Notes from Paul

Romans 13 12

In Romans, Paul is describing the sorrow he feels that the Jews he has been trying to teach have not accepted the good news of Jesus Christ.  Even though he recognizes it is in God’s plan, he is mourning their stubbornness and their hardened hearts.

It is important to God why we follow Him…what motivates us.  He wants us to pursue Him because our faith compels us to do so, not as a result of our obligation to the law.

Paul begins to bring his message around again to the idea that Christ came for all people.  Paul continues to hope that the Israelites will listen and allow their hearts to be opened to God’s message of love and mercy. (Romans 11:11-16)

I believe Paul is saying to the early believers who are not of Jewish descent that they are the branches which come from the foundation of the Israelites.  If the root is holy, then so are the branches. As a result they need to continue to live and work together in the hope that the Jews’ eyes and hearts will be opened to a new understanding of God and Jesus Christ as Savior.  Paul points to this idea more clearly by instructing them in Romans 12:9-17…

 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

As we do our best to live at peace with everyone, Paul gets into more controversial subjects next…it could be controversial yet today too.  In Chapter 13, Paul includes the authorities which govern the members of the early church in his statements about how to treat one another if we are followers of Christ.

Romans 13:6 & 7

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

I am guilty of not appreciating those who are in authority over me.  I speak out against the actions, decisions and judgements those in civil service make sometimes.  There are many times that I don’t agree and wish the government didn’t appear so corrupt and hypocritical, but rather than allowing my anger to rise and my resentment to grow, I should be praying for those in power.  I should be blessing them…tough pill to swallow Paul, tough pill to swallow…sometimes it is bitter too.  Nevertheless, if I am to be obedient to God’s call on my life, this is one area I can improve…I think Paul was speaking the early believers about this subject because he knew they could do better too.

The next part is a little easier to accept, though not necessarily easier to accomplish:

Romans 13:8-10

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Why do we do this? Why do we live this way?  Because the day is near…

Romans 13:11& 12

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already comefor you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light

Let us also join that high calling, that of putting aside the deeds of darkness and putting on the armor of light…let us love one another in spirit and in truth, in action as well as in word…the day is near

Come, Lord Jesus, Come…

Joyanne Swanson

Paul’s Mess, God’s Message

acts 28 31 (1)
At the end of the book of Acts we are following Paul in his ministry as he shares his testimony and all he is learning from God with established groups of believers as well as with those who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ. He is told through a prophet that he will be bound by the Jewish leaders and sent to the Gentiles to share his story.  He is accused by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, then arrested and imprisoned while the Roman authorities try to figure out which side of the story to believe.  Over the course of Paul’s imprisonment he is moved to various cities and meets with several governors as well as King Agrippa.  Then finally he is sent to Rome.  During each of these transitions, Paul has an opportunity to share the story of his conversion…who he was…who he is and who he will continue to be through God’s grace.  Every time he is questioned he says something like the following phrase from Acts 23:1 “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” 
Paul faced so much opposition during this period of time and yet he continued to stand firm in his belief that God had a purpose for him which would be fulfilled no matter what…arrest, false accusations, storms, shipwrecks, imprisonment, isolation, death threats, nothing was going to stop God’s message from being spread.
As the book of Acts closes we are given a chance to witness Paul as he teaches a group of Jewish leaders in Rome. 
Acts 28:23-30
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers
to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening,
explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets
he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said,
but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and
began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth
to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:
26
“‘Go to this people and say,
“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
27
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]
28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles,
and they will listen!” [29] [b]
30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all
who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord
Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!
Some of those who were listening, heard Paul’s message and their lives were changed.  Others found that they couldn’t believe what Paul was preaching and left.  They heard but didn’t understand, they saw but didn’t allow comprehension. Paul kept right on teaching, preaching and sharing his mess so that God’s message could get through.
Oh to have Paul’s boldness and eloquence!  There are many times that we are provided the opportunity to share our own stories of faith with others and we often let them pass us by.  Are we afraid?  Maybe we don’t think they would be interested, or that we’ll be bothering them if we share.  Or maybe we don’t want to offend anyone…but if we are learning from Paul’s example, we need to be sharing our stories of faith regardless of the personal costs.  God’s message will be heard, don’t you want to be a part of that exciting adventure? I promise it’ll be a good one!
-Joyanne Swanson