January 4, 2015.
And so it begins! If you are just joining today, great! We are about to start a 52 week journey through the entire bible, with daily background, summery and connection-based/practical lessons from each section. Last year I made a resolution to post a daily devotional throughout the course of the year on something spiritual, and this year I have made the resolution to write a commentary on the bible. But this commentary will not be your typical commentary, as it will be based more in practicality and learning lessons from each section as opposed to exegesis. There is nothing wrong with exegesis, as it can be very fruitful, but it is simply not the scope of what I am writing. I would like to help myself and any who are willing to hear walk through the bible in a way that we can understand it and fit each section into the bigger picture. I hope you are excited, as I am excited and a bit nervous about the undertaking. But by the grace of God, we will make it through. If you have not already downloaded the plan, click here for a pdf copy. If anything changes, I will let you know at least a day ahead of time, as the reading for the next day will be noted at the bottom of the day’s post. The plan we are going through dedicates each day of the week to a different section of the bible:
Sundays: New Testament Epistles
Mondays: The Law
Tuesdays: Old Testament History
Thursdays: Poetry/Wisdom Literature
I think this will provide the necessary variety to keep the most interest and propel us forward as we journey. You can subscribe via email or follow me on twitter (@dailydevotion14) to keep updated. I pray that this journey be met with success for us all. This is my first post, so bear with me as I figure out the logistics and get into the swing of things. I’m sure they will improve as time goes on. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.
Daily Reading: Romans 1-2.
The letter to the church in Rome was authored by the Apostle Paul sometime between 55-58 AD most likely when Paul was in the town of Corinth. To place this is the timeline of the book of Acts, it was most likely written sometime during his three month stay in Greece mentioned in Acts 20:2-3. Paul was writing to the church at Rome even though he had never visited them in person, as is evident from his remarks in the first chapter. Paul had the strong desire to visit Rome, but he had been occupied with his service in the gospel in other places and had not had the opportunity to go to Rome at the time of his writing. In Acts 23, the Lord had told Paul that he was to testify in Rome just as he had testified in Jerusalem (23:11), giving the apostle some comfort in knowing he was not going to die in the custody of the tribune that had placed him in the barracks after a fight broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees over mention of the resurrection by Paul when he was addressing the crowd. Though he knew he was going to end up in Rome, he probably did not know how God was going to get him there. It was not going to be easy. However, before most of his trials that would lead him to Rome via an appeal to Caesar took place, Paul wrote this letter to the church at Rome, and it is praised as the apex of Paul’s writings. The book of Romans is a very dense book, full of theology and deep details, and it is difficult to understand without a thorough study. Yet, it also yields great spiritual truths and wisdom for the one who is diligent in his or her study.
Summaries, lessons and connections.
v. 1-7: The first seven verses of the chapter set up Paul’s customary introduction to the letter, revealing his credentials, giving glory to Christ and addressing the Romans. Remember that Paul had not actually been to Rome at the time of writing, so it would have been especially important for him to express who he was in relation to Christian leadership, though it is probable that a good number of the church in Rome had heard of Paul through his reputation amongst Christians in the Roman world. He expounds on Jesus, giving glory to His lineage and life, death and resurrection, and then uses the authority of Jesus to identify himself as an apostle appointed by Christ. It would seem that none the complaints from the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea had reached the Jews in Rome, for the Jewish leaders in Rome told him they had heard no evil of him when he arrived (Acts 28:21-22).
v. 8-15: In this next section, Paul begins with a compliment, relaying to those in Rome that their faith had been proclaimed in all the world. It is here that one can see the immense love that Paul had for his fellow brethren, even those who he had not met in person, as he tells of his continual prayer for them and his strong desire to visit them that both parties might be mutually encouraged. Paul was not just concerned about benefiting those in Rome though his visit, but he knew that he himself would also be encouraged by their faith. This is the relationship that Christians should have with one another, even with our bothers and sisters around the world that we have never met in person.
Not only would the purpose of his visit be for the mutual edification, but also so that he could impart on them some spiritual gift (v. 11) and reap a harvest among them and among the Gentiles in Rome (v. 13). Gifts of the Spirit were transferred through the laying on of the Apostles hands as seen in Acts 8 (specifically verse 18). Paul makes a specific reference to passing on a gift to Timothy through the laying on of his hands in I Timothy 5:22. The apostle Paul was always looking towards the spread of the gospel, and it is interesting that he says that he would reap some harvest among the church at Rome. This would either imply that there were those in their number who had not put on Christ or that he was referencing the Jews that were in Jerusalem that had not yet heard and/or believed in the Messiah. In the context of the first chapter of the epistle, it would seem that he was implying that there was a harvest needed among their number, but in the context of Acts 28 when Paul first arrives in Rome, an argument could be made that the harvest was in reference to the Jews that did not believe in or had not heard about Christ. Regardless, Paul’s obligation was to all men, Jews and Gentiles alike, and it is clear that in his visit to Rome he intended to proclaim the gospel to any and every person he could.
v. 16-17: These are two of the most powerful verses in the epistle, which have resonated with Christians for thousands of years. It is here that Paul gives the purpose of not only this letter and his visit, but his life. If there was a thesis statement to the book, this would be it, for it lays the foundation of the order of revelation of the gospel (Jew first, then Greek) and the basis of faith as righteous living. Paul would go on to expound on this foundation in the rest of the letter.
We too have the same call to spread the gospel, commissioned by Jesus as recorded at the end of Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 28:18-20) that we go into all the world, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Sprit and teaching them commands of Christ.
v. 18-32: In this section, Paul lays the foundation of the righteousness of God via a discourse on His wrath on the unrighteous. Many lessons in Christian apologetics (defense of the Christian faith) draw from this section of scripture as a basis for the moral law that is set in the hearts of all men through general revelation. Verses 19 and 20 explain that one can come to know God on some level just by observing His attributes, divine nature and power through the creation. It is this appeal to the beauty and complexity on nature that has been leveraged as evidence often to atheists and agnostics to realize that God is and that He will hold men accountable though some reject Him.
This is a very heavy section and Paul is unapologetic in his acknowledgment of the evil deeds of men and women who do not live by God’s standards but rather go out and live in effort to satiate their own evil desires that are against nature. He speaks of their dishonoring of God and worship of idols, which is spiritual adultery in God’s eyes (see Exodus 20, Hosea 3 and Malachi 2). Then Paul goes on to call out the specific sin of homosexuality, expressing God’s judgment on both men who exchange the natural relations with women for other men and women who do the same with other women. After this, he states a long list of sins that those who do not acknowledge God participate in and reaches that the wrath of God will be upon those who practice such and who give approval to the practice of such. This is often a hard teaching for people to accept, as it goes against the world’s definition of tolerance. As Christians, we are not to partake in the evil deeds of the world, nor should we give approval to those who do them. This does not mean we are to be hateful those who are in the world and practice such things (compare with I Corinthians 5:9-13), but simply that we cannot condone sin.
It is also important to note that God will give a person up to the lusts of their hearts and impurity is that is what they so choose (v. 24-26). Paul makes a similar statement to the Thessalonians in II Thessalonians 2:10-13 where he says that God will send a strong delusion to those who refused to love the truth and to be saved. This is something that we should keep in mind when we examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (ref. II Corinthians 13:5) so that we do not allow any justification for what we are doing be a strong delusion that keeps us from the truth.
v. 1-9: Continuing on this exposition of the list of sins that those who don’t acknowledge God participate in, Paul turns his attention in chapter 2 towards his audience who did believe in God. We should not get so caught up on the sins of others and in judging the world outside the church that we don’t look at ourselves and what we are doing. When we pass judgment on others for sins that we ourselves commit, we condemn ourselves. Paul’s words here echo the teaching of Christ about judgement in the latter part of His sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:1-5). The idea is that there is condemnation in hypocrisy. The higher of a standard we hold someone else to, the higher standard we will be held to on the day of Judgment. This is not to say that we will not be held to a standard at all if we do not hold other’s to a standard (see II Corinthians 5:10, James 2:12 and Revelation 20:13) but rather to show that when we hold people to standards that we do not hold ourselves to, we will be condemned because of it.
Paul goes on to teach that judgment will be rendered to each according to his or her works, giving eternal life to those who seek for glory, honor and immortality in patience and wrath and fury to this who are self-seeking and disobedient to the truth. This is well harmonized with the words of Christ in Luke 6:43-45 where He states that people will be known by their fruits, whether good or bad. Again, Paul sets up the sequential order in the revelation of the gospel of Christ to the Jew first and then to the Greek, rendering each according to their fruits, for God shows no partiality.
v. 12-29: In the section above Paul gives a general overview of those who do “right” and “wrong,” but he follows it up with a more specific look at it, bringing the law into the picture. The Law was given as a special revelation to the children of Israel when God lead them out of the bondage of Egypt through His servant Moses. In this law, the specific will of God was rendered to the Jews and it told them specifically what sin was. The Law was a covenant between God and the children of Israel, not between God and the Gentiles. But even though there were those in Rome who were want to be teachers of the law, Paul implies that the Gentiles were keeping the law of their heart more adamantly than the Jews were keeping the Law of Moses. The Law was very physical to the Jews, but it was only ever a shadow of things to come, namely Christ (See Galatians 3:24-25).
Circumcision was a large part of Jewish theology, as it was the sign of one’s Jewishness. Paul however tries to relate to the Jews at Rome that a Jew was not a Jew outwardly, but one inwardly, with a circumcision of the heart. The Law was physical, but the new covenant with Christ was physical (compare with John 4:16-26). There is evidence here that Gentiles who had lived before the time of Christ are to be judged by the law that was put into their hearts (referred to by some as the Moral law of mankind) by God. This should be considered alongside Acts 17:29-31.
Though circumcision was indeed valuable (v. 25) for those under the law, for it was a requirement by God for the offspring of Abraham (see Genesis 17:9-14), it did not itself make a godly person. Nor did the uncircumcision of the Gentiles (for the covenant was not between God and the Gentiles, who were not the offspring of Abraham) make them unrighteous when they actually kept the precepts of the law (v. 26-27). It was not merely about physical appearance, but about the life that one lived and the fruits of their labor. Circumcision was a matter of the heart, not just the letter of the law (v. 29), for God judges the heart (see I Samuel 16:7, Jeremiah 17:10, Acts 8:22, I Corinthians 4:5 and Hebrews 4:12).
Tomorrow’s Reading: Genesis 1-3.
Stand strong in the Lord.