Monday, October 28, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Isaiah 51-57

Readings for this week

Monday: Isaiah 51
Tuesday: Isaiah 52
Wednesday: Isaiah 53
Thursday: Isaiah 54
Friday: Isaiah 55
Saturday: Isaiah 56
Sunday: Isaiah 57

Introduction to Isaiah 51-57

Chapters 51-53 

The prophet then proclaims the coming deliverance and everlasting salvation for Zion. It was God who gave Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars. It is God who will restore the fortunes of Zion and make her like the garden of Eden. God is the one who destroyed the great chaos monster of the sea and brought order to creation. God is the one who parted the chaotic sea to make a safe path for His people. God is the one whose righteousness will last forever. God is the one whose salvation will last through all generations. 

The prophet then discusses the cup of the LORD’s wrath. Jerusalem drank the cup of the LORD’s wrath. She staggered and fell with no one to help her up. But God will now pull the cup of His wrath out of Jerusalem’s hand. Just as God had rescued his people out of Egypt, so too would he rescue them from their current exile. 

The prophet then goes into his greatest detail about the nature and mission of this Servant or Messiah, discussing his suffering and glory. 

“See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.” 

“Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” 

“Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.” 

“He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.” 

“Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.” 

In the New Testament book of Acts, Philip the Evangelist claims that this entire passage was actually speaking about the life of Jesus. 

Some examples of similarities between Jesus and the Servant: 

1. He was wise
2. He was lifted up
3. He was highly exalted
4. Many were appalled at him
5. His appearance was disfigured
6. He "sprinkled" many nations (atonement language)
7. Kings shut their mouths because of him (Herod and Pilate)
8. He was not known as a physically attractive man
9. He was despised and rejected
10. He suffered
11. He took up our pain and bore our suffering
12. We considered him punished by God
13. He was "pierced" for our transgressions and punished for our sins
14. His punishment brought us peace and healing
15. He was oppressed yet did not open his mouth (silence before Pilate and Herod)
16. He was killed
17. He was buried in a rich man's grave
18. After his death, his life was prolonged and he saw his children (the church)
19. After his suffering, he saw the light of life
20. By his knowledge he justified many
21. After his suffering, his suffering continues to atone for transgression
22. He becomes a famous victor 

Chapter 54 

God compares Zion to a woman unable to have children. God will provide Zion with children. God intends to restore His people and bring them back from captivity. 

“‘To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,' 
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” 

Chapter 55 

God offers his invitation to the thirsty: 

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.” 

“I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.” 

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.
‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” 

“You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.” 

Chapters 56-57 

Chapters 56-66 talk about Universal Salvation. In chapter 56, God reassures eunuchs and foreigners that He will not reject them. God will include all people who honor His Sabbath, and keep His Covenant. All people are God’s people, and He will bring all who are faithful to Him to His Holy Mountain. 

We then read God’s accusation against the wicked. God condemns the “watchmen of Israel” for being lazy, greedy, and drunkards. Under their watch, righteous people died. These people are described as “sons of the sorceress,” and “the seed of the adulterer and the whore.” They practiced sorcery, worshiped other gods, and had sex with anyone they could. They will all be destroyed and the “gods” they trusted in will be blown away with a breath. 

The prophet then declares God’s comfort for the contrite: 

“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
I will not accuse them forever,
nor will I always be angry,
for then they would faint away because of me—
the very people I have created.”

Monday, October 21, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Isaiah 44-50

Readings for this week

Monday: Isaiah 44
Tuesday: Isaiah 45
Wednesday: Isaiah 46
Thursday: Isaiah 47
Friday: Isaiah 48
Saturday: Isaiah 49
Sunday: Isaiah 50

Introduction to Isaiah 44-50

Chapters 44-45 

Isaiah describes Israel “the chosen.” 

“I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
like poplar trees by flowing streams.” 

Here, God proclaims his superiority over idols. God describes how carefully the people had crafted their idols, and how stupid they would have to be to mistake their Creator for something they had created themselves. God mocked the idols, pointing out that half of the wood used to make these gods was used for ordinary purposes. 

Isaiah then proclaims that Jerusalem will once again be inhabited. God said He was the one who alone stretched out the heavens and the earth in creation. He alone is the one who has decided that Jerusalem will be inhabited by His people once again. Isaiah says that God has decided to make Cyrus His servant. Cyrus was the Persian Emperor who conquered Babylon seventy years after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. God referred to Cyrus as “my shepherd” who would “accomplish all that I please.” God said that in the future, this emperor named Cyrus would give the command to rebuild Jerusalem and relay the foundations of the Temple of the LORD. 

Chapters 46-47 

Isaiah then describes Babylon’s Fall. First, he mocks the gods of Babylon. Bel-Marduk and Nebo are unable to lift the burden placed upon their people. Bel-Marduk and Nebo fall into captivity along with their worshipers. 

“Disaster will come upon you,
and you will not know how to conjure it away.
A calamity will fall upon you
that you cannot ward off with a ransom;
a catastrophe you cannot foresee
will suddenly come upon you.” 

“Keep on, then, with your magic spells
and with your many sorceries,
which you have labored at since childhood.
Perhaps you will succeed,
perhaps you will cause terror.
All the counsel you have received has only worn you out!
Let your astrologers come forward,
those stargazers who make predictions month by month,
let them save you from what is coming upon you.
Surely they are like stubble;
the fire will burn them up.
They cannot even save themselves
from the power of the flame.” 

Chapter 48 

God declared that these things would take place long beforehand because He knew how stubborn and rebellious Israel was and that they would attribute these wonders to false gods. 

“Listen to me, Jacob,
Israel, whom I have called:
I am he;
I am the first and I am the last.
My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I summon them,
they all stand up together.” 

“Leave Babylon,
flee from the Babylonians!
Announce this with shouts of joy
and proclaim it.
Send it out to the ends of the earth;
say, ‘The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob.’
They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;
he made water flow for them from the rock;
he split the rock
and water gushed out.” 

Chapters 49-50 

In these passages, the prophet returns to his theme of The Servant. Here, the Servant is described as bringing salvation to more than just Israel, but to the whole world. 

“And now the Lord says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
and my God has been my strength—
he says:
‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’” 

He then speaks of the restoration of Israel: 

“But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’” 

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.” 

The prophet then discusses Israel’s sin and the Servant’s obedience. What Israel could never get right the Servant will fulfill. 

He says to Israel: 

“Because of your sins you were sold;
because of your transgressions your mother was sent away.
When I came, why was there no one?
When I called, why was there no one to answer?
Was my arm too short to deliver you?
Do I lack the strength to rescue you?” 

He says to the Servant: 

“The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.” 

Christians, again, associate this description with Jesus, who was mocked and spit upon and beaten. If this passage is talking about Jesus, this is also the only biblical reference we have describing him as a bearded man.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Isaiah 40-43

Introduction to Latter Isaiah

Isaiah chapters 40–66 contain different subject matter than chapters 1–39. 1–39 focuses on Assyria. 40–66 focuses on Babylon. However, the concept of “Messiah” appears throughout all of Isaiah. 

Chapter 40 

Chapters 40-55 discuss Judah’s redemption from their exile to Babylon. Isaiah 40:1-11 serves as a prologue for the rest of the book, offering comfort for God’s people. Isaiah announced God’s coming glory and contrasted it with the peoples’ helplessness. God would bring his people home and care for them as a shepherd cared for his sheep. 

“A voice of one calling:
‘In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.’
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” 

The rest of chapter 40 answers the question, “Can God really do all he says?”

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, 

or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? 

Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, 

or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance? 

Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
and who taught him the right way?” 

“He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” 

“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.” 

“Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God’?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.” 

Chapter 41 

Isaiah 41 introduces a threefold theme or motif that runs throughout chapters 40–66. 

1. God’s people are in captivity for their sins.
2. This captivity proves God is God, for he alone predicted it.
3. He will now restore and redeem them. 

The prophet stated God’s case against false gods. The idols had failed to predict the future and stood speechless and powerless before God. God said He would raise up a ruler from the north who would honor Him and return His people to their homeland. 

Chapter 42 

Chapter 42 discusses the Servant Individual and the Servant Nation. This passage presents a picture of God’s special servant chosen for a special purpose. The Gospel of Matthew applies these verses to Jesus: 

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, 
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” 

Isaiah then offers a Song of Praise to the LORD:
“For a long time I have kept silent,
I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
I cry out, I gasp and pant.
I will lay waste the mountains and hills
and dry up all their vegetation…
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.” 

Isaiah then says that God’s special servant, or Messiah, would stand in contrast to His servant Israel, whom he calls blind and deaf. 

He says of Israel: 

“You have seen many things, but you pay no attention;
your ears are open, but you do not listen.” 

Chapter 43 

Chapters 43-45 described The LORD, as the gracious Redeemer. First, Isaiah described The LORD as Israel’s only Savior. God was His peoples’ leader, and He would lead them home from exile by His grace. 

He then discusses God’s mercy and Israel’s unfaithfulness. In contrast to God’s grace and mercy, Israel had displayed a rebellious attitude from the start of her relationship with God. 

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!” 

“I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more.”

Monday, October 14, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Romans 14-16

Readings for this week

Monday: Romans 14
Tuesday: Romans 15
Wednesday: Romans 16
Thursday: Isaiah 40
Friday: Isaiah 41
Saturday: Isaiah 42
Sunday: Isaiah 43

Introduction to Romans 14-16

Chapter 14 

Paul says to accept people with weak faith and not to fight over areas of dispute. People who by faith eat everything shouldn’t treat people poorly who by faith only eat vegetables, and vise versa. God has accepted them both. It’s okay for one person to hold one day of the week as sacred and another person to treat every day the same. They can be fully convinced one way or another as long as they give thanks to God for all things. He says that “none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” And he adds that this is why Christ died and returned to life… so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. He says we will all stand before God’s judgment seat to give an account of ourselves, so we need to stop judging our brothers and sisters with contempt. And he quotes scripture: 

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’” 

Paul says to work to not put “stumbling blocks” in the path of other believers. He says he’s convinced that there is no such thing as “clean versus unclean,” but that if someone thinks something is unclean then for that person it is. He says that if your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love because you are destroying someone for whom Christ died for the sake of your own dietary preferences. He also says to not let something you know to be good to be spoken of as evil. He says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.” 

He tells them to do their best to leave in peace and to edify each other, not destroying God’s work for the sake of food. He says it’s better not to eat meat or drink wine if it causes a brother or sister to stumble, even though all things are clean. He says to keep your personal beliefs about such things between yourself and God. He adds not to condemn yourself by what you approve of because if you think something might be wrong and you go ahead and do it, then it is wrong. He concludes that “everything that does not come from faith is sin.” 

He says that we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves, but rather build up our neighbors like Christ did, who allowed himself to bear the insults of others according to the scriptures. He says that the scriptures were meant to teach us by examples of endurance and to encourage us by their words and to give us hope. He prays that God will give them the same attitude of mind towards each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice they may glorify God, accepting each other as Christ did. He says that Christ became a servant to the Jews to fulfill the promise made to the patriarchs to bring glory to God by his mercy to the Gentiles. And he quotes several scriptures that speak of the Gentiles praising God because of Jesus the Messiah. And he blesses them, saying, “May 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.” 

Chapter 15 

In the final part of the letter, Paul discusses explains his mission and his reason for writing. Paul tells them he’s convinced that they are full of goodness and knowledge and competent to instruct one another. He says he wrote to them boldly about these things as a reminder since he is a priestly minister of Jesus by God’s grace, proclaiming the Gospel so that Gentile might be sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 

Paul says that he glories in Christ Jesus in his service to God, and that he will only talk about what Christ has done in him in leading the Gentiles to God through signs, wonders, and the power of the Spirit. He says that he has fully proclaimed the gospel all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and that his goal has always been to preach in places where Christ was not known so that he would not building on someone else’s work. 

He says that his work has often kept him from coming to Rome, but that he’s running out of space to work in the places he has been working, he is looking forward to stopping in Rome and visiting the church there on his journey to Spain, and he hopes that they will help him get to his goal. He says he’s currently on his way to Jerusalem to deliver a gift for the poor of the city from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia. He says they were happy to give, and adds that they owe it to them since the Gentiles now share in the spiritual blessings of the Jews. He says he will go to Spain after he delivers the gift in Jerusalem and stop in Rome for a visit along the way. He urges them to pray for him in Jesus by the Holy Spirit’s love, to be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and to pray that the contribution he takes to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, so that he may come to them with joy and be refreshed by their company. And he concludes: “May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” 

Chapter 16 

In the last chapter Paul sends his final greetings. Paul commends one person to them, Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. He asks them to “receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.”

He then tells them to greet several others: 

Priscilla and Aquila, his co-workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their lives for him, and to whom all the Gentile churches are grateful, and also the church that meets at their house. 
His close friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. 
Mary, a hard-worker in the church in Rome.
Andronicus and Junia, his fellow Jews who have been in prison with him, whom he describes as “outstanding among the apostles”, and who were in Christ before he was.
Ampliatus, his good friend.
Urbanus, his co-worker in Christ
His close friend Stachys.
Apelles, who passed the test in faithfulness to Christ
The household of Aristobulus.
Herodion, a Jew.
The believers in the household of Narcissus
Tryphena and Tryphosa, women who work hard in the Lord.
His close friend Persis, another woman who worked very hard in the Lord.
Rufus and his mother, whom Paul says was a mother to him as well.
Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.
Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them. 

He then says to greet one another with a holy kiss, and adds that all the churches of Christ send greetings. 

Paul then adds to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in their way that are contrary to the teaching they have learned, and to keep away from them; because such people are not serving Christ, but their own appetites. He says that by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. He also says that everyone has heard about the obedience of the Roman church, and he rejoices because of them, but he also wants them to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. He adds that “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”

Paul then sends greetings from the people working with him: 

First, from Timothy, his co-worker, and also Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, who are fellow Jews.
Paul’s scribe, Tertius, then inserts his own greeting at this point into Paul’s letter as he is taking dictation.
Then Gaius, known for his hospitality
Then Erastus, who was the city’s director of public works
And then Quartus. 

A later scribe inserted Paul’s blessing again here, saying: May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. Amen. 

Paul then offers them his final benediction: 

“Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

Monday, October 7, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Romans 7-13

Readings for this week

Monday: Romans 7
Tuesday: Romans 8
Wednesday: Romans 9
Thursday: Romans 10
Friday: Romans 11
Saturday: Romans 12
Sunday: Romans 13

Introduction to Romans 7-13

Chapter 7 

Paul then discusses the inability of the flesh and the law to sanctify. He says that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person is living. He gives an example of a married woman who is no longer bound to her husband when he dies. If she goes and marries a second man while her current husband is alive then she is called an adulteress… but not if he is already dead. Paul says that in the same way we died to the law through the body of Christ so that we would belong to the one who raised Christ from the dead and “bear fruit for God.” Before, the law only aroused our sinful passions so that we bore deathly fruit, but 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.” 

Paul rhetorically asks if we should conclude that the law is sinful. He says of course not, but nevertheless he wouldn’t have known what sin was had he been ignorant of the law. He says he didn’t know what coveting was until the law told him about it… and then his own sinful nature used this new-found knowledge to produce every kind of coveting within Paul. He says that he used to be alive without knowing what the law said, but once he did know what it said, sin took advantage if this knowledge and produced death in him. He says the commandment is righteous and good, and was supposed to bring life but it instead led to death because sin used it to multiply itself. 

Paul says that the law is spiritual but he is unspiritual. He can’t do what he wants to do, and he keeps doing things he doesn’t want to do because the sin living in him makes him do these things. 

He says: 

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” 

Chapter 8 

Paul then discusses the power of the Spirit to sanctify. He says that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” He says that the law became powerless because of the sin of the flesh but God accomplished what the law required of us when he sent his son Jesus in the flesh to be a sin offering. The sin in the flesh was then condemned even as the requirements of the law were met in us who now live in power over the flesh through the Spirit. He says that people who live according to the flesh only think about fleshly desires leading to death and are incapable of submitting to God’s law or pleasing him, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires leading to life and peace. 

He says that they are no in the realm of the flesh but of the Spirit if the Spirit of God lives in them. And he says that those who don’t have Christ’s Spirit don’t belong to Christ. But if Christ’s Spirit lives in someone, that Spirit gives life to them even if their body dies because of sin in the world. He says, “And 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 because of his Spirit who lives in you.” 

He says that our obligation is to live by the Spirit who brings life by putting to death the misdeeds of the body, and not to live by the flesh that brings death. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit does not make fearful slaves out of people but rather adopts people as God’s own children, and makes us heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if we share in his sufferings in order to also share in his glory. 

In the next section of the letter, Paul discusses the goal of sanctification. Paul says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” 

He adds: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” 

He says that we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen isn’t hope at all because we don’t hope for things we already have… but we wait for it patiently. He says that in the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness, and even when we don’t know how to pray the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Paul says that “he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” 

And Paul says that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” He says that those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” And he adds that “those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” 

Paul then includes a hymn of assurance in his letter: 

What, then, are we to say to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare even his own Son,
but gave him up on behalf of us all —
is it possible that, having given us his Son,
he would not give us everything else too?
So who will bring a charge against God’s chosen people?
Certainly not God — he is the one who causes them to be considered righteous!
Who punishes them?
Certainly not the Messiah Jesus, who died
and — more than that — has been raised,
is at the right hand of God and is actually pleading on our behalf!
Who will separate us from the love of the Messiah?
Trouble? Hardship?
Persecution? Hunger?
Poverty? Danger? War?
As the Scripture puts it,
“For your sake we are being put to death all day long,
we are considered sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are superconquerors,
through the one who has loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor other heavenly rulers,
neither what exists nor what is coming,
neither powers above nor powers below,
nor any other created thing
will be able to separate us from the love of God
which comes to us through the Messiah Jesus, our Lord. 

Chapter 9 

In the next section of the letter, Paul discusses the vindication of God’s righteousness in his relationship to Israel. Paul says that he has great sorrow because of Israel, those of his own race, because they were cut off even after having received the adoption to sonship, the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. They were cut off even though shared the same patriarchal ancestors as the Messiah. 

He says they weren’t cut off because God’s word failed, and that not every descendant of Abraham is his true child… for even Scripture states that the descendants of Abraham are actually are reckoned through Isaac… the child of the promise. He also says that Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, twin boys, were chosen for different purposes before they were born or had done anything good or bad – God chose that the older would serve the younger… loving Jacob but hating Esau according to the prophets. 

Paul then asks if in his decision regarding Abraham’s descendants, God is unjust… and he concludes he is not, even though he said to Moses: 

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 

He says that it all depends on God’s mercy and not on human desire or effort, and he uses the Pharaoh of the Exodus as an example of God sovereignty over people… using an enemy to glorify him through his own rebellion. 

Paul then brings up a popular argument that says that God shouldn't blame us for sin since he is sovereign over all people and chooses to harden whom he pleases. But Paul disagrees saying that these people are choosing to talk back to God, thinking they are wiser than him. Paul compares them to a pot thinking it know better than the potter who made it… but he adds that the potter can do whatever he pleases with the pots he makes. He uses the same lump of clay for special pots and common pots. 

Paul argues that those on whom God’s wrath has come in the end were for a very long time given great patience from God. And even in their ultimate destruction, after using up all of God’s patience, their destruction makes the mercy given to us whom he has prepared for glory even richer. 

And he quotes from 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,” 


“In the very place where it was said to them,
‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’” 

And he quotes from Isaiah when he cried out about Israel: 

“Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
only the remnant will be saved.
For the Lord will carry out
his sentence on earth with speed and finality.” 

And also from Isaiah: 

“Unless the Lord Almighty
had left us descendants,
we would have become like Sodom,
we would have been like Gomorrah.” 

Paul concludes that Gentiles who didn’t pursue righteousness obtained it anyway because of faith, but that Israel did not obtain their goal even though they pursued the law of righteousness. The reason is that Israel sought it by works and not by faith. And he quotes scripture saying that they stumbled over the stumbling stone: 

“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall,
and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 

Chapter 10 

Paul then discusses God’s present dealings with Israel. Paul says his heart’s desire and prayer is that Israel be saved for he knows how zealous they are, but they have ignorant zeal. Instead of seeking God’s righteousness, they sought to establish their own standard of righteousness in an attempt to obtain it… and in doing so rebelled against God’s righteousness. Paul says that Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Paul says that Moses wrote about the righteousness that is by the law saying that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But Paul says that the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” Or in other words, it was not by your own works that Christ came down to earth, nor was it by your own works that God raised Christ from the dead. But the message of faith confirms that “the word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” 

Paul concludes that if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” And he quotes Scripture which says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” And Paul declares that “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.” And he quotes scripture again, saying “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

But Paul then asks how anyone can call upon a god they do not believe in, or believe in a god they've not heard of, or hear about a god if no one tells them about that god. And he quotes Isaiah, who said: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But he adds that not all the Israelites accepted the good news, since says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” And Paul says that faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word about Christ. Paul declares that Israel’s rebellion didn’t occur because they hadn’t heard the message of good news… it was proclaimed to the whole world. And he says that it wasn’t because they didn’t understand the message either. And he quotes Moses: 

“I will make you envious by those who are not a nation;
I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” 

And Isaiah: 

“I was found by those who did not seek me;
I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me…
All day long I have held out my hands
to a disobedient and obstinate people.” 

Chapter 11 

In the next section of the letter, Paul discusses God’s future dealings with Israel. Paul concludes that God did not reject his own people… Paul is an Israelite himself after all, specifically a Benjamite. Paul recalls how Elijah thought that he was the only faithful prophet of God left in Israel during the reign of King Ahab… until God revealed to him that there were 7000 others. And he says that in the same way there is a present remnant chosen by grace… and not by works since grace has nothing to do with works. And so the Israelites sought a form of righteousness… but many of them didn’t get it because their hearts were hard. And he quotes scriptures that say that God gave them blind eyes and deaf ears, and that their own table became a trap for them that they stumbled over in darkness breaking their own backs. 

Paul says that Israel is not beyond recovery. Their fall led to salvation for the Gentiles leading Israel to be jealous. But if their fall brought richness to the world, then their recovery and full inclusion in Christ will bring even greater riches. Paul says that he speaks the Gentiles as their apostle, but part of his desire to preach to Gentiles is to make Israel jealous of their salvation and also seek it. He says if Israel’s rejection brought the world reconciliation, then their acceptance must be nothing less than life from the dead. If Israel is the part of the dough offered as the holy firstfruits… then the rest of the dough is also holy… the gentiles. If Israel is a holy root, then so are the branches… the gentiles. 

Paul then tells the Parable of the Branches: 

“If 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, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” 

Paul says to remember both God’s kindness and his sternness. God is able to cut off or graft in any branch… even grafting in branches previously cut off. And he adds that it is easy to graft back in the original branches because this is where they by nature ought to be. 

Paul says that much of Israel has been hardened until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, in order that all Israel will be saved. And he quotes scripture again, saying: 

“The deliverer will come from Zion; 
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.” 

Paul says that Israel has become the enemy of the Gentiles when it comes to the Gospel, yet God still loves them because of the patriarchs because God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. He says that the Gentiles received mercy because of Israel’s disobedience, and so in the same way Israel will also receive mercy because of the mercy given to the Gentiles. He concludes that God chooses to give his mercy to all people who have been bound by disobedience.

Paul then recites a doxology in praise of God’s wisdom: 

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

Chapter 12 

In the next section of the letter, Paul discusses applications for what he’s already discussed. Paul tells the Romans that true worship for them is to offer their bodies to God as a “living sacrifice” and to no longer conform to the pattern of this world but instead be transformed by the renewing of their minds so they can know the good and perfect will of God. 

He tells them to not think too much of themselves since we are all member of the same body, and though we all have different functions and godly gifts, we all belong to each other. He says that each person should use their God-given gift, whether it is prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, or being merciful. 

Paul tells them that their love must be sincere, and he gives them a list of commands that echo the Sermon on the Mount: 

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in love.
Honor one another above yourselves.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 

And he quotes Proverbs: 

“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.” 

He concludes: 

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

Chapter 13 

In relation to the State, Paul tells them to submit to the ruling authorities because they, and all authorities, were established by God, so whoever rebels is rebelling against God. He says that rulers don’t punish people who do what is right, so you don’t have to be afraid of the authorities if you don’t do anything wrong. He says that they are God’s servants – agents of wrath - to punish wrong-doers. He also says that this is also the reason why we pay taxes, and that we are to give to everyone what we owe them, saying: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. 

In relation to their neighbors, he says not to let any debt remain outstanding, “except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” And he says that all of the commandments are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And he says that love does no harm to a neighbor so it fulfills every law. 

Paul says to do these things with the mindset that their salvation is closer now than when they first believed. He says, “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber… The 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. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”