Exposition of Romans 2:24-25, Some people want a magic bullet

“Hey, I was baptized as a baby! Surely, that’s good enough.”

“I go the church most of the time, and I figure God knows that.”

“My mother was a real Christian, and she never worried about me going to heaven; so, I’m doing fine!”

Many formerly relied on being born in America, but that does not seem to be as widely claimed in recent years. Do gold stars from Sunday School count?

(ESV) Romans 2:24-25

For, as it is written, The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.

In his ongoing argument against Jewish superiority, Paul pulls out a powerful weapon by quoting the Old Testament (Isa. 52:5) in support of his point. It is important to realize that the Word of God has always been considered authoritative by the people of God. Neither ancient Jewish posturing nor contemporary opinions can stand if they conflict with what God has revealed to his people in the Bible. “As it is written . . .” (2:24) settles issues among the faithful.

Paul is being ironic by saying that the very people whose conduct should have caused God to be praised became the cause for God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles (2:24). How did this come about? Isaiah spoke for God against the idolatry that led to the Jews being taken away into Gentile captivity. The northern kingdom of Israel was deported by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., and the southern kingdom of Judah was removed by Babylon in 586 B.C., when Jerusalem fell.

In the thinking of the ancient world, a deity who could not protect his own people was no deity at all! Because God allowed his people to experience judgment due to their idolatry, the name of God was scorned by the powerful nations who took the Jews into slavery. Peter similarly warns Christians not to dishonor God by their conduct (2 Pet. 2:2).

Of course, the prevalence of idolatry in Israel and Judah is direct proof that the people were not keeping the Law of Moses; they ignored the very first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Exodus 20:4-6 commanded that no images be made in all Israel. No Jew could deny the historic failure of his people to keep these commands.

Paul applies this truth to the Jews who hear his arguments. Circumcision, an essential sign of the covenant people, was required of all Jewish males (Gen. 17:10-14). James Dunn says, “The irreducibly fundamental importance of circumcision for the Jew of Paul’s time can be easily documented.”[1] When Paul says circumcision is indeed of value (2:25a), all right-thinking Jews would be nodding yes; but his argument tightens when he adds “if you practice the law” (2:25b, NET).

Douglas Moo points out the necessity of deciding what is meant by the phrase “if you practice the law” in 2:25 by saying: “Two interpretations fit the context: (1) a heartfelt, faith-filled obedience to the stipulations of the covenant, (2) a perfect conformity to the letter of the law. If the former is adopted, then Paul would presumably regard this kind of doing the law as possible.”[2] After noting that the decision is difficult, Moo prefers the second; I prefer the first. Great scholars fall on both sides.

Through over-emphasis on circumcision, many Jews did little more. Paul says they are no better than the uncircumcised Gentiles. That view again places Jew and Gentile on the same footing in relation to God’s judgment.

Short cuts not wanted!

Christians must beware of making the same mistake the Jews made! Grant Osborne tells how: “Those who think they are going to heaven because of being baptized but who are not committed to Christ face the same tragic consequence — they too are under God’s wrath.”[3]

1. Read Matthew 28:19-20. When Jesus speaks of all I have commanded you, what do you think he expects of those who become his disciples?

2. Baptism for Christians is similar in significance to circumcision for Jews. If you have not been baptized at an age when you fully understood its spiritual significance, what would it take for you to arrange for water baptism through your church? Baptism is not the end of Christian responsibility, but it is very important.

Gaming the system with God has been popular throughout the ages. The only problem is that God is not playing games! The good news is that we have plenty of notice about this issue, so pleasing our Lord can become our main concern.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1988) 119.

[2] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 168.

[3] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 77.

Exposition of Romans 2:17-20, We all take a stand somewhere

Most of us have a keen ability at self-defense. If pressed, we could surely come up with something positive to say about our spiritual heritage. Most who read this study attend a solid, Bible-believing church that exalts Jesus Christ. That is a good place to stand so long as you do not think that is all God wants from you!

(ESV) Romans 2:17-20

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth

Paul is still arguing with an imagined Jewish opponent, although his arguments have significance for the Gentiles as well. Looking back to the theme of the letter in Romans 1:16-17, Douglas Moo expresses Paul’s objective in Romans 2: “Paul insists that it is faith — only and always — that is the basis for righteous standing with God. Therefore, the signs of [Israel’s] election — the law and circumcision — are of no value without this faith.”[1]

Today we are looking at the first half of an “if . . . then” style of argument; you can see the ESV considers the break to occur at the long dash ending verse 20. The “if” portion (2:17-20) describes in detail the sources of Jewish self-confidence about their status before God. In spite of ungodly anti-Semitism from surrounding cultures, Jews have historically felt pride in calling themselves Jew largely because they rely on the law and boast in God (2:17). These are genuine sources of pride!

However, the problem with a strength is that it may be overused and become a weakness. C.E.B. Cranfield explains how reliance on the law can go wrong: “The trouble is that he follows after it [by works] rather than [by faith] (cf. 9:32), and relies on it in the sense of thinking to fulfill it in such a way as to put God in his debt or of imagining complacently that the mere fact of possessing it gives him security against God’s judgment.”[2] This is exactly what happened with the Jews.

In 2:18, Paul continues his list of advantages legitimately enjoyed by the Jews, who know his will and approve what is excellent. By giving the revelation contained in the Old Testament, God had given the Jews a tremendous advantage over all others in terms of knowing how to please him.

The verb translated “approve what is excellent” (2:18a) is dokimazo, the very same verb used in 1:28 to describe the unbelieving mind that was unable to approve what God had made plain. The mind that is responsive to God through faith is able to function in a life-enriching way because it can discern fine differences that make one option superior to another. Paul attributes this ability to the insight provided by the law.

Paul uses four well-known metaphors in 2:19-20 to describe the value of the enlightened Jew to those still blind to spiritual truth, those truly enshrouded in darkness. God had intended for the Jews to serve this light-giving function for the nations. Unfortunately, the Jews had basked in the light as their own possession rather than sharing the light with the world. But in these two verses Paul speaks of their positive responsibility as representatives of God.

However, all these definite privileges have another side. Moo says, “Even more than the Gentile, therefore, the Jewish person is without excuse before God (2:1).”[3]

How strengths may deteriorate

The Jews in Pauls day had many reasons to feel legitimate pride in their heritage, but they had let those blessings deteriorate into complacency and self-satisfaction.

1. What part of your personal heritage or spiritual heritage has helped you grow spiritually?

2. How might your confidence in what God has done for you actually lead to self-satisfaction that inhibits further spiritual growth?

Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required” (Luke 12:48, NET). Learn from the Jews that Jesus was not talking to someone else; he was talking to you!

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 158.

[2] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 164.

[3] Moo, Romans, 163.

Exposition of Romans 2:4-5, Do not waste God’s patient forbearance

There is little that is worse than self-deception. I know that from bitter, personal experience!

Imagine the shock when a Jew who thinks that relationship with Abraham has sealed heaven finds out he can expect God’s wrath. Nor should Christians take a complacent attitude about their salvation either!

(ESV) Romans 2:4-5

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

While Paul is still talking to his opponents of Jewish background, the principles he cites apply to all of us. Every human being has received abundant kindness and forbearance and patience (2:4) from God, who would have been fully justified in putting us to death the first time we rebelled against him and many times afterward!

If we offered a starving beggar $50 for food only to find our money thrown back in our faces with a demand for $100 instead, there is little doubt that the outcome would not be pretty. Yet Paul’s rhetorical question in 2:4 implies the Jews have done far worse. By denying that their own sin deserves God’s judgment, they are scorning his kindness and forbearance and patience. Instead, the appropriate response would be repentance (2:4).

Note that we who have trusted in Christ did roughly the same thing as the Jews up to the moment we surrendered our lives to the Lord. We too abused God’s kindness, though we did not hide behind Abraham or possession of the Law of Moses.

The Greek verb kataphroneohere (2:4) means “to look down on someone or something with contempt or aversion, with implication that one considers the object of little value, look down on, despise, scorn, treat with contempt.”[1] ESV says, “presume on”; NET and NIV say, “have contempt for”; NLT paraphrases with “Does this mean nothing to you?” The idea — deeply flawed — is that, if I already have salvation by being a descendant of Abraham, then I do not need God’s kindness!

Grant Osborne clarifies forbearance and patience (2:4):

The second area of abundance is God’s tolerance, referring to God’s postponing his judgment and giving people time to repent (so also 3:26). The third area is quite similar, God’s patience or longsuffering as he puts up with sinners, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).[2]

In a letter devoted to explaining the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must face the fact that repentance occurs only in 2:4. Douglas Moo observes, “Repentance plays a surprisingly small part in Paul’s teaching, considering its importance in contemporary Judaism.”[3] C.E.B. Cranfield speculates that the reason for this low level of usage may be that Paul considers repentance to be an integral element of faith.[4] Perhaps, but our task is to understand Romans rather than to bring Paul’s theology nearer to our own thoughts.

It is difficult to select a favorite translation for Romans 2:5. Each of the following two has a small flaw:

(NET) But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed!

(ESV) But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

NET correctly translates your stubbornness and thus preserves the emphatic, singular personal pronoun; Paul is still in his argument-with-single-opponent mode. But ESV does better with storing up wrath for yourself because it has preserved the Greek singular while NET has employed the English plural “yourselves.”[5]

Instead of storing up merit and waiting for assured salvation, Jewish stubbornness is simply storing up wrath, a very ironic use of this verb! Moo refers to biblical references (Ps. 110:5; Zeph. 1:14-15; Rev. 6:17) in adding, “‘Day of wrath’ is quasi-technical biblical language for the time of final judgment.’[6]

What are you storing up?

God’s patience has a limit; his forbearance will not last forever. Paul told the philosophers of Athens that God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).

1. Like the Jews of Paul's day, it is easy for someone with Christian parents or who attends church to think they have it made with God. What is the flaw in their thinking?

2. Even if we have trusted in Christ, we may still squander our opportunity to store up something positive for the day of judgment. Read Eph. 2:8-9 and Phil. 2:12-13 and then write down what God expects of you as a Christian.

Our opportunity to live for Christ is brief, and we must make the most of it. Give praise to our gracious God who allows us to serve in his kingdom.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] BDAG-3, kataphroneo, treat with contempt, q.v.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 61.

[3] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 133-134.

[4] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 144, footnote 2, extending to page 145.

[5] HCSB probably has the most accurate overall translation of Romans 2:5.

[6] Moo, Romans, 134.

Exposition of Romans 2:1-3, Don’t try to condemn those others!

A woman in authority once said, Nobody likes to be told their baby is ugly. In like manner, nobody likes to be told that their conduct brings them before Gods judgment seat without any reasonable defense. But there is incredible value in knowing that fatal weakness in advance when we may seek the one remedy that can put us on Gods side.

(ESV) Romans 2:13

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God?

A natural reaction to what Paul has said in Romans 1 is: You are right, Paul, that those bad people — not me of course! — are just as wicked as you say they are. Paul was not born at night, so he is prepared for that counter to his argument. In short, his statement is: each of you does the very same thing (2:1). Jesus spoke similarly in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:15).

Paul was likely writing from Corinth to people whom he has never met, but he knows that among these Christians in Rome is a strong contingent of Jewish-Christians. Most scholars think this not-me type of pushback will come chiefly from these Jews. The Jews had argued for centuries that they were superior to the godless Gentiles because God had chosen them as his own people, Abrahams children. Of course, there will also be some Gentiles who jump on the bandwagon to condemn someone else. In this game, everyone plays!

In Romans 2, Paul ramps up his rhetorical power in several ways. Douglas Moo describes one element: Paul utilizes here, and sporadically throughout the letter, a literary style called diatribe. Diatribe style . . . uses the literary device of an imaginary dialogue with a student or opponent.[1] In keeping with this device, Paul addresses his argument to you (second-person singular). That is more forceful. The third device is the O man (2:1; 2:3) direct address, which Daniel Wallace says is used in contexts where deep emotion is to be found.[2] Clearly the verbal intensity is increasing.

In saying the objectors have no excuse (2:1), we have the same Greek adjective used in 1:20 for those who have knowledge of God but suppress it. This adjective is part of a serious change in vocabulary that begins in 2:1. In Romans 1, Paul spoke of Gods wrath (1:18), but now we begin to see the verb krino(to judge), used seven times in Romans 2:1-16, and the noun krima (judgment), used in 2:2 and 2:3 to refer to Gods verdict of guilt. In 2:1 we have one person judging another, but Paul says in 2:1-2 that we all stand under Gods judgment because of our individual guilt.

(NET Bible) Romans 2:2 Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth against those who practice such things.

The ESV gets unusually metaphorical in saying the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things (2:2), but NET has the better translation here by replacing the italicized phrase with in accordance with truth. God is not confused by arguments over which humans are more sinful; they all are! C.E.B. Cranfield explains, What is being said of the divine judgment is not that it truly is (that there truly is such a thing), but that it is in accordance with the facts (i.e., is just).[3]

In Romans 2:3 an important Greek verb makes its first appearance: logizomai, here meaning to hold a view about something, think, believe, be of the opinion.[4] Since the verb primarily is used for calculating costs and debts, it involves a serious kind of thinking. Even though Paul is asking a rhetorical question, he effectively states that no one is going to be a special exception when it comes to sin, guilt, and judgment before God.

In relation to Pauls question in 2:3, Moo says: Such a question is legitimately put to the Gentile moralist or philosopher who thinks he or she can please God by his or her good life, but it is particularly the Jew who would be likely to make such an assumption.[5] None will escape!

Denial is futile

God is saying through Paul that every human being is guilty of acts that put us under his judgment; we are all without excuse.

1. World history is replete with those who fought for high status as proof they were better than others. But such denial of the truth about humanity does not work before God. What role has self-justification played in your own spiritual journey?

2. How does admitting our guilt before God free us to seek Gods solution to the problem?

In itself our sin and guilt before God cannot be considered good news, yet it forms a critical pillar of the gospel. Just as accurate diagnosis must precede effective medical treatment, so our spiritual condition must be accurately described so that Gods mercy in Jesus Christ is all the more clear.

Copyright 2012 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship (McKinney, Texas). Used by permission.

 


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 125.

[2] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 68.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 143.

[4] BDAG-3, logizomai, be of the opinion, q.v.

[5] Moo, Romans, 132.

Exposition of Romans 1:16, Faith entrusts our souls to Jesus

Lock and load! For those of you who do not have a military background, the phrase lock and load means to engage your weapons safety and load the weapon with ammunition in preparation for imminent battle.

Starting with todays verse, Paul begins his extended exposition of the good news of Jesus Christ. In striving to understand what he says, you will be following in the steps of the greatest Christians of the last twenty centuries!

(ESV) Romans 1:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

In the previous verse (1:15), Paul has spoken of his eagerness to preach the gospel, and now he tells why. To our ears it seems odd for Paul to say, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (1:16). Why would he begin in this manner? Why does shame enter the picture? It is possible that some claimed Paul had not come to Rome because he was ashamed to proclaim in the Roman capital the name of Jesus Christ, who had been executed for treason against Rome.

NT scholar David deSilva sheds light on the matter: “The form of execution called crucifixion was calculated to leave the victim utterly stripped of dignity and worth in the eyes of the world. . . . A shameful death was the most feared of evils among many ancients since it left one with no opportunity to regain ones honor.”[1] Shame and honor were top concerns in the Roman world.

The Roman capital was designed to impress and overawe all who visited the center of the empire. It will be instructive to visit the gallery of images created by the Universities of California and Virginia to model ancient Rome.Compared to the glory of Rome, the gospel had nothing obvious to show.

Paul is undaunted by these obstacles because he says the gospel offers something unique and irreplaceable: the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (1:16). NT scholar C.K. Barrett says concerning salvation: “The word itself, even when the cognate verb to save is included in the reckoning, is not one of the most common in Paul, but it is certainly central to his thought. Salvation itself lies in the future (e.g. 13:11), and means man’s eventual safe passage through human trials and divine judgment to eternal bliss.”[2] We might call that final salvation.

Yet the blessings of salvation are not confined to the distant future at judgment. Moo points out: “Characteristic, however, of Paul’s (and the NT’s) outlook is the conviction that these eschatological [end-times] blessings are, to some extent, enjoyed by anyone the moment he or she trusts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.”[3] You may hear the phrase “already — not yet” as a shorthand method of saying that we enjoy many blessings of salvation now (already), but the final, crucial manifestation of Gods grace in Christ will not be evident until judgment (not yet).

Our remarkable verse tells not only about the power of salvation, but it also connects the means of receiving that salvation from God: “to everyone who believes” (1:16b). The Greek verb pisteuo (“believe”[4]) is critical to Christian faith. Osborne says: “The act of belief involves surrender to God, mental assent and the commitment of the will [see 4:18 and 10:9]. The call to faith and the power to achieve it come from God; the surrender of the will to him is our part.”[5] Paul makes it plain in the rest of Romans that this believing is not a human work in which we may boast (Rom. 3:27-28; 4:1-8; Eph. 2:8-9).

Jews who had trusted in Jesus as their Messiah would be unlikely to embrace Paul’s saying that the offer of salvation is “to everyone who believes” (1:16b). Their whole heritage, as they understood it, said that only the children of Abraham would receive blessing from God. Paul’s closing phrase — “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (1:16b) — acknowledges Jewish primacy in the history of salvation but presses the NT’s reminder that the non-Jewish world had always been included in Abraham’s eventual blessings (Gen. 12:3; Acts 10:34-11:18). The mention of Jew and Greek is simply another way of saying everyone who believes will be saved.

Everyone who believes

It is unfortunately easy to become accustomed to the idea that God has made salvation possible for everyone who believes in his resurrected Son. Do not ever take God’s kindness and mercy for granted!

1. How does the fact that Gods powerful salvation is available to everyone who believes affect you in light of the life you have led? Are there any exceptions to the offer? Explain.

2. Since the power of salvation is available to everyone who believes, how should this affect your attitude toward those who still need to believe? How do they need to respond to the salvation they desperately need?

Many in our world doubt salvation exists, or, if they accept its existence, they believe salvation is only for the best of us. But God has not crafted his salvation for the rich, the powerful or the connected; instead he freely offers it to everyone who believes, to everyone who entrusts their soul to his resurrected Son.

Copyright 2012 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] David A. deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000) 432.

[2] C.K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans (New York: Harper & Row, 1957) 27.

[3] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 67.

[4] BDAG-3, pisteuo, believe, q.v.

[5] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 40.

Exposition of Romans 1:13-15, Win Christ’s disciples; equip Christ’s disciples!

When Paul speaks of reaping some harvest (Rom. 1:13) among the Roman Christians, perhaps he is looking back to the parable told by Jesus about the four soils (Luke 8:4-15). The only seed that grew and actually yielded a harvest of grain was that which fell on good soil. Perhaps we should regard this parable as a strong hint that it takes some time to know whether our evangelism results in a disciple of Jesus or not.

Either way, our job is to tell the good news about Jesus and build those who become his disciples (Matthew 28:18-19).

(ESV) Romans 1:13-15

I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Paul continues his efforts to defuse any criticisms of his ministry that might hinder his recipients from listening to his theological arguments about the gospel of Jesus Christ. In view of his extensive ministry among Gentiles in far-flung places, the Roman Christians might have felt slighted by the fact Paul had not visited the capital of the empire.

Once again, John Chrysostom (a fourth-century father) offers a helpful set of insights about Paul’s inability to visit Rome sooner (1:13):

Paul does not concern himself with such things [as to why he was impeded], yielding instead to the incomprehensible nature of providence. By doing this he shows the right tone of his soul and also teaches us never to call God to account for what happens, even though what is done seems to trouble the minds of many. For it is the masters place to command and the servants to obey.[1]

When Paul mentions “the Greeks” in 1:14, this term includes all those who considered themselves partakers of Greek culture; for example, the standard Greek lexicon says, “Cultured Romans affected interest in things Greek and would therefore recognize themselves under this term.”[2] We must also recall that due to the conquest of most of the known world by Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.), Greek language and culture had spread throughout much of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions.

So, when Paul speaks of “Greeks and . . . barbarians” (1:14), he is effectively saying everyone. The terms “the wise and. . . the foolish” also mean everyone. In saying, “I am under obligation” (1:14), Paul uses the present tense and indicative mood to convey the ongoing nature of his moral obligation before God to preach the gospel.

If the idea that Paul is going to preach the gospel (1:15) to Roman Christians seems a bit jarring, the problem is in our limited contemporary understanding of this phrase. Moo observes, “In this case, ‘preach the gospel’ will refer to the ongoing work of teaching and discipleship that builds on initial evangelization.”[3] Similarly, Osborne says, “Once more, it is important to realize that gospel in the New Testament included discipleship as well as evangelism.”[4] Paul had a big gospel.

Never shrink the gospel!

Perhaps some of you will remember the Walt Disney film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989); before you scorn the title, consider that the film grossed a quarter of a billion dollars. While shrinking might be comical in a Disney movie, it is serious when it comes to the gospel.

One popular tool for sharing the gospel is The Four Spiritual Laws, a brief booklet written by Bill Bright in 1952. While such tools are very useful in explaining the essentials of salvation — as in my own conversion to Christian faith — they often have the unfortunate side-effect of shrinking the gospel to a degree that Paul would find really tiny.

1. Read Matthew 28:19-20. You will easily see both evangelism and discipleship in these verses. How would you relate these verses to the broader understanding of the gospel?

2. How might we get better educated on various aspects of salvation? Here are some references to consider: Substitution (Matt. 20:28; 2 Cor. 5:14); Justification (Rom. 3:21-26); Reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19); Redemption (Eph. 1:7); Expiation (Col. 2:14); Regeneration (Titus 3:5). How do these verses help you to see various aspects of salvation?

Perhaps it will help to think of the gospel as a treasure. You would not want people taking away pieces while you were not looking! Another way the gospel is like a treasure is that we should get busy giving it away to those who need it so desperately!

Copyright 2012 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] Gerald Bray, ed., Romans, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 26.

[2] BDAG-3, Hellen, Greek, q.v.

[3] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 63.

[4] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 39.