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My role is to guide you through the Scriptures; to explain what this book says and in some cases what it does not say because this is just as important.

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Romans by the Book (Lesson 105)

Home Bible Study ©
Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4

Romans by the Book                                                           Lesson 105

Greetings one and all and welcome to HBS.

We achieved our goal last week.  Not only did we cover all the data that I wanted to go over with you guys I was able to add a bit here and there – bonus!  However, I have in mind an equal amount of information to share with you this week, so like last week to save time; I’m going to skip the review of last week’s lesson.  I’ll leave you with that assignment, when you find the time.

So, please turn with me to Romans 12:11.

Romans 12

10: Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

11: not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

The word diligence in the Greek language is Spoude (pronounced:  spoo-day’) and it means:  earnestness in accomplishing; promoting, or striving for anything.  Of course our Apostle Paul isn’t referring to just “anything” he’s speaking of spiritual matters. 

For instance last week we learned about sacrificial (Agape) love.  This is the kind of love where you “walk in another’s shoes” for a few miles in order to understand them; their desires, longings, needs, and their uncertainties – regardless of how they feel.  Then you unselfishly minister to them, as though you were serving the Lord Jesus Christ Himself - expecting nothing in return.      

Paul goes on to say Believers are to be - Fervent in spirit, (in) serving the Lord, - this means expressing the same ardent (Agape) love in our diligent service to others that our Savior displayed for us.  Wow!  This should make one stop and think…  

The opposite of this would be indifferent, unemotional acts of service, perhaps due to a misguided sense of “duty” or “obligation,” instead of it being a deliberate act of sacrificial love.  There is a difference and the difference matters to God the Father.

Why is This Important

It’s important because true family fondness amongst Believers witnesses to the Truth found in Scripture that God is our Father.  This isn’t a religious cliché; it’s the Truth! (Matthew 23:9; Romans 1:7-1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6). 

The Church (the Body of Christ) is not just an organization it’s a living organism and is referred to as the family of God.  The first time you were born you were born into a human family.  When you became a Believer, you were born again into God’s (eternal) family.  Remember what Jesus said:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love (Agapao in the Greek language) one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35) 

The Lord Jesus Christ is commanding His disciples (and us) “to love one another,” and aside from how they “feel” about the individual on any given day.”  It also means more than just showing up when called on to assist someone who is in need.  It means we are to love others just as the Lord Jesus Christ sacrificially and willingly demonstrated His love toward us.  All Believers are called to obey Jesus Christ’s command in loving one another because this testifies to the reality of the family of God.  (Romans 8:14-16)

Scripture affirms that God is our Father, we are His adopted sons and daughters, in one family, with one hope of His calling, and we share the same common values.  Now if people in God’s family pretend to feel affectionate (act hypocritically), or feel bitter, indifferent, narrow minded, or resentful toward one another these behaviors contradict not only who God is but His will as well. 

Case in point:  one Pew Research Poll revealed Millennials (and other age groups) are not attending church or are leaving the church scene behind because, “There is no real sense of community” or belonging.  Many feel “disengaged” from start to finish. 

The 18-30 year-olds in particular have left the church in record numbers because not only do they want honest relationships they “need to connect.”  They’ve chosen to do this through like-minded groups and not institutions.   Using social media, they have cultivated relationship with people next door and around the world who share their viewpoints and perspectives on life and social matters.  They want and need the “support” of their friends.  Many have tried the church scene, but they can’t make a real connection there.  They find half-hearted “handshakes” and “plastic smiles” unattractive.  They view the people in attendance as “hopelessly disconnected” from one another (just going through the motions) and this generation chooses not to participate in the charade.

The truth is many Millennials love Jesus they just hate what the church has done with Him.  They also resent not being taught by their church to see Jesus in the faces of all those in attendance:  the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the people of color and different ethnic backgrounds.  What they are saying, in essence, by leaving is:  We aren’t in church to drink coffee, or to be entertained; instead teach us how to live and love one another as God intended, as member of His family!

I think we’re ready for the next two verses.

Romans 12

12: rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,

13: contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

What does Paul mean by rejoicing in hope?  The hope Paul is referring to in his letter to these Roman Believers in the 1st century is that the Lord Jesus Christ could return to earth at any time.  He wrote on this same theme in Romans 5, where he also explained the sufferings that God’s Church (His children) is called to endure in a world that despises the Truth. 

The world’s meaning of hope is different than Scripture’s.  Today it indicates an expectancy that something will happen; but there is some question as to the outcome; i.e. “I hope she’s coming over,”  “I hope there’s dessert after supper,” or “I hope I don’t get audited.”  The world’s type of hope leaves one with a residue of uneasiness or uncertainty about the future. 

In the N.T., “hope” indicates an absolute certainty about the future, an attitude of eager expectancy, of confidence in God and His ability to do exactly what He has promised.

The hope the Bible speaks of is the second coming of Jesus Christ to judge His enemies (the unsaved) and vindicate His saints (the saved).  This was the hope of all the Believers, and they rejoiced in this hope:  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in (what) hope.  (Romans 8:20; Titus 2:13)

Romans 8:20 is telling us that God subjected His creation to futility (pointlessness), but He did so in hope!  God cursed His creation, after Adam’s willful act of disobedience, but God did it in hope.  How do we know this?  At the same time the LORD God cursed man He also gave man hope of deliverance by promising a Redeemer.  That’s Grace!

So, if you have placed your faith in the gospel, specifically, the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures, for the forgiveness of your sins you have the hope of heaven:  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.  (Romans 8:25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

…persevering in tribulation – the word tribulation in the Greek language is Thlipsis and means pressure; a pressing together.  It is used in reference to squeezing olives for the oil, or for squeezing grapes for the wine.  This is a strong term, therefore, and does not refer to minor inconveniences but to real hardships such as persecution or anything for that matter that gets in the way of our faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ; anything that presses us so that it makes it is difficult to move forward spiritually. 

Some Believers are being killed in foreign countries simply because they bear Christ’s name.  Believers in the United States are starting to feel the heat of persecution from the government and the population because they won’t compromise their faith-based beliefs – it’s going to get worse and not better.  A Believer may feel pressure from their spouse and children because of their faith.    Some Believers are lured by the world’s enticements to concede their beliefs and because of the pressure they are unable to move forward spiritually.  All of these are examples of pressing together; and Paul uses a present participle to describe the “ongoing” practice of persevering in tribulation.

…devoted to prayer – the word for prayer in the Greek language is Proseuche (pronounced:  pros-yoo-khay’).  It’s a general word for prayer and has the idea of submitting oneself humbly to God.  Paul is telling us to pray regularly.  Being devoted to prayer means our prayer life is not to be haphazard.  We are not to place it on the “back-burner,” where it is soon forgotten.  It’s to be included in our daily life just as waking to go to school or work, eating regular meals, and sleeping at night are.  Why? 

God knows and Paul wants us to understand that prayer is vital to a Believer’s spiritual health.  Prayer connects us with God, our Father, and His provisions for our lives. 

Scripture shows us that Jesus Christ who was fully God and fully man (John 20:28):  often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Matthew 14:23).  When the Lord Jesus Christ prayed, He would go to a place to be alone, and He spent a considerable amount of time in prayer (Luke 6:12, 9:18).

He taught His disciples to pray and not “how” to pray, as many in the church teach, when they asked Him (Luke 11).  This is where He gave His disciples the model of prayer to follow and not to memorize; and then He proceeds to teach on the importance of regular prayer.

Prayer declares our dependence upon God.  Believers are not to follow the ways of the world and that would be the way of self-sufficiency; “We’ll be our own gods, thank you very much” or the “I got this” mentality, which the majority possesses today.  

Prayer not only consistently recognizes the Sovereign God for who He is but that we need His daily assistance.  Therefore, prayer isn’t about manipulating God, getting Him to do what we want because suddenly we’re in a desperate situation.  It is above all acknowledging Him for who He is and thanking Him for all that He has done, is doing, and has promised to do for us:  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with (what) thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7)   

However, nowhere in the N.T. does it say God will answer our every prayer, or even one prayer; those who teach that it does are not Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, or worse, leading you astray; but it does say we can have the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, when we pray.   

Let’s go to verse 13.

Romans 12

13: contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

The word contributing in the Greek language is Koinonia (pronounced:  Koy-no-neh’-o) and means – communion, sharing, partnership, or fellowship.  It means these Believers in Rome are partners with other saints, in Christ Jesus, and if they have a need, they’re to come along side; to partner with them.  The needs of the saints varied.  Some people faced the pangs of poverty, such as the Jews in Jerusalem.  But the times were hard for many others who faced:  disease, drought, famines, homelessness, sicknesses, unemployment, and the “spin-off” hardships (pressure) that these trials created. 

Therefore, our Apostle Paul, urged the church to care for one another in his letters: So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the (what) household of the faith.  (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 4:28; Philippians 2:25; 1 Timothy 6:18; Hebrews 13:16)

Sometimes money is the answer to the need, but not always.  More often than not people need help with a task such as preparing a meal, cleaning their home, running an errand, mowing the yard, etc.  Then there are times people just need to know there are others who genuinely care about them and their concerns and are willing to support them, as when a family member is lying in a hospital bed incapacitated, or when a loved one has passed on.  The community of Believers forgets that “money isn’t always the answer;” there are human needs that money cannot affect; there is no substitute for the human touch.  

But let’s be careful.  Nowhere in the N.T. does it say Believers are to “sell everything they possess,” put it into a community pool, and then dole it out to one another as the need arises:   Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.  (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

The Bible teaches, over and over again, the rights of personal property (private property).  It’s the foundation of our giving and sharing with one another.  In other words, Scripture offers Divine protection against the awful “community of goods,” of socialism and communism:  The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains, the world and all who dwell in it.  (Genesis 1:26-28; Psalms 24:1; Deuteronomy 10:14; Numbers 32:22-29; Joshua 18:1)

For instance, in Exodus 20:15 the LORD God said, “You shall not steal.”  This affirms the concept of personal property.  You could restate this command saying, “You shall not take someone else’s property.  In contrast to God’s commands regarding your property and mine, Communism does not affirm the concept of personal property.  Godless systems of government will actually take people’s private property without paying them for it – in any other language this is called “theft.”  God had a commandment against doing this as well.  He said, “Do not steal.”  (Leviticus 19:11)

…practicing (pursuing) hospitality – the word hospitality in the Greek language is Philonexia (pronounced:  fil-ox-en-ee’-ah).  It comes from Philos, which means “love,” and xenos, which means “stranger.”  It means – loving strangers.  This is another strong statement from Paul, it literally means:  pursue the love of strangers.  And the verb implies continuous action.

Hence, hospitality is one of the duties of (Agape) love, which is why it’s linked together with commands to love:  Let love of the brethren continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.  (Hebrews 13:1-2)

Is Paul saying we should drive down to skid-row, pick up a homeless person, and bring them to our home? 

When Paul wrote this letter, there were no such things as hotels or motels.  The only hotels that existed, if you want to call them that, were brothels.  So then, one of the first practices of the 1st century church was to practice hospitality, so when Believers were fleeing persecution, traveling for business, spreading God’s Gospel from town to town, or while teaching God’s Word in various cities they would have a safe place to stay.  By the way, there were no established church buildings at this time in history; Believers met in homes (Acts 10:23, 21:16, 28:7).  

In the O.T. Abraham received 3 men (strangers) and treated them with hospitality.  Not only did he invite them to stay with him, he washed their feet, allowed them to rest under a shade tree, and gave them nourishment.  In doing so, he entertained angels.
(Genesis 18:1-5; Hebrew 13:1-3)

Providing for strangers in distress is the proper meaning of the phrase, especially those of the household of faith.  Society’s customs have changed.  People are more concerned about their security today than ever before, and yet this does not release us from the Lord’s command to pursue hospitality to strangers. 

Why?  Believers are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10).  As followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are to imitate His love and compassion when we show hospitality to strangers in distress and not only to fellow Believers.  In fact, Scripture says when we do so, we honor God when we are kind to the needy (Proverbs 14:31). 

A few years back, two friends approached me about taking in a border.  They said he was a Believer, down on his luck, and my home was near his soon-to-be place of employment.  His name was Mike.  Then they went on to say that he would be released from the state penitentiary in about two weeks on parole.  If he didn’t have a place to stay, there would be no job and no parole.  I would be lying if I said I did not have misgivings about the prospect of taking a stranger into my home, especially someone who had committed a violent crime.  But after several days of continuous prayer I agreed to take Mike in.  It worked out for Mike, by the way. 

Wherever and whenever people need a “hand-up,” there Believers can “step up” and be good neighbor, in Christ Jesus, just like Jesus Christ who showed love and mercy.  This is the essence of hospitality.

(To be continued)

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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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