Romans 3

Salvation doesn’t come from obeying the Law, because no one can do it: Exibit A – the history of the Jews aka the Old Testament. 

No one, has ever been perfect, righteous, pure, justified, until Jesus. Justification then ONLY comes through faith in Him.

It’s funny how people who grow up in Christian families, running the halls of churches, can take on the same attitude of first century Jews. I confess, growing up I read chapter 2 thinking it applied to me more than 1. I had a knowledge of the Bible and it was easy to judge all those “worldly people”. 2:1 hit me like a ton of bricks: “you who judge do the same things.” WHAT!? Me??

Going to Armenia was very eye-opening. They are so much more of a Christian nation then America. They established themselves as a Christian nation in 301 A.D.! I found they also took on the posture of feeling like they were the New Jews, God’s chosen race. We do that. Americans have done that. Except we’re going to do it better, right? No. No one is righteous. NOT ONE.

We are the Gentiles. God waited patiently for thousands of years to include us in His redemption story. 

It comes down to chapter 3, where upon being put back in our place, we ask the question, “What advantage has the Jew?”

“They were entrusted with the oracles of God.” (3:2) There’s no denying the nation of Israel has the most glorious, miraculous, sonsational history of any people group EVER. The fact they still exist is miracle #34,067,468,245.

God chose to use them, bless them and keep them. That was His glorious choice. Like how now we have also been gloriously chosen to be His as well. We also have been entrusted with His oracles. Will we obey His commission to make disciples of the nations? Or keep it to ourselves and make it seem real hard to be a Christian? It’s not hard. Jesus did all the work. We must do the “hard” work of letting His love transform us into patient, kind, compassionate people. Only He can do this. 

-Bethany

Romans 2

In this chapter, Paul is using a form of dialogue that engages a fictitious opponent in dialogue. The “you” he is referring to is a hypothetical Jew. At least that’s what the small sentence at the bottom of my Bible page told me this morning. I feel a little in over my head being in Romans, and just want to emphasize that obviously we are not scholars. I glean information from my different commentaries, my smarty pants husband and other random thoughts sloshing around in my head and by the grace of God himself, type them up into (what I hope are) congruent paragraphs. We started this blog because we love the Bible, love to write, and hey, love a social platform, not because we think we are smarter than you. If you are well-informed on one of the books we’re going through, or a particular chapter, email us! We love hearing from you guys and love having guest bloggers. So, keep that disclaimer in mind as we sort through Paul’s masterpiece and some of the strongest theology topics in the Bible over the course of this book.

 

Chapter 2 is great at busting down religion that the Jews are clinging to. Verses 12-29 probably dropped a lot of jaws and turned a lot of stomachs back then. Honestly, it turns mine. My tendency to rely on religiosity, performance and spiritual background is not pleasing to God. The Jews are God’s people and he came to them first. At the time, some Jews believed that simply (easy for me to say) being circumcised protected them from God’s wrath. They were special. They knew Scripture, they rattled off verses and memorized every rule in the book. Jesus comes and says “I don’t care about that, I care about your heart.” It’s not Jews vs. Gentiles anymore. The gospel is equally available to everyone and it is now being broken down to obedient hearts vs. prideful hearts. This means for us it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been going to church, how often you read the Bible, how many verses you’ve memorized or how many Bible studies you attend. The one whom God will praise is the one who serves the Lord from a heart of obedience. 

Francis Chan has a convicting perspective on what he calls ‘spiritual gluttony’ in his most recent book, You & Me Forever. He points out that these days, Christian culture has more resources than ever. Every pastor has a published book you can track down (or four), we can stream podcasts from anywhere, anytime and we join five Bible studies. We are constantly binging on information on how to have a relationship with God and I’m not convinced we’re getting any better at it.

God’s not asking you to just consume him, but obey him. This is not daunting! It is freeing and exciting. It knocks religious shaming down and raises up humble, unqualified followers of God who want to walk in his ways.

Read verses 21-27 again. Paul’s words are a scathing criticism on hypocrisy. Do you struggle with this?

-Carly

 

Romans 1

Yay Romans! So much of our foundational theology is found in this book. We’re going to take it a little slower (one chapter at a time), because there’s a lot here we don’t want to miss. Let’s start with the Bible Project Intro.

I want to highlight this theme of the multiethnic family of God. If you’ve ever talked with me in real life, I’m sure you’ve heard me rave about this. I’ve lived a full life and I say the greatest heaven-on-earth experience is an international worship service. The more diverse the better. The climax of history in Revelation, is every tribe, tongue and nation worshipping God together. My heart sings, Jesus is for all of us!

Let’s dive in.

“You also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (1:6)

God has revealed Himself to mankind. He is impossible to ignore. Our best defense is to, at least, attribute His obvious existence and power to another ambiguous beings of our choosing.

He honored our decision to ignore Him, and let us make our own rules, leading us to self-deprivation. We’ve reaped the horrors we have sown, but as the introduction eluded, He had zero intention to leave us there forever.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Check out this list of rebellions: Envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, hating God, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, inventing new ways of doing evil, disobedience to parents, not understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy, knowing it will kill, but doing it anyway, approving of others participation as well.

Don’t think about what you observe in other people, right now, just think about the ones ringing true for you. I can admit to pretty much all of them. I haven’t physically killed someone, but I’ve had murderous thoughts before.

UGH STRIFE!! I hate it! I love it! I have strife about strife! None of this is what Creater God created me for. He is the inventor of peace. Why do I argue with Him about peace? Why would I ever waste my creativity on new ways to be evil? No wonder a first century Jew who has had the Law for centuries would want to judge me. 

Consider your motives and let’s see what Paul will say about this tomorrow.

-Bethany

Acts 27-28

Well here we are, at the end of another book together. I haven’t read through the entirety of Acts in a long time, and it really did my heart some good. This is our history, church. These are our people. Paul, our pioneer.

I love how Acts ends. It’s a great picture of what being part of the church or ministry can look like sometimes. You’re a part of a crew on a giant vessel riding the unpredictable waves of ministry. You tug on each other’s sleeves, warning of approaching storms and trying to steer them away from mistakes. Things begin to break apart. You start throwing things overboard. Things you’ve used in the past, things you might need later. Perspective gets lost, people start turning on each other.

But then someone speaks up. Someone who has been listening to God and hasn’t been engulfed by the current circumstances. Someone whose feet are also wet from rising water, but who isn’t afraid. They suggest that everyone stops to share a meal, break bread and pray together.

The last few verses of the book tell us that Paul lived in a guarded house in Rome for two years, on his own dime. The greatest spokesman and apostle, restricted from freely ministering as he desired. So what does he do? He does what he can. He writes letters to encourage the church (Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians). He writes personal letters to encourage friends (Philemon and 1 & 2 Timothy). He witnesses to the Roman guard watching over him (Philemon 1:13). Paul shows us there is never a time or place in which you can’t glorify or serve God.

When you read the letters he wrote under house arrest (my favorite is Philippians), there’s  not even a hint of bitterness. He’s encouraging and exhorting.

I have a lot to learn from Paul. When things get hard, my attitude is far from his, to say the least. How you respond to trials in ministry (aka in life) is a good gauge on where your heart is with the Lord. He is so faithful. Paul weathering a shipwreck with a calm heart and loyal stance isn’t a mark of what a great man he is, but what a powerful God we serve. 

This morning I’m stepping back and asking myself, what stops me from glorifying and serving God in any circumstance I’m in?

 

-Carly

Acts 25-26

Paul’s less-than-desirable prison situation becomes an opportunity to share the gospel with kings and queens. He was singularly focused. Every moment was a moment for the furthering of the gospel. There was no second agenda, no self preserving scramble.

I am a single gal in my early thirties. I keep my life as carefree as possible. There’s no husband or kids around to remind me of my selfishness. I don’t have to check in with very many people.

This week has been intense, and without diving into details, let me just say, I’ve been faced with a situation that calls for a real “death to self”. Will I lay down my rights, my freedom and comforts for someone else’s chance to experience the gospel? The answer is yes, but it’s going to take some real one-foot-after-the-other, daily surrender, because I’m discovering how much I love being foot loose and fancy free.

I’m also becoming desperately in love with the incomprehensible power of this gospel. You guys. Our rebellion against God is YUCK. His holiness is beautiful, pure, love, perfection and we, in our fallen state, cannot dare approach Him, for the absolution of total annihilation. But this would not do, so Jesus clothed Himself in humanity and jumped in to our sewage, took our death sentence, completed it and DEFEATED IT.

“WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR STING?”

Do you know this? Do you feel it? Are you crushed beneath the weight of it’s goodness?

What else has taken the place of the gospel priority? 

-Bethany

Acts 23-24

Paul is dragged in front of the high council, some who are probably his classmates or peers from when he was becoming a Pharisee. When the high priest, Ananias, commanded the guards to slap Paul in the face, he responds “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite!”

Paul responded so curtly because Ananias’s command to have him slap was illegal (assuming Paul was guilty before his trial and ordering his punishment). When someone leans over and tells him he’s insulting the most important man in the room, he’s surprised.

He quickly falls in line. “Oh, I didn’t realize he was the high priest.” Why would he? The man who is suppose to represent the law to everyone was breaking it. But this was this man’s job, purpose and title. And Paul, more familiar with his position than anyone could be, didn’t recognize that about him.

It got me thinking: what do people know about me once I’m in the room? If I spend the evening with someone new, they’ll probably leave knowing what type of music I like, whether I’m gluten free or not, and what sports team I root for. And hopefully, they’ll know I’m a Christian. Preferably not because of what I say, but maybe because of what I don’t say. The Bible mentions several times that it’s possible, and even suggested, that people find out what God you serve simply by your actions. What you talk about. How you talk about it. Do you initiate edifying conversations or participate in slander? What are all your stories about? Do you serve people you’re spending time with?

There’s a time and a place to take a bold stand and share with people. But for the most part, I think I can lean into being the laid back, relatable Christian a little too much. It’s kind of my worst nightmare to hear someone say ”oh, I didn’t know you were a Christian”.  I mean, I don’t love labels, especially the ones that often get tied to Christianity. Ideally, I want people to slowly and organically find this out about me and then be able to tie all my philanthropic behavior to it and immediately tap me on the shoulder and ask me if they can learn more about the God of the Bible. Buuuuuut, realistically, I have road rage, lose my patience with my toddler in the store, get grumpy when I have to wait in line and give in to gossip around friends. And obviously, it’s not about being perfect. It’s about representing God. Sometimes that can mean being a total hot mess, yet being quick to share about the grace God has been extending to you lately. My husband became interested in Christianity because of the joy his English teacher had despite mourning the sudden death of her brother. Even in grief, she was representing something he wanted to be a part of. Something that was recognizable without being said.

Take a minute and ask yourself, what do people recognize about me?

 

-Carly

 

Acts 21-22

The friendships forged working alongside people in ministry are my favorite friendships. It’s how Carly and I started out! Watching Paul go on this sort of “farewell tour” stirs something in me. Saying goodbye to someone who has enriched your soul feels different. Deeply sad, mixed with deep gratitude for every moment previously granted, with hope for an eternal reunion after death is done.

Everyone was trying to talk Paul out of this trip to Jerusalem. And not just selfishly, but through the Spirit (21:4) and through prophesy (21:11). God was in the midst of them reminding Paul, “you don’t have to do this”.

In Paul’s letters, and in these speeches found in Acts, he repeatedly emphasized our salvation and adoption into God’s family not hinging on works. We aren’t to be motived by fear or duty, but by love and out of a changed heart.

Paul knew he didn’t have to go to Jerusalem. He could live a safe, long life if he played his cards right, but his life was the last thing he cared about.

“For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh, who are Israelites.” Romans 9:3

If he was going down, he was going down telling the Jews their Messiah had arrived and salvation was at hand.

Saul was truly free. He feared nothing. We serve the same God. We’re adopted into the same family. Do you live in this same freedom? What are you motived by? Fear and duty, or love and a changed heart?

-Bethany