Romans

Romans Chapter 16

The responsibility for commenting on the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Romans is a privilege. One central accomplishment of the letter is the divine connection between the spiritually sick condition of humanity and the cure for such condition.  Essentially, we fall way short and Christ is there to catch us. How? Quite simply:

God’s grace-filled connection with mankind is possible only through faith in Jesus Christ.

While much of the book of Romans addresses important spiritual connections, it also is imperative to acknowledge Paul’s addressees – in other words, the human connections.

Romans chapter 16 showcases nearly 30 people living in Rome, honorably identified as Paul’s connections.  Much more than some “friends” or “followers” on social media, Paul’s connections were authentic and reflective of deep care – a genuine life together.  How could this be possible if, at the time of writing this letter, Paul had not yet visited Rome?

The answer is both simple and inspiring:

Paul indiscriminately connected with Jews and Gentiles, women and men, wherever he was.  His travels took him through much of the known world.  Paul’s connections in Rome indicate that, wherever he taught, he connected with local residents, travelers, and traveling residents.  Consider Phoebe, Paul’s courier to Rome (vv. 1-2):

1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. 2 Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people.  Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

Paul was connected with Phoebe, and he leveraged her travels to Rome to bring about exponentially broader and deeper connections in Rome – both in human terms and spiritual terms!

How can you be more like Paul in establishing and deepening connections? 

Do you have opportunities to be like Phoebe, delivering God’s Word to others? 

How will you connect or be leveraged in connection today?

Romans Chapter 15

Wow!  What a follow up of Romans 14 about the strength and weakness in the faith of others. Paul continues to encourage those who are more “mature” in faith to be considerate of those who are “less mature” or newer in their journey of faith.  Sounds reasonable enough.  However, it isn’t always easy to do.  Patience, being critical or judgmental, intolerance, divisiveness, jealousy, ego, among others, raises their ugly heads when things or people don’t go our way or agree with us.  It’s not about us.  Paul says, “…even Christ did not please Himself but…” (v. 3).  I think about our contemporary issues that divide us, big issues like prejudices, conservatism vs liberalism, politics; smaller issues like ways we worship, music we sing, what we do for entertainment, and even petty issues, ways we dress, how one drives, what we eat and drink, etc.  Whenever there are “gray areas” there are divisiveness. Paul calls for unity for the glory of God.  Unity begins when we accept one another, “…just as Christ accepted you…”(v. 7)  In unity, the emphasis is in oneness as opposed to the emphasis in differences.  Where does this begin?  I suppose it starts out very innocently, as an example, when I am asked by people, “What is your nationality?” and I respond, “I’m an American” they inevitably say, “No, what is your race?” or “Where do you come from?” Meaning, “How am I different?” from them.  Innocent enough, but it grows to “He/She is different, so I am better than that.” “He/She is not like me.”  Verse 7 says, “…accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”  Pretty clear to me.

Romans Chapter 14

Paul makes a strong case for forbearance in this chapter and it just warms my heart.  The concept of limiting our freedoms in order to be sensitive to others new in the faith brings a depth with it that makes me want to lean more deeply into it.  Ultimately, it’s not about the drinking of the wine or not drinking the wine, eating the meat or not eating the meat, mowing the lawn on Sundays or not mowing the lawn on Sundays.  Our higher concern needs to be creating an environment of love, knowing as we do that we are all under the sovereign rule of God.  

The word ‘caustic’ seems descriptive to me of the underlying message in this chapter and it has two meanings.  One, its sarcasm such as “making caustic remarks” about the way someone dresses, for example.  A second definition is “able to burn or corrode organic tissue through chemical action”, i.e., corrosive.  Making a big deal out of things that don’t matter is not walking in love.  In fact, Paul says in verse 19 that it “destroys the work of God”. 

When we who are mature exalt things of lesser importance, we violate the greater law of love and potentially cause someone new in the faith to stumble.  I recall a young woman who started coming to a church I attended many years ago.  Church was a completely new experience for her and she had not yet had time to learn how to dress more modestly.  Rather than call her attention to what she was wearing, the congregation just surrounded her with love and care, turning a blind eye to the lesser matter of her clothing. Eventually, she changed on the inside and this showed up in her choice of clothing as well. 

By following Proverbs 19:11, “A man’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense” we help create a hospitable environment for people in their walk with us and with God.  After all, every one of us is a work in progress and whatever the offense, “this is what some of you (us) were. But you (we) were washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  (1 Cor. 6:11)  From this perspective, it’s much easier to walk with others – and even to prefer others - as co-recipients of the undeserved grace of God.   

Romans Chapter 13

Please keep in mind that I am not a theologian nor am I a historian.  I am just like you, a man (or woman) reading the new testament and trying to extract any truth that I can from it so that I can apply that truth to my life.

Paul starts out this chapter talking about a very controversial subject, government.  He states that “all authority comes from God and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.  So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished”.  Wow!  Would that statement be controversial in America today!  I know that our founders believed in “one nation under God” but using that term today is widely debated.  Honestly, I read this and waited two weeks before writing this blog.

Please keep in mind, I am not speaking with authority, I am just wondering out loud.  My wife, Kris, and I have recently been watching “the Crown” a series about the British Monarch.  From that series, I learned that The Monarch is considered “the Sovereign” in terms of British rule, answerable only to God and is also considered the head of the church of England.  Under that governing framework Paul’s statement makes sense and I wonder (again I am not a historian) if most governments of Paul’s day, or specifically the Roman government bore more resemblance to a Monarch, than our American government does.  We have one of those newfangled governments that is “of the people, by the people and for the people” with no King or Queen, and seemingly no sovereign.   Our form of government works because of our ability to have peaceful revolutions or rebellions.  Maybe we the people have “the Sovereign” role of holding our government accountable to the norms that we espouse to, in my case those norms are hopefully in harmony with the teaching of Jesus.  So, I am curious if Paul would have chosen those same words today for Americans.  I would love to hear how others react to what Paul wrote.  I bet there was some instability and rebellion going on in the society Paul was addressing just as there is in our society today.

I don’t find the second part of chapter 13 as controversial.  Being an advocate of living debt free (or at least working toward freedom from debt),  verse 8 which says “owe nothing to anyone…except for your obligation to love one another” resonates with me.  I equate debt with bondage.  It limits freedom, and I believe that God intended for us to live in freedom. 

Romans Chapter 12

To me, Romans 12 reads like a manifesto on how to lead the Christian life.  Paul packs this chapter with exhortations for followers of Christ about what we should do and how we should act toward others.  Here is a sampling of Paul’s guidance:

·      Give yourselves to God as a holy sacrifice

·      Don’t conform; be transformed be renewing your minds

·      Evaluate yourselves honestly

·      Use YOUR God given gift

·      Love others; really love them

·      Hate what is wrong; hold on to what is good

·      Be patient in trouble

·      Keep on praying

·      Practice hospitality

·      Bless those who persecute you

·      Live in harmony

·      Don’t be too proud; hang out with ordinary people

·      Never take revenge

And it goes on.  It is a daunting list.  How can we live this way faithfully?  How do we really love those who hurt us?  Or bother us?

I think the key is found in the first two verses of the chapter.  These are often memorized by Christians for good reason.  The only way we can live the life Paul describes in chapter 12 is by letting God transform us, and the only way God can transform us is through our submission.  Give our bodies to God as a holy sacrifice because of what Jesus did for us.  Taking up our cross daily and following him allows God to change us.

When God transforms us, I think chapter 12 becomes a list of things we want to do – not things we feel we have to do.  I think the key for me is daily submission.  Giving myself to God as a holy sacrifice.  That’s where transformation begins.

Romans Chapter 11

When I was 10 years old my brother Dan joined the Navy.  To my horror, it was then that the gardening duties became my job. I begged with my Dad to not give me this job. I pulled the “I am not a boy card,” I pleaded, please don’t make me do it. Little did I know it was the greatest thing my Dad could have ever done for me. Tending to the yard was a gift.  I made it a game. Now I like digging in the dirt and getting my hands dirty. I love it. To this day I prefer yard work over house work. I enjoy the outdoors.  I learned to care for the little things and was satisfied in my accomplishments. I discovered that when I rushed or more like plowed through my new duties, just to get the job done left things looking like a mess. I ruined, killed or broke things. My haste sometimes required me to do it again. I learned quickly to do it right to avoid redoing it.  As time went on I honed my skills and became meticulous. Attention to detail became apart of my DNA. I learned how to care for things, by cutting away the old, pulling out the dead plants, and planting new ones. I pulled weeds, trimmed bushes, cut the edges and created designs in the grass as I cut it. When I look back I realize that through the trial and errors I learned that when tending to the garden through the process of repetition and practice aIl things grow.  

As I read through Romans 11 I instantly was filled with so many thoughts. Some that brought comfort and others that were hard to swallow. I like when people are frank with me or give me their expectations even if it makes it hard to hear. I’m not an on the spot thinker.  I need time to process, so that I can respond in kind and not haste. This I know and I am grateful that God is sovereign and by his grace he has made salvation open to us all. God is here for all time, past, present and future. In this chapter the olive tree is used as an example of how we fit in to God’s family.  I found comfort that a garden was the setting and a tree was used to describe how we fit into God’s family.  Trees for me are a great reference because we can visualize the deep roots, the living tree that grows, blossoms and then bares fruit. We also know that sometimes trees, the branches get diseases. Sometimes with nutrients it can heal itself and sometimes the branch needs to be cut out so as to not spread the disease. Pruning helps to keep the tree from withering and allows it to thrive. In v.17 we are told how we, the gentiles have been grafted into the tree so that we too can received from the rich nourishment from God’s roots. At the same time we are reminded that His chosen were broken off and that that can easily be done to us because we are a branch, not the root. Then in v.20 we discover that the chosen were broken off because of their disbelief. Its hard to hear that if we don’t believe in Christ we too will be broken off just like the original chosen people. My take aways are lean into the Lord and immerse yourself into His word. So that I can continually grow, become deep rooted, and forever keep our place in the family.

Romans Chapter 10

In Romans,  Paul is writing to the church in Rome where he had planned to travel.  Chapter 10 expresses his heart’s desire and prayer for the Israelites that they may be saved.  But he is concerned that they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself.  They are still all about the law.  They just don’t get that Christ has accomplished the purpose for which the law was given.  This chapter reflects the gospel perfectly in verses 9-11.  “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God and it is openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”  This salvation is for everyone as reflected in verse 13.  “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  It’s our job now to tell of the Good News!  “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good new”.  I want beautiful feet.  Do you?

Romans Chapter 9

If we loved people as much as Paul loved his Jewish brothers and sisters, we would live a much different life.  I know this is a bold statement, but I look around, talk to different people and see this is true.  In Romans 9 Paul is utterly heartbroken that his Jewish brothers and sisters as a nation will not be saved. So much so that he is willing to be FOREVER cut off from Christ if that would save them (verse 3).  WOW, that’s love, true selfless love. 

This whole thought was a conversation starter for my husband and me.  I asked him to not answer right away but to really think about it and then asked, “Who would you be willing to give up your salvation for?”  He paused.  And instead of answering he pointed me to the previous chapter. Great point, Tim!  Paul just finished telling us in chapter 8 that nothing can separate us from God’s love.  Paul, I’m sure, remembers what he just wrote.  But I understand his heart.  How can the chosen nation miss that everything they had been through and learned was leading up to one thing: Jesus is the Messiah.  The truth was so clear to Paul but not to his people, and it crushed him. 

By the end of the chapter, Paul tries to come to terms with it all.  He says basically that God is not about following laws, He is about being trusted.  And that is what God is about: relationship not laws.  I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 13—without love it is all nothing. 

Does your heart break for the lost?  Let it motivate you to share the love and hope of Jesus with others. 

Romans Chapter 8

This chapter outlines awesome privilege we believers receive through Christ. We receive salvation; we are no longer controlled by sin, we are heirs to His glory, the Spirit lives within us and communicates to the Father for us, verse 31 even says, “If God is with us who can be against us?” Through Jesus, we cannot be condemned, and He continues to intervene on our behalf.  

With a list of gifts given through Jesus, verse 35 asked the question,  When trouble comes ‘Does it mean He no longer loves us?  This question could seem out of place in a chapter after a list of favors God has given His children.  Having full knowledge of being loved by God, assurance is needed when suffering. 

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?  Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?...37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Children often communicate what is in their heart better than adults. This may be because they haven’t learned to mask their feelings.  While I sat with a little girl and talked about her parent’s divorce, she said clearly, “If God loves me, why is this happening?”  Many adults ask the same question in times of trouble.  I had asked God this question when dealing with overwhelming life circumstances.  Understanding our fragility as humans, God makes it clear in verse 39 nothing changes God’s love for us. 

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus let us know that we will have trouble in this world.  We can take heart our Lord not only offers salvation, He has a never-ending love for us,  He is always with us, strengthen us, and lift us up with His righteous hand.  The picture of this in my mind's eye is a Father extending a hand to help his child who has fallen

Romans Chapter 7

This passage reminds me of the hope of the Gospel and the importance of evangelism. 

After walking with Christ for many years, It's easy to forget what it was like living as a slave to sin. The inner emptiness and longing that was ever present no matter what experience or pleasure I tried to fill it with. I would set goals and declare I’d never do certain things again... and then, in the moment, the thrill would overtake reason and I’d forget my commitments over and over again. I was a slave… and deep down, I knew it. I needed a Savior.

The hope of the Gospel is life to the thirsty. God chooses to use us, His children to be His messengers.

Which brings me to the E word… Evangelism. It can be an intimidating word and sometimes carries many misconceptions. I’ve heard many well-meaning believers say things like “oh, thats for the professionals”, or “I need to go to seminary before I do that”. However, thats not the way God intended it. 

I think its time we reframe “evangelism" and replace it with the words “guide”. 

A guide is someone who advises or shows the way to others. Evangelism is simply guiding someone to the truth, and that truth when found, will set them free of the slavery of sin. Being a guide isn’t complicated, its sharing your experience and insights into what you’ve already found.

Motivated by love, we guide others to Jesus. Through compassion, we guide people out from of the grip of sin, into the arms of the Savior, Jesus. Humanity needs Christians to step up and be unashamed of the Gospel. The freedom we have experienced is the gift of God to ALL mankind. Its Gods will that none should perish, but that ALL would come into relationship with Him.

Are you a guide? Are you actively looking for opportunities to share the hope you have found in Jesus? Be generous, the worlds needs you to be.

 

Romans 7:25 - "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"