Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Hebrews Session 1 - Introduction - Is Anybody Listening?

The Christ Church Wednesday Bible Study Group is doing a study through the New Testament book of Hebrews. The word better is used thirteen times in the book of Hebrews as the writer shows the superiority of Christ and His salvation over the Hebrew system of religion.  Another word that is repeated in this book is perfect; in the original Greek it is used fourteen times. It means a perfect standing before God. Eternal is a third word that is important to the message of Hebrews. When you combine these three words, you discover that Jesus Christ and the Christian life He gives us are better because these blessings are eternal and they give us perfect standing before God.  This study is not a diet for “spiritual babes” who want to be spoon-fed and coddled. In this letter you will find “strong meat” that demands some chewing and enjoying.

These are the notes to Session 1.

Who wrote this book?

The author of this book does not tell us his name. There is nothing in the book to say who wrote it. For centuries the church thought that the author was the apostle Paul. But Paul always begins his letters with his name. The way that the author uses Greek words is unlike the way Paul uses them. There have been many suggestions, but nobody knows who wrote this book. All that we know is that *Timothy was a friend of both the writer and the readers. 

2 Who were the first readers of this book?

The first readers were probably Christian Jews. The author did not write for all Jews. He wrote to a group, whom he knew well, that had become Christian. The book shows that they were not strong in their belief. They were in danger of going back to their old religion. The writer argues from the Old Testament to keep them trusting in Jesus.

3 Where did the writer send the book?

From early times the church believed that the readers lived in Jerusalem. The title, the letter to the Hebrews, could show that they were Jews in Israel who spoke Hebrew.  Many Jews who did not live in Israel spoke Greek. Another suggestion is that the readers lived in Rome. There is in fact so little evidence in the book itself that we have to say that we do not know where the readers were living.

4 When did the author write the book?

From what is in the book we could argue that the Jews were still carrying on the temple ceremonies in Jerusalem. We know that the Romans destroyed the temple in AD 70. If the date of writing was later, the author would have noted that event. So the date of the letter was probably before AD 70. 

5 Why did the author write the book?

These Christian Jews had to make a choice. They could not continue in Judaism and be Christians. They must decide which way to go. It was either to go back to being Jews or to go on to be Christians. It seems that their nation had now turned against Christians. They could not now go to the  temple as the Jews would not let them. The writer tries to show his readers that the right choice was to continue to trust in Jesus. That was much better than all the ceremonies of their former religion, which Jesus had replaced.

6 What sort of book has the author written?

The way the author has written the book is not like any other book in the New Testament. We call it a letter, but it does not start like one. It does finish like a letter, but the author does not give us his name. The writer knows the readers and is eager to see them again (13:19, 23). He thinks well of them (6:9), but they should by now have been able to teach (5:12). He knows all about their past and their needs.

The way he writes is almost like a speech or a lesson. He cares about his friends and wants to advise them in the choices they have to make.

A Much-Needed Shake-Up

The epistle of Hebrews was written at a time when the ages were colliding and when everything in society seemed to be shaking. It was written to Christians who were wondering what was going on and what they could do about it.

One of the major themes of Hebrews is: Be confident! God is shaking things up so that you may learn to live by faith and not by sight.

Looking Ahead

The focus in Hebrews is ultimately on the future. The writer informs us that he is speaking about “the world to come,” a time when believers will reign with Christ. You and I as God’s children have been promised a future reward. As with Abraham and Moses of old, the decisions we make today will determine the rewards tomorrow.

It Is a Book of Evaluation

Three Important Words

The word better is used thirteen times in the book of Hebrews as the writer shows the superiority of Christ and His salvation over the Hebrew system of religion.  Christ is “better than the angels” (Heb. 1:4). He brought in “a better hope” (Heb. 7:19) because He is the mediator of “a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Heb. 8:6).

Another word that is repeated in this book is perfect; in the original Greek it is used fourteen times. It means a perfect standing before God. 

This perfection could never be accomplished by the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 7:11) or by the law (Heb. 7:19), nor could the blood of animal sacrifices achieve it (Heb. 10:1). Jesus Christ gave Himself as one offering for sin, and by this He has “perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).

So the writer was contrasting the Old Testament system of law with the New Testament ministry of grace. He was making it clear that the Jewish religious system was temporary and that it could not bring in the eternal “better things” that are found in Jesus Christ.

Eternal is a third word that is important to the message of Hebrews. Christ is the “author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9). Through His death, He “obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12), and He shares with believers “the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15). His throne is forever (Heb. 1:8) and He is a priest forever (Heb. 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21). “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

When you combine these three words, you discover that Jesus Christ and the Christian life He gives us are better because these blessings are eternal and they give us perfect standing before God.  The religious system under the Mosaic law was imperfect because it could not accomplish a once-for-all redemption that was eternal.

Faith for Tough Times

So why did the writer of Hebrews ask his readers to evaluate their faith? Because they were going through difficult times and were being tempted to go back to the Jewish religion. The temple was still standing when this book was written and all the priestly ceremonies were still being carried on daily. 

These people were “second-generation believers,” having been won to Christ by those who had known Jesus during His ministry on earth. They were true believers who had been persecuted because of their faith. But they were being seduced by teachers of false doctrine and were in danger of forgetting the true Word that their first leaders, now dead, had taught them.

Hebrews is a book of evaluation, proving that Jesus Christ is better than anything the law of Moses has to offer.  The book of Hebrews exalts the person and the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When you realize all that you have in and through Him, you have no desire for anyone else or anything else!

It Is a Book of Exhortation

The writer called this epistle “the word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22). The Greek word translated “exhortation” simply means “encouragement.”

The epistle to the Hebrews was not written to frighten people, but to encourage people.  Hebrews encourages its readers to not 

Neglect  the Word—2:1–4  

Doubt the Word—3:7—4:13 

Become sluggish toward the Word or dull of hearing—5:11—6:20 

Don’t Despise the Word to the point that we willfully disobey the Word—10:26–39 

Not to Defy or refuse to hear the Word—12:14–29 (refusing to hear)

These five exhortations are addressed to people who are truly born again. Their purpose is to get the readers to pay close attention to God’s Word.

It Is a Book of Examination

As you study this book, you will find yourself asking: “What am I really trusting? Am I trusting the Word of God, or am I trusting the things of this world that are shaking and ready to fall away?”

This letter was written to believers at a strategic time in history. The temple was still standing and the sacrifices were still being offered. But in a few years, both the city and the temple would be destroyed. The Jewish nation would be scattered, and this would include Jewish believers in Jesus Christ. The ages were colliding! God was “shaking” the order of things (Heb. 12:25–29). He wanted His people to have their feet on the solid foundation of faith; He did not want them to trust in things that would vanish.

The church today is living in similar circumstances. Everything around us is shaking and changing. People are discovering that they have been depending on the “scaffolding” and not on the solid foundation. Even God’s people have gotten so caught up in this world’s system that their confidence is not in the Lord, but in money, buildings, programs, and other passing material things. As God continues to “shake” society, the scaffolding will fall away, and God’s people will discover that their only confidence must be in the Word of God.

I fear there are many people who have a false faith, who have not really heard and heeded God’s Word. Sometimes they are so busy telling everybody else what to do that they fail to examine their own situations. The epistle to the Hebrews is a book of examination: it helps you discover where your faith really is.

The story about the conductor who got on the train, began to take tickets, and told the first passenger whose ticket he took, “Sir, you’re on the wrong train.” When he looked at the next ticket, he told that passenger the same thing.

“But the brakeman told me to get on this train,” the passenger protested.

“I’ll double-check,” said the conductor. He did and discovered that he was on the wrong train!

It Is a Book of Expectation

The focus in this book is on the future. The writer informs us that he is speaking about “the world to come” (Heb. 2:5), a time when believers will reign with Christ. 

This does not mean that we become so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. Rather it means that we “hang loose” as far as this world is concerned, and start living for the eternal values of the world to come.  the decisions we make today will determine the rewards tomorrow. More than this, our decisions should be motivated by the expectation of receiving rewards. Abraham obeyed God because “he looked for a city” (Heb. 11:10). Moses forsook the treasures and the pleasures of Egypt because “he had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Heb. 11:26). These great men and women (Heb. 11:31, 35) of faith “lived in the future tense” and thus were able to overcome the temptations of the world and the flesh.

This letter is not a diet for “spiritual babes” who want to be spoon-fed and coddled (Heb. 5:11–14). In this letter you will find “strong meat” that demands some “spiritual molars” for chewing and enjoying. The emphasis in Hebrews is not on what Christ did on the earth (the “milk”), but what He is now doing in heaven (the “meat” of the Word). He is the Great High Priest who enables us by giving us grace (Heb. 4:14–16). He is also the Great Shepherd of the sheep who equips us to do His will (Heb. 13:20–21). He is working in us to accomplish His purposes. What a thrill it is for us to be a part of such a marvelous ministry!

It Is a Book of Exaltation

The epistle to the Hebrews exalts the person and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The first three verses set this high and holy theme, which is maintained throughout the entire book. Their immediate purpose is to prove that Jesus Christ is superior to the prophets, men who were held in the highest esteem by the Jewish people.

Hebrews 1:1‭-‬3 NLT Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

To begin with, He is the very Son of God and not merely a man called by God. The author makes it clear that Jesus Christ is God (Heb. 1:3), for his description could never be applied to mortal man. “Brightness of his glory” refers to the shekinah glory of God that dwelt in the tabernacle and temple. (See Ex. 40:34–38 and 1 Kings 8:10. The word Shekinah is a transliteration of a Hebrew word that means “to dwell.”) Christ is to the Father what the rays of the sun are to the sun. He is the radiance of God’s glory. As it is impossible to separate the rays from the sun, it is also impossible to separate Christ’s glory from the nature of God.

“Express image” (Heb. 1:3) carries the idea of “the exact imprint.” Our English word character comes from the Greek word translated “image.” Literally, Jesus Christ is “the exact representation of the very substance of God” (see Col. 2:9). Only Jesus could honestly say, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). When you see Christ, you see the glory of God (John 1:14).

In His work, Christ is also superior to the prophets. To begin with, He is the Creator of the universe, for by Him, God “made the worlds” (Heb. 1:2). Not only did Christ create all things by His Word (John 1:1–5), but He also upholds all things by that same powerful Word (Heb. 1:3). “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist [hold together]” (Col. 1:17).

Of course, both the Old Testament and the gospel revelation came from God, but Jesus Christ was God’s “last word” as far as revelation is concerned. Christ is the source, center, and end of everything that God has to say.

But Jesus Christ has a ministry as Priest, and this reveals His greatness. By Himself He “purged our sins” (Heb. 1:3). This aspect of His ministry will be explained in detail in Hebrews 7—10.

Finally, Jesus Christ reigns as King (Heb. 1:3). He has sat down, for His work is finished, and He has sat down “on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” the place of honor. This proves that He is equal with God the Father, for no mere created being could ever sit at God’s right hand.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Romans Session 20 - Ministering Together 15:14 - 16:27


The Christ Church Wednesday Bible Study Group is now in a detailed study of Paul's epistle to the church in Rome. These are the notes for our final session, Session 20

We have now come to the end of Paul’s letter. He l now begins what amounts to the conclusion of his letter  in which he mentions, his plans for future service, a warning, personal greetings from himself and others, and a closing benediction

For an audio recording of the session click on the YouTube icon.

We have now come to the end of Paul’s letter.

After completing the major doctrinal part of this letter (1:18–15:13), Paul now begins what amounts to the conclusion of his letter  in which he mentions, his plans for future service (15:22–33), personal greetings from himself and others(16:1–24), and a closing benediction (16:25–27).

Paul makes several important statements in the last paragraphs of his letter—He commends the Romans for their involvement in the gospel. He shares a bit of information about his own ministry and future plans. He reiterates his heart’s desire to minister in Rome and to fellowship with the church there. And finally he mentions by name more than two dozen colleagues and co-workers.


In chapter 16, we get a rare glimpse into Paul’s working relationships and close friendships. We can see and sense the deep affection that Paul had for those with whom and to whom he ministered. We also get to see the sincere gratitude the apostle felt for those who had been such a help and encouragement to him in life and ministry.


As the faces of redeemed and transformed Jews and Gentiles flashed through Paul’s mind, the apostle closed his epistle, fittingly, with a final hymn of praise: “to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (16:27).

Paul starts this section by talking about his service as an apostle 15:14-22

Romans 15:14‭-‬22 NLT I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. For by God’s grace, I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit. So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum. My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, “Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.” In fact, my visit to you has been delayed so long because I have been preaching in these places.

Verses 14-16 Paul calls the Christians in Rome his brothers. He praises them and he feels confident that they will understand his letter. 

He had written to them in a bold way. He explained that he wrote this letter to remind them about important matters in the Christian faith. People are quick to forget so he wanted to remind them of the important things about salvation, sanctification, and fellowship with one another.  

God had made Paul a servant to the Gentiles. 

Let’s look at verse 16 

Romans 15:16 NLT I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

Paul uses words that describe the worship in the temple. There a priest would offer a sacrifice that pleased God. Paul considered himself like a priest who was offering a gift. The Gentiles were like the gift that the Holy Spirit made favourable to God but God’s law did not allow Gentiles to enter the inner Temple. 

But the gospel changed their situation. Now the Gentiles would have a real relationship with God. And God’s Holy Spirit would make them holy.

Galatians 4:4‭-‬7 NLT But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.  And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”  Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

Verses 17-19 Paul considers that he has received a great honour. God has used him to bring the Gentiles into God’s kingdom. This honour comes only because Christ is working through Paul. 

Romans 15:18 NLT Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them.

Paul is speaking on behalf of Christ.

By Paul’s words and actions, he has declared the Christian message.

2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

The Holy Spirit gave Paul the power to do ‘signs and miracles’. 

Romans 15:19 NLT They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.

These showed that he was a genuine apostle.

2 Corinthians 12:11‭-‬12 NLT You have made me act like a fool. You ought to be writing commendations for me, for I am not at all inferior to these “super apostles,” even though I am nothing at all. When I was with you, I certainly gave you proof that I am an apostle. For I patiently did many signs and wonders and miracles among you.

Paul had finished his work in the east Mediterranean area. He had declared the Christian message across the whole region. From Jerusalem to Illyricum, he had established Christian churches in all the important towns and cities. Illyricum includes parts of Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Croatia, today.

Verses 20-22 Paul did not want to continue the work that other people had started. Because Paul did not want to interrupt anyone else’s work. 

He wanted to preach the gospel to people who had not heard it before. Paul used some prophetic words about the Messiah from  Isaiah that describe the work of God’s servant.   The entire passage is 

Isaiah 52:13‭-‬15 NLT See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man. And he will startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not been told; they will understand what they had not heard about.

Christ was making these words true by means of Paul.

At the beginning of his letter, Paul said that he had decided to visit Rome on many occasions. But he had not been able to do so. He did not explain what had prevented him then. but now he explains the reason. 

Romans 15:22 NLT In fact, my visit to you has been delayed so long because I have been preaching in these places.

It was important for him to finish his work in the east part of the Roman world, from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.

Paul’s plans for the future 15:23-29

Romans 15:23‭-‬29 NLT But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you. I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey. But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there. For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem. They were glad to do this because they feel they owe a real debt to them. Since the Gentiles received the spiritual blessings of the Good News from the believers in Jerusalem, they feel the least they can do in return is to help them financially. As soon as I have delivered this money and completed this good deed of theirs, I will come to see you on my way to Spain. And I am sure that when I come, Christ will richly bless our time together.

Verses 23-24 Paul wanted to go to Spain. Spain, at the western end of Europe, was part of the Roman kingdom. 

We do not know whether Paul actually reached Spain. However, we know that Paul reached Rome as a prisoner. 

Acts of the Apostles 28:14‭-‬16 NLT There we found some believers, who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome. The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he was encouraged and thanked God. When we arrived in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.

He may have gained his freedom after two years of house arrest in Rome.

Acts of the Apostles 28:30‭-‬31 NLT For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.

We know, from the historical record, that the Romans killed Paul at some time during the rule of the Emperor Nero.

Verses 25-29

In the immediate future, Paul made plans to go to Jerusalem. He had urged the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia (north and south Greece) to give some money to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem. 

Paul spoke about this Christian aid in

1 Corinthians 16:1‭-‬4 NLT Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. When I come, I will write letters of recommendation for the messengers you choose to deliver your gift to Jerusalem. And if it seems appropriate for me to go along, they can travel with me.

There were several reasons why Paul wanted the Gentile churches to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem:

1. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem had agreed that Paul would work among the Gentiles. But they asked that he and Barnabas should continue to help poor people

Galatians 2:9‭-‬10 NLT In fact, James, Peter, and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews. Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do.

2. Paul thought that the Gentiles had a debt to the Jews.  Jews had preached the gospel to them. The Gentiles had received spiritual *blessings when they heard it. Now the Jews needed help. So it was right that the Gentiles should help to provide for the *Jews.

3. The gift would help to unite Jewish and Gentile Christians. 

4. It would show that Christians had a practical faith. Christians were aware of other people’s problems and they acted to help them.

Paul wanted to go with the Christians from the different churches. They would hand over the gift in Jerusalem. When Paul had done this, he intended to travel to Rome on his way to Spain. Probably he thought that Rome would be a useful place for his work. There was already a large church in Rome. Paul hoped that the Christians in Rome would help him on his journey. He did not intend to stay in Rome for a long time.

Paul’s need of prayer 15:30-33

Romans 15:30‭-‬33 NLT Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit. Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem. Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other. And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen.

Verses 30-31 Paul knew that there was danger for him in Jerusalem. In fact the Christians in Caesarea had tried to stop him so that he would not go. But he refused to change his plans.

Acts of the Apostles 21:10‭-‬14 NLT Several days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea. He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But he said, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” When it was clear that we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

He needed prayer for two reasons:

1. He knew that the Jews in Jerusalem would oppose him. Years before, he himself opposed the Christian faith strongly. Then, after Paul became a Christian, he had spoken in Jerusalem about his new faith. People had plotted to kill him. So Paul had left Jerusalem and he had returned to Tarsus.

Acts of the Apostles 9:28‭-‬30 NLT So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown.

He was not sure how the Jews would accept the gift from the Gentile churches. Some Jewish Christians may have been unhappy about this gift. Paul had taught the Gentile Christians that they did not have to obey the Jewish laws. And those Jewish Christians considered their law to be very important. So they might refuse the gift because Paul was bringing it.

Paul asked for prayer because they all belonged to the same Lord Jesus Christ. They had the Holy Spirit, who gave them love for each other.

Verse 32 Paul prayed that he would reach Rome. But notice he said if it was God’s will.  He said the same thing at the beginning of his letter.

Romans 1:10 NLT One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you.

Prayer helps us to agree with God’s purposes. If he did reach Rome, Paul and the Christians in Rome would be a help to each other.

We are not sure if the Jewish Christians accepted the gift from the Gentile churches but we do know for sure that his prayer for safety was not answered in the way he may have wanted it.  

The Jews in Jerusalem caused trouble for him. The Romans had to rescue him although they did not free him. Instead, they kept him in prison. They later sent him to Caesarea because of a plot to kill him. After a series of court meetings, and more than two years in prison, he appealed to the Emperor. 

Read that entire account in Acts 21-26.  It is quite a story.

So Paul went to Rome as a prisoner. Instead of a brief stay, he spent two years there. He was under house arrest. In other words, he lived in his own home, but a Roman soldier did not allow him to leave. But he was able to receive visitors. Also he preached to his Roman guards.

Verse 33 Paul blesses the Christians in Rome. He prays that God will cause them to be calm and content.

Paul’s Personal Greetings

Paul really cared about people. Especially, he cared about the Christians whom he worked with. He genuinely loved them. We can see this at the end of his letters. He asks the person who receives each letter to greet certain people on his behalf. He remembers people who have been kind to him in the past. He recommends church leaders whom he approves of. He gives advice to some people. He asks the Christians to encourage some other people. Occasionally he has to warn the church about someone.

Many of these greetings are very personal. They show us much about Paul. They refer to events that we would otherwise know nothing about. They inform us about the problems in the first Christian churches.

These greetings are still valuable for us to read. They remind us today about the love that Christians should have for each other. And the words of advice that they contain are still helpful today.

He starts by introducing a friend of his to the Roman church.

Romans 16:1‭-‬2 NLT I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

Verses 1-2 Letters of introduction were common in Roman society. Paul introduces Phoebe to the Christians in Rome. In calling her a servant this word may mean that Phoebe had official responsibility as a leader in the church. This woman had used her wealth to support the work of the Christian church. She also encouraged Paul. So Paul asked the Christians in Rome to give her a warm welcome. They should assist her in any way that she needs.

Then he greets a long list of friends.

Romans 16:3‭-‬9 NLT Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home. Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the first person from the province of Asia to become a follower of Christ. Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.

Aquila and Priscilla had lived in Rome until Claudius ordered the Jews to leave in 49 A.D.. They had moved to Corinth, where Paul had worked with them. Then they went on to Ephesus. 

Acts of the Apostles 18:1‭-‬3 NLT Then Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.  There he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had left Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all Jews from Rome. Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was.

Acts of the Apostles 18:24‭-‬26 NLT Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.

Claudius died in 54 A.D.. So it is likely that Aquila and Priscilla were then able to return to Rome. 

Rufus (verse 13) may have been the son of Simon from Cyrene. Mark mentions him as a well-known person.

Mark 15:21 NLT A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.)

Many people think that Mark wrote his gospel for the church in Rome.

Romans 16:10‭-‬16 NLT Greet Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. And give my greetings to the believers from the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew. Greet the Lord’s people from the household of Narcissus. Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me. Give my greetings to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who meet with them. Give my greetings to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and to Olympas and all the believers who meet with them. Greet each other with a sacred kiss. All the churches of Christ send you their greetings.

Romans 16:16 NLT Greet each other with a sacred kiss. All the churches of Christ send you their greetings.

A list of greetings like this is valuable. It shows how much Paul appreciated his friends. He encouraged them as he praised them. He mentions a variety of Christians. He mentions Jews and Gentiles. He mentions both women and men. And he mentions slaves in addition to some important people. This list shows clearly that there is ‘neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female’. All are united in Christ Jesus.

A Warning

Romans 16:17‭-‬20 NLT And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Paul wanted to warn the Christians in Rome about some particular dangers. In chapter 2, Paul has written about some proud teachers who were working in the churches. These men had already caused serious problems in some churches. They were trying to separate Jewish Christians from Gentile Christians. They said that they were teaching God’s law. But they were not sincere. 

Romans 2:17‭-‬24 NLT You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth. Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples?  You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.”

The gospel message is that people become righteous by faith in Christ. 

But Paul was issuing a warning that these people were saying that people had to obey the law in order to become righteous.  And they were not really teaching the gospel. 

They may be like the false teachers that Paul warned Timothy and Titus about.  People using the Christian gospel as a means to make a profit. 

1 Timothy 6:5 NLT These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.

Titus 1:11 NLT They must be silenced, because they are turning whole families away from the truth by their false teaching. And they do it only for money.

Paul was pleased to hear that the Christians in Rome were obeying God. He wanted them to avoid evil things. Jesus had told his disciples to be ‘as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves (a kind of bird).

Verse 20 Paul writes about the God who brings peace. It is Satan who causes disagreements. 

These false teachers that Paul warned about cause confusion. He addressed this in 

1 Timothy 1:3-4 NLT When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth.  Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.

In verse 20 when Paul said soon (The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:20 NLT

Soon’ does not mean immediately. It means that at some time in the future, God will act to end the power of Satan permanently. 

Revelation 20:10 NLT Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

We know that Satan has been defeated but the final evidence of that victory will be then. 

Greetings from Paul’s friends 16:21-24

Romans 16:21‭-‬23 NLT Timothy, my fellow worker, sends you his greetings, as do Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my fellow Jews. I, Tertius, the one writing this letter for Paul, send my greetings, too, as one of the Lord’s followers. Gaius says hello to you. He is my host and also serves as host to the whole church. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends you his greetings, and so does our brother Quartus.

We know who Timothy is; he served Paul for many years. Paul wrote that their work together was ‘like a son with his father’ (Philippians 2:19-22). 

Lucius, Jason and Sosipater were Jews, like Paul.  Lucius might be Lucius from Cyrene (Acts 13:1) or he may have been even Luke. Jason invited Paul to stay at his home in Thessalonica. The result was that the Jews attacked Jason’s house. They dragged him in front of the city rulers (Acts 17:5-9). His name is not among the people who took the gift to Jerusalem. But Sopater (the shorter form of Sosipater’s name) took the gift from Berea to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4).

Verse 22 Tertius is the only secretary of Paul whose name we know. He sends his own greetings here.

Verse 23 Gaius was one of the only two people whom Paul baptised in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14). If his full name was Gaius Titius Justus, he lived next to the synagogue in Corinth. When Paul left the synagogue, he moved into Gaius’s home to continue his work. ‘The whole church’ (in other words, all the church members) met in Gaius’s house (Acts 18:7-8). Clearly, Gaius had a very large house.

Erastus was the Director of Public Works in Corinth. So he was a very important man in that city. His name is on a pavement (stones which cover a street or path) that people discovered in 1929. The Latin words say that he paid for the pavement himself. He appreciated the honour that the city had given to him.

Our ‘brother’ Quartus probably means that he was a Christian. 

Verse 24 Many manuscripts do not include this verse. But other manuscripts have these words here: ‘I pray that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ will be with you all. Amen.’ These manuscripts have these words here, instead of the end of verse 20.

The song to praise God 16:25-27

Romans 16:25‭-‬27 NLT Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time. But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him. All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.

In this song to praise God, Paul repeats the main ideas in his letter:

Verse 25

Romans 16:25 NLT Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time.

1. God has the power to make a Christian’s faith firm. God protects a Christian’s faith from wrong beliefs. He gives Christians the power to win against tendencies to sin. He gives them courage when people oppose them.

2. The good news about Jesus Christ comes to everyone by means of the people who declare it. Paul speaks about the gospel that ‘I preach’. God had given to him the task to preach, especially to the Gentiles.

3. For many centuries, people did not know God’s plan. It was like a secret that God has now made public. God had decided to rescue people, both Jews and Gentiles, by means of Jesus Christ, his son.

Verse 26

Romans 16:26 NLT But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him.

4. The Old Testament prophets said that Christ was coming. God made people understand that the scriptures were a witness to Christ.

5. God’s purpose was that the good news should be available to everyone in all the world. Jesus himself had given the command to his disciples to tell the good news to everyone everywhere (Matthew 28:19-20).

6. Christians must show that their faith is real. They do this as they obey God. He has shown his love for them by means of Christ. So they should obey him as they show love to everyone.

Verse 27 

Romans 16:27 NLT All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.

Paul wants God to receive the honour that he deserves. And Paul himself praises God. God showed his wisdom when he sent his son, Jesus Christ.  And God’s wisdom is so much greater than any person’s wisdom. So Paul ends his letter with thanks and he praises God.

Romans 11:33‭-‬36 NLT Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord ’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

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