Paul the Apostle’s Farewell to the Church At Rome, With Stark Warnings About False Teachers

Paul the Apostle, His Love for His Believers, and His Plans to Visit Rome

(Romans 15, verses 14-33; Romans 16)

no-challenge-no-change

Today I will complete the study of the book of Romans that I started some weeks ago. I will conclude this series starting with the end of chapter 15 through all of chapter 16. The following quotes from Scripture are a summary of the apostle Paul’s closing thoughts as he finished up his letter to the early Roman church. I will begin by taking up where I left off last week in chapter 15, beginning at verse 14.

“I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to 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.” (Romans 15: verses 14-16)

“I myself am convinced … that you yourselves are full of goodness...”. As it was with the apostle Paul when he wrote this letter to the early Christian church at Rome, so it is with this Bible study that I send over the Internet today. All of you who are reading this must be doing so because you are seeking Spiritual knowledge and growth, realizing that the empty pursuit of material possessions and meaningless wealth has no bearing on where you stand with God. So let me take this opportunity to encourage you to continue in your faithful studies of God’s Word, and to never let up in your quest for still more higher learning of the deeper mysteries of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. By getting to know Jesus Christ personally as Savior, teacher, mentor and best friend, he then causes us to literally gravitate toward him as we are drawn ever closer to our dear Lord Jesus.

“…the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God…” Paul was a Jewish man and a Roman citizen. The audience Paul spoke to and the class of people Paul wrote to were neither Jews nor were they Roman citizens. Although this may seem insignificant to the modern Bible student, it was a really big deal in Paul’s day because, being raised and educated as a traditional Jew, he would normally have had nothing to do with non-Jews.

The religious Jews of Paul’s day regarded themselves as being superior to non-Jews because of their allegedly superior faith, traditions and especially their formal training. If this sounds familiar to you, it is because this same attitude of spiritual snobbery and religious “superiority” has infected parts of the modern church just as it did back in the day when the book of Romans was written by Paul. That is what Paul meant when he mentioned his “priestly duty” in his letter to the early church at Rome. He was referring to the Levite priesthood described in detail in the first five books of the Old Testament, known to the Jews at that time as the Book of Leviticus. Paul then continues with this train of thought starting in verse 17.

“Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I 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 – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Holy Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It 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. Rather, as it is written, ‘Those who were not told about Him will see, and those who have not heard will understand’. This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.” (Romans 15: verses 17-22)

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me…”. I strive to do what Paul the apostle did when he wrote these words nearly two thousand years ago. You have noticed as you have read these weekly Bible studies that I rarely mention anything from my own past, nor do I cite any of my own experiences in life. Instead, I have always stuck with God’s Word and I have taught solely from that frame of reference. I do this so that what I am teaching and writing about conforms to the Word of God and to the teachings of Christ Jesus.

In point of fact, as a teacher and minister I am held to a higher standard in God’s eyes, and He expects me to live up to it. Since this is my Christian responsibility, I “study the word to show myself approved” and I make myself “transformed by the renewing of my mind”. There are those who teach the Word of God but who do so from their own frame of reference, based on their experiences in the secular world outside the Church. Paul warned the early Christians about this in chapter 16 as he was finishing his letter to the early Roman church.

“I 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. For such people are not serving our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone 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.” (Romans 16: verses 17-19)

When Paul implored the early church at Rome to “watch out for those who cause divisions”, he was actually prophesying about the advent of church denominations that were beginning at the time these words were being written. In the first century AD, various churches were already proclaiming themselves to be followers of Paul, Peter, James and other apostles who were the Twelve during Christ’s ministry on earth.

As you read the New Testament you will notice numerous occasions where Paul and the other apostles preached against this very thing. The above example is only one of many throughout the Bible. In the early 21st century here in America, there are over 4,000 Protestant denominations not counting the rest of the world. That’s just here in the US. You have no doubt heard or read about examples of this sort of thing happening either in churches or in print. One denomination preaches against another as they try to convince other people that their pastor’s point of view is the only correct one. In the worst cases, different churches from the same denomination preach and teach against each other, no doubt to the complete chagrin of Almighty God.

What will God do with these churches? Let me alert you ahead of time: When the real rapture of the Church occurs in the next few years or so (and we’re not there yet), these churches will find themselves left behind to endure the latter half of the Great Tribulation prophesied in the Book of Revelation, Matthew’s gospel chapters 24 and 25, and in a fair number of other places in the Bible. Let’s not go there, people! Instead of following one denomination or another, let us instead be followers of Jesus Christ and him alone.

Watch out for and steer clear of churches such as these. It is for this very reason that this web site is not connected with or affiliated with any one particular denomination. If you find yourself in a brick-and-mortar church and you hear hate or intolerance being preached against any other church or group of people, get out of there immediately. You can be sure God has led you to this virtual church in its place, a good on-line church where the preaching and teaching comes straight out of the Bible, and one where the baptism by water and by the Holy Spirit is being taught. I am or have already done these things This is how you know you are on the right track.

Always stay in the Word, reading and studying your Bible diligently, because you reinforce your own faith whenever you do so. And next week we will begin our study of the first of Paul’s 2 letters to the church at Corinth, known as the Corinthian epistles. Until then, keep Jesus in your hearts and minds, and live your faith like He was there inside you, inhabiting your hearts and mind..

How to Embrace Each Others Diversity As An Alternative Lifestyle

Embracing Each Other’s Faith Despite Our Differences

(Romans chapter 14, verses 13-23)

For this week’s Bible study we will finish Romans chapter 14, as we continue to learn the meaning of tolerance among ourselves as it applies to our faith. In today’s lesson we’ll be concluding the apostle Paul’s train of thought from the first 12 verses that we studied last week concerning judging one another. Paul was talking about passing judgment on “disputable matters” of faith, using eating certain types of foods as an example. Some folks eat only certain types of foods, such as different kinds of meat, whereas others do not. Still others are vegetarians. Paul is not preaching on what or what not to eat, he is only using this as an example of what he is trying to teach us. Paul states unequivocally that “each one should be convinced in his (or her) own mind”. He then continues in this train of thought as he finishes making his point, beginning in verse 13.

“Therefore 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. As 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. If 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. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 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 approved by men.” (Romans 14: verses 13-18)

“Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way”. Here Paul is exhorting us not to do anything that could compromise or call into question the faith of someone else, whether they are a believer or not. If you are a Protestant then don’t be putting down Catholics. If you’re a Catholic, then don’t express hate for a Muslim or a Jew just because they believe differently than you do (except, of course, for those who blow themselves up while in large crowds of other people). We can and do disagree, that is true. But that does not give us an excuse to look down on someone who we erroneously regard as being not as good as we are. If you are so far up in the clouds spiritually that your feet are no longer touching the ground, then you have lost touch with the very people to whom you are supposed to be witnessing to and setting a good example for. Muslims and Jews do not eat pork. I happen to like pork, I eat it about once a week. Under no circumstances does that allow me to look down upon someone who abstains from pork. And that works both ways.

This also brings up the issue of antisemitism, which is a sugar-coated term for hatred of the Jews. If you are a Christian and worship Jesus Christ in Spirit and in truth, then it is impossible to hate Jewish people because Jesus walked the earth as a Jewish man. You cannot simultaneously hate the Jews and claim to love Christ, who died for all our sins. You either love Christ or you don’t. And if you don’t believe in Christ, then the Bible says you will be condemned to hell when your life on earth is over. On the other hand, you can change your mind right now and ask Jesus, “If you’re really real, then come and become the Lord of my life”. If you love Christ, a Jewish man, then you presumably love all Jews as well. Anything less is completely contradictory and doesn’t hold up under serious examination. Furthermore, while I certainly don’t wish to scold or otherwise cause offense with my readers, I think it’s better to tell the truth and be unpopular than to be well liked for merely telling people the things they like to hear. As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is part of my job to point out these things.

Do not by your eating (or drinking) destroy your brother for whom Christ died”. Many Christians, especially Evangelicals, abstain from alcoholic beverages for reasons of faith. Although I was raised as a Catholic, I have been a Progressive Christian since 1992 when I first gave my life to the Lord. As such, I occasionally enjoy alcoholic beverages, but I always do so in moderation. By the same token, if I went out to dinner with Evangelicals I would order a soft drink instead of beer or a mixed drink. By the same token, if I went out to dinner with a Muslim or a Jew, I would not order pork and risk offending that person. That would be no better than showing up at an AA meeting with a six pack of beer. I have been fortunate to never have had a problem with alcohol or drugs, but by opening up a six pack of beer at that AA meeting I would be offending all others there who must by necessity abstain from all forms of alcohol. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil”. Instead, we are to strive to set a good Christian example for all to see, and our every word and action will be watched closely by others, especially non-believers. Since Christ died and was risen from the dead on the third day for us all, we are to treat everyone equally in these matters and not cause someone’s conscience to be bothered or compromised by our own actions. Anyone who does would be sinning against that person and against God. Paul then goes on starting at verse 19.

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do 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. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.” (Romans 14: verses 19-21)

The main point of Christianity is belief in Christ Jesus as the risen Son of God. All other issues of faith, such as what to eat or drink, or for that matter how we worship as an individual, becomes a side issue and as such are besides the point. Abortion is another example. Although I personally think abortion is wrong, I refuse to pass judgment on those who do not, or who may have actually had an abortion sometime in the past. That is between them and God. Judging other people is God’s job, not mine, and therefore I never presume to do God’s job for Him – as if I were somehow capable of doing that in a righteous manner in the first place!

For the Bible says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. And again it is written by the apostle James, “Be careful how you judge one another, for with the same measure that you judge others, it will be measured back to you”. It is far better to follow what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”. So if I bring a six pack of beer to an AA meeting, and my actions cause one of the people at that meeting to relapse and wind up back in rehab, that sin is not on that person’s soul; it would in that case actually be on mine. Let it be far from me to cause my brother or sister to stumble and fall because of my actions, because God is watching everything I do and He is listening to every word that I say. So it is for all of us. Paul then concludes in verse 22 as follows.

“So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But 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: verses 22-23)

We are to keep everything we believe, every bit of our faith, between ourselves and God. Paul wrote elsewhere in the Book of Philippians that we are to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling between ourselves and the Lord”. That is exactly what Paul was talking about here. I may not believe what others do, and I may have a different nature of faith than my brother or my sister. But under no circumstances does that give me any right to condemn what anyone else believes, or to look down on them, believing that my faith is somehow better than theirs. God made us all in His image and likeness, so says the Bible. Therefore if we have questions or doubts about what someone else believes, we are actually passing judgment on that which God has made, and no one has any right to question the judgment and intentions of God. That is the ultimate form of blasphemy, a damnable sin if ever there was one.

Let us all start doing this today, and going forward. By doing so we can all become better Christians and have a better walk with Christ. Remember that the closer we walk with Christ the closer we are to God. As we become closer to God, we grow stronger and better through Him by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. And this is a noble and worthy goal for all of us to achieve and to live by. By doing so we become a better Christian and a better person, and that should be the goal of everyone who truly believes. Besides, by doing so, you never know when our actions can influence a non-believer and win them over to Christ. And that is something that is always worthwhile.

He has always been our vine, and we who believe are surely His branches

The Olive Tree, The Branches, and their Significance

(Romans chapter 11, verses 1-16)

let he who is without sin

In today’s chronological study of the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul continues his train of thought regarding the Hebrew people versus the remaining nations of the world. He continues to elaborate about the Jews as being God’s chosen people while he explains why that status was going to the Gentile nations instead of Israel. Paul quoted from the prophet Isaiah chapter 65 and verse one, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me”. God’s purpose for the Gentile nations (that’s us) was to extend the salvation of Christ to all humanity, provoking Israel to jealousy. So let’s pick up where we left off last week beginning at chapter 11, verse one.

“I ask then; did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says about the prophet Elijah – how he appealed to God against Israel: ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me’? (I Kings 19, verses 10 and 14) And what was God’s answer to him? ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed their knee to Baal’. (I Kings 19:18) So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What, then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as 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.’ (Isaiah 29: 20) And David says, ‘May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see and their backs be bent forever’. (Psalm 69: 22-23) Again 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. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater will their fullness bring!” (Romans 11, verses 1-12)

God has not rejected the Jewish nation, Paul wrote, and he states unequivocally that he is living proof that this is so. Keep in mind that when Paul wrote these words, the overwhelming majority of Christians in the early church were Jewish converts. It is a documented fact that all of the living apostles (James had already been executed at the time these words were written) were ministering to the Jews of their day. Only Paul, as we learned from last week’s study, was ministering to the Gentiles. If I as an Israelite, Paul was saying, can be saved, then so can the rest of us. “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” As we have learned previously, grace is defined as unmerited favor from God. It is a free gift with no strings attached, provided that we surrender control of our lives to Jesus Christ, making him the Lord over all right down to our daily lives. “What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did.” “The elect” is a reference to all non-Jews who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb of God, none other than Christ himself. “The elect” are all born-again Christians.

“…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.” Paul is saying here that since so many non-believing Jews had rejected the salvation of Christ, he would cause all the Gentile nations to get their fair share of grace ahead of the Jews, deliberately making them angry. Anyone who rejects Christ will be proven wrong, first for the Jew, and then for the Gentile. Those who are proven wrong but still will not change their ways are in danger of final judgment that leads to eternal death. But those who do believe, whether Jew or Gentile, will be granted eternal life in New Jerusalem, a life without end where time as we know it does not exist. Paul makes his point by comparing new Christians to branches of an olive tree. The olive tree is used throughout the Bible as a symbol for Israel. It goes back to the tradition of Jesus teaching us all that “I am the vine, and you are the branches”. It’s in all four gospels if you want to look it up.

“I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I might somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough that is offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole branch is holy; if the root is holy, then so are the branches.” (Romans 11 verses 13-16)

In the first verse above, the apostle Paul makes reference to himself as a Jewish man when he talks about being an apostle to the Gentiles, or non-Jews. He then states by doing so he hoped to “somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them”. This is a direct reference to a passage in the book of Acts where Paul’s arguments for his new-found Christian faith are rejected by his Jewish peers at every turn. “Let your blood be on your own heads”, Paul exclaims to them. “From now on, I will take my message to the Gentiles”. Paul then uses a quote from Christ to make his point when he says,” If the part of the dough that is offered as first-fruits is holy, then the whole branch is holy”. Jesus said during one of his parables, “A small amount of yeast works through the whole batch of dough”. This is what Paul is referring to when he says, “ If the part of the dough that is offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole branch is holy.”

“First fruits” refers to the ancient Jewish tradition in the Old Testament of offering up a tenth of one’s livestock and their crops for sacrifice at the temple at Jerusalem. Unfortunately, this tradition is still being taught in some churches as being a requirement for ‘membership’ today even though Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross takes the place of Old Testament teachings. (yes, you should still give to your church and other non-profits, but the 10% requirement was abolished when Christ rose from the dead three days after he was crucified. Any church that teaches tithing 10% of one’s income today is bending and twisting the Gospel so as to turn houses of worship into profitable businesses. God will deal with them severely!).

So as we close out part 1 of Romans chapter 11, Paul the apostle is continuing his train of thought by emphasizing how essential the passion of Christ truly is to Jew and non-Jew alike. Next week when we conclude part 2, you will see the strong, sure hand of Paul’s guiding hand as he led the early Church towards its destiny. Until then, keep Christ in your heart close at hand.

The roots of the continued conflict in the Middle East, the Scriptures, and the achievement of a lasting peace

The True Origins of All the Fighting in the Middle East Turn Out to Be One Gigantic Family Feud

(Romans chapter 9, verses 14-33)

Last week as we left off at verse 13, Paul the apostle was addressing some concerns to the early Roman church regarding the separation of Christian believers and their Jewish brethren (and in some cases, family members). This was, in actuality, a culture clash that was occurring at the time Paul wrote these words. I will now present the final 10 verses of this week’s Scriptural study, beginning at verse 14:

 

“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but God’s mercy. For 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’. Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens those whom he wants to harden.’ One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?’ But 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’? Does not the potter have the rights to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, – bore with great patience the objects of his wrath prepared for destruction? What 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 – even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9, verses 14-24)

 

‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ (Exodus 33:19) God chooses those that he sets aside for honor and praise, but he also chooses those who stand against him, because to stand against God means to rely on our human pride and only what matters to ourselves, refusing to submit to God’s will. “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but God’s mercy.” What doesn’t? Our selfish desires, our ulterior motives, and all our little schemes and manipulations that we hatch on others we dislike. We can obtain neither eternal salvation nor the forgiveness of sins by our works alone, or by our words and deeds, whether they are good or bad. Recognition of God’s grace and of the shed blood of Jesus Christ are what saves us. Refusal to believe these established facts are what condemns us. I can’t make it any more plain than that.

 

Then why, Paul wrote, does God still blame people when they sin, and why does the guilt remain? And, who are we to talk back to God making demands as to why he has made us as he has? People who make this mistake, and it can be a very serious one, are forgetting who is God and who isn’t. Let’s not go there, people. Remember to keep your eyes on the prize! What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known… – even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” God has shed his grace upon us through Jesus his only Son so that the riches of his glory could be made known. The glory of the Son, in turn, is then made known through us, his adopted children. Since Jesus walked the earth as a Jewish carpenter, his salvation is equally available to Gentiles and Jews on an equal basis. So now you know why we’re all family members. And now let’s conclude this study of Romans chapter 9, starting at verse 25.

 

“As 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’, and, ‘it will happen in the very place where it was said to them, ‘you are not my people’, they will be called ‘Sons of the Living God’. Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the Israelite’s will 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’. It 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’. What shall we say, then? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. And why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, as 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, verses 25-33)

 

Paul the apostle quotes the book of Hosea chapter 2 and verse 23 to finish making his point to the Roman congregation. “‘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’, and, ‘it will happen in the very place where it was said to them, ‘you are not my people’, they will be called ‘Sons of the Living God.” What was Paul talking about? He was referring to Israel’s status as God’s chosen people based on the promise God made to Abraham (see the book of Genesis chapter 15), which was that Abraham would be the “father of many nations” and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the clear night sky. Paul refers to this in the next sentence when he wrote, “Though the number of the Israelite’s will 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.”

 

The unvarnished truth here is that not everyone is going to heaven when they die. In fact, there are many out there today who simply aren’t going to make it into New Jerusalem. A disturbing proportion of them will be what the Bible calls “lukewarm Christians” in the book of Revelation chapter 3. It is there that it is written about the church at Laodicea, “I wish that you were either hot or cold. But since you are neither, I will spew you out of my mouth”. That judgment refers to the end times church, which is the present day since the second coming of our Lord is getting close. And if only a remnant of Israel, who are God’s chosen people, will be saved, now many fewer who comprise all the remaining nations excluding Israel will be saved? The answer is, not as many as we have been led to believe by organized religion, who seem to think that only those who belong to their denominations will be saved. It is those very people who are going to be in for a really rude awakening.

 

“… the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. And why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as it were by works.” Right here is where Paul finishes making his point, which is that Jews and all other nations have all become one in the eyes of God. The non-Jews have righteousness, which means to be found without fault but in that case according to their faith, while the Jews who do not believe in Jesus (there are a growing number who do believe) have lost out because they thought they could be made righteous by their works. This teaching was a reference to the Law of Moses in the Old Testament, when in fact that’s not how things work in God’s kingdom. Nobody, whether Jewish or not, can get to heaven and achieve eternal life based only on their good deeds. That is because no matter how many good deeds any one of us performs, we all still have that sinful nature that dates all the way back to Adam and Eve. There is no way we can shake this off of us on our own. Only by placing our unconditional faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ can eternal salvation be attained and our sinful natures overcome.

 

They stumbled over the stumbling stone, as 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’”. The “stumbling stone” Paul is referring to is none other than Christ Jesus himself. If we trust only in our works or our related sacrifices such as tithing 10% of our income like certain churches teach, that will not get us to heaven in and of itself. But if we humble ourselves before Christ by surrendering control of our lives and placing our complete trust in him, then and only then can we become Jews by adoption in the family of God. When we trust in God, we can never be put to shame so long as we work diligently at this continuously. So here is something we have found that will improve our relationship with our Savior while bringing us ever closer to him all the while. Let’s begin to put this into practice today, and soon you will see just how remarkably effective in your walk with the Lord this is.

 

Today we start a new series on the Book of Romans

All you regular readers out there have been following for quite a few years now, having started this blog back in 2011. I wish to thank you with all my strength, my mind and my soul, each and every one of you! Since then I have reinvented this Web publication twice to make it more appealing for first-time visitors as well as my thousands of followers. The following is an excerpt from my 2017 book, “The Apostles in Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul” (c) 2017 by rev. Paul J. Bern, all rights reserved To order this or any of my other 4 titles at half price, please visit https://www.amazon.com/author/revpauljbern right away…..

Jews And Non-Jews Are One And The Same

[Romans chapter 1]

Today I will begin a series of studies on the writings of the apostle Paul in the order they appear in the New Testament. Naturally we’ll begin with the book of Romans, since this book elaborates on the apostle Paul’s ministry in great detail (others do as well, but we’ll start with this one because it is the first of Paul’s letters). Bearing that in mind, I will now begin with the first chapter:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – the Gospel he promised beforehand through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through 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. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” . (Romans 1: 1-6)

The first thing that we notice here is the phrase “ …the Gospel he promised beforehand through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David…”. Jesus was in fact a descendant of King David of Jerusalem, the writer of the book of Psalms. Since King David ruled ancient Israel, Jesus was also an Israelite who walked the earth as a Jewish man just as David did. But Paul doesn’t stop there. “Through 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. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ”. We have received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles! Therefore, we are all apostles like Paul. Paul was a Jewish man educated in the Jewish theological centers of his day. This would be equivalent to modern-day seminaries, and Paul was definitely a Bible scholar. But Paul takes his argument a step further with this next quote.

I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I 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. For 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 1:14-17)

Now let’s compare that with the first quotation from further above. “Through 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.” ‘The obedience that comes from faith’ and “the righteous will live by faith” is the same faith that Paul calls “the salvation of everyone who believes”. Also, please note that Paul uses Greeks and Jews as well as non-Greeks and Gentiles interchangeably. Although this is no big deal to the early 21st century Bible student, this was a radical teaching for Paul’s time since the Jews, Greeks and every other nation still considered themselves to be separate nations for nationalistic as well as religious reasons. The phrase “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” can be taken with a grain of salt since much of the Gospel, including this part, were written by Jewish people.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For 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… (Furthermore) since they did not think it worthwhile to to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind,to do what ought not to be done. They 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, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil, they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they follow 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, verses 18-20; 28-32)

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men…”. Translated into 21st century English this would read, ‘The more wicked and evil anyone may harbor in their hearts, the more God will stand against them’. People who are willfully evil, or who are just plain bad individuals for whatever reason (and sometimes for no reason at all), and who do not care whether they hurt anyone or not, aren’t being very smart because they only bring more judgment on themselves. Doing these kinds of things makes an already-miserable life even worse, but there are way too many people who completely miss this. The root cause of this seems to be a hatred of God, or a refusal to even acknowledge His existence, let alone believe in him exclusively as we should.

Paul writes a few lines defining his meaning in the next verse when he wrote, “They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil, they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” There it is again from Paul’s perspective. Evil and wicked people simply don’t have any sense, which to me is a nice way of saying someone is incurably stupid. Let’s all be on our guard against this, otherwise Satan may steer our lives in such a direction that we cross paths with one of these “ruthless” characters, all of whom are minions of Satan. Since obviously no one wants to be anywhere near to that, let’s be sure and take an internal inventory of ourselves. If any traces or issues concerning any of the things Paul mentioned is found, the best way to repent of whatever it is that presents a problem is to ask Jesus to take it from you.

Sin can sometimes be like kids getting their hands wet when playing outside in the snow, like I used to do when I was little. One day I put my wet hands on a swing-set I used to play on all those decades ago, and they got stuck. My mom had to come out and get my hands unstuck because I was unable. When we have sin in our lives, sometimes people who have been hanging on to certain behaviors and hang-ups have done so for so long that they can’t let go on their own. But if we only ask Jesus to help us get rid of whatever character flaw, personality defect, inadequacy or addiction by taking it from us, he will make up the difference. So we should voluntarily surrender our sins to Jesus by lifting them up with both hands and saying, “Lord Jesus, please take this from me. I don’t want it anymore, but I can’t seem to get rid of it. So please help me, in your holy name I pray. Amen”.

We can all be sure that He will show up, and always with perfect timing, which can often be at the last minute. But when God does that, it is to show us that He was in charge of our lives, situations and circumstances all along. No matter who we are, or who we know, or how much (or little) we know, or how much money we have, God is still in charge of all of it. Be warned that those who put their faith in any of these other things instead of faith in God is living in a state of idolatry, a clear violation of the first two commandments. To avoid eternal death, which will be the fate of all idolaters, seek Jesus Christ, because he is the only correct way to eternal life. And that’s all I want from him. Ask him and He will do the same for you.


This week’s ongoing Biblical studies will move on to part 2 of the Book of Ruth.

Rev. Paul J. Bern

A Teaching on the Book of Ruth, and Why It’s Still Relevant (part 2)

by Minister Paul J. Bern

Last week in the Book of Ruth part 1, as we closed out chapter 2, we have now ascertained what I would call the ultimate identity of Ruth. Children get adopted all the time, and when they do they become a part of their new extended family. Many preparations must be made, and much paperwork must be signed, and let’s not forget those legal fees. But Ruth was already considered family, so she sat at Boaz’s table. This is where last week’s study left off, and I quote, “Then, in chapter 2 verse 14 the Bible says, “At mealtime Boaz said to her, ‘Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar’”. Here we see a Jew offering a gentile some bread dipped in vinegar. Contrast this to Matthew 27:48, where a gentile Roman soldier gives Christ Jesus, our Jewish savior, a sponge dipped in vinegar to drink as He hung on the cross at Golgotha. What a horrible way to pay back our Lord and Savior!

Later, in Ruth 2, verses 19-20, the true identity of Boaz is revealed; “…Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “‘The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz’, she said. ‘The Lord bless him!’, Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. ‘He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead…that man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers’”. Then, in chapter 3, Ruth goes to sleep at the feet of Boaz in verses 7-9. When Boaz discovers her during the night, he demands to know who she is. Verses 9-13 read as follows:

‘Who are you’?, he asked. ‘I am your servant Ruth’, she said. ‘Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer’. ‘The Lord bless you, my daughter’, he replied. ‘This kindness is greater than that which you showed me earlier. You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsman know that you are a woman of noble character. Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good. Let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning’.”

Boaz calling Ruth “a woman of noble character” and offering to lead her, a Gentile, to a Jewish kinsman-redeemer, is without a doubt comparable to the apostle Paul leaving Judaism to lead the Gentiles to Christ. He preached this message in Antioch to the Jews in Acts 18:26, “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent”. But this was explained more directly by Paul in Acts 18:4-6. “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles’”.

The noun ‘Greeks’ is a synonym for Gentiles in this passage. Paul also wrote of Gentiles seeking Jewish redeemers both in Galatians 4, verses 4-7: “But when the time has fully come, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the spirit of His son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’. So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has also made you an heir”. Finally, in Ruth chapter 4, we have our happy ending! Boaz marries Ruth. In the same manner as Christ takes pride in His Bride, the Church, Boaz announces his pride in Ruth in chapter 4, verses 9 and 10; “Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, ‘Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabitess, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from the town records. Today you are witnesses’.”

Once we were like Ruth – without redemption, unbelieving and steeped in sin. Our names would disappear with our deaths. But Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, has redeemed us by claiming us as his own through his death and resurrection. The parallels between Boaz, a Jew, claiming Ruth, a Gentile, as part of his family and Christ claiming the Gentile nations as a part of his Bride, are unmistakable. Peter wrote on this subject in 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light”. Revelation 21:3 also speaks of this, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’”.

Christ Jesus is truly our kinsman-redeemer, whether we view ourselves as a Jew or not,. Ruth had faith enough to call Boaz her kinsman-redeemer, and she was rewarded by becoming part of his family. By claiming Christ as our kinsman-redeemer, we affirm that we are a part of the family of God through adoption. The apostle Paul wrote about this in Romans 8:15-17: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son-ship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”

I sure am glad that we can claim Jesus as our kinsman-redeemer, and I am so extremely grateful about being co-heirs with Christ. I am elated at God’s mercy, that He has called everyone who is a true believer his sons and his daughters. It is truly wonderful and astonishing that we, the Bride of Christ, can truthfully claim to be the adopted relatives of Jesus Christ. Aren’t you glad about that too?