Live in such a way … Romans 14:13-23.

Do Not Cause Another to Stumble

Paul opens Romans 14 by talking about those who don’t believe what you believe and, therefore, can’t eat what you eat. In some translations, Paul is said to call this a weaker faith. In other translations, like the Message, it tells you, “don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with. These disagreements happen frequently, and have, in my opinion, everything to do with tradition and lousy teaching.

The subject continues to the point where Paul feels he has to admonish the reader:

Who are you to criticize someone else’s servant? The Lord will determine whether his servant has been successful. The servant will be successful because the Lord makes him successful. (Romans 14:4 GW)

The servant, in this sentence, belongs to the Lord; and, as far as I can tell, means everybody, whether they are living up to a Christian standard, or not. Need proof?

If we live, we honor the Lord, and if we die, we honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:8 GW)

If we are having disagreements over what we believe, let’s get on the same page.

The basis of our belief is Christ crucified and risen from the dead. You can’t make a statement like that without an understanding of the effect of Christ’s actions. Perhaps this is oversimplified, but here goes.

By our acceptance of Christ’s death and resurrection, we have, in the spiritual realm, followed in Christ’s footsteps; we call that being buried with Him into baptism. God, because of Christ’s actions, caused us to be raised together with Him. When Christ rose to new life, so did we. Christ is our redemption, which means that by His blood, we have been purchased back from the enemy and made righteous in the Father’s eyes. That same blood covered ALL of our sins, and we are forgiven. This forgiveness was offered to the entirety of humanity, from the beginning of time, and includes this very moment. The requirement is little more than faith in Jesus Christ. (To those who must complicate things, I offer you the thief on the cross. If we are looking for actions that go well beyond some simple faith, what did this man do? When you figure it out, you will see nothing more than simple faith.)

As we proceed into Romans 14, Paul refers to our status, when he calls the believers servants.

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master, he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4 NASB)

Does that seem right that believers would be judging believers?

We know Paul is writing to believers because he addresses this letter to the church in Rome. The word “church” is not meant to describe a building but the biological entity formed through our relationship with Christ.

With that in mind, doesn’t this statement, “to his own master,” strike you as odd?

It almost gives the sense that there are other masters out there, but you know that is not the case, as Paul is merely painting a word picture to get your attention. You wouldn’t dare walk into another person’s house and try to correct what the servants are doing, especially when what they are doing may be precisely what the master has asked them to do. Since we all belong to the Lord, then we are all servants. Setting aside the negative ramifications of that term, let’s come to grips with the idea that we belong to Him; there is no way around this, that is unless you purposefully choose to follow another master, Satan.

Assuming that we are judging each other over doctrinal differences, we need to stop, and that is why Paul carries that discussion a little farther, as he begins to look at this judging from another angle.

Romans 14:13 NASB Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.

  • but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”

Judging, or being judged because you see things differently, should not be a stumbling block, so there is more to this statement than meets the eye, and we need to find out what that is. Many of the commentaries indicate that Romans 14:13 is referring to a weaker brother in Christ. If they were young in the Lord, then what, they would not have the knowledge base with which to stand their ground or retaliate. In my own experience, a brother in Christ tried to show off his prowess in the Old Testament stories, by asking, how big was David when he slew Goliath? Since no one chose to answer him (typically, when a person asks a question like this, they already have an answer in mind, and are typically prepared to humiliate whoever responds,) I did. His response back to me was what I expected, angry, with the obligatory attempt at humiliating me. It did not work as I stood my ground as I responded with scriptures that backed my argument. How many stumbling blocks did this brother create in his attempt to destroy me? Hopefully, we may never know, but one thing is for sure, he did not care how I would receive such an attack, nor was he concerned about how others might perceive what he was doing.

Who was it that was shown the blanket being let down, filled with ceremoniously unclean animals?


Where then did Paul come to this understanding?

Is it possible that Paul had heard Peter’s words related to him in his journeys, or perhaps he had heard Jesus’ words?

“Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. (Matthew 15:17-18 NASB)

We honestly don’t know the answer to my question above, but there was that day on the road to Damascus.

Romans 14:14 NASB I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Paul, writing to Timothy says,

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4-5 NASB)

And to Titus, Paul writes:

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. (Titus 1:15 NASB)

Here, in the NASB translation, we see Paul talking about something that has the potential to be unclean. Now, we have evidence to prove that Paul is talking to a mixed congregation and that the majority of this congregation is Jewish. With that in mind, most of us understand the Jews have dietary restrictions that prevent them from eating a pulled-pork sandwich. But to most Gentiles, this is not an issue, and many would say, bring it on.

What does Romans 14:14 say,

“I, (Paul) am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself.” However, to those who think that thing you are eating is unclean, it is unclean.

Why does this thought process, about the Jewish side of the household, have any impact on the Gentile believers, who have come to the potluck lunch that the church is having?

I can’t see it having any impact at all, but apparently, it should, because, as Paul tells us, “but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”

His statement then, doesn’t just apply to the Gentiles, (as some would try to convince you,) who may be joining in with a Jewish oriented congregation; it applies to the Jews as well, but why? You might think that we Gentiles don’t have rituals we practice, but having come out of the world with its numerous gods and behaviors, I can say, we have plenty.

An example: About a year ago, I went to a men’s retreat. The speaker was from a Vineyard church in Colorado, that goes by the name, “The Sanctuary.” The speaker had an earned Doctorate in sexual therapy and spoke very candidly about the damage we men have sustained in our lives. In his introduction, he talked about policies of the “Sanctuary” church, and He said, we allow anyone to come to our church, and he spoke of allowing some who were openly gay to be involved in leadership. (Now, to be fair, he did not define what he meant by leadership, and because of that, I chose to give the man some grace. You should also give some consideration to things like recovery and how people who go through the program can still say, “Hi, my name is, and I am a recovering ___.” If God has moved in their life, then it is not unusual to have such a person in leadership. Mike Waddel, CEO of My Pillow fame just recently addressed the nation, at the President’s request, and said this is a nation that needs to turn back to God. He is a person who went through recovery.) Someone in the audience, there at camp, attempted to refute the speaker, he responded by saying, yes, we do allow them, but they cannot be practicing sin and serve in our church. Later that day, a brother from my church sat with me at lunch and asked me what I thought of what the speaker had said. Having learned to hesitate for a moment before answering such questions, I stopped and listened to the Holy Spirit, who told me, this brother is looking for a fight. As the speaker had also talked about how people, even those who are trapped in sin, need a hug, I answered in this manner; I think hugging people is a good idea (of course there was no Covid 19 at this point.)

The brother who asked the question then showed his true colors as he did precisely what Paul was talking about, judging another master’s servant; he started getting loud and angry, saying that sin is sin, and we need to be preaching about sin and how it will send you to hell. I could not agree with his attitude, nor his doctrine, as I tend to see glutenous over-eaters as sinners, and we would not think of sending them to hell.

How would you know someone is practicing sin while serving in your church?

There are only a few ways; evidence or their big mouths. If it is their big mouths, then they are bragging about their sins. Paul speaks of such a person in 1Corinthians.

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. (1 Corinthians 5:1 NASB)

Although, someone being openly gay seems like an unforgivable sin to many, how is it any different from the pastor that secretly pursues pornography at home; at least the openly gay person is being honest about their sin? It is still sinning, and, if we hold to a standard for one, then don’t we have to maintain the same standard for all, and we don’t do that. 

So, here we are back at Romans 14:13 again.

So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. (Romans 14:13 NLT)

We are not talking about the world; this is directed at believers within the church. Having been excoriated, in a “bible study” setting, on several occasions, I can tell you that it is not comfortable; and, I found myself having to choose not to get into an embroiled battle with these Christian brothers. They, on the other hand, apparently ripped this page out of their bibles because it obviously intruded into their beliefs, and they did not want anything to impeded their ability to peddle their false doctrines and unbelief.

Most people see words, like those that Paul delivers, as law, and maybe they are, but since God has seen fit to write those laws upon every heart within the believer, then you should consider the reality that God’s law continues to be our guide.

Continue to think like a Jew might as we progress.

Romans 14:14 NASB I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Peter may be our grandest example in this conversation about something unclean. The Holy Spirit showed Peter, in a vision or dream, the blanket coming down, filled with unclean animals. The voice associated with that blanket told Peter to eat. Peter’s response was this:

But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” (Acts 10:14 NASB)

There is such an air of audacity on the part of Peter. What if the response back to Peter went like this, I am not asking your opinion, I am telling you to eat! Fortunately, for all of us, God is long-suffering and patient.

Did Peter think that it was unclean? He certainly did, and yet God was able to open Peter’s eyes to understand that He was talking about Cornelius, and taking the message to the Gentiles.

So, a brother in Christ, is having a meltdown about something you are eating; are you serious?

Paul continues.

Romans 14:15 CEV  If you are hurting others by the foods you eat, you are not guided by love. Don’t let your appetite destroy someone Christ died for.

  • If you are hurting others by the foods you eat,” I can be offended by the manner in which you eat, especially if you are making slurping noises with every spoonful.

We all know that slurping noise is not what Paul is talking about; he is talking about things that may border on ritual. Look, we have all come from somewhere. Most people that found the church body they are currently attending came there because of some hurt or disagreement. I know I did. In our coming from some other assembly, there may have been incense and smoke; some dip bread pieces that the church members have ripped from a loaf and have dipped in grape juice, while others pass communion trays. Some believe that the cracker and juice become Jesus’ body, in our bodies, while others see it as symbolic. Do we have the potential for clashes in these procedures? Without a doubt.

The Greek word for hurt is lupeō and means distressed. Earlier in this post, I talked about a brother in Christ who got distressed, because he refused to hear what the speaker was saying.

When Paul speaks of foods, he uses the Greek word brōma. This word takes on a whole new meaning when you look up the Strong’s concordance definition. It speaks primarily to (ceremonial) articles allowed or forbidden by the Jewish law – meat. So now we can understand that Paul is talking to the person that brings their own sandwich, and it’s pulled pork.

If that is what you are doing, bringing a pulled-pork sandwich, simply to prove some twisted point, then you fall under the second half of this verse.

  • “If you are hurting others by the foods you eat, you are not guided by love.

A lawyer asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is? His answer,

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ (Matthew 22:36-39 NASB)

I can understand this in one of several ways. Since I do not want to be hurt, then I should not hurt, nor cause hurt, and the person, in our scenario of Romans 14:15 is doing just that, when shoves things in his mouth with the intention of causing angst in the onlookers.

But what if I don’t love myself?

Then there is definitely something in me that needs to be fixed, and that can only be done through a relationship with Jesus Christ. (That, of course, means that you can be painfully honest about yourself and submit to sound people speaking into your life.) Lacking a loving example to teach you how to love others, then follow some good examples and be willing to take advice. Submit to others in a recovery situation. This submission thing may be more comfortable to swallow along as you understand that you are a slave to Christ.

The last part of this verse in the ESV reads like this:

  • Don’t destroy anyone’s faith by eating something they think is wrong. Christ died for them.”

Didn’t we recently study something comparable? Absolutely.

Welcome all the Lord’s followers, even those whose faith is weak. Don’t criticize them for having beliefs that are different from yours. Some think it is all right to eat anything, while those whose faith is weak will eat only vegetables. But you should not criticize others for eating or for not eating. After all, God welcomes everyone. What right do you have to criticize someone else’s servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right, and the Lord will make sure that they do right. (Romans 14:1-4 CEV)

I will repeat something I recently stated; there are those who will say, I am not under the law! We say things like this because of improper teaching, for the law, that you are trying to avoid; the one that seems to constrain you when you want to drink wildly, is written upon your hearts, all ten of them – including, love your neighbor, as yourself. So, sorry, you don’t get to use that as an excuse for your bad behavior.

And that takes us to the next verse.

Romans 14:16 NASB Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil;

A couple of things stand out for me. Initially, I used a different translation, which I want you to see.

Don’t let your right to eat bring shame to Christ. (Romans 14:16 CEV)

If Christ is God, and He is, then do you seriously think that you can bring shame to God? God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are so far beyond all that. The Muslims tend to think this way, and therefore are willing to kill you for bringing shame to Allah. How pathetically silly. We can, however, by our brash stupidity, cause others to want nothing to do with us, nor the God we serve. (On that note, Franklin Graham, in early March of 2020 was wanting to do large evangelistic meetings in Britain, but was banned by church leaders, because, as they said, he no longer reflects the morals and political correctness of the current day. In other words, they knew he would speak out against sin.)

Because I now look intently at scripture through Jewish eyes, I can almost hear Paul’s voice as he says,

Romans 14:17 CEV  God’s kingdom isn’t about eating and drinking. It is about pleasing God, about living in peace, and about true happiness. All this comes from the Holy Spirit.

Frequently, there are words that I want to drape across the roof of my house, like a billboard, and verse 17 is one of them. Note those words, living in peace; wouldn’t that be wonderful?

God’s kingdom isn’t about eating and drinking. It is about pleasing God, about living in peace, and about true happiness.

I read these words, and think if only I/we could attain this peace and true happiness. It can be attained.

Romans 14:18 NLT  If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too.

Backing up to verse 17 once again but from the Amplified Bible.

[After all] the kingdom of God is not a matter of [getting the] food and drink [one likes], but instead it is righteousness (that state which makes a person acceptable to God) and [heart] peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

So, the kingdom of God has little to do with our rituals, but with righteousness. Since we have no righteousness of our own, then that righteousness has to come expressly from God. When did that happen? At the cross, as Christ became our righteousness. We, of course, have to accept that righteousness from God by believing in the Son. Can you see the simplicity, for us, in this situation? Christ’s bloody sacrifice brought about our permanent righteousness. I know, many shriek at such a thought, because it wreaks of eternal salvation. For me, I have seen the world, and want no part of it. I long for the day when I get to look into His eyes that emit nothing but love.

How do I attain this righteousness?

Well, we just talked about that, but Paul adds this.

Romans 14:19 NASB So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

What is another way to say this? Love your neighbor as yourself.

Romans 14:20 CEV  Don’t let your appetite destroy what God has done. All foods are fit to eat, but it is wrong to cause problems for others by what you eat.

That word appetite, by definition, covers many items. For some, who talk about their appetite for women, it can mean debauchery and lust. For many, it covers your passions and desires. Even here, with a bent toward eating something like barbecued pork, you know that eating a sandwich in innocence, is NOT what is being expressed. We covered this subject earlier, and it has everything to do with shoving your freedoms down someone else’s throat. Simply put, it is wrong to cause problems for others by your objectionable actions.

Romans 14:21 CEV  It is best not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that causes problems for other followers of the Lord.

An obvious point here is this, is what I do in the sanctity of my home, offending people?

Certainly not, but if you stand around the crowd at your gathering, and legalistically put people down (judge them), and then they run into you buying a case of beer and a ham. You are nothing more than a hypocrite and an embarrassment to the church as a whole. Your alcoholic acquaintances may now think that they have the freedom, under your definition of grace, to go back to being a drunkard.

Romans 14:22-23 CEV  What you believe about these things should be kept between you and God. You are fortunate if your actions don’t make you have doubts.  (23)  But if you do have doubts about what you eat, you are going against your beliefs. And you know that is wrong because anything you do against your beliefs is sin.

Words to live by:

  • What you believe about these things should be kept between you and God.
  • You are fortunate if your actions don’t make you have doubts.
  • But if you do have doubts about what you eat, you are going against your beliefs. And you know that is wrong because anything you do against your beliefs is sin.

This last line applies to both sides of the fence. Having angrily put people in their place because you feel strongly about SIN and Hell’s fires, only to later be CAUGHT doing the very thing you preached against, demonstrates that you are going against your own beliefs, and therefore sinning. Jeez, if you are an advocate of people going to hell over the simplest of sins, then you should be there as well.

Perhaps we need to calm down and demonstrate grace to people, by giving them a hug (once it is safe to do so again.)

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Do not pass judgment part 2. Romans 14:4-12

When I finished the study on Romans 14: 1-4, I ended with verse four, but I noted that I would return to that same verse when we continued. Here it is.

Romans 14:4 NASB Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master, he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

I have no polite way of reading this passage, “Who are you to judge the servant of another?” 

Paul might as well have said, how dare you! The context of the sentence has everything to do with the often hateful differences that we have with other Christians.

If we are “servants of another,” The question then is, who does that Christian belong to?

It is certainly not you or I, as they most certainly belong to God. I thought for a second about using the word unquestionably instead of certainly, but there are many of us “Christians” that should NOT use that term Christian to define themselves in any way. Why say something so harsh? Because the people I am thinking about either produce no fruit or the fruit is rotten on the vine.

Paul continues to talk about differences.

Romans 14:5 NLT  In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.

This verse makes a mountain of sense if you can envision the Jewish believers conflicting with the Gentiles in the same body of believers. The Jews, who adhere tightly to their festivals and traditions, hold to the High Holy Days, and rightfully so. The Gentiles, know nothing of the Holy Days, but we could stand to learn and understand the meanings they carry. Why? Because God is still holding to them.

The next verse almost comes across as informational, and yet it is not.

Romans 14:6 CJB  He who observes a day as special does so to honor the Lord. Also, he who eats anything eats to honor the Lord since he gives thanks to God; likewise, the abstainer abstains to honor the Lord, and he too gives thanks to God.

The sentence above speaks of honoring the Lord, whether you are eating or not. This observance is not about eating; it’s about our relationships with people.

Romans 14:7 NASB For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself;

Some might think this life is all about me, but it is NOT.

What does the scripture say?

In Him, I live, and move, and have my being. (Acts 17:27,28).

I chose to leave a part out.

“He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.” (Acts 17:24-26 NLT)

You have nothing without His empowerment

[Empowerment came when He placed that one man on the earth and gave Him dominion. We read that story in Genesis as though it was a momentary command, and it was not; dominion was placed in the heart of humankind, just as solidly as the drive for sin was in the garden.]

Do we find this train of thought anywhere else?

“by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:20 NASB)

The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way? (Proverbs 20:24 NLT)

Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling. (Psalms 66:9 NLT)

Where does that leave us?

Romans 14:8 NLT  If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Another translation of verse 8.

“It’s God, we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other.” (MSG)

The word that Paul used for Lord intrigues me because it is not what I am accustomed to seeing.

The Greek word is kurios and means he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding. It also means the possessor or owner

If you are going, to be honest, this thought process gives many of us grief. Why? Because we think we are in control, and we are not, and virtually every car commercial emphasizes the gratification of your achievements. Why do you think David says things like this:

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is.  (5)  You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” Psalms 39:4-5 NLT 

So what are you doing when you take King David’s attitude?

You are giving the honor back to God.

The next verse is somewhat challenging.

Romans 14:9 AMP For Christ died and lived again for this very purpose, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do we believe that this heroic story that someone will come back for us, with the express purpose of bringing us into His kingdom, is real? Because Jesus did just what He said He would do. He died, rose, and lives for this very purpose, to be the Lord overall. The author of the letter to the Hebrews (Jewish believers) tells us that He is seated even now as Lord.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:2 NLT)

Here is that word Lord once again, but this time Paul uses a variant of the Greek word kurios when he says kurieuō. This variant means to have dominion over. Previously, we saw God as the possessor; here, He is the ruler who has complete dominion. Again, this word dominion could give some people angst, as many have been dominated by someone. This is where you have to ask, as you have gone on this journey to find the nature and character of God when you saw Christ in action, what did you see? Love. How could you struggle with love, a love so great that He laid down His own life, so that we could live?

What does it mean to be the Lord of both the living and the dead?

This is not a trick word, dead means dead, as in a corpse. King Solomon tells us, “For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. (Ecclesiastes 9:4-5 KJV)

Solomon did not use the word nekros; he used a Hebrew word that means something comparable, dead. How and why would Paul talk about Jesus being the Lord over the dead if this truly means corpses? So there has to be something more.

So wait a minute: Christ died, and yet death did Him no harm.

Through Christ, you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. (1 Peter 1:21 NLT)

Jesus, in His introduction to John, says this,

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. (Revelation 1:17-18 NLT)

These words were important because John saw His bloodied and beaten body on the cross. No one endures such things and lives. And yet, here you are, standing before me now.

If He is alive, then what happens to us?

And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you. (Romans 8:10-11 KJV)

Quicken is old English meaning to make alive.

How or why we need these old bodies, I cannot fathom, but it means something to the Father. Fortunately, those bodies will be changed, and they will be the perfection that God intended them to be.

“having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,”(Colossians 2:12-13 NASB)

When I look at the creation of people, specifically Adam and Eve, I am told that they were made in the image of God. Knowing that God is a spirit, means the man was a spirit, and we see that chain of events.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 NASB)

The entire process, leading up to putting a body on the man, and then later, the creation of the woman from the man’s rib can be found in Genesis. As many like to hold to a chronological creation, then you should know that we don’t see a body on the man until Genesis chapter two, verse seven.

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. (NASB)

I point this out, because, for me, the idea of Jesus being the Lord over the dead, now dominates the world of the spirit, since man is a spirit, just as Jesus is a spirit.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NASB)

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you
(1 Corinthians 3:16 NASB)

So, though our bodies might have died, our spirits live eternally. If you belong to Christ, then, as Paul said, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. And there, in Heaven, He will reign as your Lord.

Instantly we are drawn back to our opening of chapter fourteen.

Romans 14:10 NASB But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

  • But you, why do you judge your brother or regard your brother with contempt?

Because Paul says you, we know he is talking to the church.

Are you naive, and do not recognize how abusive we are with each other?

Let me remind you of how this conversation started.

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with— ” 
(Romans 14:1a MSG)

And then there was this touch of Paul’s irascible character.

Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? 
(Romans 14:4 a NLT)

Everybody belongs to God, and whether or not they are acting as appropriate servants in the kingdom or not, they are NOT yours to abuse OR judge.

What have we been talking about?

We belong to God, and He has been running our lives as He saw fit.

How have you been doing with that?

Giving Him honor, I hope.

  • For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”

Typically, when this judgment seat of God is preached, it is a scary, ominous event that carries the threat of hell’s flames. The mere fact that Paul includes this discussion about the bema seat, in a letter to believers, should tell you that at this point in the discourse, you are in heaven, standing before God. You are in the arms of love.

Do you get to bring in your earthly heritage, that you so dearly cling to, that gives you some sort of right  to hostility, with you?

NOT a chance.

How about your selfish desires and lusts?

NOT a chance, and if you think that fancy suit that makes you feel like the super preacher, or God’s gift to humanity, will buy you an advantage, you are wrong. The garbage will burn, but you will not, and you will be grateful for it, as you run, with your new robe of white, into the Father’s welcoming arms.

Catch one more thing before we move forward. What have we been talking about?

For we will all,” and “for God has accepted.” Now I could say that this is exclusive for those who believe and would probably be right; and, there is NO doubt in my mind that some will follow Satan to his punishment. But consider something, Christ died for all. That means He redeemed all. This thought should make you lose some sleep, as this section ends on this note.

Romans 14:12 NASB So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

Since we are all God’s creation, then we all have the obligation to answer to Him. Who then, are these sheep that we see in Matthew 25, and why, if they are found acceptable, did they not get included among the saints who died for Christ in the Revelation account? What does it mean to be redeemed and bought back?

The truth is, we have NO grasp, whatsoever, how expansive the mercies of God are.

Posted in Apostle Paul, bible study, Deception, disciplined, forgive, good news, grace, Hope, hypocrisy, In Christ, Jesus, Jews, judgment, Mercy, righteous, Romans, Sin, Thoughts, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do not pass judgment. Romans 14:1-4

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

If you did a quick overview of Romans 14, then you would know that the first three verses are inherently tied together.

One of the first things you see is the word judgment; however, if all you used was, say, the NASB, you might not understand why Paul uses the word judgment. I will try to explain.

Romans 14:1 NASB Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

How would you know this person, who just walked in the door, is weak in their faith, and what does it mean to be weak in faith?

You wouldn’t know, that is unless you had some in-depth conversation. And, just because these “new” people don’t see things the way you do, does not necessarily mean they are weak in faith.

[As I write this, the United States is in shut down mode over the Covid 19 virus. Not knowing what is affecting me physically, and the fact that my sinuses began draining again, I opted not to take any lip off of people at church, and stay home. Since the church I attend is a modified “faith” church, although they will not tell you that, to some, my actions would indicate that I did not have enough faith. Given the global circumstances, I would be very annoyed if someone started coughing all over me. Does that make me weak in faith? I am hoping you get my point.]

Let’s look at other translations and see if we get any clarification.

Welcome with open arms, fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.(Romans 14:1 MSG)

Did you catch that, he is not just talking about someone who is merely weak in their faith, he is talking about fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. Well, there are two or three conflicting opinions to every truth you might be expressing.

An example.

Sitting in a home-group, “of men,” a man showed up who was reasonably new to the church. The assumption was made that this guy knows nothing. So, in an attempt to show off some biblical prowess, based on tradition and opinion, and not the word, the question was asked, how big do you think David was when he slew Goliath? The man who asked the question is someone I have known for about twenty years and, the religious tradition is that David was a boy of about 12 years. When no one dared to answer the question I said, I will take a crack at it, and said, about six foot four inches tall. Well, guess what happened, I got verbally accosted because I said something with which they did not agree. By the way, there is substantial biblical evidence that David was about that tall, but I will leave that to you to find out. Some of these people can be very opinionated and therefore come off as though they know everything.

Another example came to mind when an ex-pastor brought in stacks of the book, “The Shack,” by William Paul Young. That Pastor said it had impacted his life, and he wanted others to read it. I bought one. I struggled a bit with the book because the imagery was not what I was used to. If you read Eugene Peterson’s book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” you came to learn that in his church, in the South, racism was simply a way of life. While the racism may not have been so openly visible for me, I strongly suspect that racism ran through the church I attended as well; these hidden racist attitudes caused some of my struggle as I read The Shack. The Holy Spirit told me to shut up and keep reading, and I did, but I still approached a man at our church who had a Theological Doctorate and asked him about “The Shack” because I wanted answers. His response was, I will not discuss something that is filled with such weak theology. I never bothered him again.

To be honest, I struggled with the crowd passing judgment against me that evening, and yet, I have passed judgment against them. The brother who asked about David’s height, went on, several years later, to lead a study in Romans, just as I am still doing, months after the other has ended. I dropped out after a short time, rather than to get into contentious arguments. The arguments would have evolved primarily because my friend was teaching Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Romans instead of the Bible. While some of Wiersbe’s information could be deemed useful, I also found aspects that grieve me, such as: telling the audience that the book of Romans was primarily written to the Gentile world.

Here is where the idea that Romans is a Gentile’s book comes into play.

Romans 14:2 NLT  For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables.

You get some freshly converted Jew, and they will come undone if you hand them a pulled pork sandwich. 

Would that bother a Gentile? 

I doubt it would, so if he is talking to Gentiles, then why even have this discussion? Perhaps there is more to this idea of eating anything. 

Peterson’s Message says this.

For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background might assume all Christians should be vegetarians and eat accordingly. (Romans 14:2 MSG)

Interesting, how Peterson says, “ while another, with a different background might assume all Christians should be vegetarians and eat accordingly.” 

Since you know your Bible, then I will bring up that Peter was the Apostle to the Gentiles, but that didn’t last long. How do we know this? Because of this.

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. (Acts 10:9-16 NIV)

Immediately after this, Peter was called to the home of Cornelius, the Centurion.

The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius, the Centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” (Acts 10:22 NIV)

This Centurion was a Roman Gentile. Watch what happened.

The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Acts 11:1-3 NIV)

Obviously, for most of the Jews, their faith was not strong enough to handle Peter’s sitting with Gentiles, let alone the eating part. Why because these new converts may have been willing to eat pulled pork and lobster?

Romans 14:3 NIV  The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.

What did Eugene Peterson say?

“Welcome with open arms, fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with.”

Is this also Paul’s way of telling these Jews that the Gentiles are acceptable? 

The Complete Jewish Bible tells us:

The one who eats anything must not look down on the one who abstains; and the abstainer must not pass judgment on the one who eats anything, because God has accepted him— (Romans 14:3 CJB)

There does not seem to be anything abnormal, as one is merely abstaining. This can work both ways. But let’s pursue what might not be said in this rant. The first church council was made up of Apostles, Jews, and they held tightly to their Jewishness. So when they gave instructions to the “Gentile” believers, they merely said,

but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. (Acts 15:20 NASB)

This did not explain the reasons why you don’t consume the blood, as it is for most, just disgusting. Paul takes it a step further.

Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idolswe know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us, there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However, not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience being weak is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through your knowledge, he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. (1 Corinthians 8:1-11 NASB)

So it has more to do with freedoms and liberty, and Paul practically uses the same language here in his letter to the church at Corinth, as he did in the letter to the church in Rome.

While I intend to include this next verse in the future study, it is undoubtedly, and contextually, an aspect of this conversation.

Romans 14:4 NASB Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master, he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Consider these words:

Who are you to judge the servant of another?

What does that mean?

Paul, as I have pointed out on several occasions, opened this letter in this manner.

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, (Romans 1:1 NASB)

Do you not realize that we are all bond-servants?

And if we are bond-servants, then this portion of this verse stands true.

To his own master, he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

If scripture is true, and it is, then we will either stand or fall because we are the Lords. Thank God, He will make us stand, not only in this world but also in the world to come.

Posted in apologetics, Apostle Paul, bible study, Faith, forgive, gentiles, grace, Jesus, Jews, judgment, Law of liberty, Mercy, restore, righteous, Romans, the good news, Things I have never noticed before, Thoughts on scripture, understanding | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fulfilling the Law Through Love. Romans 13:8-14.

That’s quite the title considering that Paul is known for preaching grace. As Paul tries to tell us how to follow the law, the “law” and love, at first glance, those two words do not seem to belong together, as the “law” almost always has an oppressive connotation, but then, for some, so does heaven and worship.

Let me explain. When I was younger, growing up in church, and having a very religious mother who used the “law of God” as a threat, to hear her say you have to worship God created imagery were all we would do once we got to heaven, was to sit and cry out, Holy Holy Holy, for the rest of eternity. It did not help that the enemy comes along behind some demand like that and tries to convince you that God is like a twisted dictator that demands worship. As my understanding grew about the Lord, I learned what His nature and character were, and I found myself caught up in “worship” in such a magnificent way that I did not want to leave that place, that moment in time. Unfortunately, many of those moments are within my church body, and, regardless of what I want, they stop the music and tell everybody to shake hands with others, which breaks my heart and the moment. Being caught up in worship is the most wondrous place to be, and all I want to do is to cry out Holy Holy Holy. As I tell my wife on occasion, you made me fall in love with you once again; I feel that way about the Father.

The first verse we cover in this section is Romans 13:8.

Romans 13:8 NLT  Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

Let’s take this apart. The first thing I see could be construed to be a command – a law.

    • Owe nothing to anyone.”

Alternate versions give us: Stop owing anybody anything; Let no debt remain outstanding; Don’t owe anyone anything, and Pay everything you owe.

If I were teaching a financial freedom class, this would lesson number one – get out of debt. But this is NOT just about getting out of debt; this is about stopping the destruction of relationships, including the one you have with the Father.

Why bring our relationship with the Father into this?

Because money has brought more people to destruction than just about anything else, and what do you do when you are evicted from your home? You blame God. No, God does not turn His back on you in moments like this; you turn your back on Him because of your shame.

What else does this verse tell us?

    • “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another.”

The NASB puts it this way: except to love one another. Again I ask, why do the law and love go together? The Apostle Peter had something to say in response to my question. 1 Peter 4:8 NASB

because love covers a multitude of sins,”

Sin is anything that breaks God’s law. The fact that we are breathing attributes to the breaking of the law. How? Simply by being alive, because your very being longs to do its own thing; this concept doesn’t seem like such a big deal when you don’t have the Holy Spirit in your life, and that’s the problem, as the Holy Spirit would be leading you to do what is right. Grasp this; OUR sin put Jesus on that cross. Love, in the flesh, put Himself on that cross; and, at that moment, bore the penalties for OUR sin, and offered us His righteousness instead; and with that act, LOVE covered our sins, not just once as in the sacrifice of a lamb, but in perpetuity.

Almost every translation speaks of Romans 13:8 along the lines of loving your neighbor, and in that you have fulfilled the law, meeting all of its requirements. If we still have a responsibility to maintain the law, as inundating as most see it, then this should be very freeing to most. But, loving your neighbor evokes a question that I have to deal with constantly. How do I love the drug dealer and his hate-filled girlfriend, who has taught her children that my wife, the school librarian, is to be hated and feared, because she, and I, will call the police on them? (We haven’t done that, yet.)

Perhaps Paul has an answer for a question like this, as he always does. Once again, I lean on Eugene Peterson’s Message.

Romans 13:9 MSG  The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself.

If I apply this to my neighbor, sleeping with his wife is unthinkable. The neighbor has nothing that I want to take; but then there is this statement “don’t always be wanting what you don’t have.” This last portion is the world I live in, and I fight it constantly. Every once in a while the truth creeps in and I see it; I have to love myself better. I know, that sounds weird, but the truth of it is, I must see myself the way the Father sees me, and He loves me.

A staunch version of Romans 13:9 comes from the MKJV.

For: “Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not lust;” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Let me add, all these things (sins) are easily done in the mind; and, you are still just as responsible for the results, whether you acted out on the thought or not. That piece of information should make you elated that Christ paid the penalty for ALL sin. [Keep in mind that Christ’s actions do not relieve you from the legal authorities and the demands of the court.]

Another aspect of Paul’s response.

Romans 13:10 NLT  Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

The CEV translation says this:

No one who loves others will harm them. So love is all that the Law demands.

Oversimplified? Perhaps; but what was the jest of those laws, written in stone by God, that Moses carried down from the mountain? TREAT PEOPLE DECENTLY.

Now, it seems that Paul makes a shift in thought.

Romans 13:11 CEV  You know what sort of times we live in, and so you should live properly. It is time to wake up. You know that the day when we will be saved is nearer now than when we first put our faith in the Lord.

I sometimes think, life could not have been more simplified back then; with an outhouse only a short distance away, and a well in the city square from which to get water, life was good. But, just like today, there were thugs and bullies willing to take what is yours and kill you in the process. How did this happen if we all came from the same stock? And, if Noah told his sons about this God that talked with him, wouldn’t they have shared that with their children? But if you read your bible, then you know that one of Noah’s own sons committed some heinous sexual crime against his father.

When I think about this statement (“You know what sort of times we live in,”) in relation to the world I live in, what has changed?

Modernization has certainly upgraded the weapons thugs and bullies can use against me/us; technology has improved the ability to communicate to others the gathering points for mass attacks; and people, like George Soros, are willing to fund brutal and coordinated attacks on the unwary populace. In short, the world has gone mad.

Could the general population have felt the same emotion in Paul’s day? Maybe.

What does Paul tell us to do, and consider this answer in light of what verse 10 says?

Love never does anything that is harmful to its neighbor,”(ISV)

Never intentionally do anything harmful to your neighbor. Paul tells us:

It is time to wake up.”

Paul, then says something unusual – it is only unusual because the church has been in existence for over 2000 years, and yet, even then, there was an anticipation, and an understanding, of the events that would precede and announce the coming of the Lord.

You know that the day when we will be saved is nearer now than when we first put our faith in the Lord.” (CEV)

One of the ways of interpreting this sentence would be to take it on a daily basis; that idea works, but clearly, some aspect of understanding is missing. Having been berated by a friend and a pastor, I know that NOT everyone is willing to even come close to making an effort to understand the end times and the events that move God’s plan forward.

An alternate way to interpret what Paul is saying is to look at the context. The context has everything to do with the day in which we will be saved.

Hebrews 10:25 GW  We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.

Hebrews 10:37 GW  “Yet, the one who is coming will come soon. He will not delay.

Obviously, Paul, and the early church anticipated His soon return.

But which return are we, the church, looking for?

Paul again writes.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 GW  The Lord will come from heaven with a command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the dead who believed in Christ will come back to life.  (17)  Then, together with them, we who are still alive will be taken in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. In this way we will always be with the Lord.  (18)  So then, comfort each other with these words!

We will be caught up to meet him in the air. This is not on the ground as the prophet Zechariah describes; these are two separate events.

Zechariah 14:4 GW  On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives will be split in two, forming a very large valley from east to west. Half of the mountain will move toward the north, and the other half will move toward the south.

If we can understand that we are to be looking for His soon return for the church, then how are we to live?

Romans 13:12 NASB The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

The NLT conveys this: “The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here.”

Night can, and should only be, interpreted as everything less than the glory of living with the Father – in our changed bodies.

This understanding is why I gave you passages like 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. Since we know that the day of salvation will soon be here, then we need to lay aside the deeds of darkness, and, put on the armor of light.

What of this darkness and the deeds Paul speaks of?

John 3:19-21 NASB “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. (20) “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (21) “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

I might think that these deeds are anything that would drive you toward the darkness.

The word deeds is the Greek word ergon and can also mean acts or toil. Obviously, the acts or toil are for NO good purpose. When I look up the word exposed, I find the Greek word elegchō. Elegchō is of uncertain affinity and also means to confute, admonish: – convict, rebuke, reprove. Confute means to prove to be wrong; to convict of error.

The dark things that Paul talks about in Ephesians 5 when he speaks of how it is disgraceful to speak of those things are nothing new. Israel reverted back to their disgraceful ways when they camped at Mount Sinai. (Read Stephen’s discourse, in Acts 7, in your spare time.)

Ephesians 5:11-12 NASB Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; (12) for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.

Keep in mind, that as a follower of Christ, you have been redeemed and made new, however, it is only the union between you and the Holy Spirit of God, that keeps you from returning to your completely deprived state.

1 Thessalonians 5:5 NASB for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;

As I read my bible one theme stands out over the others, and that is that we are called to live in enthusiastic awareness, but of what?

Romans 13:13-14 NLT  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. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

  • Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see.”
  • Don’t participate in the darkness” – (or anything that darkness includes.)
  • (Instead,) clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Live with eager excitement, as you long for the day that Jesus will return for His church. This is what he told the disciples, with the addendum, I am telling you the truth; after that, God’s wrath will be poured out over the earth. An acquaintance of mine, as well as others, believe that we are in those seven years now. If that was the case, then God would still be holding US accountable for sin. The logic only works if you disregard Jesus work on the cross. Because of the cross, sin was paid for, so that we do not have to pay with our lives.

Romans 6:9-11 NLT  We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:19-21 NLT  For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,  and through him, God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions.

I focused, for a second, on Romans 13:13-14, where it says, “And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.” Why would Paul have to mention such a thing?

The best way of thinking this through is to understand that each of us was born broken (you can thank Adam for that.) That brokenness is the basis for sin, and sin, in its refined state, is desire. So, there you have it; you have an innate and perpetual desire to do what you want. For some, that means theft, while for others, it means murder. Let’s just say, you haven’t done those things, and your desire is to merely fret over the fact that you don’t have an RV like your neighbor – that you have come to despise because they have and you don’t. If you thought it, you have done it, and that makes you a sinner. Now I am sure you are smart enough to have figured this all out, but some of us clearly have not. Some, foolishly believe that migrating over to Christianity totally frees you from your lust, filled desires, but it does not.

If you think that life is all rainbows and sunshine and that humanity can be completely free of God and live like civilized people, you are wrong because we are oriented, by our brokenness to do anything but love. All you have to do is to exam the story from Genesis chapter six – the section that contains the events that lead to the flood, and the destruction of “all” flesh; there you will find that humanity and their understanding of God came almost exclusively through word of mouth. Many, so-called Christians, love to fight about every point, so let’s fight about this word of mouth idea.

After the garden incident, how many times do you see God speaking to “his” people?

Just about zero times. Surely, God spoke with Enoch, but people who choose to listen to God are always rare. Why do you suppose that is? If you have followed the ancestral lineage through to Noah, haven’t you wonder what happened to Enoch’s brothers and sisters? How about Methuselah, he too had brothers and sisters, and yet, like Noah, NONE of them got on the ark. It is very obvious that there was only a thread of people – Noah’s family, and Noah specifically, that paid any attention to the voice of the Lord.

Genesis 6:5 NLT  The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

Can I understand that everything was polluted, especially when there were men like Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah?

Percentages were less than 100%, and like the story of Lot, it was enough for God to assert that the entirety of the population was polluted. Now there is an interesting word polluted. When we see such terminology, we think about places like “cancer alley” that runs along the length of the Mississippi River and empties out into the Louisiana bayous, or the power plants of Chernobyl and most recently Fukushima. You get the idea. While even back then, in Noah’s time, there had to be some form of pollution, but it was nothing like today. And so, we are not talking about humanities physical destruction of the earth, and therefore have to be talking about something even greater, something that affects the moral fiber of mankind.

Genesis 6:11-13 KJV  The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.  And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

The Hebrew word for corrupt is šāḥaṯ and means spoiled, ruined, and perverted. That destructive force reared its ugly head when we read, “the sons of God, looked on the daughters of men.” Sons of God is the Hebrew words bēn elohim. “bēn” pronounced ba’ne is found over 5000 times in scripture and carries the most basic meaning and general translation of son – the direct male offspring of human parents, it is more generally a relational term because of its variety of applications. This word can express an adopted child.

While this information, obtained from the Word Study Dictionary, seems to prove the point of those unwilling to pursue answers, it opens the door to more questions, because of Job 2:1.

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. (NASB)

If God can use the term in Job to refer to a fallen angel, Satan, then who are these sons we see here I Genesis 6?

I do not want to end here, focused on a broken, fallen world, not when Jesus has redeemed us all. Focus on this:

If you want to lose sleep over something, make it this, how can I clothe myself in the presence of the Lord.

Posted in Apostle Paul, bible study, condemnation, disciplined, End times, Faith, false teaching, finisher, gentiles, God's character, grace, guilt, Hearing God, In Christ, Islam, Jesus, Mercy, Peace, redemption, restore, righteous, Romans, sexual sin, Sin, Thoughts, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Submission to authorities. Romans 13:1-7

Romans, chapter 13 is entitled:

Submission to the Authorities

I am already struggling with this title, but let’s be patient and see what the chapter is telling us.

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.
For there is no authority except from God,
and those which exist are established by God.
Romans 13:1 NASB

The idea that every person is to be in subjection is rather comprehensive, as no one is excluded. However, Paul is writing specifically to the church body that gathers in Rome, and generally to the entire body of Christ.

This letter about subjection may be especially important since this group of believers, which is majority Jewish, had recently made a return after either Claudius or Nero expelled the Jews from Rome. Why don’t I pronounce one or the other as the author of a decree to expel the Jews? Because Nero shared power with Claudius, his adoptive father, and therefore Rome was also under the governance of Nero (37-68AD), but one of the most disturbing leaders was Claudius. Nero became the emperor in 54AD after the death of Claudius. History tells us that the Emperor had been using the Jews for torches, and Claudius made it known that the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus – a Grecian derivative for Christ.

Based upon what they understood from the Torah, the Jews knew they were not to lay down and be doormats for this Roman oppression. This scenario should have us scratching our heads in bewilderment as we try to understand what Romans 13:1 is asking us to do.

Subjection, according to the dictionary, means to be: inferior in order, dignity, power, and influence. It also means to be subordinate, but NOT enslaved.

Do I think, for a second, that God desires for you to feel inferior? Not a chance, and neither did Paul. 2 Corinthians 11:5 Paul says, “I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles.” And in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul not only speaks again about how he is in no way inferior to the apostles, but he states that he has never treated any of the body of Christ as inferior.

Strong’s shows us the Greek word hupotassō, which means to subordinate; reflexively to obey: – be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto. This Greek word is a derivative of two others, hupo meaning under, and tas’-so, which means to arrange in an orderly manner, that is, assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot.

We are being asked to submit ourselves to the authorities in an orderly manner. Another way to look at this, we are being asked to put ourselves at their disposal.

Is Paul saying, for any foolish endeavor?

I seriously doubt it, but if you study life of the Apostle Paul, you find him arguing his case “before the courts,” but NOT screaming, yelling, and making an absurd scene. He carries himself with dignity.

What purpose does Paul’s submission serve?

It allowed for the gospel message to go to the Gentiles, caused the gospel to spread, and the gospel was preached to the highest levels of government.

What is the reason behind such a request by “God?”

As the NLT puts it,

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. (Romans 13:1 NLT)

Look at how distinctly the explanation comes.

Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God;

and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

Romans 13:2 NASB

  • “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.”

God has put them there in positions of authority, even if they are morons. There is a purpose behind everything.

We, in America, are coming to Presidential elections once again. The vote in which President Trump was elected did not start with him in the race. He threw his hat into the ring at the last minute. For me, before Mr. Trump jumped in, there was NOBODY sane worthy of a vote, but to be straight with you, most of us knew what kind of brash person the man was, and we all knew he had weaknesses, but the man has demonstrated that there is more to him than the shallow louse who loved to say, you’re fired.

So let’s try to glance at two scenarios.

  1. President Obama: An admitted Muslim, with falsified birth records, and a determination (his own words) to bring this nation down to a level with third world nations, was the President of my country. I did not choose him, vote for him, or like him. As long as we had the right to freedom of speech and the ability to vote, I made an effort to get the devil and his demons out of office. Fortunately, he could only be president for two terms, and yet, I had to abide by the laws, mandates, and presidential orders. If there had been a reinstatement of the draft and they had called my name, I would have gone to war – mind you, I would have been muttering the entire way angrily. And one religious zealot, in particular, would repeatedly say, you have to pray for our President. My response, in jest, was, I have, and, unfortunately, he is still alive.
  2. The current President, Donald Trump: Is brash, outspoken, and demanding; yet, the nation is running more the way many of us had hoped it would. I pray for his success, well being, and sanity (I think the job of President could easily make anyone nuts.)

Do I feel like I am doing this subjection thing correctly?

Not by a long shot, but know this, I don’t fight with the police, because I have not done anything wrong, as yet. And I do not believe it is appropriate for a Christian to be involved in the activities of Antifa, as their purpose is to fight against leadership and disrupt people’s lives. The day may come when aligning oneself with the scriptures may be a criminal act. At that point, despite what the current administration says, I will become a criminal.

Romans 13:3-4 NASB For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; (4) for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.

You probably noticed how I said, I don’t see a need to fight with the police, as I have done nothing wrong. Romans 13: 3,4(a) speaks specifically to that end.

  • Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; (4) for it is a minister of God to you for good.”

Let’s just say you ran a red light, now do you feel you are in any place to fight with the police officer that is pulling you over? Some morons do.

  • But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”

Keep in mind that Paul is writing to believers. Some religious zealots would have you think that as a follower of Christ, we would never do anything wrong. My question to people who buy into thinking like this is, what planet do you live on

While it is true that we, who accepted Christ, have buried ourselves with Him in baptism, have died and risen with Him – theoretically; but, as long as we are suited in these bodies, we will always be subject to the sin and death that surround us. 

What advantage then is salvation? 

It gave us a righteous standing with the Father, and that is our entrance into the Kingdom of heaven. Until that day comes and we are changed, we are capable of missing the mark/sin; and sin can get you landed in prison.

Romans 13:5 NASB Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.

Eugene Peterson does a very good job of giving us another take on this verse.

That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live. (Romans 13:5 MSG)

These last two verses define the idea being subject to authorities very well. Because it’s the right way to live.

Romans 13:6-7 BBE  For the same reason, make payment of taxes; because the authority is God’s servant, to take care of such things at all times.  (7)  Give to all what is their right: taxes to him whose they are, payment to him whose right it is, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor is to be given.

So being subject to authority looks like this.

  • Pay your taxes. The reason: “because the authorities are working for God when they fulfill their duties” (GNB) This does not say they are Godly people, it merely states that unwittingly, they are working for God, as they fulfill their duties.
  • Give to all what is their right: taxes to him whose they are, payment to him whose right it is, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor is to be given.” The Message conveys this, Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.” It’s simple really, do what is right by the law.

To those who do not buy into the idea of being under the law, I know you think the “law” is explicitly talking about the Torah. Why then did Jesus, in compliance with Roman law, tell Peter to pay the taxes that Rome was demanding? Jesus answered the Pharisee’s argument by telling Peter to go fishing. When you pull up the first fish, look in its mouth and pull out the coin that you will find there. Peter did just that. Jesus then said, whose image do you see there? The answer was Caesar. Jesus then said, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and by that, the taxes got paid that day, answering the foolish argument of the Jews.

Are we to comply with the law?

There is no doubt in my mind unless the law demands mandatory worship of the image of the beast – although I do not believe that it will be called the beast, take his number, and worship the beast, that perhaps, all other laws are such that we could comply. [Read Revelation 13 and pay particular attention to the details about the worship of the beast, taking the mark, and the worship of the image that is made to speak. Anyone, who does all three, goes to hell, no questions asked.]

And why could we comply? If we go back to Romans chapter 1, in which Paul introduces himself to this mostly Jewish community. He says, I Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ. Slaves have no right to do anything but comply; maybe this understanding is our biggest clue.

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The marks of a true Christian – what does that mean? Romans 12:9-21.

Many of the translations entitle Romans 12:9-21,

The Marks of a True Christian.

I find myself saying, with some frequency, look at their fruit. Unlike Ash Wednesday, which we just went through, we are not looking for marks on someone that might indicate whether or not they are a Christ-follower, although we could be if we lived in a region where brutalizing Christ-followers is a common practice. So, then, the reality of an opening statement like this, is that we are looking for evidence that is demonstrated in the way they act.

Actions take in a wide variety of manners and methods, and this idea is played out in Matthew 25:31-46, where we read about the sheep and goat judgment. In Matthew’s gospel, the dead of all the nations is called before the throne of judgment. God, who is represented by Jesus – the shepherd, separates the crowd into two groups. To those He calls sheep, He says, welcome into the kingdom. The “sheep,” almost as if in unison, say, what did we do to deserve entrance into the kingdom of God. To which Jesus replies, you gave me a drink of water, fed me, and visited me in prison. This allowance into the kingdom should stun us, as the fruit is NOT what we recognize, or expect to see when we are looking for fruit. Well, there it is, the word fruit, and I associated it with these marks that the translators tell us we should be able to see.

If we think we must be fruit inspectors, we have a problem, for when we are focusing on other people’s fruit, which comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, then who is tending to my fruit trees

Before I dive into Romans, I want to point out the peculiarity of the terminology “Marks.”

If you have been a follower of Christ for any length of time, then you should be familiar with the idea that the Holy Spirit seals us.

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13 NASB)

And, in Revelation chapter seven, we see the one hundred and forty-four thousand who are sealed in their foreheads.

Revelation 7:3 NASB saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”

A friend asked me, what does that seal/mark look like, and can we see it?

Great question, but I don’t have a good answer, as you can’t see the “seal/mark” of the Holy Spirit on or in the life of a believer unless you look at any fruit they might be producing.
Evidence of a particular kind of fruit came out several years ago when Dr. Hugh Ross was speaking to our men’s group about a book he had written, entitled “Why the Universe is the way it is.” He talked about how science validates the Bible, the age of the earth, and, he referred, many times, to the Book of Revelation, a subject which he had been teaching in his church for several years. Several men in the group were polite enough to hold their tongues until after the talk, and then those men began, in small circles, to dispute what the intelligent Doctor was saying. For me, the Holy Spirit repeatedly confirmed the words of Doctor Ross that morning, as He reminded of things that my heart had already seen in scripture.

John 14:26 NASB “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

What kind of fruit were these naysayers demonstrating; men who wholeheartedly, profess to be followers of Christ?

Let’s dive in, starting with Romans 12:9.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9 NASB)

  • Let love be without hypocrisy.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines hypocrisy as a feigning to be what one is not, or dissimulation, a concealment of one’s real character or motives. More generally, hypocrisy a simulation or the assuming of a false appearance of virtue or religion.

Doesn’t this give you the impression that these hypocrites are not a part of the church body?

The tricky part of this is that this impression stuff is the devil’s playground, as it prompts us to migrate into judgment, and that is not our job.

What are we, as the church, supposed to do about it?

Do not try to pick their fruit. Paul gives us some sound advice, stay away from things that are not right.

Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” Now in a large house, there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:19-21 NASB)

Note how the NASB uses the term wickedness. Just the mention of the word evokes images of horrific acts. Look that word “wickedness” up, and you can find, according to the Word Study Dictionary, that a sufficient and simplistic understanding is “what ought not to be.” That sounds like something my granddad used to say. He applied that farm mentality to me on more than one occasion, but notably when I tested out the cigarette lighter in his car and got burned. When applied to people within the church body, you know, the ones you thought had more sense than that. It is very challenging to understand who the wicked are because many give off an air of knowledge and the arrogance that goes along with such learning.

Let’s say, for fun sake, that we get to be weed pullers, and have the insight to get these wicked weeds out of our bodies; what do we have that guides us? We have a parable entitled, The parable of the Weeds.

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. “But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went away. “But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. “The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ “And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?‘ “But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘” (Matthew 13:24-30 NASB)

An obvious outcome of Matthew 13’s events, is that God, who knows those who are His, will appropriately gather the wheat. The judgmental, take great pride in their belief that God will burn up those who are deemed the tares. Tares is the Greek word zizanion and means “something that resembles wheat.” In other words, something that looks similar.

The statement that they will be burned up has associations with hell’s fire. But, we have another point of view, that may make more sense, especially when we are talking about the church, and members of the body that have bizarre interpretations in doctrines. (Many, think that those who talk about end-times events are bizarre.)

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15 NASB)

Here, in 1 Corinthians, it is the person’s work that will be burned, but the individual will be saved.

Does this mean that everyone will be saved?

Certainly not, for not everyone is a part of the church body.

The term work, which we see in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, is not necessarily associated with a job. The Greek word for work is ergonand also means an effort or an act. So, if you think that what you are advocating is your assignment from God, you could be wrong. Not to worry, as only your vain efforts will burn, and you won’t.

  • Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”

The word Abhor is the Greek word apostugeō and means to detest utterly.

That certainly sounds like a complete separation, if you can do it. Another point of view that Paul gives us, comes from 1 Thessalonians 5.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 NASB, But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.

If we were to examine everything more closely, then perhaps there would be fewer of us caught the snare of the devil.

Romans 12:10 NASB “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;”

  • Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;”

Eugene Peterson’s “The Message,” tells us, “Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” The band Mercy Me, sang a song in which it says, “the last thing I need, is to be heard.” A person could take this several ways, and to be honest the context if I recall correctly, had more to do with our crying out to God. I applied the phrase to my own life, at times when someone with an aggressive style dominates the conversation. You see, God is quite capable of making Himself heard, so I don’t have to worry about some Word from God, that I think the crowd, no matter the size, needs to hear.

  • give preference to one another in honor;”

Preference is the Greek word proēgeomai and means to lead the way for others. It also means to prefer.

If I am leading the way for others, then perhaps I can see this as giving them the chance to grow, just as I need to grow.

Paul also used the word honor. Honor is the Greek word timē, pronounced tee-may’, and means to give value or esteem.

Romans 12:11 NASB “not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;”

Another way to put this can be seen in the NLT.

Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. (Romans 12:11 NLT)

Eugene Peterson takes it another direction when he says,

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master,” (Romans 12:11 MSG)

Romans 12:12-13 is drenched in our serving of others, but it is not what most think.

rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, (13) contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. (NASB)

Peterson conveys the idea of being cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. (Romans 12:12 MSG)

Romans 12:14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (NASB)

Again I turn to Peterson’s Message, where it says, “Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.”

Romans 12:15. Most translations say something very similar.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (NASB)

The Message has another take on this.

Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.

Romans 12:16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” (NASB)

The Easy to Read Version says, Live together in peace with each other. Don’t be proud but be willing to be friends with people who are not important to others. Don’t think of yourself as smarter than everyone else. It almost feels like we are under the law once again. Oh yeah, those laws we thought we were free from, are written upon our hearts, and they sound much like Romans chapter12, verses 9-21.

Romans 12:17Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” (NASB)

The CEV restates verse 17 rather plainly. “Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others,”

Romans 12:18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (NASB)

Almost every translation conveys the statement, “if possible.” Well, what if I decide it is NOT possible; that seems like the least likely candidate is making the decisions. The ERV restates it plainly, “Do the best you can to live in peace with everyone.” Now, that sounds more like a directive, but with the understanding that we live in reality, and not everyone is friendly.

Romans 12:19-20 NASB “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. (20) “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.”

The ERV says, don’t try to punish anyone who does wrong to you. Wait for God to punish them with his anger. It is written: “I am the one who punishes; I will pay people back,” says the Lord.” The idea of heaping coals on someone’s head plays mind games with me, and so I try to avoid the thought, but the idea behind it is much like God’s dream for turning Israel toward Him through jealousy.

And finally,

Romans 12:21 MSG  Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

When we allow the enemy, free space in our heads, he has won that skirmish, and that can’t happen unless we let him.

Posted in Apostle Paul, bible study, Faith, forgive, gentiles, God's character, grace, Heaven, In Christ, Jesus, Jews, Mercy, Peace, rapture, redemption, righteous, Romans, spiritual gifts, the nations, Thoughts, Thoughts on scripture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gifts of Grace, Romans 12:3-8.

Paul opened the twelfth chapter of Romans with a stern warning that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices. 

Here is how the NASB puts it:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. NASB

I can just hear some old, Jewish, man, emphasizing loudly, the phrase, “I exhort you, by the mercies of God,” as though your life depended upon it. 

There is, no doubt, a saucy flavor to Paul’s writing, but it is more noticeable when you realize that Paul was a Jew first; that understanding then permeates everything he says and should pervade your entire discernment of the Bible.

Perhaps the best way to understand Romans 12:1 comes through Eugene Peterson’s Message, when he says, 

Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.”

There is a reason for a comment like this, and we see it in Romans 12:2, where Paul says,

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. NLT

He might as well have said, the world will suck you in and turn you into something other than what God designed you to be if you play with the fire, and that is why you are going to need a tremendous amount of grace if you plan on pulling yourselves out of the fire because it is there every day, working against you. If you are not a follower of Christ but do not spend time in God’s, then you are going to have nothing but problems, especially with a statement like this because you think you are in control; you are not!

All of God’s goodness, the righteousness He bestows, His power, and the life that is in Him – that will be manifest is the age to come, is the Grace of God. A very inadequate descriptive I know, but the idea is much like holding a carrot before a horse, if you want it, you will pursue it – that life, which is the great mystery.

On that note, Paul begins expounding upon Romans 12:3.

Romans 12:3 NASB For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Without a broader understanding of God’s word, I might think Paul was the only one who received this grace, but that is not the case. Pay attention to the next few passages.

(Romans 1:3-6 NASB) “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;”

If you are in Christ, then you are one of the “whom” of which Paul speaks. Romans 10:12 tells us that His grace abounds to all.

Romans 10:12 NASB For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;

Let’s assume, for a moment, that God has poured great spiritual understanding upon you; to top it off, He even tells you when to take out the trash just minutes before the collection truck shows up. How are you supposed to act? The answer to this is also a part of Romans 12:3.

“I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think so as to have sound judgment,” Romans 12:3b NASB

There you have it, don’t think more highly of yourselves than you ought to. What does that mean, or perhaps, what then is the limitation?

Romans 12:3c NASB, “as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

The limitation is, God has given this same measure to everyone who believes; therefore, you are no one special, merely, as Paul put it, an obedient slave, doing what a slave to Christ is supposed to do.

Okay, wait a minute here, I thought we were talking about grace – you know, God’s Riches AtChrist’s Expense, and now we are talking about slavery and obedience.

Paul introduced us to his letter to the church in Rome by addressing himself as a slave to Christ.

Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated to the gospel of God, 
(Romans 1:1 LITV)

For those who want to dance around the words, yes, many use the phrase “bond-servant,” because it is easier on the ears.

Get real! What do you think a “bond-servant is”?

It is someone who, in most cases, has given themselves over to another, typically because they have become indebted and can’t pay. This type of slavery often happens to children, to this day. It is not uncommon in India for a lower caste family to sell one of their children so that the family survives.

What if you like the way this owner treats you and you have become comfortable with the lifestyle – one in which you typically have no right to an opinion?

Then you submit yourself to them and have a hole punched in one of your ears that signifies your permanent submission. Paul knew what this meant, not only to the Jews, who frequently were the slave owners but on several occasions, as a nation, found themselves in bondage. Although the Jews will fight with you, saying we were never in bondage, Egypt is one of those times, and, for Paul to say it, it was like throwing cold water in the face of someone on a cold day. It was meant to wake them up and shock them at the same time.

In addition to slave terminology, Paul talked about a level playing field.

As students of the Bible, we know that Paul, speaking to the Jewish believers within this Christian community, equated this playing field to a perceived advantage the Jewish believers thought they had over, what they deemed the inferior Gentiles, who somehow had become followers of Christ, as the Jews had.

To some, this idea of a level playing field is completely devoid of God and involves a government in which bullies and terrorists control the power; take from those who have, and allegedly give it to the poor. Sadly, this idea includes those who don’t care to work. Lamentably, the bullies who want to run this Socialist style of government still get to keep what they acquire.

God’s kingdom, which is currently in the spirit and unseen to us, will come in the physical realm when Christ returns to clean house. We see this in Revelation 19:11-21. There, everyone covered under the blood of Jesus, and by right of that blood, is the same. In other words, NO ONE, who is a citizen of that kingdom has any advantage, or, more access to God, and His love, than anyone else. Paul understood all this, and if there were a person who could have a problem, it would have been him. You see, Paul, when we first learn of him, was named Saul, and at the top of his class in the school of Pharisees. By Paul’s own admission, he could have taught the teachers.

Did Paul know about the laws of God?

Without a doubt, but he did not know the love of God, and that is only found through an understanding of Jesus Christ. Fortunately, Paul gained that understanding one day, as he traveled on the road to Damascus, while on a mission to persecute these new Christ-followers – Jewish converts, which many devout Jews claimed were trying to corrupt the practices of the Synagogues.

Let’s get back to this idea that God has allotted to each, a measure of faith.

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5 NASB)

The fact that the members do not have the same function should be a good indicator that our faith is not exactly for the same service, either. Note also this idea that we are ONE body in Christ; however, we are individual members one of another. Perhaps the BBE translation might help.

So we, though we are a number of persons, are one body in Christ and are dependent on one another; (Romans 12:5 BBE)

We are dependent on each other, each of us with our allotted, measure of faith. WHY? Because, as we share our weaknesses and strengths, we grow. We grow through the act of praying for each, not mindless candy prayers, but prayers in which we pour out our hearts to God on behalf of the other.

The next verse seems as though it is a shift from an intense and power-filled lifestyle, to simply giving out information. Pay attention, and I will sort it out. Since we are one body, and those allotments of faith for a particular thing can be varied, then we need to look at the definitions that follow in that light.

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8 NASB)

We saw, in Romans 12:3 that we all (those us in Christ) have an allotment of faith, but here, in Romans 12:6-8 we can see that this faith He speaks of is diversified and shows up in what we come to learn in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, that this diversity is the gifts of the spirit.

Can I logically explain this assertion?

Perhaps I don’t need to, but, as we saw in Romans 12:3, Paul, in speaking of faith, uses the Greek word pistis; this is the same word translated believe in 2Thessalonians 2:13. So, faith and belief are the same. (Although, faith often seems like a choice motivated by evidence, while belief is merely an action based on faith.)

I am thinking of Abraham and the offering of Isaac as a sacrifice when I write this. Abraham demonstrated a corresponding trust/belief in what God had said to him; and, if you will remember, most of what we know about God’s interactions with Abraham was in the form of some extraordinary and vivid dreams. It truly is a simple process when you think about it; what makes faith difficult is the demonic voices in your head that tell you it can’t be done. Recently, my wife had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery. It took faith on my part to say, do it! I knew the risks, and so did Abraham.  

(The next time you read about Abraham, and his demonstration of willingness, take note of Sarah. We see nothing of her after this event. Did Abraham comprehend that this possible break in their relationship would be a part of the price he had to pay, I entirely off? Perhaps Sarah was just old, as Abraham was, and no longer a contributor to the story? If age was the factor that made her go away, then how do you explain that moment in time when Jesus, at eight days old, was brought to the temple, and Anna, an aged prophetess, and Simeon, an aged priest, just happened to be there at that moment. Both exclaimed, upon seeing the baby Yahshua, that they had seen the coming of the Messiah they had longed for?)

Luke 2:27-32 NASB And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, (28) then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, (29) “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; (30) For my eyes have seen Your salvation, (31) Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, (32) A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.”

1 Corinthians 12:9 makes it clear that pistis is one of the gifts of the spirit, alongside prophecy, teaching, and so many others.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NASB)

When you look at the endowments, there is a common theme. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The Amplified Bible puts it like this.

Now there are distinctive varieties and distributions of endowments (gifts, extraordinary powers distinguishing certain Christians, due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit), and they vary, but the [Holy] Spirit remains the same. 1 Corinthians 12:4 AMP

So why then do we idolize some people and treat others as mundane because they are not as flashy as some with their giftings as some people?

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A living sacrifice. It’s not what you think. Romans 12:1,2.

The NASB entitles Romans 12:1,2 as a living sacrifice.

As you pursue the depths within chapter 12, you come to understand that WE are that living sacrifice. Finding the treasures buried within those depths may require a focused examination into what Paul is saying by looking at the Greek background of those simple words. Typically, we skim over words like sacrifice, possibly because we do not want to understand the impact that a word like this can have on us. 

Let’s see what we can find.

First, pay attention to context. When Paul opens with the word “therefore,” it immediately tells us that what we see in chapter twelve is a continuation of a thought process. The origins of this current conversation, between Paul and the church, begins in chapter 11 verses 33-36.

The Complete Jewish Bible version of verse 33 says,

O the depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments! How unsearchable are his ways!”

For me, this puts God at a distance, with little hope of understanding who he is; fortunately, that is not the case.

The CEV version of verse 33 tells us,

Who can measure the wealth and wisdom and knowledge of God? Who can understand his decisions or explain what he does?”

It should be easy to understand that God, and His mercy and grace, is beyond our understanding; once again, this puts almost anything we think we know about the Father into the category of being a mere glimpse of who He is.

With that in mind, we begin our exploration of chapter 12.

Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice — alive, holy, and pleasing to God — which is your reasonable service.
(Romans 12:1 NET.)

  1. Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters,”

    Here, Paul is not talking in generalized terms, to the world; this is directed at followers of Christ. In his conversation (as the NET version states), I exhort you. Exhort, according to Webster’s dictionary, means to: “encourage, to embolden, to cheer, to advise. The primary sense seems to be to excite or to give strength, spirit, or courage.” I can take this many ways, such as Paul is advising the followers of Christ, or he is trying to excite them into following the words he is about to give them.

  2. by the mercies of God,”

    Most definitions of mercy lean toward pity; however, that seems wholly inadequate here, especially when we look at passages like Ephesian 1:3,4.

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love.” (NASB)

    Dr. J Vernon McGee, in his simplistic manner, says this of the phrase “By the mercies of God.” “The plural is a Hebraism, denoting an abundance of mercy. God is rich in mercy; God has plenty of it, my friend. He has had to use a lot of it for me, but He still has plenty of it for you.”

    The Word Study Dictionary adds, “It is used in reference to God as the Father of mercies showing His character and that upon which believers can depend as they make their bodies a living offering to Him.”

    2 Corinthians 1:3 NET. “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,”

  3. to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God -”

    Again I draw from J Vernon McGee, who tells us, “the body is the instrument through which we express ourselves. The mind, the affections, the will, and the Holy Spirit can use the body.”

    But does that fully explain what God is asking us to do here? Sure, the Holy Spirit wants to use our bodies, but certainly, we are being asked to lay ourselves down. The commentary by Albert Barnes states that “The word used here commonly denotes the action of bringing and presenting an animal or other sacrifices before an altar. It implies that the action was a free and voluntary offering. Religion is free, and the act of devoting ourselves to God is one of the most freeing acts that we ever perform.

    Consider these words from Psalms.

    Psalms 50:22-23 NASB “Now consider this, you who forget God, Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. (23) “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.”

    This first part got my attention, as it declares, “Now consider this, you who forget God, Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.” Now that God has your attention take note, “ He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright, I shall show the salvation of God.” What can I take away this? That God is deadly serious about this, that and the fact that God’s salvation is deeply integrated into this idea of sacrifice.

    What is He asking me to sacrifice?

    My body and my will.

    Is He specifying how to go about this?

    Absolutely and we see that when He uses terminology like “ alive, holy, and pleasing to God.”

    An immediate observation is that sacrifices get killed. Well, that should be easy for us to associate with, seeing as we died with Christ and were buried with Him in baptism. However, the word used was alive, so He has to be talking about us, filled with vibrancy.

    If you chose to ponder the term holy, how would you apply it to yourselves?

    Most of us can’t imagine anyone seeing us as holy, and yet God does, and this happens when we give ourselves to Christ.

    Webster’s dictionary defines sanctification as made holy; consecrated; set apart for sacred services.

    Ephesians 1:4 tells us that He chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy before Him. Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus chapter 1:13, says, “having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit.”

    In defining the person filled with the Holy Spirit, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews calls it sanctification.

    Hebrews 10:9-10 NASB, then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. (10) By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

    The point here is that having given ourselves over to Christ, we have been made Holy, whether we feel like it or not.

  4. which is your reasonable service.”

    It seems that most of us perceive this idea of service as being God’s will for our lives. The problem with that is that few can define what God’s will is for us. Most will tell you that God’s will is His word, and that would be true; however, the Word rarely speaks directly to the various aspects of our lives. One pathetic example would come from those who say, “what is the will of God for my marriage.” The simple answer is to love your wife; this theme is spread generously across the New Testament.

    Paul helped to define this idea of sacrificial service in the letter that he wrote to the church in Rome.

    Romans 1:9 NASB For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you,

    Service, for Paul, was to serve in delivering the gospel of Christ. Yes, I noticed that the NASB uses the descriptive language, “preaching of the.” Still, the NASB writers define for us, in the front of their bibles that those italicized words are only meant to help aid the sentence structure and our understanding. 

    For me, and it has taken years to realize this, that my reasonable service is to teach, but I have sensed this in my heart for years. The peculiarity is that Jesus appeared to me in a dream when I was about 24, and laid my life out before me. I thought I would never forget a word He said and did not write any of it down. When I awoke, I could only remember Him being there and the immense joy I felt. I cannot recall Him telling me how I would severely damage my own life, and how it could seriously impact my acceptance as a teacher, but I have tried the standard church venues, with no luck; and have only “found” myself in teaching small home groups and in taco stands.

Since we understand that Paul’s admonition is that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, what is next?

And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2 NASB

How many of you have read Romans 12:2 and thought, what does that mean?

It is not that difficult. Webster’s dictionary defines conformed rather simply as “made to resemble; reduced to a likeness of; made agreeable to.”

So then, the question is, made to resemble or agreeable to what?

Look around you, you don’t have to look far; what does the world do? Some of these, I am calling the world, sit by you in church. Franklin Graham, who preaches a message much like his father’s, has been banned in Europe from several stadium venues he had tried to secure, to do massive salvation crusades. And why? Because he calls sin sin. And who do you think holds the significant responsibility for obstructing his access to these stadiums? Church leaders who do not feel that Franklin Graham reflects today’s norms. So, everywhere you turn, bastions of religion have given way to squeaky wheels, and blatant sinners have been given pulpits. In doing so churches have become agreeable to the politically correct norm; we have become agreeable.

Is that all there is, as though that is not enough?
Ideals and sensibility are being stripped away on a  daily basis. Alright, I get it, I am not supposed to act like the world, but an obvious thing is going to happen; you will not have many friends outside of the church body, and even then many of them are busily conforming to the same world you may find yourselves fighting against.

Let me point out that our President Trump, in his 2020 state of the Union address, said; this will not be a nation where you get punished for praying in school, along with other things that clash against the NEW normal.

Simply resisting is not the answer, you have to change the way you think. 

Paul tells us, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Assuming that I am a believer and the world is beginning to affect me, then I certainly don’t need to be bolstered and supported in the world’s ways. Something I find myself saying, I don’t need to have some preacher rant about sin; I already know how to do that.. I say all this because the word transformed implies that you are being moved back to some non-changed state, and I have come to the realization that I need to move away from the world’s way of thinking.

Transformed – “Changed in form or external appearance; metamorphosed; transmuted; renewed.

Ah, so there is the implication of being renewed, but it still carries the definition of being changed in form. We can’t do that; only God can. Fortunately for us, Jesus did and does change us. The cross removed the penalty of sin, something we all carry; however, it is the necessary move toward belief in Jesus and the price He paid for us, that makes us His own. That action on His part metamorphosed us into Sons of God. In case you don’t remember, this is what butterflies do; they change from an often ugly caterpillar into beautiful butterflies.

Alright then, who is this person who is conforming to the world?

Those who choose not to renew their mindsI suppose this could be analogous to maintaining a vehicle. If you allow it to run out of oil, what happens? A multitude of horrendous and expensive events. Can the car be renewed? Sure, if you have the time, money, and patience; and, you see “renewals” frequently when people with money, find people with the skills and pay them to rebuild some “classic” car.

The Greek word for renewing is also renovation, and that is what entrepreneurs do to neglected homes – many call it flipping a house (hopefully for a profit.)

This idea of seeing our bodies as a house is not so foreign, and Paul speaks of it in 2 Corinthians 5:1.

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (NASB)

So what is the advantage of renewing my mind?

Paul gives us the answer to that when he says so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

The word prove has a variety of definitions, but they all run along the same vein. One goes like this:

To evince truth by argument, induction or reasoning; to deduce certain conclusions from propositions that are true or admitted.”

As I have read through the Old Testament and observed how people like Gideon, Joshua, and Abigail (our examples are vast in number and varied in their reactions), all came to the conclusion that God was good and acceptable because they argued, reasoned and saw that God was true. It is not that different for us, and the book of Hebrews talks about this process of faith when the author speaks of a great cloud of witnesses. In my childhood, growing up in the church community, there was the sister Dixon’s of my life, each one different, and yet all made an impact that showed me that God was true.

Evince, according to Webster’s, is “to show in a clear manner; to prove beyond any reasonable doubt; to make evident.”

This is the type of terminology that we hear in a courtroom, but how do I apply this information to myself?

I have sat on one jury in my sixty-six years. The judge instructed us that all the evidence comes out of the interactions between the attorneys and the person sitting in the witness stand and that you must acquit the defendant IF there is any reasonable doubt. One of those “witnesses” came in the form of an outlaw biker type. He had seen his friend standing at the curb looking a bit battered. A police officer was nearby, but that officer had already told us that this intersection was not his jurisdiction; so, the officer’s only concern was to assess whether anyone needed medical assistance. Since that was not necessary, he merely stood by until the Highway Patrol showed up – that took almost 20 minutes once the call was made. Back to the biker. Seeing his friend in “need,” he and his buddy pulled over, poured some whiskey they had under the seat into the tall soda cup that they had already flicked some ashes into; and, took it over to the friend in need. Drinking an unspecified amount of Whiskey, for 10 to 15 minutes, can get me drunk; it probably worked that way for the friend standing at the curb. But the jury foreman, a school teacher, said, “that is NOT reasonable, no one would do that!” He had obviously lived a very sheltered life. This short version was a demonstration of the prosecution’s inability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty, and it speaks to me of the shortsightedness of the world, which became extremely evident in the most recent presidential impeachment hearings.

God has always, in talking with us broken people, made it clear that He would uphold His end of the commitment, even if we did it not. We see conversations like this, between God and people, throughout the Old Testament. Two of those interactions that jump to mind are with Abram and Gideon. God, in those circumstances, spoke in this manner,as for me.” This manner of speech was not the demonstration of a bad attitude, but unquestionably took into consideration the frailty of the human in question; and, it demonstrated God’s determination to follow this agreement through to the end.

In proving what the will of God is, isn’t this solely speaking to the individual?

It is; so this instruction is meant for us to establish ourselves in the nature and character of GodSome may feel that there is a demand to prove to the world that God is faithful, the problem there is that many will not accept truth or evidence because their minds are locked into some twisted logic. If you think about it, wouldn’t a purposeful attempt at understanding God be comparable to knowing His willOf course, it would, for understanding the nature and character of someone, would give you the reasons why they make the decisions they make, and God is not so different. He longs for us to know Him.

What is good?

The current convention is that we must be politically correct. Is that good? I don’t think so, as the moral standard has inverted and changes from day to day. (An example of current, so-called regular practice, is the wanton murder of babies in a brutal manner, while disguising this murder under the title women’s health.)

Isaiah 5:20 NASB Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

If you look up the Greek word for good you get agathos. One of the meanings and there are only two, is, does it have any benefit.

How much effort does it take to ask, does this have any benefit?

Well, I suppose the answer to that question is subjective, as an alcoholic, when handed a bottle, would probably say, there is unquestionably a benefit. So realistically this conversation is pushing toward a moral evaluation of what is good, however, that moral evaluation has to be based upon a standard, but whose standard? There is only one valid, true, and unchangeable standard – God’s. (I am not talking about religious legalism as the standard, but the consistent pattern, which God demonstrated to humanity throughout the Old Testament; an example of this can be seen in the entire process that led up to the “escape” from Egypt, by God’s people.)

Let’s ponder the term acceptable for a moment. Acceptable is defined by Strong’s as fully agreeable and, well-pleasingWhile the world, in their quest for pleasure, would think this is exactly what they want to hear. The reality is, this is talking about what God wants to hear and see, and He would love to commune with you and I.

Perfect is the Greek word teleios and means complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neuter (as noun, with G3588) completeness:of full age, man, perfect. So when we talk about being perfect, we are talking maturity and growth in our relationship with God.

Where does this maturity show up?

In how we act; how we talk; the decisions we make; and, how we perceive and communicate with the Father.

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Has God rejected His own people? Romans 11:1-24.

We open our study of Romans 11 with the last three verses of Romans 10. Why?

Because chapter 11 is a continuation of thought, and, as you will see, opens with what seems like an important.

If we have some form of Christian world view, one that is aware of the angry tones which accompany the voices of those who say, God is done with Israel, and their fate is hell. Is this question that Paul asks, “did the people of Israel really understand,” a valid one? Paul tells us that they did understand, and he uses himself as an example, but, as he says in verse 21, “they were disobedient and rebellious.”

Romans 10:19-21 NLT  But I ask, did the people of Israel understand? Yes, they did, for even in the time of Moses, God said, “I will rouse your jealousy through people who are not even a nation. I will provoke your anger through the foolish Gentiles.”  (20)  And later, Isaiah spoke boldly for God, saying, “I was found by people who were not looking for me. I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.”  (21)  But regarding Israel, God said, “All day long, I opened my arms to them, but they were disobedient and rebellious.”

When we open chapter 11, we immediately we see Paul using another rhetorical question. Watch how he answers it analytically and insight-fully.

”I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? 
Of course not! 
I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.”
(Romans 11:1 NLT)

Far too many have tried to answer this question; however, they would tell you that God has rejected His own people. How and why would you do that, when the Holy Spirit has seen fit to put an answer there on the page for you to see. A man I sat under for a short time, would say things that conflicted with the Word of God. Called on his error by showing him the truth in the Word, he would respond with, “that’s my opinion, and that is all that matters.”

So then, God has not rejected his people and the fact that Paul is speaking into our lives proves that point.

God didn’t turn his back on his people. After all, he chose them. Don’t you know what Scripture says about Elijah? He complained to God about Israel. 
(Romans 11:2 NIrV)

Look at what Leviticus says,

But for all that, when they are in the land of their haters, I will not let them go, or be turned away from them, or give them up completely; my agreement with them will not be broken, for I am the Lord their God. (Leviticus 26:44 BBE)

I believe that 1Kings 19, beginning with verse 10, is what Paul is referring to when he speaks of Elijah’s complaint.

“Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18 NASB)

It is evident that Elijah felt very alone,

(Romans 11:3 NASB)

Paul pointed out in the ninth chapter of this letter to the church in Rome that only a remnant would survive; is God telling us, based upon the number that He gave to Elijah, that the remnant will equal 7000? I am not so sure, and here is why.

“It will come about in all the land,” declares the LORD, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish, but the third will be left in it. (Zechariah 13:8 NASB)

Even though Zechariah speaks of a third that does not perish, a significant number of passages speak of only a few surviving. As of October 2019, Israel claims a population of 9,108,500 inhabitants. If a third survived what is coming, we could potentially be looking at somewhere around 3 million people; a tenth would be 900,000. To only have 7000 walking into the millennial reign is a shockingly small number.

But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.” 
(Romans 11:4 NASB)

Don’t we also sometimes feel alone, especially when we see the truth in God’s Word, and it conflicts with what is being taught from the podium and then professed by the lost sheep that we sit by in our churches? I have experienced this feeling on multiple occasions. A pastor of mine was trying to explain the communion, and it’s origins, in his closing comments to a men’s retreat. He said, “Jesus did not want to die for you.” Now, I can give the man some grace and say that he misspoke, but the damage was done, and he made no attempts to correct his error. If you are one of those lost sheep, and cannot, or will not read for yourself, then this conversation is pointless to you. However, I have studied my bible and know what it says,

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NASB)

The Apostle John tells us this about God and His attitude toward us.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NASB)

Does that sound like someone who did not want to die for you? No, I didn’t think so.

Now watch as Paul, speaking to an audience in which the majority are Jewish Christ-followers, says, it is not so different today. Remember, context is everything and may exclude me from applying this next verse to the time frame in which we live.

“In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.”
(Romans 11:5 NASB)

Just as the story about Elijah lamented what appeared to be his solitary efforts to promote God, we too are not alone, and, though you may not see them, the others are out there. Many, not needing the spotlight, pray their tears out before God; they pray in this manner because they too feel alone.

The NLT translation does a better job of moving us through Romans 11:5, so let’s look at that.

It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them
(Romans 11:5 NLT)

Note the phrase undeserved kindness.

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. 
(Romans 11:6 NLT)

“And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works.” Who is the “they” in this sentence? The Jews, but as Paul already pointed out, anyone can jump on board.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:21-24 NLT)

  • “God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law”
  • “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.”
  • “this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”
  • “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
  • “Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in his sight.”
  • He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”

What is Israel seeking?

What then [shall we conclude]? Israel failed to obtain what it sought [God’s favor by obedience to the Law]. Only the elect (those chosen few) obtained it, while the rest of them became callously indifferent (blinded, hardened, and made insensible to it). 
(Romans 11:7 AMP )

So the question is, what is Israel seeking?

Some might say they are seeking a Messiah. Sadly, He came, and they would not recognize Him. Will they know Him when God’s wrath is poured out on them once again?

Have a look at Eugene Peterson’s translation.

Romans 11:7 MSG  And then what happened? Well, when Israel tried to be right with God on her own, pursuing her own self-interest, she didn’t succeed. The chosen ones of God were those who let God pursue his interest in them, and as a result, received his stamp of legitimacy. The “self-interest Israel” became thick-skinned toward God.

Has Israel ever stopped trying to be right, pursuing her own self-interests?

If what Peterson sees is those who allow God to pursue His interests in them, do we see Israel as doing that? Apparently not.

2 Corinthians 3:15-16 NASB, But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

So Israel will have to turn to the Lord, and that day will come.

as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, to this very day.” Romans 11:8 NET

Likewise, David said, “Let their bountiful table become a snare, a trap that makes them think all is well. Let their blessings cause them to stumble, and let them get what they deserve. Romans 11:9 NLT 

Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and let their backs be bent forever.” Romans 11:10 NLT 

Paul is quoting much of Romans 11:8-10 from Psalms 69, but he, like Jesus frequently did, is only taking a portion for Psalm 69 speaks of their homes being deserted. Now, this may be the destruction that is coming to Israel, but who would wish that on someone?

Psalms 69:22-25 NIrV  Let their feast be a trap and a snare. Let my enemies get what’s coming to them.  (23)  Let their eyes grow weak, so they can’t see. Let their backs be bent forever.  (24)  Pour out your anger on them. Let them feel its burning heat.  (25)  May their homes be deserted. May no one live in their tents.

Do I mean that the people of Israel fell, never to get up again? Certainly not! Their failure made it possible for the Gentiles to be saved, and this will make the people of Israel jealous. Romans 11:11 CEV 

Pay attention to this next verse.

But if the rest of the world’s people were helped so much by Israel’s sin and loss, they will be helped even more by their full return. Romans 11:12 CEV 

Another translation.

Romans 11:12 Williams  But if their stumbling has resulted in the enrichment of the world and their overthrow becomes the enrichment of heathen peoples, how much richer the result will be when the full quota of Jews comes in!

Consider this idea of a full quota. Quota means a just part or share; or the share, part or proportion assigned.

So God already has a number in mind, knowing full well that, regardless of the open invitation, only so many will come.

Paul now speaks directly to those who were among the nations, but are now a part of the flock.

Now I am speaking to you people who are not Jews. I am an apostle to the non-Jewish people. So while I have that work, I will do the best I can. Romans 11:13 ERV 

Other terms for this people group are the nations and the Gentiles; it all works. The GW translation puts it this way.

(GW)  Now, I speak to you who are not Jewish. As long as I am an apostle sent to people who are not Jewish, I bring honor to my ministry.

Question: was Saul/Paul an apostle to the Gentiles from the very beginning? 


What evidence do we have that Saul/Paul was initially an apostle to the Jews?

(Acts 9:22 BBE)  But Saul went on increasing in power, and the Jews in Damascus were not able to give answers to the arguments by which he made it clear that Jesus was the Christ.

Now some might try to argue that Paul was preaching to Greeks based on Acts 9:29, so let’s look at that for a moment.

(Acts 9:29 NASB) And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death.

Two things to note from Acts 9:29: In the NASB, the word Jews are italicized, meaning it is not found in the original text, it was added for continuity and understanding. Based on the context, I would agree that the term fits the conversation. The other thing to pay attention to is that many of the audience were deemed Hellenists. The word Hellenistic means a Jew by birth or religion who speaks Greek; it is used chiefly of foreign Jews and proselytes whether converted to Christianity. That term, Hellenist might seem odd in Jerusalem, but there was a change, and under Roman rule, Greek became the acceptable language. 

Could this term Hellenists just as easily apply to a Gentile who had converted to Judaism? 

Certainly, because the definition of a Hellenist also includes those who are Jews by conversion.

Almost as though the writers of the CEV translation had been there in Jerusalem, they state,

(Acts 9:28-29 CEV)  Saul moved about freely with the followers in Jerusalem and told everyone about the Lord.  (29)  He was always arguing with the Jews who spoke Greek, and so they tried to kill him.

In Acts 11, we see an interesting transition that eventually includes Paul.

(Acts 11:19-20 NASB) So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. (20) But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.

Pay attention to verse 19, as it says, that those scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen, preached the Word to no one except for Jews alone. This persecution can directly be tied back to Saul (soon to be called Paul.)

And now follow verse 20, where it states, “But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.” Who or what gave them the freedom or thought to speak to the Gentiles about Jesus, the Jew that will return to rule the world, is not clear, however, I suspect the Holy Spirit’s influence.

(Acts 11:22-26 NASB) The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. (23) Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; (24) for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. (25) And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; (26) and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year, they met with the church and taught considerable numbers, and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

At this point, there is no aversion on the part of Paul to speak to Gentile believers. The word church here is ekklēsia, and, in this instance, means an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting. (Thayer Definition)

The phrase, an assembly of Christians, has no stipulations on it, and may well have included Jewish and Gentile converts. If I am following this story, holding to a chronological timeline, I still find Paul headed to the Synagogue on the Sabbath.

(Acts 13:13-14 NASB) Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia, but John left them and returned to Jerusalem. (14) But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.

(Acts 14:1 NASB) In Iconium, they entered the synagogue of the Jews together and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks.

When did his mission change based upon what we see in Acts?

Acts 13:46-49 NASB Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. (47) “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'” (48) When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (49) And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region.

So here in Acts 13:46-49, Paul says, because you (Jews) judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles.

Was Peter prompted by the Holy Spirit to be an apostle to the Gentiles?


Did Peter pursue his calling to the Gentiles? 

It would not appear so beyond the household of Cornelius.

So Paul made it his goal, “to make my fellow-countrymen jealous.”

Yes, I now am speaking to you who are a part of the heathen peoples. As I am an apostle to the heathen peoples, I am making the most of my ministry to them, to see  (14)  if I can make my fellow-countrymen jealous, and so save some of them. (Romans 11:13-14 Williams) 

What would possibly make them jealous? God is showing grace, mercy, and acceptance to the nations.

For if the rejection of them has resulted in the reconciling of the world, what will the result be of the final reception of them but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15 Williams) 

Since God has brought in the world under the same glorious terms He offered Israel, then life from the dead is also part of the deal.

If the first handful of dough is consecrated, so is the whole mass; if the tree’s root is consecrated, so are the branches. (Romans 11:16 Williams) 

Then we are consecrated as well if we believe.

It is the rootstock that supports us.

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, (18) do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. (Romans 11:17-18 NASB)

You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Consider, if this is something that could happen, such as being cut off, why then would anyone be comfortable saying such lousy things about Israel as God has cast them aside, losing out on His mercy? Romans 11:19-24 NASB, Williams.

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The longing of my heart and prayer to God. Chapter two. Romans 10:14-21.

Paul throws out another of his questions.

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? 
How will they believe in Him, whom they have not heard? 
And how will they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:14 NASB)

We have nothing beyond the conversation from the thief on the cross near Jesus, to explain anything this man believed, but he obviously did believe. Paul, in Romans 10:14, seems to imply that the respectful thief must have heard; this strikes me odd when the only one doing any preaching is Jesus. The aforementioned thief and Saul, and Saul, the pharisee, both heard and saw Jesus in action. Because our decisions have consequences, the thief paid quickly for his actions, and yet received the gift of life with the Father. Saul, on the other hand, had followers of Christ jailed and killed, and still, God significantly used him to spread the gospel. Did Saul/Paul pay for his sins here on earth? It would seem he did.

Paul again asks.

How will they preach unless they are sent? 
Just as it is written, 

Who and what did Paul have on his mind when he asked this question?

J Vernon McGee says this:

“Paul shows that there must be messengers of the gospel who have credentials from God. Paul, you recall, began this epistle with the claim that he was a called apostle of Jesus Christ (see Rom_1:1). There follows a logical sequence. Preachers must be sent in order for people to hear that they might believe, for they would not know how to call upon God. Paul pinpoints all on believing; this, therefore, necessitated his ministry.”

I am not sure I agree with what we deem qualifications. I, for example, have learned simply by engaging my head in the Word of God and asking questions about virtually everything I read, in contrast to someone from theology school. Assuming that I am qualified to preach the gospel, the opportunities have not arisen as I thought they might; this leads me to occasionally think I have not been sent. Personally, I think that we are all evangelists to some degree.

That being said, does everybody receive what we are saying?

NO, and Paul had the same problem.

However, they did not all heed the good news; 
(Romans 10:16 NASB)

Once again, I turn to J Vernon McGee.

“The Jews, his own people, hated the apostle Paul even though they applauded Saul, the Pharisee. He is revealing the logic of his position. They rejected his claim, or the right of any of the apostles, to proclaim a gospel that omitted the Mosaic system which had degenerated into Pharisaism.”

Recently, a brother in Christ threw out a challenge/question at me. He asked, why do preachers preach from the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Johnwhen Paul received new teaching, which is referred to as a mystery? 

Having learned not to answer such things so quickly, I hesitated, and in a matter of seconds, this guy began answering his own question. Such events are typically a good sign that the person asking the question wasn’t interested in obtaining an answer, but was bent on spewing his opinion. This man is typically boisterous, and unwilling to conform to what the Word of God says. Several minutes passed, and other conversations arose; however, I resurrected the subject of the gospels. I pointed out that all scripture is useful and, therefore, fair game to teach or preach from.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 MKJV)

He retorted with, but the gospels were concerned with the law, and Paul preached that we are free from the law.” Don’t you wish that were true, but it is not for Jesus said, I have come to fulfill the law.

Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17 MKJV)

Look at these verses.

For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when the nations, who do not have the Law, do by nature the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law unto themselves; who show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and the thoughts between one another accusing or even excusing one another, (Romans 2:13-15 MKJV)

Having demonstrated that the law is written upon the heart, allow me to show you one more verse that might convince you that WE cannot set aside the law.

There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 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. (Romans 3:30-31 NLT)

A question, how did Paul open this letter to the church in Rome?

This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God, to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. (Romans 1:1 NLT)

Writing with emphasis to a Jewish community, Paul uses a term that should be offensive to anyone, slave; for slaves, whether by force or by choice, have submitted their entire lives to the disposal of someone else. I will tell you something deadly serious to me; I have come to understand that I can’t do this on my own, and desperately need a savior, even to the point of considering myself enslaved to him.

Why say all this? Because Paul makes it very clear that “they,” the Jews,

did not all heed the good news.”

Paul referenced a passage from Isaiah to indicate his awareness that barely any of the Jewish community are accepting the message of freedom and grace.

“Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (Isaiah 53:1 ISV)

There is a reason for this conversation. The point is this, Before you trust, you have to listen.

But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to. (Romans 10:17 MSG)

So, the logical assumption is that Israel has had plenty of voices speaking to them about faith and grace.

“But, I say, isn’t it rather that they didn’t hear? No, they did hear— Their voice has gone out throughout the whole world and their words to the ends of the earth.” (Romans 10:18 CJB)

Paul still queries,

So the big question is, 
Why didn’t Israel understand that she had no corner on this message?

Moses had it right when he predicted, When you see God reach out to those you consider your inferiors—outsiders!— you’ll become insanely jealous. 
When you see God reach out to people you think are religiously stupid, you’ll throw temper tantrums. (Romans 10:19 MSG)

Paul then tells us, He was found by a people who were not looking for Him.

Then Isaiah was bold enough to say: “I have been found by a people who were not searching for me; I have made known myself to people who were not asking to know me.” (Romans 10:20 Williams)

Cold shoulders and icy stares.

Then he capped it with a damning indictment: Day after day after day, I beckoned Israel with open arms And got nothing for my trouble but cold shoulders and icy stares. (Romans 10:21 MSG)

If this says anything to you, it should say rejoice, because we are seeing the birth pangs the Holy Spirit told us about in Matthew 24:8.

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