The Epistle of St. Paul
Tenth Bible Study
A. Application in the Society (13:1-14)
1. Relation to Government (13:1-7)
The believer moves in several spheres, and all of them demand responsible actions. Believers are in Christ, and relate to the body of Christ. They are in families and have responsibilities there. But they also move in the civic sphere, and have responsibilities within the state.
So Paul commands that everyone of us submit to government authorities, “for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Remember, Paul is writing to people living under the Romans! No matter what form of government exists, we are in the human race, and our obligations to society are divine obligations. Here Paul is even broader than the Church: he is not limiting his comments to every believer, or to the Church, but to every soul.
The verb is the well-known word for “submission”--a word people today do not like. The same word is used elsewhere for submission to one another in the Church and in the home (see also 1 Peter 2:13). There is a divine order ordained by God in all aspects of life. It is a functioning order, and not a statement about quality of persons or situations.
There are two main reasons for this exhortation. First, God has ordained such authority for the state. Daniel 2 is very strong in this issue--God sets up kings and governments. Even Jesus would tell his “rulers” that they would have no authority and no power unless it was given from above. And second, governments are intended for the reward of good and punishment of evil. This is generally true of governments, that on the whole they encourage good and discourage evil--although they can become wicked and oppressive (and so can employers, and husbands, and church leaders). Society has to run on this principle, so that everyone in the state lives by a conscience to try to do what is right.
So Paul's exhortation in verse 5 is explained that if you live obediently under the law of the land you can expect to escape punishment, and you will have a clear conscience.
Taxes provides Paul with a final exhortation. Give to them whatever you owe them. Simple and straightforward. But he expands this to add that if you owe honor and respect, give that too. There are liturgical connotations here: the diligence and care you give to paying the government what you own them should not exceed the diligence and care of your spiritual service. (Of course the government often has the motivation of causing fear of prosecution to make sure you pay your taxes). The same correlation is offered in Jesus' reply to the question about taxes: Give to Caesar what is Caesar's (what has his image on it), but give to God what is God's. What is God's? Whatever has His image--you yourself. So he is saying give your money to Caesar but give your life to God.
2. Relation to a Neighbor (12:8-14)
The principle of love is now applied to life in society (vv. 8-10). Here Paul summarizes the second half of the commandments (as Jesus did): love your neighbor as yourself.1 Love is the essence of the covenant law, the motivation and the effect. To describe it this way is to speak of caring service and assistance for others. That should be the only debt owed.
Please note what is happening here. Paul is quoting the commandments. But he is not putting the Christian believer back under the Law as the binding constitution of the Church. Rather, he is saying that the Christian law of love fulfills what the Law was trying to accomplish. This makes sense, because this love is part of the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit accomplishes in us the love and goodness and righteousness that the Law required.
Paul's appeal is based on the urgency of the time (vv. 11-14). Our salvation is ever drawing nearer, so we must redeem the time. This section is almost like an alarm clock that goes off for believers who have gone to sleep in the world. John wrote that whoever has the blessed hope in him purifies himself (1 John 3:3). Paul's point is that the believer will not remain forever in this world; time is advancing towards that “dawn” of redemption for which creation groans. So the believer should not be caught up in the works of the night, the things of darkness.
Note the implication that this is a spiritual struggle, a warfare: “put on the armor of light.” For this we need to correlate Ephesians 6:12-18.
Note what is put together here as works of darkness--orgies, drunkenness, debauchery--these most Christians would say they really have no part in. But he adds dissension and jealousy--mainstays of most Christian groups, unfortunately. He is not merely speaking of a literal wild night-life; the “night” he speaks about is the sinful nature in a fallen world--the world system driven by greed and corruption. We must always be on guard against that.
Verse 14 is the sum of the matter: “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” It is once again the mind that is central to the victory. The image of clothing is similar to Ephesians 6 with the armor of Christ, and Colossians 3:10-16. We are by faith and obedience to appropriate Christ for our daily lives, and give no priority to self-gratification--either for fleshly desires or pride or jealousy or strife. If we live to please and to serve Christ, our focus will be turned away from the self.
Things to Consider
1. Review the steps in spiritual growth laid out in 12:1,2? How would you relate them to these other instructions in society and with neighbors?
2. What spiritual gifts do you have? How do you know? Do spiritual leaders agree with this? Now how does the Law of love work through these gifts?
3. Make an honest appraisal of your spiritual relationships. How much Christian love do you actually manifest in your relationships? Or, to put it another way, what was being a Christian cost you--in time, effort, convenience?
4. Do you think the kind of government would make any difference to Paul's discussion of government? What do you think Paul would say about living in a democracy?
5. Think about the way the Bible uses the imagery of clothing, whether nakedness, dirty clothes, clothed in white, banquet clothes, armor, of clothing with Christ. Can you trace any patterns in these motifs?
Eleventh Bible Study
B. Application to Doubtful Things (14:1--15:13)
It is not difficult to run across two extreme positions in Christianity. One position is intensely legalistic and structured, and if you do not agree with them in such positions, you are not spiritual. The other position makes almost no separation from the world, their lives being almost carbon copies of the world, because they feel free in the Lord and unrestricted. Both of these positions are flawed because of their attitudes, their treatment of the other side, and the way that they employ their convictions. Somewhere between these poles the believer is to live. These, and other related issues are the subject of this chapter. Paul will divide the discussion up between those whose faith is strong and those whose faith is weak.
1. Christians must be generous and charitable in their assessments of others (14:1-4)
Paul begins the chapter by telling us to accept those who are young or inexperienced in the faith without passing judgment. Who is “weak” in the faith? This does not mean the one who is weak in the great doctrines of the faith, who may be teaching heresy--Paul has lots to say about that one. Nor does this refer to a Christian who has been a believer for, say, twenty-five years, but refuses to grow--all he does is criticize anything different. It is hard to cause someone to stumble if he or she isn't moving. No, Paul is talking about believers who are growing but are weak in applying the faith to all the areas of doubtful things--things the Bible does not specifically address. The chapter is about conduct, not doctrine.
Paul's first illustration is about eating meat. This has to be interpreted in the light of the early Church, especially in Jewish and Gentile relationships (see Acts 15). Mature Christians know that they can eat anything they wish, because Jesus made all things clean (Mark 7:19) and Peter was given the specific lesson on this in his vision in Joppa (Acts 10:9-16). From that sign they knew the Gospel was going to the Gentiles, and Gentiles did not have to become Jews first and then be converted. But many Jewish people who grew up under the dietary laws of the Law of Moses could not quickly make the transition to eat pork or to purchase meat that may have come from a pagan temple. The instructed and maturing believer knows that the dietary laws do not apply--we are not under Law. In time the new believer will realize the teaching and perhaps be able to make the break--or, some may simply have a problem with this throughout their lives because of a long tradition in it.
But Paul says the instructed and mature believer must not look down on the other who has problems with this. And, the person who cannot eat must not be critical of the one who does. They have to think of this as a family--there are some things the children have to learn before they have the freedom of adults. Or in the imagery of slavery from the Roman world, the other person is accepted by God--a slave of God (as Romans has argued)--and you cannot judge another person's slave. It is presumption and spiritual pride to judge another Christian in such areas. God will deal with each person where change is necessary, for God is able to make him stand. This is a hard lesson to learn because of human nature. Some think they are mature and they look down on others; and some who are struggling with things become very critical of others whom they think are worldly. If both people are walking with the Lord, in the Word, and conscientiously trying to grow as a body, these attitudes cannot be there.
2. Christians must make their choices by faith (14:5-8).
Paul now introduces the principle of faith. He uses the example now of holy days. The mature Christian considers all days alike. Certain days may be set aside for various purposes, but according to Paul's teachings in Colossians and elsewhere, one day is not more holy than another as in the Jewish calendar. Or, to put it another way, if it is wrong to do something on one of these “holy days” it is wrong to do it any day. But some might consider some days more holy, and they need those structures to order their spiritual conduct and life. There are dozens of examples. One person may have grown up in a strict home where nothing could be done on Sunday. But after he or she grew in their own convictions, that was not such a binding restriction, although they still might not do certain things on Sunday because there are other Christians out there who would be bothered by it. Or, some people need the period of Lent for their amendment of life. If it is helpful for spiritual growth, fine. But if someone gives something up for lent, that has to be explained properly. If one needed to give it up in Christian piety, perhaps it should have been given up earlier--why wait till lent? There is much more to all of this, of course, but these are the kinds of issues Paul is addressing in this passage. The main point is that we are not all the same in our outlook on spiritual growth--how it is to be developed and what our convictions are; and if we start judging and criticizing others for the way they see it, or considering ourselves more spiritual, then that is wrong. Remember, we are talking here about doubtful things. This teaching of acceptance would not apply for someone teaching what is clearly false doctrine, or someone living in what the Bible clearly says is sin.
Paul's principle for doubtful things is this: “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” It is a matter of personal convictions based on faith. You dare not do something if you have serious doubts about it--that is not walking by faith. So you are to think through your practice, be sure that you are doing it in the full conviction that right now in your spiritual life that is what you should be doing, and do it for the Lord (not because others think you should). Believers are to be examining everything they do, and they are to be sure that what they do they can do with a clear conscience. If there is hesitation or uncertainty or doubts, then it may be wrong to do it. Questionable things are wrong if they are indeed questionable.
Here again Paul is applying the teaching of the book. We are not under Law, but under grace. What is on the table is not important; it is what is in the heart that makes the difference. It is always a matter of walking by faith. We cannot live our lives apart from Jesus Christ; so that is our main concern as we decide if what we are doing is by faith. Can I do this for the Lord? Can I give him thanks for it? Will it honor and glorify him?
3. All Christians must answer to the Lord (14:9-12)
It is, after all, Christ who died for our sins. If I do things that I believe are wrong, I am not responding to the Lord in the proper way. That would include sinning against my conscience, or judging others. The bottom line is that each one of us is accountable before God. Each of us must one day stand before the Lord where our deeds--not the guilt of our sins--will be examined. This is usually referred to in Paul as the “judgment seat (bema seat) of Christ” where rewards are given out for faithfulness, an examination that differs greatly from the Great Judgment.2
So in view of the fact that each one of us is accountable to the Lord and not to one another, then we should forbear judging one another. Learn to accept one another. I must reiterate here, however, that Paul is talking about doubtful things. If a brother is teaching heresy, or living in sin, or overtaken in a fault, then our responsibilities are different.
4. Christians are to be governed by the law of love (14:13-18).
Our main concern is not to put a stumblingblock in some one's way. If I have freedom in Christ, I cannot use that freedom if it will offend and make a young Christian do something against his conscience. I may in love have to relinquish my rights. The analogy of a parent and a child works well here. Sometimes when a parent is training a child, that parent cannot do things in front of the child that the child cannot do. It will be too confusing, and perhaps dangerous.
So rather than hurt another Christian who is trying to grow, we must be willing to refrain from things that offend. After all, Christ was willing to die for the weak--he did not think equality with God was something to be grasped or held on to, but he relinquished the use of the privileges of deity for our sake (Phil. 2).
On the other hand, Paul says, do not allow what you consider good to be evil spoken of. Your Christian liberty is a wonderful privilege for maturity in the faith; but if by exercising it people will call it worldliness or evil, you have to be concerned about that. We always should have other believers in mind when we choose our applications. The goal of all our activities is the good of the Kingdom of God--righteousness, peace, and joy.
5. Christians must make peace and mutual edificationtheir main goal (14:9-23)
This is a rather extended section with several major points being made. But the common theme running through it is the peace, unity and mutual edification within the body of Christ. Anything that destroys peace, unity and mutual edification has to be addressed.
In verse 19 Paul makes this point, reiterating the warning not to cause others to fall. “Let us make every effort” is certainly a call for diligence in these things. Indifference to the spiritual growth of others is unacceptable. We must press toward the goal of spiritual values--righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit--for these build up and do not destroy the body. If you have personal convictions that differ from others, keep them to yourself unless asked, or unless the issue comes up. Whatever you do, do it by faith, because to do it with doubting is sin, and your conscience will condemn you in that. The believer must be able to look back on his or her activities without any qualms of conscience. Vincent writes, “Christian practice ought to be out of the sphere of morbid introspection.” Or as Paul says it, “Blessed is the one whose conscience approves that which he approved before the act was performed.”
So the believer is saved by faith; and the believer walks by faith. Any conduct or any act (in the area of personal living and choices) which is not the outflow of faith becomes sin for the believer. Now Paul had earlier said (8:1) that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; but here he seems to say the one who sins is condemned. Obviously he is not contradicting himself. The condemnation spoken of here is from the conscience that condemns for sin; earlier the condemnation referred to final judgment of sinners.
When a believer sins and does not confess several things happen--conviction, guilt feelings, separation in fellowship with Christ, usefulness to God at risk, prayers not answered, chastening likely--just to name some of the major things. They are still in the family of God, but their joy, fellowship, and service is hindered by unconfessed sin. So in the area of doubtful things Christians must be sure to walk by faith.
What Paul is concerned with here, I remind you, is a body of true believers in Jesus Christ who are struggling with matters of conduct. He also had to deal with the presence of Judaizers in some of the Christian groups, people who opposed the truth and tried to teach new converts false doctrine (sort of trying to straighten out what Paul was trying to say). Paulwas not at all interested in bonding in peace and unity with them.
5. Christians ought to show consideration for the feelings and prejudices of weaker believers (15:1-3).
So beginning in chapter 15 he tells us not just to please ourselves but to bear with those who are weak. The first three verses give another discussion of the weaker brother. Since our chief concern is with the good of others, we are not to be pleased with their detriment or loss. When they are hurting, troubled, confused, we dare not gloat in our self-sufficiency--even if they should have been more mature by now! Paul supports this point with a citation from the messianic Psalm 69 to say that Christ did not seek to please himself; he served others and bore their burdens.
6. Christians of all backgrounds must grow together in unity (15:4-13).
The samples Paul has been using really do come from the difficulty of uniting Jew and Gentile in Christ in the first century, as indeed much of the argument of Romans has addressed. But the principles they teach are applicable in any period and any culture. Now, in the rest of the chapter he will cite Scriptures for our edification that show the unity of the faith.
The use of the verse in verse 3 from Psalm 69:9 prompted Paul to stress a point that might be missed--the Old Testament Scripture is certainly applicable for us today. The Old Covenant and the Law of Moses may not be operable as the ordering structure of the Church; but what the Law revealed--the righteousness of God--is timeless truth. Some have made the helpful distinction that the Law was both revelatory and regulatory (not different passages, but each law regulated and revealed); the regulatory aspect is not binding because it usually regulated how Israel was to carry out the principle, but the revelatory, the revealed truth or principle behind the regulation, is timeless because it reveals the will of God. One of the main problems of modern Christianity is its ignorance of the Old Testament, whether by misuse or by simple avoidance. But once the Old Testament is studied in this way, one can see how the principles can also apply to us today.
The Old Testament gives us encouragement and teaches endurance. Therefore Paul prays that the God who gives encouragement and endurance grant us the spirit of unity (vv 5,6), so that with one heart and one mouth we may glorify God. Here is an important point: the praise should express the unity of the faith. Of, to put it another way, in glorifying God all the little walls that separate will fall down--if praise is biblical praise and not entertainment or show. A farmer in Iowa was once asked if all the fences didn't mar the landscape. He agreed that they did, but also said that when the corn grew high they couldn't see the fences. The differences between believers should be hidden by fruitful lives filled with praise.
Verse 7 gives some pretty basic advice: accept one another as Christ accepted you, and work patiently with one another as Christ works with you. This will change our attitudes to other people. Here are individuals for whom Jesus died--just as He did for me; and here are individuals that our Lord graciously accepts and develops. I am no better than they, and certainly do not have an inside track on divine favor. Here is the spirit of unity.
And there can be no superiority over Jew and Gentile issues, as the early Church had to learn. Paul's reasoning is that the Son of God became a Jew to confirm the promises to the patriarchs, in order that the Gentiles (“all the families of the earth”) might glorify God for his mercy. In support of this Paul strings together a series of passages from the Old Testament that show God's plans to include the Gentiles in the praise of God. His first passage is from Psalm 18:49 where praise to God comes among the Gentiles. He then uses Deuteronomy 32:43, Moses' song with the panoramic view of God's eternal program. Then he works in the shortest psalm, Psalm 117, which is a call for Jew and Gentile to praise the Lord. And then he adds Isaiah 11:10 to show that even though the Messiah will spring from Jesse, he will rule over the nations. It was clearly God's plan that Gentiles should come to faith in the Messiah.
Paul stops to offer a benediction, for the main themes of his epistle end here. “The God of Hope” is a new and marvelous title for the Lord. The hope comes through the power of the Holy Spirit (5:2), and it will fill the believer with joy and peace. Only God can take people who are lost in sin and spiritually dead, save them by His grace, sanctify them by His Spirit, put them into service within the body of believers, and fill them with joy and peace. From beginning to end it is a work of grace by the power of the Spirit. It is up to us to respond by faith every step of the way, for faith accepts the word and the work of the Lord and transforms it into reality.
Twelfth Bible Study
VI. Conclusion, or Purpose, Plans and Praise
in Connections with the Dissemination of Righteousness (15:14--16:27)
A. Paul the Minister to the Gentiles (15:14-33)
As Paul leaves the doctrinal section of the book he picks up the personal note with which he began the epistle, in which he expressed his desire to visit Rome.
Paul was convinced of their maturity in the faith; but he wrote boldly to them on some points because of the grace that God had given him to be a minister to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the Gospel. Here he adopts the language of the Levitical priesthood and the Temple to stress the point that he was to make the Gentiles an acceptable offering to God, sanctified by the Spirit. Paul gave the Gospel; the Lord gave the Spirit when they believed. It is hard for us today to understand the tensions of this ministry by a Jew to Gentiles; but because of it we who are Gentiles have entered into all that the Gospel implies.
So in verse 17-22 Paul affirms that his main task has been to preach the Gospel, that his ministry is Christ-centered. He glories in Christ and what Christ has done, and will take no credit for himself. Many ministers today could learn from this. Paul does not lack conviction or confidence; but there is no personal assumption in it--he has it only in relation to Christ. God gave him the ministry as an apostle; and God gave signs and wonders to them as credentials for the early church. If Paul raised someone from the dead, or healed, or converted the Gentiles--that was the work of the Lord through him.
Paul had no spirit of competition with other ministers; he was not interested in taking over works that others had started. To him there were so many Gentiles who had not yet heard, that he knew his calling was to preach the Gospel to them. This is the point of the quotation from Isaiah 52:15. The implication for the Church of Rome is that it apparently had no apostolic founding apart from Paul who preached to those who migrated to Rome and formed a church. If another apostle had founded it, Paul would not have been eager to write to them or visit them to preach the Gospel. Thus, Paul was probably the apostle of influence for the Roman Church.
Paul's plans are disclosed in verses 23-29. He was on his way to Jerusalem to deliver the money collected for the poor there, and then he was going to go to Spain. On his way to Spain he planned to stop in Rome and enjoy some fellowship with them. Paul had a particular concern to help the believers in Jerusalem who were facing hard times--before his conversion he had wasted that church with his persecutions. He insisted on taking the gift to them personally (see Acts 24:17 as well as 2 Corinthians 8 and 9). The reasoning for the contribution was that if the Gentiles had shared in the spiritual blessing that came through the Jews, then they should contribute to the needs of the Jews in return. This was foreign missions in reverse!
But he needed their prayers. This was a difficult journey. He could be in danger from the unbelievers, the Jews who wanted to destroy him. And his gift from Gentiles might not be well received by the believers. Paul is probably full of uncertainties about his escaping alive; he therefore wants them to agonize in prayer--strive earnestly--over this issue. Of course the prayer was answered, his life was spared, he finished his course. He did come to Rome--after he spent two years patiently in jail at Caesarea, then endured a shipwreck at Malta, and then finally arrived in Rome--in chains (Acts 28:16-31). Did Paul find joy and peace and refreshment when he came to Rome. Yes, but not as he had hoped. His joy was full while under house arrest in Rome. Paul knew God's peace down in a prison, in chains, or in shipwreck. In Rome he could write,
“I am ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
B. Relationship of Christians to One Another Demonstrated (16:1-27)
The last chapter of the book is an extensive list of personal greetings with many explanatory comments included. It has been said that Paul here leaves the mountain peaks of doctrine to come down to the pavement of Rome. Here is witness to the fact that the faith was being lived out by these people.
1. Commendation to Phoebe (1,2)
Phoebe is the first believer mentioned in this list. She was a Greek woman. She was the bearer of this epistle--she was entrusted with the whole future of Christian theology! She receives here several commendations: she was a sister in the Lord, a deaconess of the church in Cenchrea (9 miles from Corinth), and she was most helpful in the work of the Lord.
2. Christians in Rome Greeted (3-16)
First of the Roman Christians are Priscilla and Aquila--Paul's fellow workers. At great risk to themselves they worked in ministry, discipled young Christians, and opened their home for the church to meet in. When Claudius had sent Jews from Rome, they had come to Corinth where they met Paul, and accompanied him to Ephesus where they taught Apollos. Here they are back in Rome, either in defiance of the edict or after it had ended. Because of the order of their names, it is likely that Priscilla was the most forthright in active ministry.
According to verse 5, an assembly of believers met at their house. Also there was Paul's first convert in Asia--Epenetus.
Verse 7 mentions Andronicus and Junia, fellow prisoners with Paul, Jews. Some debate persists here over the name Junia. Junia can be either masculine or feminine, and so we really do not know if this is a man or a woman. Those who argue for its being a woman’s name contend that here we have a woman who was a fellow apostle, because they were said to be “outstanding among the apostles.” But while some take this to mean that they were apostles, that also is not very clear. The line could easily mean that they had an excellent reputation among the apostles. Paul had apparently met them in one of his prison terms; they were wonderful believers with high regard by the Church.
The rest of this section has an extended list of names of people that Paul knew, loved, and appreciated for their stand in the faith and service to the Lord. There is much interest in the meanings of the names and the identification of these people. For example, Bishop Lightfoot identified Aristobulus of verse 10 as the grandson of Herod the Great. The people mentioned here than might have been slaves of his household. Narcissus was a well-known freedman who was put to death by Agrippina. These were probably slaves who belonged to him and had therefore taken his name.
Rufus (v. 13) was probably the son of Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15:21). Mark wrote for the Romans and Rufus was well known in the Roman Church. The father of Rufus had carried the cross for Jesus; the mother of Rufus had been a mother to the apostle Paul. What a family!
Paul tells them to greet one another with a holy kiss. Men kissed men; women kissed women, as a Near-Eastern expression of love and unity. Many customs today of believers greeting each other and sharing the peace come dangerously close to overstepping some bounds of propriety.
3. Defense of the Faith (17-20)
The saints are commended to the unity within Christ. There were people causing divisions and scandals contrary to sound doctrine. They were to be avoided. The specific form of these descriptions suggests that Paul had something definite in mind--and they would know it. A troublemaker is to be avoided in the church (compare 2 Thess. 3:6; Titus 3:10; and 2 John 1:10). These were clever people, smooth talking, flattering “saints” as they appeared; but they were self seeking. Note the irony of his words: The God of peace will soon crush Satan under his feet. In the meantime Christians are to resist the Devil, be sober and vigilant.
4. Christians with Paul send greetings (21-24).
Timothy, of course, is well-known to us. Tertius is the man who wrote down the letter Paul was dictating. Paul probably wrote Galatians in his own hand; but elsewhere he employed an amanuensis.
5. Concluding Benediction (25-27)
This is the third and final benediction of the book. The focus of it is the gospel--“Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ.” Here is the means by which God changes lives. The mystery is probably the present age of the gospel when God is taking both Jew and Gentile and fashioning them into one body. This has been Paul's concern in much of the book, as indeed in much of his ministry. This is the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore, the “prophets” mentioned here as “now” revealing this truth are likely the New Testament writers. Paul then returns to his theme of the wisdom of God--all of it, from beginning to end, is the divine plan that is beyond our comprehension. We can only stand amazed at the wisdom of God. “To God alone wise” means that God sets the standards of wisdom. In fact, the cross is the wisdom of God, even though it seems foolishness to mankind. Paul affirmed that he preached Christ--the power of God and the wisdom of God, for the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor. 1:21-25).
Things to Consider
1. What are some of the “doubtful things” that have become issues in the churches or areas of Christianity in which you have moved?
2. Can you think through some of modern Christianity with its many splinter groups and discover what has divided Christians into denominations. Which of them were probably legitimate reasons for separating to different forms of Christianity (whether or not they did it with peace or animosity)? Which of them were disgraceful reasons and likewise were handled poorly?
3. Think of all the ways in the New Testament that Christian love will manifest itself. You might have to get the help of a concordance. But what would Christianity look like if all the saints in the churches manifested genuine love for one another? Get a Bible concordance and look up all the New Testament verses with “one another” in them. You may wish to start in these chapters with the ideas of relinquishing rights, mutual edification, collection for the poor, and the like.
4. Some time you should write your own Romans 16. Make a list, as if in corresponding, of all the Christians who have had an impact on your spiritual life--no matter how small, or how great, whether you knew them, or just heard about them. The list will grow and grow--but it will reveal how the Lord works through the different parts of his body, to bring about unity in the faith through spiritual growth.
5. When you think through the way that God calls people and gives them spiritual gifts and uses them in his program, that calls for some evaluation and commitment. So, what should we do, next, now, today? Always ask yourself, “Why am I on earth and not in heaven?” The LORD obviously has something for us to do here before taking us to glory.