Romans Bible Study Archives

Romans 1

1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-- 2the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:1-7

Explanation:

1:1    Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome.  Neither he nor the other church leaders, James and Peter, had yet been to Rome.   Most likely, the Roman church had been established by believers who had been at Jerusalem for Pentecost and travelers who had heard the Good News in other places and had brought it back to Rome.  Paul wrote the letter to the Romans during his ministry in Corinth just before returning to Jerusalem, to encourage the believers and to express his desire to visit them someday.  The Roman church had no New Testament because the Gospels were not yet being circulated in their final written form.  Thus, this letter may well have been the first piece of Christian literature the Roman believers had seen.  Written to both Jewish and Gentile Christians, the letter to the Romans is a systematic presentation of the Christian faith. When Paul, a devout Jew who had at first persecuted the Christians, became a believer, God used him to spread the gospel throughout the world.  Although it was as a prisoner, Paul did eventually preach in Rome, perhaps even to Caesar himself.  Paul humbly calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ and an apostle.  For a Roman citizen---which Paul was---to choose to be a servant was unthinkable.  But Paul chose to be completely dependent on and obedient to his beloved Master.  What is your attitude toward Christ, your Master?  Our willingness to serve and obey Jesus Christ enables us to be useful and usable servants to do work for him--work that really matters.

1:2   Some of the prophecies predicting the Good News regarding Jesus Christ are Genesis 12:3, Psalms 16:10,40:6-10,118:22, Isaiah 11:1, Zechariah 9:9-11, 12:10, Malachi 4:1-6.

1:3, 4   Paul states that Jesus is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, and the resurrected Lord.  Paul calls Jesus a descendant of King David to emphasize that Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures predicting that the Messiah would come from David's line.  With this statement of faith, Paul declares his agreement with the teaching of all Scripture and of the apostles.

1:3-5   Here Paul summarizes the Good News about Jesus Christ, who came as a human by natural descent, was part of the Jewish royal line through David, died and was raised from the dead, and opened the door for God's grace and kindness to be poured out on us.  The book of Romans is an expansion of these themes.

1:5, 6   Christians have both privilege and a great responsibility.  Paul and the apostles received forgiveness as an undeserved privilege.  But they also received the responsibility to share the message of God's forgiveness with others.  God also graciously forgives our sins when we believe in him as Lord.  In doing this, we are committing ourselves to begin a new life.  Paul's new life also involved a God-given responsibility--to witness about God's Good News to the world as a missionary.  God may or may not call you to be an overseas missionary, but he does call you to witness to and be an example of the changed life that Jesus Christ has begun in you.

1:6-12   Paul showed his love for the Roman Christians by expressing God's love for them and his own gratitude and prayers for them.  To have an effect on people's lives, you first need to love them and believe in them.  Paul's passion to teach these people began with his love for them.  Thank God for your Christian brothers and sisters, and let them know how deeply you care for them.

1:7   Rome was the capital of the Roman empire that had spread over most of Europe, North Africa, and the Near East.  In New Testament times, Rome was experiencing a golden age.  The city was wealthy, literary, and artistic.  It was a cultural center, but it was morally decadent.  The Romans worshiped many pagan gods, and even some of the emperors were worshiped.  In stark contrast to the Romans, the followers of Christ believed in only one God and lived by his high moral standards.  Christianity was at odds with the Roman' dependence on military strength.  Many Romans were naively pragmatic, believing that any means to accomplish the intended task was good.  And for them, nothing worked better than physical might.  The Romans trusted in their strong military power to protect them against all enemies.  Christians in every age need to be reminded that God is the only permanent source of our security and salvation, and at the same time he is "our Father"!

8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
11I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong-- 12that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. 13I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.
14I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.
 

Romans 1:8-15

Explanation:

1:8  Paul uses the phrase "I thank my God through Jesus Christ" to emphasize the point that Christ is the one and only mediator between God and humans.  Through Christ, God sends his love and forgiveness to us; through Christ, we send our thanks to God.  The Roman Christians, at the Western world's political power center, were highly visible.  Fortunately, their reputation was excellent; their strong faith was making itself known around the world.  When people talk about your congregation or your denomination, what do they say?  Are their comments accurate?  What is the best way to get the public to recognize your faith?

1:9, 10   When you pray continually about a concern, don't be surprised at how God answers.  Paul prayed to visit Rome so he could teach the Christians there.  When he finally arrived in Rome, it was as a prisoner.  Paul prayed for a safe trip, and he did arrive safely--after getting arrested, slapped in the face, shipwrecked, and bitten by a poisonous snake.  God's ways of answering our prayers are often far from what we expect.  When you sincerely pray, God will answer--although sometimes with timing and in ways you do not expect.

1:11, 12   Paul prayed for the chance to visit these Christians so that he could encourage them with his gift of faith and be encouraged by theirs.  As God's missionary, he could help them understand the meaning of the Good News about Jesus.  As God's devoted people, they could offer him fellowship and comfort.  When Christians gather, everyone should give and receive.  Our mutual faith gives us a common language and a common purpose for encouraging one another.

1:13  By the end of his third missionary journey, Paul had traveled through Syria, Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia.  The churches in these areas were made up mostly of Gentile believers.

1:14, 15   By "Greeks and non-Greeks" Paul was referring to those of the Greek culture and those not of the Greek culture. "The wise and the foolish" refers to educated and uneducated people.  What was Paul's obligation?  After his experience with Christ on the road to Damascus, his whole life was consumed with spreading the Good News of salvation.  His obligation was to Christ for being his Savior, and he was obligated to the entire world.  He met his obligation by proclaiming Christ's salvation to all people--both Jews and Gentiles, across all cultural, social, racial, and economic lines.  We are also obligated to Christ because he took on the punishment we deserve for our sin.  Although we cannot repay Christ for all he has done, we can demonstrate our gratitude by showing his love to others.

16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Romans 1:16-17

Explanation:

1:16   Paul was not ashamed because his message was the gospel of Christ, the Good News.  It was a message of salvation, it had life-changing power, and it was for everyone.  When you are tempted to be ashamed, remember what the Good News is all about.  If you focus on God and on what God is doing in the world rather than on your own inadequacy, you won't be ashamed or embarrassed.  Why did the message go to the Jews first?  They had been God's special people for more than 2,000 years ever since God chose Abraham and promised great blessings to his descendants.  God did not choose the Jews because they deserved to be chosen, but because he wanted to show his love and mercy to them, teach them, and prepare them to welcome his Messiah into the world.  God chose them not to play favorites, but so that they would tell the world about his plan of salvation.  For centuries the Jews had been learning about God by obeying his laws, keeping his feasts, and living according to his moral principles.  Often they would forget God's promises and requirements; often they would have to be disciplined; but still they had a precious heritage of belief in the one true God.  Of all the people on earth, the Jews should have been the most ready to welcome the Messiah and to understand his mission and message--and some of them were.  Of course, the disciples and the great apostle Paul were faithful Jews who recognized in Jesus God's most precious gift to the human race.  Jews and Christians alike stood against the idolatrous Roman religions, and Roman officials often confused the two groups.  This was especially easy to do since the Christian church in Rome could have been originally composed of Jewish converts who had attended the Feast of Pentecost.  By the time Paul wrote this letter to the Romans, however, many Gentiles had joined the church.  The Jews and the Gentiles needed to know the relationship between Judaism and Christianity.

1:17   The gospel shows us both how righteous God is in his plan for us to be saved, and also how we may be made fit for eternal life.  By trusting Christ, our relationship with God is made right.  From first to last God declares us to be righteous because of faith and faith alone.  Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4.  Habakkuk may have understood "will live" to mean this present life only.  But Paul extends this statement to include eternal life.  As we trust God, we are saved; we find life both now and forever.

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Romans 1:18-23

Explanation:

1:18    Why is God angry at sinful people?  Because they have substituted the truth about him wit a fantasy of their own imagination.  They have stifled the truth God naturally reveals to all people in order to believe anything that supports their own self-centered life-styles.  God cannot tolerate sin because his nature is morally perfect.  He cannot ignore or condone such willful rebellion.  God wants to remove the sin and restore the sinner--and he is able to as long as the sinner does not stubbornly distort or reject the truth.  But his anger erupts against those who persist in sinning.  Make sure you are not pursuing a fantasy rather than the true God.  Don't suppress the truth about him merely to protect your own life-style. 

1:18-20   Does anyone have an excuse for not believing in God?  The Bible answers an emphatic no.  God has revealed what he is like in and through his creation.  Every person, therefore, either accepts or rejects God.  Don't be fooled.  When the day comes for God to judge your response to him, no excuses will be accepted.  Begin today to give your devotion and worship to him.  In these verses, Paul answers a common objection:  How could a loving God send anyone to hell, especially someone who has never heard about Christ?  In fact, says Paul, God has revealed himself plainly in the creation to all people.  And yet people reject even this basic knowledge of God.  Also, everyone has an inner sense of what God requires, but they choose not to live up to it.  Put another way, people's moral standards are always better than their behavior.  If people suppress God's truth in order to live their won way, they have no excuse.  They know the truth, and they will have to endure the consequences of ignoring it.  Some people wonder why we need missionaries if people can know about God through nature (the creation).  The answer:  (1) Although people know that God exists, they suppress that truth by their wickedness and thus refuse a relationship with him.  Missionaries sensitively expose their error and point them to a new beginning.  (2) Although people may believe there is a God, they refuse to commit themselves to him.  Missionaries help persuade them, both through loving words and caring actions.  (3)  Missionaries convince people who reject God of the dangerous consequences of their actions.  (4)  Missionaries help the church obey the Great Commission of our Lord.  (5) Most important, though nature reveals God, people need to be told about Jesus and how, through him, they can have a personal relationship with God.  Knowing that God exists is not enough.  People must learn that God is loving.  They must understand what he did to demonstrate his love for us.  They must be shown how to accept God's forgiveness of their sins.

1:20  What kind of God does nature reveal?  Nature shows us a God of might, intelligence, and intricate detail; a God of order and beauty; a God who controls powerful forces.  That is general revelation.  Through special revelation (the Bible and the coming of Jesus) we learn about God's love and forgiveness, and the promise of eternal life.  God has graciously given us both sources that we might fully believe in him.  God reveals his divine nature and personal qualities through creation, even though creation's testimony has been distorted by the fall.  Adam's sin resulted in a divine curse upon the whole natural order; thorns and thistles were an immediate result, and natural disasters have been common from Adam's day to ours. In Romans 8:18-21 Paul says that nature itself is eagerly awaiting its own redemption from the effects of sin.

1:21-23  How could intelligent people turn to idolatry? Idolatry begins when people reject what they know about God.  Instead of looking to him as the Creator and sustainer of life, they see themselves as the center of the universe.  They soon invent gods that are convenient projections or their own selfish plans and decrees.  These gods may be wooden figures, but they may also be goals or things we pursue such as money, power, or comfort.  They may even be misrepresentations of God himself--making God in our image, instead of the reverse.  The common denominator is this--idolaters worship the things God made rather than God himself.  Is there anything you feel you can't live without?  Is there any priority greater than God?  Do you have a dream you would sacrifice everything to realize?  Does God take first place?  Do you worship God or idols of your own making?

1:23   When Paul says that men exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of birds, animals, and reptiles, he seems to deliberately state man's wickedness in the terms used in the Genesis narrative of Adam's fall (see Genesis 1:20-26).  When we worship the creature instead of the Creator, we lose sight of our own identity as those who are higher than the animals--made in the image of God.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.
26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1:24-32

Explanation:

1:24-32   Theses people choose to reject God, and God allowed them to do it.  God does not usually stop us from making choices that are against his will.  He lets us declare our supposed independence from him, even though he knows that in time we will become slaves to our own rebellious choices--we will lose our freedom not to sin.  Does life without God look like freedom to you?  Look more closely.  There is no worse slavery than slavery to sin.

1:25   People tend to believe lies that reinforce their own selfish, personal beliefs.  Today, more than ever, we need to be careful about the input we allow to form our beliefs.  With TV, music, movies, and the rest of the media often presenting sinful life-styles and unwholesome values, we find ourselves constantly bombarded by attitudes and beliefs that are totally opposed to the Bible.  Be careful about what you allow to form your opinions.  The Bible is the only standard of truth.  Evaluate all other opinions in light of its teachings.

1:26, 27  God's plan for natural sexual relationships is his ideal for his creation.  Unfortunately, sin distorts the natural use of God's gifts.  Sin often means not only denying God, but also denying the way we are made.  When people say that any sex act is acceptable as long as nobody gets hurt, they are fooling themselves.  In the long run (and often in the short run) sin hurts people--individuals, families, whole societies.  How sad it is that people who worship the things God made instead of the Creator so often distort and destroy the very things they claim to value.  Homosexuality (to exchange or abandon natural relations of sex) was as widespread in Paul's day as it is in ours. Many pagan practices encouraged it>  God is willing to receive anyone who comes to him in faith, and Christians should love and accept others no matter what their background.  Yet, homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Scripture (Leviticus 18:22).  Homosexuality is considered an acceptable practice by many in our world today--even by some churches.  But society does not set the standard for God's law.  Many homosexuals believe that their desires are normal and that they have a right to express them.  But God does not obligate nor encourage us to fulfill all our desires (even normal ones), those desires that violate his laws must be controlled.  If you have these desires, you can and must resist acting upon them.  Consciously avoid places or activities you know will kindle temptations of this kind.  Don't underestimate the power of Satan to tempt you, nor the potential for serious harm if you yield to these temptations.  Remember, God can and will forgive sexual sins just as he forgives other sins.  Surrender yourself to the grace and mercy of God, asking him to show you the way out of sin and into the light of his freedom and his love.  Prayer, Bible study, and strong support in a Christian church can help you to gain strength to resist these powerful temptations.  If you are already deeply involved in homosexual behavior, seek help from a trustworthy, professional, pastoral counselor.

1:32   How were these people aware of God's death penalty?  Human beings, created in God's image, have a basic moral nature and a conscience.  This truth is understood beyond religious circles.  Psychologists, for example, say that the rare person who has no conscience, has a serious personality disorder that is extremely difficult to treat.  Most people instinctively know when they do wrong--but they may not care.  Some people will even risk an early death for the freedom to indulge their desires now.  "I know it's wrong, but I really want it" they say, or "I know it's dangerous, but it's worth the risk."  For such people, part of the "fun" is going against God's law, the community's moral standards, common sense, or their own sense of right and wrong.  But deep down inside they know that sin deserves the punishment of death (6:23).

1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? 4Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
5But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6God "will give to each person according to what he has done." 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11For God does not show favoritism.

Romans 2:1-11

Explanation:

2:1    Whenever we find ourselves feeling justifiably angry about someone's sin, we should be careful.  We need to speak out against sin, but we must do so in a spirit of humility.  Often the sins we notice most clearly in others are the ones that have taken root in us.  If we look closely at ourselves, we may find that we are committing the same sins in more socially acceptable forms.  For example, a person who gossips may be very critical of others who gossip about him or her.  When Paul's letter was read in the Roman church, no doubt many heads nodded as he condemned idol worshipers, homosexual practices, and violent people.  But what surprise his listeners must have felt when he turned on them and said in effect, "You have no excuse.  You are just as bad!"  Paul was emphatically stressing that nobody is good enough to save himself or herself.  If we want to avoid punishment and live eternally with Christ, all of us, whether we have been murderers and molesters or whether we have been honest, hardworking, solid citizens, must depend totally on God's grace.  Paul is not discussing whether some sins are worse than others.  Any sin is enough to lead us to depend on Jesus Christ for salvation and eternal life.  We have all sinned repeatedly, and there is no way apart from Christ to be saved from sin's consequences.

2:4   In his kindness, God holds back his judgment, giving people time to repent.  It is easy to mistake God's patience for approval of the wrong way we are living.  Self-evaluation is difficult, and it is even more difficult to expose our conduct to God and let him tell us where we need to change.  But as Christians we must pray constantly that God will point out our sins, so that he can heal them.  Unfortunately, we are more likely to be amazed at God's patience with others than humbled at his patience with us.

2:5-11   Although God does not usually punish us immediately for sin, his eventual judgment is certain.  We don't know exactly when it will happen, but we know that no one will escape that final encounter with the Creator.  For more information on judgment, see John 12:48 and Revelation 20:11-15.

2:7    Paul says that those who patiently and persistently do God's will find eternal life.  He is not contradicting his previous statement that salvation comes by faith alone.(1:16-17)  We are not saved by good deeds, but when we commit our lives fully to God, we want to please him and do his will.  As such, our good deeds are a grateful response to what God has done, not a prerequisite to earning his grace.

12All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Romans 2:12-16

Explanation:

2:12-15   People are condemned not only for what they don't know, but for what they do with all they know.  Those who know God's written Word and his law will be judged by them.  Those who have never seen a Bible still know right from wrong, and they will be judged because they did not keep even those standards that their own consciences dictated.  Our modern-day sense of fair play and the rights of the individual often balks at God's judgment.  But keep in mind that people violate the very standards they create for themselves.  If you traveled around the world, you would find evidence in every society and culture of God's moral law.  For example, all cultures prohibit murder, and yet in all societies that law has been broken.  We belong to a stubborn race.  We know what's right, but we insist on doing what's wrong.  It is not enough to know what's right; we must also do it.  Admit to yourself and to God that you fit the human pattern and frequently fail to live up to your own standards (much more to God's standards).  That's the first step to forgiveness and healing.

17Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth-- 21you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."
25Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
28A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

Romans 2:17-29

Explanation:

2:17  Paul continues to argue that all stand guilty before God.  After describing the fate of the unbelieving, pagan Gentiles, he moves to that of the religiously privileged.  Despite their knowledge of God's will, they are guilty because they too have refused to live by their beliefs.  Those of us who have grown up in Christian families are the religiously privileged of today.  Paul's condemnation applies to us if we do not live up to what we know.

2:21, 22   Paul explained to the Jews that they needed to teach themselves, not others, by their law.  They knew the law so well that they had learned how to excuse their own actions while criticizing others.  But the law is more than legalistic minimum requirements--it is a guideline for living according to God's will.  It is also a reminder that we cannot please God without a proper relationship to him.  As Jesus pointed out, even withholding what rightfully belongs to someone else is stealing (Mark 7:9-13), and looking on another person with lustful, adulterous intent is adultery (Matthew 5:27, 28).  Before we accuse others, we must look at ourselves and see if that sin, in any form, exists within us.

2:21-27   These verses are a scathing criticism of hypocrisy.  It is much easier to tell others how to behave than to behave properly ourselves.  It is easier to say the right words than to allow them to take root in our lives.  Do you ever advise others to do something you are unwilling to do yourself?  Make sure that your actions match your words.

2:24   If you claim to be one of God's people, your life should reflect what God is like.  When you disobey God, you dishonor his name.  People may even blaspheme of profane God's name because of you.  What do people think about God from watching your life?

2:25-29   Circumcision refers to the sign of God's special covenant with his people.  Submitting to this rite was required for all Jewish males (Genesis 17:9-14).  According to Paul, being a Jew (being circumcised) meant nothing if the person didn't obey God's laws.  On the other hand, the Gentiles (the uncircumcised) would receive God's love and approval if they kept the law's requirements.  Paul goes on to explain that a real Jew (one who pleases God) is not someone who has been circumcised (a Jew outwardly), but someone whose heart is right with God and obeys him (a Jew inwardly).

2:28, 29  To be a Jew meant you were in God's family, an heir to all his promises.  Yet Paul made it clear that membership in God's family is based on internal, not external, qualities.  All whose hearts are right with God are real Jews--that is, part of God's family (see also Galatians 3:7).  Attending church or being baptized, confirmed, or accepted for membership is not enough, just as submitting to circumcision was not enough for the Jews.  God desired our heartfelt devotion and obedience.  (See also Deuteronomy 10:16;  Jeremiah 4:4 for more on circumcision of the heart.)

1What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.
3What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? 4Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written:
   "So that you may be proved right when you speak
       and prevail when you judge."[1]
5But if our unrighteousness brings out God's righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7Someone might argue, "If my falsehood enhances God's truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?" 8Why not say--as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say--"Let us do evil that good may result"? Their condemnation is deserved.

Romans 3:1-8

Explanation:

3:1   In this chapter Paul contends that everyone stands guilty before God.  Paul has dismantled the common excuses of people who refuse to admit they are sinners:  (1) There is no God or I follow my conscience  (2) I'm not as bad as other people  (3)  I'm a church member or I'm a religious person.  No one will be exempt from God's judgment on sin.  Every person must accept that he or she is sinful and condemned before God.  Only then can we understand and receive God's wonderful gift of salvation.   What a depressing picture Paul is painting!  All of us--pagan, Gentiles, humanitarians, and religious people--are condemned by our own actions.  The law, which God gave to show the way to live, holds up our evil deeds to public view.  Is there any hope for us?  Yes says Paul.  The law condemns us, it is true, but the law is not the basis of our hope.  God himself is.  He, in his righteousness and wonderful love, offers us eternal life.  We receive our salvation not through law but through faith in Jesus Christ.  We do not--cannot--earn it; we accept it as a gift from our loving heavenly Father.

3:2    The Jewish nation had many advantages.  (1) They were entrusted with God's laws (Exodus 19, 20; Deuteronomy 4:8).  (2) They were the race through whom the Messiah came to earth (Isaiah 11:1-10; Matthew 1:1-17).   (3)  They were the beneficiaries of covenants with God himself (Genesis 17:1-16; Exodus 19:3-6).  But these privileges did not make them better than anyone else.  In fact, because of them the Jews were even more responsible to live up to God's requirements.

3:5-8   Some may think they don't have to worry about sin because (1) It's God's job to forgive;  (2) God is so loving that he won't judge us; (3) sin isn't so bad--it teaches us valuable lessons, or (4) we need to stay in touch with the culture around us.  It is far too easy to take God's grace for granted.  But God cannot overlook sin.  Sinners, no matter how many excuses they make, will have to answer to God for their sin.

9What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10As it is written:
   "There is no one righteous, not even one;
        11there is no one who understands,
       no one who seeks God.
    12All have turned away,
       they have together become worthless;
   there is no one who does good,
       not even one."
    13"Their throats are open graves;
       their tongues practice deceit."
   "The poison of vipers is on their lips."
        14"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
    15"Their feet are swift to shed blood;
        16ruin and misery mark their ways,
    17and the way of peace they do not know."
        18"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

Romans 3:9-20

Explanation:

3:10-18    Paul is referring to Psalm 14:1-3. There is no one righteous means no one is innocent.  Every person is valuable in God's eyes because God created us in his image and he loves us.  But no one is righteous (that is no one can earn right standing with God).   Though valuable, we have fallen into sin.  Bit God, through Jesus his Son, has redeemed us and offers to forgive us if we return to him in faith.

3:10-18    Paul uses these Old Testament references to show that humility in general, in its present sinful condition, is unacceptable before God.  Have you ever thought to yourself, Well I'm not too bad.  I'm a pretty good person?  Look at these verses and see if any of them apply to you.  Have you ever lied?  Have you ever hurt someone's feelings by your words of tone of voice?  Are you bitter toward anyone?  Do you become angry with those who strongly disagree with you?  In thought, word, and deed you, like everyone else in the world, stand guilty before God.  We must remember who we are in his sight--alienated sinners.  Don't deny that you are a sinner.  Instead, allow your desperate need to point yourself toward Christ.

3:19   The last time someone accused you of wrongdoing, what was your reaction?  Denial, argument, and defensiveness?  The Bible tells us the world stands silent and accountable before Almighty God.  No excuses or arguments are left.  Have you reached the point with God where you are ready to hang up your defenses and await his decision?  If you haven't, stop now and admit your sin to him.  If you have, the next few verses in Romans are truly good news for you!

Righteousness Through Faith

21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

Romans 3:21-31

Explanation:

3:21, 31   In these verses we see two functions of God's law.  First, it shows us where we go wrong.  Because of the law, we know that we are helpless sinners and that we must come to Jesus Christ for mercy.  Second, the moral code revealed in the law can serve to guide our actions by holding up God's moral standards.  We do not earn salvation by keeping the law (no one except Christ ever kept or could keep God's law perfectly), but we do please God when our lives conform to his revealed will for us.

3:21-29   After all this bad news about our sinfulness and God's condemnation, Paul gives the wonderful news.  There is a way to be declared not guilty--by trusting Jesus Christ to take away our sins.  Trusting means putting our confidence in Christ to forgive our sins, to make us right with God, and to empower us to live the way he taught us.  God's solution is available to all of us regardless of our background or past behavior.

3:23   Some sins seem bigger than others because their obvious consequences are much more serious.  Murder, for example, seems to us to be worse than hatred, and adultery seems worse than lust.  But this does not mean that because we do lesser sins we deserve eternal life.  All sin makes us sinners, and all sin cuts us off from our holy God.  All sin, therefore, leads to death (because it disqualifies us from living with God), regardless of how great or small it seems.  Don't minimize "little" or overrate "big" sins.  They all separate us from God, but they all can be forgiven.

3:24   Justified means to be declared not guilty.  When a judge in a court of law declares the defendant not guilty, all the charges are removed from his record.  Legally, it is as if the person had never been accused.  When God forgives our sins, our record is wiped clean.  From his perspective, it is as though we had never sinned.  Redemption refers to Christ setting sinners free from slavery to sin.  In Old Testament times, a person's debts could result in his being sold as a slave.  The next of kin could redeem him--buy his freedom.  Christ purchased our freedom and the price was his life.

3:25  Christ is our sacrifice of atonement.  In other words, he died in our place, for our sins.  God is justifiably angry at sinners.  They have rebelled against him and cut themselves off from his life-giving power.  But God declares Christ's death to be the appropriate, designated sacrifice for our sin.  Christ then stands in our place, having paid the penalty of death for our sin, and he completely satisfies God's demands.  His sacrifice brings pardon, deliverance, and freedom.  What happened to people who lived before Christ came and died for sin?  If God condemned them, was he being unfair?  If he saved them, was Christ's sacrifice unnecessary?  Paul shows that God forgave all human sin at the cross of Jesus.  Old Testament believers looked forward in faith to Christ's coming and were saved, even though they did not know Jesus' name or the details of his earthly life.  Unlike the Old Testament believers, you know about the God who loved the world so much that he gave his own Son (John 3:16).  Have you put your trust in him?

3:27, 28   Most religions prescribe specific duties that must be performed to make a person acceptable to a god.  Christianity is unique in teaching that the good deeds we do will not make us right with God.  No amount of human achievement or progress in personal development will close the gap between God's moral perfection and our imperfect daily performance.  Good deeds are important, but they will not earn us eternal life.  We are saved only by trusting in what God has done for us. (see Ephesians 2:8-10)

3:28   Why does God save us by faith alone?  (1) Faith eliminates the pride of human effort, because faith is not a deed that we do.  (2) Faith exalts what God has done, not what people do.  (3) Faith admits that we can't keep the law or measure up to God's standards--we need help.  (4) Faith is based on our relationship with God, not our performance for God.

3:31   There were some misunderstandings between the Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome.  Worried Jewish Christians were asking Paul, "Does faith wipe out everything Judaism stands for?  Does it cancel our Scriptures, put an end to our customs, declare that God is no longer working through us?"  (This is essentially the question used to open chapter 3.)  Absolutely not  says Paul.  When we understand the way of salvation through faith, we understand the Jewish religion better.  We know why Abraham was chosen, why the law was given, why God worked patiently with Israel for centuries.  Faith does not wipe out the Old Testament.  Rather, it makes God's dealings with the Jewish people understandable.  In chapter 4, Paul will expand on this theme.

1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about--but not before God. 3What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
4Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
    7“Blessed are they
       whose transgressions are forgiven,
       whose sins are covered.
    8Blessed is the man
       whose sin the Lord will never count against him."

Romans 4:1-8

Explanation:

4:1-3   The Jews were proud to be called children of Abraham.  Paul uses Abraham as a good example of someone who was saved by faith.  By emphasizing faith, Paul is not saying that God's laws are unimportant but that it is impossible to be saved simply by obeying them.

4:4   This verse means that if a person could earn right standing with God by being good, the granting of that gift wouldn't be a free act;  it would be an obligation.  Our self-reliance is futile;  all we can do is cast ourselves on God's mercy and grace.

4:5   When some people learn that they are saved by God through faith, they start to worry.  Do I have enough faith , they wonder. Is my faith strong enough to save me.  These people miss the point.  It is Jesus Christ who saves us, not our feelings or actions, and he is strong enough to save us no matter how weak our faith is.  Jesus offers us salvation as a gift because he loves us, not because we have earned it through our powerful faith.  What, then, is the role of faith?  Faith is believing and trusting in Jesus Christ, and reaching out to accept his wonderful gift of salvation.

4:6-8   What can we do to get rid of this guilt?  King David was guilty of terrible sins--adultery, murder, lying--and yet he experienced the joy of forgiveness.  We too can have this joy when we (1) quit denying our guilt and recognize that we have sinned, (2) admit our guilt to God and ask for his forgiveness, and (3) let go of our guilt and believe that God has forgiven us.  This can be difficult when a sin has taken root and grown over many years, when it is very serious, or when it involves others.  We must remember that Jesus is willing and able to forgive every sin.  In view of the tremendous price he paid on the cross, it is arrogant to think that any of our sins are too great for him to cover.  Even though our faith is weak, our conscience is sensitive, and our memory haunts us.  God's Word declares that sins confessed are sins forgiven (1 John 1:9).

9Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
13It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed--the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
18Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 19Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead--since he was about a hundred years old--and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." 23The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Romans 4:9-25

Explanation:

4:10   Circumcision was a sign to others and a personal seal or certification for the Jews that they were God's special people.  Circumcision of all Jewish boys set the Jewish apart from the nations who worshiped other gods; thus it was a very important ceremony.  God gave the blessing and the command for this ceremony to Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14).

4:10-12   Rituals did not earn any reward for Abraham; he had been blessed long before the circumcision ceremony was introduced.  Abraham found favor with God by faith alone, before he was circumcised.  Genesis 12:1-4 tells of God's call to Abraham when he was 75 years old; the circumcision ceremony was introduced when he was 99 (Genesis 17:1-14).  Ceremonies and rituals serve as reminders of our faith, and they give instruct new and younger believers.  But we should not think that they give us any special merit before God.  They are outward signs and seals that demonstrate inward belief and trust.  The focus of our faith should be on Christ and his saving actions, not on our own actions.

4:16   Paul explains that Abraham had pleased God through Abraham's faith alone, before he had ever heard about the rituals that would become so important to the Jewish people.  We too are saved by faith plus nothing.  It is not by loving God and doing good that we are saved; neither is it by faith plus love or by faith plus good deeds.  We are saved only through faith in Christ, trusting him to forgive all our sins.

4:17  The promise (or covenant) God gave Abraham stated that Abraham would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:2-4) and that the entire world would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3).  This promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Jesus was from Abraham's line, and truly the whole world was blessed through him.

4:21  Abraham never doubted that God would fulfill his promise.  Abraham's life was marked by mistakes, sin, and failures as well as wisdom and goodness, but he consistently trusted God.  His faith was strengthened by the obstacles he faced, and his life was an example of faith in action.  If he had looked only at his own resources for subduing Canaan and founding a nation, he would have given up in despair.  But Abraham looked to God, obeyed him, and waited for God to fulfill his word.

4:25  When we believe, an exchange takes place.  We give Christ our sins, and he gives us his righteousness and forgiveness (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).  There is nothing we can do to earn this.  Only through Christ can we receive God's righteousness.  What an incredible bargain this is for us!  But sadly, many still choose to pass up this gift to continue "enjoying" their sin.

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Romans 5:1-5

Explanation:

5:1   We now have peace with God. which may differ from peaceful feelings such as calmness and tranquility.  Peace with God means that we have been reconciled with him.  There is no more hostility between us, no sin blocking our relationship with him.  Peace with God is possible only because Jesus paid the price for our sins through his death on the cross.

5:1-5   These verses introduce a section that contains some difficult concepts.  To understand the next four chapters, it helps to keep in mind the two-sided reality of the Christian life.  On the one hand, we are complete in Christ (our acceptance with him is secure).  On the other hand, we are growing in Christ (we are becoming more and more like him).  At one and the same time we have the status of kings and the duties of slaves.  We feel both the presence of Christ and the pressure of sin.  We enjoy the peace that comes from being made right with God, but we still face daily problems that often help us grow.  If we remember these two sides of the Christian life, we will not grow discouraged as we face temptations and problems.  Instead, we will learn to depend on the power available to us from Christ, who lives in us by the Holy Spirit.

5:2    Paul states that, as believers, we now stand in a place of highest privilege (this grace in which we now stand).  Not only has God declared us not guilty; he has drawn us close to himself.  Instead of being enemies; we have become his friends---in fact, his own children (John 15:15; Galatians 4:5).

5:2-5  As Paul states clearly in 1 Corinthians 13:13, faith, hope, and love are at the heart of the Christian life.  Our relationship with God begins with faith, which helps us realize that we are delivered from our past by Christ's death.  Hope grows as we learn all that God has in mind for us;  it gives us the promise of the future.  And God's love fills our lives and gives us the ability to reach out to others.

5:3, 4   For first century Christians, suffering was the rule rather than the exception.  Paul tells us that in the future we will become, but until then we must overcome.  This means we will experience difficulties that help us grow.  We rejoice in suffering not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life's difficulties and Satan's attacks to build our character.  The problems that we run into will develop our perseverance--which in turn will strengthen our character, deepen our trust in God, and give us greater confidence about the future.  You probably find your patience tested in some ways every day.  Thank God for those opportunities to grow, and deal with them in his strength (see also James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6,7).

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:6-11

Explanation:

5:6   All three members of the Trinity are involved in salvation.  The Father loved us so much that he sent his Son to bridge the gap between us (John 3:15).  The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to fill our lives with love and to enable us to live by his power (Acts 1:8).  With all this loving care, how can we do less than serve him completely.  We were weak and helpless because we could do nothing on our own to save ourselves.  Someone had to come and rescue us.  Not only did Christ come at a good time in history; he came at exactly the right time--according to God's own schedule.  God controls all history, and he controlled the timing, methods, and results of Jesus' death.

5:8   While we were still sinners--these are amazing words.  God sent Jesus Christ to die for us, not because we were good enough, but because he loved us.  Whenever you feel uncertain about God's love for you, remember that he loved you even before you turned to him.  If God loved you when you were a rebel, he can surely strengthen you, now that you love him in return.

5:9, 10   The love that caused Christ to die is the same love that sends the Holy Spirit to live in us and guide us every day.  The power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that saved you and is available to you in your daily life.  Be assured that having begun a life with Christ, you have a reserve of power and love to call on each day, for help to meet every challenge or trial.  You can pray for God's power and love as you need it.

5:11   God is holy, and he will not be associated with sin.  All people are sinful and so they are separated from God.  In addition, all sin deserves punishment.  Instead of punishing us with the death we deserve, however, Christ took our sins upon himself and took our punishment by dying on the cross.  Now we can rejoice in God.  Through faith in Christ's work, we become close to God (reconciled) rather than being enemies and outcasts.

12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-- 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
15But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:12-21

Explanation:

5:12   How can we be declared guilty for something Adam did thousands of years ago?  Many feel it isn't right for God to judge us because of Adam's sin.  Yet each of us confirms our solidarity with Adam by our own sins each day.  We are made of the same stuff and are prone to rebel, and we are judged for the sins we commit.  Because we are sinners, it isn't fairness we need--it's mercy.

5:13, 14   Paul has shown that keeping the law does not bring salvation.  Here he adds that breaking the law is not what brings death.  Death is the result of Adam's sin and of the sins we all commit, even if they don't resemble Adam's.  Paul reminds his readers that for thousands of years the law had not yet been explicitly given, and yet people died.  The law was added, he explains in 5:20, to help people see their sinfulness, to show them the seriousness of their offenses, and to drive them to God for mercy and pardon.  This was true in Moses' day, and it is still true today.  Sin is a  deep discrepancy between who we are and who we were created to be.  The law points out our sin and places the responsibility for it squarely on our shoulders.  But the law offers no remedy.  When we are convicted of sin, we must turn to Jesus Christ for healing.

5:14   Adam is a pattern; he is the counterpart of Christ.  Just as Adam was a representative of created humanity, so is Christ the representative of a new spiritual humanity.

5:15--19  We were all born into Adam's physical family--the family line that leads to certain death.  All of us have reaped the results of Adam's sin.  We have inherited his guilt, a sinful nature (the tendency to sin), and God's punishment.  Because of Jesus, however, we can trade judgment for forgiveness.  Christ offers us the opportunity to be born into his spiritual family--the family line that begins with forgiveness and leads to eternal life.  If we do nothing, we have death through Adam; but if we come to God by faith, we have life through Christ.  Which family line do you now belong to?

5:17   What  a promise this is to those who love Christ!  We can reign over sin's power, over death's threats, and over Satan's attacks.  Eternal life is ours now and forever.  In the power and protection of Jesus Christ, we can overcome temptation. 

5:20  As a sinner, separated from God, you see his law from below, as a ladder to be climbed to get to God.  Perhaps you have repeatedly tried to climb it, only to fall to the ground every time you have advanced one or two rungs.  Or perhaps the sheer height of the ladder seems so overwhelming that you have never even started up.  In either case, what relief you should feel to see Jesus offering with open arms to lift you above the ladder of the law, to take you directly to God!  Once Jesus lifts you into God's presence, you are free to obey--out of love, not necessity, and through God's power, not your own.  You know that if you stumble, you will not fall back to the ground.  Instead, you will be caught and held in Christ's loving arms.

1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:1-7

Explanation:

6:1, 2   If God loves to forgive, why not give him more to forgive?  If forgiveness is guaranteed, do we have the freedom to sin as much as we want? Paul's forceful answer is By no means!  Such an attitude--deciding ahead of time to take advantage of God--shows that a person does not understand the seriousness of sin.  God's forgiveness does not make sin less serious; his Son's death for sin shows us the dreadful seriousness of sin.  Jesus paid with his life so we could be forgiven.  The availability of God's mercy must not become an excuse for careless living and moral laxness.

6:1-4   In the church of Paul's day, immersion was the usual form of baptism--that is, new Christians were completely "buried" in water.  They understood this form of baptism to symbolize the death and burial of the old way of life.  Coming up out of the water symbolized resurrection to new life with Christ.  If we think of our old, sinful life as dead and buries, we have a powerful motive to resist sin.  We can consciously choose to treat the desires and temptations of the old nature as if they were dead.  Then we can continue to enjoy our wonderful new life with Jesus (see Galatians 3:27 and Colossians 2:12and 3:1-4 for more on this concept).

6:5  We can enjoy our new life in Christ because we are united with him in his death and resurrection.  Our evil desires, our bondage to sin, and our love of sin dies with him.  Now, united by faith with him in his resurrection life, we have unbroken fellowship with God and freedom from sin's hold on us.  For more on the difference between our new life in Christ and our old sinful nature, read Ephesians 4:21-24 and Colossians 3:3-15.

6:6  The power and penalty of sin died with Christ on the cross.  Our old self, our sinful nature, died once and for all, so we are freed from its power.  The body of sin is not the human body, but our rebellious sin-loving nature inherited from Adam.  Though our body willingly cooperates with our sinful nature, we must not regard the body as evil.  It is the sin in us that is evil.  And it is this power of sin at work in our body that is defeated.  Paul has already stated that through faith in Christ we stand acquitted, not guilty, before God.  Here Paul emphasizes that we need no longer live under sin's power.  God does not take us out of the world or make us robots--we still feel like sinning, and sometimes we will sin.  The difference is that before we were saved we were slaves to our sinful nature, but now we can choose to live for Christ (see Galatians 2:20).

8Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.  15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

Romans 6:8-15

Explanation:

6:8   Because of Christ's death and resurrection, his followers need never fear death.  That assurance frees us up to enjoy fellowship with him and to do his will.  This will affect all our activities--work and worship, play, Bible study, quiet times, and times of caring for others.  When you know that you don't have to fear death, you will experience a new vigor in life.

6:11   Count yourselves dead to sin means that we should regard our old sinful nature as dead and unresponsive to sin.  Because of our union and identification with Christ, we are no longer obligated to carry out those old time motives, desires, and goals.  So let us consider ourselves to be what God has in fact made us.  We have a new start, and the Holy Spirit will help us become in our daily experience what Christ has declared us to be.

6:14, 15  If we're no longer under the law but under grace, are we now free to sin and disregard the Ten Commandments?  Paul says By no means.  When we were under the law, sin was our master--the law does not justify us or help us overcome sin.  But now that we are bound to Christ, he is our Master, and he gives us power to do good rather than evil.

16Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:16-23

Explanation:

6:16-18   In certain skilled crafts, an apprentice works under a master, who trains, shapes, and molds his apprentice in the finer points of his craft.  All people choose a master and pattern themselves after him.  Without Jesus, we would have no choice--we would have to apprentice ourselves to sin, and the results would be guilt, suffering, and separation from God.  Thanks to Jesus, however, we can now choose God as our Master.  Following him, we can enjoy new life and learn how to work for him.  Are you still serving your first master, sin?  Or have you apprenticed yourself to God?

6:17   To obey wholeheartedly means to give yourself fully to God, to love him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).  And yet so often our efforts to know and obey God's commands can best be described as half-hearted.  How do you rate your heart's obedience?  God wants to give you the power to obey him with all your heart.  The form of teaching delivered to them is the Good News that Jesus died for their sins and was raised to give them new life.  Many believe that this refers to the early church's statement of faith found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

6:19-22   It is impossible to be neutral.  Every person has a master--either God or sin.  A Christian is not someone who cannot sin, but someone who is no longer a slave to sin.   He or she belongs to God.

6:23   You are free to choose between two masters, but you are not free to manipulate the consequences of your choice.  Each of the two masters pays with his own type of currency.  The currency of sin is death.  That is all you can expect or hope for in life without God.  Christ's currency is eternal life--new life with God that begins on earth and continues forever with God.  What choice have you made?   Eternal life is a free gift from God.  If it is a gift, then it is not something we earn, nor something that must be paid back.  Consider the foolishness of someone who receives a gift given out of love and then offers it to pay for it.  A gift cannot be purchased by the recipient.  A more appropriate response to a loved one who offers a gift is graceful acceptance with gratitude.  Our salvation is a gift of God, not something of our own doing (Ephesians 2:8, 9).  He saved us because of his mercy, not because of any righteous things that we have done.  How much more we should  accept with thanksgiving the gift that God has freely given to us.

An Illustration From Marriage

1Do you not know, brothers--for I am speaking to men who know the law--that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 2For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.
4So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 7:1-6

Explanation:

7:1   Paul shows that the law is powerless to save the sinner, the lawkeeper, and even the person with a new nature.  The sinner is condemned by the law, the lawkeeper can't live up to it, and the person with the new nature finds his or her obedience to the new law sabotaged by the effects of the old nature.  Once again, Paul declares that salvation cannot be found by obeying the law.  No matter who we are, only Jesus Christ can set us free.

7:2-6   Paul uses marriage to illustrate our relationship to the law.  When a spouse dies, the law of marriage no longer applies.  Because we have died with Christ, the law can no longer condemn us.  We rose again when Christ was resurrected and, as new people, we belong to Christ.  His Spirit enables us to produce good fruit for God.  We now serve not by obeying a set of rules, but out of renewed hearts and minds that overflow with love for God.

7:4   When a person dies to the old life and belongs to Christ, a new life begins.  An unbeliever's mind-set is centered on his or her own personal gratification.  Those who don't follow Christ have only their own self-determination as their source of power.  By contrast, God is at the center of a Christian's life.  God supplies the power for the Christian's daily living.  Believers find that their whole way of looking at the world changes when they come to Christ.

7:6   Some people try to earn their way to God by keeping a set of rules (obeying the Ten Commandments, attending church faithfully, or doing good deeds), but all they earn for their efforts is frustration and discouragement.  However, because of Christ's sacrifice, the way to God is already open, and we can become his children simply by putting our faith in him.  No longer trying to reach God by keeping rules, we can become more and more like Jesus as we live with day by day.  Let the Holy Spirit turn your eyes away from your own performance and toward Jesus.  He will free you to serve him out of love and gratitude.  This is living in the new way of the Spirit.   Keeping the rules, laws, and customs of Christianity doesn't save us.  Even if we could keep our actions pure, we would still be doomed because our hearts and minds are perverse and rebellious.  Like Paul, we can find no relief in the synagogue or church until we look to Jesus Christ himself for our salvation--which he gives us freely.  When we do come to Jesus, we are flooded with relief and gratitude, not by the desire to get God's approval.  We will not be merely submitting to an external code, but willingly and lovingly seeking to do God's will.

Struggling With Sin

7What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." 8But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.
11For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. 13Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

Romans 7:7-14

Explanation:

7:9-11  Where there is no law, there is no sin, because people cannot know that their actions are sinful unless a law forbids those actions.  God's law makes people realize that they are sinners doomed to die, yet it offers no help.  Sin is real, and it is dangerous.  Imagine a sunny day at the beach.  You plunge into the surf; then you notice a sign on the pier; No Swimming  Sharks in water.  Your day is ruined.  Is it the sign's fault?  Are you angry with the people who put it up?  The law is like the sign.  It is essential, and we are grateful for it--but it doesn't get rid of the sharks.

7:11, 12  Sin deceives people by misusing the law.  The law was holy, expressing God's nature and will for people.  In the Garden of Eden, the serpent deceived Eve by taking her focus off the freedom she had and putting it on the one restriction God had made.  Ever since then, we have all been rebels.  Sin looks good to us precisely because God has said it is wrong.  Instead of paying attention to his warnings, we use them as a to do list.  When we are tempted to rebel, we need to look at the law from a wider perspective--in the light of God's grace and mercy.  If we focus on his great love for us, we will understand that he only restricts us from actions and attitudes that ultimately will harm us.

7:14   I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin may be a reference to the old nature that seeks to rebel and be independent of God.  If I, being a Christian, try to struggle with sin in my own strength, I am slipping into the grasp of sin's power.

15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Romans 7:15-25

Explanation:

7:15   Paul shares three lessons that he learned in trying to deal with his old sinful desires.  (1) Knowledge is not the answer.  Paul felt fine as long as he did not understand what the law demanded.  When he learned the truth, he knew he was doomed.  (2) Self-determination (struggling in one's own strength) doesn't succeed.  Paul found himself sinning in ways that weren't even attractive to him.  (3) Becoming a Christian does not stamp out all sin and temptation from a person's life.      Being born again takes a moment of faith, but becoming like Christ is a lifelong process.  Paul compares Christian growth to a strenuous race or fight (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7).  Thus, Paul has been emphasizing since the beginning of this letter, no one in the world is innocent; no one deserves to be saved--not the pagan who doesn't know God's laws, not the Christian or Jew who knows them and tries to keep them.  All of us must depend totally on the work of Christ for our salvation.  We cannot earn it by our good behavior.  This is more than the cry of one desperate man--it describes the experience of any Christian struggling against sin or trying to please God by keeping rules and laws without the Spirit's help.  We must never underestimate the power of sin.  WE must never attempt to fight it in our own strength.  Satan is a crafty tempter, and we have an amazing ability to make excuses.  Instead of trying to overcome sin with human willpower, we must take hold of the tremendous power of Christ that is available to us.  This is God's provision for victory over sin--he sends the Holy Spirit to live in us and give us power.  And when we fall, he lovingly reaches out to help us up.

7:17-20   The devil made me do it.  I didn't do it; the sin in me did it.  These sound like good excuses, but we are responsible for our actions.  We must never use the power of sin or Satan as an excuse, because they are defeated enemies.  Without Christ's help, sin is stronger than we are, and we are unable to defend ourselves against its attacks.  That is why we should never stand up to sin all alone.  Jesus Christ, who has conquered sin once and for all, promises to fight by our side.  If we look to him for help, we will not have to give in to sin.

7:23-25   The law at work in the members of my body is the sin deep within us.  This is our vulnerability to sin; it refers to everything within us that is more loyal to our old way of selfish living than to God.  This inward struggle with sin was as real for Paul as it is for us.  From Paul we learn what to do about  it.  Whenever Paul felt lost, he would return to the beginning of his spiritual life, remembering that he had already been freed by Jesus Christ.  When you feel confused and overwhelmed by sin's appeal, follow Paul's example: Let the reality of Christ's power lift you up to real victory over sin.

Life Through the Spirit

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
5Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
9You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Romans 8:1-11

Explanation:

8:1   Not guilty, let him go free--what would those words mean to you if you were on death row?  The fact is that the whole human race is on death row, justly condemned for repeatedly breaking God's holy law.  Without Jesus we would have no hope ar all.  But thank God!!  He has declared us not guilty and has offered us freedom from sin and power to do his will.

8:2   This Spirit of life is the Holy Spirit.  He was present at the creation of the world (Genesis 1:2), and he is the power behind the rebirth of every Christian.  He gives us the power we need to live the Christian life. 

8:3   Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice (sin offering) for our sins.  In Old Testament times, animal sacrifices were continually offered at the temple.  The sacrifice showed the Israelites the seriousness of sin; blood had to be shed before sins could be pardoned (see Leviticus 17:11).  But animal blood could not really remove sins (Hebrews 10:4).  The sacrifices could only point to Jesus' sacrifice, which paid the penalty for all sins.

8:5, 6   Paul divides people into two categories--those who let themselves be controlled by their sinful natures, and those who follow after the Holy Spirit.  All of us would be in the first category if Jesus hadn't offered us a way out.  Once we have said yes to Jesus, we will want to continue following him, because his way brings life and peace.  Daily we must consciously choose to center our lives on God.  Use the Bible to discover God's guidelines, and then follow them.  In every perplexing situation ask yourself, What would Jesus want me to do?  When the Holy Spirit points out what is right, do it eagerly.  For more on our sinful natures versus our new life in Christ, see Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:3-15.

8:9  Have you ever worried about whether or not you really are a Christian?  A Christian is anyone who has the Spirit of God living in him or her.  If you have sincerely trusted Christ for your salvation and acknowledged him as Lord, then you are a Christian.  You won't know that the Holy Spirit has come if you are waiting for a certain feeling; you will know he has come because Jesus promised he would.  When the Holy Spirit is working within you, you will believe that Jesus Christ is God's Son and that eternal life comes through him. (1 John 5:5), you will begin to act as Christ directs (Romans 8:5; Galatians 5:22, 23); you will find help in your daily problems and in your praying you will be empowered to serve God and do his will (Acts 1:8);  and you will become part of God's plan to build up his church (Ephesians 4:12, 13).

8:11   The Holy Spirit is God's promise or guarantee of eternal life for those who believe in him.  The Spirit is in us now by faith, and by faith we are certain to live with Christ forever.  See 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Thessalonians 4:14.

12Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:12-17

Explanation:

8:13   Put to death the misdeeds of the body means to regard as dead the power of sin in your body (see Galatians 5:24).  When we regard sin's appeal as dead and lifeless, we can ignore temptation when it comes.

8:14-17   Paul uses adoption or sonship to illustrate the believer's new relationship with God.  In Roman culture, the adopted person lost all rights in his old family and gained all the rights of a legitimate child in his new family.  He became a full heir to his new father's estate.  Likewise, when a person becomes a Christian, he or she gains all the privileges and responsibilities of a child in God's family.  One of these outstanding privileges is being led by the Spirit (see Galatians 4:5, 6).  We may not always feel as though we belong to God, but the Holy Spirit is our witness.  His inward presence reminds us of who we are and encourages us with God's love.  We are no longer cringing and fearful slaves; instead, we are the Master's children.  What a privilege!! Because we are God's children, we share in great treasures as co-heirs.  God has already given us his best gifts:  his Son, forgiveness, and eternal life; and he encourages us to ask him for whatever we need.

8:17   There is a price for being identified with Jesus Christ.  Along with the great treasures, Paul mentions the suffering that Christians must face.  What kinds of suffering are we to endure?  For first-century believers, there was economic and social persecution, and some even faced death.  We too must pay a price for following Jesus.  In many parts of today's world, Christians face pressures just as severe as those faced by Christ's first followers.  Even in countries where Christianity is tolerated or encouraged, Christians must not become complacent.  To live as Jesus did--serving others, giving up one's own rights, resisting pressures to conform to the world--always exacts a price.  Nothing we suffer, however, can compare to the great price that Jesus paid to save us. 

Future Glory

18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

Romans 8:18-27

Explanation:

8:19-22   Sin has caused all  creation to fall from the perfect state in which God created it.  So the world is subject to frustration and bondage to decay so that it cannot fulfill its intended purpose.  One day all creation will be liberated and transformed.  Until that time it waits in eager expectation for the resurrection of God's children.  Christians see the world as it is--physically decaying and spiritually infected with sin.  But Christians do not need to be pessimistic, because they have hope for future glory.  They look forward to the new heaven and new earth that God has promised, and they wait for God's new order that will free the world of sin, sickness, and evil.  In the meantime, Christians go with Christ into the world where they heal people's bodies and souls and fight the effects of sin in the world.

8:23   We will be resurrected with bodies, glorified bodies like the body Christ now has in heaven (see 1 Corinthians15:25-58).  We have the firstfruits, the first installment or down payment of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our resurrection life (see 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5;  Ephesians 1:14).

8:24, 25  It is natural for children to trust their parents, even though parents sometimes fail to keep their promises.  Our heavenly Father, however, never makes promises he won't keep.  Nevertheless, his plan may take more time than we expect.  Rather than acting like impatient children as we wait for God's will to unfold, we should place our confidence in God's goodness and wisdom.  In Romans, Paul presents the idea that salvation is past, present, and future.  It is past because we were saved the moment we believed in Jesus Christ as Savior;  our new eternal life begins at that moment.  And it is present because we are being saved; this is the process of sanctification.  But at the same time, we have not fully received all the benefits and blessings of salvation that will be ours when Christ's new kingdom is completely established.  That's our future salvation.  While we can be confident of our salvation, we still look ahead with hope and trust toward that complete change of body and personality that lies beyond this life, when we will be like Christ (1 John 3:2).

8:26, 27  As a believer, you are not left to your own resources to cope with problems.  Even when you  don't know the right words to pray, the Holy Spirit prays with and for you, and God answers.  With God helping you pray, you don't need to be afraid to come before him.  Ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for you in accordance with God's will.  Then, when you bring your requests to God, trust that he will always do what is best.

More Than Conquerors

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
   "For your sake we face death all day long;
       we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:28-39

Explanation:

8:28  God works in all things--not just isolated incidents--for our good.  This does not mean that all that happens to us is good.  Evil is prevalent in our fallen world, but God is able to turn every circumstance around for our long-range good.  Note also that this promise is not for everybody.  It can be claimed only by those who love God and are called according to his purpose.  Those who are called are those the Holy Spirit convinces and enables to receive Christ.  Such people have a new perspective, a new mind-set on life.  They trust in God, not life's treasures; they look for their security in heaven, not on earth; they learn to accept, not resent, pain and persecution because God is with them.

8:29    God's ultimate goal for us is to make us like Christ (1 John 3:2).  As we become more and more like him, we discover our true selves, the persons we were created to be.  How can we be conformed to Christ's likeness?  By reading and heeding the Word, by studying his life on earth through the Gospels, by being filled with his Spirit, and by doing his work in the world.

8:29,  30  Some believe these verses mean that before the beginning of the world, God chose certain people to receive his gift of salvation.  They point to verses like Ephesians 1:11 that says we are predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.  Others believe that God foreknew those who would respond to him and upon those he set his mark (predestined).  What is clear is that God's purpose for people was not an afterthought; it was settled before the foundation of the world.  People are to serve and honor God.  If you have believed in Christ, you can rejoice in the fact that God has always known you.  God's love is eternal.  His wisdom and power are supreme.  He will guide and protect you until you one day stand in his presence.

8:30   Called means summoned or invited.

8:31-34   Do you ever think that because you aren't good enough for God, he will not save you?  Do you ever feel as if salvation is for everyone else but you?  Then these verses are especially for you.  If God gave his Son for you, he isn't going to hold back the gift of salvation!  If Christ gave his life for you, he isn't going to turn around and condemn you!  He will not withhold anything you need to live for him.  The book of Romans is more than a theological explanation of God's redeeming grace--it is a letter of comfort and confidence addressed to you.

8:34   Paul says that Jesus is interceding for us in heaven.  God has acquitted us and has removed our sin and guilt, so it is Satan, not God, who accuses us.  When he does, Jesus, the advocate for our defense, stands at God's right hand to present our case.  For more on the concept of Christ as our advocate, see Hebrews 4:14, 15.

8:35, 36   These words were written to a church that would soon undergo terrible persecution.  In just a few years, Paul's hypothetical situations would turn into painful realities.  This passage reaffirms God's profound love for his people.  No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be lost to his love.  Suffering should not drive us away from God, but help us to identify with him further and allow his love to reach us and heal us.

8:35-39   These verses contain one of the most comforting promises in all Scripture.  Believers have always had to face hardships in many forms: persecution, illness, imprisonment, even death.  These could cause them to fear that they have been abandoned by Christ.  But Paul exclaims that it is impossible to be separated from Christ.  His death for us is proof of his unconquerable love.  Nothing can stop Christ's constant presence with us.  God tells us how great his love is so that we will feel totally secure in him.  If we believe these overwhelming assurances, we will not be afraid.

8:38   Powers are unseen forces of evil in the universe, forces like Satan and his fallen angels (see Ephesians 6:12).  In Christ we are super-conquerors, and his love will protect us from any such forces.

God's Sovereign Choice

1I speak the truth in Christ--I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit-- 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
6It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." 8In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. 9For this was how the promise was stated: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."
10Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12not by works but by him who calls--she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
14What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to Moses,
   "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
       and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.

Romans 9:1-16

Explanation:

9:1-3   Paul expressed concern for his Jewish brothers by saying that he would willingly take their punishment if that could save them.  While the only one who can save us is Christ, Paul showed a rare depth of love.  Like Jesus, he was willing to sacrifice for others.  How concerned are you for those who don't know Christ?  Are you willing to sacrifice your time, money, energy, comfort, and safety to see them come to faith in Jesus?

9:4   The Jews viewed God's choosing of Israel in the Old Testament as being like adoption. They were undeserving and without rights as natural children.  Yet God adopted them and granted them the status of his sons and daughters.

9:6  God's Word in the form of beautiful covenant promises came to Abraham.  Covenant people, the true children of Abraham, are not just his biological descendants.  They are all those who trust in God and in what Jesus Christ has done for them. 

9:11   The Jews were proud of the fact that their lineage came from Isaac, whose mother was Sarah (Abraham's legitimate wife), rather than Ishmael, whose mother was Hagar (Sarah's maidservant).  Paul asserts that no one can claim to be chosen by God because of his or her heritage of good deeds.  God freely chooses to save whomever he wills.  The doctrine of election teaches that it is God's sovereign choice to save us by his goodness and mercy, and not by our own merit.

9:12-14   Was it right for God to choose Jacob, the younger, to be over Esau?  In Malachi 1:2, 3, the statement Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated refers to the nations of Israel and Edom rather than to the individual brothers.  God chose Jacob to continue the family line of the faithful because he knew his heart was for God.  But he did not exclude Esau from knowing and loving him.  Keep in mind the kind of God we worship: he is sovereign; he is not arbitrary; in all things he works for our good; he is trustworthy; he will save all who believe in him.  When we understand these qualities of God, we know that his choices are good even if we don't understand all his reasons.

17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory-- 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25As he says in Hosea:
   "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people;
       and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one," 26and,
   "It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,
       'You are not my people,'
   they will be called 'sons of the living God.' "
27Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
   "Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
       only the remnant will be saved.
    28For the Lord will carry out
       his sentence on earth with speed and finality."
29It is just as Isaiah said previously:
   "Unless the Lord Almighty
       had left us descendants,
   we would have become like Sodom,
       we would have been like Gomorrah."

Romans 9:17-29

Explanation:

9:17, 18   Paul quotes from Exodus 9:16, where God foretold how Pharaoh would be used to declare God's power.  Paul uses this argument to show that salvation was God's proper work, not man's.  God's judgment on Pharaoh's sin was to harden his heart, to confirm his disobedience, so that the consequences of his rebellion would be his own punishment.

9:21   With this illustration, Paul is not saying that some of us are worth more that others, but simply that the Creator has control over the created object.  The created object, therefore, has no right to demand anything from its Creator--its very existence depends on him.  Keeping this perspective removes any temptation to have pride in personal achievement.

9:25, 26   About seven hundred years before Jesus' birth, Hosea told of God's intention to restore his people .  Paul applies Hosea's message to God's intention to bring Gentiles into his family after the Jews rejected his plan.  Verse 25 is a quotation from Hosea 2:23 and verse 26 is from Hosea 1:10.

9:27-29   Isaiah prophesied that only a small number--a remnant--of God's original people, the Jews, would be saved.  Paul saw this happening in every city where he preached.  Even though he went to the Jews first, relatively few ever accepted the message.  Verses 27 and 28 are based on Isaiah 10:22, 23; and 9:29 is from Isaiah 1:9.

Israel's Unbelief

30What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." 33As it is written:
   "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble
       and a rock that makes them fall,
   and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

Romans 9:30-33

Explanation:

9:31-33   Sometimes we are like these people, trying to get right with God by keeping his laws.  We may think that attending church, doing church work, giving offerings, and being nice will be enough.  After all, we've played by the rules, haven't we?  But Paul's words sting--this approach never succeeds.  Paul explains that God's plan is not for those who try to earn his favor by being good; it is for those who realize that they can never be good enough and so must depend on Christ.  We can be saved only by putting our faith in what Jesus Christ has done.  If we do that, we will never be put to shame or be disappointed.

9:32   The Jews had a worthy goal--to honor God.  But they tried to achieve it the wrong way--by rigid and painstaking obedience to the law.  Thus some of them became more dedicated to the law than to God.  They thought that if they kept the law, God would have to accept them as his people.  But God cannot be controlled.  The Jews did not see that their Scriptures, the Old Testament, taught salvation by faith, and not by human effort (see Genesis 15:6).   The stumbling stone was Jesus.  The Jews did not believe in him, because he didn't meet their expectations for the Messiah.  Some people still stumble over Christ because salvation by faith doesn't make sense to them.  They would rather try to earn their way to God, or else they expect God simply to overlook their sins.  Others stumble over Christ because his values are the opposite of the World's.  He asks for humility, and many are unwilling to humble themselves before him.  He requires obedience, and many refuse to put their wills at his disposal.

1Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. 4Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
5Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." 6But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) 7"or 'Who will descend into the deep?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
16But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" 17Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. 18But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:
   "Their voice has gone out into all the earth,
       their words to the ends of the world." 19Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,
   "I will make you envious by those who are not a nation;
       I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding." 20And Isaiah boldly says,
   "I was found by those who did not seek me;
       I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me." 21But concerning Israel he says,
   "All day long I have held out my hands
       to a disobedient and obstinate people."

Romans 10:1-21

Explanation:

10:1  What will happen to the Jewish people who believe in God but not in Christ?  Since they believe in the same God, won't they be saved?  If that were true, Paul would not have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to teach them about Christ.  Because Jesus is the most complete revelation of God, we cannot fully know God apart from Christ; and because God appointed Jesus to bring God and man together, we cannot come to God by another path.  The Jews, like everyone else, can find salvation only through Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  Like Paul, we should wish that all Jews might be saved.  We should pray for them and lovingly share the Good News with them.

10:3-5   Rather than living by faith in God, the Jews established customs and traditions (in addition to God's law) to try to make themselves acceptable in God's sight.  But human effort, no matter how sincere, can never substitute for the righteousness God offers us by faith.  The only way to earn salvation is to be perfect--and that is impossible.  We can only hold out empty hands and receive salvation as a gift.

10:4  Christ is the "end of the law" in two ways.  He fulfills the purpose and goal of the law (Matthew 5:17)  in that he perfectly exemplified God's desires on earth.  But he is also the termination of the law because in comparison to Christ, the law is powerless to save.

10:5   In order to be saved by the law, a person would have to live a perfect life, not sinning once.  Why did God give the law when he knew people couldn't keep it?  According to Paul, one reason the law was given was to show people how guilty they are (Galatians 3:19).  The law was a shadow of Christ--that is, the sacrificial system educated the people so that when the true sacrifice came, they would be able to understand his work (Hebrews 10:1-4).  The system of ceremonial laws was to last until the coming of Christ.  The law points to Christ, the reason for all those animal sacrifices.

10:6-8   Paul adapts Moses' farewell challenge from Deuteronomy 30:11-14 to apply to Christ.  Christ has provided our salvation through his incarnation (coming to earth) and resurrection (coming back from the dead).  God's salvation is right in front of us.  He will come to us wherever we are.  All we need to do is to respond and accept his gift of salvation.  The deep as used here refers to the grave or Hades, the place of the dead.

10:8-12   Have you ever been asked How do I become a Christian?  These verses give you the beautiful answer--salvation is as close as your own mouth and heart.  People think it must be a complicated process, but it is not.  If we believe in our hearts and say with our mouths that Christ is the risen Lord, we will be saved.

10:11   This verse must be read in context.  Paul is not saying Christians will never be put to shame or be disappointed.  There will be times when people will let us down and when circumstances will take a turn for the worse.  Paul is saying that God will keep his side of the bargain--those who call on him will be saved.  God will never fail to provide righteousness to those who believe.

10:14, 15  We must take God's great message of salvation to others so that they can respond to the Good News.  How will your loved ones and neighbors hear it unless someone tells them?  Is God calling you to take a part in making his message known in your community?  Think of one person who needs to hear the Good News, and think of something you can do to help him or her hear it.  Then take that step as soon as possible.

10:18-20   Many Jews who looked for the Messiah, refused to believe in him when he came.  God offered his salvation to the Gentiles (those who are not a nation and a nation that has no understanding); thus many Gentiles who didn't even know about a Messiah found and believed in him.  Some religious people are spiritually blind, while those who have never been in a church are sometimes the most responsive to God's message.  Because appearances are deceiving, and we can't see into people's hearts, beware of judging beforehand who will respond to the gospel and who will not.

The Remnant of Israel

1I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah--how he appealed to God against Israel: 3"Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me"? 4And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 5So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
7What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8as it is written:
   "God gave them a spirit of stupor,
       eyes so that they could not see
       and ears so that they could not hear,
   to this very day." 9And David says:
   "May their table become a snare and a trap,
       a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
    10May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
       and their backs be bent forever."

Romans 11:1-10

Explanation:

11:1   In this chapter Paul points out that not all Jews have rejected God's message of salvation.  There is still a faithful remnant.  Paul himself, after all, was a Jew, and so were Jesus' disciples and nearly all of the early Christian missionaries.

11:2   Elijah was a great reforming prophet who challenged the northern kingdom of Israel to repent.   God chose the Jews (his people whom he foreknew) to be the people through whom  the rest of the world could find salvation.  But this did not mean the entire Jewish nation would be saved; only those who were faithful to God (the remnant) were considered true Jews.  We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, not because we are part of a nation, religion, or family.  On whom or on what are you depending for salvation>

11:6   Do you think it is easier for God to love you when you're good?  So you secretly suspect that God chose you because you deserved it?  Do you think that some people's behavior is so bad that God couldn't possibly save them?  If you ever think this way, you don't entirely understand that salvation is by grace, a free gift.  It cannot be earned, in whole or in part; it can only be accepted with thankfulness and praise.

11:7   The others were hardened was God's punishment for their sin.  It was a confirmation of their own stubbornness.  In judging them, God removed their ability to see and hear, and to repent; thus they would experience the consequences of their rebellion.

11:8-10   These verses describe the punishment for hardened hearts predicted by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:9-13).  If people refuse to hear God's Good News, they eventually will be unable to understand it.  Paul saw this happening in the Jewish congregations he visited on his missionary journeys.  (Verse 8 is based on Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10.  Verses 9 and 10 are from Psalm 69:22, 23.)

Ingrafted Branches

11Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!
13I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry 14in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." 20Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
22Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

Romans 11:11-24

Explanation:

11:11   Paul had a vision of a church where all Jews and Gentiles would be united in their love of God and in obedience to Christ.  While respecting God's law, this ideal church would look to Christ alone for salvation.  A person's ethnic background and social status would be irrelevant (see Galatians 3:28)--what mattered would be his or her faith in Christ.  But Paul's vision has not yet been realized.  Many Jewish people rejected the gospel.  They depended on their heritage for salvation, and they did not have the heart of obedience that was so important to the Old Testament prophets and to Paul.  Once Gentiles became dominant in many of the Christian churches, they began rejecting Jews and even persecuting them.  Unfortunately, this practice has recurred through the centuries.  True Christians should not persecute others.  Both Gentiles and Jews have done so much to damage the cause of the God they claim to serve that Paul's vision often seems impossible to fulfill.  Yet God chose the Jews, just as he chose the Gentiles, and he is still working to unite Jew and Gentile in a new Israel, a new Jerusalem, ruled by his Son (see Ephesians 2:11-22).

11:13-15   Paul was appointed as a missionary to the Gentiles.  He reminded his Jewish brothers of this fact, hoping that they too would want to be saved.  The Jews had been rejected, and thus Gentiles were being offered salvation.  But when a Jew comes to Christ, there is great rejoicing, as if a dead person had come back to life.

11:17-24   Speaking to Gentile Christians, Paul warns them not to feel superior because God rejected some Jews.  Abraham's faith is like the root of a productive tree, and the Jewish people are the tree's natural branches.  Because of faithlessness, the Jews were broken branches.  Gentile believers have been grafted into the tree like a wild olive shoot.  Both Jews and Gentiles share the tree's nourishment based on faith in God; neither can rest on heritage or culture for salvation.

11:22   Continue in his kindness refers to steadfast perseverance in faith.  Steadfastness is a proof of the reality of faith and a by-product of salvation, not a means to it.

All Israel Will Be Saved

25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
   "The deliverer will come from Zion;
       he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
    27And this is my covenant with them
       when I take away their sins."
28As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. 32For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Doxology

    33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
       How unsearchable his judgments,
       and his paths beyond tracing out!
    34"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
       Or who has been his counselor?"
    35"Who has ever given to God,
       that God should repay him?"
    36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
       To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11:25-36

Explanation:

11:26   Some say the phrase And so all Israel will be saved means that the majority of Jews in the final generation before Christ's return will turn to Christ for salvation.  Others say that Paul is using the term Israel for the spiritual nation of Israel made up of everyone--Jew and Gentile--who has received salvation through faith in Christ.  Thus all Israel (or all believers) will receive God's promised gift of salvation.  Still others say that all Israel means Israel as a whole will have a role in Christ's kingdom.  Their identity as a people won't be discarded.  God chose the nation of Israel, and he has never rejected it.  He also chose the church, through Jesus Christ, and he will never reject it either.  This does not mean of course, that all Jews or all church members will be saved.  It is possible to belong to a nation or to an organization without ever responding in faith.  But just because some people have rejected Christ does not mean that God stops working with either Israel or the church.  He continues to offer salvation freely to all.  Still others say that the phrase and so means in this way or this is how, referring to the necessity of faith in Christ.

11:28-32   In this passage Paul shows how the Jews and the Gentiles benefit each other.  Whenever God shows mercy to one group, the other shares the blessing.  IN God's original plan, the Jews would be the source of God's blessing to the Gentiles (see Genesis 12:3).  When the Jews neglected this mission, God blessed the Gentiles anyway through the Jewish Messiah.  He still maintained his love for the Jews because of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (on account of the patriarchs).  But someday the faithful Jews will share in God's mercy.  God's plans will not be thwarted: he will have mercy on them all.  For a beautiful picture of Jews and Gentiles experiencing rich blessings, see Isaiah 60.

11:29   The privileges and invitation of God given to Israel can never be withdrawn.

11:33   This doxology is a prayer of praise to God for the wisdom of his plan.  Although God's method and means are beyond our comprehension, God himself is not arbitrary.  He governs the universe and our lives in perfect wisdom, justice, and love.

11:34, 35   The implication of these questions is that no one has fully understood the mind of the Lord.  No one has been his counselor.  And God owes nothing to any one of us.  Isaiah and Jeremiah asked similar questions to show that we are unable to give advice to God or criticize his ways (Isaiah 40:13; Jeremiah 23:18).  God alone is the possessor of absolute power and absolute wisdom.

11:36   In the final analysis, all of us are absolutely dependent on God.  He is the power that sustains and rules the world that we live in.  And God works out all things to bring glory to himself.  The all-powerful God deserves our praise.

Living Sacrifices

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:1-8

Explanation:

12:1   When sacrificing an animal according to God's law, a priest would kill the animal, cut it in pieces, and place it on the altar.  Sacrifice was important, but even in the Old Testament God made it clear that obedience from the heart was much more important (see 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6; Amos 5:21-24).  God wants us to offer ourselves, not animals, as living sacrifices--daily laying aside our own desires to follow him, putting all our energy and resources at his disposal and trusting him to guide us.  We do this out of gratitude that our sins have been forgiven.

12:1, 2   God has good, pleasing, and perfect plans for his children.  He wants us to be transformed people with renewed minds, living to honor and obey him.  Because he wants only what is best for us, and because he gave his Son to make our new lives possible, we should joyfully give ourselves as living sacrifices for his service.

12:2   Christians are called to not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, with its behavior and customs that are usually selfish and often corrupting.  Many Christians wisely decide that much worldly behavior is off limits for them.  Our refusals to conform to this world's values, however, must go even deeper than the level of behavior and customs--it must be firmly planted in our minds--be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  It is possible to avoid most worldly customs and still be proud, covetous, selfish, stubborn, and arrogant.  Only when the Holy Spirit renews, reeducates, and redirects our minds are we truly transformed.

12:3   Healthy self-esteem is important because some of us think too little of ourselves; on the other hand, some of us overestimate ourselves.  The key to an honest and accurate evaluation is knowing the basis or our self-worth--our identity in Christ.  Apart from him, we aren't capable of worthy service.  Evaluating yourself by the worldly standards of success and achievement can cause you to think too much about your worth in the eyes of others and thus miss your true value in God's eyes.

12:4, 5   Paul uses the concept of the human body to teach how Christians should live and work together.  Just as the parts of a body function under the direction of the brain, so Christians are to work together under the command and authority of Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Ephesians 4:1-16).

12:4-8  God gives us gifts so we can build up his church.  To use them effectively, we must (1) realize that all gifts and abilities come from God; (2) understand that not everyone has the same gifts; (3) know who we are and what we do best; (4) dedicate our gifts to God's service and not to our personal success; (5) be willing to utilize our gifts wholeheartedly, not holding back anything from God's service.

12:6  God's gifts differ in nature, power, and effectiveness according to his wisdom and graciousness; not according to our faith.  The measure of faith or the proportion to his faith means that God will give spiritual power necessary and appropriate to carry out each responsibility.  We cannot, by our own effort or willpower, drum up more faith and thus be more effective teachers or servants.  These are God's gifts to his church, and he gives faith and power as he wills.  Our role is to be faithful and to seek ways to serve others with what Christ has given us.  Prophesying in Scripture is not always predicting the future.  Often it means preaching God's messages (1 Corinthians 14:1-3).

12:6-8  Look at this list of gifts and imagine the kinds of people who would have each gift.  Prophets are often bold and articulate.  Servers (those in ministry) are faithful and loyal.  Teachers are clear thinkers.  Encouragers know how to motivate others.  Givers are generous and trusting.  Leaders are good organizers and managers.  Those who show mercy are caring people who are happy to give their time to others.  It would be difficult for one person to embody all these gifts.  An assertive prophet would not usually make a good counselor, and a generous giver might fail as a leader.  When you identify your own gifts (and this list is far from complete), ask how you can use them to build up God's family.  At the same time, realize that your gifts can't do the work of the church all alone.  Be thankful for people whose gifts are completely different from yours.  Let your strengths balance their weaknesses, and be grateful that their abilities make up for your deficiencies.  Together you can build Christ's church

Love

9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
   "If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
       if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
   In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

Explanation:

12:9   Most of us have learned how to pretend to love others--how to speak kindly, avoid hurting their feelings, and appear to take an interest in them.  We may even be skilled in pretending to feel moved with compassion when we hear of others' needs, or to become indignant when we learn of injustice.  But God calls us to real and sincere love that goes far beyond pretense and politeness.  Sincere love requires concentration and effort.  It means helping others become better people.  It demands our time, money, and personal involvement.  No individual has the capacity to express love to a whole community, but the body of Christ in your town does.  Look for people who need your love, and look for ways you and your fellow believers can love your community for Christ.

12:10   We can honor others in one of two ways.  One involves ulterior motives.  We honor our bosses so they will reward us, our employees so they will work harder, the wealthy so they will contribute to our cause, the powerful so they will use their power for us and not against us.  God's other way involves love.  As Christians, we honor people because they have been created in God's image, because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and because they have a unique contribution to make to Christ's church.  Does God's way of honoring others sound too difficult for your competitive nature?  Why not try to outdo one another in showing honor?  Put others first!

12:13   Christian hospitality differs from social entertaining.  Entertaining focuses on the host--the home must be spotless; the food must be well prepared and abundant; the host must appear relaxed and good-natured.  Hospitality, by contrast, focuses on the guests.  Their needs--whether for a place to stay, nourishing food, a listening ear, or acceptance--are the primary concern.  Hospitality can happen in a messy home.  It can happen around a dinner table where the main dish is canned soup.  It can even happen while the host and the guest are doing chores together.  Don't hesitate to offer hospitality just because you are too tired, too busy, or not wealthy enough to entertain.

12:17-21   These verses summarize the core of Christian living.  If we love someone the way Christ loves us, we will be willing to forgive.  If we have experienced God's grace, we will want to pass it on to others.  And remember, grace is undeserved favor.  By giving an enemy a drink, we're not excusing his misdeeds.  We're recognizing him, forgiving him, and loving him in spite of his sins--just as Christ did for us.

12:19-21   In this day of constant lawsuits and incessant demands for legal rights, Paul's command sounds almost impossible.  When someone hurts you deeply, instead of giving him what he deserves, Paul says to befriend him.  Why does Paul tell us to forgive our enemies? (1) Forgiveness may break a cycle of retaliation and lead to mutual reconciliation.  (2) It may make the enemy feel ashamed and change his or her ways.  (3) By contrast, repaying evil for evil hurts you just as much as it hurts your enemy.  Even if your enemy never repents, forgiving him or her will free you of a heavy load of bitterness.  Forgiveness involves both attitudes and actions.  If you find it difficult to feel forgiving toward someone who has hurt you, try responding with kind actions.  If appropriate, tell this person that you would like to heal your relationship.  Lend a helping hand.  Send him or her a gift.  Smile at him or her.  Many times you will discover that right actions lead to right feelings.

12:20   What does it mean to heap burning coals on someone's head?  This may refer to an Egyptian tradition of carrying a pan of burning charcoal on one's head as a public act of repentance.  By referring to this proverb, Paul was saying that we should treat our enemies with kindness so that they will become ashamed and turn from their sins.  The best way to get rid of enemies is to turn them into friends.

Submission to the Authorities

1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Romans 13:1-7

Explanation:

13:1   Are there times when we should not submit to the government?  We should never allow government to force us to disobey God.. Jesus and his apostles never disobeyed the governor for personal reasons;  when they disobeyed, it was in order to follow their higher loyalty to God.  Their disobedience was not cheap: they were threatened, beaten, thrown in jail, tortured, and executed for their convictions.  Like them, if we are compelled to disobey, we must be ready to accept the consequences.  Christians understand Romans 13 in different ways.  All Christians agree that we are to live at peace with the state as long as the state allows us to live by our religious convictions.  For hundreds of years, however, there have been at least three interpretations of how we are to do this.

       (1)  Some Christians believe that the state is so corrupt that Christians should have as little to do with it as possible.  Although they should be good citizens as long as they can do so without compromising their beliefs, they should not work for the government, vote in elections, or serve in the military.

      (2)  Others believe that God has given the state authority in certain areas and the church authority in others.  Christians can be loyal to both and can work for either.  They should not, however, confuse the two.  In this view, church and state are concerned with two totally different spheres--the spiritual and the physical--and thus complement each other but do not work together.

      (3)  Still others believe that Christians have a responsibility to make the state better.  They can do this politically, by electing Christian or other high-principled leaders.  They can also do this morally, by serving as an influence for good in society.  In this view, church and state ideally work together for the good of all.

None of these views advocate rebelling against or refusing to obey the government's laws or regulations unless those laws clearly require you to violate the moral standards revealed by God.  Wherever  we find ourselves, we must be responsible citizens, as well as responsible Christians.

13:3, 4   When civil rulers are unjust, upright people are afraid.  In these verses, Paul is talking about officials who are doing their duty.  When these officials are just, people who are doing right have nothing to fear.

Love, for the Day is Near

8Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
11And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Romans 13:8-14

Explanation:

13:8   Why is love for others called  a debt?  We are permanently in debt to Christ for the lavish love he has poured out on us.  The only way we can ever begin to repay this debt is by loving others in turn.  Because Christ's love will always be infinitely greater than ours, we will always have the obligation to love our neighbors.

13:9   Somehow many of us have gotten the idea that self-love is wrong.  But if this were the case, it would be pointless to love our neighbors as ourselves.  But Paul explains what he means be self-love.  Even if you have low self-esteem, you probably don't willingly let yourself go hungry.  You clothe yourself reasonably well.  You make sure there is a roof over your head if you can.  You try not to let yourself be cheated or injured.  And you get angry if someone tries to ruin your marriage.  This is the kind of love we need to have for our neighbors.  Do we see that others are fed, clothed, and housed as well as they can be?  Are we concerned about issues of social justice?  Loving others as ourselves means to be actively working to see that their needs are met.  Interestingly, people who focus on others rather than themselves rarely suffer from low self-esteem.

13:10   Christians must obey the law of love, which supersedes both religious and civil laws.  How easy it is to excuse our indifference to others merely because we have no legal obligation to help them, and even to justify harming them if our actions are technically legal.  But Jesus does not leave loopholes in the law of love.  Whenever love demands it, we are to go beyond human legal requirements and imitate the God of love.  See James 2:8, 9;  4:11  and 1 Peter 2:16, 17 for more about this law of love.

13:12-14   The night refers to the present evil time.  The day refers to the time of Christ's return.  Some people are surprised that Paul lists dissension and jealousy with the gross and obvious sins of orgies, drunkenness, and sexual immorality.  Like Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Paul considers attitudes as important as actions.  Just as hatred leads to murder, so jealousy leads to strife and lust to adultery.  When Christ returns, he wants to find his people clean on the inside as well as on the outside.

13:14   How do we clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ?  First we identify with Christ by being baptized (Galatians 3:27).  This shows our solidarity with other Christians and with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Second, we exemplify the qualities Jesus showed while he was here on earth (love, humility, truth, service).  In a sense, we role-play what Jesus would do in our situation (see Ephesians 4:24-32; Colossians 3:10-17).  We also must not give our desires any opportunity to lead us into sin.  Avoid those situations that open the door to gratifying sinful desires.

The Weak and the Strong

1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

Romans 14:1-9

Explanation:

14:1   Who is weak in faith and who is strong?  We are all weak in some areas and strong in others.  Our faith is strong in an area if we can survive contact with sinners without falling into their patterns.  It is weak in an area ir we must avoid certain activities, people, or places in order to protect our spiritual life.  It is important to take a self-inventory in order to find our strengths and weaknesses.  Whenever in doubt, we should ask, can I do that without sinning?  Can I influence others for good, rather than being influenced by them?  In areas of strength, we should not fear being defiled by the world; rather we should go and serve God.  In areas of weakness, we need to be cautious.  If we have a strong faith but shelter it, we are not doing Christ's work in the world.  If we have a weak faith but expose it, we are being extremely foolish.  This verse assumes there will be differences of opinion in the church (disputable matters).  Paul says we are not to quarrel about issues that are matters of opinion.  Differences should not be feared of avoided, but accepted and handled with love.  Don't expect everyone, even in the best possible church, to agree on every subject.  Through sharing ideas we come to a fuller understanding of what the Bible teaches.  Accept, listen to, and respect others.  Differences of opinion need not cause division.  They can be a source of learning and richness in our relationships.

14:2   Eating everything may refer to freedom from dietary restrictions, or it may refer to eating meat offered to idols, while the person weaker in the faith eats only vegetables and refuses to eat meat that has been offered to idols.  But how would Christians end up eating meat that has been offered to idols?  The ancient system of sacrifice was at the center of the religious, social, and domestic life of the Roman world.  After a sacrifice was presented to a god in a pagan temple, only part of it was burned.  The remainder was often sent to the market to be sold.  Thus a Christian might easily--even unknowingly--buy such meat in the marketplace or eat it at the home of a friend.  Should a Christian question the source of his meat?  Some thought there was nothing wrong with eating meat that had been offered to idols because idols were worthless and phony.  Others carefully checked the source of their meat or gave up meat altogether, in order to avoid a guilty conscience.  The problem was especially acute for Christians who had once been idol worshipers.  For them, such a strong reminder of their pagan days might weaken their newfound faith.  Paul also deals with this problem in 1 Corinthians 8.

10You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. 11It is written:
   " 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
   'every knee will bow before me;
       every tongue will confess to God.' " 12So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way

Romans 14:10-13

Explanation:

14:10-12   Each person is accountable to Christ, not to others.  While the church must be uncompromising in its stand against activities that are expressly forbidden by Scripture (adultery, homosexuality, murder, theft), it should not create additional rules and regulations and give them equal standing with God's law.  Many times Christians base their moral judgments on opinion, personal dislikes, or cultural bias rather than on the Word of God.  When they do this, they show that their own faith is weak--they do not think that God is powerful enough to guide his children.  When we stand before God's court of justice (judgment seat), we won't be worried about what our Christian neighbor has done (see 2 Corinthians 5:10).

14:13   Both strong and weak Christians can cause their brothers and sisters to stumble.  The strong but insensitive Christian may flaunt his of her freedom and intentionally offend others' consciences.  The scrupulous but weak Christian may try to fence others in with petty rules and regulations, thus causing dissension.  Paul wants his readers to be both strong in the faith and sensitive to others' needs.  Because we are all strong in some areas and weak in others, we need constantly to monitor the effects of our behavior on others.  Some Christians use an invisible weaker brother to support their own opinions, prejudices, or standards.  You must live by these standards, they say, or you will be offending the weaker brother.  In truth, the person would often be offending no one but the speaker.  While Paul urges us to be sensitive to those whose faith may be harmed by our actions, we should not sacrifice our liberty in Christ just to satisfy the selfish motives of those who are trying to force their opinion on us.  Neither fear them nor criticize them, but follow Christ as closely as you can.

14As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
22So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Romans 14:14-23

Explanation:

14:14   At the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), the Jewish church in Jerusalem asked the Gentile church in Antioch not to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols.  Paul was at the Jerusalem council, and he accepted this request not because he felt that eating such meat was wrong in itself, but because this practice would deeply offend many Jewish believers.  Paul did not think the issue was worth dividing the church over; his desire was to promote unity.

14:20, 21    Sin is not just a private matter.  Everything we do affects others, and we have to think of them constantly.  God created us to be interdependent, not independent.  We who are strong in our faith must, without pride or condescension, treat others with love, patience, and self-restraint.

14:23   We try to steer clear of actions forbidden by Scripture, of course, but sometimes Scripture is silent.  Then we should follow our consciences.  Everything that does not come from faith is sin means that to go against a conviction will leave a person with a guilty or uneasy conscience.  When God shows us that something is wrong for us, we should avoid it.  But we should not look down on other Christians who exercise their freedom in those areas.

1We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." 4For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
5May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs 9so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:
   "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
       I will sing hymns to your name." 10Again, it says,
   "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people." 11And again,
   "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
       and sing praises to him, all you peoples." 12And again, Isaiah says,
   "The Root of Jesse will spring up,
       one who will arise to rule over the nations;
   the Gentiles will hope in him."
13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:1-13

Explanation:

15:2   If we merely set out to please our neighbors, we will be people-pleasers.  Paul was opposed to that (see Galatians 1:10).  But we are to set aside willfulness and self-pleasing actions for the sake of building others up for good.  Our Christian convictions must not be a disguise for coldhearted treatment of our brothers and sisters.

15:4   The knowledge of the Scriptures affects our attitude toward the present and the future.  The more we know about what God has done in years past, the greater confidence we have about what he will do in the days ahead.  We should read our Bibles diligently to increase our trust that God's will is best for us.

15:5-7   To accept Jesus'  lordship in all areas of life means to share his values and his perspective.  Just as we take Jesus'  view on the authority of Scripture, the nature of heaven, and the resurrection, we are to have his attitude of love toward other Christians as well (have a spirit of unity).  As we grow in faith and come to know Jesus better, we will become more capable of maintaining this attitude of loving unity throughout each day.  Christ's attitude is explained in more detail in Philippians 2.

15:8   This verse means that Jesus came to bring the truth to the Jews and to show that God is true to his promises.

15:12   The Root of Jesse refers to Christ as the heir from the family line of Jesse, David's father (1 Samuel 16:1).

Paul the Minister to the Gentiles

14I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
17Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done-- 19by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. 21Rather, as it is written:
   "Those who were not told about him will see,
       and those who have not heard will understand." 22This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.

Romans 15:14-22

Explanation:

15:17    Paul did not glory in what he had done, but in what God had done through him.  Being proud of God's work is not a sin--it is worship.  If you are not sure whether your pride is selfish of holy, ask yourself this question: Are you just as proud of what God is doing through other people as of what he is doing through you?

15:19   Illyricum was a Roman territory on the Adriatic Sea between present-day Italy and Greece.  It covered much the same territory as present-day Yugoslavia.

15:20-22   Paul wanted to visit the church at Rome, but he had delayed his visit because he had heard many good reports about the believers there and he knew they were doing well on their own.  It was more important for him to preach in areas that had not yet heard the Good News.

Paul's Plan to Visit Rome

23But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, 24I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.
30I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, 32so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. 33The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Romans 15:23-33

Explanation:

15:23, 24   Paul was referring to the completion of his work in Corinth, the city from which he most likely wrote this letter.  Most of Paul's three-month stay in Achaia (see Acts 20:3) was probably spent in Corinth.  He believed that he had accomplished what God wanted him to do there, and he was looking forward to taking the gospel to new lands west of Rome.  When Paul eventually went to Rome, however, it was as a prisoner (see Acts 28).  Tradition says that Paul was released for a time, and that he used this opportunity to go to Spain to preach the Good News.  This journey is not mentioned in the book of Acts.

15:27   If the Gentiles had received the gospel (spiritual blessings) originally from Jerusalem, surely they would want to offer financial help (material blessings).

15:28   Paul's future plan was to go to Spain because Spain was at the very western end of the civilized world.  He wanted to extend Christianity there.  Also, Spain had many great minds and influential leaders in the Roman world (Lucan, Martial, Hadrian), and perhaps Paul thought Christianity would advance greatly in such an atmosphere.

15:30   Too often we view prayer as a time for comfort, reflection, or making our requests known to God.  But here Paul urges believers to join in his struggle by means of prayer.  Prayer is also a weapon in all believers' armor as we intercede for others who join in the fight against Satan.  Do your prayers reflect that urgency?

15:33   This phrase sounds like it should signal the end of the book, and it does pronounce the end of Paul's teaching.  He concludes his letter, then, with personal greetings and remarks.

Personal Greetings

1I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. 2I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me. 3Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. 4They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. 5Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. 6Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. 7Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. 8Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. 9Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. 10Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. 11Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. 12Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. 13Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. 14Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them. 15Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them. 16Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

Romans 16:1-16

Explanation:

16:1, 2   Phoebe was known as a servant (the Greek word used here is often translated deaconess) and a helper.  Apparently she was a wealthy person who helped support Paul's ministry.  Phoebe was highly regarded in the church, and she may have delivered this letter from Corinth to Rome.  This provides evidence that women had important in the early church, Cenchrea, the town where Phoebe lived, was the eastern port of Corinth, six miles from the city center.

16:3   Priscilla and Aquila were a married couple who had become Paul's close friends.  They, along with all other Jews, had been expelled from Rome by the emperor (Acts 18:2, 3) and had moved to Corinth.  There they met Paul, and invited him to live with them.  They were Christians before they met Paul, and probably told him much about the Roman church.  Like Paul, Priscilla and Aquila were missionaries.  They helped believers in Ephesus (Acts 18:16-26), in Rome when they were allowed to return, and again at Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:19).

16:5   Paul's personal greetings went to Romans and Greeks, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, prisoners and prominent citizens.  The church's base was broad; it crossed cultural, social, and economic lines.  From this list we learn that the Christian community was mobile.  Though Paul had not yet been to Rome, he had met these people in other places on his journeys.

16:7   The fact that Andronicus and Junias were outstanding among the apostles could mean they had distinguished themselves as apostles.  They may have been a husband and wife team.  Paul's references to them as relatives could mean that they were from the same tribe as Paul.

17I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
20The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
21Timothy, my fellow worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.
22I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.
23Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.
Erastus, who is the city's director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.[3]
25Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him-- 27to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Romans 16:17-27

Explanation:

16:17-20   When we read books or listen to sermons, we should check the content of what is written or said and not be fooled by smooth style.  Christians who study God's Word will not be fooled, even though superficial listeners may easily be taken in.  For an example of believers who carefully checked God's Word, see Acts 17:10-12.

16:21  Timothy was a key person in the growth of the early church, traveling with Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-3).  Later Paul wrote two letters to him as he worked to strengthen the churches in Ephesus (I and 2 Timothy).

16:25-27  Paul exclaims that it is wonderful to be alive when the mystery, God's secret--his way of saving the Gentiles--is becoming known throughout the world!  All the Old Testament prophecies were coming true, and God was using Paul as his instrument to tell this Good News.  As Jerusalem was the center of Jewish life, Rome was the world's political, religious, social, and economic center.  There the major governmental decisions were made, and from there the gospel spread to the ends of the earth.  The church in Rome was a cosmopolitan mixture of Jews, Gentiles, slaves, free people, men, women, Roman citizens, and world travelers; therefore, it had potential for both great influence and great conflict.   Paul had not yet been to Rome to meet all the Christians there, and, of course, he has not yet met us.  We too live in a cosmopolitan setting with the entire world open to us.  We also have the potential for both widespread influence and wrenching conflict.  We should listen carefully to and apply Paul's teaching about unity, service, and love.