Summary of Paul’s Letters

Titus.
Second Timothy.
Second Thessalonians.
Second Corinthians.
Romans summary.
Romans.
Philippians summary.
Philippians.
Philemon.
Galatians summary.
Galatians.
First Timothy.
First Thessalonians.
First Corinthians summary.
First Corinthians.
Colossians summary.
Colossians.

Advertisements

Titus

TITUS.

The theme is: “God’s ideal for the Christian Church – orderly organisation, sound faith, moral standards and practical works of piety and kindness towards others – and Christian workers – a love of order and method, a healthy and practical doctrine, a sober outlook and pure speech.”

Paul wrote it to Titus, who is not named in Acts but was on Crete and was one of Paul’s converts. Ch 1 v 4. In Gal ch 2 v 1 Titus accompanied Paul to Jerusalem. Titus was a Gentile but was not circumcised. Gal ch 2 v 3. Paul probably wrote the letter from Macedonia. It was written about the same time as the letters to Timothy and has the same purpose of establishing good leaders in the Church. Paul appears confidant about the ability and character of Titus to stand firm. 2 Cor ch 2 v 13 indicates that Titus had been involved with the Corinthian Church. He was probably quite experienced. It seems that Paul, who had visited Crete, had left Titus there to take charge of the Church in Crete. The Cretans had a turbulent history of conquering and being conquered and were generally not at peace with others or themselves. They were noted for being disorderly. They probably did not welcome Roman rule. A Cretan poet Epiminedes of the 6th century B. C. had criticised Cretans as liars, lazy gluttons and evil beasts. This was a national characteristic against which all Cretan believers had to guard themselves. The Gospel should change even these cultural traits.

There is a comprehensive statement of truth in ch 2 v 11-14 and ch 3 v 4-7. There is a sharp contrast between the man of the World and the man of God. The coming of Jesus is still uppermost in the mind of Paul and it is an essential truth to hold before men to remind them that one day they will give account to God for their life when the books are opened on Judgement Day.

The letter emphasises the requirements for leadership in the Church. Elders (overseers) appear in the plural. The New Testament Churches were governed by plural leadership. There is no record of a single eldership. There is guidance as to how to teach the various groups in the Church – older men – older women – the young men and slaves. Each group has its own particular problems and needs sensitive teaching. There is a picture of what a sound Church should be like and what it should be doing. In particular there are practical steps, which should be the outworking of sound doctrine – ch 3 v 14. As Paul said in the letters to Timothy Satan’s principal attack on believers is through false teaching. ch 1 v 11.

Finally there is advice to Titus and all leaders. While it is essential to be involved with others, it is essential for a man to stand back from time to time and protect his own character ch 2 v 12 and relationship with the Lord, avoiding argument and dissension – ch 3 v 9, especially with those whose doctrine is unsound or who may be just religious men – ch 1 v 16. An upright moral life blameless before others is essential to bear witness to the truth.

All believers need instruction on: 1 obedience to civil authorities, 2 living at peace with others, 3 avoiding controversial areas, 4 keeping away from heretics (factious men) and 5 doing good works.

Crete was the home of the Philistines. They came from Caphtor. Amos ch 9 v 7. Crete was annexed by Rome in 67 B. C. These warlike people were never out-with the providence and mercy of God. In Acts ch 27 v 7-13 Paul landed there on his way to Rome. Paul had later visited there and with the help of Titus established some Churches there. He wrote to Titus to encourage him in the same way he had written to Timothy. The main emphasis of his letter is to do good deeds, lead an exemplary lifestyle and refute false teaching. False teaching was widespread in Crete, which had a long and glorious history. A successful mission needed follow up. Local leaders were necessary. Paul lists the requirements for leadership in the Church.

A blameless and holy life is preferred to an efficient one. Leadership in the home prepares a person for leadership in the Church. If a man cannot control his home and family, he will be no use in the Church. Often the Church started in a home. Paul finishes off his letter by stressing the need for good works, so that people can see the evidence of a changed life.

There are 5 vices to be avoided.
1. Being over-bearing and stubborn.
2. Quick-tempered. Those who remain angry and do not show mercy.
3. Given to drunkenness. A drunk person cannot keep a secret well.
4. Violence.
5. Pursuing dishonest gain. Cretans were business people, who liked money and gain.

There are 6 virtues to be pursued.
1. Hospitality. Wayside inns were hotbeds of vice.
2. Lover of moral goodness.
3. Self-controlled – a man should be able to control his passions and say: “No” to his fallen nature.
4. Upright or just.
5. Holy – respecting basic values.
6. Disciplined. Self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit.
Leaders have to teach well and refute false teaching. The Cretans were liars and gluttons. The culture was against the Gospel. Profit or gain was permitted without any moral restriction. Win at all costs was the rule of life. All men are affected by their culture.

The older people have special pastoral needs. They are inclined to eat too much and be less self-controlled. Older women are inclined to be critical of the young and set in their ways. Older people tend to think of retiring and being useless in the Church. It was better that the younger women were taught by the older women rather than by Titus. Otherwise people would talk. Crete had its own problems. Today the practice of women in employment creates a new problem. Young men may be inclined to be full of themselves and out to impress. Christian leadership is about setting a good example. Integrity means unspoiled by corruption.

More than 50% of people in Greek cities were slaves. As such they were a despised class. The witness of slaves was important to the spread of the Gospel. Slaves tended to steal and talk back angrily out of frustration and anger. An honest obedient slave was an excellent witness. If a believer continues sinning, he denies the purpose of Jesus’ death on his behalf – as though He died in vain.

Second Timothy

SECOND TIMOTHY.

This is the last letter written by Paul and details the difficulties faced by him. Many lives had been affected by his life and these words of farewell would have been special to so many people. It is sad that his service should end in this way. In the eyes of the World it is failure – like the death of Jesus – but only faith pleases the Lord and Paul was faithful and busy to the end of his life. Nero did some awful things to believers – like burning them alive in tar as torches. Paul was spared the worst torture. He had run the race well and was ready for Heaven. Paul could not get there soon enough. The passage challenges a man – if he dies tomorrow, is he ready for Heaven, having done everything God has asked of him? If he lives tomorrow, will he live for Jesus? As always the Bible asks more questions than it gives answers.

CHAPTER 1. Although Paul was writing a personal letter to Timothy, he expected the Church to be reading it over his shoulder. There should be no secrets in Christianity. Paul knew that the letter might be intercepted and read by anyone. Paul at this time expected to be put to death and was passing the mantle to Timothy. His advice to Timothy is not to waste his life in ways, which would not build the Kingdom of God. A clear conscience once lost is difficult to retrieve. Therefore a man must by all means keep it clean. Spilt milk cannot be put back in the bottle again. A man loses his innocence in each area of his life each time he sins in the knowledge that the activity is sinful. Praying constantly does not mean continuously – while driving – but regularly.
v 2. What could be better than being showered with grace, kindness and peace? That is a real blessing to give to others.
v 5. A godly home and teaching of the Scriptures is a great blessing, whether it actually leads to salvation or not.
v 6. A box of matches has the potential to produce a massive blaze, but even a match needs to be struck. Just possessing a gift is not good enough, unless it is used and cultivated through diligent effort. It is necessary to work out salvation.
v 7. God did not give man a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. Self-control is part of the fruit of the spirit. It is grace when a man receives faith to believe. What he does thereafter depends on him. Self-control is the ability to say “No” to the old self.
v 9. Being saved is only a part of the plan God has for a man. The other part is to serve His purposes. What a wonderful thought that he has been born into the Kingdom for such a time as this – Esther ch 4 v 14 – living within the eternal plan of God for his life. Paul felt no shame in being in prison. His only purpose in life was to please God. God knew each man like Jeremiah – Jer ch 1 v 5 – before he left the womb of his mother. God has a plan for each man’s life. Jer ch 29 v 11. All God asks is that a man is available and obedient. A man cannot rely on anyone else to help him. He is personally accountable to God for what he does in His life.
v 12. Timothy is not to be ashamed. Jesus had been crucified as an evildoer by the Romans. It was a risk to side with Him in public, especially when persecution was raging. Likewise with Paul, who, because he was a Roman citizen, would not be crucified but would have his head cut off. Is a believer ashamed of other believers and does he keep his distance from them for fear of being seen to be associated with them?

In a society blessed by God the narrow path and the broad path may run close to one another like two lanes of a motorway. It is therefore not too difficult to cross from one path to the other. However, when a nation is acting in a godless way, the paths diverge and become increasingly further apart. It is then more difficult to cross from one to the other, e.g. a drug baron becoming a believer. Old people become hard-hearted, having refused the Gospel for many years. Others may be living in sin and have to separate from their partner in order to be saved. Those with several wives will have to divorce all but the first wife. Those in debt will find it impossible to tithe. Those in jobs like tobacco sales and gambling will have to give up their jobs. Some will have to give up their friends or family. These are really difficult decisions.

CHAPTER 2.
The truth is to be passed on from one to another by correct teaching. The people in those days did not have books or even a copy of the Bible. They relied on teaching passed on by those who knew the Lord and had experience. This is true in many countries today. A man can only speak from his own experience. That is where his authority comes from – a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus and work in His service. Everything else is second hand experience. The precious stones in a man’s life are the product of costly experience. Timothy is charged by Paul to pass on the sum total of all he has been taught by Paul. He is to teach others, who in turn will teach others. False teaching is therefore such a danger and is naturally the principal work of the enemy in the lives of believers.

The word in verse 2 does not mean exclusively males – in the Greek. It includes men and women. The secret of being a successful leader is that part of the work is always to train up others to carry on the work and expand it after he has gone or been called to other service.

Paul uses three examples of hard work – a soldier, a farmer and an athlete. All three must work hard in order to succeed. They see results only if they work hard. They are people with a goal in view. Sacrifice and self-discipline are essential, if they are to achieve their goal. Jesus is an example to man in that He worked exceptionally hard during His three years of public ministry. He almost certainly worked hard at His business. Farming involves continual work in all weathers. There is no end to the toil. There are no short cuts for being a servant of the Lord, especially in the teaching of truths to others. To teach the whole counsel of God is an awesome task and a lifetime of work.
v 8. Paul refers to David as the ancestor of Jesus. David was relentlessly pursued by Saul. This is a physical picture of the spiritual reality that the believer is relentlessly pursued by Satan. In mentioning David, Paul reminds man that Jesus was truly a human being and suffered physical pain as well as emotional turmoil. Paul’s own suffering was very real – chained to a soldier. Even if Paul is chained the Word of God is not. Paul faced death and death wonderfully concentrates the mind as to what is really important. For Paul it was the urgency of commissioning Timothy to carry on the work.
v 15. A good workman is not ashamed, if his work is examined. Is a believer ashamed when others look at his life and the little growth in his holiness? Failure in the service of the Lord should lead a man to repent. In language and attitude others know that a man is a follower of Jesus?
16. Avoid godless chatter. There are many who just like to discuss matters of interest but have no concern for the truth or obeying it. A believer wastes his time with such people. Jesus used the illustration of casting a pearl before swine. A pig has no interest in a pearl. The pearl is used to indicate the priceless truth of the Gospel.
v 18 Paul uses the illustration of making a straight path. Roman roads were always straight. Paul had walked many of them. The speaker and the listener must test what is said against Scripture. Sound teaching requires hard study and preparation.
v 21. Jesus came that man might enjoy life to the full. In order to have the best, a man has to put aside the second best. This is so in food, music, clothes and literature. So in life, if a man wants the best he must follow the commands and advice of Jesus. Healthy teaching produces healthy lives. A man’s brains need to be washed regularly by the Word of God to train him out of the ways of the World.
v 22. How does a man flee from youthful lusts? Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife. That is not a time for debate or thought but action. Gen ch 39 v 12 is a picture of the urgency of doing this. If a child is making a mess in a house, it is not enough to say; “Stop doing that!” It is necessary to say: “Instead of doing that, would you not better do this?” Every negative command by God also has a positive command.
Acts ch 9 v 14. Call on the name of the Lord. There is power in the name of Jesus. Paul invoked the name of being a Roman citizen to stop his beatings in Acts ch 25.

Obedience and a holy life demonstrate a man’s allegiance to the Lord. Turning away from evil and doing good is the test. Develop an alternative interest. Stop watching trivial things on television and read or help others. That is self-training in godly living. Gen ch 4 v 7. Sin is crouching at the door of the life of each man, ready to pounce, if he steps out-with the will of the Lord. Cain did not pay attention to the word from God and sin took hold of him. Jealousy took a grip on his life and it led him to murder Abel.

To pursue peace means having sensitivity to others. Being humble and gentle, avoiding pressurising people and running them down is essential for a pastor. It is also essential to have been where they are to fully understand their problem. The wonder is that whatever pressure a man experiences, Jesus has been there – only more so – disappointment, loneliness, pain and hatred. In every situation He understands where a man is, because He has been there. There are errors springing from honest ignorance. God understands that it takes time to learn what is right and wrong. Acts ch 19 v 1-6. But there were some who were knowingly teaching error. Part of knowing the truth is to learn from the Lord how to deal with the wiles of the enemy.

CHAPTER 3.
Paul encourages Timothy to stay faithful and true, standing against false teachers and those who have back-slidden. Others may desert but a man must stand firm. Paul has a special word for believers concerning the condition of people in the last days before Jesus returns. There will be a time of distress such as the World has never known. Dan ch 12 v 1 and Mat ch 24 v 10. “Lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, mockers of God and those who do good acts, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, lovers of evil and not good.” They will set their own moral standards according to their pleasure. Gratitude, loyalty and faithfulness will be in short supply. It is the picture of Hell, with no love and with utter selfishness and no Holy Spirit living within them – lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. There will be people who attend Churches and who appear religious but have no power of the Holy Spirit living within them. Timothy is warned to have nothing to do with such people. Sects and sex often go together. There is a lack of self-control, which is part of the fruit of the Spirit.

Paul contrasts persecuted saints with evil men and imposters. False teachers will abound with all kinds of New Age teaching, suggesting that mankind has outgrown the Judeo-Christian era. Jannes and Jambres were the names of Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses. Exodus ch 7 v 11. Jesus asked the Disciples if they too wanted to go their own way. Jesus would not compel them to follow Him. “You alone have the words of eternal life,” was Peter’s response on behalf of the group.

Suffering will come to all who really follow the Lord. The very light demonstrated in their lives will cause offence to those around them. The people will seek to transfer their guilt onto the believers. Mankind has always looked for a scapegoat. Guilt will not go away. It had to be placed somewhere – usually at the door of another person or body – often the Government or the Church.

Timothy had had a good upbringing in the Scriptures. Deut ch 11 v 18-21 obliged Jewish parents to teach their children the Scriptures. God has inspired the writing of the Scriptures. He has breathed His words into the minds and mouths of the prophets. Gen ch 2 v 7. When God breathed into the body of man, man became a living being. The Scriptures deal with false teaching and give a man positive instruction. A man needs to teach truth and rebuke error. Study of the Scriptures is a life-long study. There is no greater or more rewarding thing that to study the heart and mind of God. If a man is to teach the Scriptures to others, he must first study them for himself, so that he is equipped for the work.

CHAPTER 4.
Paul reminds Timothy that God sees everything and that at the end of his life he will stand before Jesus for judgement. These two truths should govern and motivate a man’s life. As Paul’s life neared its end they were naturally uppermost in his mind. Death helps focus the mind wonderfully on what is really important. Paul gives Timothy 5 commands. 1. Preach the word. 2. Be prepared. 3. Correct. 4. Rebuke or warn the flock. 5. Encourage by expounding Scripture. There will come a time when people will turn from the truth to welcome false ideas, which will accommodate their sins. The preacher must not be controlled by the pay cheque. Gullible people will swallow New Age teachings. Paul also needed human companionship as Jesus did. He also needed clothing and things to read and study. Tychichus was the person who acted as a courier who carried the letters of Paul to the Churches. It would have been a very expensive letter.

False teaching today.
1. Unity and ecumenicalism – on the basis of the words of Jesus that all believers are one.
2. Replacement theology. God has finished with the Jews. The Church is the new Israel.
3. Clergy dependence. Without the leader – minister – a man can do nothing. The clergy like that.
4. Big is beautiful. Worldly thinking equates large with success. One man open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit is what God is looking for. Most men of God were alone in their work, although they needed fellowship.
5. Over-emphasis on the love of God as opposed to the wrath of God.

Second Thessalonians

SECOND THESSALONIANS.

The theme is the coming of the Lord with His people.

Confusion had arisen over the teaching of Paul about the expected return of Christ, because of a forged letter and a false verbal message. What Paul had said in the first letter had been misunderstood and Paul was writing to set matters straight. Some thought that they were living through the Tribulation. Paul tells them that certain events must happen first. Evil and wickedness will reach a climax under the leadership of a mysterious figure called “The Wicked One.” There will be a frenzy of apostasy and blasphemy. The implication is that the man of sin will reveal himself after the Jews accept the Messiah. The “Man of sin” in Hebrew means the man of eminent wickedness – the one who is doomed to destruction. Some of the Church members had given up work, expecting that the return was imminent. They were living in idleness. Paul rebukes them and tells the others to put them out of Fellowship. Paul urges them to be steady in their faith. This is a great opportunity to display loyalty to Jesus, and a time of evangelism, of praying for His servants, of patient waiting for Jesus and of living the separated life.

CHAPTER 1 v 5-12. The Universe is a moral Universe. God is just. Those who reject the truth will face judgement at the Second Coming.
v 6. Those who persecute believers will be punished by God. This is part of the righteous judgement of God. It seems perfectly fair. Rev ch 6 v 10. “How long, O Lord?”
v 7. Those who are suffering will find rest when Jesus comes. There will be mighty angels with flaming fire. Jude v 14.
v 8. There will be judgement for those who do not wish to know God and who refuse to accept Jesus as a saviour. They think they are good enough or can save themselves. To them Jesus will say: “Depart from me – I never knew you.” Romans ch 2 v 8. Wrath is the natural consequence of sin. That is what man deserves. Mercy is what is on offer. If a man wants justice, Hell is what he gets. If he wants mercy, Heaven is available. Wrath is a reflex response to the love of God for His creation. Jesus bore the penalty of wrath on the Cross and averted the wrath of God from repenting sinners. God’s anger is visited on (a) unbelief (b) apostasy (c) idolatry and (d) all wickedness. Wrath may be visited on individuals and on nations e.g. Nineveh, Jerusalem and Rome. There will be a day of wrath at the end of the age. Rev ch 6 v 17. Rev ch 19 v 15.
v 9. The punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord. Punished in everlasting Hell. 2 Pet ch 3 v 7. The Earth is stored up for fire.
v 10. Believers will be with Him, while those who refused His offer of grace shall be excluded. What of those who have never heard? Romans ch 2 v 12. They are judged in light of their own conscience.

Acts ch 1 v 11. Jesus is coming back again. But when? Ch 1 v 5 suggested like a thief in the night. That implied that it could happen any day. Many teach that today, usually in association with the Secret Rapture. Tomorrow it could be all over. Therefore live one day at a time and be ready every day. It is difficult after nearly 2,000 years to live on that basis. As a result of misinterpretation of the first letter, many had given up work and were just sitting around talking and waiting. Paul tackles the big problem, which faced the Church. “Now concerning the coming of the Lord.” So what is he saying? The passage stands on its own but yet has to be read in light of the rest of Scripture. That is a principle of Scripture. Mark ch 13 v 27. Mat ch 24 v 22. The one who will be taken is the one who is working for himself and not working for the Lord. That is what happened in Lot’s day at Sodom.

CHAPTER 2.
v 2 relates to the forged letter. Rumours were flying about. Be careful to test everything against the Bible. Many extravagant claims are being made. Visions and special messages can be misleading. If they do not fit in with the revealed Word of God in the Bible, ignore them. “Do not be deceived.” Eph ch 5 v 6. Certain events must take place before the day Jesus returns.

1. The Gospel must be preached to the whole World for a witness.
2. There will be a time of great tribulation before He comes. Mat ch 24 v 21. Some of the Thessalonians thought that they were passing through that time, in view of the difficulties facing them. There will be a time of great rebellion against God. That will be epitomised by the Man of Lawlessness.
3. Dan ch 7 v 25. Rev ch 13 v 5. John ch 17 v 12. Isaiah ch 14 v 12 – 14. Ezekiel ch 28 v 1-3. Satan entered into Judas but left him to die when he failed in His purpose at the resurrection. The Man of Lawlessness will rise for a short time. Is this the antichrist? Anti means against and instead of. The Hebrew word means a man of eminent wickedness. He will sit in the temple of God. Is this a building or in the body, which is the temple of God?
4. There will be a time of un-paralleled trouble for mankind.
5. There will be a time of uncontrolled wickedness.
6. There will be a time of great falling away or apostasy.

v 7. Who restrains the Man of Lawlessness? Is it the Church, the Holy Spirit or some other person or thing? It is argued that it cannot be the Holy Spirit, but the greater the light, the greater the darkness. As a person is converted the evil spirits manifest themselves more and more. So it is possible that the Holy Spirit by His activity will bring about an increase in spiritual forces against Him as they realise that their time is short. Pharaoh raged against the Children of Israel when they were released. The Man of Lawlessness can only come when his time is ready. God is in control and will let him come when it is suitable. Jesus let Satan enter Judas. Jesus is in control. To what extent is a man responsible for allowing Satan to take control of the life of the nation? When the Church stops speaking the truth, the people fall into ignorance and are open to lies of the enemy. It is not a question of sitting back letting it all happen. The same enemy has been prowling round for a long time.

There will be confrontation with Jesus on His return. The antichrist will have certain powers, e.g. levitation, false prophecy, limited healing and hypnosis. He apes Jesus in this way. But his miracles are not done for good, but to deceive and attract. When Jesus found that people were coming to Him just for the attraction of His works, He stopped performing the works. The healings were because of the compassion Jesus had for the people. Mat ch 24 v 24. Even believers will be led away. Mat ch 24 v 5. Satan has always been an imitator. He prowls round like a roaring lion. He is not one but imitates one. Pharaoh opposed the miracles of Moses. These were real miracles by Pharaoh’s magicians.
v 11. Does God actively send a delusion or is it like when He hardened Pharaoh’s heart. When God withdraws His grace, hardening is the natural process. When God withdraws His Spirit, the enlightenment is withdrawn. Romans ch 1 v 28. God gives them up and lets them go. That is what they want, so that is what they get. It is always a man’s choice. Sometimes God overrules in a man’s own interests but if He lets a man go, that man sinks downwards morally and spiritually. Jacob clung onto God for a blessing. “Abide in me. I am the vine and you are the branches. Without me you can do nothing.” In this a man realises that God has been especially gracious to him. “There but for the grace of God go I.” Men are all sinners and naturally inclined to rebel. There is no scope for self-congratulation that believers are not like them. They are. The New Age Movement is doing just that. Satan appeals to a man’s pride. God originally made man in His image. Today man is making God in man’s own image.

v 15. It is vital to hang onto the truth. Without it a man will sink and be given up. It can happen to believers too – backsliding and apostasy are freely available. v 16. There is strength, which a man does not deserve. There are some believers, who have let go of Jesus.

CHAPTER 2 v 1. Paul begins to address the question about the return of Jesus. Sudden does not mean imminent. The passage has to be read in light of other Scripture. The theme is that certain events must take place before the return of the Lord. The delay gives mankind time to put certain things right before the return and the judgement. That day of the Lord’s return will not happen until the Man of Lawlessness has come first.
v 4. He fits the picture of the anti-Christ in Dan ch 7 v 25, ch 8 v 25 and ch 11 v 36. Paul had explained this but some of the members had become confused. The Holy Spirit presently restrains anti-Christ, but when the Holy Spirit is driven away by the sins of the people in the World, then Satan will be able to take his place to rule the World for a short time. Then Jesus will slay him. There will be pretend signs and wonders by Satan.
v 13. In light of the previous section, give thanks that there are any believers. It is all grace. Thank the Lord for a Christian family – for one another. Paul uses the word “brethern” 27 times. He saw the Church as a family. There needs to be leadership in the family. This will be even more important in time of persecution when friends will melt away. When it really matters there are only two kinds of people – those for Jesus and those against Him. The spirits are very real. The Church is the manifold wisdom of God to principalities. Stand firm. Enjoy the fight against the forces of darkness. The word “traditions” means truth and not ritual. Comfort means strength and not emotional wellbeing. The Holy Spirit is the comforter – the one who strengthens. Do everything in light of the certainty of Heaven. Jesus is the truth. Satan is the father of lies.
There are 4 responsibilities to the truth.
1. Believe the truth. v 13-14. God loves His children. He chose them personally. He sets them apart. He calls them into service. He gives them glory. This will be fully fulfilled in eternity. They share in it now. When believers believe Satan’s lies and reject the truth, they stop being saved and do not grow in sanctification.
2. Guard the truth. v 15. Watch out for apostasy. Satan is opposed to the truth and is the master of deception. A ship puts down an anchor. A ship is in an uncertain element – water. To reach a stable element it needs to let the anchor down onto the rock. Man lives in an unstable element – the World. It is always changing. Man needs to build his life on a stable element. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
3. Practice the truth. v 16-17. Obey the Word of God. Live it out in obedience to the commands of the Bible.
4. Share the truth. ch 3 v 1-5. Believers do that in fellowship and evangelism. The leader is to feed the sheep – not to entertain the goats.
The response to the truth will determine the destiny of each person, Jesus being the truth. A person is sanctified by believing the truth. Ch 2 v 13. A man requires to believe the truth, guard the truth and practise the truth. The Universe is a moral Universe. God will bring forth righteous judgement. Wrath is the natural consequence of sin. That is what each man deserves. God’s anger is visited on unbelief, apostasy, wickedness and idolatry. There will be apostasy and blasphemy and a period of unrestrained wickedness or godlessness in the days, which precede the coming of Jesus.

CHAPTER 3. Join the battle and pray. There are wicked men and forces at work to stop the spread of the good news. Satanic attacks will come to a believer unless he is strong. Daniel did not go into the fiery furnace. Perhaps he was too strong in the Lord for the enemy, who went for the weaker ones. Perhaps he was away from Babylon on business. Are believers putting into practice what they have learned? Otherwise it is all knowledge and no practical use. There is a strong warning against idleness. Too much time is dangerous. It leads to gossip. David and Bathsheba is the classic lesson about a man having too much time on his hands. Paul has dwelt on this theme before. It must have been a real problem in the Church – people talking and not doing. “People will not be interested in how much you know, until they see how much you care.” The older believers must give the younger ones a good example to follow.
v 6. Paul wrote to reprimand them and set them back to work. Paul had worked to earn his living and was not a financial burden to the new Church. He implies that this is an ideal situation, so that the pastor is not the entire centre of attention and a burden to the members.
v 10. If any man will not work, he should not eat. This applies to unbelievers as well. That is different from a man who cannot work due to sickness or handicap or who cannot find work despite trying. It refers to a man who refuses to work and lives off others. Stop the financial assistance or social security, if a man will not work. It is Biblical. If a man could work but sits at home expecting someone else to give part of his wages to support him, it is stealing. Why should one man pay to support someone who could earn his own living? It is taking away money from those who really need it. Many who work unofficially draw social security. This is also stealing.

What germs are to the physical body, sin is to the spiritual body. They infect others and poison the strength of the body.
v 13. Gal ch 6 v 10. Never lose an opportunity to do good to everyone in life. It is good for them and blessings flow to those who do good works.
v 14. Discipline him and expel him from the Fellowship. There is nothing to lose. He is doing nothing anyway. The rest are better off without him. Matthew ch 18 v 15. Church discipline. Jesus gave the same instruction. If an army were run with the same lack of obedience, order and discipline that is often seen in the Church, it would never win a war. If soldiers attended drill when they felt like it and if recruits disobeyed the orders of the superior officers, they would be court-martialled.
There are degrees of problems in the Church.
1. Personal differences between believers.
2. Doctrinal error.
3. A believer overtaken by sin.
4. A repeating troublemaker.
5. Open immorality.
The Lord is coming soon. A believer should live as if he believes it.

Second Corinthians

SECOND CORINTHIANS.

As always this is a real letter from one person to others and to be understood as such. It is from Paul and Timothy to the Church at Corinth. It addresses their problems and seeks to advise them as to how to proceed. The first letter had answered particular problems but Paul’s replies in the form of the first letter had not solved the situation. Paul had written a second letter to the Corinthians, which had caused much upset. This letter is the third one written by Paul to the Church at Corinth. There were some in the Church at Corinth who were infuriated and stirred up trouble, including one who even repudiated Paul’s leadership and authority. Chapter 2 v 5 refers to him.

CHAPTER 1. There were trials and difficulties. Welcome them. If a man has gone through a particular problem, then he will be able to help another who faces the same problem in the future. Jesus faced every situation a man will ever meet. Jesus warned those who would follow Him that there would be difficulties and that they would face hostility. Consider what they did to Jesus. The same hostility awaits those who truly follow Jesus. The same enemy uses the same wiles and abuses to discourage and deter the Disciples.
v 7. The Holy Spirit is the strengthener and He will give the strength to go forward and face the difficulties with poise and confidence, knowing that the Father is in supreme control.
v 8. No matter how hard life is for a believer, there are others facing much more hostility. Those in the West dare not complain, when people all over the World are really suffering hardship for the name of Jesus. Paul can speak with authority because he has been through so much hardship. Problems can be worked through. Faith needs a crisis to walk on. A crisis occurs when there is no way out of the situation. Paul faced certain death.
v 9. Only God could deliver them by His hand.
v 17. One mark of the believer is that he is a man of his word. It is unthinkable that he should say one thing and mean another. There are no hidden agendas. If a believer is unwilling or unable to deliver on his statement, then he should say nothing. God cannot lie and therefore His children should never lie either. Paul defends his ministry and answers his critics.
v 22. The Holy Spirit is a guarantee of the new birth and the fact that God will never leave His children or forsake them. He is ever present, even when it does not seem like it.

CHAPTER 2. There are times when it is necessary to speak the truth in love. If the truth is not spoken in love, it is still the truth. But if the speaker really cares for those with whom he differs and speaks the truth, there is the possibility that the truth will be received without bitterness. It is a sign of maturity that a believer can accept the truth spoken in love and can accept the discipline of the Lord. The Lord loves those whom He chastises. Pride is hurt by truth. Humility welcomes truth as a friend.
v 11. If man does not forgive but holds onto un-forgiveness in his heart, it is a foothold for Satan to get into his life. Never underestimate the enemy of a man’s soul. He comes to steal, destroy and kill – everything and anything a man has. It is a man’s greatest mistake to underestimate the enemy. Paul understood very well that Satan had left his fingerprints on this situation and was getting a foothold, seeking to drive a wedge between the brothers in Christ. So Paul urges them to show love to the one who has caused such trouble.
v 17. God always tests a man’s motives or attitudes. Two men can say the same thing but for different motives. God tests a man to see if his desire is to serve Him or to promote himself. Jesus regularly looked for the motive and asked interesting questions – like “Do you want to be well?” What was the motive for being healed? Was it to glorify God or to gain attention and live a better life?

CHAPTER 3. The believer should be a living letter. The new covenant is not written on tablets of stone but on the hearts of men. (Jeremiah chapter 31 v 33) The Kingdom of God is the rule of God in the heart of man.
v 4-7. These explain the difference between religion and Christianity. Religion is a man’s attempt to reach God on his own terms, obeying the commandments in his own strength as best he can, expecting that God will reward him for his efforts and obedience. Under religion there is a veil over the mind and understanding is limited. Without the Holy Spirit a man cannot understand the Word of God. He can only interpret the words with human understanding and human wisdom.
v 16. When a man believes in Jesus and receives the Holy Spirit the veil is taken away. Only then can a man understand the Scriptures. A life yielded to the Lord is like a mirror, reflecting the glory of God who lives within the body. The law kills but the Spirit gives life.

CHAPTER 4. Those who preach and teach are not interested in winning souls by devious means. They are accountable to God.
v 4. Satan the god of this age has blinded the minds of those not being saved.
v 8. A man cannot discern the purpose of God at all times nor the outworking of God’s providence. It is dangerous to try. He can easily become disillusioned and frustrated when he cannot work it out. God has His own agenda and time scale. Things are often not what they seem to be. A man is regularly discouraged and upset and has to start afresh. The Christian walk is not about achievement or success but about a relationship. A man’s physical life is moving irreversibly in a decline to death. It may look as if the life on Earth is achieving less and less as a man grows older. However, a man’s character is what matters as he moves towards the end of his life on Earth. The physical body is like a temporary tent in which to live until God gives a permanent body after death. Worldly thinking is deep-seated. It is difficult for a man to find the will of God for his life. As soon as he does Satan casts doubt on it.
v 12. Paul lived and spoke in a time when the Roman authorities were extremely hostile to any challenge against the Emperor’ authority. This is so in some parts of the World but not in all parts.
v 16-18. It is essential to get things in perspective. Whatever troubles there are in this life they are but a drop in the ocean by comparison with the blessings of Heaven. Weigh on the scales the value of material prosperity with eternal bliss and there is little choice to be made. Heaven and Hell may not be imminent any day but they are a reality to be taken into consideration in every decision, which a man makes. Is a man laying up treasures in Heaven or here on Earth? Many people die unexpectedly.

CHAPTER 5. There would be no chapters in the letter. This new chapter continues the line of thought that Heaven awaits a man. The very act of dying will be like taking off the old clothes and stepping out into a new situation with a new immortal body. God has one prepared for each of His children. Just as the daffodil bulb changes into the daffodil plant, so the spirit within a man will be housed in a different body. A man cannot conceive of having no body at all. Death is not to be feared but it will be the greatest moment in life. Believers will have come home at last. Whether a believer is in this body on this Earth or in the new body in Heaven, the aim is the same – to please the Lord. Judgement or assessment awaits each one on the basis of everything he has done in this body. This healthy respect of God and the moment of judgement ought to be ever present in a man’s mind. A man understands the judgement by faith in the Word of God.
v 12. Is Paul conceited? A man should not think too highly of himself nor should he not think too lowly of himself. John the Baptist did not shrug his shoulders and claim that he was nobody. He knew that he was the one spoken of by Isaiah the prophet as the one who would precede the Messiah. (Isaiah chapter 40 v 3) Believers are children of God, since they have been adopted into His family. There is no question of pride in that fact but they are vested with authority. Everything is accomplished by grace. It is by grace that believers are vested with authority over all the powers of darkness. They are answerable to the Lord. The believer is a new creation with new values and new ambitions and a new purpose in life, living to please His master and not to be conform to the standards of this World. The believer has the same body initially at least and the same personality to begin with. As time goes by the Holy Spirit living within that new creation will be at work transforming the mind and body and making the personality more like Jesus.
v 18. God has given believers the privilege of being His agent in bringing others into the Kingdom. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. By their prayers and speaking and witness believers are invited to play a part in evangelising the World. It is the same as the physical part played by parents in bringing forth a child. God plants the spirit within the foetus, but there is a real part to be played by the man and woman. Paul uses the illustration of an ambassador. This is one who is a representative of the country where he belongs. He speaks on behalf of others in that country. It is a crucial role. Those in the other country will judge the whole nation on the basis of their representative. Part of the work of Christ was to reconcile man to God. Where parties are not speaking to one another as in an industrial dispute or a marriage, there is often one appointed who is given the role to reconcile the parties. His purpose is to bring the parties together and encourage dialogue. That was part of the role of Jesus. A man is enabled to speak to God and, if he has accepted Christ as his Saviour, God will hear him and answer his prayers. A man is then brought into the family and introduced as a child to his Father.

CHAPTER 6. Being a child of God is one thing but being in partnership or business is an enormous privilege. Jesus was in partnership with His Heavenly Father after His Bar Mitzvah. (Luke ch 2 v 49)
v 2. There is always a note of urgency in the Scriptures. Today is the day of salvation. Anything the believer does, which is not of the character of God, might turn away one who is inquiring about God.
v 5-10 are an example but a warning also of the situations any believer might have to face. The World is not impressed by giving and suffering on an endless basis. “If there is nothing in it for me, why should I suffer?” That is an attitude found in the World. There are weapons for offence – the sword, which was carried in the right hand (the Word of God) and weapons for defending – the shield, which was carried in the left hand.
(The shield of faith) Ephesians ch 6 speaks of the weapons for spiritual warfare.
v 13. Paul has given much in love to the Corinthian Church and expects love in return. In this sense it is God speaking. It sounds like a cry from the heart of God.
v 14-18. This is a serious passage about not being yoked or joined to an unbeliever, either in marriage or business or in a common venture or in an intimate relationship. A strong friendship with an unbeliever will draw a person away from the Lord. The language, attitude and activities of the non-believer will steadily influence the believer. Jesus mixed with sinners but chose to spend His important time with His Disciples and friends who were His followers. The challenge to the believer is to be in the World but not of the World. If a believer withdraws from the World the result is that the salt leaves the meat and the meat goes rotten. If a believer is totally involved in the ways of the World, it will lead to his spiritual death. Christian fellowship is essential as an encouragement. Flee from immorality and hold fast to that which is good. 1 John ch 2 v 15-17. This had practical effect for the Corinthians who were in danger of compromising with religious people, who would in the end draw them away from the Lord.

CHAPTER 7.
v 1. In light of the sheer magnitude of the grace of God, what is a believer thinking about, if he is not sold out in the service of God? Purity of thought and deed should be the sole aim of his life.
v 2. If it seems a little arrogant of Paul to speak in this way, then consider the words as those of God Himself, spoken through Paul.
v 5. There is a tendency to think of Paul as without fear, but he admits that on occasions he was full of fear. The Hittite spirit had perhaps overshadowed him and cast fear over his life in respect of failure or pain. In his state of fear, God encouraged him by sending Titus. When believers are low in spirit they need fellowship to encourage them
v 7. It is encouraging to be wanted and needed.
v 9. The letter sent by Paul had obviously hurt but led to a turning towards God. God disciplines those He loves. God may send sorrow to turn a man from his sins. It is a positive means of bringing salvation. Repentance is not regret or remorse. Regret is focused on self. Remorse is focused on the other person who was hurt. Repentance is focused on God.
v 11. The repentance brought forth fruit and led to action – not sitting thinking about the situation. Believers must root out the sin in their life. This is a positive thing and not a negative thing. Believers are called to be doers of the Word and not just hearers.
v 16. Reconciliation has been effected and both parties are full of joy. Jesus came to reconcile sinful man to a Holy God.

CHAPTER 8. Giving should always be the consequence of joy at what Jesus has done for a man.
v 3. God loves a generous giver. Giving should not be on the basis of duty but of love.
v 8. Giving is a way of proving real love.
v 9. Jesus gave out of His riches – He became poor that man might become rich. A man has to share with those in need. Sharing binds believers together in service.
v 11. If a believer has made a commitment to support a project or to support another person, he should see it through to completion.
v 20. There should be no scope for anyone finding fault with the way a believer handles money.

CHAPTER 9. v 6. If man gives little, he will receive little. God loves a cheerful giver. Giving to those in need is enshrined in the Scriptures.
v 14. Those who receive the gifts will pray for those who make the gifts and then they will find the proof of the statement by Jesus that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

CHAPTER 10. v 2. There is a need for Disciples to be disciplined. Paul knows that and is seeking to accomplish discipline in the Church at Corinth. When the man of God speaks he does so with the authority of the Holy Spirit.
v 8. Boasting is forbidden except to boast about what God has done for a man.
v 14. Paul had planted the Church and had both a concern for its growth and a responsibility for its reputation. Believers should be concerned for their own spiritual growth and should have a responsibility for their reputation before men.
v 18. The test for a believer is this: “Does he receive a commendation from the Lord?”

CHAPTER 11. v 3. False teachers were leading the Church astray and Paul was deeply concerned about it. They believed everything they were told and did not have discernment.
v 9. Paul is able to speak freely because he never relied on the Corinthian Church for his support.
v 13. There is a time to speak out plainly.
v 23. Paul details the physical cost of serving the Lord. Who can match him! He had received 39 lashes on 5 occasions – 26 on the back and 13 on the front. He is not boasting but simply stating the facts. He describes his concern for the Churches, which he has visited.

CHAPTER 12. Paul has had wonderful experiences of God and could have become proud.
v 7. God sent an evil spirit or allowed an evil spirit to prick his pride. Despite three requests the spirit is still with him. Satan is God’s greatest servant. Pride is the sin, which God hates the most, and He has ensured that Paul has not become proud.
v 20. Paul is giving the Corinthians an opportunity to put matters right with God before he comes to meet them in person. God gives a man His Word to enable the man to put things right before he has to stand before Jesus on Judgment Day.

CHAPTER 13. Paul is planning to go to Corinth for the third time hoping to make them strong but prepared to punish them, if necessary. He writes in passionate terms, because of his deep concern for the believers who are in danger of being led astray.
v 5. A believer should be constantly having a spiritual check up to see if he is growing more like Jesus. He should make a sober assessment of his spiritual life.
v 9. Paul’s (and God’s) greatest wish is that the believers at Corinth are becoming mature and strong.

Romans – summary

The Old Testament was the Bible, which the apostles and other believers of the first generations used in their propagation of the Gospel. In A D 57 while in Corinth Paul dictated to his friend Tertius – a Christian secretary – a letter destined for the Roman Christians. The house Church was the regular Christian meeting in these days. The Christians of Rome were used by Nero as the scapegoats for the fire of Rome. They were unpopular – reputed to be the enemies of the human race and credited with incest (by greeting each other as sisters and brothers) and cannibalism (by eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus). The founder Jesus had been tried and executed on a charge of treason against the Emperor. This letter is the fullest and most reasoned statement of the basic Gospel truths. The theme in ch 1 v 16-17 is: The righteous shall live by faith in Jesus and the place of the Jewish people in God’s plan of salvation. A man is justified and lives by exercising faith. The letter is written to a fairly knowledgeable group of Jews and Gentiles. It is less personal than the other letters. Paul is helping them sort out their doctrine and make it relevant to their everyday problems and their special problems in the Church at the time. He stresses that the Gentiles are indebted to the Jews, because salvation is of the Jews. Paul was pleased that they have shown their concern for the Jewish believers in Jerusalem by taking a special collection for them. Paul is moving on from Asia to Jerusalem then to Rome and Spain. Paul had been instructed to do his work with the Gentiles by a word from the Lord. Ch 1 v 21.

 

CH 1. Paul describes the state of the World then. It is much the same today in the reconstituted Roman Empire. The World stands guilty before God and in desperate need of Him. v 18-32. The World does not see fit to acknowledge God. He has given them over to all manner of evil. Man is determined to go his own way and God lets him. Wrong thinking and wrong doing go hand in hand. Rejection of reason means rejection of conscience. Darkness results. A man reaps what he sows.

CH 2. God’s principles of judgement. Jews and Gentiles alike are guilty before a holy God. All have sinned and deserve punishment for what they have done in their bodies. There are no excuses.

CH 3. There are real advantages in being a Jew. They were privileged to be entrusted with the oracles of God. But in standing before God there is no difference since all men are sinners. Paul produces six quotations from the Old Testament to prove his point. The Law points to a man’s sinfulness but does nothing to cure it. God has Himself opened up a new way of salvation. Both Jew and Gentile are now acceptable to God by faith in Jesus. The moral law serves 4 purposes.

1. It shows the moral perfection of God.

2. It reveals the guilt of man and convicts him of sin.

3. It provides a standard by which human society is governed.

4. It is a guide to believers as to how they should live.

Paul had previously hoped to be justified before God by his actions. But the problem with salvation by works is that a man can never be sure when he has done enough works to earn salvation. As a recipient of salvation by grace a man can go on to do the works of God without worrying as to whether the work is enough or not.

CH 4. Abraham’s good works were the fruit of his faith in God. He believed God. He took God at His word and acted accordingly. Abraham’s faith came before circumcision, which was the outward sign of the covenant. Abraham is the father of all uncircumcised believers on account of their faith. The law was given 430 years later, so it had nothing to do with the righteousness of Abraham. Grace is a different thing from the law. There should be works giving evidence of faith.

CH 5. The results of being justified by faith are – peace with God – joy – hope – integrity – free from the wrath of God. Sin brought death and condemnation. Jesus brought pardon and righteousness.

CH 6. Paul was concerned that some converts were behaving as if the Gospel gave them license to do whatever they liked. The idea of continuing in sin was a moral contradiction in terms. Sin should not dominate the believer any more. Grace liberates a person from sin and enables that person to triumph over it. Man is then empowered to serve God. To what extent he does so depends on the exercise of free will but God has given him the opportunity to do so. After conversion there are struggles between the old nature, which clings on and the new man with his new life.

CH 7. The believer is under new management and should use the power of the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing to God. Being a believer is like being married to Jesus. The law is now a friendly policeman. A believer sees life in a different way with new attitudes. He is attacking the concept of religion as law-keeping, the idea that by obeying the moral law a man can acquire merit in God’s sight. The law is like a mirror. It shows a man his sin. The mirror did not make the man dirty but showed the dirt, which was there. Jesus shows a man up for what he is and how far short he falls. Paul explains the battle within himself between the old man with his old nature and the new creation, which longs to serve God. There is something in man, – even regenerate man – which objects to God and seeks to be independent of Him. Believers are perfect as to their justification but their sanctification has only just begun.

Ch 8. There are two types of people in the World. Those who live in their old nature and those who walk in the Spirit. The unregenerate cannot please God but the converted can – by faith. v 18 asks the questions – Is it all worth while and is it really true? The answer is yes. Hope is certainty that in time Jesus will return and all believers shall be made perfect. Nothing can separate them from the love of God.

CHAPTERS 9-11 are often ignored. They are like a parenthesis. Paul tackles the problem of Israel and where she fits in to God’s plans. It was also a real issue in the Church in Rome. The original Church there was composed of Jews, but now the Gentiles outnumbered them and tended to treat them as poor relations. So there was tension and it was vital for each to have a clear understanding of God’s purpose for the Jews. The true Jew is the man whose life brings forth praise to God. There has always been a remnant of Israel. The saved remnant would become a saving remnant. Their existence was a guarantee of a wholesale turning to the Lord on the part of Israel on a day to come. The Jews always had the way of salvation to hand through the Scriptures, for, whoever calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved. Paul planned to provoke his own people to jealousy by offering the Gospel to a no-people. Israel’s alienation is not final. His purpose in choosing His people was safeguarded by His reservation of a faithful remnant. It was customary in Canaan 60 years ago to reinvigorate an olive tree, which was ceasing to bear fruit by grafting it with a shoot of the wild olive so that the sap of the tree ennobled this wild shoot and the tree again bears fruit. Paul sees the re-incorporation of the Jewish nation among the people of God when unbelief is replaced by faith as a miracle, which God is going to perform Israel’s blindness is only temporary. The New Covenant will not be complete until it embraces the people of the Old Covenant. This would happen because of the promises of God to the Patriarchs. There is no merit involved. The fulfillment is based on grace and God’s faithfulness to His Word. There is mercy for Jew and Gentile alike.

CHS 10 and 11. Paul explains that the Jews heard the call of God but did not respond, except for a remnant. God has not rejected them. They are a picture of the World’s rejection. God will still use them to reveal His grace and faithfulness to the whole World.

CH12. Doctrine is never taught simply that it may be known – but that it may be translated into practice. Theology is to life what bones are to the body. Believers have had the theology, now for the flesh to hang on the bones. Therefore this is how they are to live, presenting their bodies as a living sacrifice particularly in personal relationships and use of gifts to build up the body.

CH 13. As citizens believers have a responsibility to the State. This had a special significance for the Early Church. The Jews were a religio licita. They were a law unto themselves. The first believers were regarded as a “variety” of Jews. It was like a sect within Judaism. Enemies said that the believers were claiming that there was another Emperor – Jesus. Acts ch 17 v 6-7. Paul teaches that to disobey the Authorities is to disobey God. Human Government is a divine ordinance and God gives it power to punish evil and encourage good behaviour. Therefore believers of all people should obey the law, pay their taxes and respect the Authorities because it is one way of serving God. But not when the decrees of the Authorities conflict with the commands of God. Then they ought to obey God rather than men. They can only effectively deny those bad laws, if they have kept all the good ones. In all their relationships the matter is summed up by doing unto others as they want them to do to them. “Love your neighbour as yourself.” The return of the Lord was very much in the minds of the Early Church. A.D. 70 was close. It would foreshadow the eventual end of the World.

CH 14. There were disputes between members over what were of no great importance. Believers are all at different stages of growth and see things from a different perspective. Leave God to sort out these matters and whatever they do, they should not criticize another for his behaviour in the peripheral matters. Be sensitive to each other. There is no sin to which believers – especially keen believers – are more prone than that of criticizing others. God is interested in relationships, justice etc. Do not spoil the priorities over a piece of meat. Believers should obey their conscience

Ch 15. Duties of believers. Help the weaker brothers. Welcome one another. There is to be no discrimination on any grounds. Consider others. Live in harmony with other believers. If Jew and Gentile believers can show the way, then the World may be convinced and the Church can grow.

CH 16. Paul’s last word is to keep away from a group of troublemakers in the Church.

Romans

The Old Testament was the Bible, which the apostles and other believers in the early Church used in their proclamation of the Gospel. In A. D. 57 Paul dictated to his friend Tertius – a Christian secretary – a letter destined for the Roman Christians. The house Church was the regular Christian meeting in these days. The Christians of Rome were used by Nero as the scapegoats for the fire of Rome. They were unpopular – reputed to be the enemies of the human race and credited with incest and cannibalism. Ethnic cleansing is not new. The Romans cleared all the Jews out of Rome under Nero and later when they were allowed to return the Church was being run by Gentile converts. This was not the same Church they had left. Churches change with new leadership. Paul may well have met some of the Jewish believers who had fled Rome and had a second hand idea of what life in Rome was like for believers.

 

The spirit in man is his breath, his disposition and his vitality. In Paul the human spirit may perhaps be described as the God-conscious element in a man, which is dormant or dead until it is stirred into life by the Spirit of God. Under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit the conscience of a man bears true witness. In the proclamation of the Gospel, God supplies the power to make the message effective to the hearers. “Christ in you and the Spirit in you are synonymous.” The Holy Spirit is the sanctifying agency in the lives of believers. Paul knew his own spiritual life to be a struggle. The giving of the Spirit is a pledge of the future. His presence guarantees the resurrection life of a day yet to come.

 

There is nothing about the Church, communion, Heaven or Hell or many other aspects of Paul’s preaching in other letters. The theme is how to learn to get right with God and live in a relationship with Him. There is a strong contrast between living under the law and living in the Spirit. It is a part of the whole counsel of God. The theme of the letter is how to be right with God. It was written in Corinth and carried to Rome by Phoebe. Paul took a Greek name in order to be relevant to the Gentiles to whom he had been sent. Paul was an aristocrat but now he was a slave. Fifty percent of the people of the Roman Empire were slaves. Many today are slaves to money, reputation, careers or alcohol. Paul was a slave to Jesus. The word “Gospel” meant good news and was used in the context of victory over an enemy. When the news arrived the people were free from concern about being in bondage to their enemy. The good news is that Jesus can change the situation. The World stated that Jesus deserved to die. God stated that Jesus deserved to live and He brought Him back to life. Grace comes before apostleship. Some want to be apostles before grace is evident in their lives.

 

CHAPTER 1.

v 1-7 is an introduction. Paul presents his credentials, and explains who is calling. He focuses on Christ as the one who is the fulfilment of Scripture.

v 8-15 is a statement of the purpose of the letter. There is always a reason behind what a man does.

v 18-32 looks at the state of man outside of God. It is good to be reminded of where a believer would be without the grace of God and the final destiny of a man who ignores the call of God. The World needs God.

 

If God has given a person a special understanding or teaching it is natural to want to share it with others. Paul desires to build up the Fellowship in Rome. Paul was ready to go to Rome but the timing was in God’s hands. Christianity is the only religion in the World where the leader is still alive. What Paul taught was against the Greek thinking of the day and the Jewish theology of the day. Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel or that it was an affront to the Emperor of Rome. “How can the blood of one man mean so much?” It is a natural question to be asked. The Romans worshipped power in their economic control and their legions. Righteousness – right living – can only come in one way – through faith in Jesus.

 

Rome was the centre of the World at the time. The Church was flourishing in Rome with Jewish and Gentile believers. The founder of the Church had faced treasonable charges and the authorities did not let the Church forget that. The theme of the Book is “Faith in Christ”. Paul pulls no punches in describing the state of the World. First he tells the bad news before he tells the good news. Man is determined to go his own way and God lets him. Wrong thinking and wrong doing go hand in hand. Rejection of reason means rejection of conscience. Darkness results. v 19. The truth about God is known instinctively. God has put this knowledge about Himself in the hearts of men. When men stand before God on judgement day they will have no excuse. The scandal of particularity. God chose the Jewish people. “Why not us?” God saved Paul. “Why not me?” The answer is that any man can be saved also – if he wants to be saved. Paul describes himself as a slave. A slave has no rights and is owned by his master. The error in religion is to scale down its gods to a size it can accommodate.

 

From v 18 there is a contrast with the rightness of God. Love and anger are both revealed by God. The wrath of God does not involve malice, getting back or vindictiveness. There is a need to punish one child, if the behaviour of that one child is putting the life of the other at risk. Wrath is the harsher side of love. God reacts when man vandalises His World. Man has vandalised his own paradise. Man has created global havoc in places like Iraq. God resists ungodliness. Man is living as if God does not exist. It is His World and He wants it back. Most people give God not a thought. God longs to heal and bless. God created man to be godly. The ungodly become unrighteous. When the commandments are broken people lose their love for God and respect for the property of others and their relationships. The command to love God leads to godliness. The command to love your neighbour leads to unrighteousness. Eventually God destroys what is evil and one day will destroy all evil. The final day of wrath will come at the end of time. Hell was designed for Satan and his demons but those who choose to ignore God will end up there. From time to time bowls of wrath are poured out on mankind.

 

Paul saw it all happening in the Roman Empire. When men give up God He gives them up. It starts when men stop doing what is right – worshipping God and thanking Him. They are then on a slippery downhill slope. They may be highly educated but are moral fools. When people change their religion or worship an idol they change their morality. The god of materialism results in lower morality in advertising their goods to the worshippers. There are virtually no moral rules in materialism. There are no brakes on a man’s behaviour when the Holy Spirit is removed. The law cannot change the heart of a man but can only restrain his actions to a limited extent. Prisons are penal dustbins unless the hearts of the prisoners are changed. Three times it says that God gave them up. It is hard to abandon children and let them go their own ways.

 

God is entitled to be angry. Only a fool says that there is no God in face of the overwhelming evidence in creation. The whole of creation speaks about God the Creator. Believing a lie leads to confusion. A man may be sincere yet be sincerely wrong. Disobedience leads to confusion. Deut ch 28 v 20. The worship of creatures places no demand on the people. Worshipping the sun is as foolish as bowing down to a light bulb. Human pride takes away the need for thankfulness. Man’s desire is to enthrone himself as god. This was an age of unabashed vice and moral decadence. God withdrew His grace and gave them up. A man reaps what he sows. It was not a case of sudden sin but the result of concerted action. Men deliberately chose to believe lies, such as evolution, cults, homosexuality, etc. God let them go and the thoughts of their minds sank to a new low. v 28. Since men did not bother to retain the knowledge of God, which they had been given, God let them go. They were no longer sustained by His grace. Instead every kind of wickedness and sin crept in and the enemy was allowed to come in like a flood. Knowing what was wrong, they did it anyway and encouraged others to do the same. A man encourages violence, if he watches it himself. Life is controlled by chance, fate or providence. The first two lead to uncertainty and hopelessness. If a rich man wins the lottery there is injustice when a poor man does not. Man knows the truth in his heart. If someone steals from him or beats his wife, he knows instinctively that it is wrong and that the person ought to be punished. v 21. A man either pushes the truth away from him and will not face it or v 28 cannot be bothered to retain it. A man cannot blame God, if God allows people to do what they want and others are hurt in the process. Knowing it is wrong man went ahead and did it. The World mocks believers and laughs at the problems of others or is indifferent about their problems. v 32. The Government makes the people to sin when it passes laws against the law of God.

 

Paul used everyday marketplace language to describe the situation before his own eyes. God saw the idolatry of the Israelites and responded by sending them into Babylon. He saw the sin of the people and responded by sending Jesus to rescue them from their sins. He saw their rejection of truth and gave them up so that finally they would be God forsaken. A man is not ignorant of God though he may not know about Jesus and the Bible. He passes judgement on his fellow human beings and he is quick to cry for mercy when one of his family is kidnapped. When a man deliberately suppresses the truth he pushes it down into his subconscious mind. The power and divinity of God can be seen from nature itself. Man has never claimed to have created the Universe. He claims it happened by chance. This is absurd.

 

By v 21 man becomes ungrateful. Man lives in an ungrateful society. Man does not look to the older generation for advice – even in the Church – but thinks that he knows it all. The minds of men have rejected God. This leaves a vacuum and man has filled the vacuum with something else – creation and the false gods of Gad and Meni. In so doing he has exchanged the truth about God for a lie. If man does not worship in Spirit and truth then he worships in a lie. Man makes his own ideas of what God is like and finally makes God in his own image – to be like himself. A materialist likes to see what he worships and looks for physical representations. God said that man should have no graven images but the materialist wants to have an image on which to focus his worship. Man tones down the truth.

 

v 24. When God is rejected in the hearts of men they focus on their bodies. Finally God is not only ignored but hated. They become God-haters. People tend to hate the name of Jesus now when before they were indifferent. Eventually they believe that what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right – paving the way for anti-Christ. Society then finds sin pleasurable and they approve of liars and adulterers. The brakes are off in society and the car is going downhill progressively faster with the inevitable result that there will be a crash. God does not send anyone to Hell. He puts up warnings signs all over the place but, if a man ignores all the warnings, he will drive his life over the edge of the rocky road to Hell. Once the lid is taken off society it is very difficult to place it back on. The permissive society simply surrendered to lust. Male/female relationships have altered. The roles are reversed. Confusion arises. Confusion is the first curse in Deut ch 28. In the days of the Roman Empire communications were excellent as they are today. There is the same immorality. The old man does things of which he would be ashamed.

1. The liking for the wrong thing.
2. The desire to hurt others
3. Coveting and greed and the lust for material things.
4. Depravity and viciousness.
5. Envy and a desire for recognition.
6. Murder – thinking about it is as bad as the actual act.
7. Strife – ambition and self-presentation. Bullying at work.
8. Ulterior motive is the real agenda.
9. Malice is a desire to distort. Gossip. Proverbs keeps a man in a right relationship with others.
10. Slanderers.
11. God haters. The enemy fills the vacuum.
12. Insolent. It is impossible to talk to them.
13. Proud and arrogant. Heartless. They cannot make close friends.
14. They invent ways of doing evil in books and in sexual exploits.
15. Covenant breakers. Cruel and pitiless to others. Sin loves a companion. The rotten apple in a barrel of good apples can never be made good.

CHAPTER 2. It is easy to condemn others while being guilty of the same things, perhaps in different degrees. No one is perfect and without sin. There will come a day of wrath, when God judges the World. All will be judged – believers and unbelievers. Those who have rejected God will face terrible punishment. God will treat all alike – whether Jew or Gentile. God will punish sin wherever it is found. The non-believers ignore their conscience. Man was made in the image of God and each person has a conscience built into his being. It may become seared but when people judge others it shows that the conscience is still active. Blessings should encourage a man to repent and agree with God that he is wrong and God is right. The tragedy of humanism is that man ascribes the blessings of God to himself and declares himself righteous in God’s sight without the need of a saviour. The self-righteous consider themselves good enough for Heaven. The Jews ignore the law. The believers are also judged. They ought to know the vital importance of not sinning. If sin was so serious that Jesus had to die to pay the price how much more serious is it for a believer to sin, knowing the consequences and the seriousness. The non-believers will be judged for what they have done. God will judge the secret parts of a man’s life – the inmost thoughts and motives. There is a great responsibility on the Jews, because they have had the moral laws given to them to pass on to others. A real Jew is one who is in a right relationship with God. Circumcision was only a badge, like a dog collar. The real test is the heart of man. Circumcision of the body is only symbolic of the circumcision of the heart. The books will be opened on Judgement Day and will reveal everything, which has been done and thought in the life of each person. There was great responsibility on the Jewish people because they had the laws of God. In the same way there is great responsibility on Church leaders, because they know the Scriptures. They will be severely judged, if they fail to teach the Scriptures to the people and if they fail to do what they teach others. A man will never go for surgery until he is sure that he is seriously ill. It is easy to fall into the thinking that a man has it all together and knows the Bible inside out. If a person does not practice what he preaches, he will be despised by others. People will not easily overlook in others what they will overlook in themselves.

 

In this passage Paul stops talking to men in general and speaks to man in particular. Ch 1 is the universal guilt of mankind. Ch 2 is the personal guilt of the individual. All peoples have their codes of practice. Society takes the middle ground. Things acceptable to a man are not acceptable to God. In the way a man judges others the same standard will be applied to him. A man tends to condemn in others what he does not like in himself. To judge means to pass sentence and condemn. It is so easy to become self-righteous.

 

The passage raises certain questions. If everything is judged by what a man does, what is the standard by which men are judged? God’s pass mark is 100%. If a man breaks one link in the chain the whole chain is useless. God wants man perfect in His sight. Even Jesus was made perfect in His suffering. The Jewish people felt that they were favourites. Not so! In the parable of the wise man, it is not possible to tell from the outside which house is built on rock and which is built on sand. Time will tell, when the storms of life come along. Then only one will stand the test. In order to build the house properly it takes time and cost to excavate and build the foundations on the hard. It may be necessary to dig trial bores to find the depth of the topsoil.

 

Man has a choice – either keep all the laws of God or trust in Jesus. Even the worst of men knows what is right and wrong, when he passes judgement on others. The criminals in prison pass judgement on the sex offenders. Man may change the rules of society but God’s laws never change. In all pagan societies stealing is regarded as wrong. When believers sin in public God’s name is blasphemed. Truth costs money and time. The Queen of Sheba spent a lot of time and money visiting Solomon to find the truth to the big questions in life. Truth prevents a man from the frivolities and superficialities in life. The man who makes no preparations for death and life beyond death is a fool.

 

CHAPTER 3. What are the benefits of being a Jew? Other peoples have brought great blessings to mankind. Italians brought art. Europe brought great music in the persons of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and others. Britain has brought a common language to the World. People appreciate what has been done for them in these areas. The Jewish people have brought the Bible and the oracles of God to the World. Jesus said salvation is of the Jews. For the first 15 years of the early Church the members of the new Church were entirely Jewish. If it were not for the Jewish people mankind would not have access to the Word of God. The Jews had a special opportunity to know God and to see His perfect standards in the law. While there are advantages in being a Jew in that there are privileges, when it comes to standing before God there is no difference since all men are sinners. In the Court before God all have to plead guilty. Paul produces six quotations from the Old Testament to prove his point. These are from the Jewish Scriptures. The Law points to man’s sinfulness but does nothing to cure it. Both Jew and Gentile need the grace of God. God has Himself opened up a new way of salvation – only it is not all that new since the Scriptures speak about it. Both Jew and Gentile are now acceptable to God by faith in Jesus. There is greater judgement on the Jews because of their greater knowledge of God. The more a man knows of God’s laws the clearer it becomes that the man is not obeying them. Keeping rules never makes a man righteous. Keeping the moral law is like cosmetic surgery. It makes a man look better but does not make him a better person. Like death coming out of an open grave. Even believers speak death when they gossip and pull down others.

 

The Moral Law serves 4 purposes.

1. It shows the moral perfection of God.

2. It reveals the guilt of man and convicts him of sin.

3. It provides a standard by which human society is governed.

4. It is a guide to believers as to how they should live.

 

The big division in Paul’s day was between Jew and Gentile. Today the division is between black and white, rich and poor, the advanced World and the Developing World. So far as God is concerned there is no difference. Paul had previously hoped to be justified before God by his actions. But the problem with salvation by works is that a man can never be sure when he has done enough works to earn salvation. When a man relies on his own works to earn salvation, he becomes self-righteous, which is the very thing Jesus said of the Pharisees was their undoing. In effect they declared themselves righteous in God’s sight without the need for a saviour to pay the price for their sins. As a recipient of salvation by grace a man can go on to do the works of God without worrying as to whether the work is enough or not. No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what the law requires.

 

v 21. Paul deals with those asking difficult questions. Once saved a man needs to obey the laws of God. It is only when he is saved that he can truly obey Jesus and keep the laws of God. The power of the Holy Spirit enables the man to obey the laws of God. Jesus said to follow Him. It is like a coach coupled to the engine of the train. The coach goes where the engine leads and under the power of the engine.

v 22. Now there is a new way of solving God’s problem of bringing people back into a relationship with Him. Man was not created to sin. It is natural for fallen man to sin. Pride and faith cannot go together.

 

CHAPTER 4. Satan’s alternative religion is salvation by works. Paul rebuts this and shows that salvation is by faith in God. The battle continues to this day as people attempt to please God by their good works. This was nothing new Paul was preaching. The best of a man’s works is grace. Abraham’s good works were the fruit of his faith in God. There was nothing he did except believe that God had spoken to him. Had he not first believed God, he would never have lived his life in the light of what he knew of God’s will. He took God at His word and acted accordingly. David simply acknowledged his guilt before God in faith that God heard him and would forgive him. The Jews considered circumcision as evidence of the covenant, but Paul points out that Abraham’s faith came first and the circumcision was the outward sign of the covenant made as a result of his faith and this was made fourteen years later. The physical sign was not relevant to the standing before God. It was merely evidence that Abraham already had faith. Abraham is the father of all uncircumcised believers on account of their faith. The law was given 430 years later, so it had nothing to do with the righteousness of Abraham. Even so Abraham continued to sin and did some things of which he would have been ashamed during his life. Abraham’s descendants are those who share his faith in God. What did Abraham see in Ur? The occult. What does a man see today – the emptiness of the World around him? Grace is a different thing from the law. A worker is entitled to his wages. They are not a gift. Salvation is a gift to those who do not work for it. Through justification the penalty of sin is cancelled and the rewards promised to the obedient are declared to be the portion of the believer. The demands of the law are not simply waived. They are fully satisfied. When a man tries to gain God’s blessing by keeping the moral law, he always ends up breaking God’s laws and under the anger of God. God says: “I made you like a little boat and you sailed away. Now I have bought you back.”

Luke ch 22 v 31. Peter made a mistake and Jesus prays that Peter’s faith will not fail. The bottom may drop out of a man’s life and he asks the question “where is God in this mess?” But do not give up believing. In Mark ch 4 v 38 the Disciples asked Jesus “Do you not care?” It was a rhetorical question. Of course He cared. Surely they had seen Him heal all who came to them and confront the demons. They really knew the answer. When a man knows the Lord, he has no need to covet anything. What can compare with the gift of eternal life? Abraham relied totally on God. So does every man who wants to get to Heaven. “How shall we get there?” Peter asked Jesus. “Trust me!” What a man believes makes a man right with God. Abraham believed in the future saviour. Man believes today in the past work of redemption.

 

CHAPTER 5. “Therefore.” What is it there for? After conversion life takes on a different dimension. Even difficulties are seen as good for a man, since they are used by God to forge his character. He has not only wiped out the past but allows a believer to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Now believers are regarded as friends of God. Sometimes believers do not grasp that God actually likes them as well as loves them. Sometimes believers do not like themselves very much. Obedience is the key to success. Adam disobeyed and many fall from grace. Jesus obeyed His Father even unto death and many have been saved as a result. The lives of believers will be successful when they obey the teachings of Jesus. Deut ch 18 v 19. The 10 Commandments were given so that all could see the extent of their failure to obey God’s laws. As well as receiving the gift of eternal life the believer is saved from the wrath of God, which rested on each believer before conversion. Peace is the first blessing when a man is put right with God. In the present crisis and troubles the World needs peace more than ever. The word ”access” means in Greek access into the harbour for a ship with safety and security. It also means a ticket into the throne room of God. Grace gives a man a private audience with Jesus. Grace can enable a man to stand under pressure and spiritual attack. The World seeks an answer to the complex problems facing it. The answer may be complex and take time to work through. Sufferings are essential to forge character and character is the only thing a man can take with him into eternity. The tribulation is not to be feared but to be used to strengthen character. The word used is a “tribulum”, which was a thresher to hammer out the grain and separate it from the chaff. Satan sifted Peter. God got the wheat and Satan got the chaff. It is all part of God preparing a man for Heaven in order to be like Jesus, who was perfected in His suffering.

 

Faith is based on facts and not feelings. Feelings are very unreliable. There is no reference in the New Testament to feelings. Feelings change with the weather. God’s Word transforms a man’s thinking. It breaks down strongholds of the mind. A trespass leads people into forbidden territory. “Trespassers will be prosecuted.” Transgression breaks the commandments. If Jesus mounted a rescue operation in a hopeless situation, how much more will He accomplish now for His people?

 

There is a contrast between Adam and Jesus. Paul regarded Adam as a real person. 1 Cor ch 15 v 45-47. Adam was created out of nothing in the image of God. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Each was a miraculous beginning. Only Adam had a special relationship with God and was able to commune with Him. Jesus had the same privilege but He never sinned. Adam was the head of the human race and made a bad decision. Jesus is the head of the Church and has made only good decisions. Both gave life – Adam physical and Jesus spiritual. Adam was to rule over the Earth – Jesus over the Universe. During a deep sleep God created a bride out of Adam. John ch 19 v 35. Out of the side of Jesus God created a bride. Both were tested. Adam failed but Jesus succeeded. The first Adam was defeated by pride. The second Adam was victorious due to humility. “Take my yoke of humility on you and work the fields of the World with me.” All the isms of the World are against humility and pander to pride.

 

CHAPTER 6. Paul was concerned that some converts were behaving as if the Gospel gave them licence to do whatever they liked. Later Paul directed the Corinthian Church to excommunicate a man who was living in an incestuous relationship. Paul did not regard baptism as an optional extra to the Christian life. The idea of continuing in sin was a moral contradiction in terms. Sin should not dominate the believer any more. Grace liberates a person from sin and enables that person to triumph over it. Sin pays wages to its servants i.e. death. God gives eternal life as His reward. Either the believer does not understand what is sin and what offends God or he has been drawn back into sinful areas where he should have dealt with them long ago. The Israelites never fully put to death the Spiritual Giants. They proved a snare for them.

 

The idea that man is released from the moral law is known as antinominism i.e. opposition to moral law. Paul refutes the view and shows that salvation means deliverance from the power of sin and death. Man is empowered to serve God. To what extent he does so depends on the exercise of free will but God has given him the opportunity to do so. It is clearly a battleground between sin and love. As God said to Cain: “Sin is crouching at the door of your life ready to pounce.” Gen ch 4 v 7. Either sin or obedience will master a man. There is a constant choice to serve one or other master.

 

If good works could not save a man, then bad works will not condemn the man. This was the thinking behind this chapter. However when a man knows that a thing is wrong and still does it guilt appears. A man must grasp the principles of God and then put them into practice. God wants a man to have the mind of Christ. Baptism is greatly under-rated. Alcohol is forbidden to an alcoholic after being freed from alcoholism. Sin is forbidden to sinners after they are saved. Baptism is a funeral for believers. Salvation is like a player transferred to a new club with different rules and procedures. Sin no longer bosses the saved man. Its power has been broken. There can be degrees of repentance, commitment and faith but baptism is a once and for all action. It releases power by the act of obedience. The believer is challenged to act as if he is dead to sin. Take one step and God will take the other 99 steps and supply the power. v 12. The tongue and other parts of the body can be tools of the enemy. No more gossip. The strongholds have to be broken. The roots need to be severed. Part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is to say “No” to a man’s fallen nature. In 1 Cor ch 6 v 9 Paul says that some of the Corinthian believers were once like that. There is a danger that, if the saved man thinks that there will always be grace to help him, he may find that there is a day when grace runs out and he loses the power to repent of his sins. The conscience enables a man to know what is right and what is wrong. But there is a time when Judges ch 25 v 21 applies and everyone does what is right in his own eyes.

 

Slavery. Half of the population of Rome was in slavery. The slave belonged to the master and had no rights. There were some good masters but many bad ones. How did man get into slavery? He disobeyed God. Some were born as slaves. Some were sold into slavery by their parents. It is still happening today. Some were kidnapped. It is still happening today. Some chose to become slaves to provide money for their families. How does a man get out of slavery? He does it by death. The result of sin is death. A few have been able to buy their way our but it is seldom satisfactory. It was very hard for a former slave to live outside of the system. There is no other way out. However there is a choice. If a good slave master comes along and purchases the slave he can move into the household of a good master. He is still a slave but things are better. The blood of Jesus purchased a way out but only into service of a good master. Jesus invites each man to be a slave to Him and to righteousness. Jesus came into the market place and eyed up the slaves there. He chose some to join His household. Life is a lot better under the mastery of Jesus. It is still hard work. As Cain found out sin was lying in wait at the door of his life to master him. Satan knows the weaknesses of the individual. It is a voluntary surrender and the slave’s decision to accept the new master. The choice is to be a slave to Christ. Total freedom is not an option. Satan deceives a man into thinking that he can be as a god. This is a lie. A man has to serve someone. In the Roman army all the soldiers received was their wages. If they failed in their duty, death awaited them. It was a brutal regime. When a man is a slave to Jesus, sin robs the man of the energy and time, which should be spent in the service of his master. Today there is a culture of a “free gift.” “Two for the price of one.” “You have won a free prize.” Jesus offers a free gift of eternal life. Yet so few are interested enough to enquire how to collect the gift.

 

The letter so far:

1. The Gospel is God’s way of bestowing righteousness on the sinner.

2. There is a universal need of justification.

3. Justification is by grace on the basis of the blood of Christ, through faith. The proof is the resurrection. It should be evidenced by works.

4. This is not a new doctrine. Abraham started it.

5. There are blessings, which flow from justification; peace, access, joy, glory in tribulation and the love of God in the heart of man.

6. Where does sin fit in after justification? Can a man continue in sin? A man cannot have sin and Jesus.

7. After conversion there are struggles between the old nature and the new man.

8. The believer is called to walk in the Spirit. The old nature clings on but new life has begun. Holiness is a possibility and a command.

 

In Chapter 6 Paul dealt with the consequences of conversion for the Jews. The believer is under new management and should use the power of the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing to God. The purpose is to bear fruit. Sins are like weeds and need to be uprooted in order to allow the fruit to grow.

 

CHAPTER 7. Now Paul highlights the differences between living with Christ and living without Him. Now he becomes very practical and deals with the fact that sin still wells up within believers. He uses the illustration of marriage to demonstrate how before conversion the law was like a policeman enforcing them to behave in a certain way. Now the policeman is friendly since they want to please God and keep the moral law and so they are not afraid of the policeman but instead look to him to keep them right. They have as it were changed sides and are for God now, whereas before they were against Him. Their old nature was naturally inclined to disobey God but their new nature naturally wants to serve God and please Him. Before conversion they could not do any work, which was of value to God. Anything they did was the work of the grace of God in them. They had not started to serve God. They had not scored any points up on the “crown” chart and were still at nothing. Now, after conversion it is possible to start scoring points. It is like supporting a different team. They see life in a different way with new attitudes. Paul is attacking the concept of religion as law-keeping, the idea that by painstaking conformity to a law-code a man can acquire merit in God’s sight. The rich young ruler was not a liar or a hypocrite. He was morally good. But the law was useless to secure righteousness before God. Every time there is a word from God that a certain attitude or activity is wrong and offensive to God steps should be taken to eradicate it from the life of the believer. e.g. language or spiritual giants.

 

The purpose of the law is 1. To show sin and the need for a saviour. 2. To show a pattern of right and wrong and just laws. It is always wrong to tell a lie and murder. This is for the well-being of mankind.

 

v 7. The law is like a mirror. Until the law came and a man looked in the mirror he did not realise that he was sinning. But when he looked in the mirror he realised that he was dirty and sinful. It was not the mirror, which made him dirty, but it was sin. He was dirty before he looked in the mirror. It was bad enough being dirty but even worse to know that he was dirty and that everyone else could see that he was dirty. Unregenerate man does not feel too bad in himself until someone tells him how bad he is. That is why news of Jesus is not exactly welcome. He shows him up for what he is and how far short he falls. Without God there is no sin. The Law reveals the character of God and therefore it points to sin. An X ray does not bring a tumour but only confirms or reveals that there has been a tumour there all the time. The villain of the piece is sin.

 

Prohibitions tend to awaken a desire to do the thing that is forbidden, e.g. the smoker may forget how much he wants to smoke until he sees the “No Smoking” sign. The Law also speaks of the need for deliverance.

 

v 14. The conflict in man. Paul is not speaking of unregenerate man in verses 14-25. He is like any believer living simultaneously on two planes. His mind approves the will of God but the law of sin and death is pulling him in the other direction. Hence the state of tension. As in Adam all men die, so will Paul but at the same time he has passed from death to life in the spiritual realm. The day will come when the tension will pass away – either on death or on Christ’s return. Paul struggles against the tyrant of sin whose dictates he hates and which make him fall short and disobey the commands of God. Faith assures him that the end will come and he will be totally free. There is something in man – even regenerate man, which objects to God and seeks to be independent of Him. Believers are perfect as to their justification but their sanctification has only just begun. It is a progressive work -the present tense continuing. Sinful desires war against the souls. Is this personal to Paul? Is it occasional? Is it before or after conversion? The very name “Israel” means “struggle.” The memory is not obliterated at conversion. The believer remembers how it used to be and as long as he is in close touch with the World he will be constantly reminded as to how it was. It is easy for Satan to push a believer off course. The mind of the believer is bombarded with the thoughts of the World. Sin is crouching at the door and is located within the television set. Paul admits in 2 Cor ch 7 v 5 that in Macedonia he experienced fear in his life. There is a danger of giving an impression to others that the believer never sins. Others feel discouraged and deceived. There are more and more laws to make men behave as they ought to behave but only God can change the heart of a man.

 

The conclusion is that all believers need Jesus all the time to help them. It is essential to walk in the Spirit and in obedience. Temptation comes to everyone. Trials and difficulties may be sent by God to refine and challenge. There is a battle to be fought to overcome the World, the Devil and the flesh. Paul seems to have had a particular problem with coveting. v 7-8. A man is like a bowl. The bowl is biased against going in a straight live and veers to one side.

 

CHAPTER 8. There are two types of people in the World. Those who live in their old nature and those who walk in the Spirit. Now Paul concentrates on those who walk in the Spirit. They are joint heirs with Christ. If they have the Spirit, it should be apparent in their life. There is a constant battle to follow the leading of the Spirit. The unregenerate man cannot please God but the converted man can – by faith. A true son longs to support his father and wants to be available to help. v 8 asks the questions – Is it all worthwhile and is it really true? The answer is yes, of course. Even creation is affected by sin and longs for renewal. Isaiah ch 24. Creation is waiting for the sons of God. Isaiah ch 11 v 55. One day creation will work properly again. God will finish His task. The believers are longing for the work of sanctification to be finished.

 

v 18 is accountancy language – weigh it all up. Weigh the sufferings of the present against the joys of eternity. The inheritance of the believer is so immense. There may be more pain next year but there will be none in eternity. Hope is certainty that the time will come and Jesus will return and he will be made perfect. He is on the way to that date. He has an appointment with Jesus. Now that he has that all sorted out, is that not wonderful? Once saved nothing can separate him from the love of God. There will be troubles – that is obvious but God is for him, if he is for God. The believer has to be ready to die at any moment and be with God but meantime he should live for Him. At the end of chapter 8 it would be a fitting place to close the Book. But what about the Jews?

 

CHAPTER 9. There were no chapter headings and therefore this passage reads on from the end of chapter 8. Paul tackles the problem of Israel and where she fits in to God’s plans. The matter was of intense personal concern for him. It was also a real issue in the Church in Rome. The original Church there was composed of Jews, but now the Gentiles outnumbered them and tended to treat them as poor relations. So there was tension and it was vital for each to have a clear understanding of what God had to say on the matter. How did it all fit together? The history of the Jews reveals that some have always opened their hearts to God’s revelation while others have hardened theirs. The true Jew is the man whose life brings forth praise to God. Natural descent and physical circumcision are not the things, which matter most. There has always been an elect minority. Those who believe the promise of salvation to Abraham are true Jews. Still some receive the light and others do not. God is still merciful and compassionate. All the stubbornness of men like Pharaoh will not thwart the purpose of God. There is on the part of a man an answering back of unbelief and disobedience when a man tries to put God in the dock and sit in judgement on Him. It is this type of man Paul rebukes so sternly and reminds him of his creaturely status. God allows a man to question Him but will not be cross-examined on judgement day. The real question is why God postpones His wrath against men who have long since been deserving of destruction. They are storing up an increasing weight of retribution for themselves against the day of requital. Remember that all mankind is guilty before God. If it is justice a man demands, that is what he will get. He ought to ask for mercy. No one can demand of God that He explains the basis of His grace. It is clear from the mercy of God that He desired not the doom of a man but his salvation. God takes pity on those He wants to.

 

The theme in this section is choice. The choice, which God makes, is offensive to mankind, whose collective mind is soaked in sin. God makes His decisions without the permission of mankind. Does a man trust God’s decisions and timing? Paul saw his relatives outside of Christ and it troubled him as it troubles believers today when they see their relatives outside of Christ. It looks as if God has forgotten about the Jewish people. The great privileges afforded to the Jewish people had been refused and they had turned away from God and His provision. This is the peculiarity of selection. It is not popular and is the basis of anti-semitism. It was not God’s Word, which failed but His people. God chooses to exclude some people but His choices are always proved to be right. If a man likes to choose, why can God not be allowed to choose? A man should prefer God’s opinion to the opinion of experts. Insecurity dissolves when a man is gripped by the idea that God loves him as he is and that he has been chosen as a part of God’s eternal plan. The religious leaders wanted Jesus dead. The ordinary people allowed it by their silence. Where were all those who had been healed to stand up for Jesus? They should have been at the Passover festival. At least one might have spoken up for Jesus at the crucifixion. Only the thief on the cross spoke up for Jesus.

 

v 14. Paul answers the claim that God is not fair in choosing the Jewish people as against other people. Those who complain know about God and could ask for mercy also. No one deserved to be chosen. It was all mercy on the part of God. It is His privilege to choose. Paul quotes Hosea to show God’s grace. Those who were not my people are now my adopted people. Many Jewish people missed the coming of the Messiah. People miss Him today for the same reasons. They are too busy or have wrong expectations.

v 19. Paul then answers the next complaint: “Why then does God find fault with me? Why was I not born to better parents?” The answer is: “Who are you to question God’s decisions?” A man does not need to know all the answers. He does not need to be able to answer all the questions in the World.

 

The Remnant. There has always been a remnant of Israel. The saved remnant would become a saving remnant. Their existence was a guarantee of a wholesale turning to the Lord on the part of Israel on a day to come. The phrase “Jacob I have loved and Esau I have hated” refers to the nations of Israel and Edom – Malachi ch 1 v 2f – rather than their individual ancestors. Israel was the elect nation and Edom had incurred the wrath of God because of their un-brotherly conduct towards Israel in the day of Israel’s calamity. God’s mercy has its cause in Himself and not in the will or activity of men. God is not answerable to man for what He does. Yet He can be relied on to act in consistency with His character, which has been disclosed in Jesus.

 

Paul used the Hosea prophecy to explain the truth that those who are not His people – namely the Gentiles – will one day be His people and those who are His People will one day be accepted as such again. The Jewish people always had the way of salvation to hand through the Scriptures, for, whoever calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved. But faith was the stumbling block for them. Since they have stumbled there is a need to proclaim the Gospel to the World at large. Wherever there were Jews the Gospel had been preached. The Jews understood well enough but refused to obey. Paul planned to provoke his own people to jealousy by offering the Gospel to a no-people. To the Jews the Gentiles were a foolish people in that they were cut off from the knowledge of God. The Jews showed great enthusiasm for the honour of God but it was misplaced zeal. God keeps reaching out His hands to the Jews but they keep arguing and refusing to come to God. Isaiah ch 8 v 14 and 28. If a man will not take his stand on the rock of Jesus he will be dashed against it. A flood will come and unless a person is standing on the rock he will be swept away. 1 Pet ch 2 v 1 speaks of the same judgement against sin.

 

Israel’s alienation is not final. God has no more written them off now than in earlier days when they rejected Him. His purpose in choosing His people was safeguarded by His reservation of a faithful remnant. There had always been a remnant e.g. Elijah and the 7,000. The remnant was not to be a permanent feature of God’s relationship with Israel. Once they are jealous they will respond and when Israel as a whole responds words cannot describe the blessing, which their conversion will mean to the World. The fullness of the Jews is to be understood in the same sense as the fullness of the Gentiles. This means a large-scale conversion. The “first fruits” refers to those who like Paul had accepted Jesus as the Messiah. It was customary in Canaan 60 years ago to reinvigorate an olive tree, which was ceasing to bear fruit by grafting it with a shoot of the wild olive so that the sap of the tree ennobles this wild shoot and the tree again bears fruit. The writings of Columella make the same reference to this practice. The Jews had become weak and ineffective. But the Gentiles need not look down on the Jews. Unbelief in the grace of God led to the downfall of the Jews. The same thing could happen to the Gentiles. Paul sees the re-incorporation of the Jewish nation among the people of God when unbelief is replaced by faith as a miracle, which God is going to perform. When it happens it will be like dead people coming back to life.

 

The Restoration of Israel. Israel’s blindness is only temporary. This is a mystery, which Paul reveals. Then all Israel will be saved. This may not mean every single one but the nation as a whole. But it may mean every single Jewish person alive at that time. The temporary stumbling was foretold and so is the restoration. The New Covenant will not be complete until it embraces the people of the Old Covenant. This would happen because of the promises of God to the Patriarchs. It is not logical but it is grace. There is no merit involved. The fulfilment is based on grace and God’s faithfulness to His Word. God’s ultimate purpose for mankind is now revealed and it is mercy for Jew and Gentile alike. The election of a remnant is a token of God’s mercy to all without distinction. From God all things proceed, through Him all things exist and to Him all things return.

 

There are 3 reasons for not rejecting Israel

1. It raises doubts on the reliability of Scripture. God says He will restore Israel to the Land.
2. If a man cannot trust the promise of God not to reject Israel, how can he trust the promise of Jesus never to cast out those who come to Him?
3. It undermines the security of the Church. Will God cast out the Church from His protection?

CHAPTER 10.

Paul prays for his relatives. Satan tries to stop a man praying. The religious leaders tried to live lives, which were legally correct. They were sincere but sincerely wrong. A man cannot save himself. Religion tries to get right with God. The heart is the seat of the emotions and the will. If faith is real in the heart it will express itself through the mouth. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. Teachers teach children to learn things by heart. They do this by getting the children to repeat them by their words of their mouths. The heart and the mouth are linked together. Repetition means that the words have become part of a man.

Having dealt with God’s sovereignty Paul now deals with a man’s responsibilities in response to the Gospel. Most men have rejected the call of God in their life. A man needs to call to God in order to be saved. God has sent Jesus who called people to respond. When the preacher preaches the Holy Spirit moves in and then God does His work of regeneration. Until that moment a man has his own ideas. When the Word of God has been rejected what else can a man rely on? If the Judeo/Christian beliefs are rejected what will replace them as the basis for medical and other ethics at Universities? Faith comes by hearing the Word of God and in no other way. Isaiah ch 52. The feet of the one who brings good news are beautiful.

People find time for what they want – eating, drinking, being married, hobbies, football and gardening. There is plenty time. When will they spend time on the Word of God? Prov ch 4 v 20-22. Pay attention to my Word. Ex ch 15 v 26. Take the medicine 3 times a day after meals and see that it works.

v 16. Just a few believed in Jesus when He walked the Earth. The people heard about Jesus but the majority paid no attention

 

CHAPTER 11. Paul even changed his name in order to reach the Gentiles. Grace makes God’s choice sovereign.

Paul anticipates a series of questions and then he answers them.

1. If all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, how do they know to call? Answer – spread the news.

2. Did the Jews not hear the call? Answer – Yes they did.

3. If the Jews heard, did they not understand? Yes, but they refused to listen and obey.

4. Did God reject them? Answer – No. A remnant did hear and obey. It was the same in Elijah’s day. The rest turned away and became blind and deaf to the message.

5. Are the Jews finished then as a people? Answer – No. They are no more rejected now than before. Many times in the past God has drawn them back. He has promised never to leave or forsake them. The Jewish people are a picture of the World’s rejection of God. Paul would have known of the return of the Jews because of the prophecies, which had still to be fulfilled. The Jews were obstinate people. They would not come.

 

CHAPTER 12. After the theology Paul turns to practical matters. “Now that you know what life is all about, it is time to start living as God wants you to live.” This is like a Doctor out of medical school treating his first patient. The Bible is full of doctrine and practical teaching. Doctrine is never taught simply that it may be known – but that it may be translated into practice. Theology is to life what bones are to the body. They are no use on their own but a man cannot live without them. Paul has taught the theology and now he turns to the flesh to hang the bones on it. Therefore!

 

How is a believer to live? A believer lives in three spheres.

1. Within the family of God. The vertical relationship.

2. In his relationships with others.

3. As a citizen, with a responsibility to the State.

1. The Church is seen as a body of many parts. Believers are diverse but called to co-operate for the good of the whole. Each member has received a special grace, which is to be exercised for the good of all. “Faith” means the spiritual power given to each one to enable him to discharge his responsibility. A man is designed to complete others and not to compete with others. Each person has different work to do. God has given each the ability to do something well.

2. Mutual love, sympathy and honour within the Church is to be expected, but something more is demanded in the dealings with non-believers. The best way to be rid of an enemy is to turn him into a friend. This is hard teaching because it is contrary to fallen human nature, which seeks after self and has a desire to hurt those who hurt him and to take revenge on his enemies. But the believer is to be transformed in his mind and to depart from the ways of the World. The mind is the nerve centre of operations within the body. It is like a reception desk in a hotel. A believer should not copy the ideas of the World. God is not involved in their ideas. The World says that all are equal. God gives different gifts to people. They are not all the same. The head controls the members of the body. Christ is the head. A believer should access his gifts. If the Disciples had not exercised their gifts, there would be no New Testament to read. Gifts are not toys but tools for certain times and places and designed to build up the body. There are twenty two gifts in the New Testament. Seek them and develop them.

 

The hard parts of the Bible are not difficult to understand. They are difficult to do. “Do you believe this? Then behave as if you do.” It is creed and conduct. Bones and flesh. Doctrine and love. Believers are asked to lay their bodies on the altar alive. When an animal was sacrificed it was no longer the property of the one sacrificing it. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Look after it. It is a gift from God to them. A man acts through his body and therefore ought to keep it in good trim. The body belongs to God. He created it and gave it to a man on loan to be the vehicle in which he exists. It is temporary. What a man feeds into it physically and emotionally will affect it. The Holy Spirit dwells within the body. “Where did you take it last week?” The injunctions of God are not there to deprive a man of fun but to protect believers from the consequences of sin. It pleases the Lord that the body is a living sacrifice. Man was designed to be part of a body. He needs to be part of a living body in order to function. A man cannot serve without a body.

There are 6 tests.

1. Is it lawful? If it is contrary to the Word of God, it is forbidden.

2. Is it beneficial? Will it draw a believer closer to Jesus?

3. Is it enslaving? Is it leading a believer into bondage?

4. Is it consistent with Christ’s Lordship? There are places where Jesus would not choose to go. Can He watch what the believer wants to watch?

5. Is it helpful to others?

6. Is it consistent with the example of God?

 

The one-man ministry kills off the one man and paralyses all the others. The promises of God are fulfilled to those who are committed to Him. To play with evil is to show a lack of love for God. A believer should be glued to doing good. Zeal for God should not be a problem, if a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit. David was a man after God’s heart because he was full of zeal for God. God hates lukewarm disciples. Discouragement takes its toll. Believers should encourage one another. Believers should eat more simply so that others may simply eat. Believers should develop their gifts and work at them. It is all very practical and physical. Jesus came to bring the best quality of life available to man. There is no hopeless situation for Jesus and no incurable disease. When Paul was writing to the Roman Church telling them to give hospitality he was speaking the Jews and Gentiles. That was a big barrier to overcome.

v 18. If possible. Sometimes it is not possible to live at peace with a person.

v 21. Be an over-comer. Rev ch 2 and 3. Jesus promises a special prize to those who are over-comers. Go in the opposite spirit to the spirit at work in the World.

The Jewish people were proud of their position in God and the Roman Christians living in the capital city of the Empire might well have suffered from pride also.

 

CHAPTER 13. Paul goes on to teach about the attitude to the State. This had a special significance for the Early Church. The Jews were a religio licita. They were a law unto themselves. The first Christians were regarded as a “variety” of Jews. It was like a sect within Judaism. It has to be remembered that the founder had been convicted and executed by the sentence of a Roman Magistrate. Enemies said that the believers were claiming that there was another Emperor – Jesus – and He had been executed as a criminal. Acts ch 17 v 6-7. Paul teaches that to disobey the Authorities is to disobey God. Human Government is a divine ordinance and God gives it power to punish evil and encourage good behaviour. Therefore believers of all people should obey the law, pay their taxes and respect the Authorities because it is one way of serving God. There is an exception. When the decrees of the Authorities conflict with the commands of God, then believers ought to obey God rather than men. Then the Authorities have gone beyond the authority delegated to them from God. Believers can only effectively deny those bad laws, if they have kept all the good ones: e.g. paying tax and not parking on the double yellow lines are important, if they are to stand up to the offensive laws with any credibility.

 

When it comes to punishment and the death penalty the State is charged with a function, which has been specifically forbidden to the believer. The duty to the State is a temporary situation until the new order comes in on Christ’s return.

 

In all relationships the matter is summed up by doing unto others as a man wants them to do to him. “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Another reason for right living is that a believer never knows when the Lord might come for him. The return of the Lord to Earth was very much in the minds of the Early Church. A. D. 70 was imminent and would foreshadow the eventual end of the World.

 

CHAPTER 14. Then Paul returns to the question of the hour for the Roman Church. Disputes between members over what are really trifling matters. Little rules about eating and Sabbath observance. Believers are all at different stages of growth and see things from a different perspective. Leave God to sort out these matters and whatever they do, they should not criticise another for his behaviour in the peripheral matters. Each one will stand before God to give account for himself. Be sensitive to each other. There is no sin to which believers – especially keen believers – are more prone than that of criticising others. Paul himself was gloriously free from un-Christian taboos and inhibitions. But he knew that others were not.

 

God is interested in relationships, justice etc. Do not spoil the priorities over a piece of meat. If a believer flaunts his faith it is back to the question of status – “I am more important than you because …” Believers must obey their conscience, which will develop as they grow. Things, which they once saw as right, will become wrong. Things, which once were unimportant, will assume a new importance, as they are open to God’s Word.

 

The Jewish food laws, which had been observed by the nation from its earliest days, were one of the principal features distinguishing the Jews from the Gentiles. What are the modern day equivalents? Baptism? It is good to be emancipated but believers are members of a body and cannot live to themselves. There is a danger of being enslaved to a bad habit, which is not in itself sinful. Those things, which are of no use in running the race for Christ, need to be cast off. Anything, which is not done in faith is a sin, since only faith pleases God. On the question of meat there were two groups of believers who were sincere but not did agree with one another. Believers need to be convinced in their own minds but must not criticise others.

 

This passage deals with the origin of authority. It is grounded in God in Gen ch 2 v 16-17. Believers submit to authority not because it is a good idea but because it is God’s idea. If a man removes God, he removes the structure of authority. Authority makes freedom possible. God delegates His authority to governments, fathers, parents, teachers and employers. Denial of authority leads to chaos and tyranny. The authorities are in place to commend those who do right and to punish those who do wrong. The requirements of the moral law have been stamped on the heart of every man. A man knows what is right and wrong. Doing right is not the prerogative of the believers. There are a few occasions when it is right to oppose the State but generally the laws of the land are to be obeyed, even if not popular. Under Capitalism and Communism the state has exploited man.

 

CHAPTER 15. This continues the duties of the believers.

Firstly, there is to be no discrimination on the grounds of class or race or colour. The World is aware of problems in this respect and continually calls for Christian standards to be observed. Believers in the power of the Holy Spirit are called to put this into practise. Christ welcomes everyone regardless of background.

v 7. Therefore believers are to follow His example in this respect. Paul knew from the Scriptures – as did Jesus – that He had come for Jew and Gentile alike and he quotes several Old Testament passages to prove his point. Certainly He started with the Jews but He had to start somewhere and this did not mean that the others were second class or less favoured by God.

Secondly, believers are to consider others. This involves the thinking process. “Do unto others” is the basis for the Christian life. Gal ch 6 v 10. Again Jesus is the example in that He took man’s reproaches on Himself. The message must be born out by the life style. Paul claims in verse 19 that he has done so.

Thirdly, believers are to live in harmony with other believers. v 5. It is essential to God’s plan of reconciliation between man and God that man and man are reconciled. If Jew and Gentile believers can show the way, then the Church can grow. If not, then others will not be attracted. Believers are under a command not to fall out with their brothers and sisters in Christ. They must learn to disagree without falling out. It is not easy. There is a need to learn not to assert themselves.

 

Paul refers to Scripture to prove that Christ was in God’s plans all along and that if that has come true then all the rest of what God has said about judgement and the World to come will come true also.

Ps 69 v 21. Ps 18 v 46-49. God is the God of the whole World. Isaiah ch 11 v 10. Nations shall seek the Christ.

 

The letter is written to a fairly knowledgeable group. Paul is helping them sort out their doctrine and make it relevant to their everyday problems and their special problems in the Church at the time. He feels a special responsibility and discharges it towards them. He is giving them a filing system. He stresses that the Gentiles are indebted to the Jews, for salvation is of the Jews. This is why he is pleased that they have shown their concern for the Jewish believers in Jerusalem by taking a special collection for them. He wanted to go himself since it is the climax to his work and he is pleased to see that the new converts recognise their obligations to their Jewish brothers. He asks for prayer for this task. It will be difficult.

 

Paul is not satisfied with having finished his task and is looking for new work for the Lord. There is no word of retirement in the Bible. There is always plenty to be done. Believers are to work till they enter glory. So he is moving on from Asia to Jerusalem then to Rome and Spain. Paul had been instructed to do his work with the Gentiles by a word from the Lord. v 21. God had spoken to him. He had clung to that word and is delighted and satisfied that it has come to pass. God still speaks like that today. One sentence was relevant to Paul and yet the larger passage has a different meaning. The word of God is active. Paul gives God the credit for what was done. A personal encounter with Jesus is bound to make a man like Jesus to some extent. People tend to grow to be like their pets. Children copy their parents.

 

CHAPTER 16. The letter was taken to Rome by Phoebe. It is a personal letter and shows Paul’s concerns for the believers in Rome. Three men were hugely influenced by the Letter to the Romans – Augustine, Luther and Charles Wesley. God bursts through the normal religious duties of a man. Paul had finished his work in Turkey and Greece and knew that the Spirit was telling him to move to new fields. He had been appointed as an apostle to the Gentiles and Spain was in his mind. It is as if he is sending his sermon notes on ahead to establish his credentials with the Roman Church.

Philippians – summary

PHILIPPIANS.

It was written by Paul in prison in Rome in A. D. 59-61 to the Church at Philippi in Greece – Macedonia it was called – 13 years after Paul visited the town and established a Church there – the first one Paul established. Acts ch 16 v 12-40. Philippi was one of the leading cities of the Province. It was a Roman colony, with a thriving gold mining industry. Philippi was of strategic importance in the Roman Empire as the leading city of Macedonia. Paul was especially fond of the Church at Philippi. He mentions “joy” 14 times. It is a letter from a man to his friends in gratitude for a gift sent to him. It expresses Paul’s own personal approach to life in Christ.

CHAPTER 1. Despite his personal circumstances Paul rejoices that even these can be used to promote the Gospel. The guards now knew the Gospel. God is in charge of every detail of a man’s life. v 23. Paul cannot lose. If he lives, he can testify about Jesus. If he dies, he will be in His presence. A man can only speak from his own experience. Personal testimony is powerful, provided the life is honouring to Jesus.

CHAPTER 2. Following the example of Jesus, who humbled Himself and was obedient even unto death on the cross, Paul urges humility to counter the claims of pride – those who felt that they had achieved perfection. How does a believer cultivate true humility?
1. Believers should count others better than themselves, seeing their gifts and recognising their own weaknesses.
2. Make a habit of speaking about the interests of others and not personal interests.
3. Look at Jesus. He acted as a slave and not a master.
4. Examine the motives for doing things.
5. Do not grumble or complain but count the blessings. Remember that God resists the proud.
In this way a believer will be a light in the World, where pride rules and selfishness is normal.

CHAPTER 3. Paul deals with two difficulties facing the Church. There were people called Judaisers, who were saying that the Jewish religion had a great deal to teach people from years of Jewish traditions. Another group implied that they had arrived and had achieved perfection. There was confusion in the Church. Paul could have claimed that he had it all – knowledge, reputation and achievement. But Paul says that he counted all that he had gained in his life as rubbish – of no real worth by comparison with knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. Now Paul’s concerns are Jesus’ concerns. He says: “That I might share in His sufferings and live as Jesus lived.” Paul had laid aside the righteousness of his own works on which he had relied before and even his achievements since conversion. It had looked impressive for a while, but after Paul met Jesus Christ the living God, all that he had achieved by his own efforts had not earned Paul salvation in God’s eyes. These are words of humility because he never considered that he had arrived. He adds the words: “Not that I am already perfect.” Yet in all humility he says that he is pressing on towards the goal, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. What then is the goal of which he speaks? Three questions follow.
1. “Do you want to be like Jesus?”
2. “Are you like Jesus?”
3. “What are you doing about it?”
A believer has to work out his own salvation. v 13-14. If, like a high wire artist, a believer has fallen off, the way back is to get Jesus back into the centre of his perspective and get back to doing what he was called to do for Him.

CHAPTER 4. Rejoice in every situation in life. Rejoice in the wilderness. It will be of value later in life. Focus on what is pure and good. The World is forcing believers to focus on the opposite things. v 13. A believer should not be anxious but be content in whatever state he is in, whether by circumstances or choice.

Philippians

PHILIPPIANS. Ch 3 v 9-16.

Imagine being at Philippi in Greece – Macedonia as it was called in A. D. 63. It was one of the leading cities of the Province. It was a Roman colony, with a thriving gold mining industry. Beautiful – blue sky – blue sea – warm – not too hot. Today is a special day. 13 years ago a man called Paul came to town preaching about God and a man called Jesus – the Son of God. Jesus of Nazareth in Judea had died for the sins of mankind and he gave a personal invitation to accept Jesus as personal Lord and Saviour. After hearing Paul’s message and thinking about it carefully there was a response and a new birth. Others did as well – a strange collection of unlikely people. Paul established a Church at Philippi 13 years ago and now they are regular members of the Church. Life has changed in many ways over the period of 13 years. They have served the Lord in different ways. Paul has kept in touch with the Church during the years. After all this was the first Church he established in Europe and he has a special fondness for it. What makes today so special? Paul has written a letter to the Church and the elders are reading it out to the members of the Church today during the service. Paul was in prison in Rome at the time, but he was writing to his friends at Philippi.

Sometimes people think of the New Testament as full of doctrine and commands as to how a man should live. This part of it is simply a letter from a man to his friends. What is important is that the writer was filled with the Holy Spirit as he wrote it. Later on as the Holy Spirit was compiling the last part of the Bible He chose to include this letter, because it had some helpful guidance for believers. It is a privilege to be able to read this letter.

From what is known of Paul it is expected that he would express his thanks for the gift sent him as a Church to meet his particular needs. He mentions that. There is some personal news. There is, of course, a word of encouragement. He speaks about unity and joy. He deals with the difficulties facing the Church. He would hardly ignore these in view of his concern for the Church in Philippi. There were two groups who were presenting their own ideas about God and their views were causing concern. Was this a new wave of doctrine? Was it right? Should it be taken on board? One group was saying that the Jewish religion had a great deal to teach people from years of traditions. The other group implied that they had arrived and achieved perfection. That is the point Paul had reached in the letter by ch 3 v 16. There is confusion in the Church. Some are inclined to accept what these groups are saying. Others want nothing to do with them. But Paul will have something helpful to say. He will be distressed by false teaching and will want to guide his friends into the narrow but correct path. It was Paul who warned Timothy about doctrines of demons in 1 Tim ch 4 v 1. So the believers hurry to hear what he has to say in the letter.

Paul begins by looking back at his previous life as a Pharisee, well respected for his knowledge and achievements. He had a home and a tent-making business. He had an excellent reputation as a Pharisee. In the eyes of the World he had it all made. It is much the same today for those who have a home and career and a car and can afford a holiday – or two. They have all they need. Yet Paul says that he counted that all rubbish – of no real worth by comparison with knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. Gone are the days of looking after number one. Gone are the days of being concerned for the reputation of Paul. Gone are the days of building up a healthy portfolio of investments. Gone are the days when status is of value. They simply do not matter any more to Paul. Now Paul’s concerns are Jesus’ concerns. He says: “That I might share in His sufferings and live as Jesus lived.” Paul had laid aside the righteousness of his own works on which he had relied before. It had looked impressive for a while, but then after Paul met Jesus Christ the living God, all that he had achieved by his own efforts had not earned Paul salvation in God’s eyes. He had come to realise that anything he had done of any worth had been by grace. From now on he is going to live in relationship with Jesus Christ, relying on Christ’s righteousness through faith. He had learned to die to his own selfish interests. All that mattered was doing what God wanted him to do.

In verse 11 Paul mentions “if possible” I might attain the resurrection. It looks as if there is some doubt about the future. But Paul knows that once saved he had started on the road to salvation. These are words of humility because he never considered that he had arrived. He adds the words: “Not that I am already perfect.” There is always a danger of self-satisfaction for those who have a strong conversion experience, have served the Lord in outstanding ways, have experience spiritual gifts and have a deeper understanding of the Scriptures. Others might say that they admire their faith and they might think for a moment that they have arrived as a believer. Paul demolishes that idea. Paul was the one with the unique conversion experience. He was the great apostle and teacher, the evangelist who travelled so far and achieved so much. He endured so much persecution. On many occasions he was beaten and stoned and then experienced supernatural healing. Of all people he could have become just a little proud. But Paul recognised that in order to help him the Lord had allowed a thorn in his flesh to keep him from pride. What was this thorn in the flesh? He explains that it is a demonic spirit, which on occasions trips him up and shows him that he is not yet perfect but falls to temptation time and again. Yet in all humility he says that he is pressing on towards the goal, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

What then is the goal of which he speaks? Paul is asking a question. “Do you want to be like Jesus?” What sort of a question is that to ask a believer? A believer could not possibly say: “No. I do not want to be like Jesus.” But as he is led to the point of saying “yes” he must suspect that there is another question coming up and it is this: “Are you like Jesus?” Sin still lurks within each believer. How can believers take the sufficiency of Christ to the World, if they are still sinning for the World to see? If a believer is not like Jesus and wants to be like Jesus, a third question arises: “What are you doing about it?” Paul makes it clear what he is doing about it. He is pressing on to the goal, the prize of being like Jesus.

Regeneration is all of God. Justification is all of God. There is nothing a man can do about it. But what about sanctification? A man is expected to strive for holiness and work out his own salvation. It is not quick or easy. Jesus did not promise an easy life. He promised eternal life. He told them to go and sin no more. Is it too much that a man should strive for holiness? The Holy Spirit will help him but he must do his part. That is his individual responsibility as a human being. The command is to be holy, as your Father is holy. In the Letter to the Romans Paul tells believers to present their bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.

In 1 Cor ch 13 v 4 where Paul speaks about love, it is a good practical test to insert the words “I am” in place of the word “love” and see if it can be read in all honesty. Then take those parts, which offend the conscience to God for sanctification.

There is an illustration of a high wire artist as he moves slowly across the wire towards the goal of reaching the end. Paul is likening the Christian life to a high wire act. The believer must keep his eyes on Jesus. If he looks at himself, he will fall off the wire. It does not matter how far along the wire he is. If he falls off, he is off. All he can do is to climb back on again. Complacency or self-interest or pride can all lead to a person falling off or falling away from the Lord. He must press on towards the goal of being like Jesus. The believer needs God every hour, if he is not to fall off. Paul reminds the mature ones that they are just as vulnerable. God wants holy people. The prophets were God’s holy men. The Holy Spirit can only work through holy vessels. This illustration ties in very well with the advice of Jesus that if anyone sets his hand to the plough he must not look back. Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. This is a spiritual picture of going back to the old sinful areas, which led to spiritual death. To some extent when a man is on a tight rope, he cannot relax. He certainly cannot look back. That does not mean to say that believers should never have a time of relaxation. In fact they are commanded to do so. But it does mean that even during such times, there is a need to be alert, so as not to enjoy the relaxation in itself.

The other danger is for a man to look at himself. If he does that on a tight rope he will fall off. Every self-centred person is an unhappy person – without exception. The key instruction from Jesus to believers is this: “Forget about yourself.” Do not be solely concerned for yourself.

Many believers seem to fall to temptation and in particular to a spirit of apathy and seem to have no helpful guide or illustration as to how to get back in touch with God. Paul here gives a perfect illustration. Like a high wire artist – if a believer has fallen off, the way back is to get Jesus back into the centre of his perspective and get back to doing what he was called to do for Jesus. It is difficult in the World. Sometimes it is difficult in a Fellowship.

For all the talk of being in a family, there is no one who understands what each believer is going through. It is all very well for them. Anyway there are some things in the life of an individual, which he could not share with anyone.

Philippi was a Roman colony. Therefore Paul is writing to a Church very much in the eyes of the World. The World was very similar in the days of the Roman Empire as it is today, in attitudes, beliefs and its response to the Gospel. Philippi was not a backward, primitive place but the people were businesslike, prosperous and educated, much like today. Philippi was of strategic importance in the Roman Empire as the leading city of Macedonia. This was the first Church established by Paul in Europe and naturally he was very fond of it. Acts ch 16 says that when Paul went there, he found only a handful of women gathered for prayer. He made his mark by calling the spirit of divination out of the slave girl. Signs and wonders follow when God is at work. Then a violent earthquake shook the prison to its foundations. Paul established himself as a man of God with power and authority. He encouraged the followers to be pure, sincere and without reproach. He commands them to be humble. Humility is part of the character of God. Moses was the meekest man on the Earth. Numbers ch 12 v 3. Dan ch 5 v 22. Belshazzar was rebuked by Daniel, because, knowing all he did, he had not humbled himself. Like all virtues humility can be simulated. It is easy to pretend to be humble but yet be puffed up with pride and a sense of one’s own importance. A believer can even be proud of his own humility.
How does a believer cultivate true humility?
1. He should count others better than himself, seeing their gifts and recognising his own weaknesses.
2. He should make a habit of speaking about the interests of others and not personal interests.
3. He should look at Jesus. Jesus acted as a slave and not as a master.
4. He should examine his motives for doing things.
5. He should not grumble or complain but count the blessings received, remembering that God resists the proud.

Paul had kept in touch with the Church leaders and was concerned about false teaching creeping in. If believers are not growing, they are falling back. If they are not pressing on to the goal of being like Jesus, the old sins come back into their life, often along with new ones.

The letter, which was written in prison, was written for several purposes. 1. To thank the Church for a gift in time of need. 2. To give the Church some news in order to encourage them. He tells them that he is hoping to send Timothy to them. 3. To warn them concerning false teaching. There were people called Judaisers, who wanted the Church to be a religious institution – clinging to tradition. That is a relevant warning today, for the spirit of religion always seeks to draw believers from faith into religious practices and traditions.

Paul presents the credentials of Timothy. How would Paul speak about believers today, if he were sending them out on his behalf? Are believers embarrassed, if they have to introduce other believers?

Philemon

PHILEMON.

The Message. Faith working out in love.

Paul was writing to the Churches in the area of Colossae. The letter was written from prison in Rome about 60 A. D. Paul was in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus. That is happening in many countries of the World. Paul refers to people as soldiers of the cross. There is a huge spiritual battle, which is taking place in the unseen World. The Bible speaks about the books being opened on judgement day. One of the books is the Book of the Wars of God. Num ch 21 v 14. When a father is in a fight he expects his sons to join him in the fight. Rev ch 12 v 7 speaks about the war in Heaven. Father God expects His children to join Him in the fight. Who is involved in the war against the forces of darkness? Slavery is still an issue in many countries today. The theme of slave and master is the same as in Colossians. Col ch 4 v 16.

The Greeting. This is not an Apostle’s letter but one of brotherly appeal. Paul is a prisoner. The purpose is to persuade Philemon to make a sacrifice for the Gospel. Paul is equipped to make this suggestion as he has suffered for Christ. A man can only speak from his own experience. Those, who have suffered much, can speak with greater authority.

Onesimus was a slave who had fled from his master Philemon to Rome. The normal punishment for a runaway slave was crucifixion, unless the master was very kind. Then he would be branded on the forehead with the letters “FF” meaning “fugitive.” Two thirds of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves. Paul did not speak against slavery as such but broke slavery from the inside by changing the relationships and attitudes involved. Paul saw that it was right for the slave to return to his master. This brings to light two spiritual truths. Firstly there is the principle of restitution. If a person has done wrong it is not enough to repent and agree with God that what was done is wrong. The person still has a duty to put things right with the person who was wronged. It seems from v 18 that Onesimus was in debt to Philemon in some way. This principle of restitution is particularly difficult when the person is a prisoner. He may come out of prison having stolen a large sum of money or having damaged the belongings of another. However, there is little or no money to recompense the injured party. The principle still applies. It is not a popular teaching.

Secondly there is a challenge to return to the Lord. Rev ch 2 v 4. The challenge was that the Church had abandoned her first love. Individually it is easy for a believer to have abandoned his first love of Jesus and to have come to the stage of taking his release from darkness for granted. Mat ch 6 v 33. Jesus makes it clear that God should be first in the life of every man. Satan is busy attempting to put anyone or anything first in life in place of the Lord.

In both instances a person cannot freely walk away from his obligations. The letter is addressed to the Church, which met in Philemon’s home. The house Church movement is not new. The Church has a duty to see that as far as possible things are put right.

v 4-7. Onesimus has clearly been a great witness for the Lord and Paul speaks highly of him. The hearts of believers have been refreshed by the life of Onesimus. That is a challenge. Are others blessed by the words and actions of the believer? Gal ch 6 v 10. “That is why whenever a believer can he should always be kind to everyone and especially to his brothers in Christ.” That verse is a challenge for daily living. The one who is the servant of his brothers is the greatest in the Kingdom of God. Mat ch 23 v 8. However, it is a pity to spoil such a good record for one sin. Many people live a useful life serving the Lord but hang on to some sinful areas of their life. These may be besetting sins. Paul thanks God for the faithfulness of Philemon.

v 6. Sharing should spring naturally out of love for Christ. Knowledge is more than just facts but recognition of the meaning of the knowledge.

Appeal for Onesimus. Paul is entitled to appeal as an ambassador and as a prisoner. He had been instrumental in the conversion of Onesimus. The name Onesimus means useful so there is a pun on the name. Sending him back is like referring a case back for consideration. Paul would like to have kept him but his duty is to send him back. Even so he makes an appeal to Philemon and asks that he look at the problem afresh and in mercy. The story is a physical picture to highlight the spiritual truth. Believers are the slaves who ran away from God. They were no use to God but Jesus paid the debts and presented them back to God as useful servants again. The life of a man is of no use to the Lord before his conversion but after conversion the same man can be useful to the Lord.
v 14. This verse highlights the difference between religion and faith. Religion speaks of duty without a personal relationship. Christianity is moving from the duty of religion to the joy of a personal relationship. If a person is ill in hospital it is one thing to visit out of a sense of duty but another one to be there out of love and concern for the patient. God does not want a man’s service to be a duty but to be a loving response to His Son’s sacrifice on the cross.
v 16. People can have a relationship in a number of categories, as employers, colleagues, neighbours, supporters of a cause, etc. That relationship changes on conversion when they are children of the Living God. Onesimus was in relationship with Philemon as a slave to his master. Now they are brothers and children of the Living God. That brings a new dimension to their relationship.
v 17. Do believers welcome their brothers in the Lord in the same way they would the Lord Himself if He entered their home? “Perhaps” is tactful rather than uncertainty. Onesimus is no longer just a slave but is a brother in Christ. Paul was confident of Philemon’s obedience. The providence of God – it was all in His plan and He will take charge of Onesimus in the future.
v 19. Paul mentions that Philemon owes his soul to Paul. This is the Lord speaking challenging a man that he owes everything he has to the Lord. This is both as a result of common grace and as a result of that special grace, which gifted the man eternal life. How is it possible for a man saved from Hell ever to forget that?

Believers are to behave towards others as God has behaved towards them. They are to accept as they have been accepted, forgive as they have been forgiven, show mercy as they have been shown mercy and love as they have been loved.