I am, by request, doing a study in Romans with the guys and I wanted you to see this one in particular because it talks about study methods.

On August 11, 2019, Pastor Jon’s sermon was:

“A couple of things I wished I had known about reading the Bible.”

I am quite sure my Pastor’s learning and understanding came at great expense in theology school. The irony is, I already knew these things. I learned them in the school of hard knocks. At this point, I have been seriously studying and looking at scripture for twelve years. In the process of doing that, I wrote about what I saw, tried to get an accurate picture of who God and Jesus are, and asked God a lot of hard questions, and they were all answered.

A friend of mine asked me how do you study?

What Pastor Jon delivered that Sunday morning was a clearly worded, concise technique for study. So I included that information along with my overview of the first chapter of Romans.

By the way, I realize that I could be writing to trained theology students and those who may never pick up a Bible, so I try to keep it intelligent and yet simple.

Back to my former Pastor Jon’s notes.

  1. The Bible was written for us, not to us.

    This is a significant statement, as it moves scripture out of the hallowed halls of religion and into our hands. It removes the sterility that we have imposed on scripture, and it is a unique perspective from which to start any Bible study, making scripture very personal.

  2. The meaning of the text is embedded in its original, historical context.

    So the question you should ask next is, what does that look like for us today?

    Perhaps at this point, I should tell you that the Pastor’s overall theme was, understanding the writings of the Apostle Paul, based on his letter to Philemon. In the study on Romans – that I have included, I cover, to some degree, the historical context of the Book of Romans. A massive piece of evidence comes from Romans 1:1, where Paul begins his typical introduction. Here he says, I Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ. Again, I cover this in the study below.

    This thought process also works exceptionally well when studying the book of Romans.

  3. The Bible is a context-rich form of communication.

    What does that mean? It means that everything you read in scripture, especially in the New Testament, has an initiating question or point of conversation. For example, the Revelation is filled with context – (It is a book written to Jews, using terminology that would have been common to them, and yet it applies primarily to us today. The imagery is nothing new, although, we, for some reason, struggle with multi-headed beasts.)

    Context is what links us back to the original thought and intent.

    Chuck Missler used to say, “it is an integrated, coded, message system.” That means that the messages in the scripture, though thousands of years apart, are integrally linked by God into one all-encompassing picture, in which God wins.

Pastor Jon’s tips: (Every week, he had tips. These are designed to give you a practical way to put the sermon into action.)

  • Get a Bible reading plan – like the You Version app.

    In reality, this means being deliberate in your reading. If necessary, force yourself to invest time daily.

  • Dig into the Bible passages that make your radar go off, and then dig a little deeper.

    I have a friend who seems to bounce back and forth in scripture; I understand why he does it, but when he asks questions, they are combinations of various thoughts and contexts, and sadly, he is often confused. The moral to this story is to get focused.

    No one is telling you to ignore boring passages; however, when you find a scripture that speaks to you, dismantle the verse; look at the Hebrew or Greek definitions of the simplest of words in a concordance, and find their meanings. Then, look for other comparative examples of the same thing.

    A tip – Since much of what we read is prophetic, you need to understand that prophecy is not a one-time event to the Jewish mindset. The Jews looked for and found acceptance in the patterns and repetition; therefore, when reading something prophetic, look for the parallels and previous examples. The Books of Daniel and Revelation are good examples of such similarities.

  • Read for transformation.

    Try to understand the author’s original intent; this will be necessary for us to apply the text to our lives today.
    As the Pastor spoke about these things, I could not help but think about two things.

    1. It required an expensive school to teach him these methods.

    2. I developed these same methods through reading and writing.

An overview of Romans, chapters 1-3.

Paul, as always, introduces himself.

In Romans 1:1 he says he is, “a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News.”

What rights does a slave have?

For the most part nothing, but Paul, like us, is only a slave in attitude and by choice. I choose to follow Christ.

Then how are we to act before God?

Far too many of us think that grace gives us the freedom to play without rules. Those rules you are choosing to ignore are written upon your heart; so you will have no excuse if you find yourself under judgment.

With a general read of Romans, can you pick up on a theme?

 This introduction of himself as a slave is important because of the audience, as we will soon see.

How would introducing himself as a slave, knowing his knowledge, bear upon these readers?

The Jews shouted back at Jesus, we have been slaves to no one. Really, what about Joseph? What about the 400 years in Egypt? What about the time Israel spent in Babylon? The entirety of Paul’s message is meant to evoke jealousy in God’s people.

In Romans 1:9-12, we see Paul stating one of the reasons for writing this letter,

Romans 1:9-12 CJB  “For God, whom I serve in my spirit by spreading the Good News about his Son, is my witness that I regularly remember you  (10)  in my prayers; and I always pray that somehow, now or in the future, I might, by God’s will, succeed in coming to visit you.  (11)  For I long to see you, so that I might share with you some spiritual gift that can make you stronger—  (12)  or, to put it another way, so that by my being with you, we might, through the faith we share, encourage one another.

What do you think these passages are trying to say?

Having sat through three weeks of history on the Roman Church with my homegroup, you would think I would have had enough; and been smarter for it. But, unfortunately, that did not happen, and I looked at it once again.

  • The overview tells us that Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome, a place he never visited, around the Fall season of 57 AD.

We are told, that Paul was writing to a vibrant church body, when he wrote this letter.

  • The Epistle itself, gives us few clues about the Roman believers, with the exception of Paul’s reprimands.

    But we have other clues as well, and you find them in Acts 18 where it talks about Priscilla and Aquila.

Historically, we have this:

  • Rome was under the governance of Nero (37-68AD), but one of the most disturbing leaders was Claudius, the adoptive father of Nero.

    Nero became the emperor in 54AD.

This immediately gets my attention, as

it is accepted that Emperor Claudius, made it known that the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus – a Grecian derivative for Christ, and therefore ordered the expulsion of the Jews from Rome. (In other words, they protested and fought back as best they could.)

Historical evidence informs us that the Christ followers were dipped in hot oil, impaled, and used as torches to light the roadways. Proclamations such as this only lasted until the death or incapacitation of the Emperor who had them written, and Jews began returning to Rome in January of 53AD, a full year before Nero was declared Emperor and apparently the death of Claudius in 54AD.

Historically there were three expulsions of Jews from Rome. When this third one took place I am not clear, but they began to return in 53AD. At this point in time, it would appear that both Claudius and Nero held the role of emperor. Either that, or Claudius was dying and that allowed for Nero to rule in his place.

Does this mean Nero served in a dual leadership position over Rome?

Possibly.

So by the time Paul writes this letter to the followers of Christ, which meets in Rome, they, once again, are operating as a thriving church.

What is my takeaway from this?

Since Christ’s death is the demarcation line for time, this is a relatively short period of time in which a documentation of events related to the gospels occurs. Consider, this is only about 53 years after the death of Christ.

An article written by Dr. Gary Habermas, entitled Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels. Originally published in the Christian Research Journal / vol. 28, no. 1, 2005., tells us this.

Older strategies that support the historical reliability of the New Testament often begin their case by pointing out that the New Testament documents enjoy superior manuscript evidence.  Recent indications are that the New Testament is supported by more than 5500 copies and partial copies in Greek and other languages, while most ancient classical Greek and Roman texts have fewer than 10 each.  Moreover, there is comparatively little significant variation between these manuscripts, even when they are derived from different textual families.

While this extraordinary quantity and quality of the available texts does not tell us if the New Testament writings are historically reliable, most scholars think that the far more manuscripts and portions do indicate that we essentially have what the authors originally wrote.  This is obviously a crucial point to begin.

Further, the New Testament copies are much earlier—that is, closer to the original writings—than the classical texts.  Most of the New Testament is available from copies that are only 100-150 years after its completion, while a copy of the entire New Testament dates from about another 100 years after that.  In contrast, the classical counterparts generally date from 700-1400 years after their original compositions.

How did the church spread so rapidly?

Persecution.

Acts 8:1 NASB Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Clues that help to define this body of believers.

1. There association with Chrestus, as the Greeks put it.

  1. There are statements such as:

Romans 1:16 NASB “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Why emphasize the Jew and then the Greeks?

While it is easy to say Paul was the evangelist to the Greeks, everywhere we saw him go in the Book of Acts he was going to Synagogues. You will NOT find gentiles there as they were not allowed. When he was attacked in Jerusalem is when you find him saying, I am taking this gospel to the Gentiles. This was over 15 years of preaching to Jews, and in this letter to the church in Rome, he is still trying to solidify Christ in them.

Romans 1:17 CJB  “For in it is revealed how God makes people righteous in his sight; and from beginning to end it is through trust—as the Tanakh puts it, “But the person who is righteous will live his life by trust.”

One of Israel’s repeated problems, was that they kept going back to the worship of idols and other gods.

The remainder of Romans chapter one, is ablaze with reproofs about the Jewish patterns of unbelief.

In this next section Paul is recapping how God dealt with the Jews in the beginning, and it was basically one of retraining their thinking, as they were effectively Egyptians. They had their Egyptian sex gods and another called Moloch to roast their babies to. This conversation would be wasted energy to a church filled with Gentiles who had no knowledge of the Law – or Jewish history.

As I sat in a home group, several years ago now, they glazed over Romans 1:18-32, the hardest part of this letter. It is not hard because of poor punctuation or readability, but because the world has changed and NO ONE appreciates someone getting into their business. Romans 1:18-32 does just that, it gets into your business and calls you out. If someone says to you, homosexuality is not in the Bible, well, that is only true if you hold fast to the King James Version, just as the Trinity or the Rapture of the church is not in the Bible, but every defining aspect of those events and actions are.

Allow me to show you.

Romans 1:25-27 CJB  “They have exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, by worshiping and serving created things, rather than the Creator—praised be he for ever. Amen.  (26)  This is why God has given them up to degrading passions; so that their women exchange natural sexual relations for unnatural;  (27)  and likewise the men, giving up natural relations with the opposite sex, burn with passion for one anothermen committing shameful acts with other men and receiving in their own persons the penalty appropriate to their perversion.”

You cannot read those words and deny what they mean. But sin, is forgiven, just as gluttony.

What is the hope then?

It only lies in our putting our trust in Him.

Romans 1:28 CJB  In other words, since they have not considered God worth knowing, God has given them up to worthless ways of thinking; so that they do improper things.

If you can call this hope, it is only because it demonstrates that you can find God, if you wake up.

Romans 1:32 CJB  They know well enough God’s righteous decree that people who do such things deserve to die; yet not only do they keep doing them, but they applaud others who do the same.

So, once again,

Romans 1:17 CJB  “For in it is revealed how God makes people righteous in his sight; and from beginning to end it is through trust—as the Tanakh puts it, “But the person who is righteous will live his life by trust.”

This entry was posted in Freedom from sin, gentiles, God's character, Hearing God, In Christ, Jews, Thoughts, Thoughts on scripture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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