Here are a few additional thoughts from a recent Bible class.
When you run out of time in class and can’t cover all the material you prepared, what do you do? Why not cover the material in a video?
Note: to start at the beginning of this series, go here.
Introduction: In these final two chapters, Paul offers some parting words of encouragement, reveals his travel plans for the immediate future, and offers some final greetings to special individuals in Rome.
I. Chapter 15
A. Jesus, the servant (15:1-13)
1. The first seven verses of this chapter actually serve as a summary of what Paul taught in the previous chapter about dealing with each other over matters of opinion.
2. The strong are to be compassionate toward the weak and not be guided by a selfish desire to only please self (15:1-2). In so doing, we will be walking in the footsteps of Jesus (15:3-4).
3. Paul’s prayer for them is that God would help them to live in harmony with each other to the glory of God (15:5-7).
4. Drawing on the example of Jesus, Paul reminds them that Jesus became a servant in order to fulfill the promises made to the patriarchs and open the door of salvation to Gentiles (15:8-13).
B. Paul’s past work among the Gentiles (15:14-21)
1. As Paul begins to wrap up the letter, he makes some personal observations.
2. He commends the church in Rome for their goodness and their knowledge (15:14), even though he recognizes that he wrote some things that might have been considered bold (15:15-16).
3. Paul is proud of the work that God has accomplished through him among the Gentiles (15:17-19), and he has a strong desire to take the gospel to places that have not yet heard it (15:20-21).
C. Paul’s future plans (15:22-33)
1. Paul’s desire is to pass through Rome on his way to Spain (15:22-24). But before he goes their direction, he must go to Jerusalem to deliver money to the poor saints there (15:25-26).
2. The churches in Macedonia and Achaia were happy to make contributions for their brothers and sisters (15:27). When Paul has completed that visit, he will make his way to Rome (15:28-29).
3. He concludes this chapter by asking the saints in Rome to pray that God would make his plans a reality (15:30-33).
II. Chapter 16
A. Much of chapter 16 involves personal greetings to individuals who were members of the church in Rome (16:1-16).
B. In verses 1-2 Paul commends Phoebe to the church in Rome. She is probably the one who carried this letter from Corinth to Rome. What Paul says about her has caused some degree of controversy in recent years.
1. Paul’s use of the word “servant” in verse one is the source of debate. The word he used is the same Greek word from which we get the English word “deacon.” This has led some to conclude that there was an “office” of deaconess in the church.
2. But the evidence does not support this conclusion. The word in question simply means “servant” and can be applied generally to anyone, male or female, who serves. This is how Paul uses the word here.
C. Paul’s final exhortations involve the importance of watching and avoiding those who would cause divisions among them (16:17). He identifies them as serving their own lusts and using deceptive speech to gain a following (16:18).
D. Paul’s final words of praise are for the good news of Jesus that has been made known to the world and for God who made it all possible (16:25-27).
Conclusion: In this great letter Paul discussed the sinful condition of all mankind, the consequences of that sinful condition, the lengths God has gone to justify us in spite of our sin, the faith response required of us to obtain that justification, and how the justified should live in view of that justification. In the gospel, God has revealed his plan for making sinful people righteous, and how that good news should lead to “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5; 16:26).
Introduction: Not every choice we make involves issues of right and wrong. Some choices we make involve matters of personal opinion. One of the challenges we face as Christians is being able to distinguish between doctrine and opinion. First century Christians faced the same challenge. In Romans 14 Paul addresses some of these matters.
I. Dietary Preferences and Special Days (14:1-12)
A. Paul identifies two classes of people in verse two: those who believe that they may eat anything they like and those who eat vegetables only, the latter being identified as “the weak person.”
1. The church is told to welcome the weak brother/sister, but not for the purpose of arguing over this matter of personal judgment (14:1).
2. The one who eats meat is not to despise the one who doesn’t, and the vegetarian is not to pass judgment on the one who eats meat (14:3).
3. We do not have the authority to pass judgment on the servant of another (14:4). God is the master of my brother, not me. We do not answer to each other for our decisions, but to God.
B. Another example of a matter of personal judgment is in the area of special days. “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike” (14:5).
1. Whatever these days are, they are days that individual Christians are observing “in honor of the Lord.” The same is true for those who have dietary preferences (14:6).
2. The choices we make in life are not made in complete isolation. Our lives are lived for God and we belong to him, even in death (14:7-9).
C. Instead of passing judgments on each other over matters of opinion, we should focus on our own lives knowing that each person will give an account of himself to God (14:10-12).
II. Considering How Our Actions Affect Others (14:13-23)
A. Instead of passing judgment on each other over matters of personal opinion, Paul wants them to make sure that they are not putting hindrances and occasions of stumbling in the way of others (14:13).
B. Paul introduces in this section the role of the conscience and the importance of not violating it. In the case of eating meat, there is no law that prohibits eating meat. But if one cannot eat meat with a clear conscience, he should not eat (14:14).
C. Those who eat meat are to consider how that action might affect weaker Christians. If the meat-eater flaunts his right in front of weaker brothers, he is no longer walking in love and is offering the opportunity for something that is good to be spoken of as evil (14:15-16).
D. There are things far more important than eating and drinking. Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit are more important than what a person eats or drinks (14:17). Therefore, our desire should be to pursue things that promote peace, not conflict (14:18).
E. Paul restates the importance of not destroying a brother by causing him to stumble over a matter of opinion (14:20-21).
1. Remember: to make a brother “stumble” would involve that brother engaging in the action that he thinks is wrong.
2. Just because someone thinks that eating meat is wrong does not mean that everyone else must stop eating it. But if I use my influence to get someone to eat meat in violation of his conscience, then I’ve caused him to stumble.
F. With regard to these optional matters, we should not turn them into matters of argument and division. Happy are those who do not have to wrestle with their consciences over these things (14:22). But those who do should never violate their consciences (14:23).
Conclusion: It is not always easy to allow others to do things differently, even in matters of opinion. After all, I would not hold the opinions I hold if I did not think they were right. But in matters of individual judgment, we must allow each person to answer to his master, not to us.
Introduction: Chapter 13 continues the practical application section of the letter. In it, Paul focuses on the Christian as a citizen. He addresses two primary areas of conduct: our relationship to civil authorities and our relationship to other citizens.
I. The Christian and Civil Authorities (13:1-7)
A. The first sentence of the chapter clearly states how the Christian should act toward those who are in positions of authority in government, which would include police officers, council members, legislators, governors, and presidents: be subject to them (13:1).
B. The reason? Because all authority ultimately comes from God and God is responsible for the existence of civil government (13:1).
1. This means, then, that “resisting” (being hostile toward) authority figures is to resist God’s appointed servants. When one does that, he can expect to “incur judgment” (13:2).
2. Civil authorities are in place to enforce laws that govern conduct. If we want to live without fear of them, then we should live in harmony with the law (13:3).
3. But if we break the law, then we should be afraid (13:4). Why? Because civil rulers are servants of God (13:4, 6) who are carrying out God’s wrath on his behalf (13:4-5).
4. This vengeance on God’s behalf includes the right to “bear the sword,” a phrase that clearly refers to capital punishment (13:4).
C. Another result of being subject to civil authorities is our responsibility to pay taxes (13:6-7). In short, we owe civil government our taxes, respect, and honor for the roles they fulfill as ministers of God.
II. The Christian and Other Citizens (13:8-14)
A. Drawing on the idea of paying what is owed, Paul summarizes how we should act toward others by emphasizing the need for love. The one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the demands of the law (13:8).
B. He explains what he means by that statement in 13:9-10. The individual commandments that govern our conduct toward others – like prohibitions against adultery, stealing, etc. – are “summed up” in the general command to love one’s neighbor. Since love does no wrong to a neighbor, to love is to fulfill the law.
C. In the remainder of the chapter, Paul highlights the urgency of molding our character into what God wants it to be.
1. It is time to wake up to our responsibilities because our time on earth draws closer and closer to an end (13:11).
2. That being true, we should “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (13:12). We should distance ourselves from immorality (13:13).
3. We should clothe ourselves with the Lord and not live to gratify the lusts of the flesh (13:14).
Conclusion: The bottom line is this: no one should ever be a better citizen or a better neighbor than a Christian.
Introduction: Chapter 12 marks a major shift in the letter. The first eleven chapters are often called the “doctrinal” section of Romans, while chapters 12-16 make up the “practical” section. With this chapter, Paul is essentially saying, “Here is how all of the preceding information should affect the way you live.”
I. Living Sacrifices (12:1-2)
A. Paul makes a passionate plea, based on the mercies of God as expressed in his plan to make men righteous through Jesus, that his readers present their bodies as living sacrifices (1).
B. In addition, he encourages them not to conform themselves to the ways of the world, but rather to be transformed. In that way, they would properly discern the perfect will of God (2).
1. It has always been the will of God for his people (the Jews in the Old Testament and Christians in the New) to be different from the world around them.
2. Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 1 Sam. 8:5; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Cor. 6:17-7:1
II. Using Your Gifts (12:3-8)
A. Paul warns them not to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think in the realm of their areas of service in the church. They were to conduct themselves soberly with a proper recognition of the gifts God had blessed each person with (3).
B. He reminds them that a single body is composed of different parts, each having its own peculiar function, but all working together for the good of the whole (4). The local church should operate the same way (5).
C. He would make the same point to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 12:12-31).
D. Whatever your gift is, use it, whether it is prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, or acts of mercy (6-8).
1. Remember that prophecy was a miraculous gift available to the first-century church, but that it passed away along with the other miraculous gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-10).
2. But the other gifts were not miraculous by nature. God blesses people with different natural abilities, and he expects us to use those abilities to his glory.
III. Miscellaneous Exhortations (12:9-21)
A. Exhortations regarding self and Christian family (9-13):
1. Let love be genuine, without hypocrisy (9; 1 Cor. 13:1-7).
2. Abhor what’s evil; hold fast what’s good (9; Amos 5:15).
3. Love and honor each other (10; 1 John 4:7-12).
4. Be zealous in serving the Lord (11; Gal. 6:9; 1 Cor. 15:58).
5. Be joyful, patient, and prayerful (12; Phil. 4:4; James 1:2-4; Col. 4:2).
6. Be generous and hospitable (13; Gal. 6:10; 1 Pet. 4:9).
B. Exhortations regarding enemies (14-21):
1. Do not respond to evil with evil (14-17; 1 Pet. 2:21-23).
2. If at all possible, live in peace with everyone (18; Prov. 16:7).
3. Respond with kindness to your enemies, and leave the vengeance to God (19-21).
Conclusion: An important lesson to remember from chapter 12 is this – the good news about Jesus is not merely a blessed gift for us to enjoy, it also includes a solemn obligation to live for him. This chapter reveals many of the characteristics of a life lived in submission to Jesus.
Introduction: Chapters 10-11 continue to take the reader deep into a discussion of how the sovereignty of God relates to the Jewish rejection of Jesus and Gentile inclusion in the church. These chapters contain some of the more difficult material in the letter, but also some of the most beautiful.
I. Paul’s Prayer for Israel (10:1-4)
A. Paul’s deep desire is to see Israel embrace the gospel of Jesus and be saved. His Jewish kinsmen are certainly zealous for God, but their enthusiasm is misguided (10:1-2).
B. They are ignorant of the way that God makes men righteous, and in trying to establish their own plan for righteousness, they rejected God’s way (10:3-4).
II. The Basis of Salvation is the Same for All (10:5-13)
A. If righteousness were ever to be attained by law-keeping alone, the requirement would be perfect obedience (10:5).
B. But righteousness that is based on faith does not require the impoosible, like bringing Jesus back to earth to finish any unfinished work. It simply trusts in what Jesus has already accomplished (10:6-10).
C. And this means of justification – faith, not merit – is the same for everyone. There is no distinction in this regard between Jew and Gentile (10:11-13).
III. Israel Has Squandered its Opportunities (10:14-21)
A. The gospel message has been made available through the sending of preachers, and the Jewish people have heard it, but they have not believed it (10:14-18).
B. Instead, the Gentiles have been the ones who have been more receptive, even though God’s benevolent hands remain open for the Jews (10:19-21).
IV. There is Still a Jewish Remnant (11:1-10)
A. Paul puts himself forward as “Exhibit A” that God has not completely abandoned the Jews. He is among the Jewish remnant who have embraced the gospel and justification by faith (11:1-6).
B. Israel, as a whole, “failed to obtain” the justification it was seeking (because they were seeking it through the law itself, not the one to whom the law pointed). Those who understood the gospel and didn’t stumble over Jesus obtained it (11:7-10).
V. The Grafting in of the Gentiles (11:11-32)
A. To illustrate the rejection of the Jews and the acceptance of the Gentiles, Paul uses a comparison that his readers would have been familiar with – the cutting off and grafting in of branches on an olive tree.
B. Paul’s hope in God’s inclusion of the Gentiles is that the Jews, in turn, would desire what the Gentiles had obtained in Christ, and eventually embrace the gospel, too (11:11-16).
C. Speaking to the Gentile Christians in Rome, Paul offers the following:
1. There were natural branches (Jews) who were broken off of the tree and wild branches (Gentiles) who were grafted in, or attached, to the tree (11:17).
2. But just because the Gentiles were grafted in, they should not show arrogance toward the Jews who had been cut off (11:18).
3. While it is true that the breaking off of the natural branches made it possible for the wild branches to be grafted in, that does not mean that the wild branches cannot be broken off, too (11:19-21).
4. God will cut off any branch that does not remain in his goodness and nourish any branch that does (11:22). The key is for each branch to keep living lives of faith.
5. What’s more, if the cut-off Jews cease their unbelief and place their trust in Jesus like the Gentiles did, they will be grafted back in (11:23-24).
6. In summary, Paul affirms many Jews hardened their hearts while many Gentiles opened theirs; but if the Jews want to be saved, it will be in the same manner that the Gentiles were saved – through “the deliverer” that came out of Zion, that is Jesus (11:25-27).
7. Though Jew and Gentile have, in a sense, switched places (from included to excluded), that doesn’t mean that it has to stay that way (11:28-32).
VI. Praise for God’s Wisdom (11:33-36)
A. After this lengthy and deep discussion of the sovereignty of God and how his plan to make men righteous has affected both Jew and Gentile, Paul erupts in words of praise for the God behind it all.
B. His wisdom and judgments are far beyond human ability to fully understand.
Introduction: Chapters 9-11 take the reader deep into a discussion of how the sovereignty of God relates to the Jewish rejection of Jesus and Gentile inclusion in the church. These chapters contain some of the more difficult material in the letter, but also some of the most beautiful. Chapter 9 finds Paul focusing primarily on the sovereignty (absolute authority) of God.
I. Paul’s Sorrow Over His People (9:1-3)
A. Bolstered by expressions of deep sincerity, Paul affirms that his heart breaks over the lost condition of his Jewish kinsmen (1-2).
B. He goes so far as to say – using hyperbole – that if his own condemnation would bring about Jewish salvation, he would let himself be condemned (3).
II. The Jewish Advantage (9:4-5)
A. When one considers which group – Jew or Gentile – was in the best position to embrace the gospel and enjoy its attendant blessings, there is no question that the Jews held the advantage.
B. To the Jews belonged adoption (God chose them), glory (God dwelled among them), covenants (with many of their patriarchal ancestors), the law (given at Sinai), the service (Levitical priests), the promises (relating to Jesus), and Jesus himself (4-5).
III. God is Sovereign (9:6-29)
A. If the Jews had such an advantage, then what happened? Why did most of them reject Jesus? Paul’s answer: it wasn’t that God’s word failed (6); there’s more to it than that.
B. The statement at the end of verse 6 – “Not all who have descended from Israel belong to Israel” – is the simple answer and takes us back to statements Paul previously made (2:28-29; 4:11-12, 16). Not everyone who is a physical descendant of Abraham is a spiritual descendent of Abraham.
C. To further explain, Paul will take the reader on a tour of some Jewish history (9:7-13).
1. God chose to establish the Messianic lineage through Isaac, not through any of Abraham’s other children. Isaac was the son of promise (9:7-9).
2. This Messianic lineage also went through Jacob instead of Esau (9:10-13). These choices were by the sovereign will of God and had nothing to do with rewarding or punishing past behavior (9:11).
D. Paul addresses a possible objection, and in so doing gives the key verse of this chapter: “Is there injustice with God?” Absolutely not (9:14).
1. God may choose whomever he wants to choose in order to fulfill his purposes (9:15-18).
2. But these choices have nothing to do with eternal destiny, only the purposes of God in fulfilling his will.
E. Another possible objection: “If God chooses whomever he wills to fulfill his purposes, then how can those who aren’t chosen still be held accountable?” (9:19).
1. Paul’s startling answer is, “Who are you to question God?” (9:20). God has the sovereign right to work out his will without having to explain himself to his creation (9:21).
2. This does not imply that God is doing anything that is against his nature. It is only an affirmation of truth – that God does not owe us an explanation for what he does.
F. Paul affirms, by the use of another rhetorical question, that in his dealings with Jew and Gentile through history, God has shown wrath, power, patience, mercy, and glory – all to bring about the calling of Christians, Jew and Gentile, into one body (9:22-26).
G. And it is not as though God has decided arbitrarily that no Jews will be saved (a topic to which he will return later). There has always been and will always be a faithful remnant (9:27-29).
IV. Why Israel is Lost (9:30-33)
A. The point of the discussion is this: Gentiles were more accepting of the gospel because they were pursuing justification as a matter of faith (9:30). Jews tended to reject the gospel because they preferred to pursue justification as a matter of merit (9:31-32).
B. But because Jesus did not bring a merit-based system of justification, the Jews “stumbled over” him. That is, they rejected him (9:32-33).