Tag Archive for: Romans

We present the audio from Rev. Adam Koontz’ recent presentation in Paducah, Kentucky, on the motivation for mission in Romans. Even as God is the one who chooses us for salvation, He also chooses us to be the means of bringing that salvation to the world.

The audio of the other presentation by Rev. Willie Grills may be found here.

Host: Rev. Zelwyn Heide

Regular Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz

Episode: 139

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Click here for the reading: Romans 11:33-36.

Paul bursts into a hymn of praise as he concludes his treatment of election (Ro. 9-11). What prompts his doxology is this mystery, which he sums up in v. 32: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” That God has chosen to have mercy and how his mercy is delivered are beyond human comprehension. It is wisdom that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart imagined (1 Cor. 2:9), but it has been revealed by the Spirit of God to those who believe.

Unfathomable, unsearchable, inscrutable – these absolutes remove every bound from the unapproachable light of divine glory, as Isaiah experienced in the throne-room of God. And yet, in Christ, the outcome of this mystery is made plainly visible. His Spirit, whom he poured out generously on the day of Pentecost and again and again in the washing of regeneration and renewal (Titus 3:5), grants wisdom and understanding, knowledge and the fear of the LORD (Is. 11:2). These are not gifts that enable the Christian to plumb the depths of God. They are gifts that enable the Christian to receive the benefits of a grace that he cannot understand, to rejoice in a salvation that his flesh would reject. Though none has known the mind of the Lord, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:13).

Paul’s expression of the divine origin and sustenance and goal of everything (v. 36) does not resolve the mystery into the speculations of a philosopher. God is not right under our noses, nor is everything under our noses all that there is. Paul’s outlook is eschatological and this time of wondering about the mystery of the Godhead is provisional. Because the will of God has been revealed in Christ and the personality of God has been made known in the revelation of Father, Son, and Spirit, it does not suffice to know God generically. It does not suffice to bend the knee to an unknown God. The Lord does not desire that we seek him out as though our reason can honor him simply by acknowledging his transcendence. He desires that we look for him where he may be found, that we offer prayers to him in the certainty that he hears them (Ps. 32:6), that our worship of him is not merely the worship of Zeus or Jove, but the worship of Emmanuel.

It is to that God, now made known in the flesh, to whom we ought to give glory forever. His is the only name that can command every knee to bow. It is to him that all authority in heaven and earth belong. And it is his glory that surpasses the glory of kings and nations and powers in the earth. Paul gives voice to the breathless awe that we must experience at the revelation of God’s mercy in Christ crucified for sinners. The resolution to Isaiah’s, “Woe is me!” is found here in Paul’s exclamation: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”

Click here for the reading: Romans 12:1-5.

This passage offers a wonderful opportunity to teach the basics of worship, an activity not of a certain time or place but of Sunday mornings and all of life, too. The term “Divine Service” should be taught as the name for what happens on Sunday mornings, but so long as people call the same thing “worship,” then the chance to teach the Bible definition of “worship” is a chance you shouldn’t pass up.

The worship Paul describes is a life of sacrifice. Blood is not necessarily offered; the Hebrews could worship faithfully yet not then to the point of shedding blood. The blood of bulls and goats is of course completely beside the point. The sacrifices God desires consist a life that is not conformed to the world but transformed in one’s mind so that the Christian comes to know what God desires in his life.

The overall shape of that twofold dynamic is clearer in view of the last three verses of the pericope. The world is defined primarily by a lack of humility. This results in an inability to function as a body where there are many different members with many different functions. Arrogance and boasting make one’s own gifts negligible or in need of no improvement and everyone else’s gifts the subject of constant critique. Thus Christ’s body, His temple, His living stones, are strewn every which way in utter disarray.

Instead, humility is the dressing of the living stone, making it fit properly into the structure of the building, as the stones of the first temple were dressed in the quarry and fit exactly when they were brought to Jerusalem. Humility gives a man sober judgment so that he can tell who he is and what he ought to be about – neither more nor less than he ought. He attends to the Lord’s gifts instead of his neighbor’s foibles.

Conformity to the world is arrogance; transformation of the mind is humility’s child. The mind is then attuned to what is good and acceptable specifically in one’s own life. The language of sacrifice is key. No one had to bring his neighbor’s goat or turtledove for sacrifice but only what was due from his household. No one must bring his neighbor’s gifts under scrutiny but only what he has to offer for the good of the body, the household of God.

Click here for the reading: Romans 15:4-13.

This passage from Romans 15 forms the conclusion of the larger section beginning in chapter 14. Paul exhorts his hearers to not cause a fellow Christian to stumble by their actions and to bear with the failings of the weak, just as Christ did not please Himself. What are common ways that we cause one another to stumble? What does Paul mean by bearing with the weak in these matters? Why is this important to consider as we await the coming of Christ? Consider the parallel passage in 1 Corinthians 8 and what it means to have the mind of Christ.

Having just cited Psalm 69 to prove his point, Paul reminds us that the Scriptures are written for our instruction so that we may have hope. How are we instructed by the Scriptures? Why is it a danger to treat this instruction merely as information? Why does this instruction give us hope, especially when dealing with the sins of others? In what ways does Paul describe the purpose of Scripture in passages like 2 Timothy 3:16-17?

Paul prays that his hearers would find the harmony they had been lacking, a harmony which could only come from God. The Lord who speaks through the Scriptures would grant them this harmony through Jesus Christ. What is the ultimate goal of harmony in the Church? What does false harmony look like, and what are its goals? How do we find this harmony in Christ, who has welcomed us? Compare 1 John 3:11-24 and what it means to love not in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.

Christ, after all, became a servant in order to confirm the ancient promises and to lead the Gentiles to glorify God. His goal in doing so was not a divided congregation, bickering with one another and looking down on one another, but a united body of Jews and Gentiles united in one voice. Paul cites four passages from all over the Old Testament to prove this point. Why should we emphasize with Paul that Christ came first to the house of Israel? What does this coming show about the nature of God? What makes us as the Gentiles rejoice, and what does this show about the nature of God? Why is this a fitting conclusion to the problem of disunity in the Church? How does Paul address this question in Ephesians 2?

Advent looks forward in hope to the time when God will fulfill all of His promises and bring an end to all divisions and hostilities. Why do we sing praises to God’s name now? How will those praises change on the Last Day? How does this reality lead us to bear with one another while we wait in hope? Why is the song of Revelation 5 a new song, and how do we find unity in the Lamb who was slain?

Click here for the reading: Romans 10:8-18.

Paul wrestles with a question which causes a scandal: why did Israel to whom the promises came fail to believe? Here in the middle of answering this question in Romans 9-11, Paul lays out what Israel failed to understand. Righteousness is a matter of faith alone. Why was Israel hardened in this way? In what ways are we in danger of becoming hardened in the same way, even as we hear the Gospel like Israel did? Read also Deuteronomy 30, which Paul quotes in this chapter to make his point. What was Moses warning Israel against in that passage?

The Gospel is not confusing or hard to understand. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. As the heart stands for our inmost self and the mouth stands for our outward expression, faith is a matter of the whole man. In what ways, verbal and nonverbal, do we confess our faith in Christ? Why is this confession, outward and inward, so important for a living faith? In a time when we consider matters of the heart to be private, why is the Gospel meant to be public? Compare Matthew 16:13-20 and the confession of Peter to this passage.

As Acts 22:21-22 shows us, the Jews especially took offense that the promises of God were being given to the Gentiles. Paul reaffirms here that the Gospel is meant for all, Jew and Greek alike. All who call on his name will be saved, without exception, without distinction. What does this mean for the mission of the Church? Since Paul felt a strong desire that his own people might be saved, what does this mean for proclaiming the message to our own people as well? Consider also Acts 10 and Peter’s change of heart regarding Cornelius.

Yet no one can be saved if they have not heard the Gospel! No one can hear it if no one proclaims that life-giving message! Preaching is central to the mission of the Church, in a way that no other activity can be. How does this reality shape our understanding of preaching? How does it encourage us for the task? Since the word for “beautiful” can also mean “timely” or “seasonable,” how is preaching connected to God’s providence? How does Paul emphasize preaching also in passages like 2 Timothy 4:1-5?

Preaching is not an easy task, as the apostles like Andrew who died because of the word they proclaimed knew well. The prophets of old proclaimed a word which fell on deaf and angry ears. We live in the end of the ages, when the love of many will grow cold. How does this passage prepare us for difficult times, especially as the end of all things grows closer by the day? How can we find comfort in knowing that preaching is part of God’s will even when we suffer for it? How does the Lord’s reply to Jeremiah complaint in Jeremiah 15:10-21 apply even to our own day?

Click here for the reading: Romans 13:11-14.

The reading from Romans 13 comes in the midst of Paul describing what it means to be a Christian in light of all that was said in the first eleven chapters. Here, however, Paul gives us another reason for living as Christians. The time of the end comes ever closer with each passing day. Why should the nearness of Christ’s return shape our daily lives? How does the season of Advent teach us about this? In the light of a passage like 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, what should we encourage one another to do?

Paul warns us that the hour has already come to wake up from sleep. The day is fast approaching, and the night is almost gone. Why is a danger to be spiritually asleep? How do we fall spiritually asleep? Are there dangers in the present time that threaten to lull us to sleep that former generations did not know? What kind of dangers threaten Christians that do not threaten the world in the same way? Consider Psalm 141 and what it means to call on the Lord in view of the coming dawn.

The central focus of this passage is a call to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Paul then spells out in specific detail what that means for us, not leaving it up to us to determine for ourselves. What does it mean to walk properly or decently as a Christian? In what ways do Christians fall into the sins which Paul lists? Why is it important to talk about the works of darkness in concrete examples, rather than leaving it up to our imagination? Compare the longer list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. Why do these things prevent us from inheriting the kingdom of God?

Clothe yourself with Christ, Paul says, and make no provision for the flesh. What does Paul mean by the flesh and its desires? What does it mean to make provision for the flesh, especially in the light of Christ’s return? How do we avoid making such provision? What does it mean to put on Christ, especially in terms of resisting evil desires? In Genesis 4:6-7, the Lord warns Cain to resist the sin crouching at his door. How do the negative examples of Scripture teach us about the dangers of evil desire?

Paul immediately follows this section with a long exhortation about bearing with the failings of the weak. We should build one another up and not please ourselves. How is passing a sinful judgment on one another opposed to putting on Christ? Why does Paul call for us to wake up as the body of Christ and not merely to wake up as individuals? Why should we put off even what is legitimate and not please ourselves? Based on 1 Corinthians 8-9, how can we become disqualified in these issues?

Join us for an introduction to Saint Paul’s letters to Rome and Philippi and a look at how the Gospel spread in the earliest church.  This episode is dedicated, with thanks to God, to the faithful proclaimer of Paul’s message of grace, the late Dr. Walter A. Maier II.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide

Regular Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz

Episode: 80

Join our Facebook group Word Fitly Posting to discuss this episode or any other topic. Follow us on Twitter: @wordfitly. Send us a message: [email protected] Subscribe to the podcast: RSS Feed, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcasting app.

In the previous pericope, Paul underscored the connection between Baptism and the new life.  Because the Christian is baptized into Christ, becoming like Him in all things, he no longer sins by necessity.  Sin no longer has dominion over the Christian, just as it has no dominion over Christ.

As Paul says in Romans 6:6-7, the Christian is no longer enslaved to sin.  Romans 6:12-18, strangely excised from the lectionary, amplifies this point.  Sin no longer reigns, but the Christian who is lax runs the risk of falling back under its dominion.  “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness” (Romans 6:13).  Paul personifies sin here in this section of Romans, making it not a personal failing, but a vicious master.  If one does not have God for a master, then sin will be the master.

The imagery of slavery, though used “because of your natural limitations,” shows the seriousness of Paul’s exhortation.  The Christian is a slave of God.  Our modern aversion to this concept should not color Paul’s point.  If the Christian is a slave, then his obedience is not a matter of choice.  He must obey the master who owns him.  To disobey God, therefore, and to turn toward sin is to run away.  Instead of laboring in the vineyard of the Lord, the Christian who willfully sins leaves the garden in a vain search for something “better.”  Outside the vineyard is only death.

This is especially true for the Christian who imagines that grace removes the need for obedience.  Antinomianism, seeking to magnify the free gift of God in Christ Jesus, slaps God in the face.  The antinomian says to his Father, “I go, sir,” but does not go (Matthew 21:30).  Salvation is not an absolute liberty to do whatever you please.  Salvation is a transfer of masters.

Further, each one will receive his wages, whether he is a slave of sin or a slave of God.  After all, lawlessness leads to more lawlessness, compounding upon itself, and righteousness leads to sanctification, also compounding upon itself.  If lawlessness grows, its fruit ultimately is death (Romans 6:21).  But righteousness also grows, and its fruit is life (Romans 6:22).  This is why it is so serious a matter when a Christian falls back into sin.  Sin is not messing up.  Sin leads to death, and the two ways of life and death do not have the same end.  It is not wandering on a road that more or less leads to heaven, but turning aside and walking down a road that leads anywhere but.

Paul says all of this to avoid a misunderstanding.  Being set free from the Law is not being set free from the demands of the Law, but rather its curse.  We seek after the Law, because it is holy, it is God’s will, not as a means of justifying ourselves.  God’s mercy is certainly magnified when He shows it to an undeserving people, and the Law shows our unworthiness.  Yet God is never glorified by sin.  Let us be careful lest, seeking to magnify God, we actually magnify our own sin.  God has not redeemed us to seek the way of death, but to turn from our wicked ways and live.

Because sin, working through the Law though not being a part of it, brings death, the Christian engages in an internal, personal war.  The holy and righteous Law of God is his delight, but sin works in his members against it.  To be in Christ is to suffer with Him, because being in Christ means being a new creation, wholly distinct from the old.  How, then, does God call His creation to live in Him?

Paul emphasizes in the reading just before the pericope for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity that Christians live according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh.  Christians follow after the Spirit of God as sons, not as slaves of the flesh.  Sin is not a necessity, in that sense, for the Christian.  He will sin, of course, because of his great weakness, and sin remains ever at the door, desiring entrance.  But he is no longer ruled by sin, but by Christ.  Being in Christ means suffering with him in order to be glorified with Him, for the Christian is being remade in His image.

This suffering is not meaningless, nor is it worthy of serious concern.  It is “not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).  Being glorified with Christ will show these present sufferings for what they really are:  fleeting and temporary, meant for building us up and not for our destruction.  “Weeping may tarry for the night” (Psalm 30:5), and a dark night that might be, wherein “I drench my couch with my weeping” (Psalm 6:6)!  Even the most intense trouble now will give way to joy, but not in a trivial way.  Christ’s own suffering was far from trivial.  Who has suffered like He suffered on our behalf?  Yet His suffering came to an end and the Father has bestowed on Him a glory far exceeding any earthly glory, “the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

On that day will come “the revealing of the sons of God,” the moment in which our glory in Christ will no longer be hidden.  “We know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).  The sheep will be distinguished from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46).  It will be the day of the fullness of our redemption, the resurrection from the dead, the hope toward which we press.  Salvation is both now and yet to come, because while our assurance comes in this moment, the fullness of our redemption will come when Christ finally brings all things under His feet.  Sin will be no more in that day, and all of the former things will pass away, never to return again.

Even creation awaits this revelation.  It too is in bondage, because Adam’s sin frustrated its original purposes.  Adam is, after all, the head not only of the human race, but of all creation.  He holds dominion over it, given to him by the Lord (Genesis 1:28).  His sin causes the earth to fail in bringing forth the fullness of its strength (Genesis 3:17-19).  Even more to the point, not only does creation undergo the judgment of the Flood because of man’s sin (Genesis 6:7), it also falls under the covenant made with Noah (Genesis 9:8-11).  Therefore, man’s sin means the creation suffers with him.  It longs to be set free from this slavery and return to its original state, just like the restoration of man in Christ.

If the world longs to see the great day of redemption, how much more do we as Christians?  We must wait, of course, and such patience is a fruit of the Spirit.  Yet, as Paul goes on to say, “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28).  Even if we must suffer, we suffer with Christ.  Even if we must wait for the fullness of our salvation, we wait with Christ.  Even if we must die, we die with Christ.  Our war with sin is not fruitless or pointless, but part of separating us from the body of death and making us heirs of eternal life.

If someone asked you what does it mean to be a Christian, what would you say? Maybe someone who believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior. And that’s not a bad place to start. But a lot of people claim to believe in Jesus. So how do you tell them apart? How do you know who is telling the truth and who isn’t? Look to their fruits. Look at the works which they do. Someone who is sincere will do what they say that they will do, but someone who is not will say one thing and do another. Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 7: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Even if that seems hard, it’s still true, because it’s not enough to just say that you believe. Good works show that we mean what we say.
But good works don’t get us into heaven, right? We are not saved by what we do, right? So why is Paul talking in Romans 12 about all of these good works, then? It seems like as soon as we start talking about good works, we run into the risk of making them the reason why we get into heaven. But Paul is clear that this is not the case. Good works save no one. Good works follow after faith. Paul points to this in the beginning of this chapter: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” When we do good works, we actually worship God and give Him glory. Good works do not come before faith, but after it and flow from it. The temptation is to put the cart before the horse, putting good works before faith. But all that we have, including faith, is a gracious gift of God. The Holy Spirit makes you holy, so that you do what is holy in the sight of God.
Good works, then, prove that we believe in Jesus. They are the signs in the world that we belong to Christ. As Jesus says in Matthew 5: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” And in John 13: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If good works are not there, there is no faith! Those who claim to be Christians and yet don’t do what God says are not Christians. Jesus Himself says so. But those who trust in God, calling him Abba! Father!, walk with the Holy Spirit. To be a Christian means to believe in Jesus as your Savior and to walk in the light and not in darkness.
This, then, is what Paul means. Paul says, “Let love be genuine.” Something that is genuine passes the test. Genuine gold is real gold, but fake gold, no matter how pretty it looks, is still fake. Faith is not happy with just words! Paul says, “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Don’t seek after the works of the flesh, the works of darkness. As John says, keep yourself from idols. Cling to God, who is good, and He will never fail you. Paul says, “Love one another with brotherly affection.” Those in the Church are not just people who all happen to be Christians. You are one in the body of Christ, members of the same family in Jesus. If, then, you are family, let us live like members of the same family in Christ. Paul says, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” Be so willing to put the other person ahead of yourself that you make a competition out of it. Try hard to put the needs of others before your own. Win first place at loving your neighbor as yourself! Paul says, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” Let us not be lazy in the things of God, but seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Paul says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” This world is passing away, and even if we have to struggle now, it will give way to a joy which has no end. Let us pray without ceasing, lifting up holy hands everywhere. Paul says, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Is there anyone among you who is in need? The Lord has given us what we have so that there will be no need among us. As the Lord has blessed you, even with physical things, let us take care of the needs of others. Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” A hard thing, yes! But by doing this, you will heap burning coals on their head. You will be a witness to Christ, a witness to the hope that is in you. And finally, Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”
Christians, remember this. Your good works are not the reason why you are acceptable to God. There could never be enough of them to do that. Your good works are the proof that your faith is living. Faith is a living tree, and good works are the fruits of that tree. You can’t have fruit without a tree! So let your love be genuine. Devote yourselves to good works, for they are excellent and profitable to you. As Paul says in Ephesians 2: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” You have been chosen from before the beginning of the world to be holy in the sight of God through Jesus Christ. It is God who works in you, and in Him you are able to do what is pleasing in His sight.