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Monday, October 30, 2017

Evidence of God and Foolishness of Man

Introduction

In the first three Bible studies about Paul’s letter to the Romans, we learned the history, politics, culture, and religious background of the people to whom Paul wrote this letter. They were Jewish-background and Gentile-background believers in Jesus Christ who lived in Rome during times of persecution from the emperors. Besides this, we studied Paul’s opening passages of this letter to the Roman believers. He identified himself and his credentials, gave a general understanding of the gospel, prayed for God’s grace and peace over them, and thanked God for testimony of the Romans’ faith in action and for the encouragement he would get when he met and lived among them. The final part of the opening to Paul’s letter gives the thematic statement of the letter-the righteousness of God.

With this fourth Bible study from the book of Romans, Paul taught the Romans about the need for righteousness among each person. He carried this idea further by showing the universal need for salvation by teaching about God’s revelation of Himself (the evidence for God) to pagans/Gentiles, Gentile-background Christians and God-worshippers, and the Jews and Jewish-background believers.  In this and the next Bible study, Paul taught the Gentiles about their guilt and need for justification. 

With Romans two through three, Paul taught the Jewish-background believers the same lessons as he did the Gentile-background believers. We will learn in chapter four, Paul compared the righteousness of the Gentiles and Jews with Abraham’s righteousness. Later, in chapter five, he explained how God justifies each person, Jews and Gentiles. Remember, justification means God declares a person as righteous and made right with Him. This justification comes by God’s declaring righteous those people who accept Christ. God credits or assigns Christ’s righteousness to each person who receives Christ as Savior and Lord. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (NASB) He described justification best in Romans 3:21-26. Paul said in this passage, people who believe in Jesus Christ are “justified as a gift by His (God’s) grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” (NASB)

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul specifically taught about the sinfulness of pagans/Gentiles and their need for justification. He explained how, though they had not heard about God, they could know of Him and were, therefore, also guilty of sin and liable to God’s judgment of them. This Bible study will help us to realize God revealed Himself through general revelation in creation and through His creative presence. It will also help us understand the basis of the Gentiles' guilt. This will lead us to our next Bible study next week when we will learn of the results of their guilt.

Evidence of God

Paul’s thematic statement of Romans in 1:16-17 carries over to later verses. He compared the righteousness of God to the unrighteousness of humanity, both Jew and Gentile. In verses eighteen through twenty, Paul did not allow the Gentiles to hold on to the excuse that they did not know God. He explained to them even though they were not Jews, they had no excuse because God revealed Himself to all people. Paul said in chapter one verses eighteen through twenty,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (NASB)

With the first word, “for,” Paul began this sentence just like he did with verses sixteen and seventeen. Each of these verses explain why he said what he did in verse fifteen. Paul said in verse fifteen he was eager to preach the gospel to the people in Rome. He next told the readers and listeners of this letter three reasons he eagerly wanted to preach the gospel to them. In verse sixteen, Paul said he was eager because the gospel is the power of God for salvation to anyone who believes. With verse seventeen, he said the gospel reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith. Finally, with verse eighteen, Paul said he eagerly wanted to preach the gospel because “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” (NASB)

Paul’s start of verse eighteen gave the third reason he preached the gospel. With this one statement, he spoke about two things. Paul meant God’s righteousness reveals His wrath against unrighteousness, too. God’s righteousness/holiness requires judgment of unrighteousness/unholiness. Since the gospel reveals God’s righteousness, it reveals God’s wrath, too. God is the standard of righteousness and Paul ensured each person understood he or she was not righteous/holy. The commonality between God’s wrath and His righteousness is His love. Because He loves, He provided a way for people to become righteous. Because God loves, He shows righteous anger and disciplines people to remind them He is God, and to turn them around to return to Him. The other point this statement makes is Paul could not keep to himself the gospel of God. He cared so much for these people, he eagerly sought to tell the gospel to everyone. Because Paul’s heart came from God’s heart when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and anointed him to be His apostle, Paul cared deeply for the lost who had never heard the gospel. He wanted no one to miss hearing about the gospel and then receive God’s wrath because of their sins. Paul eagerly preached the gospel because of his love for them. He wanted everyone to experience God’s love and grace.

Let’s look closer at the words in verse eighteen. We must understand them well to understand Paul’s message in the rest of this letter. In our world, people do not consider wrath or anger a positive thing. God’s wrath is righteous indignation. Because He cannot sin, His anger is righteous. His cause is to restore peace and balance to life. It is not a prideful anger like from what people often base their anger. God’s angry at sin and sinners because sin separates people from Him. He wants nothing to separate people from Him because He loves each person. God desires to have a right relationship with each person. This desire for a relationship with each person is the reason for the gospel of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross in our place and His resurrection. God provided the sin sacrifice so each person could be in a right relationship with Him. His wrath is righteous and seeks to draw us to Himself because it is based on His love. God’s wrath comes on a person when he or she is not justified to Him through Christ, when he or she is unrighteous. Paul said in Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath [of God] through Him.”

For what does God’s anger come on people? Paul told the Romans in verse eighteen. God’s wrath comes because of ungodliness and unrighteousness. The word “ungodliness” seems self-explanatory: acting, thinking, speaking, and being unlike God. “Ungodliness” comes from the Greek word asebeia and means to lack respect and show impiety, irreverence, and wickedness in thought and deed. It means to turn your back on God and become your own god. Asebeia means refusing to give honor where it is due, a refusing to accept God’s existence and His authority over all life and creation. The word “unrighteousness” comes from the Greek word adikia and means injustice and violating God’s standards. Because ungodliness is attitude against and unacceptance of God, unrighteousness is acting upon the unacceptance of God, acting out. Ungodliness is against God and unrighteousness is against other people, but also against God’s standards of living, the Law. These two words correspond to the Ten Commandments-the first four commandments against God and the next six against other people.

Besides God’s wrath being on the ungodly and unrighteous, Paul said it came against those who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness. “Suppress” comes from the Greek word katecho and means to bind, restrain, arrest, or detain. The people upon whom God’s wrath would come were irreverent and dishonored God. They acted out against God and His laws regarding Him and other people, and they restrained the truth. They kept it from being shared or providing a way of life. This means their ungodliness resulted in unrighteousness affecting other people because they would not share or allow the sharing of the truth of God-His reality, righteousness, love, and grace. These sinful people kept other people from living godly and righteous lives because of the way they lived and the laws they enacted and enforced. This reminds us of the prophets of Baal, Molech, Asherah, and the other gods some Israelites followed in the Old Testament. They led people away from God by not teaching about Him and leading them not to follow His laws.

Paul went further to say, even though people may have kept others from knowing about God, God made Himself evident to all humanity. No one has an excuse for not believing in God. In verse nineteen, Paul explained why-because of creation/nature. He said, “That which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” (NASB) The original Greek translation says, “Because the known of God manifest is among them God indeed to them has revealed [it]” (Interlinear Bible) Paul said, God’s attributes are evident and can be known through what He has revealed. The word “known” used here comes from the Greek word gnostos, an adjective, and means literally “because-through”. It expresses and emphasizes experiential knowing from personal experience. Paul said they knew God already. This knowledge came through something evident to each person because God makes it evident, clearly visible to them. This knowing is not the natural theology of reason where God is evident in the design in nature. Instead, He is the God who is a Presence active in the created order now. God did not just make the world and step back letting us see evidence of Him from what He created. He creates and keeps on creating and maintaining the world. We see and can know God personally because of His revealing Himself by and through His creative working.

How did God make Himself evident even to non-Jews? Paul explained in verse twenty the evidence of God for each person. He said, since time began when God created the world, His invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity were seen clearly. Paul explained that from before the creation when time began, God showed Himself. This word “creation” comes from the word ktisis and means created out of nothing-ex nihilo. Ktisis is always a divine creating. From before He created anything, God purposed to show Himself-His attributes of power and divinity, through what He created. He purposed before He created humanity that each person knows Him and be in a relationship with Him because of His love. That explains God’s wrath against sin. Sin separates people from Him, from being in a right relationship with Him. With this comes the other thread of thought from verse twenty. Since God purposed to show Himself to humanity through creation, He realized people would sin and need to see Him readily. The logic follows that God also made a way from the beginning of creation to bring people back to a right relationship with Him since His purpose was to be in a relationship with them.



What He revealed to people through creation and His continuing creative presence was not a simple trick, but to show His grandeur and power. Paul said this when he used the word dunamis. Dunamis is a great power. From it comes our words dynamite and dynamo. God’s great power would show His mighty and marvelous ways, ways which people could never achieve in their own strength and could not explain away. The other attribute God revealed in creation, Paul said, was His divine nature. Each person God ever created can know Him experientially (gnostos). From living in His created world watching Him create and maintain it, this God of the world and creation must be divine. Paul said, it is this God who would could be “clearly seen.” This verb is third person singular meaning each person can “clearly see,” as from above when the perspective gives total sight, that God is all-powerful and divine. God is real and should cause awe, reverence, and faith in Him because He was visible in what He made and is visible in His creative acts still. Acts 14:17 and 17:24 say God left a witness with the rain, fruitful seasons, and the world because He is the Lord of heaven and earth and not kept in temple made by hands. Job 12:7-9 said the beasts and fowls will tell you who made them. Psalm 19:1 said the heavens declare the glory of God. Jeremiah 5:21-22 says God tells the people He is the one who places the sand as a boundary for the sea. God made Himself evident in creation and in His continuing creative presence in the world.

Paul ended this section stating God is evident because of and through His creative presence so people are without excuse. For this reason, Paul said, their argument against God or about not knowing Him has no rationale. “Without excuse” comes from the Greek word anapologetos. Anapologetos literally means “not arguable.” Paul said the pagans/Gentiles’ argument about not knowing God lacked a defense. The pagans/Gentiles could not excuse themselves from believing in God by saying they did not know about Him. God can be evidenced, seen and experienced, by and through creation, a creation that continues as He creates and re-creates daily. God is known still today like the Israelites knew God in the Old Testament and Christians knew Him in the New Testament.

No one can raise his or her hands and shrug saying he or she did not know about God just so they can excuse their wrongdoing and irreverence. Paul, the apologist and apostle of Christ, explained to them and to us in detail how we are not guiltless. Each of us sins and God jealously wants us to be in an eternal relationship with Him. He is angry about our sin and wants us to be in a right relationship with Him. His love for us causes His anger, His wrath. God’s love for every person caused Him to provide a way for each person to return to a right relationship with Him. That way is through Jesus Christ.

Before Paul arrived at this point in his teaching to the pagans/Gentiles, after explaining each person could know God by and through creation, he showed the foolishness of humanity. Let’s consider a few relevant questions for ourselves before we continue with verses twenty-one through twenty-three.

·         Do you realize you have done wrong things and are not righteous?
·         Have you wondered and been in awe of the power of waterfalls and storms and the miracle of rainbows and birth? Have you recognized it as God’s hand in the world?
·         Do you praise God and give Him honor for what you see and experience in the world?
·         Do you reason away the evidence of God and refuse to believe God exists?


The Foolishness of Humanity

Once again, Paul begins his verse with the word “for,” which means we need to relate it to his earlier statement. Verse nineteen is the statement to which this “for” refers. In verse nineteen, Paul said God made the truth of Himself evident to humanity. In verse twenty, he explained God made evident His invisible attributes of power and divinity through creation and His creative presence in the world. With verse twenty-one, Paul relayed the foolishness of humanity to think they could reason God away and dishonor Him. He said in verses twenty-one through twenty-three,

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (NASB)

In verse twenty-one, Paul used a different word for “know” than he did in verse nineteen. In verse nineteen the word for “known” came from the Greek word gnostos, an adjective. Gnostos means in that verse that which may be known of God or the knowable God active in the physical universe. God made Himself knowable to humanity by and through His creation and in His continuing creative presence. The word “knew” in verse twenty-one comes from the Greek word ginosko. Ginosko comes from the same root word as gnostos and means to come to know, recognize, or to understand through personal experience-experiential knowing. In the past tense, it often means to realize with definiteness the things relating to the one, true God and Christ, in contrast with the multi-god worship of the pagans/Gentiles, their polytheism. Paul said, “for though they knew God,” which means they knew God personally because of His active presence in creation and accepted Him truly as the one, true God.

When faced with this reality of God, a person can choose to acknowledge God then walk away as if He makes no difference in his or her life or the person can accept the reality of God, and worship and obey Him. Walking away from God after knowing of Him as the active presence in creation means denying Him, disobeying Him, and making one’s self one’s own god. Paul said that in the rest of this verse. He said, “Even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks.” The “honor” Paul spoke of comes from doxazo and has the same root as the word “doxology.” Paul said people did not glorify, honor, or thank God as if He was God. They acted as if He was merely mortal and could ignore or heed Him. People did not acknowledge God’s grace, power, and divinity. When faced with the reality of God, one of two decisions must come from that encounter. The person can deny God-His power and divinity-or can accept Him and glorify, honor, and thank Him with his or her words, actions, and thoughts.


Instead of honoring and thanking God, Paul said people “became futile in their speculations and their foolish hearts became darkened.” (vs. 21) The word “futile” comes from the Greek word meaning vain, foolish, or perverted in one’s mind. Paul meant people considered their own back and forth (debated) speculations and reasonings as having more value than the obvious evidence for and of God in and through creation and His continual creative presence. When someone thinks they know more than all-knowing (omniscient) God who created him or her, that is vanity and foolishness. A prideful person thinks he or she knows more than the One who created a thing or that person. Paul wrote about this foolishness in Ephesians 4:17b-18 when he said, “Walk no longer just as the Gentile also walk, in the futility of their minds, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” (NASB) This foolishness that denies the divinity and power of God after having seen and experienced it comes because of pride, ignorance/foolishness, and a hardened heart. This foolishness of which Paul spoke came from not putting facts together and being unwise. The people who had foolish hearts chose their own vain ways and kept the light of God from convincing them of His reality. The person obscured God’s light and did not focus on God’s sovereign action, but on his or her own desires.

Paul continued describing this person with a foolish heart. He said in verse twenty-two the person professed to have wisdom. He/she attested he/she was wiser than the conviction God placed in his/her heart of His power, divinity, and grace. By setting aside the wisdom of God for human reasoning, Paul said he/she became a fool. He spoke plainly here. The word “fool” comes from moraino, which means taint or make useless. Paul said this person made him/herself foolish-useless-with this untrue and unfounded reasoning. He said something similar in 1 Corinthians 1:20 when he said, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of this age?” (NASB) Jeremiah reiterated this in Jeremiah 10:14. He said, “Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge. Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols; for his molten images are deceitful, and there is not breath in them.” (NASB) Whatever people make that means more to them than God and upon which they put more reliance than God shows their foolishness and their darkened hearts. Paul said in this verse while professing themselves wise, these unrighteous and ungodly people became fools and showed their stupidity and foolishness.

In verse twenty-three, Paul said, these ungodly and unrighteous people who knew (ginosko) God, but did not honor Him as God or give Him thanks, in their professing their own wisdom and becoming fools, “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” Instead of worshiping and thanking the God revealed in creation and active in creating, these people, in their reasoning and speculation, turned their backs on Him and worshiped created things. They chose to worship the creature, not the Creator. Though they recognized God as incorruptible, that is immortal and imperishable, ungodly and unrighteous people chose to worship an image, something perishable that reflects its Source-Creator God. These people turned their backs on Him and worshiped man-hewn images of man, birds, animals, and reptiles (serpents). Luke spoke about man-made images to worship in Acts 17:29. He said, “We ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by art and thought of man.” (NASB) God told Moses to relay to people His message about this in Deuteronomy 4:15-18 when they did not see an image of Him on Mount Horeb, yet wanted to worship one. He said,

So watch yourselves carefully since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in water below the earth. (NASB)

·         Do you recognize God with your life or debate His existence and turn away from Him?
·         Is there an idol you worship instead of the one, true God?
·         Do you give your job, your house or car, or your family more priority than God?
·         Do you care more about what you can do or make with your hands than giving honor, glory, and thanks to the Creator who made you and all that you work with in your creating?


 Recap

Paul explained to the pagans/Gentiles of Rome no excuse exists for denying the reality of God and knowing Him in a way that honors and glorifies Him through righteous and godly living and worship. God’s righteousness means His wrath will come upon those who are ungodly and unrighteous because He loves each of His created people and wants a relationship with them. Reasoning and rationalizing God’s existence, His might, and His divinity is foolishness and stupidity, Paul said. Why worship man-made idols in the shape of created things. Instead, worship the One who created all things and continues to be active in the world. Don’t worship the images of the creation, but instead, the Creator.


Relevance and Conclusion

God realized from the beginning of time humanity would gravitate toward worshiping what they could see even though people could recognize Him through creation and His continuing creative presence in the world. Still, Paul made sure pagans/Gentiles understood they were without excuse for turning away from God. He made sure they realized their guilt because of their sins that separated them from God. By writing this letter to Christians in Rome, Jewish- and Gentile-background believers, and God-worshipers, he said they were each guilty and without excuse. Paul would highlight even more the Jews' guilt because they had the Law from God (chapters 2-3). Evidence for God exists in creation and in the world God made and re-makes. People who strive to deny His existence so they do not have to face their own sin and guilt chase folly. Even pagans/Gentile are without excuse. God is present in the world. His presence as Creator comes as general revelation of His existence.

Each person must decide to recognize the one, true God-Yahweh, the I Am who was, is, and will always be. He is evident in the world. David declared this in Psalm 19:1 when he wrote, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (NASB) We each must decide to acknowledge Him and be in a relationship with Him. God made a relationship with Him possible providing our justification by His Son’s, Jesus Christ’s, death on the cross. Christ’s death declares us righteous because He was the perfect sacrifice for sins because He did not sin. Each person must decide for him or herself if he or she will go beyond recognizing God in the world and acknowledge Him (confess) and accept His gift of righteousness so he or she can be in a righteous and eternal relationship with Him.

What will you do? Will you recognize God and turn your back on Him or will you acknowledge Him as God and accept the grace He offers of righteousness through the life and death of His Son, Jesus Christ?

Consider this verse by Paul-

 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand and we exult in hope of the glory of God. [Romans 5:1, (NASB)]
Do you have this peace?

You can have it today, now, if you accept Jesus as Lord and ask for His forgiveness for your sins.

You can listen to this song declaring the existence of God by Hillsongs. Just click on the title below.

All Heaven Declares 



Friday, October 20, 2017

Paul's Heart and God's Righteousness

Introduction

In the last Bible study when we studied Romans 1:1-7, we learned the typical way Paul began his letters to churches and Christians he visited or aimed to visit. He began this letter to the Romans similarly. From the beginning verses of the letter to the Romans, Paul stated to the readers and hearers his authority for teaching and preaching. He told of Jesus making him his apostle. Paul made sure his intended hearers and readers recognized his background and authority for teaching and preaching so they would not doubt his earnestness or the authenticity of the gospel of which he spoke. Besides this, he ensured the people knew the basics of the gospel.

From the end of verse six, Paul told us to whom he wrote this letter, the Roman Christians. He called them saints and used the word hagios, which means to be different as in set apart from other things, holy unlike other things that are unholy. Paul said God made them holy by cleansing them from their sins and setting them apart to be His children through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

After identifying the addressees, Paul greeted the Roman Christians with a prayer of blessing on them. He asked for God’s grace, His favor, to be on them. He asked for God’s peace to be on them, too. This peace for which Paul prayed is greater than the legendary peace of Rome, pax Romana. He understood two types of grace and peace exist-that from God and that found in the world that is not everlasting, but fades.

In this Bible study, we will consider Romans 1:8-17. In these few verses, Paul gave thanks for the Roman Christians, thanks for who they are and what they did, and thanks for what God would do for and to him because of being with them. He told in detail about what he was thankful regarding the Roman Christians. Paul then proclaimed his great desire to be with them and teach them so they would be established and encouraged. Along with his thankfulness for the Romans, he expressed his obligation because of Jesus making him an apostle to preach and teach Greeks and barbarians, and wise and foolish. The Roman Christians would have understood Paul’s heart of care for the salvation of every person no matter their background.

The final element of any Pauline letter was the incorporation of a summary of the main theme of his writing. Paul made sure people understood the purpose of his writing. He more than alluded to it in his opening statements. For the Romans, Paul stated the theme of this letter is the righteousness of God. Let’s now study verses eight through seventeen of Romans chapter one.


Thanksgiving

Another of Paul’s typical inclusions in the opening of his letters to other churches and here in Romans was thanksgiving to God. For what did he thank God regarding the Romans? Let’s consider what he said in verses eight through ten. Paul said,

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. 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, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. (NASB)

Paul told the Romans two things for which he prayed to God in these three verses. He said he thanked God for the Romans. Why would Paul thank God for them? He said people around the whole world proclaimed their faith (vs. 8). Paul said he thanked God for the faith of the Roman Christians. Remember the history of Jews and Christians in Rome was one of persecution. (See the Bible study titled Romans, the Background.) The Roman Christians began by worshiping with the Jews, God-worshipers, in their synagogues in Rome. They identified with the Jews because they worshiped Yahweh, too. Since the Christians of Rome were a small group, they worshiped alongside the Jews. The leaders of Rome, therefore, considered the Christians of Rome an offshoot of Jews, not a separate faith. When the Emperors of Rome expelled the Jews, the Jewish-background believers in Jesus also had to leave Rome. That left the Gentile-background believers in Rome with no one else with whom to worship Yahweh and nowhere to worship so they began small house churches. When the Emperors who expelled the Jews died or repealed their expulsion, the Jewish-background believers returned to find established Christian churches in Rome. Through the series of these Emperors, the Christians of Rome kept the faith. Their conviction of the truth about Jesus Christ remained firm, and they continued to worship the Lord despite the upheaval. For this, Paul thanked God for the Roman Christians. These Christians, though faced with loss of worship place, home, leadership, and expulsion from Rome, stood strong in their faith in Jesus Christ.

With verse nine, Paul told these believers how big his heart was for them. He said he prayed unceasingly to God, whom he served, for the Roman Christians. Paul noted he served God. He willingly submitted himself as a bondservant for God’s service as an apostle to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Paul, as God’s servant, claimed in verse nine God was his witness how often he prayed for the Romans. Claiming God as his witness was like taking an oath. God witnessed Paul’s unceasing care and prayer for the Roman Christians. No one higher exists and Paul attested to that with this oath emphatically letting the readers and hearers know if he lied, God would judge him. With this statement, the Roman Christians would realize without doubt Paul’s love for them since he prayed for them unceasingly. Paul loved the Roman Christians enough that he prayed for them ceaselessly and thanked God for them.

·         Do you pray unceasingly for anyone? Why or why not?
·         When you pray for someone regularly, do you find your heart grows closer to that person?
·         Why did Paul pray unceasingly for the Roman Christians? Is this why you pray unceasingly?
·         Do you suppress godly love for others and keep yourself from praying unceasingly for other people?
·         Could it be that you have not willingly submitted to God, and that keeps you from praying ceaselessly for other people?

Paul’s Heart

Strengthening Believers

Paul’s love for the Roman Christians went beyond praying for them when he remembered them. He desired to be with them. In Acts 19:21, Paul said, “I must also see Rome.” This “must” comes from the word dei and means what is imperative. Paul said he must absolutely appear in Rome. “See” comes from the Greek word horao and means to see, look upon, and experience; to see with the mind. Paul prayed for the Roman Christians because of what they experienced and their continued faith. He prayed for them to continue to be a testimony to God through their faith to the world. Paul desired to be with the Roman Christians to see them and experience their life with them because of his love for them. He trusted and prayed to God that he would “succeed” in going to the Romans (vs. 10). “Succeed” comes from the Greek word euodoo and means to grant prosperous and expeditious journey. Paul prayed God would grant him permission to go to Rome to see and be with them, and to be His apostle to them proclaiming the gospel there. He wanted to go at once, but he waited for God to make a way for him and send him. Though Paul’s desire was to be in Rome immediately, God’s timing for his visit there was for later.

The latter was truly Paul’s heart. He said in verses eleven and twelve,

For I long to see you that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established, that is that I may be encouraged together while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. (NASB)

Paul desired with his whole being to be with the Roman Christians and to be in Rome. Why he did it comes in the succeeding verses. He wanted to become acquainted with them by experience, not just by hearing about them. Paul wanted to impart something to them. “Impart” comes from the Greek word metadidomi and means to impart, share, or give over. Paul said he wanted to impart a spiritual gift. If we conclude his thought there instead of going through the end of the verse and going through verse twelve, we will make a mistake in understanding. Paul did not mean he wanted to lay hands on the people so they would receive spiritual gifts. This impartation of gifts is tied to the purpose of Paul’s letter. The purpose of Paul’s letter, he said, was to establish them and make them strong, and to encourage them. Verse eleven is emphasized and given its purpose with verse twelve. Paul did not emphasize his laying on of hands to pass supernatural spiritual gifts to people. His passing on of a gift came through his preaching of the gospel. The Romans probably had not received the preaching before by an apostle of Christ. Paul desired to be there to teach them the full truth of the Gospel so they would have a firm foundation and stand strong in their belief as they faced persecution then and in their future, especially since Jews had faced persecution by Emperors in the recent past already.

The “being established” Paul spoke of at the end of verse eleven means to place firmly, fix, strengthen, and make constant. Paul’s gift of teaching and preaching the gospel in Rome would help the Christians there to hear the whole truth of the gospel so they would stand firm and constantly fixed in their faith with the hope God gives through their salvation by Jesus Christ. He recognized a difference between standing firm through one’s own strength and personal fortitude and that given by God through salvation and the Holy Spirit. Paul loved the Roman Christians because God put His own love for them in his heart. Because Paul loved them, he wanted to make sure they understood well so they could stay strong through their faith in God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Paul continued his thought from verse eleven. The first thought was he longed to be with the Roman Christians so he could impart a gift for their establishment. The second thought is he longed to be with them so he would be encouraged with them by their mutual faith. The word “encouraged” comes from the Greek word sumparakaleo and means to call upon, invite, or exhort at the same time together or to strengthen with others. Paul wanted to be together with other believers to strengthen them and gain strength from them. Remember, the Roman Christians knew about persecution or knew it from firsthand experience. Paul experienced persecution, too, throughout his ministry as an apostle of Jesus. He mentioned it often in his writings and spoke of his “thorn in the flesh.” Paul did not want to go to Rome just to give encouragement. He wanted to receive it, too. Christians who gather together find this happens as they associate, teach, strengthen, and pray for each other. These are some of the reasons God calls His children to worship Him in His temples, synagogues, and churches. Each Christian can bless others through the blessings with which God blessed him or her. They reciprocally and mutually encourage each other by their faith.

·         Do you attend church regularly? Why or why not?
·         What does Paul’s spoken need for encouragement make you feel or think?
·         Consider finding an evangelical Christian church near you, attending, interacting with the people there, and praying for God to bless you and the people there with whom you meet.

Proclaiming the Gospel

Paul’s first love was God. Circumcised on the eighth day, and trained as most Jewish boys in the Talmud, Paul studied under Rabbi Gamaliel strictly according to the law of the fathers of Israel. He was zealous for God and persecuted the Way, Jesus-followers (Acts 22:3-4) (NASB). Even while Paul was a Pharisee, he loved God, though some might say he loved the law more. While on his way to Damascus to persecute and take Jewish Jesus-followers from there to Jerusalem for punishment (Acts 22:5), Jesus met him in a very bright light. From that day, Paul loved Jesus and the God of salvation more than he did the law. At the moment Jesus met him, he became blind. Jesus told Paul to go to Damascus where He would reveal His appointed purpose for him. Paul entered Damascus and the priest, Ananias, told Paul, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.” [Acts 22:14-15 (NASB)]. From that moment, his heart for God leaped to its greatest height. Paul’s love for the unsaved grew because of God’s heart within him.
This heart of God within Paul compelled him to preach and teach the gospel. It gave him the desire to go to Rome. In Romans 1:13-15, Paul said,

And I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you, and have been prevented thus far, in order that I might obtain some fruit among you also, even among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. (NASB)

As he said in Romans 1:13, he “often planned” to go to them and God prevented it so far. Before we sail past this point to understand why Paul said he planned to go to Rome, let’s consider what he meant when he said he “had been prevented” from going earlier. The word “prevented” comes from the Greek word koluo and means to hinder, prevent, or forbid. During Paul’s three first missionary journeys, God forbade him to go to Rome. He gave Paul the task to preach to the unsaved in the east (Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, and Israel) and to encourage and strengthen them. Once churches started and Paul trained and left men behind to help them grow, God opened the door for Paul to go to Rome.

Paul’s going to Rome, he said, was like going to Macedonia, Ephesus, Corinth or any of the other places he visited. He wanted to preach the gospel so people would come to saving faith in Jesus the Christ. Though Paul had learned about Christians living in Rome, he realized there were many other people among the masses who lived or visited the metropolitan trade center who did not believe in Jesus and had not heard of Him.  For these people, Paul desired to preach the gospel so all people would receive salvation (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Paul, having freedom to travel easily within the Roman empire since he was a Roman citizen, used that freedom to take the gospel farther than any other apostle. He desired to go as far as Rome and Spain (Romans 15:24 & 28). He expressed his desire for the people in Rome in Romans 1:13 when he said he planned to go there so he “may obtain some fruit among you also even as among the rest of the Gentile.” Paul heard about the Christians in Rome, but understood there were thousands more who worshiped gods from the pantheon worshiped by Roman citizens and people who visited there.

The love Paul felt for God and for other people compelled him, obliged him, to preach to the people in Rome. He expressed this compelling in verse fourteen when he said he was under obligation to the Greeks and barbarians. This word “obligation” comes from the Greek word opheiletes and means one who owes another or is bound by a duty. Paul, the man who persecuted and ordered the deaths of Jesus-followers in Israel, felt obliged to God for saving him and for calling him as an apostle. He felt compelled to declare God’s gospel so other people, people like himself whom God created and loved, would know Jesus and receive salvation and eternal life. That shows Paul’s love of God and humankind. He did not decide Jesus could only save the Jews and so kept himself within Israel. Likewise, Paul did not decide only wise and socially acceptable people should hear the gospel. He determined each person he met, whether Greek or barbarian, wise or foolish must hear the gospel of salvation and receive the opportunity to accept Jesus as his or her Savior.

After making this point to the Roman Christians, Paul said it was because of this, his love for God and every person, and God’s calling on His life to preach and teach that he was ready to go to Rome. He said he was “eager” to preach the gospel. For Paul and for us, this means he was ready and willing. Often God asks a person do to something for Him, but that person is not willing. He/she knows God made him/her ready to do what He called him/her to do, but he/she is unwilling to do it. Paul stated in verse fifteen, he was ready (prepared by God) and willing (personally accepting and doing) to do what God asked of him. Eagerness implies God preparing you for a task and you being willing, consenting, and then doing what God called you to do. Paul did not preach grudgingly. He preached with a great desire to see all people come to know Jesus, receive salvation from their sins and gain eternal life with Him in heaven. To have this intense desire required him to love the Lord totally and to love his fellow man and woman enough to go anywhere to reach them and preach to them. Paul’s response to Jesus’ love for him, was love for God. God’s love for Paul and each person pierced Paul’s heart so he had the heart of God. Paul was ready. He expressed his willingness. Paul was eager.

·         God trains each of us for His service. He uses accountants, nurses, presidents, teachers, students, etc. to share the gospel and tell of His love.
·         You are trained. If you have accepted the love of God shared through His gospel and are a Christian, He made you ready.
·         Are you willing to do what God tells you to do? Eagerness comes from being ready and willing?
·         What will it take for you to be willing? What stops you from willingly giving up mastery of your life to the Master and Lord of all life?

Main Theme of Romans

Paul received God’s love for all people within himself, recognized it and his love for God, and acted upon his debt to God by willingly doing what God appointed him to do. God appointed him to preach the gospel. Paul recognized this calling and eagerly acted upon it for the rest of his life.
The main message of Paul’s preaching and teaching is what he primarily addressed in the letter to the Romans. He proclaimed his testimony in verses sixteen and seventeen. Paul said,

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. For in it, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (NASB)

The righteousness of God was Paul’s main theme in this letter and in other letters. First, though, Paul attested he was not ashamed of the gospel. He was not embarrassed or afraid of his association with God and His gospel that came through the death of Jesus Christ, His Son. Paul expressed this conviction in 2 Timothy 1:12 when he said, “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” (NASB) His conviction of God’s mercy, love, and provision of salvation drove him to tell as many people as he could about the gospel.

Paul expressed why the gospel was important and essential for all to hear and accept. He said, “It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” People have difficulty trusting in what they cannot see. This regularly gave an excuse for denying this gift God gives. Paul explained the gospel of God is not powerless and is real and vibrant. He said the gospel is the power of God. This “power” comes from the Greek word dunamis. Dunamis is the word from which we get our English words dynamite and dynamo. Dunamis is the power, strength, and ability inherent in God by virtue of His nature. God is the One who created the universe-rocks, land, seas, animals, plants, sun, stars, moon, wind, gravity, oxygen, and humankind-by His will, hands, and breath. He created everything out of nothing-ex nihilo, meaning “creation from nothing.” This powerful and creative God provided a way for people, people who have sinned and are unholy, to return to a right relationship with Him, the holy God. This way is the gospel Paul and all Christians proclaim. It came through the birth of Jesus, His Son, in human form to live as people live, in a sinful world, yet to be without sin. This Son then died though He did not sin, so that by His death, we sinful people could receive salvation from the death penalty of sin we deserve and wipe us clean from the stains of our sins. This cleansing from sins makes a person who believes in Jesus holy so he or she can be in God’s presence and have a relationship with Him. This gospel that proclaims God’s love and mercy toward us came through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is the power of God to save people if they repent and trust in Jesus Christ. 


Paul meant this when he wrote verse sixteen. God made His righteousness available to people through His power to save so each person who believes will become righteous-made right with God-and be in His presence from that day and forever. This gospel Paul preached is for the Jews, Greeks and barbarians, as his heart told him. He said in verse sixteen God’s powerful gospel of salvation is for everyone, “to the Jews first and also to the Greeks.” God wants everyone to come to a saving knowledge of Him.

With verse seventeen, Paul explained only by the righteousness of God will His people live. From their first steps in the faith through growth in their faith until the end of time, people will see God’s righteousness and hear His people testify about Him. Righteousness is the virtue of being right without tarnish of sin in thought, feeling, or action. God’s character defines righteousness and rightness. He is the epitome and definition of righteousness.  The salvation He gives people who repent and believe in Jesus makes them righteous by Jesus’ cleansing of their sins. Jesus Christ and the faith of believers reveal God’s righteousness. From the first encounter of salvation through to the end of a believer’s earthly life, God’s righteousness is revealed. From justification through sanctification to glorification, the righteousness of God shows through the person because of what God did through Jesus Christ.

Justification occurs when a person receives Christ as his or her Savior and received the cleansing from sins His sacrificial death made possible. Christ’s righteousness is credited to believers so they are made right with God and can have a relationship with Him. Paul said in Romans 3:21-22, “But now apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.” (NASB)

“Sanctification” and “saint” come from the same root Greek word, hagios. They each relate to holiness. “Saint” means to be holy as set apart from something that is unholy. To sanctify something is to set it apart for special use. So, to sanctify a person, a saint/believer, is to make him or her holy for God’s use. Jesus spoke about sanctifying His disciples in John 17:17. Sanctification is being made separate for God’s use. All believers enter this state of sanctification when they receive new life through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, believers receive sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30). God is the One who sanctifies a person. We cannot sanctify ourselves since we are not holy. Only one who is holy, who is clean from sin, can make something clean, holy, that was full of sin and separate it from the unholy. Sanctification is a progressive experience. As a person becomes more obedient to God that person becomes more holy. We set aside ourselves for God’s service, for His holy work, and grow in holiness through our obedience to Him. Peter called this “growing in the Lord” when he said, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” [2 Peter 3:18 (NASB)] Paul spoke of it in Philippians 1:6 when he said, “For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NASB) This progressive sanctification carries the idea that God sets apart to do the His purposes in the world just as Jesus set Himself apart for God’s purposes as John said in John 10:37. Jesus acknowledged God intended His children to go into the world to tell about Him in John 17:18-19. He said, “As Thou did send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” Sanctification comes through Christ, through a relationship with Him. Peter said believers were to seek holiness. In 1 Peter 1:15, he said, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in your behavior.” (NASB) Finally, Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” (NASB)

Sanctification is a process from the point of justification to the time when God’s kingdom comes on earth and He resurrects believers to live with Him eternally. When Paul said in Romans 1:17, “The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith,” he understood and taught that a Christian’s faith grows from its first baby steps at profession of faith through the person’s glorification. Going from faith to faith means following God’s leading and growing closer to Him with daily prayer, Bible study, and meditation. A believer reveals the righteousness of God more and more as his or her faith grows from its first aspiration and spoken words of acceptance throughout his or her life in love and obedience to God. Just as God is revealed through creation, conscience, Christ, and the Bible, so He and His righteousness is revealed through a believer’s life of faith. Paul meant this when he wrote in Romans 1:17, “The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Paul’s faith revealed God’s righteousness so that he declared in verse seventeen he is “not ashamed of the gospel.”

·         Do you recognize the reality of God in His creation, in your conscience, in the lives of your Christian friends, and/or the Bible, but still push His gift of righteousness and salvation away? Why?
·         If you are a Christian, do you take time with God each day so that your faith grows along with your holiness? If not, why not?
·         Do you deny the power of God in your life even though you believed in Jesus Christ and received His salvation? Why do you refuse to grow with God and allow His Holy Spirit to guide and guard you each day?
·         Now is the time to consider each of these and decide if you will recognize God and accept His forgiveness, salvation, and power.


Recap

What is important about these ten verses to our lives today? Why should we pay attention and act upon them? First and foremost, the gospel is important. As Paul and other Bible authors stated, God’s love for humanity is paramount. Because of His love, He provided a way for each person to be in a right relationship with Him. This right relationship requires righteousness on both sides, but we humans do not have it because of the wrong things we have done, said, or considered. Through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, God wipes away the sins of humankind when a person believes in Him as the Son of God and repents of his or her sins. Because Jesus took the death penalty we each deserve for our wrongdoings, we do not owe for our sins. When Jesus allowed the Romans to crucify Him, He took the judgment for sinners. By His death, He gave us righteousness, God’s righteousness. When we believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who took our sins away, God makes us righteous and able to be in His presence, in a relationship with Him. That is most important for us in these verses.

Because of Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul believed in Jesus as his Savior and has a love for God and humanity deeper than he ever had. His desire is to go where God tells him and to preach and teach the gospel. This desire, this love for the souls of other people, comes from the heart of God He put in him when Jesus saved him. Paul’s love for other people allows him to pray with thanks for them and to pray ceaselessly. In praying ceaselessly, Paul gains a greater heart and love for the people, comes to understand them better, and knows better how to pray for them. This back and forth dynamic occurs anytime we pray to God. As we pray, we know God more and we pray better. When we pray, we recognize God’s heart for people more and know the people better so we love deeper and better.

Relevance and Conclusion

What is the “take away” for this lesson? How is this relevant to us now? Paul’s love for God and submission to Him as a bondservant is most important here. He went when God told him to go. Paul went where God opened doors. God gave him a heart for Himself and the people, especially Gentiles. Because of Paul’s love for God, he willingly submitted to God as His Lord and Master. Paul said he was eager to preach the gospel. Using the Greek definition of eager, he was ready and willing. God made Paul ready. He put His heart for Himself and other people in Paul. God trained Paul in the Jewish laws for which he had been fiercely protective. He instilled in him the need for intent of the heart in worship, not mere ritual. God taught him how to preach when He had Paul train with Gamaliel. He prepared him to defend the gospel when he trained to be a Pharisee. God made Paul ready for the task to which He would call him. When Paul received the love of God through his salvation and expressed his love back to Him, it resulted in willingness to do the tasks to which God called/appointed him.

Our love of God shows in our obedience to what He asks of us. Paul’s voluntary submission to the Lord’s appointing him an apostle showed the depth of his love for Him. Our love for God shows in how we relate to other people. Do we love them like God loves them? Paul loved the Roman Christians enough that he prayed for God’s grace and peace on them and gave thanks to God for them though he had never met them or visited their city.

Our challenge, our calling by God, is to love Him and to love the people whom He loves. That would be all people. Both Moses and Jesus taught what loving God means. It means loving Him with your whole being, heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mark 12:30). To get to this depth of love, we must recognize, realize within ourselves, and choose to live out the love God gives us through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, for our salvation just so we can have a right relationship with Him and live eternally with Him. When we truly understand the magnitude of His gift of love through the death of His Son, our whole being will compel us to express our great gratitude and love to Him. We will reach deep within ourselves and give from the depths of our being from all parts of ourselves to try to express the depths of our gratitude and love back to Him. This means our love will show, will shine out, in gratitude and obedience to Him to do willing whatever He asks of us. We will scratch the depths of our being to find the last ounce of ourselves to express our love to God. This depth of love is most likely from where Paul loved and served God and from where His love of all people came.

If you are already a believer in Jesus Christ, you now must decide if you love God to the very last ounce of your being and are giving Him everything you are to serve Him willingly in the task for which he has made you ready and to which He called you. Are you eager to do what God asks of you? If not, what keeps you from loving God with absolute obedience? What keeps you from loving people with the love God put in your heart for them? God waits for you to love Him willingly and join Him in sharing the gospel of His righteousness so each person will hear and receive salvation.

If you are not a believer, what in yourself keeps you from accepting God’s gift of salvation from your sins, the power of sin, and the power of death? What is keeping you from accepting the full degree of His love? Today you heard the basics of the Gospel from Paul. The gospel of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. Right now, as an unbeliever, you live under the weight of your wrongdoings. Those wrongdoings separate you from God. He won’t be in your presence because He is holy and you are not. When you confess and believe in Jesus, He makes you holy so you can be with God now and forever. Without His salvation, you live powerless against temptation and death. The only strength you have is your own fortitude, and that is feeble. Sometimes you fail yourself. We all do. But, with the strength of God’s power, His dunamis, you would no longer have to struggle. God would give you the power of Himself through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit if you claim it, hold onto it, and walk through life with it. As a Christian, you would have power over sin. He gives you power over death. That means your soul would not die, be separated permanently from God, but will be with Him in His presence for eternity.

We each must decide what we will do about and with God’s love given through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus. Will you accept it? Will you stand in the power He offers? Will you show your love and gratitude to God by obeying His calling? Or, will you hold back and not accept His righteousness or not accept His calling?

Are you eager, ready and willing, to answer the call of God’s righteousness?


“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in this flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me, and I do not know which to choose.” [Philippians 1:21-22 (NASB)]