Day 18

The New Testament Epistles

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans

Paul’s letter to the Romans was written from Corinth in the spring of 57 or 58 A.D. while on his third missionary journey, and making preparations to return to Jerusalem with an offering from the mission churches for the believers there. His letter was dictated to Tertius (16:22) and delivered by Phebe, servant of the church at Cenchrea (endnote to Romans in KJV). Paul longed to visit the church now established in Rome, but first wanted to personally deliver the collections from the Gentile churches to Jerusalem.  The Roman church had not received the gospel from an apostle, so Paul prepared the way for his coming by laying out God’s plan of redemption and salvation for all mankind in this letter. The systematic way in which he does this makes Paul’s letter to the Romans perhaps the most important of his letters for Christian study. The outline can be considered in terms of ‘righteousness’, similar to that given in the New International Version Bible: Introduction Unrighteousness of mankind Righteousness imputed: Justification Righteousness imparted: Sanctification Righteousness vindicated: Israel’s rejection and ultimate purpose Righteousness practised Final words, commendations and greetings

Introduction

[1:1-17]

Paul’s longing to visit Rome

Paul introduces himself and relates his divine call and mission. He salutes the church in Rome, commending their faith, and expresses his eagerness to see them and share the gospel of Christ. At this point, Paul tells them the gospel reveals God’s righteousness and declares The just shall live by faith.

The unrighteousness of mankind

[1:18-3:20]

The Gentiles

[1:18-32] Evidence of the Creator is all around for everyone to see, but the Gentiles choose to worship creation rather than the Creator. For this, God didn’t prevent their corruption through freedom of choice, which included homosexual depravity of both sexes. Paul lists all the sins symptomatic of unrighteous Gentiles; not only do they commit these sins, but take pleasure in doing so.

The Jews

[2:1-3:9] Those who judge others, but are guilty themselves, will not escape God’s wrath,  whether they be Jew or Gentile, for God is no respecter of persons. The Gentiles will be judged according to the law written on their hearts; the Jews according to the written law they have failed to obey.The Jews have the written law and are confident they know better because of it, but their failure to practise what they preach has been a cause for Gentiles to blaspheme God. Their circumcision is an outward sign of the law, but is of no consequence if the law does not produce a change of heart. It is the change of heart that receives God’s recognition. Despite the advantage and privilege enjoyed by the Jews in receiving the oracles of God, some concocted the ridiculous notion that unbelief would somehow be acceptable, as it would enable further proof of God’s faithfulness to them. Do the Jews then excel because of the advantage they have had? No, they have simply shown they are no better than the Gentiles, since all have sinned and are accountable to God.

All people

[3:10–20] None are righteous before God, since all mankind is corrupt in many ways, and none can be justified by the law itself.

Righteousness imputed: Justification

[3:21-5:21]

Through Christ

[3:21-26] Now the righteousness of God has been revealed, apart from the law, through Jesus Christ whose sacrifice is the redemption for all mankind, and the pathway to forgiveness of sins for all who believe in Him.

Received by faith

[3:27-4:25] Salvation then is established for both Jew and Gentile through faith, not through works of the law, but this does not mean the law is set aside. Abraham is our example of justification by faith, since God declared him righteous before the law was established. Salvation, then, is available to both Jews and Gentiles, for it is not dependent on the law. The promise made to Abraham, that all the nations of the earth should be blessed in him, was made before he was circumcised. If salvation was for the Jews alone, then the law would have nullified the promise, but it didn’t, for David testified to Abraham’s righteousness and to the law. The account of Abraham’s justification through faith is given as a lesson, that we might believe in Christ as our means of salvation, apart from the law, having been crucified for our sins and raised from the dead for our justification.

The fruits of righteousness

[5:1-21] Being justified by faith, we have peace through Christ and access to grace, allowing afflictions, through patience and experience, to bring about hope. There is no shame in this hope, for the love of God is poured out in abundance, as Christ was crucified whilst we were still sinners, being our atonement by which we can now be reconciled to God. Sin and death entered the world by one man, Adam, and through his transgression all became guilty before God, the law exposing that guilt. Now, through the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ, the grace of God abounds much more than sin ever could, with the gift of righteousness and eternal life.

Righteousness imparted: Sanctification

[6-8]

Freedom from the power of sin

[6] We must not abuse grace by thinking that sin can somehow be excused because it allows grace to abound even more. Through our baptism into Christ, we have declared our old sinful selves to have been crucified with Him, and for sin to no longer reign in our lives. We are ‘resurrected’ to live to the glory of God, freed from the bondage of sin and now slaves to righteousness, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Freedom from the law’s condemnation

[7] The Mosaic law has power over a man as long as he lives, illustrated by marriage whereby a woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. Christian believers are delivered from the Mosaic law by Christ Jesus and united to God. The law provided knowledge of sin, but no means of overcoming it, yet was in itself holy, just and good. Despite being free from the bondage of sin, there is still an inner struggle between the flesh and the spirit, between sin and righteousness. We thank God that deliverance from the curse of sin is available through Christ our Lord.

Life in the power of the Holy Spirit

[8] There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ and walk according to the Spirit, for the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us through Him. One who is carnally minded cannot please God, but those who walk in the Spirit have the Spirit of God dwelling in them, the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead makes their mortal bodies alive through righteousness. Those who are led by the Spirit are adopted sons of God, and joint heirs with Christ, so that if we suffer with Him we may also be glorified together. The sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory, which is our hope through Christ Jesus. Along with the whole of creation, we groan and travail in pain while we wait with patience in the hope of things we cannot see. The Spirit helps us in all things, interceding for us in prayer. All things There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ and walk according to the Spirit, for the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us through Him. One who is carnally minded cannot please God, but those who walk in the Spirit have the Spirit of God dwelling in them, the same Spirit

Righteousness vindicated: Israel’s rejection and ultimate purpose

[9-11]

The justice of the rejection: God’s sovereign choice

[9:1-29] Paul expresses his great sorrow of heart for his kinsmen who were God’s chosen people, but had stumbled. God called Abraham as the father of the Israelites, but not all descendants of Abraham are called Israelites. The promise given to Abraham passed down  through Isaac, not Ishmael, and through Jacob, not Esau. Then, in time, He chose Pharaoh to be an instrument to show His power throughout the earth. God has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and none can question His authority, having power over mankind just as the potter has over his clay. The prophet Hosea foretold the calling of the Gentiles, and Isaiah the rejection of the Jews with only a remnant surviving.

The cause of Israel’s rejection: their unbelief

[9:30-10:21] The Gentiles learned that justification comes through faith, but the Jews, despite receiving the law of righteousness, stumbled because they considered righteousness to be gained through works of the law. Paul’s heart’s desire and prayer are for the Jews to be saved, for they have a great zeal for God, but do not recognise that faith in Christ is now the path to righteousness. All who confess the Lord Jesus and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead will be saved and not be put to shame. Faith comes through hearing the Word of God preached. The spread of the gospel throughout the earth, predicted by the prophets, is being accepted by the Gentiles, but not by most of the Jews.

Israel’s destiny

[11] Has God then completely rejected Israel? No, for as in the time of Elijah, when a remnant of seven thousand were saved, so by God’s grace there is a remnant in the present time. Being saved by grace, they are not saved by works of the law. Still, the body of Israelites is blinded as prophesied by David. The rejection is not final. Through their stumbling, salvation has come to the Gentiles, yet there is hope, for the Jews will become a holy people again. The Gentiles are not to boast over the plight of the Jews, for the Jews were the natural branches and the Gentiles have merely been grafted on in their place. If they do not continue to walk in faith, they too will be cut off. If the Jews do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted back in. Then, when a multitude of Gentiles have been converted, all Israel will be saved, for this is God’s covenant with them. God will again call them and the gospel will be given to them as it has been to the Gentiles. All this is according to the immense wisdom, knowledge and unsearchable judgements of God, through whom all things exist to His glory.

Righteousness practised: The Christian life

[12:1-15:13]

In the church

[12] Paul calls for all to give themselves to God, not to conform to this world, to be meek in their outlook, and for each to use their gift received from God according to the grace given him. Love is the dominant factor affecting all aspects of relationships and attitude to one another and to the world. We are to live peaceably with all, leaving vengeance to God and to overcome evil with good.

In the world

[13] We are to submit to the civil government over us, for there is no fear in living lawfully and paying all dues owed. We should not be in debt to anyone except in love, which is the fulfilment of the law and all its commandments. Our lives are to be lived in the expectation that Christ’s coming again is drawing near.

Among the weak and the strong Christians

[14:1-15:13] We should not dispute or judge one another on positions held on lesser issues. Nor should we do anything that might cause a weaker brother to stumble over lesser things. Rather, cultivate peace and brotherly affection. The strong are to bear the infirmities of the weak and strive to please their neighbours, rather than themselves, after the example of Christ. We should be of one mind in glorifying God, accepting one another as Christ accepted Jews and Gentiles according to scripture. In this, the God of Hope will fill us with peace and joy in our believing, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Epilogue

[15:14-16:27]

Personal summary

[15:14-33] Paul speaks of his mission and aim to preach the gospel where it has not previously been preached, and how his desire has been to visit the saints in Rome on his way to Spain. However, he must first go to Jerusalem and explains his reason, concerning the contributions for the poor there, and solicits their prayers that his desire to come to Rome will be fulfilled.

Commendations and greetings

[16] Paul concludes his letter with personal messages and greetings, a warning against those who cause divisions and offences contrary to the gospel and, finally, greetings are given from Paul’s colleagues.

Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians

It is obvious from the text that Paul wrote more than two letters to the church at Corinth (5:9), this probably being his second. It was written circa 55 A.D., towards the end of Paul’s three-year stay at Ephesus. However, it is evident that, at the time of writing, he had only intended to remain there for less than a year (16:8). This letter was prompted by news from Chloe’s household that there was less than unity in the church (1:10, 11), also by a visit from Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, who probably gave him further information (16:17), and in response to a letter from the church with specific concerns (7:1). In this letter Paul addresses the following subjects: Divisions in the church [1-4] Immorality in the church [5-6] Marriage [7] Concerns over questionable practices [8-10] Propriety in worship [11] Spiritual gifts [12] Love [13] Prophesying and speaking in tongues [14] Resurrection of the body [15] A collection for the mother church and final greetings [16]

Divisions in the church

[1-4] After Paul’s opening introduction to his letter, he addresses one of the major problems that has been brought to his attention: divisions in the church. People had been aligning themselves to individuals, Paul, Apollos and Cephas (Peter), instead of being one church in Christ. He reminds them of the principal purpose of his ministry, to preach the gospel, and this he does, not by use of fancy speech as if he were a wise man to be admired, but plainly declaring the risen Christ and thus bringing glory to God. In preaching the gospel, he brought to them a wisdom exceeding the wisdom of the world, a wisdom that could be delivered only through the power of the Spirit of God. Paul tells them that, although they have received the gospel, they are still carnal-minded and he has to speak to them in a likewise manner, not spiritually. He reminds them that in bringing the gospel to them, he planted the seed, which Apollos then watered, but God provided the growth. He and Apollos are just labourers for God together, building on the true foundation that is Christ Jesus. How they build on that foundation will be judged by God. Paul reminds them that their bodies are the temple of God in whom God’s spirit dwells. They are, then, to keep themselves pure, not thinking themselves wise, for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, and to glory in no man, whether it be Paul, Apollos or Cephas, for they are all equal in Christ. As ministers of God, Paul and his companions are faithful stewards of God, the judgement of which will be God’s, not theirs. Paul cautions them against their acquired pride, and calls on them to regard him as their spiritual father in Christ, in the way he regards them as his children. To this end he had sent Timothy to them as his beloved son who will remind them of his teaching, which is the same in every church. He will come to visit them in person, if it be the Lord’s will, in the hope he will be able to come not to reproach, but in love and in the spirit of meekness.

Immorality in the church

[5-6] A serious case of fornication had been brought to Paul’s attention, that of a man who is having sexual relations with his stepmother, and of their carefree attitude towards this. They are instructed to excommunicate him, and not to keep company with any brother who is an unrepentant sinner. Paul also reproves them for going to law with one another over small matters, and hence to be judged by heathens. They should be able to settle these matters amongst themselves as brothers in Christ. At this point Paul warns them against a number of gross sins, inhibitors to the inheritance of the kingdom of God, which some of them have been guilty of in the past. He now returns to the sin of fornication, which is specifically a sin against a man’s own body, the temple of the Holy Spirit that is in him. Having been bought for a price, they are to glorify God in their bodies and in their spirit, which are God’s.

Marriage

[7] The church had previously written to Paul with some concerns about marriage, which he now addresses. He suggests that marriage can be seen as a remedy against fornication. In marriage, the husband and wife should be consenting towards one another. It is better to be married than to burn with lust. To the married he says they should remain together, but if they divorce, then they are to remain unmarried or be reconciled, for this is God’s law. If anyone has an unbelieving spouse, they should stay married if the unbeliever is content to remain with them. But if not, then they are to let the spouse go, as they are not under bondage in such cases, for God hath called us to peace. Paul offers this as his advice, and not the law. He describes by examples how becoming Christians does not change their external state, and advises everyone to continue in the state in which they were called. Paul considers the time is short and advises accordingly that it is better to be unmarried because those who are married have to give time for their spouses, but those who are unmarried are able to devote their time to the Lord. Nevertheless, those who are married should remain married. His advice concerning virgins is given in the same vein.

Concerns over questionable practices

[8-10] Paul responds to a question concerning eating meat offered in sacrifice to idols. He suggests it is of no consequence to the spiritually mature since idols are nothing, but to the spiritually weak it can be a problem. To cause a weaker brother to stumble in such a situation is an offence against the brother and against Christ. For this reason, despite his uperior knowledge, his spiritual maturity, Paul would not eat meat sacrificed for idols and offend a brother. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. There has been some charge against Paul concerning compensation for his services as an apostle. He defends the right of a minister of God to receive some recompense, even by Mosaic law, but states that he has waived this right so as not to hinder the gospel of Christ. In doing so he becomes a servant to all he preaches to: to the Jew he becomes as a Jew, to the Gentile a Gentile,  and to the weak he becomes as a weak man. All this for the sake of the gospel and the prize of an incorruptible crown. Paul now reflects on the Israelites who, when wandering in the desert, were all recipients of God’s grace, but nevertheless were backsliders and punished by God for their many sins. These things are an example to us who may think we are strong, but should take heed lest we fall to temptation as they did, recognising that our faithful God will never permit temptation beyond that which we should be able to withstand. Returning to the matter of eating meat prepared for idols, Paul reminds the Corinthians they are all partakers of the communion of Christ’s blood and body, and are all of the one body of Christ. As such, considering idols to be of some significance and the eating of things offered to them as also having significance is wholly inconsistent with Christianity, and is gross idolatry. Paul states, All things are lawful to me, but not all things profit. All things are lawful to me, but not all things build up. They may buy such meat in the markets or eat at a heathen’s table without the need to ask questions, for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness of it. Everything is done to the glory of God, but in this freedom, care must be taken not to give offence to weaker brethren.

Propriety in worship

[11] Perhaps inspired by a newfound freedom in Christ, some women had laid aside the custom of wearing their veils, particularly while praying or prophesying. Paul reminds them of the divine order of God, Christ, man then woman, and the significance of head covering, yet also reminds them that man and woman were made for their mutual benefit. Paul reprimands them for their behaviour and attitude at the Lord’s supper where some are hungry and some even drunk. He tells them that eating and drinking to satisfaction is done at home, and reminds them of the Lord’s words in ordaining the communion of bread and wine, and the sanctity of it.

Spiritual gifts

[12] Here Paul speaks of the abundance of spiritual gifts in the church, and how the different gifts given to individuals are for the edification of the whole church. He uses the body as an analogy for the body of the church, illustrating the importance of each member working as an essential part of the whole, resulting in a close relationship within the body, reflected in both common suffering and glorification. Not everyone is called for the same purpose in church, consequently, not all will have the same gifts. Some seem to want to strive for what might be considered the better gifts, but Paul is about to show them the true motivation behind the use of all gifts.

Love

[13] Paul tells how love is the only true motivation behind all that he does. He describes the attributes of love and concludes that of faith, hope and love, the greatest is love.

Prophecy and speaking in tongues

[14] In advising them concerning spiritual gifts, Paul places an importance on prophecy in preference to speaking in tongues, because prophecy edifies the church, whereas speaking in tongues is like a musical instrument without a tune, which benefits no one unless there is another to interpret it. Their praise and worship should be to the benefit of the whole church, and to this end Paul would rather speak five words with understanding than ten thousand in an unknown tongue. If a non believer were to hear the whole church speaking in tongues, he would probably consider them mad; whereas a non- believer hearing prophecy may well be converted. Paul accuses them of bringing disorder and confusion into the church with their desire to show off spiritual gifts, and directs them in the correct use of tongues and prophecy. To maintain order, they are told their wives are to be silent in church. If something arises they do not understand, then they should not question it at the time, but resolve the matter at home. All things are to be done in public worship with decency and order.

Resurrection of the body

[15] Paul summarises the gospel to them: how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. He reminds them of how Christ’s resurrection was witnessed by the apostles, lastly by himself through grace, as he was the least of the apostles having persecuted the church. As an apostle, they are able to believe what he preaches, yet some amongst them are saying there is no resurrection of the dead. If there is no resurrection, then Christ was not resurrected, and their faith and his teachings are all in vain. But Christ is risen, and those who are His will be resurrected and reign with Him. It is to their shame that some amongst them do not know God, and they are to be careful not to be deceived by these people. Paul then explains how in the resurrection their bodies would no longer be flesh and blood but spiritual, as neither flesh and blood, nor anything corruptible, can enter the kingdom of heaven. This is a mystery that Paul is revealing to them, that all will be changed in a twinkling of an eye at the sound of the last trumpet, from corruptible to incorruptible, from mortal to immortal, and death will be swallowed up in victory. They are, then, to remain steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because they know their labour will not be in vain.

A collection for the mother church and final greetings

[16] Paul concludes by giving them some directions concerning a collection he is making for the saints in Jerusalem. He speaks of paying them a visit, recommends Timothy to them, and tells them Apollos also wants to visit them in due course. He exhorts them to be strong in their faith, to do everything in love, and to respect those who have helped him and his fellow labourers in their work. Finally, following salutations from the churches in Asia, from Aquila and Priscilla and from himself, he blesses them and gives them his love in Christ Jesus.
30-Day Reading Plan This is a 30-day reading plan based on an average of 15 minutes per session - a total read time of 7½ hours. The actual read times vary from 12 to 20 minutes to accommodate for practical read session end points. If the reading times don’t suit you, then simply go at your own pace and note where you finished. Please select your reading day below
New Testament History Books -
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New Testament Epistles -
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