Classic Christianity – Book of Romans P62 (03-31-20)
As you read about the conversion of Paul in Damascus, of his former way of life, and how he met the risen Lord, and how devoted he was to get the message of the good news out, what does that compel us to do? As you read along in Romans 15 and Acts 20-21, you realize that Paul, in so doing, met all kinds of trials and tribulations, and many times just one blow away from death, yet he was not dissuaded to proclaim this gospel. Listen along with the audio, as Bob George shares the heart of Paul and his devotion to Christ.
How devoted are we to share this message of good news, of life in Christ Jesus? If you are in Christ Jesus, knowing that when you die, you will be absent from the body and present with the Lord, and that those who are not yet in Christ, are headed to a place called hell, that if they were to die tonight, they will be forever separated from God where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12, 13:42,50; 22:13, 24:51, 25:30), where the fire never goes out (Mark 9:43), what kind of urgency do you have to reach out to as many people as possible, to give them the gospel of eternal life?
When we consider what lengths Paul went to bring the gospel to the Gentile world, of whom we came to hear the good news, having the bible written in our own language today, by men who risked their lives, died as martyrs, should we do any less? What fears do we allow to prevent us to get this message out? Do we not fear, in such awe, of God? Do we not know the magnitude of the depth of God’s grace we have received? God is love, and love is the fulfillment of the law, where love does his neighbor no wrong. We read the characteristics of God, of love, in 1 Corinthians 13.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
So, can we love someone enough to share truth of Christ that can save their soul? Can we can talk with people long enough to find out where they are hurting, and what their misunderstanding is about truth, and so to be able, therefore, to give them truth that will save them? Now, we certainly cannot do this in the energy of the flesh. Did not Paul also request the prayers of the saints so that he might proclaim the gospel boldly and as clearly as he ought?
3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
So let us abide in Christ (John 15), so that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, living in us, will bear fruit for God, where this fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) overflows into the lives of people for whom Christ died and rose again.
Will all people receive this message? Sadly, no. The proud of heart will reject the message, and will persecute you like they persecuted Paul. But the humble will receive the message with joy and gratitude and will be forever grateful. Do you think love is worth the sacrifice, worth the risk? Jesus thought it worthwhile to suffer the just judgment of death for us so that we might find life in Him who was raised from the dead for our sake, to bring glory to God, to present us pure and holy before the throne of God!
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,
and all of them are 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 is what 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 difference. 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 abstain from; food, from drinking blood, and sexual immorality. Does that mean they cannot do those things? Have we written a decision that they should abstain? Is that good information, to abstain 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. Jesus had been in front of these people, calling them white-washed sepulchers. He was explaining to them, You know what the law says but you do not know what it means. He explained the meaning of the word of God in order to show people that God is looking on the heart. Man is looking on the outside, and that is where you are looking. God is looking at your heart. He is looking to see what is going on underneath the skin where you live. So Jesus had already been in this crowd for three years teaching these people. Paul was back doing the same thing.
This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place.
As if the law belongs to them. “What law God gave them became ours. It is possession. It is pride of possession. God gave me the law.” Is that not funny that we like to be God’s special child. It is not good enough to be just a child. “I want to be the special child. I want daddy to like me best. I want mommy to like me best.” Is that in us or not? “I want to be the special one. I am the one mommy and daddy really like better than the rest, just like the Smothers brothers.” So, the Jews claim that he is teaching people against us and our laws and against this place, or Jerusalem.
And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.”
When you enter into the temple area, the outer courts were called the courts of the Gentiles. The Gentiles were not allowed into the inner courts. So here they are telling a lie because that is not true. Paul came with Gentile converts. He was with them when he was explaining all the wonderful things God had done to the Gentiles. All they could think of was that he brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled the holy place. So, in other words, if you and I walked into that temple and we got in the wrong place, we would defile it. That is how bad we are as Gentiles. We would defile the temple. That was not true but that is what they were accusing him of.
29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)
They assume Paul had brought him into the temple area. That was an assumption.
30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him
Is that not something? The Romans had granted the Jews permission to kill someone who had defiled the temple. It was prohibited by the Jews of having an execution. That is why the Jews took Jesus to the Greeks, or the Romans, to crucify Jesus. They were prohibited doing that. They could not exercise a death sentence on somebody. But if a Gentile defiled a temple, the Romans had said to them you are free to kill. So, as a result of that, they were perfectly within their legal rights. They were trying to kill him in the name of God. What had Paul done? Preached the gospel of love. He told people Jesus loved him. He told people God was in Christ reconciling you unto himself not counting your sins against you. He was teaching them that God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
He was teaching that when you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all your sins.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins
He was teaching that it is the grace of God that teaches us to say no to unrighteousness and to live self-controlled upright lives in this present generation while we wait for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
He was not teaching terrible things as they made him out to be. So they wanted to kill him for sharing the love of God!
news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar.
That is what the Romans tried to avoid at all costs, an insurgent uproar in the city, especially with the Jews.
32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
There were about 200 soldiers that would go on that type of a journey.
33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers.
You have seen that kind of violence, have we not, in news reporting recently? The Arab world is in such a violent state of anger even today. That is just the tip of the iceberg in what you would see among the Jewish people in regard to their attitude toward Paul.
36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!” 37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?”
“Do you speak Greek?” he replied. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?”
The commander thought that this was a guy that was a terrorist like we hear about today.
39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.”
40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic[or Hebrew]:
Paul was not exactly what you would call a non-educated person. He had just spoken Greek to the commander. Now he is going to speak Aramaic to the crowd. He was a linguist.
Now, back to Romans 16.
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.
Then, look in Acts 22.
1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”
2 When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.
Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.
I understand your zeal but I am going to tell you that I am just as zealous as you ever thought of being.
4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify.
He is saying that your adherence to the law and your enthusiasm for the tradition of the Jew probably does not even hold a candle to mine. I was zealous for the persecution of this sect of Christianity. I persecuted the followers of the Way. The high council can testify of that.
I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.
Is that not typical. We ask what you want me to do? The Lord is saying, “I do not want you to do anything. I want you to believe something.”
“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.
14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’
17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’
Why? God gives grace to the humble and He resists the proud. What is occurring in the observer, the innkeeper, so to speak, of the law, do? It creates pride in us. God is saying, “if you do not get rid of your pride, you are never going to be ready for me”. Pride comes before the fall. Pride says to Jesus, “Jesus, if you are not going to accomplish for me what has to be accomplished if I am going to live for eternity, it is not going to get done.”
19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’
21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
Again, here is a man that has gone through unbelievable terror in his life. There is no question about that. He was beaten on numerous occasions, of just one stripe away from death. Then, he would come back right back into the city and proclaim the gospel again. He was devoted to the proclamation of good news. He lived to give out the good news of the gospel. Folks, I ask ourselves the question, “Should we do less?” When you stop to think of the devotion of this man, and the reason we are here today is because of the devotion of this man, we have to ask ourselves the question, “How devoted are we to get the gospel out? Are we open at our work? At our place where we live in our neighborhood? Are we open to the proclamation of the gospel to people? Are we open to give an account of the hope that lives within us? Are we anxious to meet people so that we can talk with people long enough to find out where they are hurting, and what their misunderstanding is about truth and to be able to therefore, give them truth that will save them, to realize that people that do not come to Christ will spend eternity in hell? For those of us who do know Christ will spend eternity in the presence of God, should that not give some sort of a sense of urgency in our hearts to at least begin to reach out to people?”