Monthly Archives: June 2016

Romans (Part I)

Recipients:  Look at the long list of people mentioned in Chapter 16.  This shows how personal was his concern.  He must have prayed for them by name; all his letters begin with assurance of prayer.  Notice that he is joined in writing Romans by Timothy, etc.  This too is true of most of his letters.  Mention of numerous “mere names” in Scripture  is evidence of God’s concern for each of us individually.

Paul had never visited Rome when he wrote this.  How did he know these people? (Acts 18:2)  How had they become Christians? (Acts 2:10)  Like many of the “churches” in Paul’s day, the “church in Rome” did not meet in one place, but in many small groups, particularly in homes.  And not just on “the Lord’s Day”.  Like most of the early Church groups, the Church in Rome was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. (Even before Christianity the Jewish synagogues were taking in Gentile members. (Esther 8:17, Acts 10:1)  It is likely that the Church in Rome had more Gentiles than the usual church.  At any rate, one of the problems in the Early Church was uniting Jews and Gentiles, as part of the bigger problem of converting Jewish Christians to a New Testament faith.  (see Acts 15 and Galatians)  That is why you find the phrase “Jew and Gentile” repeated so often in Romans, and why Paul makes frequent reference to the Old Testament – in order to inform the Gentiles, and transform the Jews.

Outline:  Most of Paul’s letters consist of two parts – doctrine, and practical application.  (The reason he taught doctrine was not for its own sake, but because of what we should do or be because of it.)  So, in Romans, chapters 1-11 are what we might call teaching; chapters 12-16 are exhortation – Christian living.

There is another way we can outline Romans.

  1. Chapters 1-3:20 talk about sin, and tell us that everybody – Jew and Gentile, need a Savior.  There are two big ideas in this section; a. Everybody know about God and knows the difference between right and wrong, even if he doesn’t have a Bible or go to church.  b. Wrong ideas about God (wrong religion) lead to bad morals, and bad living leads to inhuman,  un-natural, beast-like behavior.
  2. 3:21 – end of Ch. 11 explains the ONE WAY of salvation.
  3. Chapters 12-16 (see above), say something about how saved people ought to live because they are changed people.  (The Heidelberg Catechism follows this same pattern of Sin/Salvation/Service, or Guilt/Grace/Gratitude.)

Contents:  The “heart” of Romans – the big middle section of 3:21 to the end of Chapter 5 consists of two parts.

  1.  FORGIVENESS OF SINS (justification) through Christ’s death. (3:21-end of Ch. 5)  Key  verses are 3:21 and 5:1.  (The word “sins” occurs frequently here.) This section talks about the Christian’s new status, he is acquitted (see 4:7,8) because Christ took his place and died in his stead.  He is in the same legal state as a person who has paid his fine or served his time in jail (more than just had his punishment revoked.) (In 3:25 Paul says that the believers who lived prior to Christ were  not yet truly forgiven; their deserved sentence of death was simply suspended until Christ came and died in their place.)
  2. Chapter 4:  Paul says that this kind of salvation goes for everybody, Jews and Gentiles, whether “good” or bad.  Abraham, whom the Jews were so proud of as their “father”, was not truly a “Jew” (circumcised) when he became a believer.  (In fact, Abraham never was a Jew.)
  3. Chapter 5:  Explains how (the way) Christ’s death is credited to us.  Paul says it is just like we became sinful through Adam.  Christ is the “second Adam”, the new “father” of the race.  (I Cor. 15 makes this same comparison in vs. 45)  Just as we are connected to Adam through physical reproduction, we are connected to Christ by means of faith.  A good illustration of this latter connection is the oneness of a husband and wife, who are united legally, etc., through love and marriage.

Notice, as we move along, how often Paul summarizes his ideas in what are the first and last verses of a chapter.  Let us do the same at this point by saying that in 3:31 through Chapter 5,  Paul is saying that we are justified, which means legally innocent, blameless.  It is “just-as-if-I’d” never committed a single sin!  Forgiveness is so complete that God says he even forgets what we were and what we did wrong. (Hebs 9:14)  But there is more!!!


The Acts of the Apostles

This book might better be called The Acts of the Lord Jesus Christ through or in His disciples after He went to heaven.  It is a sequel to the Gospel According to Luke, written by the same “beloved physician” who accompanied Paul on part of his missionary trips.  (Some parts of Acts say “we”…)

The book has three parts (the outline of which is found in Acts 1:8):  Part I:  Beginning of the Church and its work in Jerusalem (Ch. 1-7).  The prominent person in this section is the Apostle Peter.  Part II:  The spread of the Church to Samaria; this represented a growth geographically and also religion-culturally.  The important person in this step was the deacon-evangelist Philip. (Ch. 8)  Part III:  World -wide evangelism; this section revolves around the person of the Apostle Paul, primarily to give us the background to him.  This explains why no report is made of missionary work going on in other directions at the same time, or even in the same area by others.  From other sources we know that the Church spread to the Orient, etc.

The book of Acts is” unfinished”; the “acts of the apostles” are still going on today.  The book concludes abruptly with the report of Paul’s arrival with the Good News at Rome, which was then the “Washington DC” of the world, the capital of the Roman empire.

An outline of this section is something like this (Ch. 9-28):  Chapter 9:  The conversion of Paul, author of Romans through Philemon.  Chapters 10-11:  The “conversion” of the Church to the idea of Gentile acceptance; the “capital” of the Church moves from Jerusalem to Antioch.  (“Conversion” completed in Ch. 15; Jerusalem Synod)  Chapters 13-14:  Paul’s first missionary journey, with Barnabas. These towns – Perga, Lystra, Derbe (from which Timothy came) – might be the churches of Galatia (though 14:6, 16:6 do not sound like it.  If Galatia was farther north, we do not know what churches Paul wrote the Galatian epistle to.)  Chapter 15:36 (poor chapter division here) to 18:22 (also poor break)Second Missionary Journey.  This took Paul (and Silas) into Europe (from which the gospel came to America!). Philippi (Converts; Lydia, jailer), Thes-Salonica (to whom Paul later writes his first 2 epistles).  Berea, Athens, Corinth (where he stayed 1 1/2 years); home via Ephesus (briefly).  Chapters 18:23-21:17  Third Missionary Journey.  No new places.  Stays 2 years plus at Ephesus.  Returns by land (to escape Jews) from Greece (south) through Macedonia (north); farewell to Ephesian elders as he goes by ship from Troas to Tyre; by land to Jerusalem.

We do not know how Paul was connected to the Colossians.  Colossians and Ephesus were in Asia (the province as well as the Continent).  The Seven Churches of Rev. 2,3 were also in Asia; the Apostle John seems to have been a kind of “bishop” to them, especially Ephesus.  Ephesus is the only church in Paul’s “7” as well as Revelation’s.

I, II Thess. written from Corinth (see above) after chased from Thessalonica.  Galatians; when, from where? depends on who the Galatians were.  Corinthians: written “ahead”, from Ephesus (see above) on 3rd journey.  Romans: written from Corinth in hope of going in person later.  Ephesians, Colossians (very much alike), Philippians: from prison. II Timothy; Paul back in prison, with his execution near at hand.


The Books of the New Testament

Editor’s Note:  The following is setting up the next number of blog posts, which will be in more detail about some of the books of the New Testament.  This is a quick over-view, beginning with “one-idea” descriptions, then moving into some of the Great Themes.

Matthew:  The “life of our Lord” from a Jewish point of view; links with the Old Testament.

Mark:  Brief, compact syle, full of action; written by a “young” man.

Luke:  By a doctor, a Gentile, with non-Jewish readers in mind.

John:  Much of Jesus’ teachings; stresses Christ’s divinity; theological; written late.

Romans:  An outline of doctrine (3 main parts); SIN, SALVATION, CHRISTIAN LIVING.

I, II Corinthians:  Numerous practical matters; to a “carnal” church.

Galatians:  Grace“.  Strong warning against salvation by keeping rules.

Ephesians:  The Church is the Body of Christ; his Bride.

Philippians:  Christ’s love for us; Paul’s for the Philippians; theirs for him.

Colossians:  “Twin” to Ephesians; Christ as the HEAD of the Church, and of ALL.

I, II Thessalonians:  The Second Coming.  Man of Sin first; work until then.

I, II Timothy: Instructions to a minister about Church order and the pastorate.

Titus:  Similar to Timothy.  Rules about proper leaders of the churches.

Philemon:  To Philemon about the return of his run-away slave, Onesimus (“useful”).

Hebrews:  Urges new Christians to go on to “fullness“; not stop at fundamentals.

James:  Very practical, re. tongue, patience, trials; written by Jesus’ brother.

I, II Peter:  Christian living (wives, husbands, employees) in trouble; end of this world.

John:  Epistles I, II, III.  God is love, light, life; warning vs. counterfeits.

Jude:  Warning against “end-time” heresies, evil living. (Beautiful doxology)

Revelation:  by John.  Predicts downfall of Rome (12-19) like Jerusalem’s (6-11).

Summary thoughts as to the New Testament:

All 27 books written within about 50 years (vs Old Testament, over 1400 years, 28 times as long and covering 2000 years, not counting Creation, Flood, pre-Abraham).  Eight or nine authors (average of about 3 each) versus about 32 for Old Testament (average of 1 each) plus many unknown contributors (Josh 10:13).  Only 1 New Testament book uncertain – Hebrews.

“Gospels” are historical; sometimes called Life of Christ; but really furnish us very little info of his first 33 years of life; nothing (except Luke 2:41 – ff) said re. the first 30 years, after birth events.  Much of his last 3 years is of the last week – passion, crucifixion, resurrection.  30 prominent miracles reported; same number of parables.

The Gospels were written after Paul’s epistles.  Is thought Mark’s the first (who got much of his information from Peter); Matthew, Mark and John much later.  Luke wrote Acts, and John wrote 3 epistles and Revelation.

Great Themes in the New Testament:

  1.  God became man.  It is no longer sufficient to believe merely in God, as they did in the Old Testament, but in Jesus Christ, the God-man.
  2. The Holy Spirit became Christ’s Spirit.  It is not sufficient to believe merely in the Trinity, but that the Third Person is “incarnate” in Jesus.
  3. By means of that Spirit becoming our spirit (I Cor 6:17) we are now in Christ, that is, make up his spiritual Body.
  4. Salvation is by grace; not just forgiveness, but sanctification. (While there was grace in the Old Testament, “forgiveness” was “suspended sentence”, and forgiven sinners were not new people, saints, truly good.)
  5. This salvation became universal in the New Testament, instead of limited to 1 nation.
  6. The “Kingdom of Heaven” began.  This means eternal life upon conversion, and living that life in the world – which is “reigning with Christ.”
  7. Christian Liberty.  God’s law “written in our hearts”, “both to will and to do”.  Good things become wrong when make others stumble (Romans 14, I Cor.).
  8. Communion of saints.  The church is not an external organization.  It is not a family thing; spiritual brothers and sisters come before blood ones.  It is superior to marriage.  It is the Family of God.  The “2 by 2” principle.
  9. Practical matters;  The Gifts of the Spirit.  Indissolubility of Christian marriage.  Equality of men and women.  (All on account of “Christ in you”. “Greater works than these….”)
  10. Second Coming.  The Old Testament is primarily concerned re. First Advent.