Romans

Romans 16 God Is able.

The church needs every member-including helpers like Phoebe (vv. 1-2). Such people inspire others to also help. Some like Priscilla and Aquila even risk their lives for the church (v. 3-5 Cf. Acts 18:2; I Cor. 16:19-20; Phil. 2:29-30). Epaenetus was a reminder to Paul of the beginnings in Achaia, Mary of those who labour, and Andronicus and Junia as his fellow prisoners (vv. 6-7). Others are of special note to Paul, including whole households in the faith (vv. 8-11). All were like family (vv. 12-16). However, there were “those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” (v. 17 Cf. Acts 15:1; I Cor. 5:9) This was no mere generic judgment which people could make on a whim. There was a standard-the apostolic witness.

Besides teaching contrary to the word, these false teachers had deception as their goal, using “smooth words and flattering speech” to this end (v. 18 Cf. Col. 2:4). These were people who were only interested in satisfying their own needs (Cf. Phil. 3:19). This would be proof of his reader’s obedience, which was already well known. We are called “to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” (v. 19 Cf. 1:8; Mt. 10:16) The word ‘simple’ means innocent. It is through this consistent adherence to the word that the church will be victorious, and this by His grace (vv. 20-21, 24 Cf. I Cor. 16:23). Paul’s companions also sent their greetings, including Tertius who wrote for Paul (v. 22-23). Christ will establish His people in the apostolic witness, the mystery once hidden but now revealed Cf. Eph. 1:9; Col. 1:26; 2:2).

“By the prophetic Scriptures” the apostolic witness is “made known to all nations.” (v. 26) It is through this word that the church marches forward, crushing Satan and his work under our feet, in fulfillment of that beginning gospel promise (Cf. Gen. 3:15). The gates of hell shall not prevail as a defense against the churches onward march (Mt. 16:18). God is able to establish His church and His kingdom in the earth (Cf. Eph. 3:20). “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 25). This is the faith and approach that the church is to continue to have to the very end.

Romans

Romans 15:22-33 Gospel Fruit.

It was Paul’s desire to preach where the gospel had not been heard, which delayed his visit to the saints at Rome (vv. 19, 22-23 Cf. Acts 19:21). Therefore, he would fit in a visit on his way to Spain (v. 24), after he visited the saints at Jerusalem (v. 25), because the saints in Macedonia and Achaia had a gift for the saints there (v. 26). The Gentiles were happy that they could help, knowing how many spiritual benefits had accrued to them from their Jewish brethren (v. 27 Cf. 11:17; I Cor. 9:11). This was fruit bearing for the givers, something which Paul was eager to see among his spiritual children (v. 28 Cf. 1:13; I Cor. 16:1; Phil. 4:17). It was also Paul’s desire to impart to the saints in Rome “some spiritual gift,” so that they might be established in their mutual faith (1:11-12). This is “the fullness of the blessing of the gospel.” (v. 29)

For all these efforts Paul sought for prayer, through Christ, and “the love of the Spirit.” (v. 30) There would be those who did not believe who he would need deliverance from-the gospel and believers have their enemies in all ages (v. 31a Cf. II Tim. 3:11; 4:17). He also wanted his visit with the saints in Jerusalem to be a productive one (v. 31b). Paul wanted his visit with the saints in Rome to be filled with joy, and refreshing, for them both (v. 32; II Cor. 1:11; 16:18). Everything for Paul, including answers to prayer, had to be according to the will of God (Cf. 1:10; Acts 18:21). Paul wasn’t spoiling for a fight or looking to make enemies. He looked for blessing and peace (vv. 29, 33 Cf. I Cor. 14:33). “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (v. 33 Cf. 16:20; II Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; I Th. 5:23; II Th. 3:16)

Romans

Romans 15:14-21 Goodness, Knowledge, And Admonishing One another.

Part of the Christian life is that we admonish each other. However, it is interesting to see what Paul considers as prerequisites for that. He was able to admonish them to admonish each other because he was confident that they were filled with goodness and knowledge (v. 14). One can certainly understand the need for knowledge-it is hard to admonish if one is ignorant concerning what they are admonishing about. However, admonishment is more than the simple passing on of information. Admonishment carries the idea of the need for correction, that perhaps one is not following the teaching or practice of the Scriptures (Cf. II Tim. 3:16-17). This is a delicate business that requires that one also be filled with goodness.

The word translated as ‘goodness’ here (agathosune), is one Paul uses specifically to refer to the fruit of the Spirit (Cf. Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9), as a communicable attribute of God Himself (Cf. II Th. 1:11). One who is full of goodness has the virtue of being kind and charitable or beneficent. Knowledge with love is what edifies (Cf. I Cor. 8:1). In other words, it is using one’s knowledge in a kind and charitable way. Many have knowledge, but they use that knowledge in a matter of fact way, or worse yet, with malicious intent. On the other hand, having a kind and charitable intent will not be enough to admonish if one is not also knowledgeable. Goodness and knowledge must be wedded together to be able to truly admonish another.

Paul himself engaged in such admonishment with this letter, but he made clear he did so “because of the grace given to me by God.” (v. 15 Cf. 1:5). The goodness required, as a fruit of the spirit, and the knowledge, these come because of God’s grace. This humble acknowledgment is what is required. The reality is that without God’s grace this work is not possible. However, it is a necessary work, and Paul in particular had a specific mission to take the gospel, the good news of salvation, to the Gentiles (v. 16). It wasn’t just about justification, but admonishment was needful that they might be “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (v. 16) Progressive sanctification here, is based on the definitive work of Christ (Cf. I Cor. 1:2; 6:11; [Heb. 2:11 with 10:10]).

Their progress in the faith was a just cause for Paul to boast about, because it was the work God gifted and called him to do (v. 17 Cf. 12:3; Gal. 6:4; II Cor. 10:13-16). It is also important that one who admonishes also have experience of those things which Christ accomplishes in us, as Paul said, “in word and deed.” (v. 18) For Paul, the goal was that the Gentiles might be obedient. He also had a unique apostolic task to which God the Holy Spirit testified to “in mighty signs and wonders.” (v. 19 Cf. Acts 19:11; Mk. 16:20; Heb. 2:4) Paul “fully preached the gospel of Christ,” both in its content and in his reach (v. 20). This was as a result of the grace of God and the power of the Spirit.

Paul was used by God to fulfill this promise to the Gentiles (v. 21 [Is. 52:15] Cf. 11:13; Acts 9:15; II Cor. 3:5). In the same way God gifts and calls all of us to do a unique work, as unique as he has made each one of us. The antidote against sinful pride is to refrain from comparing ourselves to others, and being thankful and productive with what God has given us in gifts and opportunities (Cf. Gal. 6:4). Paul had goals, his aim was to take the gospel to where it had not been heard before, partly so he could construct his own work (v. 20). We need to also assess what are our gifts and make it our aim to make the most of the time and opportunities He gives us to help build His kingdom.

Romans

Romans 15:7-13 Glorifying God Together.

Therefore, concerning receiving each other, seeking to edify each other and not sitting in judgment on each other on doubtful matters, Paul says to do so because “Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” (v. 7 Cf. 5:2; 14:1, 3) Of course, Christ received us as sinners and reconciled us while His enemies, and forgave us (Cf. Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21-22). The glory of God in both cases is the goal-Jew and Gentile alike (vv. 8-9). Chronologically this was the order of His ministry (Mt. 15:24; Acts 3:25-26). Christ confirms the promises to the fathers. Christ did this via the new covenant (9:4-5 Cf. Mt. 26:26-30; Lk. 22:14-23). “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (II Cor. 1:20)

Christ also fulfills the promise to the Gentiles (v. 9 Cf. II Sam. 22:50; Ps. 18:49). The promises are to all the children of promise, the children of faith (4:16). As was Paul’s practice, he gives multiple witnesses for the inclusion of the Gentiles and the promise to all. His first quote goes to the last of the old covenantal administrations in David (v. 9). It can also be found in the law with Moses’ song of witness (v. 10; Dt. 32:43), and again from the Psalms (v. 11; 117:1), and the prophet Isaiah (v. 12; Is. 11:1, 10). When God thus fulfills His covenant promises to His people there is hope and “joy and peace in believing.” (v. 13 Cf. 12:12). This is by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a Trinitarian work.

Romans

Romans 15:1-6 Edification and Glory-According To The Scriptures.

The goal of life in the Christian community should be to edify others (v. 2 Cf. 14:19; I Cor. 10:24, 33; 14:12). For the strong, this involves bearing with the scruples (weaknesses) of the weak. No one lives to themselves alone, therefore the strong should not only seek to please themselves (v. 1). Christ has given all of us an example to follow, since he came to serve the needs of others (v. 3). The will of the Father was His overriding concern (Ps. 69:9; Mt. 26:39). There is only one standard to live by-the Scriptures. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (v. 4)

The scriptures are the first axiom of all thought and existence. These scriptures give us examples which we may learn from (Cf. I Cor. 10:11). There is no area of thought or life where they do not apply. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Tim. 3:16-17) The scriptures alone are what we in the church are to be “like-minded” about. Only by agreement on the teaching of scripture can we “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v. 6) Edification to each other, and glory to God, can only be according to the word.

Romans

Romans 14:14-23 Purity, Love, A Clear Conscience, And Having Faith.

Paul was able to say that he was raised and lived his life, before Christ, as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6; 26:5). “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” (Phil. 3:4-6). It was Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ alone that convinced this Pharisee that “there is nothing unclean of itself.” (v. 14a) His position was one of faith based on the word of the Lord (v. 23).

“Of itself,” is the point. To use the yoga example again, there is not a particular body position or exercise that is “of itself” unclean. “But to him who considers anything unclean, to him it is unclean.” (v. 14b) This is the point. Some attach religious or spiritual significance to things which binds their consciences thereby, and for some they simply can’t separate the two. Meat in and of itself is not unclean (Cf. Acts 10:15). In fact, if someone offered it to an idol but then wanted to eat it, it was probably a prime grade ‘A’ cut. However, there is another point Paul is making, we need to walk in love. People, in particular, the family of God, are more important than food (v. 15, 20 Cf. I Cor. 8:9-13).

It is this possible impact on others that can cause what is good “of itself,” to be “spoken of as evil.” (v. 16 Cf. 12:17) The kingdom of God is what matters, and the kingdom is about people, and “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (v. 17 Cf. I Cor. 8:8) If one “serves Christ in these things,” everything else will take care of itself (v. 18 Cf. II Cor. 8:21). Seeking those things which edify is an expression of love for the body, including those things which make for peace (v. 19 Cf. 12:18; I Cor. 14:12). The goal of the strong should be that the weak not become weaker, but rather that the weak are made strong (v. 21). The strong should be happy before God with what He has given and spoken of as good (v. 22).

Paul’s position changed because the Lord spoke to Him and he had faith (Cf. 10:17; Gal. 3:2). Therefore if one is convinced in their conscience that something is contrary to the word, then for them it is sin, for “sin is lawlessness.” (I Jn. 3:4) Therefore, “whatever is not from faith is sin.” (v. 23) This goes to a person’s core-the heart (I Jn. 3:18-23). To go contrary to what one believes in their core and conscience is a clear teaching of scripture is a sin, and it is thus an act of self-condemnation. For the unbelieving their entire nature is bound in this condition (Titus 1:15), and why so many strive to sear their consciences to silence the noise (Cf. I Tim. 4:2).

Romans

Romans 14:1-13 Liberty Of Conscience And Judgment To Come.

There is some irony in Paul’s words here. There would be no disputes if people could agree on what is doubtful. The onus has always been placed on the strong to watch out for the weak (Cf. I Cor. 8:9). Then there are the weak who object to being called ‘weak’. A good modern equivalent of eating meat offered to idols is yoga exercises. Most believers would say there is no inherent evil in a particular stretching exercise or bodily position, but for those who wedded these with a particular religious or spiritual practice the two are viewed as inseparable. For both sides there is no doubt at all. At some point the strong are simply more inclined to give up on the weak who sit in obnoxious judgment on any and all who don’t agree with their scruples (Cf. vv. 10-12; Col. 2:16; Js. 4:11-12). In Paul’s day, as in any age, meat is just meat (vv. 1-3).

However, Paul does move things from the realm of mere debate to the issue of conscience and answering to the Lord. If the strong are urged not to go out of their way to disturb the weak, it is equally true that the weak are not to sit in judgment on the strong. Both will have to answer to the Lord for their actions. This is a matter of liberty of conscience, and no one can bind the conscience of another, for we will all stand before the Lord to give an account of the decisions we have made (v. 4). Paul, though strong, had the overriding objective of gospel proclamation in view (Cf. I Cor. 9:22). There is also the principle that nature determines outlook. “To the pure all things are pure; but to the defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15) Some people will never have true “liberty of conscience” until they repent and believe (I Tim. 4:3).

As to days, many suggests that this only refers to days beyond the Sabbath day, whereas others would suggest that Sabbath observance is included in Paul’s words at Col. 2:16 (v. 5 Cf. Gal. 4:10). As noted above, it is not always agreed as to what matters are “doubtful”. Even those who hold to a weekly Sabbath observance or Lord’s Day, do not agree on what is permissible on that day. Paul’s fundamental principle that all can agree on is, whatever we do we must do it as to the Lord and not men. In other words, we should do what we do from our consciences informed, one would hope, by the word (vv. 6-7). “We are the Lord’s.” (v. 8 Cf. Gal. 2:20; II Cor. 5:14-15) “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” (v. 13 Cf. I Cor. 8:9) One should not miss that for Paul, Isaiah’s words in 45:23 (v. 11) apply to Christ (Cf. I Pet. 4:5)!

Romans

Romans 13:1-14 Fulfilling the Law.

We are to submit to the governing authorities for no other reason here but that they exist by God’s appointment (v. 1 Cf. Titus 3:1; ). The civil administration of governance is by God’s appointment or design (v. 2). Therefore to resist governmental rule outright is to rebel against what God has ordained. The usual focus of government is to oppose evil and promote what is good (vv. 3-4). Whereas most in the world are motivated by escaping punishment, the Christian is to be motivated by conscience (v. 5 Cf. Eccl 8:2; I Pet. 2:13-14). Taxes and respect are therefore justified for the work which God has ordained them for (vv. 6-7 Cf. Mt. 22:21).

In agreement with the Lord, who also included the prophets, Paul teaches that the law is fulfilled toward one’s neighbour in the summary given of loving one’s neighbour as one’s self (vv. 8-10 Cf. Ex. 20:13-17, Dt. 5: 17-21; Mt. 7:12; 22:37-40; Gal. 5:13-14). The law itself gave this as a summary for not taking the law into one’s own hands or vengeance (Lev. 19:18). The law is also our guide for our sanctification (vv. 11-14). The third use of the law, to convict sinners and lead them to Christ, has occupied Paul in this letter, but here he gives two other uses. It’s place in sanctification for the believer also occupies his time earlier in this letter and elsewhere.

Sanctification is a process (v. 11). We are not yet perfect but we have a guide of where God wants us to be headed. There is a lifestyle that may be deemed lawful by the state but which is not lawful for the Christian (Cf. I Cor. 15:34). The Christian is called to be light in the darkness (v. 12 Cf. Mt. 5:14-16; Eph. 5:11). Putting on Christ, so to speak, means putting off the world (vv. 13-14). To be clear, Paul does not espouse a pagan dichotomy between soul or spirit and the body. He is saying that the Christian is to “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Lust is the issue here, seen in revelry and drunkenness, lewdness, strife and envy (Cf. I Cor. 6:9-10).

It should be a sobering thought that Paul includes envy and strife in his list. Envy is more than covetousness, it is the desire to take from another what one does not or cannot have for one’s self. More than simply wanting what is not one’s own, envy is the desire that the owner not enjoy what is there’s by right. This is ultimately where strife comes from-lust and envy (Cf. Js. 3:14). Paul taught and lived a pattern which they could follow (Cf. Phil. 4:8). This idea of putting off or putting away and putting on figures prominently elsewhere for Paul (Cf. Eph. 4:22-24, 31; Col. 3:8-14). One cannot be clothed with both at the same time. Fulfilling the law is what it means to walk in the spirit (Cf. Gal. 5:14-26).

Romans

Romans 12:9-21 Having Empathy And Doing Good To All.

“Let love be without hypocrisy.” (v. 9a) Hypocrisy in classical Greek was like an actor wearing a mask playing a part. It is having the heart or core one place and words and acts simply play acting. So love must be sincere, but it is also not divorced from ethics or morality (Cf. I Tim. 1:5; 5:1-2). We should shake off anything that is evil, but cling to what is good. ‘kollao’ translated ‘cling’, has the idea of sticking too like glue. ‘apostugeho’ is also only used here and carries the idea of utterly detesting something. This love is also “kindly affection,” like which should exist in a family, “in honor giving preference to one another.” (v. 10 Cf. Phil. 2:3; Heb. 13:1).

In serving the Lord we should be “fervent in spirit” and not “lagging in diligence.” (v. 11) The KJV translates this as “not slothful in business,” but the NKJV is much closer to the Greek, for it encompasses the whole of the Christian’s life, especially in the body of Christ. This is a word of encouragement for the weary (Cf. Gal. 6:9; II Th. 3:13). We rejoice in hope, because with the Lord we have hope and a future, including having our names written in heaven (Cf. Jer. 29:11; Lk. 10:20). It is because we have this hope that we can be “patient in tribulation” (v. 12b Cf. Lk. 21:19).

It is precisely because God is in sovereign providential control of our futures that we have grounds to pray, for He predestines this means to accomplish His ends (Jer. 29:10-13). “Men ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Lk. 18:1) Again, the focal point is the body, the church. Paul was not content to leave things at prayer alone. We should also be “distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” (v. 13 Cf. I Cor. 16:1) However, these are needs or necessities, not necessarily wants. We are to bless instead of curse, because by so doing we mirror God’s mercy to all men (v. 14 Cf. Mt. 5:43-48).

Our conceptions of wrongdoing can be tainted by our own sinful pride, but the Lord knows precisely what is due. Again, knowing that God is sovereign and in control of all things gives us motivation to do as He has commanded us. We are to have empathy with others. This means being mindful of what they are feeling and going through in their current circumstances. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (v. 15). We rejoice and suffer together (Cf. I Cor. 12:26), therefore we should be of the same mind toward each other (Cf. Phil. 2:2). We should not discriminate but treat all equally (v. 16).

We should also not think too highly of ourselves. The truly wise give place for God to act. The world says that we should do unto others as they have done unto us, but the world does not believe in a sovereign God who acts in history on behalf of His people and for His own glory and goodness (Cf. Lk. 6:27-31). Having regard for good things means providing these to all men. God provides good things to all men, and therefore so should we. We are really just stewards of what He has given us anyway. We can’t control others, but we can influence those around us. So as much as this is possible and depends on us, we should seek to “live peaceably with all men.” (v. 18 Cf. Heb. 12:14).

 

Again, we must give way to God’s sovereign control and wrath where wrath is due. The Lord promises to exact vengeance where vengeance is due. To take matters in one’s own hands is unbelief, a fundamental lack of faith and trust in His word. This is not something new to the new testament. In fact, it is a belief that the law still applies in all its fullness into the new covenant era, for Paul appeals to the law itself with two scriptural witnesses (v. 19; Lev. 19:18; Dt. 32:35 Cf. Dt. 17:6). “O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongs-O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!” (Ps. 94:1 Cf. Heb. 10:30).

 

Some suggest, in keeping with doing good to others including one’s enemies, that the heaping of coals of fire on another’s head is giving them coals for cooking the food and boiling the water given (v. 20; Prov. 25:21-22). But this is not consistent with the syntax of the verse-there is a cause and effect. What we do is give food and water and the coals are a result. Some suggest that the coals of fire is the shame that they will feel for showing them good. However, this also does not fit with the overriding idea of vengeance. The idea seems to be that by doing good we are providing the Lord with further cause for the justification of vengeance on His part.

 

Burning coals on the head carries nothing but judgment wherever else it is used in the scriptures (Cf. Pss. 11:6; 18:7-8, 12-13; 140:9-11). The word Paul uses is ‘anthrax’ from which we get the English word for the same since the skin blisters and boils give the appearance of burning coals, as it were. Love and doing good to all is our motivation, but further grounds for judgment is also an inescapable result, “for in so doing.” (v. 20) To be motivated by vengeance is to be overcome by evil. Instead, we are to overcome evil with good (Cf. Mt. 5:43-48; Lk. 6:27). This is all about having our minds renewed and our lives transformed (12:1-2).

Romans

Romans 12:1-8 Minds Renewed And Lives Transformed.

The doxology of the previous passage and the beginning of this chapter note a turn in the letter from a more doctrinal to a more practical emphasis. Given everything Paul has just written about, it seemed reasonable to him that the reader should be thinking about dedicating their whole life to serving the Lord-body and mind. A life transformed to this purpose comes from a mind renewed by the word (vv. 1-2). We are to be engaged in bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (Cf. II Cor. 10:5; Eph. 4:23). “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” (I Th. 4:3a)

Sanctification is every bit as much a matter of grace as justification or adoption or any other aspect of redemption. Faith is a gift. Forgetting about grace is thinking too highly of oneself. Even Paul writes that he spoke by God’s grace (v. 3) The gifts that we have in the body of Christ are also as a result of grace (vv. 4-6 Cf. Jn. 3:27). Each member of the body has their own function and gifts, therefore all are necessary (Cf. I Cor. 12:12-14). Being members of each other means we also need each other (Cf. I Cor. 10:17). These functions and gifts are meant to benefit the body as a whole.

It may not be coincidental that Paul begins his list of gifts and functions with prophecy, for the word is the first axiom of all thought and existence (v. 6b). The prophets “exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.” (Acts 15:32) What is interesting about this list which he gives is that there is a union of gift and function. The gifts given have a functional purpose in the body. One should utilize whatever gifts the Lord has given for their intended purpose. The overall purpose is edification and unity (Cf. Eph. 4:11-13).

However, Paul said more than just utilizing one’s gift(s). Paul is encouraging the members of the body to excel. When he says “he who gives,” he says more than simply “give,” instead it should be “with liberality” or generously and enthusiastically (Cf. II Cor. 9:7). Likewise “he who leads,” not to just lead, but to do so “with diligence,” and for those who show mercy to do so “with cheerfulness.” One can surmise that he has the same thought in mind with the other functional gifts he has given (Cf. Acts 20:28).