Monday, July 22, 2013

Romans 1:18-25 - The Unrighteousness of the Gentiles


In the last section on Romans Paul had given us a theme of his epistle. Jews and Gentiles were to be a part of the Kingdom of God. He ended by saying that the "just shall live by faith," which refers to both the righteousness that God grants to the person of faith as well as the righteousness that the person of faith demonstrates in his or her own living. Paul then went on explain.

Romans 1:18-25 (KJV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Because of God's holy and righteous character, the ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind is met with God's wrath (verse 18). Although Christianity today seems bent on highlighting only God's love and mercy, God must deal with mankind's sin. There will be a final judgment one day, but this passage indicates that God's wrath towards sin is being revealed throughout history. Paul's phrase "who hold the truth in unrighteousness" declares that mankind sins even though it knows the truth.

But how is this possible? Without reading Scripture or without hearing from someone, how could Paul say that EVERYONE knows the truth about God and sin? Verse 19 states that what may be known of God is within man, for God has shown that knowledge to him.

In verse 20, Paul made the bold claim that by seeing the created, visible world, the invisible things of God are clearly understood, even His eternal power and divinity. Therefore, mankind stands guilty of rebellion towards God in the sin that is committed.

This is a difficult truth! No one can claim any kind of excuse, like "I didn't know", or "I've never even heard of this Yeshua/Jesus." When man sees the created world, he or she knows deep down that there is a Creator, worthy of worship. The knowledge is not complete, but it is enough that should cause mankind to acknowledge God.

Verse 21 reveals the sad truth of mankind. Although, creation should cause mankind to worship the Creator, it simply doesn't. Mankind doesn't glorify God as God, nor is mankind thankful to Him. Instead the mind of mankind becomes vain, or futile, in its imaginings and its heart becomes darkened. Paul was saying that when mankind turns away from the inner knowledge of God, the consequence of that action causes the heart and mind of mankind to go even further astray.

Although mankind thinks that it is wise, it becomes a fool (verse 22). Instead of worshipping the immortal Creator, it worships images of mortal man, birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things (verse 23).

Because of mankind's turning true worship on its head, God allowed the consequences of its sins to take over. He gave man up to the uncleanness that resulted from the lusts of his heart and the defiling of his body (verse 24).

Verse 25 is a summary statement. Mankind has changed the truth of God into a lie and worshipped and served created beings rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever!

In this passage Paul captured the condition of mankind, what should have been and what happened instead. No wonder mankind needs God's redemption and a restoration to the truth of God and His worship.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

This Great Nation

No, this article is not about the United States. The Bible verses where this phrase comes from are speaking of Israel.

Deuteronomy 4:5-8 (KJV)
5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
7 For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

Moses was speaking to the Israelites just before they crossed into the Promised Land. In verse 5 he related that he had taught the people statutes and judgments that God had commanded him to teach. These statutes and judgments were to be how the people were to live when they entered into their land.

The reason for their obedience to these commandments was that they represented wisdom and understanding that would be observable to the nations around them (verse 6). When the nations saw and heard the Jews living out God's commandments they would believe that Israel was a great nation with wise and understanding people.

For what other nation has God so close to them that He answers them and that has righeous statutes and judgments such as those that are in the Torah (the Hebrew word for law) (verses 7 and 8)?

God intended for Israel to be a light to those nations around them. The means of being a light was through Torah living. Israel, when in obediece to the Torah, is a great nation. This concept is found also in Isaiah.

Isaiah 2:2-3 (KJV)
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

This passage is speaking of a future time, when many people and nations will seek to go to Jerusalem where God will teach them His ways so that they can walk in His paths. For the Torah shall go forth from Jerusalem.

Yet, is spite of God's own words as spoken by Moses and Isaiah, Christianity has decided that observing the law of God is no longer applicable (unless narrowly defined as the Ten Commandments or as New Testament commands). How can we ever hope to be a great people? How can we ever hope to be the light God intended?

1 John 5:2-3 (KJV)
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

John 14:15, 21 (KJV)
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

If we remember that when John wrote his gospel and epistle there was no New Testament, it becomes obvious that John was speaking about the Torah.

Torah living is how Christianity can be great and be a light to others.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Romans 1:16-17 - Jews and Gentiles Together!


After Paul's introduction to Romans, he stated a theme for the entire letter.

Romans 1:16-17 (KJV)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Paul began by declaring that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Messiah (verse 16). Considering all that he went through, he obviously was speaking the truth.

2 Corinthians 11:25 (KJV)
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;

Can we say the same? Or do we act like we're ashamed of the gospel? Do we keep silent for fear of rejection or ridicule? Are we willing to face ill treatment or even death because of being open about our faith? What is that gospel worth to us?

The reason that Paul was able to stand up for the gospel of Messiah was because it is the powerful means by which mankind can be saved. Paul also indicated that that powerful means is available to those who believe (or trust) in Messiah. He stated this same concept in Ephesians.

Ephesians 2:8 (KJV)
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

In a manner of speaking, the gospel of Messiah is the message of grace. The Son of God, Yeshua, came to earth in the flesh, suffered and died on the cross, to pay the penalty for the sins of those who would trust in Him.

The gospel of Messiah was available first to the Jew, but also to the Gentile (Greek). Although this statement refers to the chronological spread of the gospel, it also refers to Paul's habit of bringing the gospel first to the Jewish synagogues before attempting to convert Gentiles. This also likely refers to the nature of the gospel, that it is a Jewish message. It concerns the Word of God given to the Jews in the form of the Old Testament (there was no New Testament at the time) and how the Kingdom of God is called Israel. At the same time, this very Jewish message was to be given to the Gentiles as well, who were to be grafted into the Kingdom of God.

The idea that Jews and Gentiles would both participate in the Kingdom of God was unheard of during the days of Paul. Up to that time, the only way to be a part of the Kingdom would have been to basically become a Jew by a conversion process. (However, this was not how Ruth, Rahab, Caleb, or the mixed multitude at the time of the Exodus, came into the Kingdom. This conversion process was a man-made process not initiated by God.) But God had intended that His Kingdom would be filled with both Jews and Gentiles. Paul championed the full inclusion of the Gentiles without a conversion process and many of the Jewish believers tried to reject this. The Council of Jerusalem upheld Paul's methods (See "The Jerusalem Council Decides")

In verse 17 Paul expressed that it was through the inclusion of both Jews and Gentiles that the righteousness of God was revealed. Salvation has always come through grace through faith. Paul then quoted Habbakuk as proof.

Habakkuk 2:4 (KJV)
4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

However, faith is never separated from works. We become righteous by faith. We can't earn salvation by our works. But after faith we are to live righteously, and that is done by doing good works. Paul's statement of the just living by faith includes both ideas of righteousness, the righteousness we receive from God as well as the righteousness that we are to do on our own.

As Gentiles came into belief, the Jews, as a group, became a minority. Christianity became a Gentile religion and is now totally unrecognizable to the Jews. In fact, for the Jews to become a part of the Christian church, they must leave their identity behind, their Biblical feasts, kosher way of eating, and much more. They must participate in pagan holidays and renounce the admonition to never follow a prophet who draws them away from the Torah.

Deuteronomy 13:3-4 (KJV)
3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

We Gentiles were not the "first." Yet, we have turned the tables and have now placed our Jewish brothers and sisters in the same position that we were in during the days of Paul. What happened to our Jewish message? It's time to put our house in order and to remember Paul's theme. Both Jews and Gentiles were to be in the Kingdom of God. Why have we built up a wall between us? Why have we changed into a new religion?


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Romans 1:8-15 - An Introduction Part 2


Paul continued with his introduction with verse 8.

Romans 1:8-15 (KJV)
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

In verse 8 Paul began by commending the Roman believers for their faith that had been spoken of throughout the Roman Empire. He thanked God for them.

Paul also declared that he prayed without ceasing for those same believers (verse 9). He also expressed that part of his prayer included a request that he might at some point successfully travel to Rome to meet the believers there (verse 10).

We often think that Paul was responsible for beginning each of the believing assemblies in those early years of spreading the Gospel, but this was obviously not true, since Paul was likely on his third missionary journey at the time and may have been in Corinth. The time frame may have been about 57 A.D. (The Zondervan's KJV Study Bible, Grand Rapids, MI, 2002, p. 1613).

In Paul's zeal to visit the Roman believers, his goal was to impart to them some spiritual gift that would help to establish them (to make a firm foundation) (verse 11) and to give and receive comfort from the faith of the Roman believers (verse 12).

In verse 13 Paul expressed that he had oftentimes wanted to go to Rome, but had been prevented. It is interesting to note that most of the believers were Gentiles.

Paul then stated that he was a debtor to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, as well as the wise and unwise (verse 14). This may mean that Paul appreciated the knowledge that he had no matter what source it came from, but since this verse is related to verse 15 by "so," it may actually mean that Paul had an obligation to the mentioned groups that was only able to be fulfilled by preaching to all, including to the Romans.

" (14) Greeks and barbarians, the wise and the unwise: for to every man I am required to preach" (Roth, Andrew Gabriel, Aramaic English New Testament, Netzari Press LLC, 2008, p. 460).

This concluded Paul's introduction to the Romans. Stay tuned for Paul's description of the letter's theme next!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Romans 1:1-7 - An Introduction Part 1

Today will begin a new study on the book of Romans, but from a Messianic perspective.

Romans 1:1-7 (KJV)
1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter 1 begins an introduction to the book of Romans. In the first verse Paul stated that he was the author. This is a well accepted fact. He referred to himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ," who had been called to be an apostle and separated "unto the gospel of God."

What did Paul mean by his description? Upon salvation, the believer becomes a servant of Messiah Yeshua. The goal of the believer's life is to live for Him and to do those things that are pleasing to Him. In Paul's case, it was to be an apostle, or a "sent out one." Another word for this might be emissary. His area of work was to spread the gospel of God.

In verse 2 Paul declared that the gospel of God had been promised before this time in the writings of the prophets. This gospel was not something new, that Paul, or even Yeshua, had come up with, but was found in the Old Testament prophets.

The gospel of God concerns Yeshua, the Messiah, who was the physical descendant of King David (verse 3).

At the same time, Paul asserted that He was also the Son of God (verse 4). This was demonstrated by power, not as much by His birth, but more so by His holiness and His resurrection from the dead.

In verse 5 the focus changes from Yeshua to His followers, who have received grace and apostleship from Him. They are to be obedient to the faith and for His name, among all nations. Paul's ministry and that of the believing Romans was to spread the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles.

Just as Paul was called by Yeshua, so are the Roman believers (verse 6).

Verse 7 is Paul's greeting to those believers in Rome. They are beloved of God and are called to be saints (forgiven sinners). He extended grace and peace from God our Father, and Messiah Yeshua to his readers.

Paul's introduction will continue with the next post!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Peace or Conflict?

One of the most crying needs of this world today is peace! Instead there are wars and rumors of wars, hatred, injustice, and fear. All of which engender anything but peace.

Thankfully, Yeshua came to bring peace to the world.

Luke 2:12-14 (KJV)
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Although He did come to bring peace, that peace has not overtaken the world, at least not yet. That overriding peace must wait until His second coming and His kingdom.

Isaiah 2:4 (KJV)
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Yet, the believer, upon salvation, does receive peace with God.

Philippians 4:7 (KJV)
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

But peace with man is another thing altogether.

Matthew 10:34-35 (KJV)
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

In many ways, this is the hardest aspect of becoming a believer. Not only do we gain enemies in the world around us, but often we are at odds with our families and friends. This is a difficult road to travel on. Yet, we must travel it, if we are to be saved and receive eternal life. And although the going is rough, the end result is far above any difficulties that we may experience in this life. Yeshua is worth it!

Be encouraged! There will be total peace one day!