternal reward. See Hebrews 12:1-3; II Timothy 4:5-8; Titus 2:13  In spite of the struggles that we face in our life of faith, may God fill us "with all joy and peace, so that we would "overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

This hope fills us "with all joy and peace" as we "trust in him" each day and continue to do so to the very end of our present lives.  Then, this life of believing adds more hope as we grow in Christ and as God affirms our faith in Him.  "Overflow" means that we get more from God than we need and we then "overflow with hope."  We are not able to accomplish this "overflow," but God's Spirit provides beyond and above what we are able to do.

We find in these verses the motivation for the Christian life.  We trust in God.  Our hope in God leads to "joy and peace."  God's power through the Holy Spirit causes our hope to overflow.  Our motivation ultimately comes from God through our faith in Him.

Going back to 15:7, Paul desires that they will "accept one another" "in order to bring praise to God."  Unity among Christians who have diverse beliefs and races will result in hope, peace, and joy; and it will lead to a unified praise to God.  "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity." (Psalm 133:1)

May our testimony to the world be love, unity, faith in God, peace, joy, and hope!  Some believe that these words are the true end of Paul's letter.  What follows are some personal words to his readers.

CONCLUSION (15:14-16:27)
1. Final thoughts about the church in Rome (15:14-16)

"I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you think that Paul was convinced that the Roman Christians were "full of goodness"?  (Could someone say that of you?  Why?)

 

 

Thought Question #2: Why do you think that Paul was convinced that the Roman Christians were "complete in knowledge"?  (Could someone say that of you?  Why?)

 

 

Thought Question #3: Why do you think that Paul was convinced that the Roman Christians were "competent to instruct others"?  (Could someone say that of you?  Why?)

 

 

Thought Question #4: Why do you think that Paul says that he wrote this letter "so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God"?

 

 

Ray Stedman makes this observation at this point:  "It is almost as though we have been listening to Paul teaching these lessons in Romans and now class is dismissed and we get a chance to meet the teacher." "Taken from Guilt to Glory by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."

And the teacher begins by telling the church at Rome what he thinks of them:  First of all, he is "convinced" that they are "full of goodness."  In Romans 6, Paul taught them that they had "died to sin" and were "alive to God." (6:10,11)  In Romans 8, he tells them that they "are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit." (8:9)  So it stands to reason that he believes that they are "full of goodness."   A fruit of the Spirit is "goodness." See Galatians 5:22 
The goodness" that they are filled with is the "goodness" of Christian compassion that comes from God's Spirit in them.  What should encourage each of us who are Christians that we have God's Spirit of goodness in us.  We should also be encouraged by the many examples of Christian compassion that have become quite common across the world.  Christians reach out to the needy through Gospel missions; Christian doctors and nurses travel to needy countries to help the ill; and groups like Samaritan's Purse rally Christian concern where there are huge tragedies in our world.  We can be convinced that Christians are "full of goodness."

Paul says that he is "convinced" of this.  This Greek verb is in the perfect tense, which says that he has been convinced in the past and continues to be "convinced" in the present.  This is not some conclusion that he has just arrived at; it has been his conclusion for some time before he wrote this letter.  Also, the verb translated "convinced" is in the passive voice indicating that someone outside of himself "convinced" him.  It appears that Paul was "convinced" by God's Spirit.

Next, Paul is also "convinced" that they are "complete in knowledge."  Paul is saying that they have a complete understanding of what Christians are able to know.  "Complete" is a translation of a verb in the perfect tense, saying that they have been filled with knowledge in the past and continued to possess a full knowledge.  Paul says in I Corinthians 2:12: "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us."  Paul also says in I Corinthians 2:16 that those who have believed in Jesus Christ have "the mind of Christ."  No Christian is short-changed in that we are indwelt by all the goodness of God and the complete "mind of Christ."  Paul was convinced that all of this was true of all of the Christians at Rome and we can be convinced that this is true of all who are Christians.  As Ray Stedman in a sermon on this verse notes: "both their hearts and the heads were right." "Taken from Guilt to Glory by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."

Next, he says they were "competent to instruct one another."  Often, the work of instructing and teaching is left to the Pastor alone.  Paul corrects this view.  Each Christian is "competent to instruct one another." (Jay Adams used these words to arrive at the title for his book, Competent to Counsel.) Each Christian is to mature and become able to teach: "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:11-14)  Paul has spent 15 chapters instructing them; their responsibility is to instruct others with the instructions that have been passed on to them. See Ephesians 4:11-16

"I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again,"  Paul now explains why he wrote so strongly to them throughout this book of Romans. See his exhortations in 6:12,19, 8:12, 12:1,2, 14:2 15:1,7  If they are "full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another," why does Paul need to be so "bold" with them?  It is "to remind" them of God's truths once more.  The fact is that we all need to be continually reminded of what we already know.  If we are not reminded over and over again of God's truths, these essential truths will begin to fade from our minds.  That is certainly why Jesus instructed us to regularly practice the Lord's Supper.

The reason that Paul was motivated to minister to them was "because of the grace God gave . . . [him] . . . to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit."  Paul became a "minister" or servant of God so that God's purpose for the Gentiles would be fulfilled.

Paul realized that his special ministry did not come to him because he had earned it.  He had been given it as an act of God's grace: "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life." (I Timothy 1:12-16) See Romans 1:5; I Corinthians 15:8-11

Paul was not only a "minister," but he also had a "priestly duty."  His priestly goal was "that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God."  He saw himself offering the Gentiles up to God and that his offering of them was acceptable to God; not unacceptable as the Jews saw them. See I Peter 2:5  Throughout the book of Romans, Paul deals with the charges that the Jews of his time were bringing against the gospel of God and the salvation of the Gentiles through that gospel.  Here he clearly states that the Gentiles who have believed in the gospel are "acceptable to God."  The Jews felt quite the opposite; they felt that they were unclean and unacceptable to God.  As Paul, states, they and we are "acceptable to God" because they and we have been "sanctified by the Holy Spirit." See Romans 12:1-2

2. Final thoughts about Paul's ministry (15:17-24)

a. The reason for his success (15:17-19a)

"Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit."

Thought Question:  How does Paul's attitude about the reason for his success help you to see your ministry to others as God wants you to see it?

 

 

Paul reveals here that it is clear to him Who is enabling his ministry to be successful.  It is "what Christ has accomplished through" him.  And it is "by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit."  He does not point at himself as being the great Apostle; he only points to, only boasts of, and only glories in what God has done through him. See II Timothy 4:17

Notice that he refers to his ministry as "leading the Gentiles to obey God."  Faith in God will lead to obedience to God: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10)  We are not saved by works, but true faith will lead to obedience to God and a life of good works: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age," (Titus 2:11-12) See 1:5

"by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit."  In II Corinthians 12:12 we read: "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance."  Then, in Hebrews 2:3-4 we read: "how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will."  "Signs" that powerfully demonstrated God's support of Paul and "miracles" which only God could accomplish authenticated to the world of his time that he was an Apostle of God.  These "miracles" also enabled Paul to go into an area that was completely entrenched in paganism and idolatry and immediately win a hearing. See Acts s13:9-13, 14:3,8-21

b. The reason he had not made it to Rome (15:19b-24)

"So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: 'Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.' This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you. But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while."

Thought Question:  What do you see in these verses that  can be principles that will guide your ministry to others?

 

 

Paul probably had been criticized for not making it to Rome.  The Christians at Rome were undoubtedly told either that he did not care for them at Rome or that he was afraid to come to mighty Rome.  But it was because Paul was a pioneer that he had not come to Rome.  Paul's ministry was to those territories where the gospel had not been shared and not to places like Rome where a strong church already was established.  And Paul had been busy in this pioneering missionary effort from Illyricum which is on the northwest border of the Greek peninsula to Jerusalem which is on the southeast border of the territory of his missionary efforts.  Paul could visit them, though, on his way to Spain, a region he had not yet reached out to.

("Illyricum" was located in present-day Alabania and Yugoslavia.  There is no record in the book of Acts of Paul ministering there.  His visit there may have been during the time recorded in Acts 20:1-3: "When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia.")

In 1:13 we read: "I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles."  What had prevented Paul from visiting them?  We learn here that it was his pattern of ministry and his philosophy of ministry given to him by God.  He could not visit them, where the gospel had already been preached while there were regions where the gospel had not yet been preached.

Nevertheless, Paul could pass through Rome as he traveled to Spain, another region where the gospel had not yet been preached.  While Paul passed through Rome, he asks that the Christians in Rome would assist him so that he would be able to travel on to Spain.  It was a practice at that time for Christians to offer hospitality and various types of support to missionaries who were traveling through their region. See I Corinthians 16:5,6; Titus 3:13

"after I have enjoyed your company for a while."  The word translated "enjoyed" can also be translated "filled."  It is being fully satisfied with fellowship.  Paul intended to fully enjoy the short time of fellowship that he was going to have with them.

In verse 20, we find a quote from Isaiah 5:25: "Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand."  This verse immediately precedes Isaiah 53 and is in the midst of a section of verses that clearly predicts Paul's ministry to the Gentiles. His ministry was to be preached to those who had not yet heard of the Messiah; so that those had "not heard will understand."

3. A final appeal for the church in Rome to give to the poor Christians at

Jerusalem (15:25-29)
"Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, why do you believe that the churches in Macedonia and Achaia were "pleased" to give money to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem?    

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What can you learn from why churches at Macedonia and Achaia gave to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem that helps you to be "pleased" to give those in need?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  How has your church reached out to another church when they were in a time of need? (maybe there is a church in need right now that your church can reach out to)

 

 

In Galatians 2:9-10, Paul tells how the church at Jerusalem had encouraged him in his ministry to the Gentiles, but they also asked him "to remember the poor in Jerusalem."  Paul had not forgotten these poor Christians in the mother church at Jerusalem, and at the time he wrote this letter he was in the process of taking a love offering to them from the Gentile churches from "Macedonia" (where Philippi and Thessalonica were located) and Achaia (where Corinth was located). See I Corinthians 16:1-4; II Corinthians 8,9; Acts 11:28,29

Why did these Christians in Jerusalem need an offering?  It was difficult being a Christian in Jerusalem where the Jews who were antagonistic to the gospel were still in power.  It would be a little like being a Christian in an Islamic country today.

Paul felt that the Gentile Christians had been blessed spiritually by all that had come to them through the Jewish nation.  Now, they were able to bless the Jewish Christians materially. See 11:11,12,17

Paul's material ministry from the Gentile Christians to the Jewish Christians undoubtedly unified these 2 parts of the church at that time.  May we also seek out these types of ways to unify the churches today.  For example, another church may need our help in some material way.  Reaching out to them may also unify the church today as it did in Paul's time.

"So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ."  In Philippians 4:19, after the Philippian Christians had reached out to Paul financially in his time of need, Paul said these words: "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."  After Paul had reached out to the needy in Jerusalem, he was confident that he would come to them "in the full measure of the blessing of Christ."  He was confident that his heart for the needy would result in God being with Him in fullness as he continued on in the ministry.  There is a clear message to us: as we seek to reach out to those in genuine need, we can also count on Jesus being with our own ministry in fullness.  Although Paul was a prisoner when he did arrive in Rome, he did preach in the fullness of God's power. See Acts 28;30,31

4. A final request for prayer (15:30-33)

"I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, how can we "join" in the "struggle" that a Christian pastor or missionary is going through?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Was Paul's prayer request and the prayers by the Roman Christians for him in response to his request answered?  Please explain your conclusion.

 

 

Thought Question #3:  How does what happened to Paul after the Roman Christians prayed for him tell us about how God may answer our prayers?

 

 

We can learn much about prayer from Paul's words in this small paragraph.  First of all, Paul urged them to pray.  This morning I heard a radio message on prayer.  He said that it is hard work, but he also urged us to do it.  Next, notice that prayer was a way of joining with Paul in his "struggle."  Prayer is a way of joining Christian workers all over the world in their "struggle" while you are praying in your home town and in your local church. See Colossians 4:12; Ephesians 6:12

Also, we find the source of strength for prayer in these verses: "by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit."  We pray because through prayer we become united in Jesus' mission; and we pray because the Holy Spirit fills us with love for those we pray for.  Does not that explain what empowers your prayers for others? See Romans 5:5; Galatians 4:22

Notice further that Paul prayed specifically.  He prayed first of all that he would "be rescued from unbelievers in Judea.:  what Paul asked prayer for is exactly what happened.  In Jerusalem he was "seized" by a crowd (Acts 21:27-30).  "While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul." (Acts 21:31-32) In Acts 23:12-35 we learn that Paul was rescued from a plot to kill him in Jerusalem and transferred from Jerusalem to Caesarea.Without the prayer that Paul asked for here, we may have had a different ending to the book of Acts and we would not then have had I and II Timothy that were written after his first imprisonment.

"Pray . . . that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there."  That prayer request was also answered:  "When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God." (Acts 21:17-20a)

"so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed."  This prayer request was also granted by God.  Although Paul came to Rome as a prisoner, he had a fruitful ministry and was encouraged by the Christians there just as he had requested them to pray would happen:  "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 28:30-31)

"so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed."  Paul asked for prayer that he would come to them "by God's will."  Paul's joy would come when his coming to them was in "God's will."  We know now that Paul enjoyed a fruitful ministry in Rome and that His coming to them was in "God's will."

"so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed."  Paul was expecting that his time with them would be what we call "R & R" (rest and relaxation).  He expected that it would be a time when he could rest and be restored preceding further missionary trips to Spain.  Years ago during our honeymoon in Jamaica, we stayed in a cottage that was one of the cottages a Christian lady made available to Christian missionaries.  She gave them a place to rest up for a while.  Paul was expecting that his time in Rome would be like that.  It did not turn out exactly like that, for he spent his time there in chains.  But he did rest up: "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him." (Acts 28:30)

The God of peace be with you all. Amen."  "The God of peace" was with Paul as he headed to Jerusalem where he would be arrested and would spend 4 years in prison (two years in Caesarea and two years in Rome).  He asked that they would enjoy the same state of peace from God that he enjoyed.

May we pray as Paul urged the Roman Christians to pray.  May we join the struggles of Christian workers.  As we pray for Christian workers, may we be strengthened by our commitment to Jesus' mission and the love provided by the Holy Spirit for those we pray for.  May we also pray specifically for the real needs of those we pray for. 

5. A commendation for the messenger that delivered the letter to them: a

commendation of Phoebe (16:1-2)
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me."

Thought Question #1:  Pheobe had a very special role with regard to the book of Romans; can you figure out what it was?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Phoebe is called by Paul, "a servant of the church in Cenchrea."  Do you believe that he was saying that she held the office of deacon or deaconess or she served faithfully in the church? (The word translated "servant" is the Greek word diakonos, from which we get our word deacon.)  Please give your reason for your answer.

 

 

"When a person is applying for a new job, he usually gets a testimonial from someone who knows him well and who can pay tribute to his character and ability.  When a person is going to live in a strange town, he often takes with him a letter of introduction from someone who knows people in that town.  In the ancient world such letters were very common.  They were known as sustatikai epistolai, letters of commendation, or introduction.  We still possess many of these letters, written on papyrus and recovered from the rubbish heaps buried in the desert sands of Egypt."  "Taken from The Letter to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  Pheobe, who carried this letter of Romans to Rome, receives her letter of introduction and commendation in these two verses.

What a privilege it was for Phoebe to carry this letter from Paul to Rome.  It is to our wonderful benefit that this great letter reached Rome.  Phoebe lived up to the tribute Paul gives her in these verses.  It has been said that Phoebe carried under the folds of her robe the whole future of Christian theology.

Phoebe was from Cenchrea, a sea port nine miles from Corinth.  Paul calls her "a servant of the church."  The Greek word translated "servant" is diakonos.  We get our word "deacon" by making this Greek word an English word by changing it slightly.  Literally, it means that someone is a "servant."

Did Phoebe hold the office of "deacon" or "deaconess" at the church of Cenchrea?  It is clear in I Timothy 3:1-7 that an "overseer" or an "elder" is to be a man: "The husband of but one wife." (3:2)  But there is nothing about a deacon or "servant" needing to be a man.  I Timothy 3:11 says: "their wives are to be women worthy of respect" in the NIV translation.  This verse, though, can also be translated: "deaconesses are to be women worthy of respect" as noted in the alternative translation of the NIV.  The NIV Study Bible has this note: "When church related, as it is here, it probably refers to a specific office---woman deacon or deaconess."  So it is possible that Phoebe held the office of "deacon" in her church.  But there is nothing to indicate that she served on a board of deacons.  Rather, she was a recognized "servant" in her church.  In our churches today, she could be the church treasurer, the women's ministry lead, a children's Sunday School teacher, or any of number important ministry or "servant" leaders in a church.

Paul clearly gives her a high commendation: "she has been a great help to many people, including me."  How did she help Paul?  She may have been wealthy and helped him and others financially.  But she may have simply helped him and others with her tireless service.  We each know of ladies in the church that we would commend with the same words that Paul uses here to commend Phoebe.

6. Paul's personal greetings to his friends at Rome (16:3-16)

It is interesting that a number of the people that Paul refers to are women.  Barclay underscores this in the following way: "Of the twenty-four, six are women.  That is worth remembering, for often Paul is accused of belittling the status of women in the Church.  If we really wish to see Paul's attitude, it is a passage like this that we should read, where his appreciation of the work that women were doing in the Church shines through his words."
Barclay also notes that 13 of these names "occur in inscriptions or documents which have to do with the Emperor's palace in Rome." "Taken from The Letter to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

a. Priscilla and Aquila (16:3-5a)

"Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house."

Thought Question:  Paul names "Priscilla" before "Aquila"; Why might he have named her first before her husband?

 

 

The following is a brief history of what we know about "Priscilla and Aquila""Aquila" was born in Asia Minor (See Acts 18:2); he had previously been in Rome with "Priscilla" (See Acts 18:2); they met Paul in Corinth where they worked together with him as tent-makers (See Acts 18:2,3); they moved to Ephesus where they instructed the eloquent Apollos (See Acts 18:18,19, 24-26; I Corinthians 16:19); they returned to Rome (in these verses); and returned to Ephesus (see II Timothy 4:19).  In Rome (here) and Ephesus (See I Corinthians 16:19) a church met in their home.  Paul observes here that these two dedicated people who served God all over the world "risked their lives for" him. See 16:4

"Priscilla and Aquila" are of further interest to us because "in four out of the six mentions of the pair in the New Testament Prisca is named before her husband, although normally the husband's name would come first, as we say 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.'  There is just the possibility that this is because Prisca was not a freedwoman at all but a great lady, a member of Acilian family.  It may be that at some meeting of Christians this great Roman lady met Aquila, the humble Jewish tent-maker, that the two fell in love; that Christianity destroyed the barriers of race and rank and wealth and birth, and that these two, the Roman aristocrat and the Jewish artisan were joined forever in Christian love and Christian service." "Taken from The Letter to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  Another possible explanation that is given for "Priscilla" being named frist is that her spiritual ministry may have been more in the forefront than that of her husband's.

b. Epenetus, Mary, Adronicus and Junias (16:5b-7)

"Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was."

Thought Question:  Whom do you know you could say that is like this "Mary" who works very hard in the church you attend?  Encourage them like Paul encouraged Mary and tell them how much you appreciate their hard work.

 

 

"Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia."  Paul remembers with joy his first convert in Asia (present-day Turkey); probably at Ephesus. See Acts 19; See also I Corinthians 16:15

"Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you."  "Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord." (16:12)  How do you believe these woman felt when Paul said that they worked and toiled in God's work to the point of weariness?  There are many like these women throughout the history of the church who are so committed to serving God that they often toil to tiredness.  They are not seeking recognition, but they can feel that their labor and service to God is going unnoticed.  If someone has acknowledged some service that you have done that you thought was unnoticed, you know how these women felt as they read Paul's words.

"Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was." 

Thought Question:  Paul says that "Andronicus and Junias" were "outstanding among the apostles"; were they "apostles" like the 12 Apostles?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

We learn five pieces of information about "Andronicus and Junias":  (1) Because scholars conclude that "Junias" is a woman's name, they may have been a married couple.  (2) They were Paul's "relatives."  Therefore, they were Jewish Christians.  (3) They were "in prison with" Paul.  We do not know when this occurred.  In II Corinthians Paul refers to a number of imprisonments that are not mentioned in the book of Acts. See II Corinthians 6:5, 11:23  (4) They were "outstanding among the apostles."  They, of course were not part of the 12 Apostles.  Paul also referred to himself as having a special calling as an Apostle to the Gentiles. His calling as an Apostle was verified by the fact that he performed miraculous signs. See II Corinthians 12:12  See also I Corinthians 9:1; Galatians 1:15-17, 2:8   "Apostles" comes from a Greek world that can be translated "sent out ones."  See Acts 13:1-3, 14:14  It can also be translated, "messenger." See Philippians 2:25  "Apostles," in the sense that it is used here, probably refers to those who were like our modern-day missionaries rather than to apostles like the Twelve and the apostle Paul.  They were those who were "sent-out" to do God's work.  (5) They were Christians before Paul became a Christian.  This means that they became Christians before the time described in Acts 9 where Paul's conversion is described.  They were some of the first converts to Christianity.  As relatives of Paul, they may have prayed for Paul before he became a Christian.

c. Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, and Apelles (16:8-10a)

"Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ."

"Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord."  "Now in the cemetery of Damatilla, which is the earliest of Christian catacombs, there is a decorated tomb with a single name Ampliatus carved on it in bold and decorative lettering.  The fact that the single name Ampliatus alone is carved on the tomb---Romans who were citizens would have three names . . . ---would indicate that this Ampliatus was a slave; but the elaborate tomb and the bold lettering would indicate that he was a man of high rank in the church.  From that it is plain to see that in the early days of the Church the distinctions of rank were so completely wiped out that it was possible for a man at one and the same time to be a slave and a prince of the Church.  Social distinctions did not exist.  We have no means of knowing that Paul's Ampliatus is the Ampliatus in the cemetery Domatilla, but it is not impossible that he is." "Taken from The Letter to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ."  He was a "fellow worker."  You and I can think of many that we can call our "fellow worker in Christ."  They have worked together with us in God's work.  They may have worked with you in children's church.  They may have been with you in a regular time of prayer.  They may have helped you prepare for the communion service.  "Urbanus" was a "fellow worker" with Paul.

Thought Question:  Who can you think of that you would call you "fellow worker in Christ"?  Why would you call them that?

 

 

"and my dear friend Stachys."  Once cannot help but recognize that the church of Paul's time was primarily based on relationships.  Today, it is easy for the church to be based on buildings and organizational structures.  The church can only be what it was meant to be when it is strong in many close friendships like Paul's friendship with "Stachys."

Thought Question:  Whom would you call your "dear friend"?  Why would you call them that?

 

 

"Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ."  Ray Stedman comments that he would like "tested and approved in Christ" put on his tombstone.  "Apelles" stood up to some type of difficult testing and afterwards showed by how he handled what we went through, that he was "approved in Christ."

d. Aristobolus, Herodian, Narcissus (16:10b-11)

"Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord."

"Aristobolus" was possibly a grandson of Herod the Great.  The "Narcissus" that Paul mentions here may have been the Narcissus who was a secretary to Emperor Claudius and who "had exercised a notorious influence over him.  He was said to have amassed a private fortune of over 4,000,000 pounds."  After the death of both Aristobolus and Narcissus, their servants would become the property of the Emperor.  "If Aristobolus who was the grandson of Herod, and if Narcissus really is the Naricissus who was Claudius' secretary, this means that many of the slaves in the imperial court were already Christians.  The leaven of Christianity had reached the highest circles of the Empire." "Taken from The Letter to the Romans by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

e. Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis (16:12)

"Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord."

See comments on 16:5b-7

f. Rufus and his mother (16:13)

"Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too."

Thought Question:  Do you have an older Christian woman who is like a "mother" to you?  In what ways has she been like a "mother" to you?

 

 

In Mark 15:21, we find this interesting reference to a "Rufus": "A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross."  Since, it is believed that the Gospel of Mark was written to the Romans, it could explain why Alexander and Rufus, Simon the Cyrene's children were mentioned in the Gospel of Mark.  They would have been well-known to the church at Rome.  It is not unlikely, then, that the Rufus that Paul mentions here and the Rufus that was the son of Simon the Cyrene are one and the same. 

"and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too."  It is likely that Rufus' mother welcomed Paul into her home at some critical time in his ministry.  She had treated him as if he were her own son.  It becomes even more interesting if she was the wife of Simon the Cyrene. See Acts 19:33 for the possible other son of Simon the Cyrene.

g. Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and their brothers;

Philologus, Julia, Nereus, and his sisters, Olympus and all the saints (16:14-15)
"Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them."

These groupings of Christians may have represented small church gatherings.  "Philologus" means "lover of the word," and may have been a nickname for a Christian who was known for his love of the Bible.

h. The holy kiss (16:16)

"Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings."

Thought Question:  What is like this "holy kiss" in our churches today?  Why was the "holy kiss" and our practices today similar to it important in the church?

 

 

The "holy kiss" apparently was an expression of warmth and intimacy in the early church.  In our church, we end some of our communion services by hugging the person on the left and the person on the right.  These are "holy hugs."  Notice that they were to "Greet one another . . ."  The kisses and the hugs are to be expressed back and forth.  It is not a good sign when we give someone a hug and it is only expressed one way-from us to the other person and not from the other person back to us.  Warmth from us is greeted with icy coldness.  We are to express warmth back and forth.  That is a sign that the hearts of each are also warm to each other.

It is to be a "holy kiss."  This describes the opposite from an unholy and inappropriate kiss.  It is the "holy" kind of kiss that God desires that we have between each other. See also I Corinthians 16:20 and II Corinthians 13:12

7. A final warning and the solution (16:17-20)

a. The warning (16:17-18)

"I urge you, brothers, 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."

Thought Question:  What do we learn from these verses that help us to recognize those in the church that you attend who are probably not Christians and do not have God's goals for your church?

 

 

Paul has been describing for some time those who are part of the genuine fellowship of Christians.  Now, he describes those who are not part of this fellowship of Christians, but are a threat to our Christian fellowship.  How can we recognize them?  Paul gives the following description of what they are like:

1) They "cause divisions."  In Romans 14 and 15, Paul gave instructions so that we will not allow differences over what a Christian can and cannot do in areas where the biblical boundaries are not clear and definite.  We are not to cause divisions in these areas.  When someone is promoting and causing divisions, we need to see that as a warning sign. See James 3:13-18

2) They "put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned."  They will teach something that is "contrary" to the teachings found in the Bible.  The legalism of the Pharisees and the Jews that was a constant threat to Paul's ministry can also raise its ugly head in our churches today.  Someone can have a personal rule or rules that they require that others obey or they will exercise some type of punishment on those who disobey them.  An example of this type of spirit was present in a man named Diotrephes: "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church." (3 John 9-10) See also Matthew 23  This type of legalistic spirit is the very opposite of the grace-empowered Christianity that Paul taught.  What Paul taught causes us to want to obey Christ; the false message of legalism demands that we obey them or else.

License is also a false message.  "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 4)  What can be offered to us today is an "anything goes" type of Christianity-a license for immorality. See Galatians 5:13

We need to be careful that what someone teaches is what the Bible teaches.  Much that is taught, for example, on television programs is nothing more that than the "get rich quick" schemes of the world, repackaged for those who are receptive to a Christian-type of teaching.

3) They are "serving their own appetites."  Ultimately the motive of the false teacher is that he is seeking after something for himself.  They are utterly self-seeking and egotistic. "For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." (Philippians 3:18-19)  See also Galatians 6:12; I Timothy 6:3-5,20-21; II Timothy 2:14,18, 3:6-9

4) They use "smooth talk and flattery" "they deceive the minds of naïve people."  They may tell you what a special person you are and just what the church needs, but they are only telling you that so that they will be able to use you to fulfill their selfish goals.

We are to recognize these who will divide our church and to "keep away from them."  Now, this is a difficult instruction to be able to apply in our modern-day churches.  What if this person has become a leader and is an influential member of one's church?  It is best that we recognize them and do not allow them to be put in leadership positions.  Then, their divisive influence will be lessened.  Diotrephes of III John had attained a position of leadership in his church.  In cases like these, we can only do what John did:  "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church." (3 John 9-10)  We may need to publicly rebuke someone as John does here, as Jesus did with the Pharisees, and as Paul does here.  It appears that the Roman Christians knew about whom Paul was speaking.  So, Paul was publicly rebuking a group of people that were to become a threat to the church at Rome.

b. The solution (16:19-20)

"Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, how can your local church be triumphant?

 

 

The solution is for them to continue in obedience.  Then, they will become "wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil."  How can we recognize what is a clever counterfeit?  We must, through a life of obedience to God's truth, become experts at the Christian life.  Then, when a counterfeit of Christianity comes along, we will see it for what it is-false.  By growing in God's ways, we will not be the "naïve people" mentioned in verse 18.  The time we devote to becoming wise will leave us no time to become experts "in what is evil." See 12:9; I Thessalonians 5:21-22

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet."  Satan is the cause of divisions and God is the One who brings peace: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9) See James 3:17,18  Ultimately, we are on the winning team: good will win over evil. See Psalm 110:1; Genesis 3:15  The church has triumphed over Satan in thousands of lives and the church stands strong and is triumphant.  "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18)

"The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you."  The book of Philippians ends in this way: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen." (Philippians 4:23)  Paul said in 6:14: "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)  God has provided as a free gift His solution for man's sin.  We are part of that solution because we are recipients of that grace.  We alone and by ourselves are unable to triumph over evil; God's grace in us enables to be triumphant!

8. Greetings from Paul and those that are with him at Corinth (16:21-23)

"Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives. I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings."

Thought Question:  What do you learn about Paul from these greetings he passes on from Christians that are with him to the Christians in Rome?

 

 

"Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you,"  Paul says of Timothy in Philippians 2:20: "I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare." See also Philippians 2:21-23  John Stott has the following to say about Timothy:  "If anybody deserves to be called Paul's 'fellow worker', that person was Timothy.  For the last eight years Timothy had been Paul's constant traveling companion and had undertaken several special missions at Paul's request." "Taken from Romans by John Stott.  Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

This is the only mention of Timothy in the book of Romans.  But from the mention of him, we learn that Paul respected and appreciated his work in God's service and that he was with Paul in Corinth when Paul wrote this letter to the Romans.

"as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives."  This "Lucius" may be the Lucius of Acts 13:1 and this "Jason" may be the Jason of Acts 17:5-9.  This is the only mention of a "Sosipater"  in the Bible; although he may be the Sopater  of Acts 20:4

"I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord."  "Tertius" is what is called an "amanuensis."  Paul did not write the words of this long letter, the book of Romans.  He dictated in to "Tetius" and he wrote it down.  But, "Tertius" adds his own words in this simple greeting to the Christians in Rome.

Ray Stedman gives the following observations about "Tertius."  "The name indicates he was a slave, because his name means "third."  In slave families they did not bother to think up names; they just numbered the children." "Taken from Guilt to Glory by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1978 by Multnomah Press."  There is an indication from Galatians 4:13-15 that Paul had some type of affliction of the eyes and, therefore, needed someone to do his writing for him.

"Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings."  This "Gaius" is likely the Gaius that Paul baptized in Corinth. See I Corinthians 1:14  It appears that "Gaius" opened his home to Paul and to the church in Corinth.  He could have been the Titus Justice of Acts 18:7.

"Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings."  Here we have evidence that the gospel had reached throughout the society of Corinth, for both a city official and a slave were each part of the church there.  "Quartus" means "fourth" and, as with Tertius, was a number-name given to a slave. See I Corinthians 1:26-31 where we learn that the Christians were primarily from the lower classes. See also Acts 19:22; II Timothy 4:20

((Due to a lack of manuscript evidence, verse 24 is not included in the NIV Bible.  It also appears to be a repetition of what is found in Romans 16:20b: "May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with all of you."))

9. The final doxology (16:25-27)

"Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen."

Thought Question #1:  What do you see in this doxology that is a good summary of Paul's letter to the Roman Christians?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you believe is the "mystery" that Paul is speaking about here?

 

 

Ray Stedman believes that Paul wrote these last words of Romans with his own hand:  Paul ends II Thessalonians with these words:  "I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write." (2 Thessalonians 3:17)  If Paul ended all of his letters in his own hand, then, it appears that Ray Stedman is right and that Paul wrote these last words in the book of Romans in his own handwriting.

Ray Stedman also observed that this final paragraph in Romans summarizes the message of the entire book of Romans.  What is the foundational truth upon which the Christian life is based upon?  It is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul, here, refers to the gospel as "my gospel."  See also 2:16 and II Timothy 2:8.  The theme of Romans is the gospel. See Romans 1:1-6, 14-17  Paul defended the gospel against the Jewish legalists who argued that the gospel is not sufficient to make one right with God.

The gospel is described as a "mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings."  The "mystery" was in God's mind from eternity, but it was only revealed in Paul's time.  The "prophetic writings" are the writings of the New Testament.  Listen to what the New Testament says about this "mystery":  "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.'" (Romans 11:25-26)  "Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 3:2-6)  "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:24-27)  "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory." (I Timothy 3:16)

The gospel of Jesus Christ provides the one answer to unite men with God, to unite men of all races, and men of all classes and genders with each other.  Through Jesus' death on the cross for our sins, all who believe become reconciled with God and God Himself comes to indwell us.  Paul, in the book of Romans, defended this gospel, his gospel message, and now he emerges triumphant in his defense of the gospel and celebrates God's love, wisdom, and glory in providing all nations with this simple message that changes the eternal destiny of those who believe it!

This message was not some novelty that Paul and a few others had just invented.  Paul has powerfully demonstrated and argued successfully throughout the book of Romans that the gospel message was God's eternal plan for man.  It is just that it was not fully revealed to man until the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

"to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen."  William Lane Craig has written a book that is titled, THE ONLY WISE GOD.  This name for his book came from the description of God given by Paul in this, the last verse of Romans.  God's plan to save man through Jesus' death for our sins is the result of God's infinite wisdom:  "No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began." (1 Corinthians 2:7)  "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." (Ephesians 1:7-10)  "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Romans 11:33)

To this God "be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen."  The infinitely wise plan of the "the only wise God" could only have reached its wonderful goal "through Jesus Christ."  He was, in some way that we cannot fully understand, united with the Father and the Spirit in the creation of this plan in which He would make the ultimate sacrifice for us.  This gospel will bring infinite glory to God forever and ever!  "In a loud voice they sang: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'" (Revelation 5:12-13)

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Romans