BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 29, Day 2: Romans 16:1-16

Summary of passage:  Paul commends Phoebe to the Christians in Rome and sends individual greetings to others in the Roman church.

Questions:

3)  Such recommendations were important because there was both great legitimate need for this kind of assistance and there were many deceivers who wanted to take advantage of the generosity of Christians.

4)  This list includes prominent women in the church (Phoebe, Priscilla, Junias, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis), common slave names (Amphiatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles) and possibly royalty (the household of Aristobulus–probably the grandson of Herod the Great).  All the social strata is included.  This means Christ came for all!

5)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  Some risked their lives for Paul.  Some went to prison with him.  Some have been a mother to him.  All were hard workers for the Lord.  For me, too many to list.  Being there to listen to me.  Support me in all I do.  Encourage me.  Opened doors of opportunity for me.  Helped me when I needed it.  God works through people all the time–even in the little things.

6)  All really.  They all were risking their lives by being among the first to convert to Christ.  Risk-takers all of them with a heart for God.  Exactly what I want to be.

Conclusions:  Wouldn’t it be cool to have been a name on this list in the Bible for all of posterity?  And to have been mentioned by the great apostle Paul as having helped him?  Pretty cool!

End Notes:  This is a list of Paul’s friends and co-workers, many of whom would be unknown apart from their mention here.  Remember Paul has not yet visited Rome but a community of Christians already exists there.  Paul was writing from Corinth, where his friends included the city’s director of public works.  At Corinth archaeologists have dug up a block of stone that may refer to this man.  It bears the Latin inscription “Erastus, commissioner of public works, bore the expense of this pavement.”

Phoebe was probably the carrier of this letter to the Romans.  Our sister is a fellow believer.  Deacon is one who serves or ministers in any way.  When church related, it probably refers to a specific office.

Phoebe is the feminine form of a title given to the pagan god Apollo, the title meaning “the bright one.” Christians, on their conversion, seemed to feel no need to change their names even if there was some pagan significance to their name.

Servant is the same word translated deacon in other places. Phoebe seems to be a female deacon in the church, either by formal recognition or through her general service.  Paul gives Phoebe one of the best compliments anyone can give. This sort of practical help is essential in doing the business of the gospel.

Cenchreae was a port located about 6 miles east of Corinth on the Saronic Gulf.  Map of Cenchreae HERE

Priscilla and Aquila were close friends of Paul who worked in the same trade of tentmaking (Acts 18:2-3).  They are now back in the city of Rome.

In a city with a Christian community of any size, there would be several “congregations” meeting in different houses, since there were no “church” buildings at this time. Each house church probably had its own “pastor.”

Epaenetus was apparently among the very first converts of Achaia (where Corinth was and where Paul wrote the letter to the Romans). Epaenetus was also apparently dear to Paul; beloved isn’t a term Paul used cheaply.

Andronicus and Junia: These were apparently Jews (my kinsmen) and were imprisoned for the sake of the gospel (my fellow prisoners). They were well regarded among the apostles, having become Christians even before Paul did (sometime in the first 3 or 4 years after Pentecost).

Of note among the apostles has the idea that Andronicus and Junia are apostles themselves (though not of the twelve), and notable among other apostles. If there ever were women recognized as apostles – in the sense of being special emissaries of God, not in the sense of being of the twelve – this is the strongest Scriptural evidence. It isn’t very strong.

Amplias: There is a tomb dating from the late first or early second century in the earliest Christian catacomb of Rome which bears the name AMPLIAS. Some suggest that this is the same person mentioned in Romans 16:8.

Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus: The fact that the household of Aristobulus is greeted but not Aristobulus himself made Spurgeon think that Aristobulus was not converted but many in his household were. It made Spurgeon think of the unconverted who live with believers in their house.

Rufus may be the same man mentioned as a son of Simon the Cyrene in Mark 15:21. However, Rufus was a common name so this is merely speculation.

Chosen in the Lord has the idea that Rufus had some eminence among the Christians of Rome. It doesn’t refer to his election in Jesus.

Nereus: In 95 a.d. two distinguished Romans were condemned for being Christians. The husband was executed and the wife was banished. The name of their chief servant was Nereus – this may be the same Nereus mentioned here and he may be the one who brought the gospel to them.

Asyncritus . . . Phlegon . . . Patrobas . . . Hermes: Of the rest of these names, Paul finds something wonderful to say about almost every one of them – noting their labor, his special regard for them (beloved), their standing in the Lord (approved in Christ . . . in the Lord . . . chosen in the Lord).

This is a tremendous example. It shows Paul’s way of casting about uplifting words to build up God’s people. He was generous in paying compliments that were both sincere and wonderful.

The Holy Kiss was a regular part of the worship service in that time.  It is still a practice in some churches today.  See also 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14

Luke 7:45 shows how common a greeting a kiss was. Jesus rebukes a Pharisee because he did not give Jesus a kiss when He came into his house.

It seems that this practice was later abused. Clement of Alexandria complained about churches where people made the church resound with kissing, and says that “the shameless use of a kiss occasions foul suspicions the evil reports.”

Those mentioned in verses 14-15 cannot be further identified except they were either slaves or freedmen in the Roman church.

Leon Morris explains that this section demonstrates that the Letter to the Romans “was a letter to real people and, as far as we can see, ordinary people; it was not written to professional theologians.”

Spurgeon says of this passage: “They were like the most of us, commonplace individuals; but they loved the Lord, and therefore as Paul recollected their names he sent them a message of love which has become embalmed in the Holy Scriptures. Do not let us think of the distinguished Christians exclusively so as to forget the rank and file of the Lord’s army. Do not let the eye rest exclusively upon the front rank, but let us love all whom Christ loves; let us value all Christ’s servants. It is better to be God’s dog than to be the devil’s darling.”

Notice the women mentioned in this chapter: Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, the mother of Rufus, and Julia. These are women who worked for the Lord.

Notice their work for the Lord: some, like Tryphena and Tryphosa, labored in the Lord. Others, like Persis, labored much for the Lord.  Spurgeon says: “So there are distinctions and degrees in honor among believers, and these are graduated by the scale of service done. It is an honor to labor for Christ, it is a still greater honor to labor much. If, then, any, in joining the Christian church, desire place or position, honor or respect, the way to it is this – labor, and labor much.”

Of the 24 names here, 13 also appear in inscriptions or documents connected with the Emperor’s palace in Rome. We know that there were Christians among Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22). Paul may be writing many of the servants who worked for Caesar who became Christians.

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BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 28, Day 2: Romans 15:14-16

Summary of passage:  Paul says he believes the Jews are full of goodness and competent to instruct each other.  He is writing to remind them of God’s word and as a minister to the Gentiles to bring them the Good News so that they too may be sanctified by God.

Questions:

3)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  “Full of goodness, complete in knowledge, and competent to instruct one another.”  I will encourage them with my presence, be a listening ear, offer up advice when needed, and support them in their dreams and God’s desire for their lives.

4)  Personal Question.  My answer:  We all need reminders of God’s Word, how to live, and what God desires for our lives especially in today’s society because it’s so easy to get caught up in the lies of Satan and the evils of this world.  Paul is reminding the Jews that he is preaching to them as a reminder and he has confidence in them to follow God’s Word.  He is also preaching for the sake of the Gentiles as well.

5)  Paul says his priestly duty is “to proclaim the gospel of God so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

In the Old Testament, the priest was our intermediary to God.  He was the only one who could approach God and cleanse the Jews of their sins.  Then Jesus came and became our high priest, our intermediary, eliminating the need for a formal priest to intercede for us.

According to Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “the term is applied primarily to those authorized to perform the rites of the Israelite religion, but it can also be used with reference to pagan priests.

The formal priesthood in Israel began with the time of Exodus.  In the patriarchal times the heads of families offered sacrifices and intercessory prayers and performed general religious functions, but there seems to have been no specialization and no separate priestly office.  God appoints Aaron the tribe of the Levites to be the priests for the people in Exodus 28-29 and Leviticus 8.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the one and only New Covenant priest, described in detail in Hebrews.  Traditionally, Christ has three offices:  prophet, priest, and king.  With Christ’s death, the atonement was finishes, essentially eliminating the traditional role of priest. Now, priests are teachers, not atoners.  When Christ gave up his life on the cross, the atonement was finished once and for all with absolutely nothing more for God or man to add to it.  We are saved!

Conclusions:  Loved reading about the history of the priesthood in my Bible Dictionary!  Love knowing Christ once again is the end all.  Praise God for His almighty goodness to us sinners!

End Notes:  Paul’s whole point of writing the book of Romans is encouragement as he says in this passage.  He is also writing proclaiming the Gentiles as an offering to God as well.

Romans 15:16 is filled with the language of priesthood. Paul says he serves as a “ministering priest” of Jesus Christ presenting the gospel as a “priestly service” so Gentile converts would be an acceptable sacrifice to God.

Scholar Murry explains:  “When Paul defines his ministry as ministering the gospel of God the apostle uses a word occurring nowhere else in the New Testament which may properly be rendered ‘acting as a priest.’ So the ministry of the gospel is conceived of after the pattern of priestly offering.”

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 27, Day 5: Romans 15:13

Summary of passage:  Paul prays that God fills them with joy and peace as they trust in Him through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Questions:

13)  Trust gives us the faith we need in order to hope.  Without trust, hope is empty as we truly don’t believe it will come to pass.

14)  Personal Question.  My answer:  If we don’t trust, we have no hope.  God grants us both and is good for doing so.  At the end of the day, hope is all that gets me by sometimes.  I hope in God and trust in Him to do as He says He will.  As I see Him fulfill His promises, my faith grows as does my trust and hope.  It’s a beautiful cycle I never want to end!

15)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Everyone.

Conclusions:  Trust and hope are really broad topics and are tightly intertwined.  The more you trust, the more hope you have and the more faith is strengthened.

End Notes:   The prayer and blessing concluding the section is appropriate. As God fills us with the blessings of His joy and peace in believing, we are equipped to live in this common bond of unity God calls us to.

Throughout the Bible, hope is considered a desirable attribute of human life.  Hope is a gift of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and includes trust, confidence, and refuge in the God of hope.

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 27, Day 3: Romans 15:4-6

Summary of passage:  The Bible was written to encourage us and give us hope.  We are to have unity amongst Christians  so that we can glorify God and Jesus.

Questions:

7)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  Scripture teaches us how to live and gives us hope.  We meet God in Scripture.  We grow closer to God.  We become more like Jesus.  It’s an act of obedience.  I’m realized all those goals:  I’m closer to God, more like Jesus, more patient, and more elucidated on the Word.

8 )  Part personal Question.  My answer:  A spirit of unity is when even we don’t come to the same conclusions on matters of conscience we agree to disagree in love.  I struggle with those who twist the Word of God or don’t believe in God especially when they spout violence and hate.  It’s hard to be patient and pray over them and let God handle it.

9)  We are to all work together for God’s glory despite our differences.  It’s all about Him, not our differences.  When we work together, God’s glory is amplified.  The goal of life as Paul says in Ephesians is to “attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”.  We do this with the help of others.  We can’t do this on our own. We were created by God for His glory.  We best glorify Him the stronger we are as a whole.

Conclusions:  Great reminder on building up our Christian brothers.  We can get so caught up in our own narrow lives we forget we are a part of something greater.  As Paul says, if one of us is suffering, we all are.  Help others and you will grow stronger.

End Notes:  [Same as Yesterday’s]  Jesus took fulfilled what was written in God’s word, allowing the Father to vindicate him.

The commandment Jesus fulfilled from Psalm 69:7-9 was written for our learning so that we might have hope, knowing we are doing what is right even when difficult.  “You” refers to God and “me” is the righteous sufferer whom Paul identifies with Christ.

Responding rightly bothers people even more.  No one can hurt God’s children.

Paul then prays for the Holy Spirit to endow this attitude onto the Romans.  Other translations here have “God of patience” instead of endurance.  In essence, Paul is saying wait on God’s plan for your life.  God’s purpose for your life takes time.

Paul encourages believers not to necessarily have the same conclusions but to agree to disagree in love (Ephesians 4:1-6; Philippians 2:1-5).

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 24, Day 5: Romans 13:6-7

Summary of passage:  Pay taxes to the authorities who should be paid for governing.  Give everyone what you owe such as taxes, revenue, respect and honor.

Questions:

12)  In essence, Jesus said the same thing as this passage:  Give to those what you owe them.  Pay your taxes and pay God.

13)  Today, there are many purposes for taxes and many different kinds of taxes (like in ancient times as well but in a different way).  Here, it says pay taxes so that the officials may be paid for their time in running the government.  Taxes also go for the public good and items and services we consume collectively like roads, police, etc.  We should have an attitude of gratitude towards taxes that pays for the military and police who keep us safe, roads we travel on to visit loved ones, and so many other things we don’t think of.  Taxes are a part of life.  Accept it.

14)  Part personal Question.  My answer:

Exodus 20:12:  Father and Mother.  Honoring their wishes and what they’ve done for you.  Being there for them in their old age.  Loving them.
Leviticus 19:32:  The elderly and God.  Volunteer to help the elderly.  Care for them in their old age.  Visit them.  Care about them and their lives.
1 Timothy 5:17:  “the elders who direct the affairs of the church especially those who preach and teach”  Pastors and church leaders.  Pray for them.  Care for them.  Do random acts of kindness for them.  Give to them when they don’t expect it.
1 Timothy 6:15b-16:  God.  There is no limit to honoring God.  Prayer, obedience, evangelism, being kind to others, worship, etc.
1 Peter 2:13-17:  Governing authorities, rulers, respect everyone, respect believers, fear God, honor your king.  Obey laws, don’t bad-mouth leaders, pray for leaders and rulers, treat others as you want to be treated, obey God.

15)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Pray for them.  Pray for them to follow God’s will.  Honor their choices in life.  Give it to God.  It’s none of your business when it’s friends and families and acquaintances.  Treat them as you want to be treated.  Love them.

Conclusions:  The theme of Lesson 24 is honor and respect authority (both human authority and God’s authority).  Obey both human laws and God’s laws.  Overall, be good citizens and people.

End Notes:  We pay taxes so the officials can do their job in keeping an orderly society–not to enrich them.  But also so they can eat as well.  Paying taxes is supporting God’s work since He gave the government to help us.

Good question to ponder:  Is rebellion against government ever justified? If a citizen has a choice between two governments, it is right to choose and to promote the one that is most legitimate in God’s eyes – the one which will best fulfill God’s purpose for governments.  However, knowing which is right in God’s eyes is the challenge.  The Communists believe they are right. So do democracies.

These verses are easy for those of us living in a democracies.  We are the government; therefore, we are supporting ourselves when we pay taxes as the money goes for public good.

In ancient times, this would have been much more difficult when rulers were oftentimes evil.  The first generation of Christians benefited from the same freedom of worship and legal protection as the Jews.  But soon emperors such as Nero turned on Christians, torturing and murdering thousands.  History shows that most of them followed Paul’s difficult advice in this passage, refusing to revolt against the government no matter how hostile it had become.

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 24, Day 4: Romans 13:3-5

Summary of passage:  Do what is right and you have nothing to fear.  The ruler is God’s servant ready to punish the wrongdoer.  Thus, submit to authorities so you’re not punished and because of conscience.

Questions:

9)  God has a purpose in all rulers.  He used Babylon to punish His people and make them turn to Him and strengthen their faith.  There is a purpose in suffering–to grow us–and there is a purpose in the future that we cannot see.  I can have faith in God and that leaders are in power for His purpose.  I can pray for the leaders to do God’s will.

10)  You must submit to authorities because they are placed in authority by God and by submitting to them you are submitting to God.  Otherwise, you are rebelling against God if you do not.  Also, if you don’t submit, you will be punished if you break the laws.  Furthermore, you submit because it’s the right thing to do.  You submit for the good of all over the good of yourself.

11)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Good I hope.  I tell my kids to respect authority, those in power, and those elected.  I’m a horrible driver in terms of getting angry (which I’m working on).  I’m running for local office.  I’m respectful as well.

Conclusions:  In essence, Days 2, 3 & 4 all have the same point:  God is in control and if you trust in Him then you trust your leaders.  There’s a purpose.  God’s purpose.  Have faith even when you don’t know.

End Notes:  [Taken from yesterday’s, just cut to the commentary that deals only with verses 3-5].

Paul’s idea is that Christians should be the best citizens of all. Even though they are loyal to God before they are loyal to the state, Christians are good citizens because they are honest, give no trouble to the state, pay their taxes, and – most importantly – pray for the state and the rulers.

Paul describes government officials as God’s minister. They have a ministry in the plan and administration of God, just as much as church leaders do.

If the state’s rulers are God’s minister (servant), they should remember that they are only servants, and not gods themselves.

It is through the just punishment of evil that government serves its function in God’s plan of holding man’s sinful tendencies in check. When a government fails to do this consistently, it opens itself up to God’s judgment and correction.

The sword is a reference to capital punishment. In the Roman Empire, criminals were typically executed by beheading with a sword (crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals of the lowest classes). Paul, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has no doubt that the state has the legitimate authority to execute criminals.

We must be subject to government; not only because we fear punishment, but because we know it is right before God to do so.  Christian obedience to the state is never blind – it obeys with the eyes of conscience wide open.  Christians must duly honor the government in order to maintain a good conscience.

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 24, Day 2: Romans 13:1-5

Summary of passage:  You must submit to government authorities because God is the one who has given them authority so in essence you are submitting to God.  If you rebel against the government, you are rebelling against God and are therefore subject to judgment.  Do what is right and you have nothing to fear.  The ruler is God’s servant ready to punish the wrongdoer.  Thus, submit to authorities so you’re not punished and because of conscience.

Questions:

3)  The definition of submit according to Webster’s Dictionary is “to yield to governance or authority; to subject to a condition, treatment, or operation; to yield oneself to the authority or will of another”.  Everyone must submit to governing authorities because God is the one who had given them authority so in essence you are submitting to God.

4)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  The same reasons people struggle with submitting to God (which in this passage Paul says is the same thing i.e. God and authorities are the same):  people want to do what they want to do (selfishness) and not what others tell them to do.  Human nature is inherently evil and if a person wants to be able to kill another, that’s what he wants to do.  Man wants power and to lord over others.  God established rules/government so there would not be anarchy in this world.  I’m fine with following the government (when you’re brought up in society it’s relatively easy to obey).  It’s the daily selfishness I struggle with such as when I’m driving being nice to others or putting others needs before mine or giving up my time for others.

5)  When man/human authority asks us to go against God and His Word.  Daniel ignores the decree by King Darius to not pray to God.  This is against God.  When you’re asked to do something that goes against your conscience or that you know is wrong.  Then you can disobey.  Killing others, persecuting others, causing physical harm to others, etc.

Conclusions:  Great passage by Paul and very important today when people are so against governing authorities.  You may not like who is in office, but God put them there so respect them and the laws of your country.

End Notes:  Connecting Romans 12, people are not to take vengeance but the government can punish wrongdoers since God gave them the authority to do so.  Paul is speaking to some Jews who refused to acknowledge the authority of the rulers and thus paid no taxes.

“Be subject to” is a significant theme for Romans 13:1-7.  The civil rulers, all of whom were probably pagans at the time Paul was writing.  Christians may have been tempted not to submit to them and to claim allegiance only to Christ.  Even the possibility of a persecuting state did not shake Paul’s conviction that civil government is ordained by God (1 Peter 2:13-17).

Government authorities serve a purpose for God.  God appoints a nation’s leaders, but not always to bless the people. Sometimes it is to judge the people like we read in Daniel and how God used the Babylonian empire to judge His people.

Paul wrote this during the reign of the Roman Empire. It was no democracy, and no special friend to Christians – yet he still saw their legitimate authority.

“Your Savior suffered under Pontius Pilate, one of the worst Roman governors Judea ever had; and Paul under Nero, the worst Roman Emperor. And neither our Lord nor His Apostle denied or reviled the ‘authority!’ ” (Newell)

Since governments have authority from God, we are bound to obey them – unless, of course, they order us to do something in contradiction to God’s law. Then, we are commanded to obey God before man (as in Acts 4:19).  Paul is describing the ideal rulers here.  Obviously, man is fallen so this is not always the case the rulers will do what is right.

God uses governing authorities as a check upon man’s sinful desires and tendencies. Government can be an effective tool in resisting the effects of man’s fallenness.

Paul’s idea is that Christians should be the best citizens of all. Even though they are loyal to God before they are loyal to the state, Christians are good citizens because they are honest, give no trouble to the state, pay their taxes, and – most importantly – pray for the state and the rulers.

Paul describes government officials as God’s minister. They have a ministry in the plan and administration of God, just as much as church leaders do.

If the state’s rulers are God’s minister (servant), they should remember that they are only servants, and not gods themselves.

It is through the just punishment of evil that government serves its function in God’s plan of holding man’s sinful tendencies in check. When a government fails to do this consistently, it opens itself up to God’s judgment and correction.

The sword is a reference to capital punishment. In the Roman Empire, criminals were typically executed by beheading with a sword (crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals of the lowest classes). Paul, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has no doubt that the state has the legitimate authority to execute criminals.

We must be subject to government; not only because we fear punishment, but because we know it is right before God to do so.  Christian obedience to the state is never blind – it obeys with the eyes of conscience wide open.  Christians must duly honor the government in order to maintain a good conscience.

Fun Fact (taken from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary):  The Bible, by exhortation and commandment, requires submission and obedience to six principal authorities:

  1.  Parents (Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20; 1 Timothy 3:4)
  2.  Teachers (Proverbs 5:12-13)
  3.  Husbands (Ephesians 5:21-22, 24; Colossians 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1, 5-6)
  4.  Masters–or today, employers (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9, 1 Peter 2:18)
  5.  Government (Romans 13:1-2, 5: Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13)
  6.  God (Genesis 26:5, Ephesians 5:24, Hebrews 5:9; 12:9, James 4:7)

The supreme test of faith is obedience (1 Samuel 28:18).  The Bible often links obedience to faith (Genesis 22:18; Romans 1:5; 1 Peter 1:14).  Jesus obedience to the Father is the supreme example for Christians.