Tags: Christian leadership, commentary on Romans, commitment, Jeremiah 9, leadership principles, leadership training, Romans 5, servant leaders, servant leadership, Sunday School lessons on Romans
When we talk about someone in a position of leadership in Christian ministry, I prefer the term “servant leader.” This is far from original, but I believe it is apt, because the New Testament paradigm for leading is to lead while, through, and by serving others. The Lord Jesus led by serving, and He was the greatest Servant Leader of all time.
Although we put an emphasis on serving, we must not deny the “leading,” either, and “leading” means “moving.”
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
Biblical patience is more than just a willingness to wait. It contains the concept of “perseverance,” and perseverance is evidenced by commitment. When we persevere in our commitments, we gain the right kind of “experience” and we develop the right kind of character. Our character then governs our conduct.
“Leading” implies that people are following, and leading and following imply that we are going somewhere – or at least that we are moving. “Church” is not just a place to come sit. It should be a place to come serve. After salvation, regular attendance at church is very important, but it should not be the end of your journey. Instead, it should be the place where we meet to restock, to refresh, to prepare, and to train for our journey. A local assembly of believers (a “church“) must be moving. If people in our churches are not going or growing, we who claim to be servant leaders must bear a great deal of the responsibility for failing to lead.
Qualifications of New Testament servant leaders include commitment, character, and conduct. We think of someone who is easily able to influence others or who tends to attract loyal followers as someone who has “charisma,” and this word is actually the Greek word translated as “gifts” in several New Testament Bible verses. I would argue that while the “gifts” of ministry given by God to leaders are certainly important, commitment is just as (and possibly even more) important than the gifts themselves. Gifts by their very definition are things “given.” In other words, they are not earned.
Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
Too much focusing on our “gifts” over and above our commitment can lead to boasting in our own “giftedness.” If we are not to boast on our gifts, then on what are we to boast?
But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
What do we have that is any good at all that didn’t come from God? Gifts will attract followers to the gift-receiver, but Godliness will attract followers to the Gift-Giver. Therefore, being Godly is more important than being gifted. Godliness comes from being committed. Servant leaders are servants who are moving. People can’t follow someone who is going nowhere, doing nothing. That’s not leading.
Next time, I will say more about character and conduct.
Tags: commentary on Romans, Jesus Christ, preaching techniques, Romans, series on Romans, Sunday School lessons on Romans, witnessing techniques
The Book of Romans ends up with one of the Apostle Paul’s favorite preaching techniques. I like to use the acrostic O.A.R.S. to identify it.
But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets [O.pening], according [A.lleging] to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations [R.easoning] for the obedience of faith:
Romans 16:26 (bracketed terms added)
The Apostle Paul had “opened” the Scriptures of the Old Testament and “alleged” that the New Testament revelations of Jesus Christ are a fulfillment of those Scriptures. He had “reasoned” with his readers, as the Holy Ghost inspired him to answer questions concerning both the Jews and the gentiles about God’s fairness and righteousness.
And the purpose of this O.pening, A.lleging, and R.easoning, was the S.haring of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
Romans 16:25 (emphasis added)
Here is a review of the previous lessons on Romans:
1. God’s Reason for His Delivery
2. Overcoming Shame
3. From Thanksgiving To Thanksliving
4. Making the Argument of Grace through Faith
5. Six Thoughts which Remind Us that We Cannot Achieve Righteousness on Our Own
6. Dr. Law and Dr. Grace(*)
7. The Paycheck You Don’t Want To Receive
8. The True Jewish Justification
9. It’s Just Faith
10. Catechism Question 5
11. Catechism Question 9
12. Rehearsing Repetitive Romans Reigns Really Recognizes Right Reckoning
13. Servant Movers (Commitment)
14. Free FROM Sin, Not Free TO Sin
15. The Reckoning
16. Failure to Yield
17. Marriage and War
18. God’s Will and Our Will
19. Destined for Victory
20. Fitted by God
21. Ignoring the Obvious
22. Catechism Question 21
23. Bold Mouths, Beautiful Feet, and Blindfolded Eyes
24. The Work that Won’t Work
25. The Castaways
26. Catechism Question 3
27. Therefore and Wherefore
28. Sacrificially Submitting Surrendered Sanctified Service
29. The Anatomically Correct Church
30. Saved, Sure and Serving? Or Suspicious, Sedentary, and Slothful?
31. Heaping Helpings of Holy Hatred? Or Refusing Revenge for the Right Reasons?
32. Love Demonstrated by Obedience
33. Light Wakes You Up
34. Doubtful Disputations Deter Doxological Demonstrations Displaying Desired Decorum
35. I Can Tell the Future
36. Real Joy Vs. Fake Joy
37. Preferential Treatment
38. The Certain Hope
39. Going Belly-Up
* most-read post in series
Tags: 1 Thessalonians 5, behavior in church, bellies, commentary on Romans, Romans 16, strife in church, Sunday School lessons on Romans, Tertius, Titus 1
In his letter to the Romans the Holy Spirit had the Apostle Paul save his greetings for his friends and his notes of thanks for the end of the letter.
Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.
Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.
Note how the Apostle Paul not only knew his fellow-laborers by name, but he also knew their various accomplishments and things about them personally. It probably makes you feel important when your fellow-ministers at church remember your name, but it’s even better to be remembered for how you’re serving.
I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.
Imagine the excitement of Tertius! There he was, taking dictation from the Apostle Paul who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and all of a sudden he gets the chance to put his own little salutation in there! These words became part of the Living Word – to last and be known for all eternity! You and I will never be inspired to add to the Bible, but let me encourage you to listen closely in church. The Lord was speaking to the Apostle Paul, and Tertius was listening and diligently taking it all down, and suddenly the Holy Ghost was speaking directly to him.
These servants of God listed at the end of Chapter 16 have their names preserved for all time in God’s Word, along with the honor of having their character and integrity mentioned. By the same token there are others who were not worthy to have their names preserved in the Scriptures. Although they were also known for their character, they were known for having a bad character.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
Romans 16:17-18 (emphasis added)
Some Bible versions say “watch out” instead of “mark,” but the idea of “watching out” is too general because we are talking about people who have shown their character. Once they have established what they are about, we are to place a mental label, or “mark,” on them. They cause divisions and offenses contrary to the Apostolic doctrine, but the Verse does not say to confront them every chance you get. It does not say to go around telling everyone every bad thing you can about them. It does not say to formulate a plot and plan to get rid of them. No, it says to avoid them. They are such that serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own “belly.” “Belly” is sometimes translated as “appetite,” but the fact is, we can’t always see someone’s “appetite.” Everyone can see a big ol’ belly sticking out. “Appetite” is too neutral. You could have an appetite for good things. But those who “serve their own belly” are guilty of more than just mistaken desire. They have a greedy desire to cause trouble: divisions and offenses. The bigger their bellies get, the greater their hunger is. They see a local church assembly as an all-you-can-eat buffet. They will fill up their bellies with strife, contention, and trouble until someone stops putting more food in front of them.
That’s one reason why it is so important to get acquainted intimately with the people you are ministering alongside at church.
And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
I Thessalonians 5:12
One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.
Titus 1:12 (emphasis added)
We have to be on the lookout for those who want to push a false doctrine through division and strife. The Bible says they will use good words and fair speeches to deceive the hearts of those who don’t know better, but by their bellies you will know them.
Tags: Brazilian tree sloth, Christian service, commentary on Romans, glory to God, lessons in Romans, marriage jokes, Romans 12, sloth, slothfulness, Sunday School lessons on Romans
Wife: What are you doing today?
Wife: That’s what you did yesterday.
Husband: I didn’t finish.
Regardless of whether this type of exchange makes you chuckle, or hits a little too close to home to be funny, one thing is sure: As Christians, we need to stay busy.
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
“Slothful” is a word that describes exceedingly slow movement due to laziness. There is even an animal named the sloth, which is known for its slowness of movement.
A sloth may spend a whole day hanging from a tree branch in the Brazilian rain forest, and only move a few millimeters.
If you are a Christian, one of the main reasons that God did not bring you to Heaven the moment you were saved is because He had some good works, some great opportunities, and some specific tasks which He wanted you to accomplish both for the good of others and yourself, and for His glory. Christians, in other words, must be about our Lord’s “business,” and we must not be slothful in doing it. Our attitude ought to be one of fervency in spirit: an impassioned enthusiasm that gives us joy in serving the Lord.
Tags: Bible study on Romans, coals of fire, commentary on Romans, fire with fire, Judges 16, overcoming evil, revenge, Romans 12, Sunday School lessons on Romans
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
It doesn’t always lie within us to be able to live peaceably with everyone around us. But it does always “lie with” God. There are some people who won’t let you live peaceably with them. The question is, when they fight against us, do we trust God enough not to fight back?
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
What do these “coals of fire” represent? Is the Holy Spirit encouraging us to pray for revenge? There are some Old Testament instances of such prayers. Samson’s prayer is one example:
And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
Sometimes we are tempted to substitute the expression “coals of fire” with the sentiment “fight fire with fire.” The emphasis in Romans 12:20-21 is not on refusing to fight evil with evil – that should be a given. God’s children should not hate other people. Instead, the emphasis is on not being overcome with evil. The admonition is against letting the evil – the hatred – get inside us.
Tags: 2 Corinthians 5, chosen by God, commentary on Romans, election, Gentiles, God's hatred, Israel, predestination, Romans 9, Sunday School lessons on Romans
Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
The Holy Spirit here is answering the argument of those who say that it would mean that God is unfaithful to His promise of salvation to the Jewish people if He has given grace freely to all people. In other words, if Gentiles can be saved the same way Jewish people can be saved, what’s so special about being an Israelite?
The Holy Spirit’s response to this challenge is:
1. The Jewish people were adopted as “His people.”
2. He gave them the Old Testament covenants.
3. He gave them the privilege of having His glory dwell among them in the Old Testament.
4. He gave them the Law.
5. He saved them from among the nations, and delivered them from bondage in Egypt.
6. He made them special promises.
7. He caused Christ to come through their “family line.”
8. He gave them all the signs that pointed to Jesus being the Christ: the Messiah.
Even though they rejected Him, and crucified Him, God will remain faithful to His promises to Israel.
As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
In the history of the Church and in Christian theology this has been a controversial passage of Scripture. People don’t like to think that God could “hate” anyone. Some theologians feel that this refers to “national election.” In other words, God “chose” the nation of Israel (Jacob’s descendants) over the nation of Edom (Esau’s descendants). Others feel that God “hated” Esau only in relation to Jacob. In other words, they say that God didn’t really “hate” Esau – He just really loved Jacob a lot, and therefore His great love for Jacob made His feelings for Esau seem like hatred in comparison. I have to say that I find very little warrant in Scripture for this second interpretation. It seems to come from the dogmatic assertion (and Christian cliche’) that God hates sin but loves sinners. This assertion, we might say, has “some truth” in it, but on its face it is contradicted by Scripture (Psalm 11:5; Psalm 7:11). Part of the confusion comes from a misunderstanding of hatred. Most people who are aware that God is love (I John 4:8) and know that God is immutable can not reconcile in their minds how God can be loving and hateful at the same time. What they fail to perceive is that love and hatred are not mutually contradictory, nor are they even opposites. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference. God is certainly not indifferent! It might surprise many modern evangelicals to learn that the Greek word translated as “hated” in Romans 9:13 means – quite directly – “hated.”
Now, let’s think about Esau for a second. He’s the one who made the decision to sell his birthright – his heritage as a primary heir of God’s covenant promise to the children of Abraham and Isaac. And even though Esau made this “decision” he was at the same time under the decree of God Who had predetermined that Jacob, and not Esau, would be the heir of the promise. The Holy Spirit brings up the example of Pharaoh to support the way God works out His sovereignty and providence in the affairs of men. Pharaoh hardened his own heart – in a sense – but the serious student of Scripture can not deny that God also hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Romans 9:17-18 (emphasis added)
Pharaoh made the decision to reject God and His mercy, but God was plainly ruling over this “decision.”
The Holy Spirit anticipates sinful man’s reaction to this revelation of God:
Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
How can God find fault in us for the way we are, when He made us that way?
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
Does the clay argue or talk back to the potter? “You should have made me a dinner plate instead of a cup! I didn’t want to be a cup!” The potter had every right to make the clay into a cup instead of a plate. He could have made the clay into a toilet bowl if he wanted!
For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.
II Corinthians 5:12
God does not show favor based on His surprise at finding us “worthy” in our outward deeds or appearance. God is omniscient. He can’t be surprised. And He can’t “learn” anything. He makes some vessels unto honor, and some to dishonor. No vessel decides for itself with what it’s going to be filled. As living, breathing vessels, with souls and consciences and consciousness, God made us so that we can think and make decisions. Some vessels are “fitted” to destruction the same way that some spoiled and angry and rambunctious children are said to be “fit to be tied.” Whose fault is it that they need to be tied?
The Gentile vessels, compared to the Jewish vessels, did not have all the advantages outlined above. But God, in order to show His goodness and His longsuffering to the vessels who insisted on being filled with wrath, decided that those who are His vessels will be filled with mercy, instead of wrath.
I will not pretend that these truths are easy to explain. They get us into the sticky doctrines of election and predestination, which, by the way, are Bible terms. For a Christian teacher to say “I don’t believe in predestination” is to seriously call into question his view of Scripture and, therefore, his qualification for teaching. Some people believe God made us like wind-up toys, and that we are mindless puppets. That is not the teaching of Scripture. Others believe that God could not have chosen according to the good pleasure of His Own will to save some people from the penalty for their sin, and not others, because that would violate our “free will.” As finite creatures, we are not going to be able to grasp all the eternal decrees or wisdom of God. God is eternal and infinite, and His ways far above our ways. Here are some things we know for sure:
1. God is righteous, not unrighteous.
2. God is just, not unjust.
3. God is good, not evil.
4. God keeps His promises.
5. God tells the Truth in His Word.
Tags: 1 Peter 1, authentic love, commentary on Romans, Leviticus 11, Proverbs 8, renewing your mind, Romans 12, Romans commentary, Sunday School lessons on Romans, transformed in Christ
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
“Beseeching” is a passionate appeal. “Brethren” are other believers. “Presenting” is a daily process. Christians are supposed to be “living” sacrifices. We are supposed to be “holy.”
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
I Peter 1:16
For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
Being living sacrifices who are holy and acceptable to God is our “reasonable” service. All Christians have the capability of doing it and doing it cheerfully.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The world wants you to be “conformed.” It wants you to be molded in the shape of everyone else who does not obey Christ. The world will put the squeeze on you and change your shape, but it does not have the power to make you grow. “Transforming” is from within. The Word of God has the power to renew us and make us grow. We must read it and heed it each day. Christians have the exciting opportunity to “prove” God’s good and perfect will. If you are truly a Christian nothing should stop you from being right in the center of God’s will.
We need to think of our bodies as living sacrifices before we begin each day. Consider your feet, legs, stomach, heart, arms, hands, neck, mouth, tongue – your whole physical body – to be surrendered to the service of Christ.
As an example, our natural tendency is to wake up in the morning and start thinking about what we will eat that day – what we’re going to put into our mouths. What we probably need to think about instead is what is going to come out of our mouths that day.
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.
Have you surrendered your ears and eyes to the Lord today – to hear what He wants you to hear, and to see what He wants you to see? The surrender of my body and the renewal of my mind are daily requirements.
The same principle applies to the “Body” of Christ as a whole.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Our love for one another needs to be open, authentic, submissive, and renewed daily.
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
Tags: commentary on Romans, power of God, Romans 1, Romans 11, Romans 12, Romans 3, Sunday School lessons on Romans, the Gospel, the Gospel and Israel, the Gospel of Christ
For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
All have sinned and come short (Romans 3:23). All are included so that “all” can be saved. Everyone is included in those to whom we should preach the Gospel. If we say that there is no use in giving the Gospel message to some, we are denying our faith in God. It’s just as wrong to exclude the highly esteemed as it is the pariahs of society. To whom should you preach the Gospel?
-hard-working “honest” folks?
-your mom and dad?
-your brother and sister?
-Sunday School teachers?
No one can be excluded. Don’t deny the power of the Gospel. Don’t be ashamed.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.)
Romans Chapter 11 ends with a praise song.
For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Romans Chapter 12 begins with a “therefore.”
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Romans 12:1 (emphasis added)
I was taught that when you see a “therefore” in the Bible, you should always look and see what it’s “there for.” What has come before Chapter 12 in Romans:
1. Gentiles are sinners.
2. Jewish people are sinners.
3. Salvation is through faith.
4. God has not forgotten Israel.
5. Concern for Israel has practical applications for our lives.
a. Christians are to provoke non-Christians to jealousy.
b. Christians should be concerned for their “kinsmen.”
c. Christians should not be proud because God has chosen to save them.
6. Christians can be victorious in the battle of the flesh and sin against the Spirit.
The “therefore” in Romans 12:1 is “there for” showing us that, now, taking into account all that we have learned in Chapters 1-11 (how to “get right” with God, and how to be concerned that others “get right” with God), we must practically apply these things, and “live right.”
Tags: Apostle Paul, commentary on Romans, Gentiles, Gilligan's Island, grafting, jealousy, Jewish table, Romans 10, Romans 11, Sunday School lessons on Romans
God gave Israel three chances to accept salvation by grace through faith.
1. They fell.
I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
Romans 11:11 (emphasis added)
2. They were diminished.
Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?
Romans 11:12 (emphasis addded)
3. They were cast away.
For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
Romans 11:15 (emphasis added)
I remember watching a television show called “Gilligan’s Island,” which was about a group of “castaways.”
These castaways hoped to be rescued from the desert island where they had landed, but they kept trying to accomplish their rescue on their own. Did other people stop taking cruises until Gilligan and his friends could be found? No. God protected them while they were on the island, but He still blessed others while the castaways were hidden – they were kept safe, but secreted away. In a similar way, the gentiles received the opportunity for salvation partly because Israel fell, became diminished, and became castaways.
The idea from Romans 10 that the gentiles were to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy is reiterated in Romans 11:11. As a Christian, is your life provoking anyone to jealousy?
For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
Many mistake the teaching of the Holy Spirit through Paul to mean that saved people should sin with the sinners in order to develop a relationship with them that will open the door to present the Gospel. That is not what these Verses are teaching. The Apostle Paul “magnified his office.” He openly proclaimed to the gentiles, while he was among them, that he was an Apostle to them. But he also hoped his fellow-Jews were watching. Some of the gentile customs would have been personally offensive to Paul, but if the Jews could see the lengths he was going to in order to bring them the Gospel, they might become jealous and get interested in the message of the Cross, too.
And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:
The Jewish “table,” which should have been a place of spiritual nourishment, had become a trap or a snare. The Jewish leaders added to the rituals and the traditions, but they did not add in the nourishment of the Word of God.
Romans 11:16-24 contains the allegory of the olive tree. The gentiles have been “grafted into” God’s tree of salvation, but the gentiles have no grounds for boasting, and they must not forget the importance of Israel in God’s plans.