Romans – Paul’s letter that forms the basis of theology then and now. Four days was just not enough time in this book. I will do a study on Romans at onlinegracegroup.blogspot.com starting in January if you would like to review this book in more depth.
Paul’s point was to set down doctrine:
o Principles of spiritual leadership (1:8-15)
o Wrath against sinful mankind (1:18-32)
o Principles of divine judgment (2:1-16)
o Sin’s universality (3:9-20)
o Our justification by faith alone (3:21-4:25)
o Our security in salvation (5:1-11)
o How Adam’s sin was transferred (5:12-21)
o Sanctification (chapter 6-8)
o Sovereign election (chapter 9)
o God’s plan for Israel (chapter 11)
o Spiritual gifts and practical godly living (chapter 12)
o Our responsibility toward government (chapter 13)
o Christian liberty (14:1-15:12)
A lot to wrap our heads around – a lifetime of study in just a few chapters. Paul didn’t pussyfoot around, either. He was very clear as to who deserves and will receive everlasting death:
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32 (ESV)
We’ve all sinned, of course, and Paul wasn’t talking about a Christian’s day to day mistakes. He was specifically talking about those who turn from God and intentionally live the sinful life. We all deserve God’s judgment – and even Christians will stand before God and answer for their sins.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. Romans 2:6-11 (ESV)
Paul is clear that the Law doesn’t save us; it’s our faith. If the only inheritors of God’s kingdom lived under the Law, then faith would be null and void and there would have been no point for Jesus to come, live and die.
It’s our faith in Jesus that gives us peace – not through the law. I am thrilled to read that because there’s obviously no way anyone can ever completely obey the law. The Christian life isn’t going to be a bed of roses. We’re promised suffering, contrary to the words of the prosperity gospel and health and wealth folks.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 (ESV)
What does Paul tell us about becoming a Christian? It’s an easy process – but …
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:8-10 (ESV)
Examine your confession, because “confession” in and of itself isn’t what God wants. He desires your belief which is manifest in our works.
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? James 2:19-20 (ESV)
“True saving faith is supernatural, a gracious gift of God that He produces in the heart and is the only means by which a person can appropriate true righteousness. Saving faith consists of three elements: (1) mental: the mind understands the gospel and the truth about Christ (10:14-17); (2) emotional: one embraces the truthfulness of those facts with sorrow over sin and joy over God’s mercy and grace (6:17; 15:13); and (3) volitional: the sinner submits his will to Christ and trusts in Him alone as the only hope of salvation. Genuine faith will always produce authentic obedience.” - John MacArthur
So what are the marks of a true Christian?
· Let love be genuine.
· Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
· Love one another with brotherly affection.
· Outdo one another in showing honor.
· Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
· Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
· Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
· Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
· Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
· Live in harmony with one another.
· Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
· Never be wise in your own sight.
· Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
· If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
· Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
· Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21 (ESV)
I see a couple areas I need to work on. How about you?
Chapter 13 is difficult! Obey government leaders. Sometimes we want to scream about their evilness, but we’re told to overcome evil with good. However, if the government tells us to do something that would cause us to disobey God, we must follow God (Exodus 1:17,21; 1 Kings 18:14-16; Esther 4:16; Daniel 3:12-18, 6:10; Matthew 2:12; Acts 5:29; Hebrews 11:23).
My Mom and I have very different views on the practice of religion. We agree that Jesus is the only way to heaven. We concur that Paul’s teaching regarding grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is God’s will, but … we think very differently on other issues. In conversation, it’s sometimes challenging for me to refrain from passing judgment on the things I disagree with. Yet, that’s exactly what Paul teaches. It’s not about my personal convictions: it’s all about God.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Romans 14:10-12 (ESV)
But having different convictions doesn’t release me from my obligation to uplift other Christians.
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Romans 14:13-23 (ESV)
We are not to live co-dependently. We are to live together, understanding that each of us has a basic kernel of belief that is common to all. However, if one thinks that music is “good” only with an organ and choir and another is lifted up by a praise band, what’s the big deal? As long as the theology is correct in the lyrics, the form isn’t important, but whatever you do – remember that actions have repercussions. As long as conviction is given by the Holy Spirit and is supported by the Bible, let your differences remain differences! Live together in peace and harmony. Spread the Gospel and look forward to the return of Christ, when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord!
I’ll see you on Saturday to discuss the two days of reading Acts! May God bless you on this home stretch – only three weeks left in our Bible reading challenge.