(Last edited 12/19/15)
Romans is the beginning of a new division in the books of the Bible. Can you name those divisions? The books of law, history, poetry, prophecy (major, minor), gospels. Now, the epistles, or letters.
The church in Rome was mostly Gentile, but also had Jews. The Jews had always looked down on the Gentiles; the Jews had been chosen by God to receive His Law. They had been given the temple and the priesthood. The Gentiles (sometimes referred to as the Greeks), according to the Law, were unclean and not acceptable to God outside the Law. As we saw in Acts (assuming you are reading straight through the Bible), Jewish Christians continued to have trouble with spiritual prejudice against the Gentiles. They struggled with legalism, whereas the Gentile Christians, with their pagan and immoral background, often had just the opposite problem--believing they could live as they pleased once they were saved. This division was the source of problems in the early churches, as we will see throughout the epistles.
Who wrote this book, and many other epistles? Paul had not been to Rome, to preach the gospel and establish this church. Apparently, many people from many cities, who had heard Paul and received Christ, had ended up in Rome, which was then the center of the civilized world. Surely some Romans had been in Jerusalem during the events of Acts 2 and been converted at that time, taking the gospel message back to Rome when they returned home.
The other epistles mostly address questions and correct problems in the churches. Paul organizes this letter differently. It is more like an essay, setting out the truths about salvation in a logical order, possibly because he had not established the church at Rome himself and wanted to be sure they were not missing any of the truth. He wrote this letter while he was in Corinth on his third missionary journey, Acts 20:3. The last few chapters address practical problems-day to day life.
KEY VERSES: 1:16-20.
1-6 Why does Paul call himself a bondservant? (Bondservant: a slave by choice, by his own free will) Slaves and servants were part of that culture, so he uses analogies that people were familiar with. What is an apostle? An eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21-25). Paul, although chosen later, after Christ ascended to heaven (Acts 1:2), was an eyewitness of the risen Christ, I Cor. 15:6-9, Acts 9:3-8, 22:6-21.
Christ Jesus is used interchangeably with Jesus Christ, 1 and 4. The order isn't important. What's important is that He has BOTH names. (They are not a first name and last name, like we have.) What does each name signify? Jesus, His human name, what His parents named Him, what people called him. Christ, His title, who He claimed to be-the Messiah, God. Both names used together signify He is BOTH God and man, at the same time. You could say: Jesus, the Christ. In the Old Testament He was called the Messiah, the Anointed, God's Anointed; it was all from the same Hebrew word. God came to earth in a human body. He did not stop being God to become a man temporarily.
What is 2 saying about Jesus and the gospel message? It was prophesied in the Old Testament; fulfilled prophecy, one of the greatest evidences for the truth of the Bible. What does he mean by the seed of David? The Old Testament follows the line leading from Adam to Christ. He was prophesied to come in the line of David, II Sam. 7:12-16; even before that, it was prophesied to be from what tribe? Gen. 49:10.
So how can we know for sure that Jesus is God, 4? The resurrection is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions. No other religion has an empty tomb. Many people have claimed to be Jesus Christ, but you don't see any of them telling you that they will die and rise from the dead, then going and doing it to prove they have the power of God. Paul refers to the "gospel" he preaches, in 1:1; he has given us the gospel in a nutshell. What is the gospel?
What is grace? The gift of God's favor--undeserved, unearned--in other words, salvation. In 5, how do we receive God's grace? Paul says he had received not only salvation by grace, but what? As we saw in Acts, Paul's ministry as an apostle and missionary was especially to the Gentiles; Peter's was to the Jews.
7 Salutation: to... They started their letters with both "from" and "to." What two terms for "Christian" does Paul use? Note how the Bible uses "saint"--NOT as someone beatified by the Catholic church--an unbiblical concept. Paul is addressing his comments to believers through verse 17, at which point "you" changes to "they" and he begins speaking of unbelievers.
Grace and peace--this greeting will be found all the way through the Epistles. Where do they come from? We are no longer under Law--we are now under Grace. As we just saw, grace would be salvation. Because we are sinners, we are enemies of God, but when we receive salvation through Jesus Christ, we are no longer enemies but have what? These two words are always mentioned in this order: first we receive grace, then peace. These terms typify and contrast the Old and New Testaments. Who is first mentioned as receiving God's grace in Gen. 6:8? Grace is only mentioned four times in the Gospels--let's read about it. Luke 2:40 is the first mention in the New Testament, then John 1:14,16,17. What do we learn from these verses? Who alone is FULL of God's grace? If we receive Him, what have we received? How does 1:17 contrast the Old and New Testaments? Paul will be teaching much about grace. We will read about grace in each of the rest of the books of the New Testament except I and III John.
8-10 This begins the body of his letter. Paul always tries to start his letters on a positive note, even if the rest of the letter is spent scolding them. What should this remind US to do with other people? He is thankful; how much of our prayer time is spent in thanking God for various things, for people?
Notice here and throughout the epistles how Paul prays--an example for us. Pray for other people. Does he tell God what He thinks God should do in their lives? He mentions them to God, how often? Does God need us to make suggestions about what He ought to be doing? Is He working in people's lives whether we remember to pray for them or not? Is it even possible that our suggestions could be better than HIS sovereign plan? So should we ask God to give us what we want, to make things turn out the want we want, to fix things we don't like?
11-15 Why does he want to see them? The early church lacked established leadership, needed sound teaching. What is the purpose of spiritual gifts? For the most part, I believe that spiritual gifts were temporary, for the establishing of the early church, as this verse indicates along with numerous other passages. Unlike churches today, the early church was made up entirely of young believers, operating without the written New Testament except for a letter now and then that passed through their hands. To balance that lack of maturity, God gave supernatural abilities as well as sign gifts, to establish the gospel of grace as the new dispensation, especially in the minds of Jewish believers who were still trying to operate under the Law. Compare I Cor. 13:8-10 (perfect meaning mature, complete), 14:22, Eph. 4:7-13, Heb. 2:4.
Is a pastor just here to help us? Or does God want to also use us to help and encourage him? Why is it good to share praises, answers to prayer, as well as prayer requests?
But things keep coming up. We can make our plans, but might God have other plans? James 4:13-15. Might Satan even hinder our attempts to serve God? When our plans don't work out, how should we feel, knowing that God is in control of all things? What kind of fruit does Paul want to see? Gal. 5. How can we "bear more fruit"? John 15.
Greeks were known for being intellectual. What is a barbarian? (Clue: "wise" and "foolish" are opposites)
16 What is the gospel? 1:1-4, I Cor. 15:1-4. So is it complicated? Does it mean you have to know and understand everything in the Bible? In the middle of this verse is an important phrase; what does the gospel of Jesus Christ have that all other religions lack? The power of God.
What do all religions teach? "DO." They are man-centered, works-oriented. But biblical Christianity is not "religion." In contrast, what does Christianity teach? What God did for us...which is, what? It is not based on what we do, but on what God did, and will do in us. Religion is man's way to try to reach God; Christianity is God's way to reach out to man. It is a relationship between God and man. CAN man's efforts bring him to God? Rom. 3:23, Rev. 20:11-15.
Why to the Jew first? Go back to Abraham, the promises to his descendants. It's not like you have a Jew and a Gentile standing side by side, and God says, "hmmm, lemme see, I pick you first." God spread His message through the Jews; they were the people He chose to be the receivers of His Law, His Word. In Gen. 12:1-3 we find the Abrahamic Covenant--God's great promise to Abraham, that He would give him a land, a people, and through his seed, a blessing to the whole world, through Jesus Christ. Through their witness (if they had obeyed Him), the whole world could come to know about God and receive salvation. But they disobeyed Him, then rejected the Messiah He sent, so now God is dealing directly with the Gentiles, just as He did the Jews at first. (Some Jews do accept Christ as their Messiah--although they are now Christians, they often call themselves "Messianic Jews.") In Acts we saw Paul always going first to the Jews in every city, then (when they had rejected his message) to the Gentiles.
Have you ever felt ashamed of the gospel, of letting someone know you are a Christian, that you believe the Bible is God's Word, that you believe there IS such a thing as absolute right and wrong? Sometimes it's hard to take a stand in front of someone else, if you think someone might laugh, reject you as a friend, or you might lose your job. They might argue or ask you questions you're not sure you can answer because you don't know the Bible that well and don't want to look foolish--a good motivation to study the Bible.
17 Here is the main thing about Christianity. Religion says man can be good enough to reach God. What does the Bible say? Only GOD'S righteousness (goodness) is enough. Reading the Old Testament, what did the Law teach them, and us? Rom. 3:20. And how does 17 say we can receive God's righteousness? This is repeated several times in the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament: Hab. 2:4, Gal. 3:11, Heb. 10:38. Many people mistakenly believe that in the Old Testament, God was saving people by the Law--by being good enough. Is that true? Has God's method ever changed? Was Abraham declared to be righteous because of his good works? Gen. 15:6.
18 Now Paul stops addressing the believers at Rome and talks about unbelievers through the end of the chapter; "you" changes to "they." Throughout the Epistles, when Paul uses you/we, he is generally referring to believers, and when he uses they/them, he is generally referring to unbelievers. So what two attributes of God do we learn of in 17 and 18? Are these contradictory? Many people think God's love means mushy, fuzzy, feel-good love--tolerant of everyone and everything. Does He just wink at sin, or look the other way and sigh? Is His wrath directed against those who are ignorant of the truth? NASB/suppress, KJV/hold (hold down). God's wrath is not what hell is about; the Bible describes eternal punishment as God's judgment, as justice. The day of wrath takes place during the seven years of tribulation just before Christ's second coming, Rev. 6:16-17. Is God's wrath for believers? This verse reinforces the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture--that believers will be removed from the earth before the day of wrath. Paul has quite a bit to say about God's wrath in his various letters.
19-20 Another mistaken idea many people have is that God is not fair. What about all the people who haven't "heard"? According to 19, is there anyone who doesn't know about God? God has given every person two ways of knowing about God. 1) An inner sense that there is a God, a God-shaped hole in every heart, something that prompts men to seek Him. Why doesn't everyone seek Him then? 2) What other evidence has God given to all men? What two basic truths can be known from it? So why doesn't everyone know those things about God, or that there even is a God? Acts 14:17, 17:27, Ps. 97:6.
What will happen to those who try to suppress this evidence, 19? Because of these two witnesses, what does God declare at the end of 20?
This is why it is so important to understand, and be able to show others, that any form of the theory of evolution is not true. If this world is not God's creation, then there is no revelation about God available to all men, and this verse, and the Bible, is false. If death was present long before man, and was not the result of man's sin, then Christ died in vain to deliver us from death, Rom. 5:12-21 and the Bible is false and we should discard it. Evolution contradicts not only the Bible, but the most basic known laws of science: matter cannot come from non-matter, life cannot come from non-life, and things cannot get more complex without the help of some outside intelligence. But most scientists are trying to disprove these known laws of science in order to prop up the theory of evolution. See my notes on Genesis 1-9 and my on-line book, Evolution: Fact or Philosophy.
If you are clear on these key verses in Romans (1:16-20), you will have a very good handle on the foundational truths of the Bible.
21 Paul again refers to those who knew of God through the creation; compare Rom. 10:18 and Ps. 19:4. After the flood, Noah's sons all knew God and passed on that knowledge, but it didn't take long for men to rebel against God again. Gen. 10:8-11 and 11:1-9 tell how Nimrod led the rebellion, founding the city of Babel (later Babylon); soon idolatry took the place of true worship. What two things are to be man's response to God? What happens when men fail to do respond this way? This verse seems to especially describe those who teach and believe evolution. Now we follow the downward moral progress of those who refuse to acknowledge God. Does this verse speak about ignorance and confusion, or willful rebellion?
22-23 What is their opinion of themselves? What is God's opinion of such people? What is the next step downwards? Here we have the origin of idol worship. How is God described, compared to the things they are now worshipping? What do those terms mean?
24-25 Therefore God did what? Will God stop us from sinning if that's what our hearts desire to do? Many think that if God was truly loving and all-powerful, He would keep evil from happening; does the Bible support this notion? Lust can mean longing, but here it seems to imply sexual lust. KJV says they changed God's truth into a lie; NASB says they exchanged it for a lie, or for "the lie," which brings to mind II Thes. 2:11. Again we are pointed to creation as the baseline we are to work from. What word is used with "worship" to clarify what worship really means? Today it is used to mean singing; is that the biblical meaning? Do we ever worship anything besides God? Who or what do we serve? Money? Our job? Financial security? Our marriage or family? Success? Leisure? Our boat or whatever? SELF? Here we see idolatry: worshipping the images of animals, nature often personified as gods and goddesses, as well as man himself. Secular Humanism is a non-theistic religion that looks to human reason as the source of truth. What does God call these other types of worship?
26-27 Again we read that God did what? What is the natural function referred to? What are the unnatural, degrading, indecent acts referred to? Some say the Bible does not condemn homosexual behavior; if not, then what are these verses saying? Others will admit this is speaking of homosexuality, but claim that this no longer applies to us because "things have changed" and today we are more "enlightened," which merely means we are perhaps more tolerant of sin. But this is not really true either, because homosexuality was common in the Roman Empire. Does God change His standards over time as society changes? This section makes it clear that although God allows it (as He allows us to commit any sin, because He has given us free will), He does not approve of it. What might this penalty be? God has made sure that natural consequences often accompany sin. Having accepted the lie, where does the downward slide lead? Does this description of ungodly society sound familiar? This cycle is not new.
28-32 What is their attitude toward God by this point? For the third time we read that God does what, in response to such sinful choices? Each time He does it, it is presented as the logical outcome of their choices. 24, "therefore." 26, "for this reason." 28, "and just as they..."
A list of sins: murder and hating God are listed along with gossip, unloving, lack of understanding and disobedience to parents. KJV adds "fornication" as second on the list; I don't know why NASB leaves it out. Does God grade on the curve when it comes to sins? If God requires perfect holiness, how many sins does it take to bump us out of that category?
Everyone falls into sin because of weakness; is this speaking of accidental, unintentional sin, or deliberate sin--a lifestyle? What repeated word in 32 tells us this? Do these people know the consequences of breaking God's laws? Then they take it one step further and do what else? How is our own society reflecting the progression we see in this chapter?
Is man evolving into a higher state, as New Agers say? They say Christians (at least, the Bible-believing ones) are the ones blocking this evolution, standing in the way of progress, because of our views which they call narrow, backward, intolerant, and moralistic. They believe that the Christians will one day all be removed from this earth, allowing the rest of mankind to go on to a new age, "the age of Aquarius" that they sang about in the 60's. We know that we will be removed, but we also know that unfortunately, those who are left behind will not be entering a golden age but the greatest period of tribulation that the earth has ever known.
Paul is going to talk a lot more about sin. In fact, much of the first eight chapters of Romans deals with sin. We are all sinful. Paul is going to show us the various types of sinfulness there are, of which all are guilty, so that none has any excuse. Then we are going to find that, once we have admitted our sinfulness and repented, we STILL need to deal with our sin nature, and that how we do so will have a great effect on whether or not we mature as believers.
1-4 Often Paul addresses the church he is writing to as "you;" here the context does not support that. In 1 he defines "you" as "everyone of you who passes judgment" (KJV: "O man, whosoever thou art that judgest"). And again in 3: "O man, when you pass judgment" (KJV: "O man, that judgest them which do such things"). So we see that now he is talking to another class of sinners, as contrasting with the sinners discussed in 1:21-32. He is addressing those who condemn others while seeing themselves as morally superior--probably the Jews, perhaps the Pharisees in particular. Who are they passing judgment on? The wicked pagans of 1:18-32--Gentiles. The self-righteous person thinks he is righteous, so fails to see his sin and need of repentance. Paul says they practice the "same things;" that doesn't necessarily mean they commit the same sins, but the point is that they too COMMIT SIN. Is this type of sin less odious to God than those listed in chapter 1? Humanly speaking, some sins do seem worse than others, but in God's eyes, sin is sin.
But what sin do we see here? The Jews who rejected Paul's message were self-righteous; is it possible to also be self-righteous after we become believers? Do we ever look down on "bad" people, thinking, we don't do THOSE gross sins? What does Paul say about such people at the beginning of 1? When God doesn't zap you immediately for your sin, should you assume that means He's OK with it? Why does God tolerate our sins? When God shows His kindness toward unbelievers, how does He want them to respond? Does it say God will FORCE you to repent? Rather, what does it say He does? I know people who turned to God when they realized that the good things happening to them were totally undeserved and God must be trying to get their attention. Others require unpleasant pressure to get their attention.
5-8 But will God tolerate sin forever? What two sins are mentioned here? This is how Israel is frequently described in the Old Testament. Many think the God of the New Testament is only a God of love, that we only read about His wrath and judgment in the Old Testament, that He has changed. Is that true? The day of wrath may refer to hell, but in Rev. 6:16-17 it appears to be the Great Tribulation. The "revelation of the righteous judgment of God" is probably referring to the second coming of Christ at the end of the seven years of tribulation. Will God's judgment be fair?
Does 6-8 teach that we are saved by our good works and lost because of our evil works? CAN anyone do what it says in 7 and never do what it says in 8? How many sins does it take to keep us out of heaven? What is the only good work we can do that will guarantee our salvation? John 6:28-29, Eph. 2:8-9. What happens to those who are trusting in their own good deeds? Rev. 20:12-13. Every verse needs to be considered in the context of the whole Bible; no individual verse lays out the entire teaching on that subject. 8, we either obey what or what? Truth is thought by many today to not exist; each person's opinion is considered to be true for them. However, the Bible claims to be the truth. What does Jesus say about Himself in John 14:6?
9-11 Why to the Jew first? Who was the first to receive God's revelation? Who was Jesus Christ, the Messiah, sent to? We tend to think He came to ALL, but initially He presented Himself to the nation Israel as the Messiah promised to them all throughout the Old Testament. When the nation rejected their Messiah, He broadened His invitation to ALL who would believe. We can clearly see this rejection in Mat. 11, and the change in 11:25-30. And who did Paul always go to first in every city where he preached? Acts 13:14,46-48, 18:1-6, etc. Those who have more light are held more responsible. John 15:22. What about Jews who were trusting in their Jewishness? Will God judge fairly?
12-16 Who is Paul speaking about now--who are those who did not have God's law? Clue: look in 14. Will those who never heard God's law be judged by that standard? Many unbelievers claim they can't believe in a God who could punish those who haven't heard--chapter 1 addressed that. In what way did God give His standard to all men? If that is the only light you have, that is what you'll be judged by; has anyone perfectly lived up to what their conscience tells them? Each will be held accountable for as much or as little of God's standard that he knows. Is knowledge enough? What else is required? What does 16 say about those secret sins known only to each individual?
17-24 Who is Paul speaking about now? God chose to reveal Himself through this nation, by giving them the Law and the prophets. Did they all live up to the knowledge they had? Did their teachers--the Pharisees? If we who have God's Word and know God's standard are held more accountable, might we be judged more harshly for our thoughts and attitudes than a pagan will be for his actions? Do all Christians live like Christians should? Do you know of Christians who have dragged God's name through the mud? How does that affect those around them? "Rob temples" could also be translated "commit sacrilege."
25-29 Paul's references to circumcision would be references to the Jew; uncircumcision would refer to Gentiles. Circumcision was the outward mark of the Jews' covenant relationship with God. Is this outward mark of any value in God's eyes if they are not keeping the Law? How does this apply to the Christian? What kinds of acts or rituals do some Christians trust in to make themselves acceptable to God? Is God more interested in our outward acts or our inner condition? Outward religion is useless; it may fool others or even ourselves, but not God. Are we ever one way on the outside and another way on the inside? What is the term for that, which the Pharisees were guilty of? What does James say about that, James 1:22?
1-2 The importance of the Jews. The Old Testament says that Israel is God's chosen people. Some people mistakenly think that means that God looks at them as more special than other people. The Bible does not indicate this. He chose them to be the people through whom He would reveal His Law, and through whom He would send His Son, the Messiah, the Christ. He chose them to fulfill a unique part in His plan for mankind. But they are no better or different than other people. Why did God choose Abraham to make His promises to? Gen. 15:6.
3 Because Israel rejected Christ, will God now fail to fulfill the unconditional promises He made to them?
4 Paul answers the rhetorical question he just asked. What does this verse say about "relative morality"? If everyone votes against God, is God then wrong? Right and wrong is not determined by how many people do or accept any given behavior. If God says something is wrong, but that behavior has become socially acceptable and "everyone does it," it is still wrong. The Bible teaches absolute morality; God's standard doesn't change.
5 Is God ever unrighteous? No matter how things look to us, everything He does is right. If it doesn't look right to us, that is because we don't understand His ways. We are trying to understand a perfect, holy, infinite, eternal God with finite human brains that have been tainted with the curse of sin because of the Fall. No wonder we can't understand all His ways. If what we see around us doesn't seem to match up with what the Bible says, should we conclude that the Bible is wrong, or should we interpret what we see around us based on the truth in the Bible?
Do we ever find ourselves saying, "No, God! This is not fair, God," about something He has allowed in our lives? Either we don't really believe He is always right, or we don't believe He is in control of everything that happens. Compare Rom. 8:28. Can God actually do this if He is not in control of everything?
6-8 God is a righteous judge. We see that Paul and perhaps the other apostles were being slandered. Have you ever tried to rationalize your sin, either to yourself, someone else, or to God? 7, is this an acceptable way to rationalize our sinful behavior? What does Paul say? Their words and teachings were being twisted. Sometimes our words are twisted by others purposely; other times our words get inadvertently twisted as people repeat what we said to someone else. It is so important to be careful with words.
9 Is anyone better than anyone else? Why?
10-12 Paul quotes from the Old Testament; a basic and important Bible truth, or doctrine. Jer. 17:9. What does humanism/psychology teach? Man is basically good, not sinful. This idea is rampant in our society. Psychology says that we are not responsible for our problems or bad behavior; our family or our past experiences are responsible, or else we have a condition, an illness. This appeals to our sinful minds, because it removes the guilt. Psychology is all about dealing with guilt and feeling good about ourselves. Secular humanism, psychology (the religion of Self), and evolution all go hand in hand, trying to make God irrelevant.
13-18 Paul ends his Old Testament quote with the conclusion reached in 17-18.
19 Now Paul begins to talk about the Law of Moses. What is the purpose of the Law? Gal. 3:19-24.
20 What can good deeds not do for us? Can we be saved by keeping the Law? Another basic important doctrine. If we can be saved by keeping the Law, by being good, then we are saved by our works, and Christ's substitutionary death for our sins was pointless. What is the purpose of the Law?
21-22 What is apart from the Law? Christ, not the Law, is the righteousness of God. Righteousness is through what? But the Law and the Prophets (i.e., the Old Testament books) witness to it. What does that mean? They prophesied about the coming Christ and pictured what He would do. So the means of salvation is the same in the Old and the New Testaments. They looked forward to what the Christ would do; we look back to what He did. No distinction--for them, the Jew/Gentile question. Both groups have equal access to righteousness now. This was hard for many Jews to accept.
23 A key Bible verse, along with John 3:16. Learn it. What does it mean, to come short of? Like shooting an arrow at a target--we not only miss the bull's eye every time-our best shots don't even get near the target but fall short.
24 Can you earn a gift? God's grace is a gift--His unmerited favor. You can choose to accept a gift or not. What term does the Bible use for what God does? It is available to all, but not all have it; each must exercise personal faith in Jesus Christ. 22-24 parallels what Paul says in Eph. 2:8-9.
25-26 What purpose did Christ's shed blood serve? Propitiation is not a word we are very familiar with. It means atonement, expiation (Webster: the extinguishing of guilt by suffering or penalty). God's dilemma was, to somehow satisfy the demands of His own righteous nature and to avert His righteous wrath against sinful man, while at the same time restoring us to fellowship with Him through His own grace, mercy and love. He solved the dilemma by sending His own Son to be the perfect sacrifice for our sin.
The shedding of blood was required for forgiveness of sins, for righteousness. The Old Testament clearly taught this. Lev. 17:11, Heb. 9:22. Christ's sinless life did not save us; His death did. He did not come to show people how to live a good life; He came to die as the sacrifice for our sins. John 1:29. For those who have accepted the gift, God no longer sees our sins when He looks at us; He sees Christ's shed blood. He passes over our sins. What important Old Testament event pictures this truth? Exodus 12:1-28, I Cor. 5:7. The Jews were to re-enact this event every year as a reminder, and still do, but most failed to see Christ's death as the fulfillment of this picture. These two verses are packed with truth.
27 Why won't God let us earn salvation?
28 Another very clear verse, a basic Bible truth. Eph. 2:8-9. We have nothing to offer God; there is nothing we can do to make ourselves acceptable to God. He has done this for us. This is hard for people to accept because our pride gets in the way. We think we have something to offer God; we hesitate to take a free gift.
28-29 Because God chose the Jews to reveal Himself through, does that make Him only a Jewish God? Are there many gods out there, for us to choose whichever we want? Were people saved differently in the Old Testament than in the New Testament? Their sacrifices looked forward in faith to the Lamb of God, as we look back in faith to the cross. If God saved by the Law, where would that leave the Gentiles? Salvation is for all people, in all times, by the same means.
A related question is, are all people worshipping the same God, just by different names or in different ways? The easiest way to answer this is to ask another question. Do the Jews worship one God in three persons who has a Son named Jesus Christ, who along with the Holy Spirit is equal with the Father, who rose bodily from the dead, and who paid the entire price of our sin with His blood on the cross? Do the Muslims? Do the Buddhists? Do the Mormons, or the Jehovah's Witnesses? Etc.
31 Has the Law been abolished or nullified in the New Testament? Mt. 5:17, Rom. 8:4. Christ fulfilled the Law, which required perfect righteousness, and we who are "in Christ" have also fulfilled it, in God's eyes.
If you are looking for a concise section of the Bible to explain salvation to someone, consider Rom. 3:19-31. In fact, extend that on into 4:1-8, as we will see when we get into the next chapter. Has Paul mentioned God's love? Don't we usually think of witnessing as sharing God's love with unbelievers? Paul speaks very little of God's love; he talks about it in chapters 5 and 8. Apparently he did not think it was essential to an explanation of salvation. John is the writer who speaks often of God's love.
Paul continues to address the issue of Jews and Gentiles in the church. Jews struggled with the idea of spiritual superiority. Paul is trying to help them see how the Law was not an end in itself, but a foreshadowing of Christ's sacrifice and righteousness.
1-3 Was Abraham saved because he was a Jew? Was he a Jew? He was the first to be circumcised--the sign of God's covenant with Abraham and his descendants, the Jews. But "Jew" is a shortening of "Judah," referring to the descendants of one of the 12 sons of Jacob. Judah became the predominant tribe of Israel. The "children of Israel" are children of whom? Remember that God changed Jacob's name to Israel. We usually think of Abraham in connection with Israel; in this chapter we are going to learn why Abraham, one of the most important figures in the Bible, is also important to the church--New Testament believers. This quote from the Old Testament is also quoted in Gal. 3:6. This basic principle is true in both the Old and New Testaments, in both the dispensations of Law and of grace. 3, counted/credited: in the Greek, an accounting term. God put His righteousness in the Credit column of our ledger instead of putting our sins in the Credit column.
If you work, are you given money as a gift or as an earned wage that is owed you? "Favor" in NASB is "grace" in KJV. So can we earn God's grace? John 6:29, Rom. 11:6. Salvation through Jesus Christ is based on God's grace and the fact that we cannot do enough good works to earn it; doing the works of the Mosaic Law will not earn it. Heb. 4:1-11 makes it clear that the Sabbath rest of the Law was a picture of the rest from works that we have when we exercise faith in Christ. For those who choose to rely on their works instead of faith in Christ, Rev. 20:11-15 tells that God will accommodate them, but they will all fall short. It is our choice. NASB/credit in 3,4,5,6; in the KJV we find counted/reckoned/imputed. They are all the same Greek word and are various ways of saying the same thing.
This quote is from Psalms 32:1-2. God dealt with sin the same way in the Old Testament as the New. Are believers really sinless? But in God's "ledger book" we are. What if we don't FEEL forgiven--does that mean we have not been saved, or forgiven for a particular sin we still feel guilty about? Which is true, our feelings or God's Word?
How would you sum up Paul's explanation of salvation as presented in 3:19-4:8?
9-10 Circumcision was the mark God gave to distinguish His covenant people, but when did God reckon Abraham as righteous? The outward mark is not the important thing; it is merely a sign of an inward spiritual truth. What outward act do Christians do to picture an inward spiritual truth, so that others may know what has happened to us? If no inward change has taken place, would that outward act have any value?
11-12 Paul is saying circumcision was merely a physical what? Because of Abraham's what? Was he the father just of the Jews, or of those who what? And what is reckoned to those who do that?
13-14 When did the Law come? God made His promise to Abraham long before that. So were Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Joseph saved by keeping the Law?
15 This refers back to what Paul said in 2:12-16. Will those who don't know God's law be held as accountable as those who do? So will all punishment be the same? We don't know how God will accomplish this but He will. Mat. 23:14, Luke 10:12-14.
16 Grace and faith are to both Jew and Gentile; Abraham was told he would be the father of many nations-believers among both Israel AND the Gentiles. Which came first, Abraham or the Law? The promise to Abraham was made to him before there was Law, so it would be obvious he was saved by faith, not by the works of the Law. Rather, he was saved by grace, as are all who have faith. He is the father of all those who have what? He is obviously not the physical father of all those, but it says in God's sight, so it is saying he is the spiritual father of all believers. 16, how do we know that "father of us all" refers to all believers, not all humans? Generally, when Paul speaks of we/us he is speaking to believers; when he uses they/them he is speaking of unbelievers.
17 reminds us of what facts about God? Only God can do these things. Today, as in the past, there are many "gods" to choose from; the Bible says there is only one true God, and we can know that because He raised Christ from the dead. No other religion can claim this for their founder. What does 17 say about the possibility of evolution? Evolution has no explanation for the beginning of matter; the Bible does. John 1:3, Gen. 1:1. Many Christians choose to believe in some form of evolution, but the Bible does not support any form of evolution. In this context, 17 also refers to the bodies of Abraham and Sarah, who were past the age of childbearing.
18 Did Abraham live to see the promises of God fulfilled in his descendants? Did he believe what God said? Were his actions always exemplary? He stumbled and sometimes took matters into his own hands. But was faith in God his overall worldview? Did God use the circumstances of his life to teach him greater faith? How are we like Abraham? Is it hard to keep our eyes off the circumstances around us, which sometimes cause us to doubt what God said? (like Peter walking on the water, Mt. 14:29-31). How are we to walk, II Cor. 5:7? However, we must be careful that our faith and hope are in what God has said, something we can point to in God's Word. Should I believe that I WILL get that job I want? How might I then feel if I didn't get it? Is there any verse that promises me that job? But can I believe in faith that my present trial will work out for good in God's plan? I can know this because of what verse? Rom. 8:28.
19-21 Did Abraham believe God even when it looked impossible? What do we learn here about God's character? What promises might we be talking about? Here are some: Mt. 6:33, John 1:12, Rom. 8:28, James 1:5, Heb. 13:5b. 20, was Abraham strong and mature in his faith all along? What word do we see that gives us a clue about how we get faith?
22 Paul repeats what he said in 4:3, for emphasis. This is how God measured Abraham's righteousness. Why do you suppose this concept is repeated so many times in this chapter? Why might we have trouble believing it?
23-25 What key word is repeated in 23 and 24? How will God measure or reckon OUR righteousness? 23, if not for his sake alone, then for whose sake? What key word is repeated in 24 and 25? How did God prove who He is, and that He can do anything? 25, was Jesus's death a terrible tragedy, a senseless murder, or God's plan? If He wasn't raised, could we even be justified? More on justification in the next chapter.
This chapter is about the doctrine of justification--a Bible word to know. What does justify mean? Have you ever tried to justify yourself when someone blamed you for something? To say you didn't do it, or that you had a good reason? To make yourself right instead of wrong?
1-2 Today it's not popular in our society to talk about God, but people talk a lot about the importance of faith. Some even talk about faith in faith. Isn't that just another way of talking about positive thinking? Is faith alone important--will it save us? Or is the object of faith the important thing? Chapter 3 told how our sin made each of us wrong. What (or who) makes us right with God? Since we can't earn God's grace, how does it say we get it? How is it possible to have peace with God? By knowing with certainty (not just hoping) that our sins our forgiven, that we are free from guilt. Guilt is a major problem in our world; psychology is man's way of trying to deal with guilt (usually by blaming it on someone or something else). But there is only one way; it doesn't take years of therapy or counseling fees.
3-5 What is tribulation? What is exult? Glory, joy, boast, rejoice. Is that possible? It is hard to do this at the time of the trial; it is easier to do later, when we can look back on it. Paul goes on to explain. What does trouble do? Brings certain results. And what is the result of this process? Is God's will for us to have a life as free from trouble as possible? Our prayers often reflect that thinking. Is trouble is part of God's plan for the believer? To bring about maturity and spiritual blessing. What does John 15:2 call this process? If you're a parent and you make your child do certain things they dislike, does it make you happy to see them unhappy? No, but when they do it, even though they're mad or complaining, why might the parent be glad about what is happening? That's the way we can feel about unhappy things in our lives. They are for God's purposes. Is growing up easy and painless? So would you rather stay little/young/immature? Why not? Wouldn't it be easier, more pleasant to stay a baby? Sometimes we don't want to have to grow up, but do we have a choice? Christians do have a choice; you can be a Christian for 50 years and still be a baby Christian. When you realize how you have grown and changed through your trials, are you glad that you matured? Or do you really wish God had never allowed them, and that you were still the immature Christian you used to be? 5, note that the Holy Spirit is given to all believers; this does not support the idea that only some have Him, that we need to do something else after salvation to receive Him. 5 is the first place Paul has mentioned God's love; how does he say we experience God's love?
6-9 Why were we helpless? Even if we, before salvation, were good people, according to this verse, what were we in God's eyes? How did God show His love for people? Did Christ love us and die for us because we are so cute and lovable? What are we saved from? What is God's wrath? Some may think this means eternal punishment, but wrath is more often mentioned in the context of earthly judgment, and of the 7 years of tribulation; Rev. 6:17. This verse indicates that believers will not go through the day of wrath, the Great Tribulation. I Thes. 1:10, 5:9.
10-11 Before we were believers, God considered us what? What does it mean to be reconciled to your enemy? Could the death of a man save us? Could any man be sinless? Only Christ lived a sinless life; only the death of a sinless man could save us. Therefore, God had to become man to save us. As for those who do not believe Jesus was God in the flesh, but is merely an angel or created being, there would then be no point in believing him Him, for such a Jesus is not able to save us. Who made the effort to reconcile-us or God? Do we receive eternal life by trying to imitate Christ's good life, to imitate His love? Many churches teach this and avoid the cross. Many religious people are even repulsed by the idea of the cross. Our salvation was brought about by His death; now our salvation is an ongoing process, because of what? Would that mean His earthly life and example, or the power of His resurrection life? What is He doing for us now, Heb. 7:25, Rom. 8:24?
12 Who is the "one man" referred to now? According to this verse, death is the result of what? Because Adam sinned, what resulted? All sin, all die.
If evolution is true, can this verse be true? According to evolution, which came first, man or death? What are fossils? Dead animals. Evolution says man came much later. If fossils are dead animals that came before man, then can the main teaching of the Bible be true? Many Christians claim God created through the process of evolution; can two opposite ideas be true? This verse states that can't be. Those Christians then must say that Genesis 1-2 aren't to be taken literally; they are poetic, not meant to be a historical account. If so, perhaps Gen. 3 is also not literal; maybe there is no original sin. See where this leads?
The Bible means what it says. If not, what could we also say about miracles? They didn't really happen that way… What about the virgin birth? The resurrection? That Jesus is God? That all have sinned? That there is a place called hell? That there is a creature called Satan? You have to take the whole Bible the way it is written. Once you start changing one part, there is nothing to stop you from changing any part. Many churches today have started down this slippery slope. All the things just mentioned are denied by many churches that call themselves Christian, as well as by most cults and New Age religions.
If death did not result from sin, did Christ need to die for our sin to deliver us from the penalty of death, like the Bible says? No; His death is pointless, the entire Bible collapses and is proved false, and is not worth reading or following. You can't have it both ways.
13-21 goes on to explain this in more detail.
13-14 We don't find the word "dispensation" here, but we find the concept: "until the Law," "when there is no law," "from Adam until Moses." In the dispensation before the Law was given through Moses, God looked at or dealt with man's sin differently (through conscience) than after the Law was given. You can't be held accountable for breaking a law that doesn't exist. But even before the Law had been given, was man was under the penalty of sin? So are we sinners because we sin against God's Law, or because of Adam's sin? This truth is what we call the doctrine of original sin, even though that term is not found in the Bible. Adam is a what? We see here that the Bible contains "types:" someone or something that pictures or foreshadows someone or something else (KJV, "figure"); compare Heb. 9:9, 9:24, 11:19, Gal. 4:24. In what way was he a type of Christ? Both were sinless men, whose actions affected ALL men's eternal destiny.
15-21 Paul draws a parallel between Adam and Christ, between Adam's transgression (sin) and Christ's gift of grace, between condemnation and justification, between death and life, disobedience and obedience, transgression and righteousness. Both acts, although carried out by one man, apply to all. 20, again we see two dispensations contrasted-the one before the Law came in and the one after the Law came in. How did the Law cause sin to "increase"? Now man has greater knowledge of God's standard; now man KNOWS how sinful he really is. Paul emphasizes that God's grace--His favor--salvation--is a free gift.
So far, Paul has laid out the basic doctrines of original sin, God's wrath against sin, spiritual death, Christ's substitutionary death, justification, righteousness, faith, and eternal life through Christ. More to come…
So far in Romans we have seen that all men are sinful, that faith not works is the means of salvation, and that Christ has justified us before God. So now that we are saved, what happens in our Christian life? Anything, or is that it? We just go to heaven when we die? Oh, and meanwhile, we go to church, pray and read the Bible? Is that it? Does the Christian still sin? What are we to do about it? The next three chapters talk about how we deal with sin after we become a Christian.
1-3 Some Christians think you do not sin after you are saved. These two verses do not support that idea. I John 1:8-10 also clarifies this issue. What verbs do Paul use in 1 and 2 just before the word "sin"? Continue/live imply a choice, a careless way of life. This should not be true of the believer. Some take the flippant attitude toward sin that "oh, well, I'll just confess it and God will forgive me." This attitude towards God's grace is what Paul is speaking against. God's grace was not purchased cheaply, and we should not cheapen it by that attitude. What phrase does he use in 2 to describe believers? He will explain this concept in the next few verses. What phrase does Paul use in 3 to describe believers? The word "baptize" means to be identified with; water baptism is only an outward public portrayal or symbol of the spiritual reality of our identification with Christ and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
4-5 What do we do that pictures that death of the old life and the start of new life? Water baptism. Some baptize by sprinkling or pouring, but immersion seems to best picture what is being described here. It also seems to be what Christ Himself did as an example to us, Mt. 3:13-17. So rather than to continue/live in sin, we are to walk in what? This is explained more in 6. The word "likeness," 5, denotes symbolism. When we believe in Christ, we do not actually physically die, nor are our bodies physically resurrected yet. It is "like" we died, and it is "like" we have been resurrected, as a new self.
6-7 What is our old self? Paul also refers elsewhere to the new self, or new man, and the old self or old man. Eph. 4:22, Col. 3:9-10. The believer has two natures within him; does the unbeliever? Can't we just improve the old nature until it is acceptable to God? Because we have the new self, we no longer have to be what? What is the difference between sinning, which all Christians still do, and being a slave to sin? An important step in turning to God is agreeing with Him about our sin problem. Doesn't pride keep many unbelievers from admitting they are hopeless sinners (slaves to sin)? Does 7 say we don't sin? Remember I John 1:8-10. He is contrasting slavery with freedom. Now we are not slaves; we are freed from the power and penalty of sin. Those who believe Christians no longer sin might say "freed from" means we are "rid of" sin. But a check of Strong's Concordance gives us the flavor of the Greek term: rendered, shown or regarded as righteous, just or innocent.
8-9 This is what it means to be a believer, a Christian. Because of His death, we experience what? death to Self. Because He was raised to newness of life, we now experience what? new life--a completely different life than we had before. We in effect experience what He experienced. Paul is clarifying what he said in 5-7. We died once already, in Christ; the old man, old nature, old self died. So will we die in the future? Physically? Spiritually? Paul is talking about our spiritual "position" in Christ, in God's eyes, in His "accounting book"; yet at the same time, our actual present physical "condition" is that we are still in our sinful state while we are in these bodies.
10 How many times did He die to sin? Heb. 10:10. Once for all implies that we only need to be saved once. So when we sin, do we need to seek salvation again, or what does I John 1:9 teach?
11 Does this say that we ARE dead to sin? "Consider" (KJV: reckon): What if you walked into a classroom and the teacher said to you, "Consider yourself to be the teacher today!" You know you are not really the teacher, but it's like you are. You are now to act like the teacher, even if you don't feel teacher-like. This takes us back to chapter 4, where God reckons our faith as righteousness, as He did Abraham. Dead to sin, alive to Christ-- like "Simon says." You are to be "dead" to the voice without "Simon says" and alive to the voice WITH it. You hear them both, but you choose to respond to only one. In that game, do people sometimes go when the voice DOESN'T say "Simon says"? Why? How can we get better at responding to God's voice instead of Self's voice?
12 Does this say, make sure you never sin again? What does reign mean? Because you are no longer a slave to sin, sin can no longer reign in your life unless you let it. "But I can't help myself!" Is that true for the Christian? Just because you think so doesn't make it true. For answers, look to the Bible, not to human thinking or experience. Would God command this if it wasn't true or possible?
13 What is an "instrument of unrighteousness"? What are the members of your body? How might you present, or yield, the members of your body that way? What is the DON'T? What is the DO? How might we present ourselves to God? Compare Rom. 12:1.
14 In the Old Testament, under the Law, believers were saved by grace as they exercised faith, looking forward to the promise of a Messiah who would be the Lamb of God, but their daily lives were to line up with the Law of Moses as God's perfect standard. Those who lived under the Law were not able to break free of sin because they did not have the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Christians are now operating under Grace: empowered to overcome sin, to live in a manner pleasing to God, and to become more Christlike, because of the indwelling Holy Spirit and what Christ accomplished on the Cross on our behalf, as Paul has just been explaining.
We are all slaves, either of sin or of God. Why do you think Paul keeps using the example of being a slave? It was a familiar concept to those people. Does he say you shouldn't be a slave to anyone? Up until a couple of hundred years ago, no one considered slavery evil. It had been an accepted part of every culture. People could even voluntarily sell themselves into slavery to pay a debt. The Bible tells both slaves and masters how to act when they become Christians, Eph. 6:5-9, Col. 3:22-4:1. Is the Bible a manual of social change? Can we make our world acceptable to God by legislating changes? The Bible is about changing what? It is about making the heart acceptable to God, no matter what kind of corrupt society you may live in. Is there any social system that is completely right and fair to all people? Will there be until Christ returns to set up His earthly kingdom? Some people get so hung up on the mention of slavery in the Bible that they miss the whole point of what is being taught.
15 Paul asks again the question he asked in 6:1, which apparently some believers were saying at that time. Now that he has explained the relationship of the old and new nature, he answers the question from the point of view of slavery and obedience. I think the reason he spends so much time on this question is that Christians continue to have such a hard time with sin in their lives after they are saved. Sometimes we get so frustrated we just give up the struggle, give in to sin, and say, "oh well, I'll just keep confessing and God will just keep forgiving me, because He has to." He does, but Paul says this is not the approach we should take. How might this attitude affect our fellowship with God?
16 According to this verse, is sin something that we just can't help doing, or is it a choice? Paul is confronting believers with the unpleasant fact that when we allow sin to reign in our lives, we are actually slaves of sin. What did the first sin result in, Gen. 2:17? Can you think of some sins that when indulged in, might lead to physical death? If we choose to be slaves of obedience, what results? Whose will does the slave put first? Do slaves ever rebel against that? Do Christians? That rebelliousness is the sin that we continually struggle against-how much of our will are we willing to give up? Do we give it up willingly or grudgingly?
17-18 These believers in Rome had struggled with this issue. Paul says their obedience is from the what? What other kind of obedience might there be? How does God feel about that other kind? Compare 2:28-29.
19-22 Paul sums up his explanation of slavery and sin. 19, apparently they had trouble understanding these concepts, just like we do, so Paul used an example (slavery) that he thought they could understand. 22, is being a slave to God an unpleasant burden? A slave master has a negative connotation, but what kind of slave master is God? How might slaves feel about being owned by a perfect, loving master?
23 This is an important doctrinal verse. What are wages? Wages are in exchange for what? How can sin have wages? When you work for someone, you usually find out what the wages are first. If the wages aren't good, you'd better not work for him! What does God give us instead of wages? What do we give in exchange for it? Why?
1-3 Paul starts out with an example about marriage. Many people think this example is to teach about marriage and divorce, but its purpose is another example to illustrate what was just said in the last chapter: A man and woman are married. According to the law, she is bound to him. But if the husband dies, is she still bound to him? No, she may marry again. What if she is joined to someone else while she was married to him? She is then a what? If her husband dies, she is free to do what?
4 So who is the woman? Who is the first husband, who then dies? When did this husband die? At the cross, when Jesus paid the penalty for breaking the law. Who is the man she marries later? Joined to another; who? Christ. Paul has been trying to explain the Christian's relationship to the Law. In the previous chapter, he explained that the believer has died to sin; what else have we died to? We are free from slavery to sin and to the Law. Some Christians at that time (and today also) were still trying to live by grace AND by the Law; what did 3 say about trying to be joined to both? We cannot combine Law and Grace.
We can't keep the Law, but neither do we "throw out" the Law. Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it, Mt. 5:17, because none of us can fulfill it. Only He could fulfill it because only He was perfect, without sin. And Paul has just explained that we are now "in" Christ. What is one purpose of our salvation? Just as a human marriage results in fruitfulness (offspring), our union with Christ is to result in fruit. What is fruit? John 4:34-38 implies that it includes winning souls. What is the fruit in Col. 1:10? In Gal. 5:22-23? Can unbelievers do similar things that are good? But do they count as good in God's accounting book? What does Is. 64:6 say about our "good deeds"?
5-6 What have we been released from? This also seems to refer to the old dispensation of Law (oldness of the letter) and the new dispensation of Grace (newness of the Spirit). Did believers in the Old Testament have the new nature provided by Christ's resurrection power through the indwelling Holy Spirit? They were operating in the power of the flesh. Did the Law have power to overcome sin? What did knowledge of the Law actually do? So again Paul contrasts the letter of the Law to the spirit of the Law.
7 Even thought the Law aroused our sinful nature, does that make the Law sinful? What is the purpose of the Law? It teaches us God's standard--what sin is. If you are witnessing to an unbeliever who doesn't think he is a sinner or in need of forgiveness, what might you talk to him about? Coveting, or lust, isn't just wanting something--it is wanting something that is not ours, what is forbidden. It may refer to sexual relationships, but not necessarily. So is desiring that sexual relationship sin, even if you don't act on it? What should we do about those sinful thoughts and desires? II Cor. 10:5.
8-10 When we focus on "don'ts," our sin nature is stimulated. That which is forbidden seems more desirable. Paul is not saying that before the Law was given, there was no sin (5:13), but rather that the Law makes sinful desires more active. Before he knew the Law, he was more "alive"-his old sinful nature had not yet been stimulated by the awareness of rules. But when he became aware of the Law, he was aware of his condemnation under the Law. Until children come to a point where they aware of the Law, they are not responsible for keeping it. Children who are not yet at the age to distinguish right and wrong go to heaven when they die.
11-12 Can the Christian be deceived? Some Christians think we can't, but the Bible says we can. Gen. 3:13, how were the first humans deceived, and by whom? How is he described in John 8:44? What is God's standard of righteousness?
13 So is the Law responsible for our sin? Of course not; we are-our own sinful natures. But sometimes we need to be made aware of how sinful we are; our sinful natures deceive us into thinking we are not really so sinful! The Law is like a mirror, to show us what we really look like, not what we think we look like.
14 Paul contrasts the spiritual and the physical; the perfect and the corrupt. In this context, does carnal/fleshly refer to a saved or an unsaved person? In I Cor. 3:1-3, he describes carnal believers as ones that are walking like what?
15-21 We all struggle against sin. Have you ever found yourself acting in a way you know you shouldn't, and you don't really want to, but you do it anyway? Our two natures constantly struggle against each other; sometimes it feels like they are at war! Every Christian has this struggle, even Paul. Even Paul felt like a failure sometimes, in this struggle. Paul speaks of "I" but it is obvious that he is referring to two different "I's," two selves. In 15-21, see if you can tell which self the "I" refers to.
15 "For that which my old nature is doing, my new nature does not understand; for my old nature is not practicing what my new nature would like to do, but my old nature is doing the very thing that my new nature hates."
16 "But if my old nature does the very thing my new nature does not wish to do, my new nature agrees with the Law, confessing that it is good."
17 "So now, no longer is my new nature the one doing it, but sin (my old nature) which indwells me."
18 The Bible tells us that the unbeliever is completely lacking in righteousness according to God's standard, Rom. 3:10-18 (a quote from the Old Testament). Now we are told that the same thing is true of the old nature that continues to be a part of the believer's life, even when our intentions are good.
19 "For the good that my new nature wishes, my old nature does not do; but my old nature practices the very evil that my new nature does not wish."
20 "But if my old nature is doing the very thing that my new nature does not wish, my new nature is no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me."
21-23 Paul summarizes the problem. So we see that just because you are a believer, with a new nature, the struggle against sin does not just magically stop. The new nature has no power; we still have to exercise faith in what Jesus did for us. We still have to make choices. Just because you're a Christian, is the choice always easy?
24 Because the new nature hates sin, continuing to sin can cause feelings of desperation, of self-loathing. Actually, this is not a bad thing, because we need to recognize how despicable Self is. How might it suit God's purpose to let us struggle like this, to feel like a total failure as a Christian, to not be able to get the victory over sin? Until we die, we are stuck with these bodies, and with our old nature, or the flesh. So is it impossible to live the Christian life?
25 No, it's not impossible, thanks to what Jesus has done for us. The next chapter will tell us how to deal with this struggle. Some think this chapter describes the state of the unbeliever who is trying to be "good" outside of the power of Christ; if so, the point is still the same. The old nature cannot please God, no matter how hard we try.
1 The better manuscripts end at "Christ Jesus." Others, as in the KJV, add, "who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit," which is part of 4. This phrase does not fit with what Paul is saying here; it makes it appear that there is a further condition before condemnation is removed.
This leads to the false teaching that to truly be a Christian, you must be living "according to the Spirit." It also leads to the false teaching that there are two levels or classes of Christians--those who are living a "worthy" life and those who are not. Some teach that believers who are not living "worthy" will not be caught up in the rapture--only those who are "worthy." The Bible often tells us to live worthy of the Lord, but it does not teach that our works make us worthy before God. We can know this is unbiblical by comparing other passages. In I Cor. 3:1-4, Paul scolds the Corinthians for their spiritual immaturity, yet he speaks to them as believers. Even though they obviously have not progressed very far in their sanctification (spiritual growth--being changed into Christ's image), he does not warn them that they are in danger of missing the rapture. Rather, when he speaks of the rapture in 15:51-52, he says twice that we will "all" be changed. Surely if this church full of fleshly believers were in danger of not being caught up and changed, he would warn them right here.
Do we sometimes struggle with guilt over condemnation about past sins that we have confessed but don't feel forgiven for? If we are "in Christ"--have asked Him to be our Savior--ARE we still under condemnation? What if we FEEL like we are? Should we believe our feelings or God's Word?
2-4 What new law does Paul mention now? He has already established that we died to the old Law. Only Jesus could keep the Law; that's why God sent His Son. Was Jesus in sinful flesh? He was sinless, but He was in the likeness of sinful flesh. What is the requirement of the Law? Righteousness--perfection. It is fulfilled in "us," us who? Two groups of people are mentioned here. What are they? He refers to "us" so is he speaking of believers or unbelievers? So can a believer be walking according to the flesh (the old nature)?
5 What two kinds of Christians are mentioned? What does each kind do? How do they do that? Choice and action are implied. David talks about the same thing in Psalm 16:8. The flesh is the old nature, not the needs or desires of the physical body. Compare I Cor. 3:1-4.
6-7 In 4, Paul referred to those who walk "according to the flesh" and "according to the Spirit." What similar phrase does he use here for those two groups? What does "set on" tell us? Sometimes we FEEL like we are helpless against sin, but are we really, according to the Bible? Should we believe our feelings or the Bible?
8 Here we read of those who are "in the flesh" and we might wonder if that means the same as "according to the flesh" and "set on the flesh." For the answer, go on to 9.
9 According to this verse, what is true of all believers? If you do not have the Holy Spirit, can you be a believer? This verse defines "in the flesh" as not being a believer. So we see that the above verses, talking about those who walk according to the flesh or who set their mind on the flesh, are talking about believers who are walking in the old nature rather than the new nature. Knowing this, we now see that 8 is saying that unbelievers doing good or trying to live good lives cannot please God--cannot satisfy God's righteous standard.
Some believe that being baptized and filled by the Holy Spirit is a separate event that happens after salvation, and doesn't always happen to all believers. What does this verse say about that?
10 In 8:1, who is in whom? Here, who is in whom? These are one and the same. They are terms used for the Christian, the believer, the one who is saved--those who are the church. Notice that this terminology is never used of Old Testament believers. Some see no difference between the saved in Israel and the saved in the church; they do not recognize dispensations, or that there is any difference in God's plans for believers of various ages. Even in the New Testament, Israel is still referred to as Israel, as God's chosen people, which we will see in Rom. 9-11. The church and Israel are two separate groups, which God has dealt with in different ways, and we need to note carefully the terminology the Bible uses to distinguish them. The Bible itself tells us that every little word is important, Mt. 5:18. Paul contrasts the Christian's body--subject to decay and death, thanks to Adam's sin--and the eternal spiritual life we have because of Christ's righteousness in us.
11 Do you see the Trinity mentioned in this verse? Who does 10 say indwells us? Who does 11 say indwells us? So the Bible is equating Jesus and the Holy Spirit; they are the same. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit and equal and are one, yet are three persons--that is the mystery of the Trinity as the Bible presents it. So we are promised new life and a new nature now, and what in the future?
12-14 What repeated phrase in 12-13 speaks of the carnal or immature Christian? The Christian life is all about dealing with Self, the old nature. What does "die" mean here? Physical death? Spiritual death? Or reckoning the old nature to be dead to sin? Compare Luke 9:23. What happens on a cross? Reread Rom. 6:11. How does this verse define a believer? If you are saved, are you "sons of God"? If so, who is leading you? So is God always leading you, whether you realize it or not? Not just when we ask Him to, or when we are making an effort to follow Him. Is God always at work in our lives, even when we are far from Him?
Let's sum up verses 1-14. Here we have the answers to the dilemma Paul describes in chapter 7--what to do about the fact that we still sin when we are Christians.
*Carnal/fleshly/immature Christians may be living according to the flesh rather than according to the Spirit, with their minds still set on the flesh rather than the Spirit.
*You don't HAVE to yield to sin.
*Don't listen to your FEELINGS of failure.
*SET your mind on things of God. (That means, DON'T set your mind on other things--like what?)
*The old nature must die daily: daily we reckon ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to Jesus Christ.
*Remember that the Holy Spirit is living IN YOU. If Jesus was always walking around with you, right next to you, wouldn't it change the way you talk and act? Well, He is--the Holy Spirit is in us, with us all the time, in everything we do. That's why the Bible says our bodies are the temple of God, I Cor. 3:16, so we are to be careful how we use them. We know God is in heaven on His throne. But where did God's presence dwell on earth in the Old Testament? Ex. 25:1-22, I Kings 8:1-13. Where does He dwell now? Rom. 8:11.
*Remember that God is always leading you. Let Him; try to follow willingly. Have you ever tried to lead a horse that won't lead? Don't be like that with God; then He'll need to do "something" to teach you to lead.
15-17 Again Paul uses the example of slavery that his readers were familiar with, contrasting slaves with sons. What spirit do slaves have? What spirit do sons have? We are adopted children; what can we learn from the metaphor of an adopted child? Eternal life is inherited, not earned, like the rich young ruler thought, Luke 18:18. You inherit what belongs to your earthly father because you are in his family; someone outside your family does not inherit what is your father's. Suffering may also be part of the believer's inheritance; we inherit what is Christ's. Here is more indication that the church and Israel are two different groups that God deals with in two different ways. Believers in Israel were promised physical blessings; the church is told to expect suffering and persecution, trials and tribulations. Those who tell the church to expect health and wealth are confusing the Old Testament dispensation with the new. (Why do those teachers only teach about the physical blessings promised for obedience, but not about the curses promised for disobedience?) Compare Deut. 28 with John 16:33, Rom. 8:35, II Cor. 1:5, Phil. 1:29-30, I Thes. 3:3, II Tim. 3:12, I Pet. 4:12, 19.
Paul has talked very little in this book about the Holy Spirit, until this chapter. Here he explains the role of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and that He enables us and empowers us to live a life that is pleasing to God. While often alluding to Him, Paul never emphasizes the person of the Holy Spirit. Some Christians over-emphasize the Holy Spirit, which is actually unbiblical. Jesus said that the Spirit would testify about HIM (John 15:26) and would glorify HIM (John 16:14). Our emphasis should always be on Jesus Christ, as is Paul's.
18 How should this affect our perspective? Remember that one of these days you'll be in heaven. How long will you be there? How long will you have been HERE? How long is 80 years compared to eternity? When you're there, what do you imagine you will think about the complaining you did down here? Remember what is waiting for you-being with God. Spend time eagerly looking forward to it, 25. Jesus taught His disciples to pray "Thy kingdom come," Mt. 6:10. II Tim. 4:8 says there will be a reward for those who are looking for Christ's appearing (the rapture). Titus 2:13 tells us to be looking for this event.
19-22 Do you long to be free of your sin, your pain, this evil world? Should we be depressed about it, or eagerly looking to the future? All creation awaits the return of Christ. 20, what happened to creation at the Fall? Futility = vanity, moral depravity. Gen. 3:17-18, the earth suffered the effects of the curse of sin. Weeds and thorns appeared; animals, which would have been herbivorous before death entered the world, began to kill and eat each other. 21, what will happen to the earth in the future? 22, compare Mt. 24:8. The curse will be partially removed during Christ's kingdom; the earth will be partially renewed, but death will still be present, Is. 65:17-25. What happens after the millenium, Rev. 21:1, and what also happens, according to Rev. 22:3.
23-25 Do you ever long to be free from your body that is subject to sin, illness, injury, exhaustion, and death? Focus on the future; get God's perspective, the big picture. Life is not just about these few short years we spend on this earth; this is a preparation for something far greater. Today we use the word "hope" to mean wishful thinking; the Bible uses it to mean looking forward to something we know will happen. What are first fruits? A foretaste, a promise of more to come. II Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13.
26-27 What do we learn here about prayer? What does intercede mean? The Bible uses the term "saints" to refer to all true believers. It is not a person so good they are in a different class than other people; that is an unbiblical teaching that men have added over the years. God knows our what, 26? And our what, 27? The Holy Spirit prays for us according to what? When we pray, do we need to tell God what we think He should do?
28 If you don't know this verse, learn it and spend lots of time meditating on it. What kinds of things will God work for good? Some things? Things that feel good and seem nice? What about bad things, things that make you mad, or hurt your feelings, or terrible things? What does this say God will do with those things? Will He do this for everyone? Can you imagine how God might use something unpleasant for good in your life? Does it say everything that happens is good? Does it say everything that happens works out for good? Unbelievers often say something like the first half of this verse; is this true for unbelievers? We need to read this verse carefully. What does "good" mean in this verse? What FEELS good to us? Or what God thinks is good for us? Strong's Concordance: good as in benefit.
This verse has a lot to say about God's sovereignty. Many Christians believe God is sovereign, but that some things that happen in life just happen; God just sets things in motion and doesn't actually plan every little occurrence. They think He is in charge of the "big" things but not the "little" things. But if that is true, can this verse be true? We have no idea what God considers big or little; it is unlikely He thinks like we do. And if some things just happen, that weren't actually in His plan, then wouldn't He have to be playing "catch-up" to somehow work that into His plan? The Bible does not indicate God works like that. When God allowed man to sin, evil and pain entered the world; He uses evil people and painful events in our lives. God will do this according to His what?
29 Here we learn what His purpose is. Things don't just happen; God is in control of everything, and had it all planned out from the beginning, from eternity. Does that give you a better picture of who God is and what He is like? He predestined, planned, for us to become what? God planned for us to become conformed to who? What does "conformed" mean?
Now think back to 28. What will God do? And He does this because His purpose is what? Think again about the things in your life that don't feel nice, or things that might happen later that don't feel good, and how this says God will use those things in your life for GOOD. If they don't feel good, how can they be for good? Remember what God's main purpose is for your life, 29. THIS IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT.
30 How did we become believers? Then what happened to us? What will happen to us in the future? Is God unfair because He only called some? Why didn't He just choose everyone? John 6:37, 10:27, 15:16, Mt. 22:14, I Tim. 2:4, Jer. 7:13, Is. 65:12. Each is responsible for their own choice.
31-32 Does it make any difference if you are in the minority, or if you feel like you are? What does "all things" mean? Is this a guarantee that God will give us "stuff"? Read the context. God will give us what will benefit us, what will conform us to Christ's image. That may include wealth or poverty, health or illness, disappointment, death, an easy life or a painful, difficult one.
33-34 Imagine a court room. What is the lawyer called who brings the charges against you? And who would that be, according to the Bible? Rev. 12:9-10. "God's elect" means us; to elect means to choose. God has chosen each one of us. And who does this say is the judge, the one who justifies? And what is the other lawyer called? Who does this say He is, standing at the right side of the Judge, interceding for us (taking our part, defending us)? I John 2:1. This is what is going on in heaven all the time!
35-36 No matter what Satan accuses you of, and no matter if it is true, you can't be separated from Christ. No sin you ever commit can take away your salvation, because the believer has been justified. Things mentioned in this verse may happen to the Christian. Could they happen in our country, in our lifetime? Is being a Christian a guarantee that your life will go well? Many believers in the early church and throughout history were persecuted, even martyred. This is the second time Paul speaks of God's love (5:5-8) So even if we experience these things, are we still in the middle of God's love?
37-39 How does God's love help us conquer in these situations? God's love is found where? Even if bad things happen, will our faith be destroyed? Might they actually be the means of drawing us closer to God? How do we conquer if those things, even death, happen to us? Paul says even death cannot separate us from God and His love; Principalities and powers refer to demons, fallen angels. Compare Eph. 3:10, 6:12, Col. 1:16, 2:15. These terms imply that angels and demons are organized in various rankings.
Can we separate ourselves from God? Can you stop being a Christian (assuming you were truly one in the first place)? This verse says "nor any other created thing." Does that include ourselves? Since God is the one who calls, chooses, regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and indwells us, are we able to undo any of those things? He placed us "in Christ"; we cannot remove ourselves from Christ.
God's love is expressed how? Many unbelievers talk about having, showing, sharing, finding God's love. Some think they have a relationship with God even though they do not believe in Jesus Christ. Some say they believe in Jesus, but when questioned, it becomes clear that it is another Jesus, not the Jesus of the Bible--the one who is God and who died on the cross to provide forgiveness for the sin that we are all guilty of and who rose from the dead. The Bible says this is impossible. Outside of Jesus Christ there is no way to God's love. When someone says they believe in Jesus, it is good to ask, which Jesus? In fact, many today are saying we all worship the same God. But this is not true. If someone believes in a God who is not the Triune God of the Bible, who does not have a Son named Jesus Christ (as Jews, Muslims, and many New Age religions do), is that the God of the Bible? Some people say they don't need a go-between, they just go directly to God. What does the Bible say about that? I Tim. 2:5. Why is that? Because no one is holy and perfect.
This is the end of the first section of Romans. Again let's notice that sin is one of the main topics in this section--repenting of sin in order to be saved, and dealing with our sin nature after we are saved. Successfully living the Christian life (whatever that means) is about dealing with our old nature (the flesh), and learning to walk according to our new nature--to walk by the Spirit.
Chapters 9-11 are about Israel. Why is Israel important in the Bible? Paul is about to tell us why. Is more of the Bible about Israel, or about the church (Christians)? Back in Genesis, did God choose the nation of Israel because they were the most spiritual nation? Were they even a nation when He chose them? Gen. 12:1-3.
They are no more spiritual than any other group of people, but God chose them to be the ones He would speak through, to the whole world. How did He speak through them? Because He chose to use them, they have a greater responsibility before God. Why? Because they should know more about Him than other people. They have more light; light creates responsibility. In the Old Testament, did Israel successfully show God to the rest of the world, in the way they lived, and in how they obeyed God's law?
The Old Testament tells us, especially in the books of prophecy, that because Israel disobeyed, God had to punish them. He removed them from the land He gave them (He did not take the land away from them) and caused them to be scattered among the other nations. Deut. 28-30, II Chron. 36:15-21. The Old Testament also tells that after a time, God will bring them back to their land, and fulfill all the wonderful promises He made to them. Jer. 31:35-40, 32:36-44, 33:14-26, Is. 65:17-25.
What happened in 1948 that was the beginning of the fulfillment of these promises? These things are important to establish because many churches and many Christians believe God is finished with Israel because of their disobedience, that the land is no longer theirs (this is major implications for today's political scene). Rather, God gave Abraham and his seed the land unconditionally; however, if they disobey, they will be removed from the land temporarily. If God has not yet fulfilled all the promises He made to Israel, when must this happen? In the future. We may be living in the time when these things begin to happen. Even though Israel is a tiny country, is it in the news much today? Interesting.
Why is it important for us to talk about Israel? God's plan is not exclusively about the church; it also has a great deal to do with Israel. If we want to understand God, and the Bible, which is our purpose here, we must know how Israel fits into God's plan, and how we (the church) fit in. Paul is going to speak in these next three chapters about some heavy, far-reaching topics. We, on the contrary, often prefer to focus on little bite-sized practical sections of the Bible that tell us how to live our lives today. We may read this section and say, "Huh?" But if we get the big picture that Paul is painting about God's plans, we will have a better understanding of God and of the Bible.
Some believe that because Israel disobeyed, they are now out of the picture and the church is now "spiritual Israel," receiving all the promises that were made to Israel. Rom. 9-11 shows that this is not so. Paul talks about both Israel and the church, the Jews and the Gentiles, "us/we" and "they/them" as still being two distinct entities. If references to Israel were now to be taken as references to the church, surely Paul would make that clear here, but he doesn't. Instead, he contrasts the church and Israel and talks about their places in God's plan.
1-5 Paul has great sorrow about who? What things from God do they have? 4, belongs or belonged? An important distinction; they still belong to Israel. Israel is still in God's plan. The promises and covenants (the Abrahamic, the Davidic, the Palestinian, and the New Covenant) still belong to them. These covenants were unconditional; their fulfillment does not depend on the obedience of the humans involved. (The Mosaic Covenant, the Law, was fulfilled in Christ, Mt. 5:17.) Paul is a Jew; why is he sad about the rest of the Jews? What has happened to Paul that hasn't happened to most of them? 5, God promised that the Messiah would come in the line of Abraham, of Judah, and of David; all through the Old Testament, we follow the line leading to Christ. This is one of the purposes of the many genealogies.
6-12 Those genealogies (that we find so boring) are important because they show the chosen line and the lines which are rejected. 6, who is Israel here? Gen. 32:28. Did Abraham have other descendants than Isaac and his descendants? 8, how does Paul distinguish them? In Romans 8, we read about believers sometimes being "in the flesh." 9, the promise was that the son would be from Sarah. When Abraham took matters into his own hands and tried to "help" God fulfill the promise, by taking Hagar, he was not acting in faith but "in the flesh." Do we ever try to "help" God? Does God need our help? Do we really know how He ought to make things work out? Which of Rebekah's sons was in the chosen line? Why? Did God keep the promises He made to Abraham and Sarah, to Isaac and Rebekah? Will He keep all His promises?
13 This verse confuses many people; what does it mean? Is God petty? Does He like some people and dislike others? Since these possibilities are not supported by Scripture, we must look for another meaning. A check of Strong's Concordance defines "hate" as used in the Bible: enemy, foe, odious. This is different from our usage of "hate": intense or passionate feelings of dislike. For God, is loving and hating about His feelings of liking us or disliking us? John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world; does that mean He finds everyone in the world likeable? Did He send His Son to die for us on the basis of how likeable we are? Here are some passage on hate: Prov. 6:16-19, Heb. 1:9 (what God hates), John 12:25, Luke 14:26/Mat. 10:37 (as a comparison).
9:13 is an Old Testament quote; read Mal. 1:1-5. In Malachi, God uses "Jacob" to refer to whom? He uses "Esau" to refer to whom? He is speaking of their descendants, two nations. Which nation does He accept? Which does He reject? Who is Edom, Gen. 25:30? Read the one-chapter book of Obadiah to see more of what God thinks about Edom, and why. Which of these two brothers was interested in spiritual things? Which was interested only in things of the flesh? Gen. 25:27-34.
We saw back in Rom. 5:14 that there are "types" in the Bible; besides their ordinary meaning and identity, some people, objects, and events are also types. (Compare Heb. 9:9, 9:24, 11:19, I Cor. 10:6,11, Gal. 4:24.) Read Gal. 4:22-29; note especially the end of 29. This is the big clue. Don't we see Esau and Jacob also fitting into this verse, as Gen. 25 paints Esau as fleshly and Jacob as spiritual? Is 4:29 speaking of continual trouble even today between the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael, or is it speaking of the conflict between our two natures, the fleshly and the spiritual, as Paul described in Rom. 7:14-23? Or both? Biblical truths often apply on more than one level. What does Gal. 5:17 say about this conflict? What about Rom. 3:20 and 8:8? Which nature does God "love" or accept? Which does He "hate" or reject? Isn't it amazing to see how God has designed the Bible to teach the same truths from Old Testament to New Testament, without contradiction, although written by about 40 human authors over a period of about 1500 years?
Some may wonder if those who take the "literal" interpretation rather than the "allegorical" interpretation are being inconsistent by recognizing types, symbols and allegories. This is a good question. The literal interpretation is one that takes the Bible at face value; it means what it says without us looking for other meanings that are not told to us. Here we see that the Bible itself tells us that some things, besides their ordinary meaning in the text, ALSO have a symbolic meaning. When the Bible tells us that something is being used symbolically or allegorically, we accept that. (Trees are obviously used symbolically in Jud. 9:8-15, as well as other places.) We also find that the Bible uses idioms and figures of speech, as are found in any language and literature. Is Jesus really a door, John 10:7? Or a loaf of bread, John 6:48? Or a guy who herds sheep, John 10:14? Or a vine, and we are really branches, John 15:5? He obviously was not speaking literally. However, when we find allegories where the Bible does not support allegories, we stray from the literal method into the allegorical.
For example, some believe that the thousand years mentioned six times in Rev. 20: 1-7 cannot be a literal thousand years, that it must be allegorical. There is no reason to assume it does not mean a thousand years. It is not physically impossible; it does not conflict or contradict anything else in Scripture. At the same time, it is easy to see that in Rev. 20:8, the "four corners of the earth" are a common figure of speech referring to the four directions, meaning the entire earth. It can't mean four literal corners, because not only is that physically impossible, but the Bible itself refers to the earth as round, Amos. 9:6, Is. 40:22, Ps. 103:12 (east and west are an infinite distance from each other).
Likewise, some believe the six days of creation are not six literal days, even though the writer obviously meant to give that impression, by mentioning evening and morning. They believe that God used some form of evolution and long ages. To claim that this is a poetic account contradicts many references to the Sabbath observance, which was based on the fact that God created everything in six days and did no more work on the seventh day. It contradicts another main teaching of the Bible, that death entered the world because of sin, Rom. 5:12. This is why Christ had to come to die for our sin. If there was animal life before man (or pre-Adamic creatures, as some believe), then death was already in the world.
Some don't believe Noah's flood covered the entire earth and destroying all mankind, even though Gen. 7:19-23 says this several times. Jesus confirms this fact in Luke 17:27; so does Peter in I Pet. 3:20 and II Pet. 2:5. So we must be careful in finding allegorical meanings; if other Scriptures are contradicted, that interpretation cannot be true.
14 Does God do anything that is wrong, unfair, unjust? But don't we sometimes feel like it is? So which is true, our feelings or what the Bible says? God made us with feelings, but are feelings the same as facts? Should we let feelings rule our lives? If we continually compare our feelings to Scripture, if we fill our minds with God's thoughts, our feelings will line up more and more with what God says is true.
15-16 Again, not because of who, but who? It's not about us, but God. This is often hard for us to accept; psychology and humanism encourage us to think that we as individuals are at the center of the universe-16, our desires, our actions. We are so self-important. But is it about God's plan or our plan? Is God there to help us make our plan happen? We are to find out what His plan is, and humbly yield ourselves to Him. "Hallowed be THY name, THY kingdom come, THY will be done."
17-19 So is God able to use ungodly people to further His plan? Prov. 16:4. Does God cause them to be that way? 18, is anyone deserving of God's mercy? The Bible says He hardened Pharaoh's heart; did Pharaoh have a choice? John 6:37, Mt. 22:14, I Tim. 2:4. Look at the progress in Pharaoh's life: Ex. 7:13, "Pharaoh's heart was hardened;" 7:22, "Pharaoh's heart was hardened;" 8:15, "he hardened his heart;" 8:19, "Pharaoh's heart was hardened;" 8:32, "Pharaoh hardened his heart;" 9:7, "the heart of Pharaoh was hardened;" 9:12, "the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart;" 9:34, "Pharaoh…hardened his heart." After that it speaks of the Lord hardening Pharaoh's heart. Who hardened it first?
Does God force anyone to do anything? Even though He has predestined us and has foreknowledge and is sovereign over all things, He has given us free will. The Bible makes it clear that each person is held accountable for their choices and actions. Was Pharaoh trying really hard to believe God but God just wouldn't let him? If Pharaoh was desiring to believe, would God keep Him from doing that and say, "Nope, I've already decided that you are going to be an unbeliever, no matter how much you want to believe!" God used Pharaoh's sinful unbelief and his resulting actions to show Israel and all who heard about this, what a powerful God He is, and how He is able to lead and care for His own.
20-21 God is likened to what, and us to what? What can we learn from this comparison? What does the potter use to shape the clay? Pressure. Is. 64:8, Jer. 18:1-10. Sometimes people question God. "You're not fair! Why did you let that happen?" Can a pot say that to a potter? Who is calling the shots, the pot or the potter? Why does God work differently in different people's lives? The Bible says that God has a plan, and everything is working according to His plan. What if we don't like what is happening? Is it truly possible that God is not working out what is best in the long run? Ps. 103:11, Rom. 8:28. God is always loving; God is always right.
What if we can't understand what is happening? Some people get very hung up on wanting to understand what God is doing. The Bible does not promise us that we will understand God's sovereign will; we can only know it after it has happened. We CAN know God's moral will; the Bible is very clear on what we should and shouldn't do. Some people think God has an individual will for each of our lives, a blueprint so to speak, for making decisions in non-moral areas (i.e., which car or house or job you should choose, all factors being acceptable). The New Testament gives no instructions for finding God's will in those matters, other than asking God for wisdom and then having faith that He has given it, James 1:5-8. In the long run, does it really matter if we can understand God's ways? Is. 55:8-9. Abraham understood this as he humbly spoke to God in Gen. 18:27.
22-23 Does God desire all to be saved? Will He reject anyone who calls on Him in true faith and repentance? Those who will not choose God will eventually receive what two things, 22? Yet God is patient and gives them a lifetime of chances, even though this means enduring the evil that some of them will do to others. Could He just snuff them out immediately, to keep them from harming others? But would it be fair to not even give them the chance to choose Him? What does He call those who will never believe, 22? What does He call those who will believe, 23? He will use evil people to show Himself as God to those who WILL believe. God allows evil because He allowed man to choose and man chose sin; but our free will does not limit God's sovereignty over anything that happens, even evil. If He snuffed out everyone who sinned, would anyone be left?
24-26 In the Old Testament, God called Israel, but now He is calling both Jews and Gentiles. We don't find the church mentioned in the Old Testament, but we do see it foreshadowed, as in this quote from Hosea. It's interesting that this quote originally referred to Israel, but now the Holy Spirit is applying it to the church. We often see more than one layer of meaning in prophecy.
27-29 Even though God chose the nation Israel for His purposes, how many of them will actually believe on Him? What is a remnant? God chose Israel for His special purposes and called them His people, but did every Jew believe God and exercise saving faith? The passage quoted from Is. 10:20-22 particularly speaks of the endtimes ("in that day"), so we see that in the tribulation, only a remnant of Israel will be saved at that time.
30-33 Paul points out a paradox, 30-31. The Gentiles did not have the Law, so they were not pursuing the righteousness that the Law speaks of. But because they are saved by faith, not the Law, they can receive righteousness. Israel, having the Law, mistakenly thought that keeping the Law would save them. The Law--the perfect standard of God's righteousness--should have pointed them to Christ, Gal. 3:19-24, but most of them missed the whole point. Who is the stone/rock they stumbled over?
1 Who is "them"? The context is the end of chapter 9. What should we also be praying for others?
2-3 What was the problem with Israel? And can't this also be said about many people? It's not about how much zeal or faith you have; it's the object of that zeal or faith that is important. What do many unbelievers do, 3? Why?
4-7 What was the goal of the Law, 4? How do you get that righteousness, 4? Paul contrasts what two kinds of righteous in 5 and 6? The righteousness of the Law is about what you DO. The righteousness of FAITH says you don't have to DO anything--he uses what two impossible examples? Hasn't Jesus already come from heaven, proving He is the Lord God? Hasn't Jesus already risen from the dead, proving He is the Lord God? And of course the resurrection is the conclusion of what act of Jesus that provides righteousness? P> 8-11 What do you have to DO to be saved? If you wish to be "saved," you are admitting you need to be saved from what? Is it enough to intellectually recognize who Jesus is? Who else, in the Gospels, recognized this but refused to believe on Him? The Pharisees. Besides the mind, we must engage what other two things? Perhaps the first half of 9 refers back to 6--we need to believe what about Jesus? And perhaps the second half of 9 refers back to 7--we need to believe what else about Jesus? Our hearts and our mouths need to be in agreement.
12-13 Who can be saved? Just Jews? (the Jews thought so) ANYBODY! "Whoever will" = our free will. This is the good news of the Bible! All men have sinned, Jews and Greeks (Gentiles, non-Jews) alike, Rom. 3:23. Some who believe the church is now Israel, or "spiritual Israel," use this verse to support their belief. But Paul continually refers to both Jews and Gentiles/Greeks. He is not talking about whether or not such groups exist; he is talking about the means of salvation (faith, believing, calling upon the Lord) being the same for all people.
14-17 Faith is another word for what, 14? What must we hear, in order to believe? God needs people to tell other people. Does everyone believe who hears and has knowledge of God? Why not? Some people claim to have some other way to God; does the Bible say we can be saved by some way other than God's Word? Do some people think so? John 14:6. Someone might say to you, "Well, you have your way to God, and I have mine-it's just as good, isn't it?" How would you answer? What part does the Bible play in our salvation?
18-21 18 is a quote from Psalm 19; read 19:1-6. How does this compare to Rom. 1:20? So has everyone heard about God? Had Israel had opportunities to hear and turn to God? Was Israel seeking a Messiah? Were the Gentiles? We saw in the Gospels and Acts how the Jewish leaders rejected their Messiah, so the salvation message was extended to the Gentiles. How does God describe Israel in 21? We do not want to be that either. 20, compare the wording in Is. 65:1. God permits Himself to be found; even that is not our own doing. Compare Eph. 2:8-9.
So we find that although God chose Israel to be His people--the nation through whom He would send His Law and eventually His Son--that does not mean that every Jew was saved. Salvation is always an individual choice. Every Jew that believed God was saved. Where is Paul going with this discussion of Jews and Gentiles, salvation and God's sovereignty? We will find out in the next chapter.
1-2 Paul asks a question in 1, then answers it. His own conversion is proof that God's rejection of Israel as a nation is not a rejection of every individual Jew. Many churches teach that God is through with Israel. They teach that all the promises made to Israel are now for the church. What do these verses say? If God doesn't fulfill all the promises He made, He is a liar. So the question is, how will they be fulfilled? To Israel in the future? Or to the church?
Let's digress a moment and look at the unconditional promises God made to Israel. Gen. 12:1 tells of a land God will lead them to. Where is this land? If this is for the church (Christians), must we all move to Israel, or must we say this land is America? Where does that leave Christians of other nations? We must say this actually means something else--but what? Some say it is a symbolic land.
Deut. 28:3-14 lists the blessings God will give Israel if they obey all the Old Testament Law. Look at the kinds of blessings. If this is for the church today, these things should be happening in our lives if we are obeying God. Basically, we should have good health and prosperity.
If our lives don't show these things, why, 28:2? Doesn't this put us into the situation of trying to be good enough? As we have seen in Romans, can we ever do enough good works to earn God's favor? And does 28:1 say that if we obey MOST of the Law, this will happen? If we break one law, have we obeyed it all?
Now look in James 2:10. Can anyone keep all the Law? This is why Israel did not experience these promised blessings. But in the future, they will. The Bible tells how after the tribulation, when God judges evil on the earth, Jesus will come back and reign on earth for 1000 years. In His kingdom, Israel will rule. At that time, God will give them a new heart, and they will obey Him. All these promised blessings will be fulfilled at that time.
But many churches promise people that if they become Christians, their lives will be great; God will bless them, and they won't have any problems. How many Christians do you know that don't have a health problem, a family problem, or financial problems? It sounds good, but it is twisting Scripture. Jesus was not rich, nor were any of the apostles. Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditis did not have great health, II Cor. 12:7-10, Phil. 2:27, I Tim. 5:23. What about all the Christians who were persecuted and killed; were they all lacking in faith or holding secret sins? Those experiencing problems (which Jesus promised we would have, Mark 10:30, John 16:33) are told they either don't have enough faith or they have unconfessed sin; the Christian life becomes one big guilt trip. Physical blessings were God's plan for Israel under the Law, but it is not God's plan for the church, for believers in Christ. These are two separate dispensations. Look again at the end of Rom. 8. If Christians were not to have any trials, this would not make sense. This assumes that these are the kinds of things we should expect in our lives.
I am stressing this because there is a major division among Bible-believing churches on this subject, regarding the church and Israel. It has to do with whether or not you believe the Bible is to be taken literally--that it means just what it says. If it says Israel, it means Israel, not the church. If it says God created in six days, it can't mean millions or billions of years. If it says Adam's sin brought about death, it can't mean that death had already been around for millions of years of evolution. If it says Jesus was raised from the dead, it means He died and was raised-not that His disciples thought He died, or that they thought He was raised. If it says He fed 5000 with seven loaves and two fishes, then He did; it doesn't mean that people actually just started getting out their own lunches, and it only seemed like a miracle. "Literal" includes the obvious use of metaphors--word pictures. A literal interpretation of the Bible supports the teaching that God is not through with Israel, and that Israel and the church are two separate entities in God's plan.
3-6 Just as in Elijah's day there was a remnant of believing Jews, so there was in Paul's day. Salvation is according to whose choice, 5--ours or God's? (KJV: choice = election) Yet we are told to choose, to believe. The Bible teaches that while God is sovereign, His sovereignty does not negate our free will. This is hard for us to understand, because our finite human minds are quite limited, but we can accept it by faith. Some think you can lose your salvation, or choose to leave it, but if salvation is by God's election, could we un-elect ourselves? What does I John 2:19 say about those who appeared to be saved and then left?
7-10 Would God harden the heart of someone who truly wanted to believe?
11-15 Is stumbling the same as falling? If their sin and unbelief resulted in riches/salvation for the Gentiles, think how much more their fulfillment will bring blessing to the rest of the world. When will this fulfillment come? It is yet future, when they recognize Christ as their Messiah at His second coming and reign with Him in His earthly kingdom.
16-24 Now we will see what Paul is getting at in these three chapters. He uses the illustration of a tree. "Holy" means set apart for God; all believers are holy. The branches are Israel, and the root apparently is Abraham and the patriarchs--those to whom God initially made the promises. The church is the wild olive grafted in. 18, in the beginning of the Old Testament God was not working with the church, but with Abraham and his descendants. Many Christians do not think they need to study the Old Testament; by focusing only on the New Testament, they get the idea that the church is the center of God's plan. It is not. This is the arrogance Paul speaks of, 18. 20, all branches are only branches because of having faith; Jews who did not have saving faith were not saved, and Israel as a nation was removed for its lack of faith. Church members who do not have true saving faith are not saved, and churches who do not remain true to God's Word (become apostate) will no longer be part of the tree either, regardless of their name or their historical roots. 23-24, is Israel out of the picture? Will they continue in unbelief? We have already noted many passages throughout this study showing that one day they will repent and accept their Messiah.
Some people think this passage is saying you can lose your salvation or be given it back again. The rest of the Bible does not support this idea. Paul is not speaking here about individual salvation. He is speaking to the church about God's plan for Israel and His plan for the church. He is reminding the church that God's initial promises were to the descendants of Abraham because of his faith. Those Jews who did not believe were "broken off", and Gentiles that DID believe (i.e., the church) were "grafted in"--NOT for any merit on their part, but only because of their faith in Christ's merit. The church should never become arrogant toward Israel, thinking they have replaced Israel in God's plan; just as in Paul's day, some Christians think Israel is now out of the picture. They think everything in the Bible is to, for and about the church. They think everything is about them and God's plan for them--for their life, and how God is going to help them live it. Apparently the church too could receive God's severity (discipline) rather than His kindness. And this DOES fit with biblical teachings on God's warnings for the church. 25 A "mystery" in the Bible is not a who-dunnit or something beyond our understanding. It is something that God had not revealed before, that He has now revealed. So, what has happened to Israel? Are their hearts completely hardened to God, forever? What does partial mean? What word tells us it's not forever? "Until." Until what? The church age; God is dealing with the church now, with Gentiles--not Israel. When is that? Luke 21:24, talking about the great tribulation. The end of the tribulation marks the end of the times of the Gentiles. So this hardening of Israel's heart will go on until when? At that time they will finally recognize Jesus as their Messiah. What event comes right at the end of the tribulation? Jesus's return. Then what? The millenium; Jesus reigns on earth for 1000 years. This is the time that the Old Testament refers to as the Kingdom.
In the gospels, Jesus is always talking to the Jews about God's kingdom. But they did not accept Him at that time. In this kingdom, God will fulfill all the promises He made to Israel about how He would abundantly bless them if they obey Him. At that time, they will. Again Paul warns the church against what attitude? And what about those who say we don't need to waste our time worrying about these things? Paul says we are not to be what? What you believe about this crucial issue reveals your approach to God's Word.
26-27 Some who have problems with this verse say that here, Israel means spiritual Israel, or the church. But there is no support for the idea that Israel in 26 is different than Israel in 25, which obviously refers to the entire nation. When the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, Israel as a nation will accept her Messiah. What two groups has Paul been comparing? He is not speaking of individuals and salvation. Just as when Israel as a nation rejected her Messiah, there were some individuals who believed and were saved. When Christ returns, individual Jews and Gentiles who do not believe will be removed prior to the advent of the kingdom. See Mt. 13:30, 41-43, 49-50, 24:40-44 and the notes on Matthew elsewhere on this website. All who enter the kingdom will be saved individuals.
28-29 What does "irrevocable" mean? Compare Rom. 9:4. Is it possible that God might revoke what He has given to us--salvation? Is it possible that God lies or does not keep His promises?
30-32 God has a reason for everything He does. Does it really matter if we understand His reasons? Our minds are quite limited; do we explain everything we do to our children? Why not? 32, why does God allow sin?
33-36 Can we understand everything about God? Should that upset us, or cause us to worship and praise Him? Compare Is. 55:8-9. 34, could we ever advise God on how He ought to act? Yet don't we often do this when we pray? 36, some Christians think salvation is for US; but the Bible says that everything God does (even allowing sin) is to reveal HIS glory, majesty, power, love, and mercy. It's all about Him, not us.
In the first section of this book, Paul has been explaining truths. Now he's going to talk about putting these things into practice. The New Testament tells the Christian how to live the Christian life, but unlike the Law, it does not give rules and regulations. Again we see different dispensations. God tests mankind under various conditions; man fails every test, demonstrating his utter need of salvation. Sometimes Christians wish we weren't given so much freedom, but rather that things were spelled out in black and white like they were under the Law. I like the way J. Vernon McGee explains it: "The Holy Spirit is giving the believer a roadmap of life, showing the curves but not the speed limit. He identifies the motels and eating places which he recommends without commanding the believer to stop at any certain one. Detours are clearly marked, and there is a warning to avoid them. The city of Vanity Fair is named, and the routes of exit are clearly marked. The believer is told to leave without being given the exact route by which to leave--there are several routes."
1 Sacrifice/present your body: what concept in chapter 6 is this like? In the Old Testament, God sometimes rebuked people for offering sacrifices that were unacceptable; this is acceptable to God. Why our bodies? I Cor. 6:19-20. According to this verse, what is worship? Don't we often think of worship as what we do in church once a week, or singing "worship" songs? Worship is yielding to God.
Worship is an important Bible concept--let's talk a little more about worship. Genesis 22 is the first use of "worship" in the Bible, although it mentions "bow" in 18:2, where Abraham bowed to the Lord when He and the two angels appeared to Abraham. Both words are translated from the same Hebrew word and are often used interchangeably, or together, as in Ex. 4:31, 12:27; see your margin notes for alternate translations. Strong's: to prostrate (especially in homage to royalty or God), bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop.
So what is worship, according to these passages and the definition of the Hebrew word? Holding nothing back from God? Complete trust and obedience in our lives? What do people do on Sunday at 11:00 AM that they call worship? Is that really worship, in the biblical sense? People talk about what they get out of a "worship" service--if it was good or not, if they got anything out of it, if the "worship leader" was any good. Is true worship for us to get something out of, or is it for God?
The church today, unfortunately, has redefined worship to mean something it is not. It focuses on a group experience, especially the feelings we get from group singing. True worship--when Self bows to God--is not about warm fuzzy feelings. What feelings do you suppose Abraham has as he is heading toward the place at which he will worship in Genesis 22? It is about dying to Self, about giving up, about saying "no" to Self and "yes" to God. It is often hard. In Daniel 3, notice that each time the word "worship" appears with another term, that helps us understand what worship is--fall down, serve, trust, yield up their bodies.
So instead of teaching this concept of worship, too often Christians, even churches, take the Bible term and use it to mean something nice that is easy and fun to do. In many "worship songs" we sing about what we will do for God, and how we are being His completely. Is that the same as actually doing those things? How many of us are doing, or will do, what we say to God in that song? What about the unbelievers who may be present and singing that song? If we sing those words but are not actually doing them, have we really worshipped? Which would God rather have? Words are easy; actions are much harder. It makes us feel good to sing those words about ourselves, but if they are not really true, we have only deceived ourselves and lied about ourselves to God. It is much better to sing about who God is and what He has done, is doing, and will do, than to sing about "I..I..I.."
When we worship, what does God get? Rev. 4:10-11. Can you find any place we are told in the Bible to get together as a body to worship? It is not basically a group activity. When and how do we worship? Worship can take place in church, in a group, but only if it already takes place daily in that individual. Ex. 34:8, Dan. 3, Ps. 95:6, Matt. 4:9-10, I Cor. 14:25, Rev 22:8. What ARE we to do as a church? Acts 1:14, 2:1-47, 15:35, 18:11, 20:7, Rom. 12:4-8, I Cor. 16:2, Gal. 6:6, Col. 3:16 (group singing is to be done, but is not presented as worship). In the epistles (the directions to the church), "worship" is never used in connection with a gathering of believers. Notice how angels worship God, Rev. 7:11, 11:16, and the shepherds, Mt. 2:2, 8. Compare what the Bible says about false worship; does it have anything to do with singing to that person/thing or to an uplifting group experience? Ex. 34:14, Deut. 8:16, Is. 2:8, 20, Jer. 44:19, Zeph. 1:4-6, Dan. 3:5-7, Rev. 9:20, 13:4, 8, 12, 15.
One reason people associate worship with church may be the numerous Bible references to coming to the temple to worship. Many people confuse the temple with the church, the Sabbath with Sunday, Israel with the church, and the Old Testament with the New Testament. In the Old Testament, Israel did meet with God at the temple only, Ex. 20:24, 25:21-22, 29:42-43, 30:6, 36, Lev. 1:3. That was the only place that their sacrifices (their required mode of worship) could be offered. For the Jews, the temple and the altar were necessary for worship. In the New Testament (the church age, the age or dispensation of grace), the individual believer comes to God through Christ, and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The church is not the temple or even the house of God, it is just the place of gathering of the fellowship of true believers, for teaching, prayer, breaking of bread, the public reading of the Word. The Sabbath was not given to Israel as a day of worship but as the day of rest, Ex. 20:8-11; Sunday is not the Sabbath or the day of rest, nor are we commanded to worship on Sunday. It is done to remember the resurrection, which was on the first day of the week. Later the Jews did begin to assemble on the Sabbath at the local synagogues, as well as visiting the temple to bring their sacrifices. For the believer, the Sabbath was fulfilled in Christ, Heb. 4:9-11. We exercise faith in Christ's blood sacrifice and we rest from works. Every day is a Sabbath now.
2 Don't be what? Do be what? How do we do that? By the what? What does that mean? Would this be a one-time thing, or something that we do often, even daily? Compare Luke 9:23. What ARE we to be conformed to, 8:29? God's will is _____, ______ and ______. So as our minds are transformed, we become less like the world and more like Christ. Through this process, we find that God's will is good and we approve of God's will for us rather than our own will. Is this happening in every Christian's life, just naturally, without our having to do anything?
3 How does this contrast with the popular psychology's view of self? Does the Bible say we need to have more self-esteem? It sounds like Paul is implying that most of us already think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Compare Gal. 6:3, Rom. 7:18, Luke 9:23-25. In II Tim. 3:1-7, what is the first sin listed in this description of people in the last days before the Lord's return? What has God allotted to each person? No one should claim they have no faith; perhaps they have just chosen not to exercise it. Everyone is born with muscles; how do we get more muscle? Does everyone choose to do that?
4-5 Who is the "we" Paul speaks of? Believers, the church. The church is likened to what? I Cor. 12:27 and Eph. 4:12 make it even clearer; the church is what? When Jesus was on earth, He had a human, physical body. Now that He is in heaven, and the Holy Spirit is dwelling in each believer, all believers collectively are His body. He functions through us, weak and sinful though we are. Note that Paul does not say that these functions are gifts. No individual is His body; individuals are just various members of the body. That is one reason we should get together with other Christians, so the body can function as it should. What would happen if some parts of your body chose not to function? Being a Christian is not about "me," it is about Christ. Some Christians feel inferior, defeated or jealous because they are not missionaries, pastors, teachers, soloists, etc. But many have the ability and willingness to set up chairs, clean up the church, manage the church grounds, wash dishes, run the nursery, count money, manage church business, cook for events or the home-bound, give rides, make phone calls, have a cheery word and smile for everyone, organize church functions, manage electronics, or create and run a website. Are all the "body of Christ" functions to take place within the local church? How can we function as the body of Christ outside the church setting?
6-8 Now Paul says they have gifts, and he lists some. Eph. 4:11 and I Cor. 12:7-10 list other gifts. Here in Romans and in Ephesians, Paul doesn't call them "spiritual gifts," just gifts; he doesn't even refer to the Holy Spirit. Some Christians, especially those who emphasize the gifts as being for today, over-emphasize the ministry of the Holy Spirit, rather than emphasizing Jesus Christ. Remember that the Holy Spirit doesn't draw attention to Himself--Jesus said that the Spirit would testify about HIM (John 15:26) and would glorify HIM (John 16:14). Paul never says these are the only gifts; these may just be examples he is using. Or the things mentioned in these three passages may indeed be the complete list of gifts; we are not told. He exhorts everyone to exercise their gifts; apparently some weren't.
There is a great deal of dispute in the church today about the purpose of spiritual gifts and whether any or all of them are still for today's church. Therefore, we are going to take a lengthy digression to examine this subject.
There are four Bible passages that list spiritual gifts: Rom. 12:6-8, I Cor. 12-14, Eph. 4:7-11. I Peter 4:1 just mentions speaking and serving, which would seem to summarize all the gifts. There is disagreement today over whether spiritual gifts are for the church today, or whether some or all of them ceased with the passing of the time of the apostles or the completion of the written New Testament. I take the position (cessationism) that the spiritual gifts were supernatural and unique to the time of the apostles. I think that Christians who claim there are spiritual gifts today are confusing abilities with supernatural gifting, and in so doing, are often redefining biblical terms. Much of what we see as "gifts" today can be faked or counterfeited; even the Bible warns of this. Because this topic is so controversial and the source of much division over charismatic vs. non-charismatic, let us look at what the Bible says about this subject.
Rom. 1:11. Gifts were for the purpose of the church at Rome being "established." Strong's: to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix, to strengthen, make firm, to render constant, confirm one's mind. The church in that day was something new, and the church was not yet firmly established. Spiritual gifts were to authenticate this Way as being from God, and to enable all these new believers to function effectively as a body.
I Cor. 14. Spiritual gifts were not an end unto themselves, but were for what purpose? What important word is found in each of these verses? 14:3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 26. According to these passages, who is to be edified (built up) by these gifts--the individual using the gift, or the church?
Eph. 2:20. Those who had the gift of being apostles or prophets provided what for the church? The church was something new, a new dispensation, a mystery that had not been revealed to God's people before and was shown to be of God by the miraculous sign gifts that God gave to authenticate it. But once the foundation of the church had been laid, they were no longer necessary. There is little mention of them in the later epistles.
Eph. 4:12-13, these gifts were for the equipping of believers and for the building up of the church, "until" what? Until they had unity, knowledge, maturity, things that accompany the fullness of Christ. What did the early church lack? Mature believers, mature leadership, the complete written Word of God. The early church was not like our churches today. Can you imagine a church of several thousand brand new Christians, led by immature Christians? In those first years, when the epistles were written, not enough time had passed for there to be mature Christians, able to accurately teach, lead and evangelize. 4:14, apparently, because of this problem, the believers were like children, easily swayed by wrong doctrine.
Heb. 2:3-4, the purpose of signs and wonders and miracles was to "bear witness," (Strongs's: to attest together with, to join in bearing witness, to unite in adding testimony), to confirm (Strong's: to make firm, establish, confirm, make sure) God's message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that at that time, this message was new; Jewish believers were struggling to reconcile these new teachings with the Law they had grown up with, and Gentile believers were still strongly influenced by their pagan culture. Also II Cor. 12:12.
I Cor. 13:8-13. The gift of prophecy will be done away, tongues will cease, knowledge (the gift of the word of knowledge) will be done away. 9, these things are partial. (This cannot be referring to knowledge of God in general; the entire Bible stresses the importance of the knowledge of God, of Christ, of God's Word.) 10, when the perfect (Strong's: brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness) comes, the partial (spiritual gifts) will be done away. 11, like comparing a child to a man; once maturity is available to the believer, once the complete written Word of God is available to the church, those other things will no longer be necessary. In fact, they will seem childish in comparison. It would be strange if grown men continued to hang on to childish things they used to do. 13, "now abide," apparently the other things he mentioned don't abide, don't continue on.
Scriptural accounts of gifts hint that they perhaps could only be conveyed through the laying on of hands by the apostles. See Galatians 3:5; Acts 4:19-21, 29-31; Acts 19:1-6; Romans 1:11, I Tim. 4:14. IF the gifts could only be conveyed by the apostles, then when they died, this would be further evidence that the gifts ceased with the death of those Christians who had received these gifts from the apostles.
Gifts are discussed in 1 Corinthians. Acts mentions the gift of the Holy Spirit, referencing salvation. Mentions of gifts are found in the earlier epistles--Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. There is no mention of them in the later epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy (other than Timothy's own gift), Titus, 2 Peter, and John's epistles. This supports the idea that the gifts were foundational for the early church. The New Testament writings were then being circulated, and the doctrinal truths and the abiding graces of faith, hope and love, rather than the exceptional gifts, were what the Church was to rest on. The tongues, as foretold in 1 Cor. 13:8, were already in the process of ceasing in the apostles' day.
Let's look at several of the gifts, beginning with apostles. Apostles had to be eyewitnesses of the risen Lord, Acts 1:21-26, I Cor. 15:5-9. Today there are no eyewitnesses. The gift of apostleship ended with the death of the apostles; the Bible says nothing about further apostles. It is possible that the apostles manifested ALL the spiritual gifts. We see healings and miracles by the apostles only; we have no evidence that others in the church had these gifts. Since miracles are mentioned separately from healing, the two must be different; we know that both Peter and Paul each miraculously raised the dead on two separate occasions. We know they evangelized so they had the gift of evangelization. They acted as pastors and teachers. On the day of Pentecost, obviously all the apostles present (eleven) spoke in tongues. Paul says in I Cor. 14:18 that he speaks in tongues. He implies in I Cor. 13 that he has the gift of prophecy, the gift of knowledge, and the gift of faith. So it seems logical to assume that he, and probably therefore all the apostles, could exercise all the gifts.
The gift of healing is not apparent throughout the epistles. Paul had a thorn in the flesh; God did NOT answer his prayer to remove it. He did not heal himself and did not have it healed by someone with the gift of healing, II Cor. 12:7-10. Instead, he tells that God may inflict physical problems upon us for our good, and we should be content with that knowledge. Epaphroditus was sick and almost died, but Paul mentions nothing about supernatural healing as an option, Phil. 2:25-27. Paul gave Timothy advice about his ailments without suggesting he get healed, I Tim. 5:23. Apparently this sign gift was already passing away.
Some teach that healing is for all believers, as if God had given this gift to assure continued good health of believers and to prevent early deaths in the church; however, those healed in the Bible do not appear to be those in the church. The two instances of known believers being healed (Lazarus and Dorcas) were actually both raised from the dead, not healed; if they could be raised from the dead, why were they just not healed before death overtook them, as the Jews asked in John 11:37? Because healing was not for general health purposes; it was for a sign, as was the raising of these two from the dead. As a result of these miracles, many believed; this is the purpose of miracles--not the personal health of Christians. We never read of church members healing one another; we only read of the apostles healing, so it is very likely that this gift was only exercised by apostles. We also do not read of them using it within the church, but rather, when they are evangelizing in pagan areas.
What about prophecy? Prophets in the Old Testament spoke God's Word to the people, Deut. 18:18-19. Those messages were written down and became the written Word of God. The Bible speaks much of false prophets; how could the people know if a prophet was true or false? God gave them a litmus test, Deut. 18:20-22. A prophet was to foretell an event in the immediate future; if it happened as he said, he was from God. If it didn't, he was a false prophet, and they were to kill him. How many leaders in the church today have made predictions that have not come true, proving that they are NOT prophets (so they either lied about being a prophet or were self-deceived), yet continue to teach, preach, write popular books, and are followed by many Christians?
The gift of prophecy in the New Testament, in the early church, was for the purpose of imparting God's truth because they did not yet have the complete written Word of God; when it mentions "Scriptures," it is referring to the Old Testament, which is all they had at that time. Eph. 3:4-5, for understanding about Christ; I Cor. 14:24,26,31, for conviction, teaching, edification, learning, exhortation; I Cor. 13:2, for the purpose of knowledge. Paul visited and taught at various cities, and letters were passed around. But once the teacher or the letter was gone, they had to rely on their faulty human memories. God supernaturally met their need by speaking through individuals; but because false prophets were a problem then (as now), the others were to be cautious about accepting the message as being truly from God. (Some say the gift of prophecy is what a preacher has today, but that can't be true because Eph. 4:11 lists the gifts of pastor and teacher as separate from that of prophet.)
The gift of discernment or distinguishing of spirits is mentioned in I Cor. 12:10 right after the gift of prophecy; they are related. Paul had just warned them in 12:1-3 of the danger of demonic spirits and the test to determine if someone is speaking by the Holy Spirit or by some other spirit. John gives us the same test in I John 4:1-1, warning us that false prophets speak in a spirit that is NOT from God. So we know that Paul's warning in I Corinthins 12 was also for the purpose of identifying false prophets; because of this danger, a supernatural gift was given the church.
Earlier it was stated that Paul had revelations; I Cor. 14:26 speaks of individuals in the church having revelations, but obviously this would not be the imparting of doctrine contrary to or going beyond what had already been taught. It sounds like Paul is actually chastising them for the fact that when they assemble, each one is trying to exercise a gift; the context, 23-34, is teaching that only a few are to exercise spiritual gifts in an assembly, and one at a time, not all at once. This would create confusion, 33, and cause visitors to think they were out of their minds, 11, 23. The church was NOT being edified when each vied for attention (pride) with some gift, real or counterfeited. These carnal Corinthians were being ruled by selfish motives rather than the motive of edifying the church.
In the context of 14:26-33, it appears that "revelation" is used synonymously with "prophesy." (Sometimes we say we had a revelation or that God revealed something to us, meaning that the "lightbulb" came on, that we just had an "aha!" moment.) Women were not to exercise tongues or prophecy in the general church assembly because these were teaching gifts, and what does I Tim. 2:12 say about women teaching men? Why does the Bible teach this? Because the original sin came about through a woman disobeying the man's God-given authority, Gen. 2:16-17, 3:6, I Tim. 2:13-14; her punishment would be that she would forever desire to usurp that authority but would not be allowed to, Gen. 3:16. Hence the warnings of Eph. 5:22 and I Tim. 2:12.
Is God still revealing truth today, or is the Bible complete? Today when someone claims to speak a prophetic word, are they writing down their messages from God and compiling a new revised version of the Bible that is more complete than what we already have? If not, why not? Deut. 4:2 and Rev. 22:18-19 are sober warnings to these people. Those today who claim to prophesy must believe that the written Word of God is not complete, but that God has more to say. Many believe in continuing revelation, but they don't value God's words enough to put them on the same level as the Bible. Some define prophecy for today in other terms, but there must be a biblical basis for such definitions, otherwise Scripture becomes subjective and open to any interpretation at all.
If their messages are merely rephrasing what is already in the Bible, then there is no need for such messages. Heb. 1:1-2 makes it clear that in the past God spoke through His prophets, but that in these last days, He has spoken through His Son. He is not continuing to speak through prophets. I Cor. 13:8-13 makes it clear that the gift of prophecy would pass away when the perfect/complete comes-the completed Word of God.
I heard a speaker, who believes in spiritual gifts, emphasize that the gift of prophecy is not to bring new truth, but to take a Bible truth and rephrase it to someone, telling them that this is God's word to them right now, and speaking it in such a manner as to imply that God is giving that speaker words right at that moment. I agree that this is what many do, and rightly so, not adding to the revealed Word of God. But this is misleading, if not outright untruthful, and unnecessary, since the so-called "prophet" could simply take that person to Scripture and show that what God has to say about their particular need. Any believer can do this; the "gift" of prophecy is totally unnecessary. And it would be much wiser, since you would then be teaching that person how to hear God's voice in Scripture, and how to be "accurately handling the Word of truth," II Tim. 2:15, which is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness," II Tim. 3:16. These are skills which are sadly lacking among many Christians, and need to be taught by those who know the Word.
With the advent of the internet, much can be learned about what is called "prophecy" today by browsing through websites of those who claim to have prophetic messages. If you are knowledgeable about the Bible, it is not hard to see, when reading these so-called "prophecies," that many are obviously from the minds and spirits of people, not from God. If God were still speaking, everything He said today would line up exactly with what is revealed in the Bible. We are to test these things and not be deceived.
Interestingly, the only passage dealing with the use of gifts is to Corinth, a church with many problems and full of immature Christians (I Cor. 3:1-4). Paul frequently chastises them for their pride and arrogance--apparently a mark of spiritual immaturity. Paul spends much time correcting their misuse of gifts, as well as correcting their many other problems which all stem from their spiritual immaturity and their pride. Epistles to the other churches do not give any instructions for using spiritual gifts.
What about speaking in tongues? Without going into a detailed study, think about why God might have given people in the early church the ability to speak in languages they did not know. Look at the first instance, in Acts 2:5-11. In that region, at that time, there were many language groups. God wanted everyone to hear the gospel; He made a way for others to not only hear and understand, but to see that this miraculous phenomenon was indeed from the true and living God. It was also a way of demonstrating to Jewish believers that God was indeed saving Gentiles, not just Jews; we covered this in Acts in the passages that speak of tongues: Acts 2:1-11, 10:4, 19:6 (and not mentioned, but implied, in 8:17). Please see my notes on those passages. As the church became established and spread into many regions where people could be taught in their own language, this sign would not be necessary. In fact, any teaching about speaking in tongues is only mentioned in the epistle to the Corinthians. We don't even know that speaking in tongues was found in any other church. If it was important and was to continue as a part of the church, why didn't Paul teach about it in every epistle, as he did about so many topics?
One important reason for the gift of tongues was as a visible sign that someone had received the Holy Spirit--in other words, a visible sign of salvation. Why was this important? The Jews had trouble with the idea that salvation was even for the Gentiles. Read Acts 10:1-11:18, especially noting 10:44-48 and 11:15-18. In the beginning of this new dispensation, tongues was necessary as a sign--a proof--that God was doing a new thing. Also compare Acts 15, especially 8 and 12; tongues were a sign.
Today, is this phenomenon necessary to reach those in our churches? Of course not. Is it necessary to validate the truth of the Scriptures? Not any longer. Is it necessary to prove that all men can be saved now? Not any longer. This fact has been established. If it was for today, missionaries would not have to go to language school; they would just go to a foreign country and rely on the gift of tongues. Those with the gift of tongues, or the gift of interpretation of tongues, would become missionaries and be able to reach the entire world. But everyone knows this is not the case. Why? Speaking in tongues was originally for the purpose of sharing the gospel with people of many languages. Today it is mostly practiced in churches where all speak the same language, yet on the mission field, we do not find God giving the gift of speaking in tongues to share the gospel with other language groups. Why?
When tongues are practiced today, does anyone know what the message is, or if it's even really from God? Paul had this gift, I Cor. 14:18. 14:6-28 discusses the true gift of tongues and its purpose at that time; 28, without an interpreter, the individual is to remain silent. This is not what usually happens today in churches where this practice is found. Tongues without interpretation is unbiblical. Anyone can let something that sounds like tongues come out of his mouth; that does not mean it is the true gift of tongues, or that it is from God. Tongues are easy to counterfeit. Cults and pagan religions also speak in "tongues." This could indicate demonic influence, or simply a little-understood phenomenon of the brain. People who are completely non-religious tell of speaking in tongues (do a Google search on glossalalia); some speak of it happening spontaneously during sex. Most say that while engaging in glossalalia, a feeling of deep peace comes over them (even non-Christians), which Christians will tell you is proof that it's from God. Studies on the brain raise possibilities of release of endorphins. This could be similar to the self-induced trance-like state that comes from meditating and repeating a "mantra." True tongues were actual known languages; they are not repeated nonsense syllables or "prayer languages" which basically repeat a few nonsense syllables over and over. We are to have discernment; we are not to be deceived.
The interpretation of tongues is another spiritual gift. Paul emphasizes the importance of interpretation of tongues in I Cor. 14. He says all languages have meaning, but unless those who hear understand the meaning, it is pointless and immature to speak in tongues. According to 14:5, the person who had the gift of tongues might also have the gift of interpretation.
Since it appears that biblically speaking, at least some of the gifts are not for today, then one wonders if others have ceased too. The early church was made up of young or baby Christians; there were no mature believers to teach and lead. They did not have the complete written Word, only the Old Testament Scriptures. Today the church is equipped with mature believers, and we have the complete written Word of God. The indwelling Holy Spirit works through yielded believers to impart wisdom and knowledge of God, faith, the desire and ability to give, to help, to preach, to teach, to evangelize, to serve, exhort, show mercy. These are the natural outworkings of yielding to and being led by the Spirit. I think it is very possible that spiritual gifts are not in operation today--that they were given to the early church to fulfill a need that no longer exists in the church. Today it seems more likely that perhaps the Spirit may endow various people with certain gifts at different times, as the occasion warrants.
Today, you probably hear about spiritual gifts in your church. If your church is on the Pentecostal, charismatic side, you probably mostly hear about the gifts that sound more supernatural (even though ALL the gifts are, by definition)--tongues, prophecy, healing, miracles, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, even apostleship. You are even EXPECTED to show one or more of these--tongues, at the very least. If you go to a Baptist-type church, your church probably teaches that some of those gifts are no longer given to the church, so you hear about the gifts of teaching, leading, speaking, helping, administration, exhorting, etc. For some reason, these gifts are not talked about as much, or desired, by Pentecostals. There is little evidence that speaking in tongues was common in the church throughout history; they appeared in 1906 at the beginning of the Pentecostal movement--the Azusa Street Revival. They have been common, however, throughout the history of the Mormon church, and are also common in various pagan religions.
Should we really think that we need a supernatural "gift" to serve, teach, exhort, give, lead, or show mercy? Aren't these abilities that arise naturally out of a maturing walk with the Lord? Why is there so much confusion and uncertainty about what gift you have? If you had one, you would know it. Paul never speaks of needing to discover your gift; he talks to his readers as if they know which gift they have. If gifts were a mystery, surely the Bible would tell us HOW to discover them, and not leave us in such confusion.
Humanly-designed "questionnaires" to determine one's gift are not only unbiblical, they are a travesty of Scripture. They are not a product of the Bible, but rather, come from secular humanistic psychology. They can be used by unbelievers as easily as by believers to determine one's "gift" in life. They are based on the idea that your gift has to do with your natural abilities and interests; they are so subjective, you could take the "test" many times and come up with a different gift each time.
On the contrary, I think God often asks us to serve in ways that are NOT natural or comfortable to our natures, so that we would learn to depend on HIM, not on ourselves and our own strength. If serving required supernatural gifts, then many in the church could claim they can't or don't need to do these things because that is not their gift. But in the early church, filled with baby Christians with a minimal amount of knowledge, supernatural abilities from God helped the church to function. The faith, hope, and love mentioned in I Cor. 13 and 14:1 are not spiritual gifts; they are being contrasted with spiritual gifts. Everyone is to exercise faith, hope, and love.
Failing to understand that the gifts of the Spirit were for the unique circumstances of the early church leads to confusion today. Taking the short gifts passages out of context leads to faulty interpretation of the Bible. Understanding the transitional nature of the early church and the apostles solves the mystery of why I can't figure out my spiritual gift. But if you insist that they must still be for today, then you have to find them where they are not found. Then we end up with unbiblical questionnaires. You end up redefining what is meant by prophecy; many say that today, giving out the Word is prophecy, but that can't be because that is the gift of preaching, or teaching. People who have an ability to do something well in the church, whether music or teaching or governing or organizing, are told that that must be their spiritual gift, even though they may have had that ability before they were believers, or they got that ability through practice, falling on their faces many times, and old-fashioned hard work. One must ask: at what point did that ability become a supernatural gift? Spiritual gifts, according to the Bible, are supernatural manifestations of the Spirit; the church today has redefined them as human abilities or interests.
What about those today who seem to display these gifts? When you take the approach of looking and listening for messages from God, and trying to interpret feelings and circumstances, you become open to subjective influences, whether from Self or from Satanic counterfeits and deception. Some believe this is the way to hear from God rather than reading in His Word what He has revealed to us. These messages may be lies, may be your own (innocent) inspiration, or may be from Satan. Mt. 7:22, Jer. 23:25, 26, 32, 27:10, 14-16, 29:9, Ez. 13:2.
Even a passing familiarity with psychology makes it clear that auto-suggestion is a very powerful force. In churches which stress the gifts, there is often pressure (spoken or unspoken) to display a gift, to prove you are saved, baptized in the Spirit or are Spirit-filled. It isn't hard to let repetitive babbling sounds come out of your mouth, especially if you REALLY want them to, but how can you know if that is actually from God? Wise counsel or biblical messages may come from your lips, and you may claim they are a message from God, but are they supernaturally from God, or from your own biblically-informed thoughts? How can others know for sure? Someone who claims to interpret tongues may be giving a subjective message, not truly from God. They may just be speaking something from the Bible that they already know God has said.
Many who speak in tongues repeat a couple of sounds over and over; is this truly another language? Language specialists have taped people speaking in tongues and tried to analyze the sounds to see if they actually resemble the syntax of a language; they do not. Tape recordings of people claiming to be speaking in tongues have been played for various people who claim to have the gift of interpretation of tongues; each interpreter has come up with a completely different message. Pastors have attempted to control their flock by babbling repetitively, then telling people that if they didn't "get it," that just proves the person is not spiritual; of course people are going to pretend they "got it" so as not to become a spiritual outcast in their church. These things may be real, but we must be careful we are not deceiving ourselves. Some churches stress gifts and signs more than they stress knowing God, the study and application of God's Word, or the importance of spiritual growth and yielding to God in all aspects of our lives.
Why do spiritual "gifts" appear for the most part in churches that teach this phenomena? If God was still in the business of imparting spiritual gifts to the church, wouldn't we see Him bestowing them equally among all kinds of churches, wherever there are true believers? It would have nothing to do with their belief system; gifts would appear in ALL churches. God would not be limited in His gift-giving. I find this quite suspicious, and an indication of the power of suggestion within certain groups. Some say that people in "traditional" churches don't ask for gifts, because they are taught gifts are not real. I know people outside of charismatic circles that have sincerely sought spiritual gifts, wondering if they are missing something God has for them--studying, praying, seeking, even repeatedly having hands laid on them by others who have "gifts." Why did God not give them any gifts? Some say, maybe they have them and just don't realize it. The account in Corinthians does not give us any reason to believe that gifts were secretive, that believers had to use questionnaires to discover whether or not they had them or what gift they had. Their gifts were obvious; they just needed to exercise them properly.
God obviously may still work miracles or heal people, whether gradually or miraculously. He leads and guides and works through us in many ways. We've all seen things happen in our lives, large or small, that can only be explained as a miracle. However, God does not seem to still be in the business of raising the dead. It is possible that in some circumstances God still uses these supernatural gifts, particularly as reported by missionaries in foreign countries, to establish their message as authentic truth in contrast to pagan belief systems. But I don't believe He gives individuals these supernatural gifts, such as that of complete and instantaneous healing of all that come to them, as Jesus and the apostles did. Nowhere do we find the church told that from now on, they can get healed whenever they are sick or think they're dying. When people aren't healed today, they are sometimes told that they are, and now it is their responsibility to "claim" their healing so it will manifest itself; if they entertain doubts or negative thoughts, it won't happen. Nowhere in the Bible do we find people healed but leaving in the same state in which they arrived; nowhere do we find them told to "believe" for their healing. We see immediate and instantaneous healing. Lame people jump up, walk and run; they don't need months of therapy to learn to walk. We need to make sure that our theology is based on the Bible, not on experiences, appearances, or feelings. Our Christian walk is to be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, not the gifts of the Spirit.
For further biblical evidence that supernatural spiritual gifts are not needed in the church today, I am including a section on the spiritual gift of teaching. We will look at scriptural reasons why you don't need the supernatural spiritual gift of teaching today.
BIBLICAL REQUIREMENTS FOR TEACHING
I Timothy 3:2, "A bishop [overseer, NASB] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach."
The requirement is that he is "apt" (able) to teach, not that he has the gift of teaching.
II Timothy 2:2, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."
The requirement is that they be "faithful" and "able" to teach others, not that they have the gift of teaching.
II Timothy 2:24, "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient."
The requirement is that he be a godly man and "apt" to teach, not that he has the gift of teaching.
Titus 1:9, "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers [refute those who contradict, NASB]."
Paul is giving Titus the requirements for choosing elders or overseers in every city. There is no mention of the gift of teaching, only that he be "able" and strongly committed to God's Word.
Titus 2:3-4, "The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness [are to be reverent in their behavior, NASB], not false accusers [malicious gossips, NASB], not given to much wine, teachers of good thing; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children."
Older, more mature believers are to teach younger ones. Nothing is said about having the gift of teaching.
Hebrews 5:12, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat."
Paul says that believers who are maturing should be teaching others. He does not qualify this idea with the possession of the spiritual gift of teaching.
The Epistles are the section of the Bible that gives God's directions to the church. What do the Epistles say about teaching? A study of passages that use some form of the word "teach" shows different Greek words in use: didasko, didache, didaskalia, didaktikos, kataecheo.
One Greek word, "didaskalos," includes more in its meaning than "instructor" or "teacher;" it has the connotation of "master" or "doctor." In Strong's, this word for "teacher" is listed as 1320. This term for "teacher" is applied to Jesus many times in the Gospels. It implies great respect. The verb form of 1320 would be 1321, so that word for "teach" would imply teaching with high authority, not just teaching someone what you happen to know.
This sheds some light on the issue of women teaching men. I Timothy 2:12 uses this term for "teach" where women are admonished not to teach men. Apparently women are not to be in the highest position of teaching with authority over men--not functioning as a pastor. Perhaps this may leave room for the possibility of a woman teaching a class that men may be part of, if the woman is not functioning as a "master" teacher in the church.
Paul uses this term in I Corinthians 12:28-29 and Ephesians 4:11 in the lists of spiritual gifts. Apparently this gift of teaching is that of a "master" teacher--one who establishes the doctrine to be taught. Apparently this contrasts with the "average" teacher--anyone with some knowledge who is teaching someone else with less knowledge.
Paul claims to be such a master teacher in I Timothy 2:7 and II Timothy 1:11. In II Timothy 4:3 he warns against the wrong kind of master teacher. In Hebrews 5:12 he chastises those who should be master teachers but instead need to relearn the basics. In James 3:1 he warns that not many should become master teachers because of the stricter judgment to which they will be held. This term is not used in the listing of gifts in Romans 12:7, where Paul is apparently talking about teachers in general, rather than a master teacher.
POWER TO TEACH
In Acts 1:8, what did Jesus promise to all Christians? Power. I Corinthians 12:13 says that all believers have been baptized by the Spirit, and Romans 6:1-7 says that all believers have been baptized into Christ. God provides all believers with His power.
Colossians 1:29, "Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working [power, NASB}, which worketh within me mightily."
I Thessalonians 1:5, "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance..."
Not every mention of "gift" in the New Testament refers to "spiritual gifts." In every passage in Acts that speaks of the gift of the Holy Spirit, the word used for "gift" (dorea) refers to the Holy Spirit whom God has given us, not to "spiritual gifts." Every believer receives the gift of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Holy Spirit. A check of Strong's Concordance can clarify which use of "gift" is used in various other passages.
Abilities and interests are often referred to in church circles as spiritual gifts. This may or may not be true. Everyone has a unique set of abilities and interests, whether they are Christians or not. When you become a Christian, those abilities and interests do not suddenly become your spiritual gifts. You may refer to your special abilities as your spiritual gifts if you like, and in a sense, the abilities we have are from God. But the Bible indicates that spiritual gifts are supernatural.
Many teach that spiritual gifts are related to your personal preferences and strengths. The Bible says just the opposite--God often uses our weaknesses instead of our strengths, so that we will have to rely on Him, not Self. Like mud pots, we are weak, breakable, lowly. Lack of self-confidence, even timidity and fear, are not proof that you are in the wrong ministry. Determining and understanding your personality type could be interesting and helpful. But keep in mind that God may be more interested in stretching you or changing you than using what you think are your strengths.
II Corinthians 4:7, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us [Self]."
II Corinthians 12:9, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength [power, NASB] is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my infirmities [weaknesses, NASB], that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
We find the same principle in the story of Gideon and his army, Judges 6:1-7:25. God went to the family that was least in its tribe, and then chose the youngest of that family--Gideon, a man who struggled with fear and lack of faith. When 32,000 men volunteered to help Gideon deliver Israel, God dismissed all but 300, saying, "The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves [Self] against me, saying, 'Mine own hand [power, NASB] hath saved me.'" (Judges 7:2)
Acts 4:33, "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all."
What if you do suffer from timidity, fear, lack of self-confidence, stage-fright, self-doubt or whatever? Acknowledge your weakness, do whatever you can to prepare yourself for whatever He has given you to do, and then choose to rely on God's power. In your teaching, keep the focus on God and on those you are teaching, not on yourself or your uncertainties. Discipline yourself to stop focusing on your feelings--on Self.
II Timothy 1:7, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind [discipline, NASB]."
Another teacher may have just the opposite struggle--with ego, pride, cockiness, boastfulness, confidence in Self, a desire for recognition and admiration. The Gideon principle applies to this teacher also. God will find a way to convict that boastful spirit or to keep you from relying on yourself. We are to use our God-given brains to the best of our abilities, but Proverbs 3:5 says we are not to "lean" on our own understanding. God will humble the one who is proud, Job 40:12, Daniel 4:37.
If you have the desire and opportunity to teach and have studied and prepared yourself, rely on God's power to work through your humble efforts. God will "fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power" (II Thessalonians 1:11). Any able Christian can teach, or try teaching, just as anyone can learn to play the piano if he practices and desires to play. As with any skill, practice and study improves one's ability level. Some have or will develop a knack for teaching, while others will dislike it, struggle, be ineffective, be discouraged or quit. Not everyone will become a teacher, and even fewer will become master teachers, but perhaps the only way to find out is to try.
Because of a faulty understanding of spiritual gifts, one could claim, "I can't try teaching. I don't think I have the gift of teaching." Or a poor teacher, by claiming he has the gift of teaching, could justify hanging onto his position or not improving his teaching. The New Testament does not support the idea that today one must have the spiritual gift of teaching in order to teach. All believers have been given the capacity and the power to serve God in whatever opportunity He brings our way. "According as his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him…" (II Peter 1:3).
If you are struggling with your teaching opportunities, that is not necessarily an indication that you shouldn't be teaching. God often puts us in situations where we feel inadequate--for what purpose? Paul is a great Bible teacher, yet look at what he says about his teaching ability: "And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling, and my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Corinthians 2:3-5). See also II Corinthians 3:5, Philippians 4:13, I Peter 4:11.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul spends much time correcting their misuse of gifts, as well as correcting the many other problems stemming from their carnal, immature spiritual lives. He chides them for focusing on these gifts, rather than the "more excellent way," which is love (I Corinthians 12:31, 13:1-13). He mentions spiritual gifts in the letters to the churches in Rome and Ephesus. In both instances, as in the Corinthian letter, he then points them to the importance of love, relating the discussion to growing and being conformed to Christ (Romans 12:1-13 and Ephesians 4:11-16). Worrying or wondering about your spiritual gift takes the focus off God and puts it on Self. Focus on God and His Word--trust and obey--and the rest will take care of itself.
Back to Romans 12…
9-21 The rest of the chapter contains exhortations about Christian behavior. Many Christians try to find God's will for their life, thinking that means God has a detailed blueprint for the daily decisions we make, or at least for what we think are the "big" ones. The Bible does not teach that God has that kind of a will; God's will as revealed in the Bible is His moral will, His desire that we live a moral life. This section is a good example of what God's will is for us-specific things that should characterize our lives.
9 How can we obey this verse? How might one love with hypocrisy? Which is more important, the outward act or the inward motivation and attitude? Today it is popular to be "cool" with everything: "Don't make value judgments, just go along with whatever. After all, there is no right or wrong. What's right for me may not be right for you, and vice versa." What does the Bible say about this philosophy? What about when something within the church is not right? What if you abhor evil in the church, but other people in the church are uncomfortable with confronting it? Or what about in your family, or your workplace?
10 How can we obey this verse? Popular psychology says to fulfill self; self comes first. "You're worth it!" The Bible says God first, then others, and self last. Does the Bible teach that we are to then be "doormats?" Some Christians, especially women, take "self last" to the extreme. Is it wrong to say "no" to the demands of others? We need to look at the lives of Jesus, Paul, and others to find a healthy balance.
11 How are we to serve the Lord? Half-heartedly? Because it's your duty? Because there is just no one else to do that job, so you force yourself, with clenched jaw and bad attitude? "Diligence," "fervent in spirit"--laziness is not pleasing to God in any aspect of our lives. Col. 3:23, I Thes. 4:11-12, I Tim. 5:13.
12 Even when life is boring, confusing, painful or bleak, what can we rejoice about? How should we act when God brings difficulties into our lives? Job 1:20-22, Ps. 119:67, 71, 75, 92, Rom. 5:3-5, II Cor. 1:3-11, 4:7-11, Heb. 10:32-35, James 1:2-4, 12. What should we talk to God about? How much, how often? Can we talk to God while driving or doing dishes? What subjects do we find listed in the Lord's Prayer, Mt. 6:9-13?
13 How can we obey this verse? What is one reason we put money in the offering plate? What are other ways we can obey this verse? Hospitality implies taking care of strangers; in our day, we must balance this with common sense regarding safety. Perhaps it refers to visiting believers who need a place to eat and sleep; in those days they didn't have motels.
14 In the Old Testament, believers were allowed to take revenge, up to an eye for an eye. They were not commanded to love their enemies. God often commanded them to kill them, wiping out entire families and nations. Now, under a new dispensation, God has given us a different, harder requirement. Bless = thank, praise, invoke a benediction upon (Strong's). Bless is the opposite of curse. Mt. 5:44-47, I Cor. 4:12.
15 How can we obey this verse? We are to care about others, from our hearts, and share their concerns. Job 30:25, John 11:33-36, Gal. 6:2, Heb. 13:3.
16 Paul says the same thing in several different ways. This is similar to what he said in 3, so this must have been a big problem in the church--pride, self-importance, looking down the nose, inflated egos. Is it a problem today in the church? How can we obey this verse? Are we to stress self-esteem? Knowing that we are of value in God's eyes, that He loves us, that He gave His Son for us, that even the hairs of our head are numbered (Mt. 10:30-31), should all give us a healthy sense of worth. Does "being of the same mind" mean we are to engage in cult-like "groupthink"? If we are in agreement with God's Word, we should all have the mind of Christ, I Cor. 2:16, Phil. 1:27, 2:2.
17 Are we to "get even"? We are to do right and be considerate of others. NASV, "respect what is right;" KJV, "provide things honest." Much damage is done to the church when Christians are not honest in their business dealings in the community. "In the sight of all men"--one reason is that others see how Christians act, and judge the church by a couple of "bad apples." We need to be very careful how we live, even when we think no one is watching or listening. We do not want to be guilty of dragging the Lord's name through the mud. What about things we do that no one sees?
18 How can we obey this verse? The wording here seems to imply that sometimes it is just impossible to be at peace with some people. But we are to try. "In so far as it depends on" who? Make sure that you are not the one at fault.
19-21 Similar to 14 and 17; again, this must have been a problem in the church. Is it still? Vengeance is for who? Who will do a better job of it--you or God? Do we want God to be merciful to that person, to forgive him? But did we want God to forgive US? Did we deserve it? Can we know how or when He will--in this life or the next? We want the satisfaction of seeing God's vengeance carried out, but that may not be part of His plan. Why might He wait? Just thank Him that He is taking care of it, and rest in that knowledge. This quote has been explained in several ways; I don't know which is accurate. Even better than revenge is what, 21? You can choose to let evil make you bitter for the rest of your life, but you can also choose not to.
1-2 What is to be the Christian's attitude toward the governing authorities? Why? What is the opposite of submission? Rebelliousness. This includes teachers and parents (for children), bosses, law enforcement, government--anyone in a position of authority over you. If you have a problem with rebelliousness, will you find it easy to yield to God? If you claim that God's or man's authority does not apply to you, are you setting yourself above that authority? The Old Testament has quite a bit to say about Israel's rebellion against God; this is a warning for us, the church. Does the requirement to forgive others mean we can't use the courts when we have been victims of a crime? Scripture does not say this; here we see that all are to obey and be under the laws of the land. If someone has wronged you and broken the law, it is not unscriptural to press charges. We saw in Acts that Paul, several times, appealed to the courts and the authorities, demanding his legal rights. Government, including capital punishment, was instituted by God following the flood, Gen. 9:5-6. Later, He gave the Law, a more detailed standard with detailed consequences. Before the flood, man was operating according to each individual's conscience. God tested man differently in each of these dispensations.
3-5 Should we fear authority? Why not? Does Paul limit this to good, moral governments or officials? Was the Roman Empire a democracy or the most moral of authorities? Is Christianity a movement for political or social reformation? It does address how individual believers are to live within their circumstances. We are also to pray for those in authority over us, I Tim. 2:1-3. 4, "sword" would be a reference to capital punishment, one of the God-ordained roles of government to keep our sin nature in check. The Law specified that many crimes were punishable by death. Christians are to keep a clear conscience and to live in a law-abiding manner so as not to incur the wrath of the authorities.
6-7 Some Christians don't believe in paying taxes; what does the Bible say about this? Compare Mt. 22:15-22. In Mt. 17:24-27, Jesus told Peter that although they should be exempt from the polltax, they would pay it anyway so as not to cause offense. Tribute and custom refer to types of taxes; he says fear and honor are also due our leaders because of their God-given authority.
8-10 What one word sums up the Law? Does that mean warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does it mean kindness, the Golden Rule? Luke 10:25-37, when Jesus told this to a lawyer, the lawyer asked Jesus to define "neighbor." Jesus answered with the parable of the good Samaritan. What does this parable teach about "love" and "like"? Love is about actions, not feelings. Some take this verse to forbid borrowing money or buying on credit; would you agree? Owe nothing in the sense that we are to pay our debts, but the debt of love is never paid. We are always to love. What happens when Christians do not pay their debts or keep their word?
11 Do what? How can we know the time? By studying Bible prophecy? By watching the news? By comparing the two? What did Jesus tell people in Mat. 16:2-3? Sometimes the Bible uses "sleep" to mean "death" but here it cannot mean that; here the Greek word means a spiritual stupor (Strong's). Why do believers have a problem with this? (If you watched or read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," compare Edmund's attitude after eating the witch's candy.) Eph. 5:14, I Thes. 5:6. These verses do not say to pray that God will wake us up; it tells US to wake up. This is one reason I do not believe in the practice of "revivals." It is not scriptural to pray for an awakening, as if that were something that happens to us or to our church; we have been told to wake up. We just need to obey and do it. If we are already saved, what is meant by our salvation being nearer? So salvation has a present and a future meaning.
12 Again contrasting waking and sleeping, Paul now mentions night and day, specifically "the day." Throughout the Bible, the terms "the day," "that day" and "the day of the Lord" usually refer to the endtimes; not a 24-hour day, that time period includes both the tribulation and the millenial kingdom. (Use Strong's to do a word study, and be sure to read verses in context.) The day of the Lord begins with the tribulation, a very dark time, just as the Jewish day began at sundown, with night. This "day" cannot begin until the church has been removed from the earth to meet Christ in the air, I Thes. 4:13-5:11 and II Thes. 2:1-12. So this verse says this "day" is at hand; the church could be snatched away soon and we should be prepared. This is called the doctrine of imminence; no prophesied events must take place before the rapture; we are not watching for any other signs that would precede this event. The church is not warned to watch out for the Antichrist or the mark of the beast or to be preparing for the great tribulation that is coming to the earth. (Israel, on the other hand, IS warned about this time, Mt. 24.) Because of this fact, what does Paul say we should do? Again, these are things we do; they are not things that we hope will happen to us. "Lay aside" and "put on" are commands to the believer. What is this armor? Compare Eph. 6:13-17.
13 Six sins are mentioned here, apparently in connection with the "deeds of darkness." The first four are considered unacceptable within most churches. Since Paul is addressing believers, is he addressing a problem in the church? Do Christians today struggle with these issues also? What about the last two? Aren't these two often found in many churches? Aren't they tolerated and not confronted? Yet they are all lumped together as things we should not do. The Bible does not divide lists of sins into acceptable sins vs. unacceptable sins, yet this attitude is found in many churches. Aren't all sins serious in God's eyes? We need to adjust our attitude about sin. Sin is one of the major themes of this book.
14 Again we have the command to believers, "put on." Compare Gal. 3:27. We are not needing to be saved over and over; we have already clothed ourselves with Christ. Eph. 4:24, we do need to continually choose to put on the new self, as Paul discussed in Rom. 6. Col. 3:8-11, what are we to put aside? What are we to put on? 3:12-14, what else are we to put on? 3:15-16, what are we to "let"? 3:17, what are we to do? These are all daily choices for the believer. So Paul contrasts these positives with what negative? How might we "make provision for the flesh"? The context tells us that this is not talking about providing for the daily needs of our physical bodies. Strong's: provision = forethought. Romans 6-8 make it clear that the flesh is the old nature.
This chapter deals with what we call "gray areas," things that are not forbidden in Scripture but which Christians disagree on and wonder how they should handle. Sometimes we wish things were spelled out more in black and white, like they were under the Law, for Israel. But God has chosen to test us, the church, under grace. We have freedom to choose in some matters, which means some Christians will decide differently than other Christians. Paul gives us some guidelines.
1 What are some possible reasons for being physically weak? What are some possible reasons someone may be weak in faith? He may be a new or an immature believer, or a legalistic one. He may be lacking in food (good Bible teaching) or in exercise (to strengthen his spiritual muscles). His conscience may be easily influenced by others. Weak believers are to be accepted/received, not judged or argued with, by the one who is stronger in faith (having more knowledge of the Bible, who is strong in his conscience and convictions). Accept/receive: (Strong's) to take as one's companion, to take by the hand in order to lead aside, to receive into one's home with the idea of kindness. What are some reasons why some Christians think "everything" is a no-no? Some have grown up in extremely legalistic churches or homes. Some came out of a very sinful lifestyle so they go overboard the other direction when they get saved. Many of these, as they grow stronger in their faith, will realize the Christian life is NOT basically about "don'ts", but others stay in that mindset, and become die-hard legalists, trying to lay guilt trips on everyone else, like the Pharisees. These are not "weaker brothers" in the sense Paul is talking about here. Did Jesus handle the Pharisees/hypocrites with kid gloves and bend over backwards not to offend them?
2 Who is the one who is "weak in faith"? Paul is referring to the matter of whether all foods can be eaten by believers, or whether they should not eat meat. In I Cor. 8-10, he is discussing the matter of whether believers may eat food which has been offered to idols. Some believers took a narrow view of what was acceptable; others felt that a believer could eat all foods. Some, particularly those who had come out of idolatry, felt it was sinful to eat such food; others felt that because an idol was nothing, it didn't matter, I Cor. 8:4. Which does Paul describe as weak? The one with the overly sensitive conscience. I Cor. 8:7-8.
Is food offered to idols a major issue in the church today? What are some gray areas that divide Christians today? We haggle over what is acceptable for Christians in matters of dress, entertainment, how or whether to celebrate Christmas or Halloween, slang/cussing, smoking, and drinking, for example--any matter which the Bible does not address or forbid. But the principles Paul gives apply to all gray areas. We are not to pass judgment on how the other Christian chooses to act in that matter. According to Paul, the stronger Christian is less concerned about strict do's and don'ts, or what we call legalism. Ironically, the legalist, the one who has the stricter list of do's and don'ts, probably sees himself as the stronger Christian. But we will see that it has more to do with the heart, with motives.
3 What attitude should differing Christians NOT have toward each other? If you are a believer, God has accepted/received you because of your faith in Christ's payment for your sin, not because of what you do or don't do. Should we be able to have calm Bible-based discussions with others about our differing positions?
4 We are all accountable to whom? Here our relationship to God is likened to servant/master. The Bible also presents our relationship as that of child/father, subject/king, sheep/shepherd.
5 What do these two differ over? What is this talking about? Gal. 4:8-11 implies that feeling the need (i.e., requirement) to observe such things indicates weak faith and lack of knowledge-spiritual immaturity. Which one in 14:5 is weaker in faith? Why? According to 14:2, the weaker one is the legalist, the one who believes he MUST do certain things. Is there a difference between limiting your freedom because you WANT to or because you feel you HAVE to? In the early church, many believers were Jewish. Some WANTED to retain the customs of the Law, celebrating feast days and observing the Sabbath. Some thought they HAD to, as in "Christ PLUS the Law," and some actually taught that this was required. Others believed they had freedom from the Law and no longer observed those things. Some probably weren't sure, and lacking their own convictions, or being easily influenced by others, merely copied what they saw other believers doing. Col. 2:16-17, observing certain days or stricter diets are focusing on issues that are actually non-issues; what is the substance?
6-9 Regardless of which position you take on gray areas, what is the important issue? WHY you are doing it--the reason, the motive of your heart. God is as concerned with the motive as the act, if not more so. Here is the crux of the matter: is the Christian life about us or about God?
10 Verses 10 and 13 talk about judging others. What does it mean to judge? Strong's: to decide, determine, distinguish (right from wrong); also, to condemn, to try someone, to call into question. Is it ever wrong to do the first group of meanings? The Bible often speaks of this type of judging. We are ALWAYS to be doing these things. The second group of meanings can be controversial. Some say the Bible teaches we are NOT to judge others in this way, some say it teaches we ARE to judge others. Let's look at a few of the main passages about judging (there are many others).
There are two New Testament passages that say NOT to judge; this section, and Mt. 7:1-5. Consider the context in each. 1) Mt. 7:1-5, Jesus is not speaking to the church but to individuals. 2) Rom. 14:10,13 is talking about how individual Christians in a church may choose differently in the matter of gray areas, those not specifically addressed or forbidden in Scripture.
But I Cor. 5:9-13 says we ARE to judge. The context here is the church, regarding things the Bible clearly says are wrong. The church must judge itself since Christ is not here on earth to act as judge, and the church IS the body of Christ. The church is told to maintain unity, but when sin in the church is not dealt with, there can be no unity. When the church functions as the Bible teaches, then there can be unity. The verses in Matthew and Romans are often quoted and misinterpreted by those who do not wish to obey the Bible, whether personally or in the uncomfortable matter of administering church discipline. Mt. 18:15-17, II Thes. 3:6, and I Tim. 5:20 also deal with the matter of judging within the church, although they don't use the word "judge."
The church as a body is told to judge; the other two passages seem to be speaking against individuals judging individuals.
Compare John 7:24; there is a right and wrong way to judge. What kind of judging is Mt. 7:1-5 talking about? Humility involves cleaning up your own act before you try to clean up someone else's, or condemn them for not doing so. Self-righteousness is comparing yourself to others and looking down your nose at them. If you are going to accuse someone, whether publicly or just in your own thoughts, or in your conversation with someone else, make SURE you are not guilty of the same thing (or worse!). If you don't do this, you are a what? We can be blind to our own faults; we need to ask God to show us and convict us of our own sins. A few verses farther we have the golden rule; the idea is to treat others the way you want to be treated.
11-13 Before we judge another individual in this matter, we need to remember that WE will do what one day? What might it mean to put an obstacle or stumbling block in a brother's way? Paul will go on to explain.
14 Here is another verse that, taken out of context, could be very misleading. Is Paul saying that NOTHING is unclean? What about murder, or homosexuality, or sex outside of marriage, or anything else forbidden in the Bible? The Bible does not contradict itself. The context here is foods; "unclean" is a term in the Law describing certain kinds of foods or animals. He is NOT saying that if you can convince yourself that sex outside of marriage is OK, that for you it is OK.
15 The context is about what? Apparently a strong believer, who knows all food is now permissible (Acts 10:9-16), can put a stumbling block in the way of a weaker brother, one who thinks he ought not to eat certain foods, by eating those foods in front of him, or by serving those foods to him, and influencing him to go against his own conscience. Compare I Cor. 8:9-12. The stronger brother might eat meat offered to idols at his own home or someone else's, or at an unbeliever's home, I Cor. 10:27.
We mentioned earlier the legalistic believer who is NOT weak in faith or conscience but is rather a Pharisee/hypocrite. Exercising your freedom in front of this believer will not influence him to go against his conscience; you are not putting a stumbling block in front of him, even though he may accuse you of offending him. But it is his own CHOICE to take offense at you, for the purpose of condemning you.
16-18 If the brother who is stronger in faith and knowledge exercises his freedom in front of a weaker brother, he might be doing wrong. Can the same act be right or wrong, depending on the circumstance and motive? The Christian life is not about what, but what? Focusing on do's and don'ts misses or falls short of the main point. Is righteousness an inner quality or outward acts? Israel in the Old Testament had the same problem, thinking rituals and sacrifices equated righteousness. Might serving Christ mean giving up some of our freedoms in certain situations?
19-20 What is the "do"? What should we pursue? What might those things be? What does pursue mean? What is the "don't"? So something that is OK to do can be evil under what circumstances? If the stronger brother wrongly flaunts his freedom, he is guilty of giving offense. However, this does not say he may never exercise his freedom; only that he needs to exercise discernment.
21 Now Paul mentions another action that causes division--drinking wine. Does this say drinking wine is wrong? If so, it also means eating meat is wrong. But might doing either one be wrong in certain circumstances? Does the Bible condemn drinking wine, or drunkenness? John 2:1-11, Christ's first miracle was turning water into wine; why would He do that if drinking wine were a sin? What does Paul counsel Timothy to do in I Tim. 5:23? Some teach that wine in Bible days was not what we would consider wine today, but if this were true, why the warnings against getting drunk? Some Christians drink wine in moderation; some believe any drinking is a sin--publicly or privately. Even though drinking in moderation is not condemned, we also ought to recognize that today, moderate drinking can have more serious consequences today than in Bible days. Today an impaired driver can maim or kill; in Bible days, a drunk could fall in the mud, or tumble off his donkey.
22-23 Paul emphasizes the importance of developing your own convictions based on God's Word--not basing your actions on what you were told or what others are doing. We should always have a clear conscience, 22. Even though Paul has already indicated that eating all foods is permissible, he says here that if you do it without a clear conscience, your own conscience condemns you and it is sin for you. Is 23 saying that if we act against our conscience, we are condemned, as in losing our salvation? Or is it saying that by doing so, our own conscience condemns us? The weaker brother may act against his conscience because his faith is weak. Does this say doubting is a sin or a cause of condemnation? Doubting is only wrong if it drives you AWAY from God; if it causes you to seek biblical answers to your questions, it is good.
1-2 What neighbor are we to please? All our neighbors? How does Paul define this neighbor in 1? These verses are sometimes misinterpreted to say that we should never do anything that might offend anyone, just in case. This destroys the liberty we have in Christ, and puts us back in bondage to legalism. (To please: to accommodate one's self to the opinions, desires, and interests of others.) But in 1, Paul references "those without strength," those lacking knowledge and conviction, as we saw in Rom. 14. Some Christians who are legalistic and judgmental take offense at all other Christians that are not as strict as they themselves are; these are not the ones Paul says to please. Those Christians choose to "take" offense; Paul does not say that all Christians should avoid doing anything that offends a Christian that has a problem with being judgmental. In fact, Mt. 7:1-5 tells believers NOT to be judgmental in that way. Paul is talking about knowingly "giving" offense to one who is untaught and immature. Our actions are to edify the immature believer, to promote Christian growth.
3 What did Christ choose to do that was not pleasant--pleasing to Self? Who did He do it for? Why? This verse quotes from Psalm 69, a prophetic psalm that pictures the crucifixion. 69:9 might mean that He would suffer the taunting of scoffers, or it might refer to bearing the sins of those who are enemies of God. Our value system is not to be like that of the world, stressing the rights and needs of Self, but rather the interests of God and of others. Did Christ try to please, or avoid offending, the Pharisees, who were strict and legalistic?
4 What is one purpose of the Old Testament, for the church? Many Christians do not think it is important to read and study the Old Testament; nothing could be farther from the truth. While the Old Testament is a historical record of the beginning of mankind, of Israel, and of the line leading to Christ, at the same time, God providentially built into it pictures, allegories, and types of the Christian life. In I Cor. 10:1-11, what does Paul want the church to be aware of, 1? Moses and the Israelites ate real food and drank real water, but he calls it what kind of food and drink? Water came out of a real rock, but Paul calls it what kind of rock? Why? Because who is the Rock? 6, those events are what for us? Why? 6-10, so that we would learn lessons from them; Paul gives a few specific examples. 11, they were written down for what purpose? So does God want us to study the Old Testament? To ignore the Old Testament is to choose to be ignorant of much of what God has for us. What does Paul say we need in this study of the Scriptures? Doesn't that imply some work on our part? Does God hand us knowledge if we don't read and study? And what does he say we get from it?
5-6 Are we on our own in this business of working at learning God's Word? Is this saying that believers have to think the same about everything? About what, 5? For what purpose, 6? Paul has just explained that it is OK for believers to think differently about some things, but not about Jesus Christ, not about the basic clear teachings of scripture. Does this sound like that kind of agreement comes automatically? How do we come to such a knowledge and agreement about Christ (refer back to 4)? What is the purpose of this knowledge--is it just for ourselves? The gift of salvation is not primarily for us; it is to bring glory to God. Everything we do, every decision in these gray areas, should glorify God. What does it mean to glorify God? Strong's: to make or render glorious (dignity, praise, worship, honor), full of glory, honor; to magnify (to make large, increase, speak proudly), lift up. We are told to glorify God the Father, and He glorifies Christ, Acts 3:13, John 16:14. 17:1,5.
7 Is this saying to accept all behavior? Popular/liberal/New Age thinking says this is what Christians and everyone else are to do--be tolerant. They say the Bible teaches tolerance. Tolerance is the highest virtue in today's society. How does Paul say we are to accept others? Does Christ accept all behavior, or all people? What DOES He accept? How does God feel about sinful behavior? Does God tolerate sin, and sinners? Remember the context--believers judging other believers about making different choices in doubtful areas not addressed or forbidden in Scripture.
8-9 What group is mentioned in 8? In 9? Christ brings the truth of God to both groups; that includes everyone in the world. Much of the world today believes there is no absolute truth; the Bible says there is. It can't be both ways; the Bible is either right or wrong about this. The Bible says God's truth does not change. According to these verses, God is doing different things with each group. Who are "the fathers"? The patriarchs of Israel--Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. What promises did God give them that He is still confirming? Compare Rom. 4. Salvation, through the promised Messiah. Why should the Gentiles glorify God for His mercy? Although the promises were made to Israel, the Gentiles have access to God's righteousness too, through the Messiah. Compare Rom. 4:9-13. The Jews needed to understand and accept that salvation for the Gentiles had been part of God's plan from the beginning, as indicated by these Old Testament quotes.
9-12 Although the church was never mentioned or prophesied in the Old Testament, it was foreshadowed. There are many Old Testament references to how God will deal with the Gentiles in the future. Although the church is a "mystery," (Eph. 5:32, Col. 1:25-27)--something not revealed earlier--it is not an afterthought in God's program. Paul's purpose in this section has been to show these two different groups within the church that they need not be divided over the issues they were struggling with.
13 Paul concludes his teaching to the church at Rome and begins his closing remarks. What are some of the benefits of believing? Don't some believers seem to lack these things? Why might that be? One reason might be a lack of knowledge of God's Word. Just as lack of eating physical food results in slow growth, weakness, lack of energy, or illness, so does lack of spiritual food. It's hard to apply knowledge you don't have. Another possible reason might be personality types; some people are naturally morose, negative, insecure, fearful, or easily depressed. But the Bible says hope, joy and peace (and all the fruits of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22-23) are for all believers, because all have whose power?
If a believer struggles with emotional, mental or behavioral issues, is a counselor or psychologist necessary, or MIGHT the answer be in a better understanding and application of Scripture? Some pastors and Christian counselors teach that for these kinds of problems, the Bible alone is not enough. Compare II Cor. 3:5, II Tim. 3:17. While some biblically oriented counselors can be helpful to the Christian, too often "Christian counselors" try to combine Christianity with the humanistic, anti-biblical principles of secular psychology. Too often the behavior problems of immature, half-hearted, untaught, or backsliding Christians are labeled "mental illness" as if the problems are something that have "happened" to the individual, rather than being the responsibility of the individual. Christians who choose to go to a counselor or psychologist need to exercise extreme care and compare everything to the Bible. Check out Psychoheresy.
14 Paul has written the Romans a meaty letter full of heavy theology; his main purpose was not to correct problems, as in some other epistles. What three qualities does Paul mention about this church? How does a church develop these qualities? We get a picture of the Roman believers as perhaps more mature than some others; compare I Cor. 1:10-13, 3:1-4, Gal. 1:6.
15 Because they were able to handle it, he wrote boldly to them, so as to what? Believers need repetition, because our memories are short and our attention wanders. This also points to the fact that they did not have the written New Testament. They were in even greater need of being reminded of what they had been taught. Paul qualifies his remarks; they are not his own, as a man, but from who? When we approach others about biblical truth, it is more effective to say "the Bible says" rather than "I think" or "I believe." If the only authority we appeal to is Self ("I believe)," then the other person's idea carries equal weight when they disagree by stating what THEY believe.
16 Paul's ministry was mainly to the Gentiles, as Peter's was to the Jews, Gal. 2:7. Paul uses language his Jewish readers could relate to: the ministry of a priest, offering a sacrifice to God. Was Paul a priest, functioning as a go-between, a mediator between God and men? I Tim. 2:5, is there any need for a priest or mediator today?
17-19 If there is anything Paul could boast about, it is only that "what" has been accomplished "how"? Obedience involves what two things? Signs and wonders, or attesting miracles, prove that Paul is operating under what power? Remember, Paul was preaching something new, and people were skeptical, John 4:48. The ability of the apostles to do miracles was proof that this was of God, not of man. Attesting miracles were the credentials of the Messiah, and those to whom He delegated His power. Is. 35:5-6, 58:6, 61:1, Mt. 9:35, Luke 7:22, Heb. 2:3-4. Miracles don't seem to be part of the ongoing work of the church; in II Cor. 12:12, Paul speaks of how attesting miracles were worked among them (past tense), right after he explains that God didn't remove his weakness, his thorn in the flesh, after he asked God three times to be healed. He goes on to explain why God's plan was for him to have this weakness. Now the true way is to be determined, not by miracles, but by the test of doctrine, of biblical truth: does this person adhere to Scripture? Acts 17:11, 20:27-32, Gal. 1:8-9, I John 4:2, 6. In II John and III John, note all the references to truth.
20-21 Paul preached where Christ had not already been preached. Others were preaching too in various places.
22-24 Do the plans of a godly man always work out? Some teach that if you have a strong desire in your heart that won't go away, it is from God, and that means He will fulfill it, as if that is a promise for us to claim. These verses refute that. Should we make plans? Paul did. In 32, he says he will come by God's will--if it is God's will, it will happen. Paul doesn't claim to know God's will regarding daily events or plans for his life. The Bible does not indicate that we can know these things, or even that God has a will for us about our plans and choices. God's will for us is that we do obey Him and do what is right and good. But what has God promised us for making decisions? James 1:5. Does it say that after we ask for this, we will FEEL wise, and FEEL sure about our decision? 6-8 says that after we ask, we are to then act in faith that God has answered our prayer.
25-29 What was Paul going to do in Jerusalem? The church was born in Jerusalem--full of believing Jews, Acts 2--then began to scatter due to persecution, Acts 8-10. Then they began to send men out to preach to the Gentiles, Acts 11:19-22. Now the Gentiles could do something in return. This is a principle of Christian giving; a pastor shares spiritual things with his church, to meet their spiritual needs, and they share what they have with him to meet his physical needs. I Cor. 9:4-11. "Fruit" doesn't always mean bringing others to the Lord; here it seems to mean evidence of their salvation.
30-33 What does Paul ask for prayer about? Too often our prayers are for things, for "stuff," for everything to turn out so we get our way. What does it mean to strive in prayer? Strong's: to struggle in company with, to be a partner, assistant. Paul knew he could be in danger in Judea; he himself used to persecute Christians. Saints are not special Christians; the word means "consecrated, set apart, blameless" (which we are in God's eyes because of Christ). "Saints" refer to believers. Are we willing to pray that God's will be done, or do we pray that OUR will be done?
Greetings sent to many, both men and women who were active helpers and workers in the early church. We see Jewish and Gentile names, and names which appear to be common slave names. The church was comprised of men and women, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free men, Gal. 3:28. Paul had not been to the church in Rome, yet he knew or knew of all these people. Apparently many of them had had contact with him elsewhere, and had been taught or led to the Lord by him. We are not given many details about them, but each is important to Paul for some reason, each with their own untold story. We see in this chapter that Christianity is not something for Sunday morning, for the pew, but is a way of life. Believers are truly brothers and sisters--a family. We see people who are committed to the cause of Christ, and to their fellow believers.
1-2 It is interesting that the first person Paul speaks of is a woman. Some people say that Christianity degrades women because the Bible teaches that women are not to usurp the man's position in marriage or in the church's teaching ministry. (Why is that? Gen. 3:16) But, throughout history, under which religion do we see women having the most rights? Christianity. Women are prominent in the early church, as well as in the ministry of Jesus. Phoebe is a servant, or deaconess. Women held positions of leadership in the early church. Paul speaks very highly of this woman.
3-5 The next person mentioned is also a woman. She and her husband are also mentioned in Acts 18:1-3, 18, 26, I Cor. 16:19, II Tim. 4:19. In other places they are referred to with his name first; now her name is mentioned first. This could indicate that she became the more spiritually prominent of the couple.
5 At least some churches met in homes at that time, I Cor. 16:19, Col. 4:15, Phil. 2. Why might this be? Today we use the word "church" to refer to the building that the church meets in, but this is not the biblical meaning of the word "church." The church is the body of Christ--all those who have believed since the resurrection, those who have the indwelling Holy Spirit--until the church is caught up to be with the Lord prior to the great tribulation. It is only one group of believers; those who believed before and after that are not part of the church. Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:18, 24-27.
There is nothing special or holy about a church building. It is often mistakenly referred to as "God's house." This is confusing the church with the Jewish temple, which WAS the place where God met with His people. Ex. 25:1-22, 26:33-35, 40:9, 34-38. Likewise, today many confuse Sunday with the Jewish Sabbath, believing that Sunday is the day of rest, even calling Sunday the Sabbath. Nowhere does the Bible change the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Saturday is still the Sabbath, but we are no longer to observe the Sabbath, because we, the church, are no longer under the Law. Christ fulfilled the Law for us, Mt. 5:17. Interestingly, Christ, in His teaching, repeated all the commandments except the fourth, the one about keeping the Sabbath. He purposefully broke the Sabbath on many occasions. Heb. 4:1-10 makes it clear that Sabbath-keeping was a type, or a picture, of the rest from works that the New Testament believer has in Christ. The early church is described as meeting on the first day of the week, although it was never commanded. The first day of the week is when Christ was resurrected--the defining truth of the New Testament. The Sabbath honored the day God rested from His work of creation, which was the defining truth of the Old Testament. One reason people get confused on these issues is a lack of study of the Old Testament. Another reason is a failure to distinguish Israel and the church as two different groups, in two different dispensations. The church is not found in the Old Testament. Actually the church is not yet present in the Gospels; much of Jesus' teaching was to and about Israel and the promised kingdom.
7 "Kinsmen" (also in 11 and 21) probably means they are fellow Jews. Compare 9:3. "Outstanding among the apostles" could mean the apostles held them in high regard. Or it could mean that there were other apostles (eyewitnesses of the risen Lord, Acts 1:21-25) besides the 12, just as the Gospels speak of many disciples besides the 12 who had been chosen for a special purpose. These two had been believers longer than Paul had.
13 Rufus could be the one mentioned in Mark 15:21. If so, we might speculate that his father Simon became a believer, and that since he is not mentioned here but Rufus's mother is, that Simon has already died.
16 Apparently the kiss was the common greeting of that day and that culture, as the handshake or hug is in our day and culture. The point is that Christians are to be warm and welcoming.
17 One last warning. This gives us a clue about some of the problems already going on at that time. Does he tell the church to just love, forgive and accept every believer, regardless of their doctrinal position or their behavior? There were troublemakers in the church then, just as today, and various people teaching in the church; it was not all OK. They were not to be naïve, but to keep their eye on these people. He gives a similar warning to the leaders of the church at Ephesus in Acts 20:28-31; be on guard, be on the alert. So are they to accept all teaching and all behavior by all who call themselves Christians, or are they to exercise discernment? What does Paul tell the church to do at the end of 17? This falls under the category of church discipline. What had he commended them for in 14?
Some churches stress the importance of unity over truth, but the Bible stresses truth much more than unity. We are told that all believers are of one body, and we are told to be of one mind. If we are in agreement with God's Word, we should all have the mind of Christ, I Cor. 2:16, Phil. 1:27, 2:2. Eph. 4:3 says we are to preserve or keep the unity of the Spirit; unity isn't something that we can create. God gives it; we can only preserve it. Eph. 4:13 says unity in the body is the result of growing in knowledge, of maturity. Nowhere is it stated or implied that truth should ever be sacrificed or downplayed for the sake of unity. Rather, unity is to be sacrificed for the sake of truth, Rom. 16:17, I Cor. 5:11-13, Gal. 2:11-14, Eph. 5:11, II Thes. 3:6, 14, I Tim. 5:20. These references indicate that churches are to exercise disciplinary action against those who are sinning and who are unrepentant.
I John 1:7 says that fellowship is conditional; it is present when believers are walking not in sin but in what? Many churches stress fellowship over biblical truth. The term "fellowship" is often used in churches to mean something it is not. What do many churches call the room or building where meals and socials take place? Fellowship Hall. "Fellowship" is used as a synonym for "socialize," for pursuing friendships. People say, "let's invite so-and-so for dinner and fellowship with them." This is not biblical. Strong's Concordance: partnership, participation, communion, distribution, benefaction, communicate. "Fellow" has the meaning of "co," as in Eph. 3:6. Fellowship in this sense is not a verb; it is not something we do. It is a state of being, the fact that we have fellowship with God and with Christ, and therefore with one another. We are partners or associates with other believers because of our relationship with Christ. So the fellowship hall is really the sanctuary, the place where the fellowship of believers gather to express their fellowship with God.
Another meaning of "fellowship" is distribution, benefaction. The same word is used in Rom. 12:13, "contributing to the needs of the saints" (KJV, "distributing"), and in II Cor. 9:13, "for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all" (KJV, "your liberal distribution"). In this sense, fellowship takes place outside the church as believers meet the needs of others.
Because the unbiblical meaning of fellowship is so common in churches, friendships and social concerns too often take precedence, even becoming more important than following the Bible in the matter of church discipline. People think that unity in the church (i.e., friendship) is more important than biblical truth, and think that the way to preserve unity is to softpedal or even ignore the Bible. However, that only leads to doctrinal division in the church. When the unifying factor--truth--is sacrificed, then there IS no longer a unifying factor. Fellowship has been broken. It is not that people stop "fellowshipping" with one another, because "fellowship" is not a verb. Therefore, we do not fix this situation by trying harder to "fellowship" with each other (to get together and act friendly); until the one or ones who are sinning choose to repent, there IS no fellowship. The one who is sinning is the only one who can change the situation.
I John 1:6 says this is the same with our fellowship with God. If we walk in darkness and are not practicing the truth (i.e., we are sinning), we do not have fellowship with Him. It is not then God's responsibility to decide to start "fellowshipping" with us again. We, the sinners, must repent; then we again have fellowship with God. Of course we all sin; this does not mean believers are never in a state of fellowship with God. This is talking about a believer who is "walking" in sin, "practicing" sin, continuing in known sin. If this person claims to be in fellowship with God in spite of his behavior, he is lying, to God, to others, and to himself. He is deceiving himself.
18 Are these people slaves of Christ or of Self, the old nature? He also talks about carnal, immature Christians in I Cor. 3:1-4. Fleshly means they are operating under the old nature, not the new. Paul discussed this conflict in Rom. 6 and 7. Does he identify these people here as unbelievers? What kind of people are taken in by them? Christians are not to be naïve. Can Christians be deceived? How are they deceived here? Is everything right that sounds right? We must think things through, and compare to Scripture. Do some Christians accept what others teach without thinking for themselves or studying the Bible on their own? If they hear some Christian terminology and see that some reference verses are given, they think it must be biblical; they don't realize how easily Scripture can be distorted, for whatever reason. Be careful of smooth talkers, people who are clever with words.
19 What are the Christians at Rome known for? Again Paul warns them not to be naïve. Christians are to discern between good and evil, not just in the unbelieving world, but in the church.
20 Where does the Bible first speak of crushing Satan's head? Gen. 3:15. When will Satan be crushed? There could be several possible meanings. 1) Satan's working through the false teachers just mentioned would be thwarted soon through their obedience. 2) The word "soon" in the Greek includes the idea of speed; Paul may not be saying Satan's crushing will happen in the immediate future, but when the endtimes events begin to happen, they will happen rapidly, not spread out over a long period of time (compare Rev. 1:1). 3) The early church was looking for Christ's imminent return. ("Imminent" means something we should be expecting; no other prophesied event needs to happen first.) Paul was encouraging them in this hope. In I Thes. 4:13-18 and II Thes. 2:1, Paul uses "we," indicating that he and the believers of that day were expecting this to happen to them. Some teach that the church will not be caught up until the middle or the end of the tribulation. But in II Thes. 2:1-8, Paul is reassuring believers that the day of the Lord (the time period which includes both the tribulation and millenium--the time period that begins following the removal of the church) won't begin until the lawless one (the Beast, or the Antichrist) is revealed. And he won't be revealed until the restrainer ("he" is a clue that this is a person) is taken out of the way. The Holy Spirit indwelling the body of Christ is restraining evil, and when the church is removed, the Holy Spirit will no longer be operating through the body of Christ, the church. Paul is teaching that the rapture comes before the tribulation. If the rapture came during or after the tribulation, then it would not be imminent. There would be some definite signs and events and time frames given to the church. The Bible does not teach this.
21 Now greetings are sent to them from people who are with Paul.
22 Tertius, Paul's secretary, wrote the letter for him.
23 Gaius--another instance of a church meeting in a private home. The city treasurer was a believer; people in all walks of life had come to the Lord.
24-25 Paul's closing benediction. What is God able to do? Establish: (Strong's) confirm, strengthen, to set fast. What is the gospel Paul preached? I Cor. 15:1-4. "Mystery" is not a who-dun-it, or something complicated we must figure out. How does Paul define "mystery"?
26 Christ's death for our sins and His resurrection were prophesied in Scripture (at that time, the Old Testament). It wasn't an afterthought in God's plan because the Jews let Him down, as some people say. It was part of God's eternal plan. Salvation for the Gentiles (all the nations) was part of the mystery; the Jews had thought it was just for them. Is faith only about what you think, or is it also about what you do?
27 How is God glorified? How is God described here? Only a wise God could create and implement such a wonderful plan.
Copyright 2003 Jan Young
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