Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Romans 15:8-12 - Yeshua's Ministry to the Jews

At this point Paul began to discuss the two reasons why Yeshua came as a minister to the Jews.

Romans 15:8-12 (KJV)
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.
12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.

Messiah Yeshua ministered to the Jews (the circumcision) on behalf of the truth of God, to confirm the promises that had been made to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (verse 8).

Genesis 12:1-2 (KJV)
1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

Yeshua, Himself, spoke plainly that He had come to minister to the Jews.

Matthew 15:24 (KJV)
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

However, Yeshua had not come only for the confirmation to the Jews that God would fulfill His promises, but He also came so that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy (verses 9-11). Paul then quoted from the Old Testament.

2 Samuel 22:50 (KJV)
50 Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name.

Deuteronomy 32:43 (KJV)
43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.

Psalm 117:1 (KJV)
1 O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

Then Paul quoted from Isaiah regarding the inclusion of Gentiles into the Kingdom of God (verse 12).

Isaiah 11:10 (KJV)
10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

The root of Jesse is Messiah Yeshua, who descended from David, the son of Jesse. The Gentiles would also be under the kingship of Messiah and they would trust in Him.

God's people are collectively called Israel, but throughout history, those who believed in Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile, were allowed entrance into that body. Although both Jews and Gentiles can belong, there is only one body, one Messiah, and one Law (instruction) for all.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Romans 15:1-7 - Edification and Harmony

Paul continued discussing the believers' responsibilities to each other.

Romans 15:1-7 (KJV)
1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

Paul summarized in verse 1. Believers, who are strong in faith, are to bear with the weaker in faith. They are not to choose their behaviors based on their own desires, but on the needs of the weaker. They are to please their neighbors based on what will edify (verse 2). Yeshua the Messiah was the ultimate example for believers. He didn't please Himself, but rather He took on Himself the reproaches that the rest of the world deserved (verse 3). Paul quoted from Psalms.

Psalm 69:9 (KJV)
9 For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.

For, those things that were written before in Scripture were written for the present time believers' learning, that through patience and the comfort of the Scriptures, they might have hope of the future final salvation (verse 4). Christians have a tendency to focus solely on the New Testament, much to their detriment. Yet, Paul demonstrated by all his many quotes, that the foundation of faith cannot exist apart from the Old Testament. It is the believer's comfort and source of understanding of eternal salvation.

Paul then blessed his readers (verse 5). May the God of patience and consolation grant the believers to be like minded with one another according to Messiah Yeshua, that with one mind and one mouth, they will glorify God, the Father of our Lord, Messiah Yeshua (verse 6). Therefore, may they receive one another as Messiah has received them to the glory of God (verse 7).

Paul's prayer was not only for the believers of his day, but for those in our day as well! May we live in harmony with fellow believers, practicing those things that will edify each other. May we, with patience and the comfort of the entire Bible, look forward to our final salvation. And may all our actions, thoughts and words, glorify God!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Romans 14:14-23 - Faith, Righteousness, Peace, and Joy

Paul had just admonished his readers not to be stumbling blocks to others. He continued.

Romans 14:14-23 (KJV)
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

In verse 14, Paul said that he was persuaded by Yeshua, that nothing was unclean of itself. Traditional Christianity has used this verse as a proof text that the food laws of the Torah are no longer applicable. But the context of the text, just like in verses 1-4, is not about the believer's ability to eat contrary to Torah, but about eating meat or vegetables. Therefore, Paul's argument is that meat that may have been offered to idols, in and of itself, was not unclean. What made it unclean was whether or not a believer thought that it was unclean. So, if a believer, thinking the meat was acceptable, served it to another believer who thought the meat was unclean, would cause his brother to sin (to be destroyed in the KJV) if he ate the meat (verse 15). The first believer would not have behaved in a charitable way to his brother.

Paul again stated that the use of liberty, which is a good thing, should not be used in the wrong way (verse 16). For, the kingdom of God is not about liberty in meat or drink, but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (verse 17). Believers are to think first of others and by doing so, serve Messiah, and are acceptable to God and approved by men (verse 18).

In verse 19 Paul concluded that believers are to follow after the things that make for peace and edification between each other, instead of destroying the work of God over meat. Although, the meat may be perfectly clean, it is sin for the one who believes otherwise (verse 20). It isn't good to eat meat, drink wine, or anything else that will cause a brother to stumble, or to be offended, or to be made weak (verse 21).

If the believer has the faith and understanding that the meat is acceptable, he is to keep that between himself and God (verse 22). Blessed is the believer that doesn't condemn himself over his liberty.

And the one who doubts the acceptability of the meat is condemned if he eats it, because he didn't eat it in faith (verse 23). Anything that is done contrary to one's faith is sin.

This is such a serious matter! The Jewish believers of Paul's day had come from strict adherence to all kinds of man made laws and the Gentile believers had come from all kinds of paganism, both of which were difficult to leave behind. Behaviors had to be weighed against their new faith and what they knew of God's Law. New freedoms were pridefully displayed, often at the expense of fellow believers. Today's Christians still struggle with the tension between liberty, things from one's past, and God's Law. Liberty often trumps the true righteousness of behavior that results in peace, joy, and edification of fellow believers. This should not be! Let's think first of others!

(Here is an example. There are differing opinions on the drinking of alcoholic beverages in the body of Messiah. Although, it may not be sinful, since there is no command against drinking except for drunkenness, others may be impacted negatively by the observance of drinking by a fellow believer. If a believer's actions caused another to drink something that was considered sinful, he or she has acted uncharitably towards a brother and has caused him to sin. This is a case where liberty was used inappropriately. It would have been better to have kept liberty to oneself and refrained from drinking.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Romans 14:10-13 - Being a Stumbling Block

Paul continued his thoughts on the weak and strong in faith.

Romans 14:10-13 (KJV)
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.

So, if believers are subject to their master Yeshua, why should believers judge one another (verse 10)? Or why would believers regard their brothers with contempt? They all must stand before the judgment seat of Messiah and be held accountable for their own actions.

For it is written in Isaiah (verse 11):

Isaiah 45:23 (KJV)
23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

Paul used this quote not to focus on the future day when all would come to understand that God is to be worshiped, but that all are accountable to God (verse 12). Therefore, believers are not to judge one another, but rather judge whether or not certain actions of theirs places a stumbling block in the way of another that will cause him or her to fall into sin (verse 13).

The context of these verses remains the same as in verses 1 through 9. Paul had been comparing a meat diet versus a vegetarian diet. But since each believer is accountable to God, whether one eats meat (that was offered to idols) or not, is between him and God. It is not for anyone else to judge. This was not a passage to be used to denounce all judgment. Believers have an obligation to judge sin based on God's standard in His Word. Therefore, Paul again was not talking about actions prohibited by God's Torah, but other actions, like the eating of meat or not, that are not prohibited in the Torah.

Often, the decision on an action's appropriateness (after determining its Torah-acceptability) is based on whether or not the action could cause another to fall into actual or perceived sin. If by eating meat offered to an idol the believer caused another to then eat the same meat, thinking that that might be sinful, the believer has placed a stumbling block in front of another. Believers must take into consideration how their actions affect others. Too often, believers use their "Christian liberty" to boast about all kinds of actions that cause others trouble. They stand on their "rights." But according to Paul, believers do not have any such rights. These verses denounce this kind of behavior. Again, believers must think of their own actions in light of their affect on others!