I am inspired by Paul’s words to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:18-35. He said he was going to Jerusalem “bound in the spirit” (verse 22); he had made himself a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. He didn't know what would happen when he got there except for "chains and tribulations." He says in verse 24, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Paul wasn't moved by any present circumstances or trials; the only thing that moved him was the will of God to so he could finish what God called him to do. This is an example that we are all called to follow.
The law couldn't save us because it was “weak through the flesh;” we were not able to walk in righteousness in our own ability. Instead, God removed our sin by Jesus Christ (See 8:3). He has now given us His Spirit and a new nature and calls us to walk in that new nature by faith. We are not “debtors to the flesh” any longer; we are not slaves to it (we don’t owe our flesh anything). The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead gives life to us so we can put to death all the works of the flesh.
Paul writes about the Israelite's in Romans 9:4-5: “To them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises. To the Israelite's belong the patriarchs, and from them, the Messiah descended…” Everything that we have today as children of God is because of what God did through Israel (the promises He gave them and Messiah being born through them, etc). Unbelieving Israel is like olive branches that have been broken off because of their unbelief (see Rom. 11:20). Believing Gentiles are likened to "wild olive branches" grafted into the salvation promised Israel. If an Israelite believes in Messiah, he will easily be grafted into “their own olive tree” (see Rom. 11:24). With this in mind, he councils us Gentiles in Romans 11:18: “do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.” Gentile Christians have not replaced Israel as some have claimed; every promise God made to Israel, is to Israel. Gentles have been grafted in because of God’s mercy, and to provoke unbelieving Israel to godly jealousy.
Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God” in Matthew 5:9; to called a “son of God” in this context means you are displaying His character. As you read Romans 12:14-21 you can get a clearer picture of what it really means to be a “peacemaker.” Look at each verse and see how you can apply the principles to your life. Note: to “bless” in verse 14 means to “speak well of” and to “curse,” in context, means to speak evil of.
I think the main theme of chapters 4 & 5 can be summed up with the two verses in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Our righteousness and salvation comes by grace apart from our works. This is what Romans 4:5 is speaking of when it says, “the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” With this in mind, Paul asks and answers the question people are bound to ask in Romans 6:1-4: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” The story goes like this… We saw we were lost in sin and needed a Savior; we believed Jesus died and rose for our sins and we confessed Him as Lord. We couldn’t earn any part of our salvation, but if we don’t repent of the sin Jesus died to save us from, we don’t really have faith. Repentance isn’t earning our salvation; it is corresponding actions to our faith. When we were baptized into Christ, we became new creations with a new nature that has righteousness dwelling in it. As we renew our thinking, the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead will empower us to walk as He walks.
In chapter 7, we see a lot of different kinds of “laws.” There is “the law,” which refers to the written Law of God. In the other two uses of the word law, we could use the word “influence” or “controlling factor” to clarify the meaning of the word in context. There is the “law of the mind,” which refers to the influence our mind has when we have made a decision to live in a certain way. The law of sin will war against the law of our mind and we can find our self living in a way we had previously decided that we were not going to live. What hope do we have then? The answer is in Romans 8:2: “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Just making a right decision (the law of the mind) isn’t enough; it takes the power of His Spirit in our spirit empowering us to make us free from sin. Only the “law of the spirit,” not the “law of the mind,” can truly free us from sin.
The Gospel of Christ is the “power of God to salvation for everyone who believes;” for Jew and Gentile alike, it is the only means of salvation. Paul makes it clear from the beginning of his letter, righteousness only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Look at Romans 1:17 in the Amplified version “For in the Gospel a righteousness which God ascribes is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed through the way of faith that arouses to more faith]. As it is written, The man who through faith is just and upright shall live and shall live by faith.”
In Romans 1:28-32 Paul shows how the Gentiles (non-Jews) have erred by suppressing the truth and have gone into sin. Chapter 2 shows how the Jews, who had the Law (God’s righteous standard), did not keep the Law and are under sin just as the Gentiles. The Jews had a great advantage having the “oracles of God” (See 3:1-2), but “we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). Romans 3:20 says “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified;” this is true before we have faith in Jesus and after.
Read Romans 3:23-26 one more time out of the New Living Translation:
“23) For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24) Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25) For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26) for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”
Read through the Bible with us in 2012! The reading plan can be downloaded below; we are reading in chronological order. Check back often to read the blog posts on the Bible readings and discuss things in the "comments" section.
2012 Bible Plan