Classic Christianity – Book of Romans P61 (03-30-20)
We are in the book of Romans where Paul said he was going to Jerusalem. Paul was determined to finish the race God had set out for him. He would not be hindered or set off course by the warnings of men in regards to danger and his safety. Whatever God has called him to say and do or where to go, that is what he will do and go. Do we have that same resolve, of single-minded focus on Christ, on our real purpose on this earth God has called us to, knowing that this life on earth is temporary. Do people realize that they will all die one day, and we will either wake up in the presence of God, living with Him forever, or live eternally separated from God in a place called hell?
Listen along as Bob George retells what has transpired in Paul’s decision to go Jerusalem, highlighting the attitude of his heart, that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Follow along in Romans 15, and also the end of Acts 20, providing more detail. Acts 21 also provides more detail of his arrival in Jerusalem, meeting up with the Jewish believers under the leadership of James, another apostle and half-brother of Jesus. As you read, take note of the attitude of heart among the Jews, how tradition and customs have so burdened down the Jews. Whenever someone puts themselves under law, turning to tradition or customs of men, not allowing their minds to be renewed with truth, see how impossible it is to walk in the newness of life. You wonder if they ever came to Christ for new life to begin with? If they did, what a needless burden to carry! Recall all that Paul spoke of, about how we are no longer under the law, but under grace. Ask the Lord to give you understanding of what living under grace really means?
Here, the Jews keep asking what to do. The Jews asked, “Do I have to be circumcised to be saved?” No. Recall what Paul wrote to the Romans.
29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
Basic questions keep coming up today that people ask, in regards to law and grace. Do I have to observe a certain day of the week? Consider what Paul said to the Colossians.
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Follow along now in the book of Acts, starting in chapter 18.
We are in the book of Romans where Paul said he was going to Jerusalem. Even though he had a prophetess who had prophesied not to go there, and had other warnings not to go there, but Paul said I am going anyway. When you see the tenacity of this man, and the dedication of this man to get the gospel into the world, but especially into the Gentile world, and most of us are a part of that, you see a human being who was almost supernatural in strength and desire to get this message out.
It intensifies and amplifies the importance of this message. As Christians, we have the tendency to take these things for granted. It is like an attitude of saying, “Oh, this salvation is nice” That is how we tend to minimize the impact of salvation on the our own life, much less the larger world out there. But do we not understand the depth of what God did for you and me?
If Christ Jesus did not come to this earth to take away the sins of this world, and in so doing, taking away the cause of spiritual death, so he could offer us spiritual life, otherwise we would be dead as a hammer, would die in our sins in the uncircumcision of our sinful nature. It would be just to fall into a grave and perish. Otherwise, would it not be true to just live for this world only, to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die?
Recall the words of Jesus.
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
Paul, echoing this same idea, wrote to the Corinthians, quoting from the prophet Isaiah, in regard to God’s prophesied judgment, in what is referred to as the Valley of Vision, as you read Isaiah 22.
1 Corinthians 15:29-32
29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day – yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”[Isaiah 22:13]
God sure wants to get our attention on what is really important in life.
We are either going to die in a place called hell or either come alive in a place called heaven. That is stringent stuff. This life down here is temporary, isn’t it? The older you get, the more temporary it is. Life goes by in a minute. It seems like yesterday when I was a teenager. Now that is a memory. (Today, that is no longer a memory. All things of this earth have passed away.) That is just the way life is. The longer you live, the quicker you see how life has gone by. You remember your first grandchild when he was just a little baby, and now they are teenagers. Where did the time go? In light of eternity, this is nothing.
You and I are going to live eternally some place, not in a grace, dead, dead, but you are going to be alive. Your spirit will never die. It is going to be alive some place.
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
It is either going to be in a place called hell, being totally separated from the life of God, or it is going to be lived in the presence of Christ Jesus.
2 Thessalonains 1:8-10
8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
The only way we know where we are going to live is revealed to us by Christ Jesus, so we would have some sense.
3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
1 John 5:13-14
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
Otherwise, what do men, left to themselves, believe? New Age stuff? Or do people just say they believe in God but with no substance to their belief system? You have no plumb line and no compass without God and His word, by what God has revealed to us by His Son Christ Jesus. We have nothing but our imagination. So many people live a religious experience based on imagination, which is really idolatry. One guy said, “God is love.” How do you know God is love unless the God of love came to this earth?
1 John 4:10 (KJV)
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
A person can say “God is love.”, but unless Christ Jesus reveals that to him, he will not find out about it. Where are you going to find out about that?
Jesus came to earth to do something phenomenal to us, life to us, and not a temporal life, but eternal life. We get the whipping cream down here, but this whipping cream is pretty good. If there was not something like eternal life after death, I would still be doing what I am doing just for the effect of my life while here on this earth. Yet, we know that when we are absent from the body we are present with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:8 (KJV)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
We know that when this body dies, we will live eternally in the presence of God. Do you realize how important that is, to know where you are going to spend eternity? You are not going to spend eternity because we are nice people because God said none of us are good.
Matthew 19:17 (KJV)
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
But who could keep the commandments but God? No one, but God, and that by living a life of perfect love, where God is love, and love is the fulfillment of the law.
Paul came to understand this grace of God. He wrote to the Galatians, urging them not to put themselves back under the law, by which no man is justified.
12 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
That is hard for some of you to grasp. The fact is you better grasp it because God said no one is good but God alone. That leaves me out of the equation. We are not going to heaven because we are good, or because of this or that. We are going to heaven because of Him. No one is going to heaven because of you. We are going to heaven because of Him. Because Christ Jesus came to offer us life, eternal life, that I can enter into that eternal life by faith and come to know that I really do not die. I just wake up into the hands of Christ Jesus. That is the good news of what God came to do for you and me.
This was a driving force of the apostle Paul. It was a driving force that enabled him to go back to Jerusalem, knowing full well that he was going to be captured and come close to death there. He was warned three times not to go, but he knew it was his mission to go back to Jerusalem. So we studied in that next to last chapter in the book of Romans, where Paul was telling the believers that he was leaving. He said to them that they will never see his face again. Then he said he is heading toward Jerusalem.
36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
Acts chapter 20 provides more detail in what we read at the end of Romans chapter 15.
30 I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, 32 so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Recall Paul had taken an offering from the Gentile churches, to be delivered to the believers in Jerusalem. The Gentiles felt there was a certain obligation to do that, for after all, the gospel came through the Jews. So he took this offering to the believers in Jerusalem who were having financial difficulties. That offering was taken to present to the church in Jerusalem, to James, the pastor there. That was his mission to get back there and deliver this offering that had been taken in order to help the Jewish brothers in Christ.
Let us continue now in Acts 21, after Paul arrives in Jerusalem.
17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James
They went back to Jerusalem to get an offering back to James. James was the half brother of Jesus. Contrary to the DaVinci code, a novel and other nonsense people are reading. The DaVinci code is telling all kinds of fiction and nonsense, such as Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene. Yet you cannot get people to read the bible, to people who would rather say the bible is not right. People are so bent on error! You give somebody error, they gobble it up. But when you tell people the truth, they are not interested in that! That is why you have books selling fifteen million copies, to have their theology messed up over a novel, a fiction book.
Jesus had brothers and sisters. He did not have wives, nor did he have children, except spiritual children, and we are all, who are in Christ, spiritual children. He did not have any physical children. James was one of his brothers. He names his siblings in scripture.
3 “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
This scripture mentions the brothers of Jesus by name, and that he had sisters.
James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. If there was any job I would not want to have, that would be it, to try to teach the goodness of the grace of God in the midst of people who were steeped in Jewish tradition, and unfortunately of Jewish teaching before revelation was made through Christ Jesus. Now Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, so they already heard of the ministry he had to the Gentile world and how successful that had been.
and all the elders were present.
So James and the elders of the church in Jeruslam, and all the leadership was there.
19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
I can imagine the detail, knowing Paul.
20 When they heard this, they [the Jewish believers] praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed
You can see immediately what is taking place there. People cannot get the conversation off of themselves. No matter what you talk about, they cannot get the message off of themselves. We have had people share their testimony and they share three words and then go back about how successful their business is. We just love to talk about ourselves and our success. We just love to rock our own baby. But the issue is that this is what you are going to see here. Paul had gone into all of these areas, fighting animals, and all kinds of trials and tribulations, but the Gentiles are coming to Christ by the thousands. Yet the Jews say, “praise God and let me tell you about what we are doing.”
and all of them are zealous for the law.
Now, you are out saving these heathenistic Gentiles, and talking to them about salvation by grace and all this stuff, but here the Jews are saying, “do you not see how many of our Jewish brothers come to Christ and are zealous for the law?” Do you think Paul was zealous for the law? It sounds like, to me, that if a person who says that you are are no longer under the law would hardly be zealous for the law unless he is using the law for the intent of the law, and that is to show you are a sinner and to come to Christ for salvation? That he was zealous for.
21 They have been informed
Here are these people who heard about this great thing God has done to the Gentile world, and all they can say is this. So they got after Paul immediately, as if saying, “Praise God and let me tell you something Paul.” Is that just not like people, who do not give a flip of what is going on. It is like healing a bind man, and saying, “Praise God you healed the blind man but you spit and for that I am going to stone you. You broke the law. You broke the law. Tradition. Tradition. This is the way we do things.” That is all that they can think about.
that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses,
You are not only telling the Gentiles, but you are also telling others not to live according to customs. Do you see how deep customs get into your soul?
We were talking to a girl from France, where we eat in on Sunday, and other days. She was talking about wanting to find a church. She came out of a Catholic background and did not like it. She went to another church and did not like it either because it was not like church. It did not have a pulpit. I was thinking that if she came in here she would not like ours either. People come into here and say, “Is this a church?” Why? A church, to them, is a place where there is a pulpit and a choir loft and pews. That is why they have all them pews because so many dead people in them. Pew! Pew! The dead man stinketh. That is what people call church. The stained glass. Pews, we do have a little of that. We have a high ceiling, and that is helpful. People come in here and say, “This is weird. Tables? Chairs? People sitting there with a Dairy Queen drink, on a table in church?” That is how people perceive church, and this is a place you have to come in “holy”. Walking into European churches is like walking into a tomb. Those are customs, folks.
So they are telling Paul he was teaching those things. I do not think Paul was speaking against them. They were just irrelevant. It makes no differnce. If a Jew wants to celebrate a day of atonement, a day the Jews were freed from Egypt, today as a Christian, there is nothing wrong with that. If I was a Jew, and that was a day many years ago that my people got freed out of Egypt and were sent into the desert before they went into the promised land, and I am going to celebrate that, fine. But it does not mean anything. It is just a celebration. If I wanted to celebrate the day my father got his law degree, I could celebrate that if we wanted to. We can celebrate Christmas, if I understand that to mean celebrating the birth of Christ, never mind that we got the day wrong or not. If we do not, no big deal. It is just celebrating that Christ was born, to most people. Does it have any significance to it? No. Anything wrong celebrating it? Nothing at all, but it will not make you any closer to God. These traditions are fine but they are not going to save you.
So, here he is going to give a great report on Gentiles who come to Christ and immediately they are in his face.
telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you.
So they are saying to Paul, “Trouble is going to come, so do what we tell you to do. You are going to do what we are going to tell you to do.” They probably had a better idea what was going on in Jerusalem than Paul did, since he just arrived after a long journey.
There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses
Turn back to Acts 18, you will see that Paul made a vow, and had his head shaved at that time, or a hair cut. He had already been through a so-called purification rite. What is this vow? Nobody knows. But people will sometimes make a vow, and have their head shaved, then they could not do a sacrifice for 30 days. There was a tradition to these vows that seemed to show you were a devote Jew. So Paul paid for these people. I do not think he had his head shaved at this time, for he already did before.
18 Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken.
so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you,
“That you are against the teachings of man and teachings of Moses” That is what they said that would show. Paul was thinking to himself, “I do not care if it shows that or not. But if it does, it will give me a little more time to share the gospel. I do not mind going through a tradition in order to get the gospel out. You may have heard the expression, “When you are in Rome, does as the Romans do.”
1 Corinthians 9:19-21
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
So Paul said that he will become all things to all people in order to get the gospel out. Doing some of these tradition things did not bother him at all.
If I wanted to save somebody in a Catholic church and I went in and crossed myself, what is called “the sign of the cross” then no big deal. You can do that if you want to. If I wanted to go down and light a candle, no big deal. It does not mean anything. I got a little light in my face. In these kinds of things, it means nothing. If you can do that, and do that so you are not a stumbling block so you can then say, “I want to tell you something that is real, to tell you the truth of the gospel about Christ Jesus.” So a lot of times we get hung up on these peripheral issues that have no meaning to them at all. We think it would be terrible if we ever do any of it. Paul is saying that it does not mean anything at all. It is like meat sacrificed to idols. But if someone really believes there are idols and a sacrifice made to those idols, then do not eat in front of them. That would be a stumbling block to them. Do you see how the law of love is at work here? (Paul addresses this topic concerning food sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 8.)
but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
Even though Paul said there is no idols, here is this instruction to the Gentiles to not eat food sacrificed to idols. Those are pretty easy for some people to obstain from; food, from drinking blood, and sexual immorality. Does that mean they cannot do those things? Have we written a decision that they should obstain? Is that good information, to obstain from drinking blood? Nothing wrong with that. Is being involved in sexual immorality, is that acting in love? Of course not. So all he is saying is follow the law of love.
26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them (baptismal water). Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.
There was about a 30 day span the way the vow was made where you could not offer a sacrifice. They would announce the day purification would begin, knowing 30 days later they would be free to make a sacrifice.
27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple.
All of a sudden Paul was a well known man by now. He was a man who was a Pharisee of Pharisees. He was a man who all of a sudden had an experience on the road to Damascus and saw Jesus and his whole life was changed (Acts 9). Here was a man, a former persecutor of the church, who is now an advocate for people to come to Christ Jesus. In so doing, they thought he was teaching against Moses and the traditions of the Jews. He was a hated enemy, just like Stephen was (Acts 7). Why? Because he loved people. Is that something, to hate somebody because he loved people? Talk about being free in Jesus! People in bondage hate that message. They like bondage. They do not like freedom.
They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people
Now this is a Jew. If he was teaching against our people, he would be teaching against himself. He was not teaching against the people. He was teaching against their stupid religion they were hung up on and never seeing the meaning behind it.
and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)