I’ve recently posted an overview and outline of Ephesians on truthsaves. Check it out (when you have time, of course).
I’ve recently added two New Testament outlines at http://truthsaves.org/outlines/
I’ve also added an article called How Jesus Fits in the Trinity. It was born out of a question sent in by a site viewer. It discusses a variety of questions, such as:
- Should Jesus be worshiped?
- Was Jesus created?
This chapter clears up a lot for me. It renders useless the arguments and strivings of a great multitude of believers. So then what of debatable matters?
4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Paul makes it clear. Our duty lies not in passing judgment or arguing about such matters. We simply need to be sure that we prepare ourselves to stand before our Master. Whether we eat certain foods or honor certain days is of little consequence. What matters is that we must be able and ready to give an account of our lives to God.
Paul doesn’t really mince words on this topic. People will decide to live differently but God will accept all of us who live by faith in Jesus Christ. As Christ-followers, we possess great freedom, but we need to be sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit.
Paul does make clear that we should avoid causing anyone else to stumble. If our freedoms hinder the faith of another, we should limit ourselves.
20Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.
Pray without ceasing, listen to the Spirit, live in freedom, and consider others’ perceptions before you act.
Remember, we want your testimonies! If you have a relationship with the Jesus of the Bible, your story is worth telling. Tell it to us and we’ll publish it for the world to see.
I’ve posted three new articles lately at http://truthsaves.org.
One of them is a Sunday school lesson prepared by Tim on the uniqueness of Christianity. Another one is a question from a site viewer on whether or not Luke was an original witness of Christ’s ascension. The last one is another question from a site viewer on why, in Acts 2, Peter quoted Psalm 16. You can read them by clicking on the links below.
Our Faith in the Marketplace – Christian Distinctives
Did Luke see Christ Ascend?
Why Peter Quotes Psalm 16
It’s called Our Faith in the Marketplace – Christian Distinctives. It focuses on what makes Christianity different from other religions.
Romans 13 doesn’t mince words. Sometimes, as Peter says, Paul writes some things that require some brainwork to figure out. But not this time. Paul makes it very clear that we need to be subject to those in government. God puts all authority in place, and it’s up to us to be subject to that authority. He doesn’t really address what to do if the government is corrupt, but I don’t think he needs to. We still need to follow the laws set in place. Paul makes it very clear that God sets up those in authority – and they accomplish His will and His plans.
1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Peter concurs with Paul that we need to be in subjection to those in authority:
13Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
I think it’s pretty clear. In order to remain in God’s will, we need to be in subjection to our government. For me, it’s a simple matter. Whether Bill Clinton or George Bush is in office, I need to support them in prayer and not speak evil of them. That’s not to say that governments aren’t corrupt. Our government may be corrupt, but my duty is to support them, pray for them, and honor our laws.
Later on Paul says all the commandments are summed up in this – to love one another. The simplicity of it strikes me. If I seek to show love to those around me, I won’t be envious. I won’t be greedy. I won’t be self-seeking. Yet loving people is hard. There are people at work who really, really bug me. Some of my friends’ friends constantly irritate me. I find myself wanting to avoid them. I’d rather be alone, on the computer, riding my bike, playing basketball, watching a movie with my wife – anything but being near them. But God calls us to love one another. When we learn to do this, so many other things will simply fall into place. Anger, jealousy, strife . . . those things will simply fade away.
I like Paul’s appeal at the beginning of the chapter. His “therefore,” to me, refers back to the 11 previous chapters. Therefore, since God has done so much for us and has given us the ability to have eternal life, by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, we ought to give our lives to Him. In fact, that’s our reasonable service. Because He’s given us the opportunity to cheat death and live eternally, since He’s given us His only Son, it’s only reasonable that we devote our lives to Him.
1I 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.
The ESV says “spiritual worship,” and this version tends to be very literal, but I really like the way the New King James renders this phrase – and that is, “reasonable service.” How can we do any less for Him when He’s done so much for us?
The rest of chapter 12 always frightens me a bit, as I live my daily life. I wonder sometimes, “Is it possible to live this way? Am I actually capable of doing all this?” It seems so impossible at times. Do I think too highly of myself? Do I love everyone? Do I show honor to others? Am I patient when trials occur? Do I seek to show hospitality? Am I constant in prayer? Do I contribute to the needs of the saints – in a real way? Do I bless those who make my life difficult? These are things we deal with on a daily basis! People at work aren’t always seeking to bless me. Do I always seek their best interests? Do I associate with the lowly? Am I conceited? Do I seek to love and respect my enemies?
The honest answer hurts. I am not so perfect. But that’s the beauty of God’s plan. We are saved by grace, through faith in the risen Jesus. He expects us to live righteously – that’s our reasonable service for what He has done for us. But I am human. I make mistakes. My human nature comes through at times and I fail. But as I seek the Jesus of the Bible, my desire to please Him and serve Him becomes stronger. His Spirit gives me power to live as I ought as I mature in Him.
So why don’t I just sin? Since I’m saved by grace what’s the big fat deal? The truth is that in any true relationship, one seeks to please the other. If a person has a real relationship with the God of the Bible, that person will seek to please Him. And He will reward that faith and dedication with eternal life.
Reading Romans 11 is difficult for many people, because they think, “How could God possibly blind the Israelites on purpose? What is it with the choosing and the elect and the hardening . . . is God really this unfair?
Well, chapter 11 does start out with a message that seems to say that God has chosen some for salvation and some for damnation. But I don’t think that’s what chapter 11 is saying. Vese 11, of chapter 11, says volumes about God’s character . . .
11So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. (ESV)
I like the way some other versions render this verse . . .
11Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. (NIV)
11The next question is, “Are they down for the count? Are they out of this for good?” And the answer is a clear-cut No. Ironically when they walked out, they left the door open and the outsiders walked in. (The MESSAGE)
11So I ask, Have they stumbled so as to fall [to their utter spiritual ruin, irretrievably]? By no means! But through their false step and transgression salvation [has come] to the Gentiles, so as to arouse Israel [to see and feel what they forfeited] and so to make them jealous. (AMPLIFIED BIBLE)
In other words, God’s plan wasn’t to send them to hell, but His plan was to use their sin to bring Gentiles to salvation. Again, as in chapter 9, He shows us that He uses people where they are to accomplish His purposes. And later in the chapter Paul reiterates that it was not the Jews who believed that were condemned, but the ones who didn’t believe (they had a choice). Those who believed were saved by God’s grace, through faith, just like us. And Paul also says again that the branches that were broken off could be grafted back in! How? Simply by returning to God.
20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
And Paul concludes chapter 11 by saying God wants everyone to be saved.
32For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
So . . . the message is clear . . . if you have faith, you will be saved, no matter who you are.
9because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This is the crux of our faith – if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be saved. It is awesome. It means we no longer have to try to work our way to salvation. We simply need to seek a relationship with the God of the universe. We need to believe that He came, lived, died, and rose again. Faith saves. Works don’t. And everyone has the option to believe – not just the Jews. God is sovereign – chapter nine makes that very clear. But chapter 10 puts the ball back in our court. We need to have faith, and we can become vessels of honor. It’s an amazing message for those who choose to listen.
Those of us who possess this knowledge need to share it.
14But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Do I do this? Do the people I come into contact with know that I’m a Christian? Is my speech having an effect on their lives? Sometimes I know I’m not doing enough. The news is good – and I need to share it. We need to share it.