Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Romans 12:9-15 - Exhortations

Paul continued with his thoughts on how believers are to live.

Romans 12:9-15 (KJV)
9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Believers are to love truthfully without being artificial (verse 9). They are to hate what is evil and to cling to that which is good. They are to be loving and kind (verse 10). They are to give preference to others. In business believers are not to be lazy (verse 11). They are to serve the Lord fervently in the spirit. They are to rejoice in hope, in the assurance of God's promises and His gospel message (verse 12). Believers are to be patient in trials and tribulation and they are to persevere in prayer. Believers are to provide help with the physical needs of other believers (verse 13). They are to be hospitable. Believers are to bless those that persecute them, to treat their persecutors well and not curse them (verse 14). Finally, believers are to rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep (verse 15).

Paul's exhortations, straight from Yeshua's heart and the Torah, reflect the life that believers are to live. In summary, Paul urged the believers to be righteous in their personal behavior, to show love to their fellow believers by caring for them and by sympathizing with them. Regarding all men, the believers are to give preference to others rather than themselves and to treat even persecutors with kindness. Ultimately, believers are to be engaged in the work of the Lord, to be patient in tribulation, and to be in prayer continually. These exhortations, although essential, are only accomplished by the help of the Holy Spirit. Stay tuned for part 2!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Be Ye Holy

Have your children ever embarrassed you by something that they either said or did? Probably most parents have experienced this, although with growth and maturity, we hope that our children will come to understand what is acceptable behavior. This is a part of growing up and becoming more adult like. As parents we try to model good behavior, and our children respond by emulating what we do.

This process of growth through emulation takes place in the believers' lives as well. Yeshua is our master, our savior, and our God. If we want to grow to be like Him, we must emulate Him. Although we can look to the Gospels for His examples, we also find behavioral advice throughout God's Word.

1 Peter 1:15-16 (KJV)
15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

When Peter penned these two verses, he was talking about our emulating God. Because God is holy, his people, the believers, are to be holy also. Specifically, verse 15 talks about our being holy in our manner of conversation. This is King James' talk for being holy in our conduct. Although our thoughts do matter, it is our behavior that shows what is going on in our minds. His readers had come out of paganism and self-centered ignorant behavior that didn't please God. Instead Peter advised them to be holy as God is holy. But Peter was not the originator of this concept. He was quoting from three separate places in the Old Testament.

Leviticus 11:44 (KJV)
44 For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Leviticus 19:2 (KJV)
2 Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 20:7 (KJV)
7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.

Although Peter was able to write about behaviors that were considered holy, he used the quotes from the Old Testament to remind his readers about the contexts of the three verses from which he quoted. God had already stated what constituted holy behavior. Let's examine what God said in Leviticus about holy behaviors.

Obviously, from Leviticus 11:44 we can see that holy actions included not defiling oneself by eating creeping things. However, the whole chapter 11 of Leviticus is about what constitutes food and what doesn't. For example, according to God, eating pork is not how believers behave in an holy manner.

Leviticus 19 is about revering one's father and mother, keeping of Sabbaths, and other laws. Apparently, holy behavior consists of reverence for parents and the observance of the seventh day Sabbath.

Leviticus 20 is about maintaining sexual purity. Again, God had already declared what behaviors were holy and what were not. Peter was simply reminding his readers.

Too often as we read the Bible, we see all the wonderful quotes that the New Testament writers have used, but we don't look back to see what God had already said regarding a matter. This has led to misunderstandings and incorrect theologies. Until we begin to follow the threads written through both New and Old Testaments we will continue to call holy behavior unholy, and unholy behavior holy. It is only through correcting this, that we will know how to emulate our master Yeshua, and not be an embarrassment to Him.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Romans 12:3-8 Faith and Gifts

Believers in Messiah Yeshua are to be living sacrifices, transformed by the renewing of their minds. How are they to live this out?

Romans 12:3-8 (KJV)
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

The term living sacrifices from verse 1 of Romans should connote selfless living, a living for God. Yet immediately following, Paul admonished his readers to not think more highly of themselves than they ought to think (verse 3). Obviously, human nature tends to self-aggrandizement, even in the face of being a sacrifice! How well Paul knew his audience!

Instead, believers are to think soberly with sound judgment about themselves according to the measure of faith given by God. In other words, the gift of faith that God gives His born again believers is to be used in understanding themselves correctly and not in being puffed up with pride.  For just like the human body, which is made up of many parts but have differing purposes (verse 4), the body of Messiah is made up of many individuals that function together (verse 5) but have differing gifts given by God's grace (verse 6). If prophecy is the believer's gift, he should prophesy. If his (or her) gift is ministry (service), he should minister (verse 7). If his gift is teaching, he should teach. If his gift is exhortation, he should exhort (verse 8). If his gift is giving, he should give with simplicity (liberality). If his gift is ruling, he should rule with diligence. If his gift is mercy, he should be merciful with cheerfulness.

In other words, Paul realized that human nature causes even believers to think they should have the most important jobs and the most prestige. Instead, he cautioned the believers to discern their gifts soberly, and then with the faith they are given, use their gifts, whether great or small. Oddly, there are also some believers who, through a false humility, never use the greater gifts that they have been given. So Paul was not saying that God gives differing amounts of faith, but rather differing gifts that are to be carried out by the faith given. How often do believers "feel" a lack of faith, and fail to use their gifts? The problem is not that the faith isn't there, even a mustard seed's worth can move mountains, but that believers don't use or realize what they have. Let's commit today to using our faith and gifts to the best of our abilities!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Romans 12:1-2 A Living Sacrifice

After finishing his discussion on God's plan for the Jews, Paul began speaking on how believers should live in light of what God has done for them.

Romans 12:1-2 (KJV)
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Because of God's great mercies, Paul begged his readers to present their bodies to God as living sacrifices, which were to be set apart and acceptable to God (verse 1). This is the believers' reasonable service. After all that God has done, believers should feel a duty and loyalty to Him.

How can believers do this? By not being conformed to the world and its standards, but by being transformed by the renewing of the mind (verse 2). As God works in the hearts and lives of His people, they are no longer the same. They are new creatures.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Then in the renewing of their minds, believers will come to know the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.

However, let's be honest. Do believers today exemplify this exhortation from Paul? The answer is probably not. Certainly, there are some who have taken Paul's plea to heart, but often it seems that the majority looks to the world rather than to God. Has God been replaced by the love of money, power, the latest technology, or pleasure? Have believers yielded their entire bodies, personalities, desires, etc. to God's transforming power, or are they adhering to exalting themselves? Has God swept out all the recesses and nooks in their minds and filled them with the desire for His will, or are they holding back parts of themselves?

Let's commit to truly becoming living sacrifices and let the renewing begin!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Romans 11:33-36 - God's Wisdom and Knowledge

Paul had last summed up his discussion on the salvation of the Jews by saying that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. God was not done with the Jewish people!

Romans 11:33-36 (KJV)
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Paul then nearly burst into a song of praise! He ended his thought about the Jewish people by praising God. In verse 33 he declared that the wisdom, knowledge, judgments, and ways of God are richly deep and are far beyond the understanding of man. For what human can know the mind of God, or be His counsellor (verse 34)?

Isaiah 40:13 (KJV)
13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?

What human could have first given anything to God and then expect anything back in the way of a debt (verse 35)?

Job 41:11 (KJV)
11 Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.

For all things that man has received has come from God, or through God, and all belong to Him (verse 36). May God be glorified forever! Amen!

God's plan of salvation came from His ultimate wisdom. Gentile believers lovingly are grafted into His family, while His chosen people, Israel, have not been forgotten. They will be grafted back in! Hallelu-yah!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Romans 11:27-32 - Irrevocable!

Paul had finally come to the climax of his discussion regarding the Jews in chapters 9-11. "All Israel will be saved."

Romans 11:27-32 (KJV)
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

Verse 27 continues the thought of verse 26. God, from the beginning, has been a covenant maker. His covenant people, Israel, shall again one day, as a nation, turn to Messiah Yeshua, when God will then take away their sins.
Yet, at the time of Paul's writing and on into today, the Jews (most of them) are enemies concerning the Gospel (verse 28). This situation was for the Gentile believers' sakes. However, the Jews are still God's beloved chosen people. They are beloved because of the patriarch's sakes. God had made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God would keep His word and fulfill those promises. They had been promised a land and a nation. According to verse 29 the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. In other words, His gifts and calling are irrevocable! God's honor is at stake. He cannot change what He promised. These gifts and calling for Israel cannot be changed, or God would not be trustworthy. He will do what He says.

Paul then related again historically, how the Gentiles had not believed in God (verse 30), but by the unbelief of the Jews, Gentiles have obtained mercy from God and have been saved. In the same way, by grace through faith, the Jews will once again obtain mercy and be saved (verse 31).

For both the Jews and the Gentiles have been in rebellion toward God (verse 32). By God's amazing grace He will show mercy on both groups!