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 5: Romans 15:30-33 with Acts 20:22-23

Summary of passages:  Romans 15:30-33:  Paul urges the Romans to pray for him, for his safety in Judea and for his service/offering to be accepted by the Jews in Jerusalem.

Acts 20:22-23:  On Paul’s journey to Jerusalem Paul knows hardships and prison await as the Holy Spirit as given him this premonition.

Questions

13)  Hardships, prison, unbelievers in Judea

14)  Prayer.  He believes in its power.

15)  He prayed to be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that his service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there so that he can come to the Roman church with joy and refreshment.

16)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  First century AD was a period of constant upheaval and wars in this region–both spiritual wars and physical wars.  God grants peace in all of this.  It’s hard to convert people to Christ when their lives are in upheavals and survival is the primary goal in mind.  When our worlds are peaceful, so are our minds and therefore our minds are more open to conversion.  Financial and peace with finding His will in my life.

Conclusions:  We all face dangers in our lives (just not so extreme as Paul’s).  What does he do?  He prays and asks others for prayer while walking through the danger, which is God’s calling for Him.  So must we.  We must pray and ask others to pray for us in all areas in our lives, especially the upheavals.  Only God can grant us peace as Paul says.

End Notes:  Sensing that danger awaited him in Jerusalem (having been warned several times as recorded in Acts 20:22-23 and Acts 21:10-14), Paul knew he needed the prayers of God’s people to see him through the difficulty promised him.

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 19, Day 2: Romans 11:1-10

Summary of passage:  God did not reject His people.  They have rejected Him, but not all of them.  God has chosen a remnant (the elect) by grace and the others hearts’ were hardened towards Him.

Questions:

3)  God has chosen some to believe in His Son.  Paul was chosen despite not believing in Christ in the beginning and Elijah was chosen as well, being the only one left standing.

4)  A remnant is those chosen by God through grace to believe in Christ.

5)  Part personal Question. My answer:  God shows grace to the elect or those chosen.  It is all by God’s grace that we are chosen.  It is out of our control.  He knows all.

Conclusions:  A lot more here.  We are studying this same passage tomorrow so we shall see what that brings.  Please see End Notes for more in-depth analysis.

End Notes:  In the Old Testament, the Jews and Israel are God’s elect, those chosen to be those whom God revealed Himself and His will to, and through whom he could exhibit and declare to the world his purposes and salvation.  In the New Testament, Jesus is the Elect One, and through Him the church, replacing the old Israel in the purposes of God.  This new race is mostly composed of poor and ordinary people (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

The question as to whether the Jews are, as a people, still the elect of God is faced by Paul here in Romans 9-11 in the light of the salvation of God in and through Jesus.  In chapters 9 & 10 Paul painfully admits that, on the whole, the Jews did not believe in Christ.  Despite all the advantages of Old Testament history, they “stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone'” (Romans 9:32).  In chapter 11, Paul goes back over that history and asks whether it was futile.  Will the Jews come to believe in Christ some day?  Did their tragic experience produce any advantage for the rest of the world?  This chapter clearly shows God’s eternal love for his chosen people.  Paul will conclude with a poetic outburst, celebrating God’s mysterious ways of working on earth.

Paul answers in Chapter 11:  If Israel’s rejection of the gospel was somehow both consistent with God’s eternal plan (Romans 9:1-29) and Israel’s own choosing (Romans 9:30-10:21), then does this mean that Israel’s fate is settled, and there is no possibility of restoration?  No!

For one, Paul is a Jew and he has been saved. We first look to ourselves for God’s grace.  There is a remnant of Jews who embrace Jesus and like Elijah, God will work through them for the sake of the others.  God often works in small groups and in the first century Jews believers in Christ were small and in Elijah’s time it was just him!

A remnant is “something left over”.  In the Bible, it’s those who would survive God’s judgement and become the new, true Israel.  The elect are those whom God has chosen for salvation out of His great love, not merit.

And it is by God’s grace (not works), and elect was chosen.  God enlightens whom He so chooses because He’s God and can do whatever He wants.  The Jews of Paul’s day were so secure in their idea of being the chosen people that the very idea became the thing that ruined them.  This spiritual dullness had continued since Isaiah’s day.

The passage from Psalm was probably originally spoken by David concerning his enemies; Paul uses it to describe the results of the divine hardening.

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 18, Day 5: Romans 10:18-21

Summary of passage:  Israel heard the Good News, but chose to be disobedient and obstinate.  Instead, the Gentiles believed when the Good News was revealed to them.

Questions:

12) God revealed Himself to the Gentiles in an attempt to make the Israelites jealous and then turn to Him.  Hearing is listening to words but no action.  Understanding is knowing what the words mean but no action.  Believing is taking action and agreeing with the words.  For example, “Go pick up your room.”  My kids hear the command.  They understand it.  Then they ignore me and don’t do it.  Same with God.  “Believe in my Son.”  The Israelites heard this.  They understand it’s meaning.  But they turned their backs on Christ.

13)  The Israelites who did not believe in Christ.  The Gentiles who heard the Good News.

14)  Personal Question we just answered in Question 8.  My repetitive answer: Where is everywhere I encounter others whom He puts in my path whom He desires to be there.  I encourage others just by listening and sharing God’s truths about love and comfort and purpose, etc.

Conclusions:  Paul is saying Israel has no excuse for they have heard the message and declined.

End Notes:  Israel is ignoring God and the prophets, Moses and Isaiah, making them more accountable and responsible.  This, however, God knew.  God’s chosen people ignored Him, all the more heart-breaking to God.  He holds out His hands and they slap it away.  He continues to reach out to His people in spite of their disobedience.  Same for us.  God hurts when we reject Him.

Conclusions BSF Romans Lesson 18:  Not a lot of verses covered and a simple message by Paul:  All have heard the message and it is simply have faith in Christ.  Nice respite and should be fairly quick to complete.

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 17, Day 3: Romans 10:1-4

Summary of passage:  Paul’s heart’s desire and prayer is for all of the Israelites to be saved, to submit to God’s righteousness, and to believe in Christ as the fulfillment of the law.

Questions:

6)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  Paul is an Israelite, and he desires all to know Christ.  God puts people on my heart and I pray for them.  It’s hard to know these days where everyone stands in their relationship with God so I just pray for Christ to fill them.

7)  They believed they could earn righteousness on their own through works and by following the law.  They lacked the faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, which is the true path to salvation.  Killing others in the name of Christ or God.  Persecuting those with different beliefs than yourself.  Hypocritical behavior of any kind.  Perverting God’s Word to be in line with your beliefs or to justify a particular sin.  Leading others astray as well.  Paul had misplaced zeal before his conversion as he persecuted Christians in the name of the Lord.  This is still happening today.

8 )  Belief in Christ as Lord and Savior fulfills the law and results in salvation.

Conclusions:  I love how Paul does not give up.  Ever.  I can picture him perpetually praying for his fellow brothers to know God’s Truth.  He dedicated his life to bringing as many as possible to God.  So must we.

End Notes:  Chapters 9-11 is Paul discussing the Jews and their unbelief in Christ.  Paul is distraught, so much so that in Romans 9:3 he offered his own relationship to Christ for the sake of the Jews.  Paul felt almost as if his family (the Jews) were rejecting what he’d dedicated his life to.

Paul needed to explain how the Jews were linked to God’s plan for them for the past, present, and future.  He offers hope.

Knowledge alone is not sufficient for salvation.  Action is required.  One must submit to God’s righteousness.  This is Free Will, a choice, and man’s responsibility to choose Christ.

The law ends for the believer in the sense that our obedience to the law is no longer the basis for our relationship with God. The law has not come to an end in the sense of no longer reflecting God’s standard or no longer showing us our need for a Savior.

“Christ did not come to make the law milder, or to render it possible for our cracked and battered obedience to be accepted as a sort of compromise. The law is not compelled to lower its terms, as though it had originally asked too much; it is holy and just and good, and ought not to be altered in one jot or tittle, nor can it be. Our Lord gives the law all it requires, not a part, for that would be an admission that it might justly have been content with less at first.” (Spurgeon)

“End” can be translated as “culmination”.  The Greek word (telos) can mean either termination, cessation or goal, culmination, or fulfillment.  Here fulfillment fits best.  Christ is the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17) in the sense he brought it to completion by obeying perfectly its demands and prophecies.  We are no longer under the law (Romans 6:14) but it still plays a role in our lives.  We are free from condemnation and liberated by the Holy Spirit to fulfill its moral demands (Romans 8:4).

Righteousness is the righteous standing before God that Christ makes available to everyone who believes.

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 17, Day 2: Romans 9:30-33

Summary of passage:  Israel has been denied righteousness because they pursued it by works.  The Gentiles were granted righteousness because they had faith.  This is all according to God’s will.

Questions:

3)  Israel tried to earn righteousness by works and were denied.  The Gentiles had faith and were thus granted righteousness by God.

4)  Pursuing righteous behavior is trying to be more like Jesus, obeying God’s calling and His rules.  Only God can grant us righteous standing.  That is, only He can tell us if our behavior is right or wrong and give His stamp of approval or not.  We cannot make ourselves righteous before God.  Faith is what we need to be granted righteousness.  Faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior.  Without faith all you do is meaningless.

5)  A crucified Savior–Jesus Christ.  The fact Jesus died for our sins and his death covers our sins and saves us and thereby accepting this fact you are saved eternally.  Simple concept.  Hard to accept in its simplicity.

Conclusions:  Paul’s conclusion to Chapter 9, saying faith is the way to righteousness, not works, no matter who you are.

End Notes:  Israel missed the Messiah because they refused to come by faith.  The Gentiles found righteousness even though they weren’t necessarily seeking it.  Israel tried to work for the righteousness of God and couldn’t find it.  The Jews tried to justify themselves before God by performing works according to the law of righteousness instead of the righteousness of faith.  The Jews needed to seek righteousness by faith.

Paul does not use God as an excuse here and His right to choose.  Nope.  It’s all on the Israelites; they did not seek it by faith.  This is Paul presenting the problem from the side of human responsibility and not from the side of God’s right to choose.  Both are responsible for Israel’s unsaved state.

Israel was rejected because she failed to obey her own God-given law, which in reality was pointing to Christ.  She disobeyed, pursued the law–not by faith but by works–failing to believe.  Hence, God rejected Israel.

Paul has already shown in Romans that the only possible way to be saved is through faith, not the works of the law; and that this salvation comes only through the work of a crucified Savior – which was a stumbling block to Israel (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 12, Day 5: Romans 7:21-25

Summary of passage:  Man’s nature cannot help but sin (a war between the mind and the body/flesh) and be a slave to sin.  But through Jesus Christ we are rescued from sin’s power.

Questions:

11)  He’s very distressed.  He feels powerless (“wretched”), desperate, and overwhelmed like we all do at times at his inability to overcome sin.  He probably feels tired from the constant battle of mind and flesh.  We should feel the same: crying out against our self and unto God.

12a)  Jesus is the answer.

b)  As we’ve discussed in depth this week, the law pushes us to sin more as it’s our desire to break rules.  Jesus is the only one who has the power to overcome our nature.  Otherwise, under our own power, we are helpless to live in sin.

13)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Sin is always in my life and I feel like all my prayers to overcome sin are desperate.  I perpetually pray to have less of a temper and to soften my words towards others when flippant, indifferent answers arise.  The prayer is simple:  Jesus, give me your power to overcome sin.  I need you.  Come and fill me and let the Holy Spirit lead the way–not me.  I can do all things THROUGH you alone.

Conclusions:  The answers to these questions are done in 5 minutes.  The in-depth study I do afterwards is hours long.  This chapter is packed with our need for Jesus.  Please take the time to dwell on what Paul is saying and to not feel helpless and overwhelmed when you sin–for as Paul states we will sin because of our nature.  Rely on Christ.  Rely on Christ.  Rely on Christ.

End Notes:  We never know how hard it is to stop sinning until we try.  C.S Lewis said, “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried to be good.”

The real self (inner self) is the one who delights in God’s law.  The impulse towards sin is a different law.

The old man is not the real Paul; the old man is dead. The flesh is not the real Paul; the flesh is destined to pass away and be resurrected. The new man is the real Paul; now Paul’s challenge is to live like God has made him.

Again, here’s the debate:  Was Paul a Christian during the experience he writes about here?  Some look at his struggle with sin and believe that it must have been before he was born again. Others believe that he is just a Christian struggling with sin. In a sense this is an irrelevant question, for this is the struggle of anyone who tries to obey God in their own strength. This experience of struggle and defeat is something that a Christian may experience, but something that a non-Christian can only experience.

Morris quoting Griffith Thomas: “The one point of the passages is that it describes a man who is trying to be good and holy by his own efforts and is beaten back every time by the power of indwelling sin; it thus refers to anyone, regenerate or unregenerate.”

Sin wins when you try to win the battle yourself.

The ancient Greek word wretched is more literally, “wretched through the exhaustion of hard labor.” Paul is completely worn out and wretched because of his unsuccessful effort to please God under the principle of Law.

Note how the great saints always speak of how bad they are, not how good.

Fun Fact:  Paul has referred to himself 40 times since Romans 7:13. In the pit of his unsuccessful struggle against sin, Paul became entirely self-focused and self-obsessed. This is the place of any believer living under law, who looks to self and personal performance rather than looking first to Jesus.

The words “Who will deliver me” show that Paul has given up on himself, and asks “Who will deliver me?” instead of “How will I deliver myself?”

“Body of death” is figurative for body of sin (6:6; 8:10) that hung on Paul like a corpse and from which he could not gain freedom.

Some commentators see a reference to ancient kings who tormented their prisoners by shackling them to decomposing corpses. Paul longed to be free from the wretched body of death clinging to him.

“It was the custom of ancient tyrants, when they wished to put men to the most fearful punishments, to tie a dead body to them, placing the two back to back; and there was the living man, with a dead body closely strapped to him, rotting, putrid, corrupting, and this he must drag with him wherever he went. Now, this is just what the Christian has to do. He has within him the new life; he has a living and undying principle, which the Holy Spirit has put within him, but he feels that everyday he has to drag about with him this dead body, this body of death, a thing as loathsome, as hideous, as abominable to his new life, as a dead stinking carcass would be to a living man.” (Spurgeon)

“Through” means that Paul sees Jesus standing between himself and God, bridging the gap and providing the way to God.”Lord” means Paul has put Jesus in the right place – as Lord and master of his life.

The last half of verse 25 is the summary of verses 13-24.  “I myself” is the real self–the inner being that delights in God’s law (vs 22).  “Slave to law of sin” is how Christians must reckon with the enslaving power of their sinful nature as long as they live–until “the redemption of our bodies” (vs 8:23).

Jesus does not take away the struggle; he only provides the victory over sin, hate, death, and all evil as we surrender our lives to Jesus and let Him live out victory through us.

Paul shows that even though the law is glorious and good, it can’t save us – and we need a Savior. Paul never found any peace, any praising God until he looked outside of himself and beyond the law to his Savior, Jesus Christ.

The law taught us what to do, encouraged us, and told us sin was our problem.  But it couldn’t save us–only Jesus can.  He is the answer!