Tag Archives: Rome

Romans 12-16


Monday April 28 Chapter 12

Verses 1-2.

First, the literal translation of the Greek text:

Therefore I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present the bodies of you a sacrifice living holy well-pleasing to God the spiritual service of you and do not be conformed to this age but be transformed by the renewing of the mind for you to prove what the will of God the good and well-pleasing and perfect.

Second, 21st Century KJV

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Third, The Complete Jewish Bible

I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please him; it is the logical “Temple worship” for you.  In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the ‘olam hazeh. Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed.

Fourth, J. B. Phillips

With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.

Fifth, Living Bible

And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.

Sixth, The Message

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Each of these translations, and there are dozens of others on http://www.biblegateway.com/, gives us a different way of seeing the one message.  The simple version is: do not become like the world, become like Christ.

Paul reminds us that we are all tiny cells in the body of Christ, yet every cell is critical to the body, especially the body of Christ.

Good News Translation has perhaps best captured verse 16.  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties.  Do not think of yourselves as wise.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer began his sermon, Loving Our Enemies, January 23, 1938, with Do not think of yourselves as wise, but focus on God’s path to humankind, how God meets enemies, that path that Scripture itself calls foolish [1 Corinthians 1:18],  the path of God’s love toward all enemies, the love that Christ extends to them all the way to the cross.  It is wisdom at its best to recognize the cross of Christ as the invincible love of God for all humankind, for us as well as for our enemies.

Or do we think that God would love us more than our enemies?  If we thought that way, then we would be deeply rooted in Pharisaism, then we would have ceased being Christians.  Does God love our enemies less, having come for them, suffered for them, died for them as well as for us?  The cross is not the private property of any human being, but it belongs to all human beings; it is valid for all human beings.  God loves our enemies–this is what the cross tells us.  God suffers for their sake, experiences misery and pain for their sake; the Father has given his dear Son for them.  Everything depends on this:  that when we meet an enemy, we immediately think:  this is someone whom God loves; God has given everything for this person.  Therefore, do not consider yourselves to be wise.  Concerning our attitude toward our enemies, this means first and foremost:  Remember that you as well were God’s enemy and mercy has happened to you without your merit or deserving.  Second, that means:  Remember that God also went to the cross for your enemy and loves your enemy as dearly as you….

Now you are at the goal:  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  This is what Christ did for us.  He did not become confused by our evil; he did not let himself be overcome by it.  He overcame our evil with good.  Let’s repeat how that happens:  not by feeding the other person’s evil with our evil, the hatred of the other person with our hatred.  Rather, it happens when the evil hits emptiness and finds nothing on which it can ignite.

Tuesday, April 29 Chapter 13

The first 7 verses are inconvenient words some times, especially around April 15.  We know that Paul was warning the Romans and all other Christians not to anger the Roman government because of the possibilities of persecutions.  Nero was the new emperor and had not yet shown his dark side, thought two years after this letter was written he had his own mother killed.  That was in the year 59 AD and he began a gradual slide into self-destruction.  In 64 AD a fire burned through Rome for ten days, destroying 75% of the city of one million.  He decided to blame the Christians and that is when the worst persecutions began.  Nero committed suicide 4 years later.  Later Emperors had Christians attacked when they needed public support.

The question is, do his words apply today?  The key to the answer is to consider the context of the whole letter.  In fact, chapter 12 is a clear indication of Paul’s thinking.  We must consider others first.  We support the government because it benefits all of us.

What then of those occasions when the government turns against its people?  Were John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington right to start a war because they did not like what the king was doing?  The increased taxes they complained about had been imposed to pay for a war with France fought mostly in the colonies and for the benefit of the colonies.  We could debate the question for a long time, but it is important to consider it in light of Paul’s words, not to mention the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus stood up for the poor and under-represented, even as it angered the leadership.  His motivation was always love and compassion.  Jesus did not ask, what will it do for me?  He also largely ignored the government.  He did not expect it to do his work for him.

Verse 10 is the key to chapter 13:  Love does no harm to its neighbor.

The present time is coming to an end, the hour is at hand.  Paul is near the end of his ministry.  May Apostles, disciples, and Saints have already died and Paul is looking forward to Christ’s return.  As we look back over 2,000 years of Christian history, we might wonder if Paul had a clue about the end times.  Paul is saying we need to live our lives as though Jesus is coming today, but also with the expectation that we will die of old age.  We have to find that balance; plan for the future, but live for today.

Wednesday, April 30 Chapter 14

All of chapter 14 deals with the tensions between groups of Christians.  I want Sunday service with the organ playing old hymns; you want a rock band.  I want to spend time with my old friends; you want to meet new people every week.  I want a pot luck dinner; you want McDonald’s in the building.  I will not attend church that allows for homosexuals; you will.

Paul teaches us to respect each other’s positions.  We will interpret the Bible differently, or more accurately, we will emphasize different parts of the Bible.  There is a reason Jesus gave us the two commands to love God and love one another.  If we think only of love, we will not hate.  How can I hate you for doing rap in church if I love you?  I cannot both love and hate a homosexual person.  Jesus says love.

Verse 12 is key: I will have to stand before God and give an account of myself.  Yes, Jesus will be there to help me, but I still have to face judgement.

Romans 14:13-14 from The Message.  Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

We Christians have a habit of fighting over trivial issues, even as we believe them worth the fight.  When we stand before God, we may not be able to explain why it seemed so important at the time.

We Christians are often criticized for not allowing or encouraging people of different backgrounds into our congregations. I believe we should never reject anyone who wants to join us, but the reality of being human is that we will seek people who are like-minded.  If I belong to a wealthy church, I should work to get the church to sponsor a mission for the poor, either using the same facility or using another one.  Some church buildings are used by a dozen congregations in as many languages.

Thursday, May 1 Chapter 15

Paul addresses the strong here and includes himself in the group.  The strong are those Christians who concentrate on loving one another; who do not get upset with others who do not live as they do.  Jesus approached the very people others most avoided.  Can we do less?

Jews and Gentiles were to get along as Christians, but also Gentiles coming from different backgrounds.  Paul traveled enough to have seen many different fellowships, so he knew that the method of worship was not what was important.  Love and respect for one another together with praise and love for God is always the key to Christian living.

Paul quotes the Old Testament to prove the place of Gentiles in God’s Plan.

He moves on to explain his own mission work, how he tried to find new fields ready for the harvest.  He did not want to compete with or interfere with any other Apostle.  After his years of service to the Greeks, he believes it is time to visit Rome and perhaps Spain after that.

First, though, he needs to visit Jerusalem to take his collection for their support and to receive the blessings of that all important congregation.  The congregation in the Holy City served as the center hub of all missionary activities, so they had added responsibilities and expenses.

He ends the chapter asking for prayers of support.

Friday May 2 Chapter 16

Paul closes the letter with numerous greetings of people he knows who are now in the city.  He is sending the letter with Phoebe who is a deaconess in the fellowship at Cenchrea, one of the ports of Corinth.  This is the only time Paul uses the feminine form for deacon; he usually uses the masculine for both men and women.  He does use the feminine again in 1 Timothy 3:8, but only in a general way.

Most of the names Paul lists, like that of Phoebe, are unknown to us from any other sources.  There are both men and women.  Several are the known names of freed slaves.  The Mary of verse 6 is most likely Roman, not one of the many Marys of the Gospels.

In verse 10, the name Aristobulus may refer to the servants of the former king, or may be another family.

Greetings are included from those working with Paul, including Tertius who actually wrote the letter from Paul’s dictation, Paul’s usual method of writing.

Verse 24 does not appear in older manuscripts and is left out of many translations.

Paul ends with a wonderful benediction.  It is also a summation of much of the letter.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence


Acts 26- Mark 2

file7781250745849        An Ancient Prison

Things to watch for as you read these chapters.

Monday, March 17, Chapter 26

Paul is in chains before Agrippa, but he manages to take the classical Greek oratorical stance by holding a hand out.  He again assures Agrippa that he is a good and loyal Jew, even a Pharisee.  This is not something he made up for his defense.  In his letters, he also claimed to be a Jew.  He lived as a gentile only when he was with them.  He lived as a Jew when he was with Jews.  My personal belief is that he ate with gentiles, but never ate pork.

Verse 8 is a terrific question for all times.

Paul appeals to Agrippa’s status as a Jew by reminding him of the promise of the prophets.  Note that it is Festus who accuses Paul of being crazy.  Agrippa at the end says that Paul is not guilty and should be released, but he asked to go to the Emperor, so must go.

This shows the big picture.  When Paul claimed Roman citizenship, he saved himself from being killed in Jerusalem, knowing he was intended for Rome.  By claiming the right for a trial before the Emperor, he assured a trip to Rome.  Paul knows that he will die, and he would have been personally thrilled to die at Jerusalem where his Master also died.  But God wanted him to minister in Rome before his execution.

Tuesday, March 18, Chapter 27

We see Luke again in the first verse.  It is likely that he traveled some while Paul was in prison.  Paul was well cared for by the Christians in Caesarea.  As is the case today in many countries, people in prison depend on family and friends to feed, cloth, and nurse them.  The prison is only there to lock the prisoners away.  If no one feeds them, they die, which makes space for new prisoners.

The Mediterranean has claimed tens of thousands of ships over the centuries.  It is more unpredictable than the other oceans because odd-shaped land masses surround it.  Winds sweep down mountains and blast ships into to danger without a hint of clouds.  This trip is an excellent example of what can happen.

It might be helpful to find a map to follow the adventurous journey.  Twice, Luke tells us that they sailed to the lee.  The leeward course simply follows the wind, rather than to sail across the wind.  By doing that, the ships they were on failed to follow the course they wanted.

In verse 12, we see that the ship intended to sail along the coast of Crete, a distance of perhaps 30 miles.  The storm blew them south past the tiny island of Cauda, about 100 miles south.

The storm continued so long the captain ordered all cargo and non-essentials thrown overboard.  They were at the mercy of the winds.  Paul assured them they would live.

After 2 weeks, the ship arrived at Malta and Paul saved them again when the crew tried to abandon them on the ocean.  He became the acting captain.  Thanks to him, all 276 men made it to shore.  It is likely that most of the men were prisoners.

Wednesday, March 19, Chapter 28

Regarding the serpent, Basil the Great (died 628) wrote, If you have no faith fear less the beast than your own faithlessness through which you make yourself susceptible to every type of corruption.

Publius received the power of Paul in the healing of his father.  That led to many others.  No doubt, they left many Christians on the island.

When they finally arrived in Rome, Paul had proven himself to such a degree that the commander allowed him to live where he wanted with only one soldier to guard him.  We can safely assume Paul converted more than one of those guards.

The Jews received and treated him respectfully with several becoming followers of the Way.  Luke gives us a pleasant, if incomplete, end.  Paul preached in Rome for two years.

The record is not clear about what happened to Paul after those two years.  The most widely accepted notion is that he had his head cut off at about the time Peter arrived for his upside-down crucifixion.  Neither account has scriptural support.

There are some hints that Paul may not have faced a trial and did make another missionary journey in Asia and Greece.

It is also possible that he went to Spain.

The truth is, we do not know.


Thursday, March 20, Mark Chapter 1

We begin the study of Mark with the same statement used to end Acts, we do not know.  Specifically, we do not know who wrote the Gospel.  None of the Gospels have titles; we have attached them over the years.  However, we do have a written source from about 140 AD that names John Mark as the author, and he is quoting an older source, Papias who was alive when most of the New Testament writers were working.  So, I feel safe in assuming it is John Mark, the same young man who deserted Paul.

Most scholars believe that Mark was the first of the Four Gospels  written, and that both Matthew and Luke used his book as a template for their own, each adding points they believe were relevant, but left out of Mark.  Scholars generally believe that John Mark spent most of his missionary life with Peter and wrote down accounts given by Peter as he preached.

Mark begins with the Gospel.  In Greek, the word is evangelion, literally, Good News.  He next uses a neat rhyme in Greek: Iesou Christou. Huiou Theou; Jesus Christ, Son of God.

He next moves us to Isaiah.  Mark wants his readers to know immediately that Jesus is the Promised One and that John the Baptizer prepared the way.  If you are keeping score, verse 2 is a quote from Malachi 3:1, not Isaiah.

John preached repentance; literally an about-face.  ‘You have turned away from God; do an about-face and come back to Him.’

2 Kings 1:8 describes Elijah much the same as verse 6.

People who owned slaves had them untie the straps of their sandals, yet John is not even worthy to do that for Jesus.  It is intriguing that the word used by Mark for strap is also used for prisoner.

The early church struggled with the idea of Jesus’ baptism; he did not need to repent because he was without sin.  We generally say that he took on the sins of the world; it seems likely that this was the moment when that happened.  Baptism for him was a kind of reverse process.

The Trinity is present when the Holy Spirit comes to touch the Son of God and the Voice of God claims him as His own.  It seems a little odd at this point that it took the church 300 years to accept the idea of God in 3 forms.

Mark deals quickly with the forty days before moving to verse 14 with the arrest of John.  Mark has Jesus doing remarkably little until John is off the stage of history.  Now he begins to collect disciples, starting with those who would be his inner circle: Simon, Andrew, James, John.  It is at least possible if not likely that the four were in business together and may have been cousins.

Jesus ministry through chapter 10 will take place in Galilee, so check your map to see where Jesus is.  You will find him in Capernaum a good deal.  The religious leaders see that alone as a sure sign Jesus is not the Messiah.  No man who is ritually pure would go near the disgusting place with its Greeks, Romans, fishermen, and other lowlifes we will meet from time to time.

Mark does something awesome starting in verse 21.  He gives us a series of open and closed doors, all dealing with ritual purity.  The door first opens with an invitation to comment on the scripture read that day at the Sabbath service.  Jesus’ teaching stuns people.

Then a man possessed by an unclean spirit (the proper Greek word) calls Jesus the Holy One of God.  Jesus immediately closes that door.  Yes, Jesus is the Son of God, but the evil one is trying to tempt him with the claim, get him to think more highly of himself than he should.

Driving the spirit out quickly reopens the door and amazes people.  He becomes the talk of Galilee.

Jesus has already shown us that ritual purity is a waste of time if the Holy Spirit has not cleared away the sin inside us.  Think about why you go to church, read the Bible, give money, give up ___ (fill in the blank).  All too often, we step into church to cleanse us.  ‘I go every Sunday, so I’m a really good person.’

Becoming famous is another temptation for Jesus, so he leaves that and goes to Simon’s house.  Simon’s wife’s mother, sick in bed, gets Jesus’ attention.  Notice, Jesus closed the door by leaving the public and quickly opens the door to help someone.  He goes to her bed and holds her hand to help her stand healing her.  But do not miss the fact that Jesus violated two purity rules, he entered the bedroom of a woman and he touched a sick woman.  And you thought it was bad that he was hanging out with stinky fishermen.

Yet, in verse 32, Mark makes it clear that Jesus did not receive the others until the Sabbath was over.  Jesus will get in trouble for healing people on the Sabbath (he did heal the mother-in-law), but he does not look for trouble.

Jesus sneaks off to pray early Sunday morning.  Closing the door on the popularity.  Mark mentions going off to pray two other times (6:46 & 14:32-41), and in all 3 cases, there is a kind of crisis going on.  Not a bad example for us to follow.

This time, Jesus closes the door more firmly by leaving and walking around the region.  The leper represents very nearly the bottom of the ritually pure ladder; a dead person being the bottom.  Jesus could have healed the man without touching him, but he is giving everyone another lesson in purity.  Touching people is not a sin, why we touch people sometimes is a sin.

Jesus follows with instructions to go to the Temple for the ritual cleansing.  That was no small order.  The Temple was a two-day walk at best, through bandit country.  It was necessary because God had commanded that it be done and Jesus NEVER violated God’s Law.  God did not say, ‘Never touch a leper’

Nu 12:9 The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them.

Nu 12:10 When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam—leprous, 27 like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy;

Nu 12:11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed.

Nu 12:12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”

Nu 12:13 So Moses cried out to the LORD, “O God, please heal her!”

Nu 12:14 The LORD replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.”

That is the Word of God.

Friday, March 21, Chapter 2

Middle Eastern hospitality involved opening the door of the house in the morning and closing it at night.  Anyone who wanted to come in could do so.  The wealthy generally placed a servant at the door as a guard, especially if they were Pharisees.

Back in Capernaum, Jesus was likely at the home of Simon Peter where we know he often stayed.  It was standing room only, even outside and around the open windows.

A roof in those days was built by laying thick beams or tree trunks across the opening, then crisscrossing with smaller and smaller wood or tree limbs.  The finish was a thick coat of mud to seal it.  Mud mixed with urine can create a surface impervious to rain.

Imagine how disruptive those men were by digging through the roof, dirt and debris falling on everyone in the room.  I guess Peter would have had a word or two for them.

Why did Jesus not heal the man?

Two reasons.  Most important, that is not what the man needed.  Sin can paralyze.  Doctors see it all the time.  Today we call it psychosomatic, but it is real.  If forgiveness of sin can heal a physical malady, why not do it?

Reason two is that Jesus knew there were religious leaders in the crowd who would object to forgiving sins.  He knew who they were, and he knew what their reaction would be.  Therefore, he created a teaching moment.

Notice, Jesus did not say, ‘I forgive your sins.’  In fact, nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus say that.  He did say, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’  Only God can forgive sins, and even the Messiah did not choose to boast by saying he could do it too.

What is the teaching moment?  Again, two things; Jesus proved his Messiahship by letting the scribes know that he could read their thoughts.  Then he healed the paralytic.

The Lesson: Jesus Is The Messiah.

Jesus, however, never called himself the Messiah and certainly never God.  He almost always called himself the Son of Man.  In Hebrew, it is Ben Adam.

Ezekiel used a form of the name more than 90 times, always showing God’s work being done through the weakness of man.

Daniel used it in 7:13,14,18.

The Book of Enoch, not a part of the Bible, but considered close in the First Century, spoke often of the Son of Man and described him replacing all the kings of the earth.  The book was as popular as it was widely known in Jesus day.  Everyone knew he was claiming the Ezekiel-Daniel-Enoch meaning of the title.  They also knew that it was another name for the Messiah.

Calling Levi is intriguing.  A tax collector was only a notch or two above a leper in purity, not because of money, but because he had to deal with Romans and Greeks every day.  Having the fishermen follow him was tolerable, but not Levi.  The fact that Levi was sitting in the toll booth (it was a tax to use the road) suggests that he was not making enough money to hire others to do the collecting for him.  Remember that any tax collector could ask for any amount above what Herod and the Romans required.  Collecting two or three times that amount was typical.  It was a get-rich-quick position.

The Pharisees could not understand the idea that a person could be free of sin without doing something.  ‘You have to earn it’ they would say, and did.  Jesus says, “No one ceases to be a child of God because of sin.’

Most of us do not get too excited about fasting, perhaps we should.  Leviticus 16:29 calls for a fast on the Day of Atonement.  That is the only one required in the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses.  Four more were added after the return from the Babylonian exile (Zechariah 7:5 & 8:19).  But by Jesus time, the Pharisees did those fasts plus every Monday and Thursday.

Jesus did fast according to the command of God.  The Pharisees complained that Jesus was not fasting as they had decided it should be done.

Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom here; that is a vital image throughout the New Testament, but especially in Revelation.  Jesus says here in Mark that his followers should feast while he is with them; there will be time for fasting when he is gone.  He is also promising a Great Feast in Heaven when we become his bride for eternity.

Should Christians fast?  Yes, if it brings you closer to God.  If all you think about is hunger, no.  In verse 21, Jesus tells us that the form of worship is not as powerful as the willing heart.

Colossians 2:16-23 speaks to the topic above and below.

The Oral Tradition listed 39 acts that were forbidden on the Sabbath.  Almost none of them mentioned in the Bible.  Reaping or harvesting grain was one.  Yet, in Deuteronomy 23:25, God said we can pick grain by hand.

Jesus followed the Scriptures.  But rather than debate with them about it, he, once again, claimed the title of the Son of Man.  If he is the Son of Man, the Messiah, why can he not do what he wants?


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence