This work is a personal journey through Romans, mostly in the New Living Translation with occasional King James Version references. As with any personal journey, certain passages stood out to me regarding the particular things God is teaching me at this time in my life. It is not meant to be a stand-alone commentary, but hopefully one that inspires you to do some digging for yourself where you may feel God walking through the scriptures with you and prompting you to your own personal study through his Holy Spirit.
I find it interesting how Paul identifies himself:
- a slave of Christ Jesus,
- chosen by God to be
- an apostle and
- sent out to preach his Good News.
He then identifies what this Good News is specifically:
2 God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. 3 The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, 4 and he was shown to be[a]the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.[b]He is Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul is highlighting that Jesus was both before David and the son of David. Revelation 5:5 calls Christ the "root of David." And root obviously comes before fruit:
Revelation 5:5And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
But we know that the New Testament also calls him the son (or offspring, fruit,) of David:
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
I found it interesting how all of this tied together to show how Christ existed before the family line that He chose to use to come to Earth.
5 Through Christ, God has given us the privilege[c]and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. 6 And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.
Verses 5-6 share Paul's burden with ALL who are called. When Paul identified himself as a slave, he identified his purpose in life as obedience. He then shows how the first step for ANYONE coming to God must be belief and then obedience as well. The second way Paul identified himself to the church was as one who was chosen by God, and he then shares that identity with the Gentiles saying that they also "have been called to belong to Jesus Christ." Paul last identified himself as an apostle sent to preach the Good News, and we know this is ultimately what every Christian is called to do, though maybe in different ways
7 I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people.
Is there anything more special than knowing how undeserving we are and yet seeing how God calls us to be His own holy people? What does holy mean to you?
Being holy is impossible with our nature... Until we die to the flesh and live through Christ. And we can't even WANT to do that as humans on our own!
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.(Philippians 2:13 KJV)
I see 'holy' as separated unto God. So holy conduct would acknowledge that I am not my own and wholeheartedly follow after what God wanted to do with my life. It would be set aside exclusively for God.
I pray the ending of this verse for you:
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Reading verses 8-11 shows how much Paul really cared for the people he was writing to. This verse reminds me of special people:
9" For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;" And then verse 12:
12 When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.
This seems to be a good goal to have for when two groups/individual believers get together. It's amazing how God uses people to encourage each other.
16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.[g]
Living in a country that is not founded in Christianity, (though I know this is also changing in the States,) still makes the "not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ" come a little more to life and maybe helps understand Paul's context a little better... most of his environment wasn't founded in Christianity, either, but coming from either Judaism or paganism.
17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”[h]
So God makes us right in His sight through things we learn in His word and then act on by our faith... not that it's based on works, but that the faith in the word helps us put action to those words. Paul then concludes that this faith impacts the ability of a righteous person to have life.The KJV says it this way:
17 "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."
It makes sense to me that the KJV uses the word "just" because that implies a higher moral nature, something intangible which takes faith to even begin to comprehend. Based on natural desires and what a person is instinctually born with, "just" is on an opposite level.
This portion of scripture leaves me with these questions to apply to life:
- Am I encouraging others in faith and coming together with other believers so that their faith can also encourage me?
- Am I ashamed of the news of Jesus Christ? When I am, do I really realize the power that this message holds and what it means for the hearer?
- Do I recognize how much my spiritual life is dependent upon faith? While it's easy to desire tangible evidence of things, God doesn't operate this way and this is the very basis of my ability to approach Him.
18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.[i]19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks.
So what I hear being said here is that God exists, you can tell this by studying nature and more than just his mere existence, you can see his "eternal power and divine nature," or, that this world was created by someone not bound by time or human constraints. Because it is so obvious in nature that God exists, the question isn't then "does God exist" but rather "how will I acknowledge this God that exists?" Paul says that these people knew He was there, but denied His deity and were not grateful for His blessings.
Isn't that normally how it works? Pride inhibits gratefulness which leads to denying God His rightful place in our lives, wanting, rather, to exalt ourselves. Gratefulness has the prerequisite of humility.
Paul has some very strong words here against particular sins. He goes from atheism and idolatry to homosexuality and "every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip."
This makes me wonder if the Romans in particular were struggling with this in their society. "So God abandoned them"are some very chilling words. "32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too."
Doesn't it always seem to be that misery and sin love company? When one person goes down the slope of abandonment of God, they try to drag as many people with them as they can.
I suppose then, our challenge is to do the opposite: as we climb the pathway trying to become more like God, we should show His love to as many of those around us as we can and try to take THEM with us!
This leads us to these questions in our own lives:
· Are we including any of this wickedness in our own lives?
· Are we encouraging the people around us to a higher moral nature, or dragging them down with us?
· Do we exhibit gratefulness to God, or has pride blocked our ability to acknowledge His blessing?
The end of chapter 1 listed so many things that people do when they fail to acknowledge God and give Him the place He deserves in their lives, and all of it goes back to a worship of something other than God, sometimes literal idols, sometimes self, in His place. So, when chapter 2 begins with:
"You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things."we can see that anyone who judges struggles with putting themselves in the place of God as well... so by judging, we become a type of idolator.
We know that the only one with the right to judge is God: 5 ... "For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will judge everyone according to what they have done." and we should never take this place. This is also shown in verse 8: But he will pour out his anger and wrathon those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness." Living for self also implies putting one's self in the place of God... and we all are guilty of this at some point in our lives.
4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
I wish I could see this verse manifested in the life of some of the people I love.If they could ever really see just how balanced and gentle God's nature is, it could revolutionize their view of love and then the way they interact with others. Of course, I say this realizing that there's so much I don't even understand yet, but I want to, and I want to find a way to share it with them, too. God is kind. Who knew?
"9 There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile.a]"[a]10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism."
I have to admit that I find these verses paradoxical... like the argument that "anything separate is inherently unequal," something being "first" and it not showing favoritism goes against what we would consider "fair" in our understanding. But we also know that we do not see the whole picture and that in reality, we don't deserve anything but judgment, whether first or otherwise, and that God cannot be unjust.
The last part of verse 7, then, shows what we should be motivated to:7 He will give eternal life to those whokeep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers.
· In an honest look at life, are we living for God or for self?
· How well are we doing good and seeking after God?
12 When the Gentiles sin, they will be destroyed, even though they never had God’s written law. And the Jews, who do have God’s law, will be judged by that law when they fail to obey it.13 For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. 14 Even Gentiles, who do
not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. 16 And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life.
So, basically, God's law exists, both in words and in the conscience of man, and man, when left in an environment where he can listen to his own conscience, intrinsically knows right and wrong, though he may not always choose the correct way.
Something puzzling, then, I find here: "27 In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep God’s law will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess God’s law but don’t obey it." At first this seems paradoxical: how can you keep the law by not being circumcised, which was a part of the law that you are keeping? Is this where it is meaning you keep the heart issues behind the law as opposed to the legalistic letter of the law? How can you possess a law you do not obey?
The Jews had the Law, they kept the law, etc. but then they rejected Jesus Christ who came to fulfill the law in that He came to make it complete--to make it not just a ritual obedience, but add love, mercy, forgiveness and to be the sacrifice so that we can be observers of the law without having to sacrifice an animal every-time we sin.
Circumcision was a sign for men to know that they were Law-keepers, but if they accepted Jesus Christ and they started obeying the Law out of love for God instead of as a work to atone for themselves, the physical sign of circumcision lost its importance. Instead of taking off a part of their flesh, more importantly Jesus came so that we would have the power to die to all of our flesh. We see this addressed in Acts 15:10 when Peter addressed the sect of (probably) Pharisees who were trying to force the Gentiles to be circumcised as a work to earn salvation:
10 So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers]"[b]with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear?11 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
There is something between possession of the law and obedience of the law that we have to grasp. It is addressed in verse 29:
"29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people."
The law changed the flesh and modified the outward signs of obedience. Love for God changes the heart before it is ever manifested in our actions.
If I'm honest about my struggles, one of the greatest lessons I feel God has been teaching me is how to love other people. This verse really hit a nerve. A changed heart can love others without needing it back from them because it is only reflecting what God has already given us. It is not seeking praise or affirmation from other people. This is too easy to put into words and not to practice. Especially lately, God has brought people into my life that He has used to help me see His love through them instead of only judgment, (and yes, now I can see so many ways it was there all along.) The next step seems to be finding ways to show that to other people... which is not what comes naturally in the face of judgment! It all boils down to this: Love isn't deserved. It just is. God gives it without any earning and He expects the same from us toward others... in fact, He gives/gave it while actively hated. If need be, He wants us to go that far, too. I'm learning what a proud, selfish and fearful person I am and how so much of that is able to change if I let God mold my life instead of closing myself off in a shell... and learn to"seek praise from God, not from people."
This portion of Romans challenges us to question our own motives. Whose praise are we seeking? If we are truly seek God's praise, it will then be manifested in our actions... and the only way to truly achieve this is through a heart that has been changed by God's Spirit. I am convinced that this heart change is a process of God pruning things by degrees and carefully eliminating self until we are made into this form of "true circumcision."
I see a series of questions and answers in Chapter 3. I think they are incrementally building toward what Paul is going for:
Paul starts this chapter with the question "what's the advantage of being a Jew?" and he then goes on to answer that with "they were entrusted with the whole revelation of God."
However, just having that revelation and letting that revelation CHANGE them were two different things. A man with a revelation who does not act on it, is no better off than the man with no revelation at all. Sinning is never right, even if it highlights God's holiness. There's a reason he chose to use the church as the main way for reaching the world, and we should be reflecting HIM not our own sin to highlight Him. Doing the works of the law without a faith in the God that law reveals to you is a dead religion. I think this is where Paul begins the balancing act between faith and works of the law. Why is the revelation of God important? Because HE, through Jesus, not the law, was what would actually make the way for salvation by actually taking our sins away and not just showing us how sinful we were.
Our sin is examined in the next question he poses, "should we conclude that Jews are better than others?" He answered with "no, because no one is righteous, Jew or Gentile." Receiving a revelation does not make the receiver better than others, only MORE RESPONSIBLE. I think this goes back to the thought that says "of whom much is given, much is required." The Jews were given the law, and through it, were required to do many things... but these things ultimately worked to their benefit in many ways, especially if they let it lead them to a faith in, and ultimately, relationship with God when Jesus came fulfilling that law.
(A side note here, is that Paul keeps bringing up dishonesty and lying in his examples. The first answer is attached to the example of a "dishonest person highlighting the truthfulness of God." The second question is answered with a quote from scripture that says "Their tongues are filled with lies." This reminds me of James 3:2 "Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way." Sin is, again, linked to the tongue... Interesting how The Bible highlights the use of words in different mediums for judgment- but actions for reconciliation. The law, the book of life, the spoken words of the Pharisees- but then mercy triumphs over judgment with Jesus' one action of extreme obedience.)
Then in verse 19 I see some things that give me questions:
19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
I see two things here. First, the law was given to the Jews, but it shows the guilt of the entire world. Apparently, then, it applies to Jews, but if it shows the guilt of all, does that mean all will be judged by the law? Didn't Paul say in the previous chapter that those who have the law will be judged by the law but that those without the law will perish? So then, the law doesn't make anyone right, but it judges. It applies to those it was given to, who will be judged by it, and those without it will also be shown guilty by it and perhaps perish. If the point of the law was to teach us how to do things correctly and to show us how sinful we are, but not to save us, would you say that the law is the morality of God, the right and wrong balance that we are given only as a backdrop to help pattern our lives and show us how desperately hopeless we are without something more... and that something more would be the drive we need to get to faith in Jesus?
27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
There is nothing we can do that will compensate for our sin enough for us to be in the presence of a holy God. Here’s what I see: Works never make us right, but they do make us more wrong. We are born in sin and continue sinning and the law exists to show us how bad we are compared to righteousness so that we can ONLY give credit for our salvation to Jesus.
His next question is:
29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. 30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Whether you have the law or not, then, you must have faith to be made right... but what initiates in faith then continues on into good works, not to earn salvation, but to please God out of a heart motivated by love for Him. Faith saves, the law guides.
And he continues with:
31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.
The whole point of the law is to lead us into a deeper relationship with Christ, ultimately, but you have to have faith to take the first step. The law proves that we can do NOTHING on our own, and our reliance on Christ, our understanding that we have to completely die to ourselves and live through His Spirit, leaves us not relying on the law for salvation, only on Christ.
The law and faith work together: The law proves that we need Christ, who we only can accept through faith, and then, only through faith will we take the steps to study the law to better understand God's nature and learn discernment and His ideas for morality, right/wrong. Doing those things then shouldn't increase our pride in ourselves, but highlight just how much more we have to live through faith because the law is consistently reminding us of how sinful we are on our own.... and the circle of thought continues wheeling around in this pattern. If I were to draw this out, I would make a circle with arrows pointing at how faith influences the works of the law which then influences faith which then..... I think you get the point of how I see it in my head.
Chapter 4 is a history lesson bringing previous chapters about the relationship between faith and the works of the law to life through Abraham. I believe the main point is based on this part of Chapter 3:
27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith.28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
The law of Moses came after Abraham, who is called the father of all who believe... so what law did Abraham follow? Is this what Paul references when he says in Romans 2:14
"Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right."?
We know Abraham had a thriving personal relationship with God. He was called the friend of God. He spoke with God often, and a few times in person; so perhaps this constant contact with God honed his conscience to the point that his actions followed a law his eyes had never read. Why then, does Paul make this division? He seems to emphasize "faith of Abraham" over the "law of Moses." Yet, Paul's specific example of Abraham shows him following the law of circumcision before it was a part of the law of Moses:
9 Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles?[c]Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith.10 But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised! 11 Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised.So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith. 12 And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised.
I think he is going through so much trouble with so many words in creating this example for one simple concept: The law does not make one righteous. The law is based on doing something myself, working for myself, trying to find atonement for myself. Only faith can make one righteous because it acknowledges that when I must stand before a Holy creator, none of my works will atone for my unholiness. Only Christ can.
4 When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.5 But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.
Faith acknowledges that I can do absolutely nothing- and this is such an uncomfortable, uneasy thought, and I suppose it is not natural. It seems to create a vacuum in logic: I am getting something I do not deserve for absolutely nothing in return but my mere belief. Scripture is clear, though, what Abraham did, what we are able to do, is not what will make us righteous. We will never be able to boast in our own abilities, but must come to the point of realizing that everything we are able to do is from God:
2 If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way.3 For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.
16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.
This defies all natural laws that we work with in this world. Something is never for nothing here, and we are so used to this that we drag it into the spiritual realm and try to work for our salvation, forgetting that there’s a whole new set of rules and norms for that realm. Where we are used to viewing physical, tangible evidence to determine worth, God looks instead at the heart and motivation behind the production, or even before the production of those works, making this question valid:
10 But how did this happen?Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!
Paul has already said, in Chapter 3
31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.
Which emphasizes that God looks at our motivations, at what drives our works and our obedience to his words more than the final result of our actions. Right actions with wrong motivations are then wrong. Right motivations, though they may take a while to produce “perfected fruit” can still be pleasing to God. This is a very personal part of righteousness: We must continually ask ourselves “Am I doing these things because I am
motivated by love for God, or am I trying to atone for myself?” and perhaps, we have to then start over at the beginning and acknowledge:
1. God exists
2. I have faith in this God
3. I believe that only He can atone for me
4. This produces love and gratitude for him
5. This love motivates me to good works
6. I now can ask myself “what works can I do that will show God I love Him?
And ultimately this will circle back to community:
7. What needs can I fulfill in the environment he has placed me in that will extend this same love to the people around me?”
This is in sharp contrast to the legalistic questions created when men try to line up their final results with the law instead of lining up their hearts to love. Paul emphasizes that Abraham’s faith, though personal with him, was recorded for our benefit:
23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.
And here’s where we are called to action with the example of Abraham who put itinto action:
20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.
Have faith. Believe in God’s promise even when all physical evidence contradicts it. Let your faith grow stronger and bring glory to God. Fully rely on the sacrifice of Christ to make you righteous. Let this sacrifice motivate you to love and good works. Faith like this can make us be counted as righteous, too.
I see a series of situations that produce joy or rejoicing according to Paul in the first part of the 5th chapter: He begins with:
2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
So, first he introduced how we can have joy when we look to our future with God.
And then continues the theme of joy with:
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Problems & Trials = endurance = strong character = hope of salvation (because of the Holy Spirit filling our hearts with his love) = JOY!
What stands out to me is how problems and trials are not separate from God's love, they are actually part of the equation of SHOWING us how much God loves us. Second, then, we can rejoice in our current trials.
11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
And then, third, we can rejoice in what God has done for us in the past.
I think Paul has covered every tense here... and of course they all work together. Our joy in what Jesus did to makes us reconciled with God helps us to have joy in our trials because we know that they are helping us joyfully look to the future where they will produce glory... Goodness, Paul, I get the point!
The theme of joy runs parallel with the basic story of the gospel:
8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Paul has given us the root truth of the whole Bible: God made a way to balance out the law, which required OUR death, with the substitution of Jesus. This didn’t stop at this gross unfairness, though, because He was holy and triumphed over death- providing us with a way to attain eternal life through Jesus. Before, where we were enemies of God because of our unrighteousness, now we can go into the presence of God through the blood of Jesus- and more! Not only do we gain atonement, we gain his friendship! He prepared this way for us at extreme cost to Himself before having any assurance that we would even choose to accept it… and He, as is His character, went further than mere redemption and made a way for relationship… No wonder we see a theme of joy right alongside the message of redemption!
Can you imagine being the friend of God? Abraham was known for his faith earlier in Romans, and now for his friendship. It also brings to mind the words from James: 2:23"And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God."
So that our friendship with God is reliant upon our faith in Him and acceptance of the way He made for us follows this same pattern: faith in God leads to friendship with God. Before the faith and friendship of Abraham, though, was the fall and separation from God beginning with Adam:
14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.
So Adam chose the knowledge of good and evil over obedience and brought death to all, perhaps as foreshadowing of the law- which brings knowledge, showing us what sin is, but does not bring redemption. Jesus chose extreme obedience and made a way for everyone to have eternal life. He, through the law, came and fulfilled the law leaving us with not only knowledge of what is sin, but with the power of a life-giving relationship with the ability to overcome sin. If He was, as John described, “the Word made flesh that dwelt among us,” perhaps the same words spoken by God to create the law in the first place were all wrapped up in His human body… but alive! Now we can have a relationship with the Word, it’s not just tablets of stone! What a parallel.
17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
I don't think I've ever realized that righteousness was a gift. How can choosing to do the right thing be a gift and not a work? Is it that it is impossible to do the right thing on our own? Perhaps it goes back to the fact that even the desire to do right comes from God to start with: (Philippians 2:13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.)
20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So God gave us the law to show us how sinful we were, and as our sin increased, His grace also increased, I assume so that we wouldn't be consumed. Paul is saying that God's grace multiplied, even when the law was in place, before Jesus died, because sin, and thus grace, were both multiplying. Grace didn't do away with the law, it existed because of the law and the sin that was shown as a result of the law. I see the parallel of sin gives us death and grace gives us life, but they work together instead of cancelling each other out. Eternal life does not come without death, beginning with death to self, and sin highlights God's grace. The law is relevant because it always applies to the physical man. It was the law that Adam chose, which requires our death. For certain, as long as we live in a physical world, the law will exist to show what is sin. The Bible says “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”Luke 16:17
13 ...present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
Reading Romans 6:1-13, I think I understand this to be the main thought:
We must die, just as Jesus died, if we are to live spiritually. We are dependent on Him for salvation from ourselves and the penalty of death we are born with. We die to this nature and because of this, we do not live for ourselves or to fulfill our own agendas and lusts, we are complete property of Christ now and we are to be an extension of His hands here on earth. This means that in the future we have the hope to be able to live with Him in other ways, because we won't be living by our own power and sinful bodies that will never be holy enough to enter the presence of God, but rather through Christ. Physical death is not really a threat because we have the promise of spiritual life in the future and are already "dead," or not living for ourselves in the first place.
We see in verse 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. This reminds me of something we looked at in chapter 3 verse 20: For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
The law is created to cope with and reveal to us what sin is- how to avoid it, how to redeem oneself from it. Grace is the balance to that, focusing on how to LIVE without the preoccupying fear of every little thing bringing wrath down on our heads. If we are not to sin, even under grace, we must look to the law to learn what sin is... but we are dead to sin, so while the law teaches us what to do or not do, grace then helps us implement those actions in life through Christ. Grace gives us the freedom to live the law without being bound to inescapable death. We are already dead, so our punishment is already paid. Now, without the fear of death, we can keep the spirit that was behind the law to begin with.
I think this is illustrated further in Paul's comparison of sin to slavery in verse 19:
Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin.
So life without the law leads us deeper into sin, and life with the law still shows how sinful we are. However, life under grace is already dead to sin, and thus, free from the power of sin and able to better “do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.” So how do we know what things to do that lead to holiness and eternal life? If we are only under grace, we have the freedom from penalty, but not instruction into righteousness. Is it then that the law instructs us on the nature of God and if we can find the “why” behind the law and live that then we will learn to be righteous. This is where the Spirit of God helps us determine the meaning behind the law, the motivations of God, and how to not be legalistic but to apply it to our lives in the millions of nuances that are not spelled out letter by letter in the Bible.
More of this is answered in Chapter 7.
4 So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. 5 When we were controlled by our old nature,[b] sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.6 But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.
This theme of dying to self and sin and living to God is repeated, but with a new emphasis on the Spirit of the law and its division from the letter of the law. Our sinful nature cannot keep the Spirit of the law without the help of the Holy Spirit. Our carnal nature takes the law and makes it into legalistic boxes that we either fit in or not, putting the emphasis on our own works and justifications... and neither are ever enough. We have to die. It's the only solution that makes sense! And then, when that same breath of God that made man a living soul comes into our lives through the power of His Spirit, we do live again, but as the Bible says, as a new creature. Now we can read the law and the Spirit can move our hearts to know how to apply the concepts behind the laws to our lives, not just lay a rigid grid over them and see what doesn't line up. The law strikes out at our inevitable, unavoidable unrighteousness. But when we are dead and have fulfilled the punishment the law
shows we deserve, then we have the freedom from God's grace to implement it and see how it draws us closer to Him. The law becomes a personal way to grow closer to God and understand His nature instead of a horizontal leveler of the faults of my fellow humans. Paul acknowledges that the law is holy and that the point of it was to show us our sins:
7 Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.”[c]8 But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me!
So, once we saw our sins, saw the impossibility of us ever atoning for ourselves and following the pattern of the law found the solution in the death of the sacrificial Lamb of God... which leads us to dying ourselves... NOW, finally, we are free to read and understand and apply where His Spirit leads us. Under grace we acknowledge that the Holy Spirit will guide each individual in the ways that they need most, internally, instead of imposing an outward show that so often leads to facades- so one's growth in one area may not be visible where others may show fruit in different areas more quickly... this leads to actual development of character, not development of charades to show how "holy" we are. Now we recognize it's not about us being holy, but being DEAD so that God can be Holy through us. As Paul says:
14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.
And he continues to our solution as well:
24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Once the sinful nature is dead, we can actually follow the law, in what Paul previously called the spirit of the law instead of the letter of the law.
In Chapter 8 he goes into more detail on what "life in the spirit" really means.
In Chapter 8 Paul goes into more detail on what "life in the spirit" really means as opposed to much of the previous chapter's focus of the impossibility of following the letter of the law... beginning with the awesomeness that comes from the first thing we LOSE when we die to the flesh and begin following the Spirit: condemnation.
8:1 "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus."
If the lack of condemnation belongs to those who belong to Christ Jesus… it is fitting then that we would have a different thought pattern than one still under the rule of the flesh and condemnation:
6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.
How do you see the "Spirit of Christ" living in you? What does that mean to you? How are you reading AND applying the many directives from God as to what He wants for our own good? This is a very personal approach to righteousness. We are not, now, living up to an external standard, but exceeding it through an internal motivation through the Spirit.
Paul says "5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit." We have a choice to think about the right things, only possible when combined with the continual feeding of the mind and Spirit with the Word of God.
I am convicted reading this passage with how poorly I live by the Spirit, and as a result, often lack Spiritual life and peace. If it's just a choice to think on the right things, (it makes sense that what we think becomes words and actions, habits and character...) figuring out the right way to think, letting your mind be renewed and refreshed by prayer, reading and being in God's presence becomes one of the most important things we could do to start a day. Paul's words of dying daily come to mind again as I see how much I struggle to do this. It’s ironic to feel that dying is harder than living. Don’t we put our effort into life? Isn’t death more like a free fall backwards into the inevitable? NO. Not for me. It’s a bloody wrestling match with flesh: a twisted, nasty competitor.
If the sinful nature can never obey God’s laws and we are supposed to die to that nature, the only logical result, then is that the Spirit will help us obey them, not that we then forget about the law because it is “irrelevant,” but that now it is possible, and with a different result! Life and peace... things we could never get from the law before dying to self and living through God's Spirit.
So this same Spirit we live by, then, the same Spirit that wrote the law, creating a guideline based on a loving approach to God and fellow man. The same "Word that became flesh and dwelt among us" includes the Word that we read in the law.
As such, it's an interesting chain of thought to see the Word in the law demanding death of the sinful flesh of man then that same Word becoming flesh to die for man so that man could keep a now whole, fulfilled law.
I see an unfulfilled law like an unbalanced atom always seeking an electron- I needed to die to fulfill it- but now Jesus has "balanced the electron," fulfilled the law, and I can keep it without it's constant effort to kill me by joining Him in His death.
Romans 8:3 "So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins." It makes sense that this same Spirit would then guide us from the inside out and result in life and peace instead of the death obtained when enforced from the outside in and when unfulfilled.
Now the law isn’t always seeking my death, but since fulfilled can do the opposite and bring life! A planned loophole, Trojan horse or something equally unfair, I realize, because all of my life and joy and peace is now dependent upon His taking my blame in a horrible sentencing that I truly deserved. Now, I have no condemnation! More, I GAIN life and peace. It’s like robbing a bank and then the bank sending me a free, new car to carry all of my loot off in. Exceedingly unfair.
I gain so much more than what little I have to give up… which brought death anyway:
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)
The bottom line is that God is holy, our flesh is not. It is impossible for this sinful nature to follow God's laws. If we listen to the Spirit, however, we can find the life and peace that comes from being in tune with the sentiment behind what wrote the law to begin with. To gain this: we join Christ in physical death to gain Spiritual life. If we do not do this, we do not belong to Him.
So simple. So painful.
I’m dying over here. Or trying to.
Everything we go through on this earth, perhaps especially suffering, is transforming our nature into something more and more like God's... things here are almost a mirror image of what they will be there, that is, seen in reverse- think of the beatitudes:
This Worldvs. Spiritual
Poor = Kingdom owners,
hungry = satisfied,
mourn = comforted… and so many more examples.
18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.
Can you imagine all of creation anticipating this revelation?
20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.
That is certainly something to look forward to.
24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope[k]for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
Waiting with patience and confidence seems pretty hard to do sometimes. I read a quote that said "Faith is not belief without proof, but rather trust without reservation." I see this as giving the same idea- we have patience and confidence, even through the waiting because we trust that God is good.
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers[l]in harmony with God’s own will.
God is doing all the work here. This theme is repeated in this chapter. I do nothing to earn, nothing to help, He calls, He gives, He even helps fulfill this call when I am too weak to do what little part might be viewed as my own. Going even a step further, he can even take the “bad” parts of my life where I mess up and turns them into something to produce glory for Him:
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together[m]for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn[n]among many brothers and sisters.
So God knew His people, chose them, and here we are to the thought of firstborn among these brothers and sisters who have the "firstfruits of the Spirit"- first mentioned in this Chapter in Romans 8:23
"And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."
The first question I have, then, is what are the firstfruits of the Spirit? I wonder if it is explained in the following passage where we see a sequence:
30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
Thinking that “firstfruits of the Spirit,” then, are things that must be manifested in our lives when the Spirit comes into it… does that mean gaining right standing with God is the “firstfruit” of the Spirit? Paul goes on to show another result of the Spirit coming into our lives and giving us right standing with God… producing a result which actually ties back to the beginning thought in this chapter: The lack of condemnation!
33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
It seems like a foolproof plan. If God calls, He also gives the strength to follow through and nothing has the power to remove us from Him, since He IS love and nothing can separate us from that.
37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us…39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How powerful. If we truly believed these words, fear wouldn’t stand a chance.
I don’t see any part of this equation that I do myself but respond to His call:
God chooses + God calls + (we come) = God gives right standing – (subtracting) our condemnation + He gives us His inseparable love + His glory!
Realizing, of course, that this still operates within the established Biblical framework of freewill, it is still incredible to think of the love of the Creator toward His creation. And understandable, though not quite fair, that He would have to do it all. And counter-intuitive compared to the way the rest of life seems to work. Wait… I don’t have to do something and I gain something priceless? But, maybe, this is where the firstfruits of the Spirit come into play again, as no, initially we don’t have to DO something, but accepting and realizing this extreme love motivates us to love in return, which can and should produce “doing” towards God and the world around us as a result.
If belief is not expressed in action, it is worthless. I’m trying to figure out how to accept this in the deepest part of who I am enough that I can let love be my first reaction instead of fear and the compulsion to compensate for myself.
Can you imagine feeling self-sacrifice this intensely for a group of people who were opposed to you:
"2 My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief 3 for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters.[a]I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them."
Knowing when Paul said this, it was said understanding where they were coming from and seeing them as a reflection of his past self, contrasts just how much he has changed. When stuck in a pattern of using the law and works to earn salvation, one's attention is intensely focused on self: justifying self, judging others to
compensate for self and constantly analyzing to what degree self is following the "rules" to avoid condemnation. The fact that Paul was now willing to give up self completely, and more, to give up what he counted as worth MORE than self: Christ and his relationship with Christ, is powerful. He really understood what is so difficult to learn: God doesn't love us based on what we DO: (11This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes;12 he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) and Paul's compassion for those still stuck in that lifestyle is real.
In his book "Law & Covenant", Ron Dart devotes an entire chapter to grace, linking so many things in the Bible in a way I've never seen before: in every act of judgment, you can still find evidence of God's grace. Paul touches this subject here also:
22 In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction.
I think it ties together this way: God calls us. We don't earn or work our way towards anything with Him. This is disconcerting. A Pharisee or other sect using the law to earn salvation, really, was using it to control their own lives and to feel that there was something they could manage when it came to their salvation. The very uncomfortable truth is that there is not. We can't make God call us, which is necessary, He calls whom He wants to call. We can't even question His judgement... He's GOD! I believe we still have free will within that, but we can't use our will to earn salvation. Paul concludes:
30 What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place.31 But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. 32 Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law[o]instead of by trusting in him.
There's a truth here: Nothing I do can make God love me more*. Nothing I do will make me holy enough to earn anything. You can't earn a gift. You can't "smell the color 9." It's approaching the law from the completely wrong angle... asking the wrong question. It's not "how can I earn salvation?" Instead it's closer to "how can I express my gratitude and love back to this great, big God who has already gone way beyond the normal boundaries in proving His love for me?" Instead of grasping the control we don't really have, we have to ask "how can I fulfill what I was created and called to do?"
(*However, equally true: Nothing I do will make God love me less.)
4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.
The whole purpose of the law was to reconcile man back to God. Christ lived this law, became this law, fulfilled this law in the biggest example of internalized and lived out love: death for an ungrateful, undeserving, and even unknowing people. This is what God desires: reconciliation so that we can have relationship. The very instrument He gave us to reconcile us to Himself, the law, wasn’t complete on its own because it required a sinless sacrifice holy enough to take away the sins of the entire world, forever. It was a part of the pattern established before the world with Adam’s act of disobedience solidifying its direction: Holiness cannot exist in the same place as the unholy. Light can’t coexist with darkness. If the very creation God created for relationship was then separated from Him through their state of unholiness, the immense love that desired that relationship to start with made provision: God does not contradict Himself. He establishes law and order and creates things to balance a certain way and to have certain consequences. He chose to abide by His own law and not simply “change the rules.” Sin required death. Sin still requires death. The blood of an animal to take our place wasn’t enough. The lining up of our physical actions to outward standards wasn’t enough to change our hearts and produce relationship. These were pieces, steps in the pattern, foreshadowing for Jesus taking our place, covering us with blood holy enough to allow us in the presence of God without being consumed.
5 For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. 6 But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth). 7 And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” 8 In fact, it says ,“The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:
In chapter 10 Paul is restating his thought of how the law can never really save us, only guide us toward the next part of the process in acquiring a more God-like nature: faith and relationship. Nothing we DO can make us right, only God's grace and our corresponding faith in Him can do that. That faith begins in our hearts, from our heart our mouths speak, and then, this should also conclude in the natural result of God-honoring actions. Our actions don't make God love or "unlove" us, that love is already there and constant, but rather, actions demonstrate how much we love Him. Our actions don’t earn us salvation, they are a result of the grace of God and a heart made right with Him. God’s focus always starts on the inside, belief in the heart works its way out through the mouth and the actions. Specifically Paul says:
9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
Then, Paul goes into the area of responsibility of Christians to spread this wonderful news of grace to others. We see how we had to hear in order to believe, so this should make it even more clear to us how we must have this news coming from our mouths and our lives also:
14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
21 But regarding Israel, God said, “All day long I opened my arms to them, but they were disobedient and rebellious
True to His nature, God chooses to use his relationship with us to change us into something better. As we grow more like Him, we see Him calling us to also use relationship to show His love to others. While we have to recognize that not everyone will receive this message, (some, like Israel, will reject it,) that doesn't dismiss us from telling it.
I've been thinking a lot about judgment, condemnation from fellow humans and God's grace a lot lately, so Romans 11 seems to fit perfectly into that context and explain it a little more clearly. I see it saying that God's grace is still given even to those who try to use their works to measure up… and don’t we all fall into that trap occasionally? Paul says:
5 It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel[c]have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them. 6 And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.
Because of this grace, God used the sin of Israel, not as an excuse to crush them, but to make His grace available to even MORE people… thankfully, that includes us! And, to exceed that kindness, the “people of Israel” still have the ability to turn back to God.
11 Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. 12 Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it.
It is interesting how quick Gentiles are to judge the people of Israel for their rejection of Jesus, but Paul is quick to point out here that without that rejection, we might not have ever heard the gospel. Of course, this is dealing in the theoretical realm because I bet God’s grace would have still found its way to us, but we certainly don’t need to jump to judge them. Perhaps a better alternative, as I think Paul is pointing to, would be to express gratefulness to God that He is graceful enough to use the bad for our good. Paul also warns us to not be proud and condemning- remembering how easily we, too, can fall.
22 Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. 23 And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. 24 You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong.
I have to agree with Paul’s concluding thoughts that this drives us to worship and gratefulness:
33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
And what a good reminder:
36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
This chapter is packed with so many concepts that tie into other parts of the Bible, I’m sure I am going to miss some-
And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b]2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
So we are to be a sacrifice, something Paul describes as belonging entirely to God that He has complete power to transform as He likes, making us more pleasing and perfect in His eyes. This means giving up my own desires and letting Him change me… many times it’s the losing of my own desires that starts the change to begin with. Learning to let go of what I want for my life, just being open to a higher plan: that first step changes so much. I’m not quite sure how the rest of the transforming works, but it seems clear that it is something that God does, not that we work to figure out, only keep following the plan He has for us. (Which means continuing to be discerning and prayerful and not controlling of our own lives.) Also, it’s interesting that it starts with changing the way we think.
3 Because of the privilege and authority[c]God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.[d] 4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
Paul says “we all belong to each other.” I’ve never noticed that before: So, continuing on the theme from the first part of the chapter where we find that we do not belong to ourselves, but, to God, this takes it a little further and shows how that includes belonging to God within the context of the body of Christ, which is where He chooses to relate with us so many times. If so, this would mean that we are a part of a functioning system that is bigger than ourselves and that each part belongs to each other part because without any of the parts working together, it is incomplete. Doesn’t this mean I belong to the other Christians I am serving God with? Wouldn’t this mean that as long as each member were truly working toward the common goal of glorifying God that everyone would be accountable to everyone else within this group? The body of Christ, when everyone is working towards maturity and sincerely loving each other, works in a sort of “checks and balances” sort of model: everyone respectfully helps, whether through chastening or encouragement (for example) to keep each other balanced and going toward the real goal. I have a lot to think about concerning this.
6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
As people that God is changing from the inside out who are walking with Him into relationship until we can become like Him enough to die to self and love the world around us, we are called to service. We are also equipped to play a part in the body of Christ. What do you feel are attributes you’ve been gifted with? How are you using those to further the gospel and encourage the body of Christ? Some advice for being a part of a community that Paul leaves us with comes from our hearts:
9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection,[e] and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.[f] 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
When we learn this perfect, pure love of God, expressed in action, it continues to bless others even those we would have otherwise considered enemies. Paul continues:
14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,”[g] says the Lord. 20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”[h] 21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
What a powerful ending to this chapter, and perhaps, the real test of character change that was introduced in the beginning. If we really believe we are not our own, we also believe that vengeance is not ours either. Maybe, then, the truest test of our real ability to be a living sacrifice is to see how we respond to evil or those we perceive to be our enemies.
This is divided in three sections:
Rom. 13:1-7 is about authority and government...it has advice about how to obey the laws of the country or city you are living in and it mentions taxes and fear to whom fear is due and honor to whom honor is due. When we choose to live in a country then we should go by the laws of that country.
3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you.
As Michael Pearl points out in his section of the book "Created to be a Helpmeet," there are spheres of authority- with God controlling all of them. When we are asked to go outside of God's law, that's when our refusal is not sin, or rebellion, but standing for what we believe.
Verses 8 to 10 are about Loving our Neighbors--
vs. 8--Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
So I am endebted, compelled, to love. That makes sense. We were given it freely when we didn't even deserve it, so of course we should do the same with everyone around us. It's interesting that it is put in the context of money. We are to help people by not making them feel they "owe" us something. We are so endebted ourselves, if we really comprehend the price of our redemption, that we should not then turn and make another feel endebted to us.
And then Paul names all the commandments about "loving one another" except the one about honoring "your father and mother”
If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.”[a] These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
Are honor and love so very different? Isn't this one of the main differences we see between men and women? Women emphasize needing to feel loved and men emphasize needing to feel honored. Do you think, then, as the church- the Bride of Christ, we focus on love towards one another? I believe everything we do or do not do for God stems out of our honor or lack of honor for Him. Many scriptures reference honor, fear/revere God before they emphasize love. Then I see a greater emphasis on loving fellow humans, especially in the New Testament. However, both love and honor are supposed to be given to God and, with some reservations on the honor part, to our fellow man.
11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
Verses 11-14 talk about "putting on Christ" and mentions putting on the "armor of light”-putting on the characteristics that ARE Jesus Christ--the Light of the world. Another aspect of light means I have no hidden, shadowed places, but that my real self, even though I'm still a work in progress, is revealed. If His strength is made perfect in weakness, I actually cripple my ability to witness by trying to appear perfect when I haven't reached perfection yet. Light doesn't allow hypocrisy... Light and truth share so many properties that it makes sense that they are so often linked in scripture. If we wear an armor of light, we are real with others and not reacting with calloused shells of self-protection that don't allow Jesus to work through us. This also brings us back to the concept of relationship and real community within the body of Christ: if we are not real with each other, we are not growing and accomplishing what God intends.
And the last verse intrigues me as he so carefully says to "And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires." This scripture again starts with our thinking, knowing that our thoughts become actions. I see "lusts" (from the KJV version of this scripture) as fulfilling what my flesh desires, which is supposed to be dead, and certainly not pampered! This might mean responding in selfish anger because I don't get my way or knowing that I've had enough of something but not exercising self-control and indulging in more, or so many other things that require dying to self- that is easy to push aside and ignore until it grows into a bigger problem. God calls us to examine our hearts, thoughts and our motives before our actions are ever allowed to be out of control
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. ... 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.
I see Romans 14 basically boiled down to these two concepts: 1) Don't criticize others, instead make sure you are convinced in what you believe yourself and 2) always consider what you are doing with love for those who are weaker than you.
20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions.If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.
Isn't this what the New Testament boils down to: Using the Spirit God gives us to discern what is right for ourselves and loving others- Not judging.
We are meant to live out our Christian life within the context of community. Every time we see God establishing people and their roles in the Bible, it is within their relationship to others. The stark contrast of Adam’s loneliness in comparison to the other creation was one of the only times we see someone without relationship to other humans… and it’s unbalanced, and God balanced it by giving him a helpmeet. God provides family units, upon which we build the community in general and the community of the church. He brings people together to become his hands and feet, the body of Christ, to love this world to Him as much as we can. We are meant to sharpen, engage, and encourage one another- and the world does the exact opposite. Where God brings people together, those same people left to the devices of their fallen nature isolate themselves, create divisions and let pride ruin unity. Spiritual sensitivity within the context of community is one of the most difficult things to learn, and I believe, one of the greatest signs of Christian maturity. Learning to let go of self enough to deny my rights in order to not offend another believer is a true test of commitment to God and the unity He desires. He continues this theme in Romans 15.
There are several main themes in Romans 15:
Putting others first: We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. 2 We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.
I am not sure where my rights are in my walk as a Christian. If dead to self, do I ever have rights, or should I be, instead furthering the rights of the collective Body of Christ? If another person does do something offensive, I should address it out of love for what that means for that person's motivations and spiritual state, more than for any rights I have had trampled. I have a feeling there is a balance somewhere, and that it comes as one matures in spiritual sensitivity within community.
Bringing Honor, not shame, to the God we represent:
3 For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. As the Scriptures say, “The insults of those who insult you, O God, have fallen on me.”a]"[a]
We have a higher purpose for being in this world than in fulfilling the desires of self, especially when this brings shame to the One who purchased us. If our bodies are not our own, if we really believe that we have become a part of the Body of Christ, then we will seek to bring Him honor with our lives. If He is holy, and we are His, we will not seek to be something counter to His very nature. Little by little, we allow His transforming power to make us more like Him.
5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. 6 Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, if we are a part of one Body, instead of isolated individuals, we must work together in a spirit of humility so that, united, we are able to accomplish what God desires: reconciling others to relationship with Him. If they know that we are His disciples by the love we show one another, then collectively we are a greater witness of the changing power of God bringing us into relationship than we ever would be separately… if we choose to work in unity.
Acceptance instead of judgment of fellow Christians:
7 Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.
This brings to mind the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:
“32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
God has forgiven us far more than we could ever repay. How dare we, in the same position, require recompense of our “rights” from a fellow human.
Paul then gives the keys that wrap up what makes these concepts possible:
Here is HOW we can do these things:
13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And here is the WHY:
16 I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.
33 And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen.
We're at the end of Romans... basically Paul is just unable to edit his document and throwing in things he remembers at the last minute and reviewing a few key concepts. Here are some things that stood out to me:
17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.
There are so many divisions within what people call "church" right now, as there was already in the time of Paul. Thinking of the people in Rome being able to accept Paul's saying with complete sincerity to stay away from anything different from that which he had taught and them being able to trust that what HE had handed them was true is a little hard to grasp sometimes. He didn’t leave them without a way to test his words, however, the last part of the verse shows how he proved with his life that he was not serving his own personal interests, and THIS is something that they could easily believe- and then accept his words as true because they passed the test of not serving his personal interests.
25 Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time. 26 But now as the prophets[i] foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him. 27 All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.
This would be a brief summary of the entire Bible, just about.
Thank you for walking through Romans with me. There's still a lot I don't understand, but I've grown a lot and learned so much through these chapters. Have you found encouragement from reading through this book again?