January 31 - Romans 8:35-39

Friday, January 31, 2014

Romans 8:35-39 – Who Can Separate Us?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 
         “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul has been writing of the relationship between the Father, The Spirit and Christ Jesus as they work to bring us all into righteousness and by verse 35, he is ecstatic. The strength of the Trinity stands firm as Paul lists those things which attempt to separate each of us from the love that comes down from heaven and was expressed on the cross.

Troubles, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword. These things can't stop love. In fact, they become nothing when we realize that ultimately our safety is in eternity, not in this life and they are nothing in comparison with the one who will keep us safe because of his great love for us.

Paul turns to Psalm 44:22 as he attempts to remind his readers that facing trouble is nothing new and is not limited to each of us in our own time. God's people have always faced death. The entirety of the human race faces death, but we are so much more because of our relationship with God. We have the love of Christ with us as we face these things. We are victors and that love gives us power to overcome … to conquer whatever the world sends our way.

Paul's climactic words in the last two verses ask us to consider that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ. He begins with the natural realm – death and life, moves through time - things present or things to come, then to powers from on high or down below and becomes all inclusive with "anything else in all creation."

God is in charge of his creation and nothing can separate us from his love. He has done all of the work and though we may face things that seem insurmountable, in the end, it is not life on earth, but life in eternity with God that is our goal.

January 30 - Romans 8:28-34

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Romans 8:28-34 – God Works for Good

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

This is one of people's most favorite passages and sometimes we forget to read it completely in context. While it is a new paragraph in Paul's letter, he is still considering the work of the Spirit in bringing us into a relationship with God through prayer. Those things that we have no words to speak, the Spirit says. He "intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:27b).

It is the Spirit's work in our lives, interceding … helping us in our weakness … that brings us to this moment. It is God who searches hearts who works all things for good. Paul is clearly not speaking of the 'good' in verse 28 as something that is a temporary pleasure or easing of pain. It is not about what we believe is good, it is the final good, the bringing together of all things under the will of God.

In the next verses, we find the foundation for the doctrine of predestination and this space is not nearly enough to discuss the opposing understandings of Paul's teaching. But consider that God knows us all from long before we were born. And, consider that this predestination is not necessarily WHO will become a believer, but that those who do become believers will become like Christ. Those who are justified … saved by grace … are "conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29). This was the plan God had and set in place … that we who believe will become like Jesus Christ.

What are we to conclude from this chapter? We have been adopted (v. 15), we are co-heirs with Christ (v. 17), we have received the Spirit (v. 23) who takes our prayers and intercedes for us and lays them before God (v. 26). Through faith we are justified (v. 30) and our future is so certain that it is spoken of in the present tense (v. 30).

With all of this in place – if God is for us, who can be against us? God didn't spare his Son to redeem the world, why would he also not graciously give us all things. And to finish out this verse, Paul asks who is it who condemns us. Not Christ. He died for us and is sitting at the right hand of God interceding for us. If anyone has the authority to condemn the world, it would be Jesus and he refuses to do so.

January 29 - Romans 8:18-27

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Romans 8:18-27 – Future Glory

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

In verse 17, Paul wrote that we are heirs – if indeed we share in Christ's sufferings, we do so that we might also share in his glory.  The suffering we deal with right now is nothing in comparison to the glory that will be revealed.

If we allow the worries of our life now to preoccupy our thoughts, we miss the glory that is revealed in us. We quench the glory that Christ reveals to the world through us.  Creation waits for the time when the future of God's children is revealed. But that time is now and will be again when His kingdom comes on this earth.

Isaiah 55:12 says "For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Creation is waiting for the reversal of sin's work to be done in each of us so that it can be set free.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:22 that all of creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. Not only creation, but we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. The Spirit is evidence that we are the sons of God and is the downpayment … the firstfruits of the inheritance. The time is now and the glory of God is waiting to be revealed in each of us.

In Romans 8:24-25, Paul writes that salvation involves hope. We can't see the redemption of our bodies – it hasn't happened yet. Salvation is something that has happened to our spirits right now and to our bodies in the future. It is a process that begins with our acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and ends with eternal life with God. It is characterized by hope and hope is nothing if we can see it … hope is faith in the unseen.

Because we are human and hope often eludes us, the Spirit helps us (Romans 8:26) in our weakness. He intercedes for us with groanings beyond the words we recognize. He knows our hearts helps us pray when we are inadequate. When hope is gone, when we lack faith, it is the Spirit who lifts our prayers and helps us move past those moments of fear back into the will of God.

January 28 - Romans 8:12-17

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Romans 8:12-17 – Heirs With Christ

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 

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

Because of the gift Christ gave us we have an obligation … a debt … a responsibility. We are not obliged to live according to the demands of our sinful nature. The person we were before Christ came into our lives no longer has any right or claim to us. In fact, if we return control to our sinful nature, Paul reminds us that this leads to death.

When Paul writes, "but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:13b), he uses a verb tense that suggests this is a continuous action. We are constantly putting to death the sins of our former selves. It doesn't happen in one fell swoop. And … we do it according to the Spirit's prompting.  Every choice we make to set aside the sins of our past and live according to the Spirit is a choice that leads us into holiness … a life that shows the world how we honor our obligation to God.

In Greek and Roman culture, when an adoption occurs, it severs all former relationships. The new family exercises complete control and with that comes all of the privileges and responsibilities of that new family. When we are adopted into God's family, we bear the responsibilities as well as enjoy the privileges of being a Christian and we leave behind all that had come before.

It is so easy to forget that we are children of God … it is so easy to question whether or not we truly have a relationship with him and in Romans 8:16, Paul tells us that the Spirit himself bears witness. This was a question I often asked when I was young and each time, I was told that I never need to worry. God had called me. I responded and the Spirit within me would never leave.

January 27 - Romans 8:5-11

Monday, January 27, 2014

Romans 8:5-11 – The Desires of the Flesh and Spirit

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 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 because of his Spirit who lives in you.

In yesterday's reading, Paul spoke of those of 'us' who do not walk in the flesh, but in the Spirit and now he examines the two separate manners of living.  Living according to the flesh isn't just living out the worst sins that we can identify. Jesus rebuked Peter saying "your mind is not set on the things of God but the things of men" in Matthew 16:23. Peter wasn't being sinful, but looking at life from the world's point of view, rather than from God's point of view. Paul would tell you that all of that is encompassed in the verb he used here.  There are many good people who do not have the mind of God. They still live according to the flesh and will find that this leads to death.

On the other hand, those of us who choose to live according to the Spirit, no longer live according to the world. And here is where Paul finally says what we've been waiting to hear. He has written all along that sin bring death and everyone knows that there is no one who escapes death.  Paul writes "even though your body is subject to death because of sin; the Spirit gives life because of righteousness" (Romans 8:10).

The body will die because death is the result of sin and we are by nature, sinful beings. However, when we are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) and the Spirit of God lives within us … that is the Spirit of righteousness and Paul tells us in Romans 8:10 that although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. The Spirit that is within us gives life to our mortal bodies and it is this life and this righteousness that translates from death to eternal life.

January 26 - Romans 8:1-4

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Romans 8:1-4 – No Condemnation in Jesus

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,  God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

I think that sometimes, as Christians, we hear specific verses often enough they lose their power and importance. This is one of those verses and one of those chapters.

Paul uses the word 'therefore' to connect this chapter to the preceding one on sin. When you read words like 'therefore' and 'so' at the beginning of a paragraph or sentence, those are generally deliberately placed there by the author for a reason. It's taken me some time to learn to pay attention to those and see what has been written on either side of the word. In this case, Paul has talked about sin's hold on our lives and he is about to show us how a life in Christ through the Holy Spirit means freedom.

With a life of sin, all we ever face is condemnation because of the fact that sin leads to death. The Law, Paul says, was weakened by our sinful nature … that part of us that exists no matter how good we think we are.

That changed when God sent his own Son.  Jesus came in our likeness … he took on the form of a sinful man. God lived as a human in order to conquer that sinful nature.

We are no longer condemned, but sin is condemned by Jesus because of his sacrifice.

What does this mean? It means that "the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:4). We are no longer bound by our sinful nature. It has been conquered and in Christ Jesus we are made free to live according to the Spirit.

January 25 - Romans 7:21-25

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Romans 7:21-25 – The Law of Sin

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

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Beginning with the word 'so,' Paul presents a logical consequence for his argument and this time when he uses the word 'law,' he is speaking of one which is as essential as the law of nature, or the law of gravity. Evil exists within him and it is waging war within him. Even though he wants to do good, that law of sin constantly works within him.  His nature … obeys that law. For Paul, there is no getting around it … by himself. No matter what he does or what he desires, sin remains within him.

He is a prisoner to that sin … a slave to sin.

These words bring the presentation of his case to a close. Paul concludes that we are each a slave to the law of sin, even though in our minds we are a slave to God's law.

Slavery to sin brings one final consequence … death. By ourselves, we are unable to do anything about that. We will die. Our sinful nature leads us to death. When we believe that we are able to deliver ourselves and that all the good we do on our own will lead us beyond death, we are lost.

Deliverance from death and from sin can only come from something beyond ourselves. "Thanks be to God, who delivers me (us) through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:25).

January 24 - Romans 7:14-20

Friday, January 24, 2014

Romans 7:14-20 - We Are Sinners

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

I can't imagine there is a single person on earth who hasn't felt this way on a regular basis. I know what I should do and yet, I don't do it. Whether it's speaking kindly to someone, following a budget or a diet, responding in love rather than anger, obeying traffic laws, being consistent in the way we raise our children … the list is too long to even contemplate. We have the desire to do what is good, but we cannot carry it out (Romans 7:18b).

Paul makes the comparison between our unspiritual lives and the Law, which is spiritual. The Law came from God and is an expression of his holiness. In contrast to God, all things fall short and we, because of our human nature, fall short all the time. The Law in its nobility … in its holiness and righteousness reminds us over and over of our own sin (Romans 7:16).

This is a cycle in which we live. Paul considers himself a slave to sin because of this cycle. The power of sin defeated him and defeats us over and over. He writes that "it is no longer I myself who do it (that which he doesn't want to do), but it is sin living in me" (Romans 7:17). He isn't trying to evade responsibility, but point out the depth at which sin has taken hold of each of us. We must come to understand that we are slaves to sin, no matter how much we want our lives to be righteous.

Goodness does not come from within us … our sinful nature is what resides in us (Romans 7:18a). This sentence might seem to say that our lives our fruitless, but Paul is setting up the argument and will conclude it in Romans 8. Goodness does not come from within us … it is not part of our nature. But, we will find out where it comes from and how we are continually being transformed … being sanctified … being made one with Christ Jesus.

January 23 - Romans 7:7-13

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Romans 7:7-13 – The Law and Sin

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

Paul continues the discussion on the Law and sin by asking whether or not the Law is sin. Of course not, he responds. It was through the Law that we came to understand what sin really is.

The rhetoric that he uses gets a little confusing throughout this passage as he presents the case for sin, using the first person. Paul refers to himself (first person) ten times in the next verses and many have thought he is offering a spiritual biography. This isn't true at all, he is presenting a case in a very common manner, but it is one that makes us a little uncomfortable … and it should.

He tells us that without the law, he would never have known what coveting really was. Coveting still existed, but it wasn't called sin until the Law came into existence. Then … if the rule wasn't there telling us to not covet, there would be no rule to break, so there would be no sin. The rule then becomes a restriction and by our nature, humanity views that as something to rebel against.

Without the Law, sin is not defined. It doesn't exist … technically and therefore, Paul says that "apart from law, sin is dead" (Romans 7:8).

Paul then begins the process of explaining the importance of the Law in setting the bar for holiness. Because sin now exists as defined by the Law, we understand the difference between holiness and sin. The Law is holy, its commandments, Paul says are "holy, righteous and good" (Romans 7:12b). The Law is necessary to help us recognize what sin truly is.

January 22 - Romans 7:1-6

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Romans 7:1-6 – Released from the Law; Bound to Christ

Paul spends a great deal of time explaining how the Law worked into God's plan. Those who were Jewish constantly opposed him. To them, the Law was the centerpiece of their lives – a gift from God to their people and any person who wanted a relationship with God began with the Law. Paul, a learned Jew, had to balance the importance of the Law and the fact that the way to salvation came from Jesus Christ, not from the Law. He agreed that, if used rightly, the Law was very important.

In this passage, Paul compares our release from sin to a woman's bond of marriage. As long as her husband is alive, she is bound to him. When he dies, she is released from marriage. If, at that point, she marries another, she is not called an adulteress. It was death that released her, nothing else.

For a believer, it is death that releases us from sin. I don't believe that Paul is casting any aspersions on marriage, but is using a very common and well-known binding metaphor to describe the only thing that will separate it.

We have been bound by sin and it is in death that we are released from sin. It is because of Christ's death that we are released from sin.

For Paul, the Law represents sin. It isn't sin, but it is the manner in which sin was dealt with in Jewish culture. Everything about the Law is to either guide the people in ways to avoid sin, or, by sacrifice, to cover their sin. With Christ's death and resurrection, the link to sin is gone. We no longer need to be bound by the rules of the Law which govern how we deal with sin. We are given freedom to serve in the new way of the Spirit (Romans 7:6a).

January 21 - Romans 6:19-23

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Romans 6:19-23 – Reap Holiness

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul has been speaking of slavery and his first sentence in this paragraph is to explain why he did so. Slavery was degrading and might not be considered acceptable as a metaphor for this discussion, but because it was so common and because he needed to make things clear to his readers, he used this situation that everyone recognized. For Paul, slavery, while part of everyday life, it was a symbol of human weakness. And by the way, Paul wasn't pointing to anyone who might be considered morally weak because they owned slaves, or those who were physically weak … he wasn't pointing at anyone at all, he was speaking to everyone. Slavery occurs because humanity is weak. We all must take responsibility for this occurring in the world around us.

Just as slavery to sin led to wickedness for wicked purposes, so does slavery to righteousness lead to holiness. Our lives must imitate Christ and reflect our commitment to God.

Paul reminds us in Romans 6:20, that we can only be enslaved to one master. When we give ourselves over to sin, we cannot be righteous or holy. We belong to sin with everything that we are and all that we have. Righteousness has no power in our lives. We received nothing good from that and the final goal is death.

Freedom from sin means leaving the bindings of slavery behind. Being a slave to God does not mean that we simply transfer the bindings placed on our lives to a new master, it means that we are free … completely free. And the benefit we receive from that freedom is holiness and then eternal life.

Slavery to sin is bondage that leads to death. Slavery to God is eternal life, given to free men. It is a gift.

January 20 - Romans 6:15-18

Monday, January 20, 2014

Romans 6:15-18 – Slaves to Righteousness

When we think of slavery, we see images in our minds of people in chains, hauling heavy blocks of stone for the Egyptians, or African men, women and children in lower holds of ships being hauled away from everything they know to work the fields of plantation owners in America or young boys and girls stolen from the streets and made to work as prostitutes around the world. The word is a horrible word and it isn't easy to read what Paul has to say without those images affecting us.

We'd like to think that we would never willingly accept slavery of any type as an acceptable lifestyle … for anyone. It is no way for a person to live.

The thing is, Paul knows exactly what he is saying and he understands the concept of slavery better than any of us. There are those who have been conscripted into slavery, but in his world, there are also those who offered themselves into that life as an escape from starvation or something much worse. They had offered themselves to someone else.

He immediately links that to the manner in which we offer ourselves to sin. We made the choice to become a slave to sin, to let it control us and make our decisions for us. We obey sin's call on our lives.

Paul says, though that "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness" (Romans 8:18). Why? Because we have obeyed the teaching which came to us … from Jesus, from the disciples and now from Paul.

Freedom is at hand.

January 19 - Romans 6:8-14

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Romans 6:8-14 – Sin is Not Your Master

Paul continues speaking about sin, by assuming that if we have died with Christ (if sin no longer exists in us because of Christ's death), we also believe that we will live with Christ. Why is this possible? Because of the resurrection. Christ will never die again. Acts 2:24 tells us that death could not hold him because it is no longer his master.

The good news about Paul's words is that the death he speaks of is not something to be afraid of. This death of the old life leads immediately into new life – a life where we are returned to a relationship with God.

People often compare the resurrection of Lazarus with that of Jesus Christ and though the first was an incredible miracle, it was nothing like what happened to Jesus Christ in the tomb on the third day following his crucifixion. Lazarus would die at some point. Jesus, on the other hand, after the resurrection entered into heaven. This new life is offered to each of us. In other letters of Paul and in the Revelation, we read about the second death. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, those of us who believe in Him for our salvation will never face that second death. We will also die and be caught up into heaven.  We live eternally because of Jesus Christ.

One of the difficult things for a Christian to do is leave behind the sin of their past and begin to see life with the eyes of Christ. Christ's death and resurrection has changed everything for us and we are able to move beyond the sin of the past and into a new reality.

It is in our perception of the world that we find the greatest change. Paul doesn't tell us that sin is dead, he tells us that we are to change how we look at it. We are still tempted and we will still sin (because we are still human), but we are not to be a slave to sin. We remove the negative orientation of our life – where our focus is on the world and the sin that reigns in it, to a positive orientation – we are alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).

We live under grace.

January 18 - Romans 6:1-7

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Romans 6:1-7 – Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

Paul moves to a second fruit of justification – holiness.

In tandem with justification comes sanctification. John Wesley teaches that sanctification is a two-fold process. It happens at the moment we are justified, but it is also a life-long process. Now that we are living a new life, we have died to sin.

Paul writes that our sin … that part of us that separates us from God … was buried with Christ's burial. He writes "all of us who were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto his death …" (Romans 6:3). This means that we put on Christ … we take on the entirety of Christ's experience. Christ died because of sin … that part of his experience in our lives is the death of our sin. His resurrection is the new life that we live without sin controlling us.

Baptism is so much more than an event in the life of a child, it is a transformation where we take on all of Christ. It is an outward symbol of that change in us, where we are no longer slaves to sin. Just as Jesus Christ was crucified and died, so that part of us died as well.

The ritual of baptism had been around for quite a while before Paul began to teach of its significance in a Christian's life. John the Baptist did so as he taught about repentance. The act of immersion (later signified by water) was a visual and physical reminder of leaving sin behind and when a person emerges from the water completely, the sin is left and a new person comes forth.

Burial, of course, has been around since time immemorial. It is the moment when death no longer can be questioned. Unless you are Lazarus and brought back by Jesus, burial is it. This is a reality that can not be changed. Paul tells us that baptism proves to us that sin is buried (Romans 6:4) and that we move beyond that to resurrection and new life.

Through Jesus Christ, we are no longer bound by sin. It has died and has no control over us.

January 17 - Romans 5:12-21

Friday, January 17, 2014

Romans 5:12-21 – Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ

Paul has just spent many verses discussing how the blessing that Christ offers us … is for all people because of the relationship that Abraham had with God in the beginning. Now, he moves even further back in time to the first man, Adam. He doesn't want to talk about creation, but the first sin and the transformation that made on earth. All of humanity was affected by that sin.

Adam is the Hebrew word for 'man.' He symbolizes the type of humanity that exists in the world … sinful. Paul reminds his readers that sin existed long before the Law and he introduces here the concept of death as being tied to sin. Death has been in existence from the time of Adam and Moses. It happened to those who had never broken a commandment, because they were yet to be codified. So it is Adam who was the pattern for all of us, not the Israelites who lived according to the Law.

In Romans 5:15, we read "But the gift is not like the trespass." The gift of God's grace is completely out of proportion to the sin that Adam committed. While that sin affected all of humanity, God's grace is greater than that.

Judgment occurred because of one sin and humanity was condemned for that. Before we go too much further with this, it is important to understand what this condemnation is. This singular sin separated humanity from God. The relationship was broken and no one person could fix. Only a person who was both God and man would bring reconciliation. The entire purpose of salvation is to renew the relationship we have with God – to release the hold that the sin which broke that relationship has over us all.

Now judgment came for one sin – the breaking of this relationship. This brought sin and death into the world. However, God's grace came to heal humanity of all its sin and to restore it to his original intention. From one man came death, from one man, Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God on earth, came the gift of grace and righteousness. One man was disobedient – Jesus Christ was obedient to the point of death so that many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).

January 16 - Romans 5:6-11

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Romans 5:6-11 – Reconciliation

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

It is often difficult to comprehend the power of the truth about what Christ did for us. We forget it so easily. Christ died for us while we were still sinners. He didn't die so we could be comfortable in church or set ourselves up as moral arbiters for others who are sinning. He died because of sin and for those who are caught in the midst of sin. He died for us when we are caught in the midst of sin.

Paul says that Christ died for the ungodly, the powerless. We can never forget this when we are on the other side of that moment we received his saving grace.

We can never forget that without Christ we are weak and frail. Our sin would rule us, causing our souls to continue to deteriorate. Without Christ, Paul says, we are God's enemies.

It is that work that Jesus Christ did on the cross that offered hope to the hopeless, strength to the weary, righteousness to the sinner, salvation from the wrath of God, reconciliation in the relationship we have with God.

January 15 - Romans 5:1-5

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Romans 5:1-5 – Peace

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

The word ‘justification’ is tossed out there a lot with the expectation that people automatically understand its meaning … and they don’t. They comprehend that it has something to do with salvation, but what does Paul mean by this? Justification is simply the act of being made righteous in the sight of God. It is the work that happens in our lives when we are saved. Salvation and Justification happen together. The moment we are saved is the moment that we are made righteous – or justified. All it takes is faith and Paul has spent the last chapter ensuring that we understand faith isn't something we do either. Faith comes from God. The only thing we do is accept it all and believe in Jesus Christ.

With that out of that way, Paul says that we now have peace with God. Everything that sin has broken in our relationship with Him is healed. We no longer live under God’s wrath, but in peace with God.

From this peace, comes joy. Even in the midst of suffering, we find joy because we know a few things about suffering. Paul is clear that suffering is not an opportunity to despair. There is too much at stake in our lives to fall apart from suffering.

The greatest suffering we will ever know is eternal separation from God … the suffering we face on earth is nothing in comparison.

Suffering produces perseverance … perseverance produces character … character produces hope.  And hope that comes from God does not disappoint us. This hope comes from God, who not only gives us love, but Paul tells us that God “poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 8:5). This isn’t fleeting love, or love that we have to conjure up for another person – this is God’s love and it has been poured out into our hearts. I think of the water pouring over Niagara Falls and that still doesn’t describe the power of God’s love being poured into our hearts.

This begins with peace, moves through joy into hope and ends with God’s love in our hearts.

January 14 - Romans 4:18-25

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Romans 4:18-25 – Abraham – Hope and Faith

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

The word ‘hope’ is used more in the book of Romans than any other book in the New Testament. The hope that Christians know is different than that in the world because it is grounded in the work God has done through Jesus Christ.

Paul tells us that when Abraham had nothing in the world, he still had hope. There was nothing in the world that could justify the hope he had … it came from God. Much like faith, hope is a blessing given to us by God and Paul links the two of these in this passage.

When Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was too old to have children, Abraham believed God could do what He said. When he had no basis for hope, Abraham still believed in God. This is faith. This single belief … this hope … this faith not only brought one child into the world, but was the foundation for the truth that Abraham would become the father of many nations.

Then Paul, In Romans 4:24, turns to contemporary believers. God will credit righteousness to us because of our faith in Jesus Christ, because we believe in God who raised Jesus from the dead.

Romans 4:25 anchors the gospel. Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification. All of the work is done for us. Our sins are forgiven, salvation is given to us. Hope and faith come from God. All we do is believe.

January 13 - Romans 4:13-17

Monday, January 13, 2014

Romans 4:13-17 – The Promise Comes by Faith

Abraham was the perfect man for Paul to reference as he attempted to prove his point. The original covenant was made with Abraham, a man whose faith in God allowed him to leave his home and family and wander into unknown territory.

Paul’s next point regards the Law, which came about 430 years (Galatians 3:17) after Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abraham believed God and it was credited as righteousness. Paul says that the promise from God comes by faith, not by the Law.

When Abraham responded to God, there was no such thing as the Law. It didn't exist.

Now, if those who live by the law are heirs of the promise, then faith has no value, Paul says (Romans 4:14). Because if that were true, those who were not given the Law aren't bound by the Law and therefore can’t sin. The heirs of Abraham come to God through faith, though. He is considered to be the Father of Judaism and for that matter, Christianity. His heirs number much larger than the Jewish nation. Paul reminds us that in Genesis 17:5, God promises that Abraham will be the father of many nations … not one nation.

Grace is guaranteed to all of Abraham’s offspring – not just to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:16).

It was by faith in God and not in the things Abraham did that he received fulfillment of his promise. We are part of that promise, whether we are Jewish or Gentile, whether we are part of the Law or not.

January 12 - Romans 4:9-12

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Romans 4:9-12 - Circumcised or Uncircumsed

Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Because Paul is speaking to Romans and to Jews, he needed to clarify the fact that disparity need not exist. All can come before God and receive salvation through Jesus Christ. However, the point needed to be proven over and over.

Is salvation … the blessing spoken of by David in Psalm 32 … only for those who were circumcised?

Paul emphatically says no. Abraham’s faith and righteousness came before he was circumcised. It is faith that brings salvation and not some outward ceremony. Nothing else measures salvation but faith. Abraham was loved and accepted by God before he was circumcised. Circumcision was not a condition of that love and acceptance. It was a sign of Abraham’s covenant with God.

If you look at scripture, Abraham in Genesis 15:6 “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” This occurred before the birth of Ishmael (Genesis 16) and we know from Genesis 16:16 that Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16). He was circumcised at the age of 99 (Genesis 17:24). Abraham’s salvation occurred long before the circumcision.

To understand fully this event, Paul explains that it was a sign and a seal of righteousness. Jews were not the only people who were circumcised at that time. Many other Semitic tribes practiced circumcision as did other peoples who lived around ancient Israel. The sign and seal marked Abraham and his descendants though as ‘owned’ by God. By performing this ritual, they were known to be God’s people … it was not a sign and seal of their salvation and blessings.

He is now the father of those who are circumcised … and those who are not. He is the father of all who have faith in God, whether Jew or Gentile.  Faith brings righteousness, not the ritual of circumcision.

January 11 - Romans 4:1-8

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Romans 4:1-8 – Abraham Justified by Faith

Many Christians feel that justification / salvation by grace is a New Testament invention, but Paul was insistent that Judaism and the scriptures we know as the Old Testament, if truly understood, points to the work that God did through Jesus Christ. A true Jew is not one who outwardly lives according to their faith, but lives so in their heart. They accept Jesus as the Messiah and respond in repentance to God through him.

He uses Abraham as proof of this. If Abraham acceptance or justification was simply by his works, then none of what Paul says is true, but if Abraham’s salvation came about because of faith, from the beginning of Judaism, Paul says, God’s plan has always existed. He has always acted in grace. The relationship Abraham had with God is critical to Paul’s understanding of faith.

Jews believe that the works they perform will get them to heaven. For them, faith is a work. But Paul does something different with faith. Abraham’s faith was a response to God because of God’s activity in his life. Abraham didn't start the relationship, he responded to it. If all that happened between Abraham and God was due to Abraham’s work, he could have boasted about it, but Paul reminds us that Abraham believed God. He didn't boast about going before God, it was God’s work.

In Romans 4:6-8, Paul begins the discussion regarding the blessings from God. Blessed is the man who is forgiven by God. Our blessings do not come from our own work, but from God’s grace and this point was made throughout the Old Testament scriptures.

January 10 - Romans 3:21-31

Friday, January 10, 2014

Romans 3:21-31 – Righteousness Through Faith

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,  through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. 

Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

Paul has made it very clear that no one is exempt from sin. And with a single conjunction, he brings light back to the conversation. “But …”

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify” (Romans 3:21).

There is hope and it doesn't come from mankind, the same place where sin has taken hold. This hope comes in the form of righteousness that can only be found in God.

God did not set aside His integrity. His grace comes through the sacrificial atonement of Jesus Christ. He has given us the opportunity to come before him fully cleansed of all sin.

There is such power in Paul’s words, but though they are many, the meaning is simply this: Everyone has sinned. No one can save themselves into eternal life. Jesus Christ died so that we can stand before God and be declared “Not guilty.”

Whether you are Jew or Gentile, you are justified through faith in Jesus Christ.

January 9 - Romans 3:9-20

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Romans 3:9-20 – No One is Righteous

Paul returns to the original question. Are Jews any better off than the rest of the world? And he replies with a firm ‘No.’ Everyone is under sin. The Jew’s responsibility was to be a light to the world, showing the world what it meant to be in God’s grace. The only benefit they had was they were given the Law so as to have a better understanding of God’s expectations in the covenantal relationship. His love for them should have translated into the Jews showing that same love to the world, drawing all mankind into God’s kingdom. They were not better off. Humanity has been sinful from the dawn of time.

Paul then uses several quotations from Scripture to prove what he says is true. He doesn't quote them exactly, maybe he is citing them from memory or summarizing them. He also strings them together to create one idea.

The first (Romans 3:10-12) is from Psalm 14:1-3 (also, Psalm 53:1-3). No one is righteous. All have turned aside; together they are worthless. No one does good, not even one. Sinners look everywhere else for goodness, they ignore God who is always standing just in front of them.

The second comes from Psalm 5:9 (Romans 3:13a) – their throat is an open grave. In other words, a mouth which consistently speaks unclean things. In Romans 3:13b, Paul turns to another Psalm: “They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s, and under the lips is the venom of asps” (Psalm 140:3).

For Romans 3:14, Paul uses Psalm 10:7 to express that people who utter bitterness and curses do it all the time. It is common with them.

By Romans 3:15-17, he lands on Isaiah 59:7-8. These people are destructive and bring great collateral damage. This is a way of life for them. Not only have they never walked in the way of peace, they have never known what peace is.

He finishes with Psalm 36:1b. They have no fear of God. From Proverbs 1:7, we know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. They don’t know true wisdom because they refuse to fear God.

All have sinned. No one is free from sin. And no one will be justified simply by observing the Law. The Law which is written on our hearts is there to bring us to an awareness of our sin, so that we might approach God with repentance and find grace in the salvation he offers through Jesus Christ.

January 8 - Romans 3:1-8

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Romans 3:1-8 – God’s Righteousness

What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written:  “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.”  

But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

Sometimes Paul’s rhetoric becomes nearly impossible for me to understand and his words are nothing more than words that I skim through to get to the parts I do comprehend. This is one of those difficult-to-understand passages.

There are three questions here that Paul deals with, each bringing a greater knowledge of who God is and how He interacts with us.

First of all, if being born into Judaism doesn't make a person a Jew (remember, Paul asserted that circumcision is of the heart), then what was the benefit? It seems that Paul has just said there is no benefit of all.

But, that would mean that God had no integrity. He had chosen Israel and given them circumcision as a sign of the covenant. Was what he did wrong? No. Israel was given God’s words … these are living words. The Jewish nation was entrusted with those living words. They are the guardians, the custodians … the light of the nations through their faith in God.

But, in verse 3, Paul rhetorically asks about those who have no faith. Does this nullify God’s faithfulness? Absolutely not. Paul refers to words from David’s Psalm 51 – a song of penitence. God is always justified in his judgment and even if every single Jew were to lose faith, God’s covenant relationship would continue and his word … his judgment … his faithfulness will prevail in the end.

In verse 5, Paul writes that the unrighteousness of believers brings out God’s righteousness more clearly. So, should God not punish the unrighteous if that were the case? He re-states the question in verse 7 – if my lie shows the truth of God, why am I punished as a sinner? In other words, why not sin if that means good will come from it?

The conclusion will come tomorrow.

January 7 - Romans 2:17-29

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Romans 2:17-29 – Circumcision is of the Heart

The Jews of Paul’s time, boasted in themselves instead of God. Because they had a unique relationship with God, rather than live humbly, they were self-righteous and believed that they had certain religious advantages over others. God had revealed himself to them instead of anyone else on earth. God belonged to them and no one else. They believed they were morally superior to everyone else because of this relationship and withdrew from others, holding themselves apart, separate and above other nations, peoples and cultures.

Isaiah called them to be a “light for the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes and bring out the prisoners from prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house” (Isaiah 42:6b-7), yet in their religious arrogance they looked down on any who weren't part of their own culture. Jesus called them “blind guides” in Matthew 23:16 and here Paul rails against their self-righteous behavior.

He calls out for them to live as they preach and accuses them of dishonoring God while boasting in the law.

Because of their behavior, God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles (Romans 2:24).

Circumcision is a commitment to God made in the heart of mankind, not just on the body.

If Christians refuse to see this parallel in their own lives today, they are missing the point of the Gospel. Humanity blasphemes God because of our behavior. We are to be a light, yet we hide in our temples and look down on those who don’t know God personally. God does not belong only to us and believing that he does, holding ourselves to be morally superior will bring condemnation upon us.

Paul is quite clear in his message. No one is free from sin and moralism is far inferior to a contrite, loving heart, bending low before an Almighty God.

January 6 - Romans 2:12-16

Monday, January 6, 2014

Romans 2:12-16 – God’s Judgment and the Law

Paul now writes that it doesn't matter whether you are a Jew or a Gentile … whether you heard and grew up with and lived under the Law or not. It isn't those who hear the Law, but those who actually ‘do’ what its original intention was will be justified … will find salvation.

The light is within each person, whether Jew  or Gentile and what a person chooses to do with it tells the story. A Jew is not made righteous because God gave him the law, nor is a Gentile saved because the Law didn't apply to him. All have sinned … no one avoids sin.

Jeremiah tells the Israelites that when the New Covenant comes, the Lord will put his law “In their inward parts, and write it in their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). Paul echoes this in Romans 2:14-15, when writing of the Gentiles who follow the commands inherent in the Law simply because it in their nature.

Paul doesn't come out and say it, but at some point we understand that the rules of right and wrong as set forth by the Law are more than just a collection of words given to Moses by the Lord God, but are as immutable as natural laws, such as gravity. We ignore that they exist at our own risk. Paul tells us that this an eternal risk. There will be a day when “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16).

January 5 - Romans 2:1-11

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Romans 2:1-11 – God’s Righteous Judgment

Who is Paul writing to as we open this second chapter?

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 

Do you suppose, O man – you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself – that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:1-5).

Who is he writing to? Just as there are in every period of time, Paul is writing to every person who is a moralizer … someone who passes judgment on other people. He was writing to the Jews who assumed that their history was enough to make them right before God. He was writing to Gentile who had become well-known as moralizers … setting themselves up as an authority on all things right and wrong.

He is writing to each of us throughout history who pass judgment on another’s moral decisions.  And Paul is not hesitant in declaring that to each who does that, they will receive the same judgment from God.

Those who live for the glory of God will be given eternal life. Those whose lives are spent seeking those things which bring themselves glory will face wrath and fury.

Paul is quite clear as he begins this letter … God is the only one who is to pass judgment on our fellow man. Our job is to live in a relationship with Him that brings glory to God’s name every day.

January 4 - Romans 1:18-31

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Romans 1:18-31 – God’s Wrath on Unrighteous

Paul just told us that the righteousness of God was revealed. Now as he presents his argument for the letter, he reminds us that God’s wrath is also revealed from heaven.  The relationship between God’s righteousness and his wrath is fundamental.  To those who have faith he will reveal his righteousness and to those who are ungodly, who refuse to honor him as God or give thanks to him (Romans 1:21), will receive his wrath.

God has not hidden himself from us. Paul declares in Romans 1:20 that even before we knew him in our hearts, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived … since the creation of the world.  God’s creation reveals God himself. There is no question, there is no excuse.

Because of who God is, he could expect honor and thanksgiving, but because of who we are, it is not in our nature to do so. God gives the same blessings to both the unrighteous and the righteous alike. Each person on earth receives rain and sunshine, yet there will be many who never offer gratitude to the one who gives forth those gifts.

Since those people who are unrighteous have chosen to believe lies rather than the truth and worshiped themselves and their own minds rather than the Creator, God … gave them up to their passions. He let them become whatever it was they wanted.

These words do not mean that God has given up on humanity. The Scriptures teach over and over that redemption and transformation can occur. It is God’s patience which allows mankind to live a life without faith. It is his salvation which brings mankind back into righteousness.

January 3 - Romans 1:16-17

Friday, January 3, 2014

Romans 1:16-17 – Live by Faith

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

One of the first things you learn to do in order to begin a well-written paper is to design and set forth a thesis statement that allows the reader to understand everything that follows. These two verses are Paul’s thesis statement … they are the theme of this entire letter.

Many believe that these verses are pivotal to the New Testament. This statement is one of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity.

Since the letter is about God’s work in our lives, Paul’s theme is presented. The heart of the gospel is God’s salvation for everyone. God begins the process of salvation and he completes it as well.

Paul writes that the gospel is the power of God for salvation. There are so many of us who believe that the Good News is simply good advice. We are happy to relegate Jesus to the status of a prophet, a good man, maybe a historical figure. But that isn’t the truth of it. There is power in this story. There is power that looked like tongues of fire alighting on believers at Pentecost. There is power found in the miracles and transformed lives. This power is not something that is there for just miracles, but is aimed at saving hearts. It is there to change lives, not to make a Christian’s life easier. The purpose for this power is salvation.

Righteousness is kind of an amazing thing. It is an attribute of God. God … is … righteous. The two are interchangeable. But, the glorious thing about God’s righteousness is that in him it is limitless. For those who turn to him and are saved by his power, he declares them to be righteous.

The gospel brings the power of God to bear for the salvation of all humanity. Those who live by faith in Him are saved and thus become righteous as He is righteous.

Paul has given us the theme for his letter. He is only beginning to tell the Romans (and us) what it means to live a life with God.

January 2 - Romans 1:8-15

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Romans 1:8-15 – Longing for Rome

In each of his letters, Paul offers a prayer of thanksgiving immediately following his greeting (except Galatians … they were in trouble). This prayer of thanksgiving is offered as a sacrifice of praise. Consequently it is offered through Jesus Christ to God. Sacrifices are always offered through a priest. He give thanks that the faith of the Christians in Rome is proclaimed throughout the world. It isn’t just that the world is hearing of their faith, but that it is faith in Jesus Christ. The quality of their faith is in his heart.

Paul appeals to God as his witness in expressing his desire to visit them. This deep yearning in his soul is something that has consumed Paul’s prayer life. In the next five verses we discover why Paul wants to be there.

He wants nothing from them, but wants desperately to give them something to encourage and strengthen them. Because of their great faith, he looks forward to being encouraged by them at the same time he would bring encouragement to them.

The personal notes that come to us from Paul’s letters are wonderful, even if sometimes quite vague. He tells the Romans that circumstances have prevented him over and over from visiting them. He wants to be able to take the gospel to them as well as other Gentiles and then specifies that the Gentiles include Greeks and Barbarians … a word which doesn't necessarily mean anything other than those who do not speak the local language or are part of a familiar culture. A barbarian in this instance is simply the opposite of a Greek, thus including the entirety of the world.

January 1 - Romans 1:1-7

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Romans 1:1-7 – Greeting

In many of his other letters, Paul associates himself with others … with Timothy, Sosthenes (1 Corinthians 1:1), or Silas. This letter is quite personal. He is a servant … a slave of Jesus Christ. This same term was used in the Old Testament to describe those who were close to God: Abraham (Genesis 26:24), Moses (Joshua 1:20), Amos (Amos 3:7) and Isaiah (Isaiah 20:3). His only difference is that those in the Old Testament were servants of God, while Paul specifically places Christ Jesus in position as his master.

In this letter we find that Paul uses the name “Christ Jesus” as a proper name. It is not simply Jesus the Messiah. While Jesus was alive, he referred to himself as the Son of Man, but it is Paul who began using the title Christ as a name and from there, it has come down to us.  The name Jesus means Savior and Paul uses this quite often, but he uses the name Christ more often.

Paul tells his readers that he was called as an apostle, ensuring that they know he speaks and writes with the same authority as the Twelve. He did not appoint himself as an apostle, he was not appointed by any other man, but called by Jesus Christ himself.  Apostles are messengers, so not only is Paul called by Jesus, but he is then sent out into the world.

In verse two, Paul proclaims that the gospel came about because of a promise made through God’s prophets. The Old Testament continually pointed to the age to come and when the gospel … the good news of Jesus Christ is told, we find that this promise is fulfilled. Paul draws the circle around Jesus Christ. He is the center of the good news. Paul shows the strength of his Jewish lineage through David, the power of the Spirit in him as the Son of God and the grace that comes to each of us who are then called to belong to Jesus.

This gospel … the good news of Jesus Christ is not something to be held tightly in a small sect of believers in Jerusalem, but is to fill the nations of the world … both Jews and Gentiles will come to faith for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ.

January Blogging - Romans

Another one of my difficult books of the Bible is Romans, so I've decided to attack it head-on right off this year. Rather than attempting to dig through it in one month, I'm going to spread this out through January and February.

Paul was writing to Christians who were living in Rome. In the middle part of the first century, there were approximately 40,000 - 50,000 Jews who lived there. Inscriptions from Jewish catacombs tell of possibly ten to thirteen synagogues from the first century. Christians would have come from these Jewish communities since they had yet to split away from Judaism and were still considered a Jewish sect. Paul also wrote this letter to the Gentile Christians who lived there, as evidenced by several things he said. For instance, in the opening of his letter, he writes, "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:5-6).

There are two purposes for the letter. The first is to offer a better understanding of the Gospel. This letter is an apologetic letter ... it explains the Gospel itself, not the person of the Gospel. The second purpose comes from Romans 15:18-24, 28. This letter is about being a missionary to the Gentiles. He believed that Christ had already accomplished great things through him in leading Gentiles to God and that the next steps would be even greater. There is every probability this letter was sent to Rome to encourage them to act as a base and support for the mission that would "preach the gospel where Christ was not known" (Romans 15:20).

I will dig into Romans 1-8 during the month of January and then finish Roman 9-16 in February. I look forward to learning what God has to teach through this letter.