LIFE WORTH SHARING

 

Week of November 28, 2010

 

Bible Verses:Romans 1:14-17; 9:1-3; 10:1,14-15; 15:17-20.

 

Lesson Focus:This lesson is about Christiansí responsibility to share the gospel with all people.

 

Are You Convinced of the Gospelís Power?Romans 1:14-17.

 

[14]I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.

[15]So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. [16]For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. [17]For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."[ESV]

 

[14-16]Paul now makes three strong personal statements about his anxiety to preach the gospel in Rome: I am under obligation [14]; I am eager [15]; I am not ashamed [16]. Under obligation should properly be translated ďI am a debtorĒ. Paul is in debt to the Romans in the sense that Jesus Christ has entrusted him with the gospel for them. So Paulís first incentive was that he was eager to properly handle his debt. Greeks and barbarians Ö wise Ö foolish are meant to be all inclusive of the whole Gentile humanity. Similarly, we are debtors to the world, even though we are not apostles. If the gospel has come to us, we have no liberty to keep it to ourselves. Nobody may claim a monopoly of the gospel. Good news is for sharing. We are under obligation to make it known to others. In verse 16 Paul gives a second reason for being eager to preach the gospel, and not ashamed of it. Why would Paul be tempted to be ashamed of the gospel? Whenever the gospel is faithfully preached it undermines self-righteousness and challenges self-indulgence; it arouses opposition, often contempt and sometimes ridicule. So we may be tempted to not preach the gospel in light of such opposition. How then did Paul (and how shall we) overcome the temptation to be ashamed of the gospel? It is by remembering that the very same message, which some people despise for its weakness, is in fact the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. How do we know this? In the long run, only because we have experienced its saving power in our own lives. Has God reconciled us to Himself through Christ, forgiven our sins, made us His children, put His Spirit within us, begun to transform us, and introduced us into this new community? Then how can we possibly be ashamed of the gospel? Moreover, the gospel is Godís saving power for everyone who believes. Saving faith, which is the necessary response to the gospel, is the great leveler. For everyone who is saved is saved in exactly the same way, by faith.

 

[17]We note the logic of Paulís statement in verses 16-17. I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for in the gospel a righteousness from God is being revealed. That is, the reason the gospel is Godís saving power is that in it Godís righteousness is revealed. Many commentators have called verses 16-17 the Ďtextí of which the rest of Romans is the exposition. But three basic questions confront us. First, what is the righteousness of God? Secondly, what is the meaning of from faith for faith? Thirdly, how should we interpret the Habakkuk quotation and Paulís use of it? There are three basic answers concerning the meaning of the righteousness of God. First, some emphasize that the righteousness of God is a divine attribute or quality. ĎRighteousnessí describes His character, together with His actions which are in keeping with His character. In Romans Godís personal righteousness is supremely seen in the cross of Christ. Throughout Romans Paul is at pains to defend the righteous character and behavior of God. For he is convinced that whatever God does Ė in salvation [3:25] or in judgment [2:5] Ė is absolutely consistent with His righteousness. Others stress, secondly, that the righteousness of God is a divine activity, namely His saving intervention on behalf of His people. Indeed, His salvation and His righteousness are frequently coupled in the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, especially in the Psalms and in Isaiah 40-66. But it is perhaps an exaggeration to claim that Godís righteousness and Godís salvation are synonyms. It is rather that His righteousness denotes His loyalty to His covenant promise, in the light of which He may be expected to come to the salvation of His people. Thirdly, the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel is a divine achievement. The genitive is now no longer subjective (as in reference to Godís character and activity), but objective (a righteousness from God). It is a righteous status which God requires if we are ever to stand before Him, which He achieves through the atoning sacrifice of the cross, which He reveals in the gospel, and which He bestows freely on all who trust in Jesus Christ. Paul contrasts it with our own righteousness, which we are tempted to establish instead of submitting to Godís righteousness [10:3]. Godís righteousness is a gift [5:17] which is offered to faith [3:22] and which we can have or enjoy [Phil. 3:9]. Thus the righteousness of God can be thought of as a divine attribute (our God is a righteous God), or activity (He comes to our rescue), or achievement (He bestows on us a righteous status). All three are true and have been held by different scholars, sometimes in relation to each other. There is probably no need to choose between the three in this verse but see all three meanings being combined by Paul. It seems legitimate to affirm, therefore, that the righteousness of God is Godís righteous initiative in putting sinners right with Himself, by bestowing on them a righteousness which is not their own but His. The righteousness of God is Godís just justification of the unjust, His righteous way of pronouncing the unrighteous righteous, in which He both demonstrates His righteousness and gives righteousness to us. Now concerning the meaning of from faith for faith, many explanations of this phrase have been proposed. There are four that seem the most plausible. The first relates to faithís origin: from the faith of God, who makes the offer, to the faith of men who receive it. Godís faithfulness always comes first, and ours is never other than a response. Secondly, the spread of faith by evangelism may be in Paulís mind: from one believer to another. Thirdly, he may be alluding to faithís growth, from one degree of faith to another. Fourthly, it may be faithís primacy which is being stressed. In this case the expression is purely rhetorical, and has been rendered, for example, by faith from first to last or by faith through and through. Concerning the Habakkuk quotation, in the context of Habakkuk the phrase refers to the righteous Israelite living by his faith, that is, by his humble, steadfast trust in God. But in the context that Paul uses the quotation, it can have two meanings: Ďthe righteous will live by faithĒ or ďthe righteous by faith will live.Ē Paulís concern in Romans 1 is not how righteous people live, but how sinful people become righteous so the second translation might be more proper. But whichever way the sentence is understood, both renderings affirm that the righteous shall live and that faith is essential. The only question is whether the righteous by faith will live, or the righteous will live by faith. Are not both true? Righteousness and life are both by faith. Those who are righteous by faith also live by faith. Having begun in faith, they continue in the same path. This also fits in with the expression from faith for faith, which stresses that the Christian life is by faith from beginning to end.

 

Should You Be Concerned About the Lost?Romans 9:1-3; 10:1.

 

[1]I am speaking the truth in Christ--I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit-- [2]that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. [3]For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. [10:1]Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.[ESV]

 

[1-3] Paul begins with a strong threefold affirmation, intended to put his sincerity beyond question and to persuade his readers to believe him. First, I am speaking the truth in Christ. Secondly, as a negative counterpart, I am not lying, or even exaggerating. Thirdly, my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit [1]. What, then, is this truth which he asserts with such force? It concerns his continuing love for his people Israel, who have rejected Christ. I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers [3]. Paul is not literally expressing this wish, since he has just stated his conviction that nothing could ever separate him from Godís love in Christ. His use of the imperfect tense conveys the sense that he could entertain such a wish, if it could possibly be granted. The apostleís anguish over unbelieving Israel is the more poignant because of her unique privileges, some of which he has mentioned earlier [2:17, 3:1], but of which he now gives a fuller inventory. Theirs is the adoption as sons; the divine glory; the covenants; the receiving of the law; the temple worship; the promises; the patriarchs; and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ. One would think that Israel, favored with these eight blessings, prepared and educated for centuries for the arrival of her Messiah, would recognize and welcome him when he came.

 

[10:1] The emphasis of chapter 10 is on the human factors, on the need for an understanding of the gospel [5-13], for the proclamation of the gospel [14-15], and for the response of faith [16-21]. With chapter 10 Paul turns from the past to the present, from his explanation of the Israelitesí unbelief to his hope that they will yet hear and believe the gospel. Paul begins this chapter, as he began the last, with a very personal reference to his love and longing for them. There are several similarities between the openings of the two chapters. Paul is obliged to say of the Israelites that their zeal is not based on knowledge [2]. The proper word for zeal without knowledge, commitment without reflection, or enthusiasm without understanding, is fanaticism. Having asserted their general condition of ignorance, Paul now particularizes in two negatives: they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and they did not submit to Godís righteousness. The assertion that the Jews did not know the righteousness that comes from God means that they had not yet learned the way of salvation, how the righteous God puts the unrighteous right with Himself by bestowing upon them a righteous status. The tragic consequence of the Jewsí ignorance was that, recognizing their need of righteousness if they were ever to stand in Godís righteous presence, they sought to establish their own, and they did not submit to Godís righteousness [3]. All human beings, who know that God is righteous and they are not, naturally look around for a righteousness which might fit them to stand in Godís presence. There are only two possible options before us. The first is to attempt to build or establish our own righteousness, by our good works and religious observances. But this is doomed to failure, since in Godís sight even all our righteous acts are like filthy rags [Is. 64:6]. The other way is to submit to Godís righteousness by receiving it from Him as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ. In verse 4, end could mean end in the sense of goal or completion, indicating that the law pointed to Christ and that He has fulfilled it. Or it could mean end in the sense of termination or conclusion, indicating that Christ has abrogated the law. Paul must surely mean the latter. When Paul wrote that we have died to the law, and been released from it [7:4,6], so that we are no longer under it [6:15], he was referring to the law as the way of getting right with God. Hence the second part of verse 4. The reason Christ has terminated the law is so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. In respect of salvation, Christ and the law are incompatible alternatives. If righteousness is by the law it is not by Christ, and if it is by Christ through faith it is not by the law. Christ and the law are both objective realities, both revelations and gifts of God. But now that Christ has accomplished our salvation by His death and resurrection, He has terminated the law in that role. Once we grasp the decisive nature of Christís saving work, we see the irrelevance of all legalism.

 

 

What Are You Doing About It?Romans 10:14-15; 15:17-20.

 

[14]How then will they 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? [15]And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"[15:17] In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. [18]For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience--by word and deed, [19]by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God--so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;

[20]and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation,[ESV]

 

10:14-15. In order to demonstrate the indispensable necessity of evangelism, Paul asks four consecutive questions. (1) If, in order to be saved, sinners must call on the name of the Lord [13], how, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in [14a]? For calling on His name presupposes that they know and believe His name (i.e. that He died, was raised and is Lord). Since saving faith is presented as calling on Christís name, the kind of belief Paul has in mind must be the prior stage of believing the facts about Jesus which are included in His name. (2) How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard [14b]? Just as believing is logically prior to calling, so hearing is logically prior to believing. What kind of hearing, however? They will not believe Christ until they have heard Him speaking through His messengers or ambassadors. (3) How can they hear without someone preaching to them [14c]? There could be no hearers without heralds. (4) How can they preach unless they are sent [15a]? The essence of Paulís argument is seen if we put his six verbs in the opposite order: Christ sends heralds; heralds preach; people hear; hearers believe; believers call; and those who call are saved. And the relentless logic of Paulís case for evangelism is felt most forcibly when the stages are stated negatively and each is seen to be essential to the next. Thus, unless some people are commissioned for the task, there will be no gospel preachers; unless the gospel is preached, sinners will not hear Christís message and voice; unless they hear Him, they will not believe the truths of His death and resurrection; unless they believe these truths, they will not call on Him; and unless they call on His name, they will not be saved.

 

[15:17-20]Paul begins by expressing his confidence in his Roman readers [14]. He is simply assuring them that he knows and appreciates their qualities: their kindness, their extensive Christian knowledge and their proven ability to teach and admonish one another. If then they are such fine and gifted Christians, why has Paul thought it necessary to write to them as he has done? He supplies two reasons. First, I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder [15a]. The apostles attached great importance to their reminding ministry. They kept reminding the churches of the original message and calling them back to it. Paulís second reason for having written had to do with his unique ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles, to which he has already referred three times [1:5;11:13;12:3]. I have written Ö because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles [15b-16a]. For the next seven verses Paul elaborates the nature of his ministry, drawing his readersí attention to three salient features of it. (A) Paulís ministry was a priestly ministry [16-17]. Paul uses five terms that, directly or indirectly, all have priestly and sacrificial associations: minister, priestly duty, offering, acceptable to God and sanctified. So what is Paulís priestly ministry, and what sacrifice does he have to offer? The answer clearly has to do with the gospel and the Gentiles. Paul regards his missionary work as a priestly ministry because he is able to offer his Gentile converts as a living sacrifice to God. This was in fulfillment of Isaiahís prophecy [66:20] that Diaspora Jews (of whom Paul was one) would proclaim Godís glory in distant lands and bring people to Jerusalem from all the nations as an offering to the Lord. All evangelists are priests, because they offer their converts to God. Indeed, it is this truth more than any other which effectively united the churchís two major roles of worship and witness. It is when we worship God, glorying in His holy name, that we are driven out to proclaim His name to the world. And when through our witness people are brought to Christ, we then offer them to God. Further, they themselves join in His worship, until they too go out to witness. Thus worship leads to witness, and witness to worship. It is a perpetual cycle. (B) Paulís ministry was a powerful ministry [18-19a]. This is a very valuable statement of Paulís own understanding of his ministry. The repetition of the word Ďpowerí in verse 19 justifies our calling it a powerful ministry. He alludes to at least five features of it. (1) First, Paul describes the objective of his ministry as being to lead the Gentiles to obey God. His emphasis is on obedience, presumably because it is the indispensable consequence of saving faith, and is a vital ingredient of Christian discipleship. (2) Paul refuses to recount his own exploits. All he will dare to talk about, he says, is what Christ has accomplished through me. (3) What Christ has accomplished has been by what Paul has said and done, literally by word and deed. This combination of words and works, the verbal and the visual, is a recognition that human beings often learn more through their eyes than through their ears. Words explain works, but works dramatize words. (4) Christís ministry through Paul was by the power of signs and miracles. This expression brings together the three commonest biblical terms for the supernatural. Signs indicates their significance (especially in demonstrating the arrival of Godís kingdom), powers their character (exhibiting Godís power over nature) and wonders their effect (evoking peopleís amazement). Their chief purpose was to authenticate the unique ministry of the apostles. (5) Paulís ministry was also through the power of the Spirit. It is He who takes our feeble human words and confirms them with His divine power in the minds, hearts, consciences and wills of the hearers. Every conversion is a power encounter, in which the Spirit through the gospel rescues and regenerates sinners. (C) Paulís ministry was a pioneer ministry [19b-22]. I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ [19b]. This is Paulís succinct and modest summary of ten years of strenuous apostolic labor, including his three heroic missionary journeys. Paulís strategy was to evangelize the populous and influential cities, and plant churches there, and then leave to others the movement of the gospel into the surrounding villages.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.†††††††† How is the Gospel the power of God for salvation? What implications does this truth have for our evangelism? What does Paul mean by the righteousness of God? Why is this the heart of the Gospel?

 

2.†††††††† Do you feel about anyone the way Paul does about the Jews? If so, what can you do? What does Paul do?

 

3.†††††††† What is the essence of Paulís argument in 10:14-15?

 

4.†††††††† Describe the nature of Paulís ministry from 15:17-20. What is the relationship between true worship and witness?

 

References:

The Epistle to the Romans, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.

Romans, John Stott, Inter-Varsity.