They are one of the things that separates us from the animal world.

There are lots of things that separate us from the animal world. One of the most common quoted things is opposable thumbs. But primates of the animal world also have opposable thumbs it just happens that Humans have more movement in theirs than the primates and so are less dexterous than us.

From a Christian point of view a simple answer is that we are made in the image of God and nothing else is. That however might be a difficult concept for us to grasp and not really a subject I want to get into in this post. However it is all encompassing and so will probably be touched upon even tangentiality as I write this.

“cogito ergo sum” or more commonly known to the English speaking world as “I Think Therefore I Am”. What does this mean? I’m no philosopher and I bow to Descartes whom is credited with this philosophical argument from the 17th Century. But is this a term better associated to God? God calls himself “I Am who I Am” I Am. The self existent one, the self sustaining one, God is “I Am”!

But as we were created in the image of God then this self realisation, (as opposed to self existence), is part of being made in His image. So yes, “I think therefore I am” is an appropriate stance for us, as humans to take. And this also separates us from the animal world. Do animals think? I don’t know the scientific answer to that question but they do act on instinct. They are capable of carrying out acts according to pre-programmed codes inbuilt into their DNA. Take our dog as an example. It looks to all intents and purposes that at times she is thinking. About getting into the kitchen to see if there is any food available for her to eat usually, but does she think?

I imagine it something like this:

“Ah the kitchen, Karen and Glen are nowhere to be seen, I’ll just saunter in there and see what they have left lying about that I might eat!”

I don’t think so! More likely is that somewhere in her synapses it is registered that on the whole, all things good and tasty come from the room next to where her bed is and so as long as the coast is clear her stomach impulses get to dominate other impulses to her brain and she is in there like a shot looking for food, be it dog food, cat food or any tastes morsels we have absentmindedly left lying about. It’s not thought as we know it, but a set of instructions that has been implanted into her brain that makes her act in this way. How do I know this? Because every time we turn our backs she is acting on this impulse to fill her belly! No exception!

It’s instinct that drives her, nothing more, nothing less.

But mankind, we can reason, we can fathom complex problems we can make decisions based on data from the environment that surrounds us. And since the dawn of time this has been the case. And how do we do this? In the main by using what I have referred to in other posts as a ‘complex and sophisticated code’ called language. When we think we use words to do that thinking. We don’t necessarily think in shapes, colours or images although these form part of our thinking process much of the time. What we do is we think using words. Even to describe his great philosophical theorem Descartes used words; “I think, therefore I am”.

Words or language are an essential part of our being, they allow us to communicate on a very sophisticated level that our animal friends can not do. Yes animals communicate they warn each other of impending danger, a rabbit will thump the ground with its hind leg to warn other rabbits of a predator. Our cats meow, loudly, when they are hungry and the dog whimpers, incessantly, when she is hungry. They are communicating to us their state of hunger. But they are not talking to us. Language, the use of words, sounds and letters that have a syntax to them and its use, is one of the fundamental things that separates us from the animals.

And why do I think this is so important?

Because it shows our connection to our creator, God! We were created by Gods word. Check out Genesis chapter 1. I’m reproducing it here in all its glory, for glorious it is, so you don’t even have to trouble yourself in digging out your own Bible, it is that important:

The Beginning

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning–the first day.

And God said, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault ‘sky.’ And there was evening, and there was morning–the second day.

And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the third day.

And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the fourth day.

And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.’ So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’ And there was evening, and there was morning–the fifth day.

And God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’

So God created human beings in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’

Then God said, ‘I give you every seed- bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day. (NIV). (My emphasis)

Notice in the account of creation God Almighty spoke and it was so. You, me, this world, go on take a look around you reach out and touch something, all this matter was created because “GOD SAID”. Eleven times God spoke and after only eleven “God said’s” this whole vast array that we call Creation came into existence. You see words have power. Words are powerful. Words can heal, words can harm, these aspects of language are a study in themselves and the Bible has much to say about that. Maybe in another post I will take a look at this aspect of words, language and how we use them, but for now I want to concentrate to how significant words and language are to us as Humans.

God communicates to us in many ways but mostly through His Word. The Bible. Even when He communicates direct, God speaks. There are so many examples in The Bible of God speaking direct to people. Today we hear testimony of people whom God has spoken to directly. In my own experience I have heard God speak to me and I am sure those of us who believe, hear God speak to us on a regular basis. You see, we are created in Gods image for his good purpose and the rest of creation exists, inter alia, to glorify Him.

God perhaps more then anyone knows just how important words and language are. This ability that he gave to Mankind, in His image, is central to our abilities and progress as a species.

Let me explain.

At the Tower of Babel mankind in its entirety could speak to each other with one language. We don’t know what that language was, some speculate it was Hebraic in nature but the truth is we don’t know. What we do know is that it was powerful. Check it out here:

Genesis 11:1-7

The Tower of Babel

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’

But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower they were building. The LORD said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’ (NIV)

See that? God said “if as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” (NIV, My Emphasis).

Wow! Do you see now the importance of language, how anything we compare it too, like our cats and dogs attempts at communication, pales into insignificance. Why? Because we are made in Gods image! I can not emphasise this too much or too strongly. Words, language, speech, the written word, is vital to an understanding of our place in the great scheme of things.

And what of today? We live in a world that is shrinking. Communication is instantaneous. When I notified you about this blog post, I hit send on my email client and without so much as a delay a server somewhere in the world told another server that you had a new email. The only real delay in that line of communication is how often you check your emails. Social media via apps is probably even more instantaneous!

At the beginning of the information technology revolution, when I was “nowt but a wee lad” I remember watching Tomorrows World on the BBC. how many things did that programme get wrong eh? But one thing that it got right was that information and communication was the future. How has that turned out to be correct. Ask anything and if I don’t know the answer, I know a search engine that can help me find it. I don’t even have to boot up my computer anymore, I flip the cover of my iPad (other tablet systems are available) and within seconds I can ask a question and get an array of answers. It truly is amazing.

However, we still speak many many different languages today, a result of the Tower of Babel incident. But, and this is an important “but”, communication between people of different nations is easier than ever before. English, mostly in its guise as an Americanised language, is almost universal. Where it isn’t spoken translations are easy into people’s native tongues, and visa-versa. You can even log onto websites that with varying degrees of accuracy will translate documents and web pages form one language to almost any other language that you can think of.

What does this point to? Well there is an oft quoted verse in Daniel which talks about people going here and there to gain knowledge (see Daniel chapter 12 vs 4). This is in the context as a sign for the end times. So here we are, blissfully communicating, travelling, sharing knowledge and information in quantities and of a quality never before possible to the extent that it is now. I find it interesting that it is this apparent breaking down of language barriers that has enabled this. Giving words a power, giving communication a force that maybe has not existed since The Tower of Babel. In deed, re-read the passage in Daniel. Notice how it says that when this increase in knowledge occur’s there will be trouble like nothing seen since the beginning of nations. Now there has and continue to be some terrible things happening across the world and obvious example being 6 million Jews exterminated in the middle of the last century. There are many, many other atrocities that have taken place, yet the Bible talks about troubles that are so bad that have not been seen since that event that caused God to come down to Earth and confuse our languages and so beginning the formation of Nation states. Perhaps something to think about?

Finally, I want to make one last point about “Words” and their importance.

Yes, God spoke creation into existence by the power of His spoken word.

Words separate us from the rest of the animal creation and singles us out as being created in the image of God. When we work together in harmony without any language barriers we are, as a species, quite a force to be reckoned with, and in our fallen state that is not a good thing.

So what is the answer? Well, John in opening his Gospel links us right back to the dawn of time and even further back into eternity past (if that is not an oxymoron, which it probably is, but I’m sticking with it anyway). how? Read on:

John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

You see Jesus is The Word. He, Jesus, was with God, was and is God and made all things. You see, Words, communication, speech, the exchange of complex ideas, all these things are embedded in Gods nature and He wants to share this with you and with me. But most of all He wants to communicate that His Word, in the person of Jesus Christ is the principle aspect of His nature that we should know about. Words, communication are so important that Jesus was and is The Word.

And the writer to the Hebrews said this:

Hebrews 1:1-3 (TNIV)

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

Shouldn’t you get to know Him then and if you already do, shouldn’t you get to know Him better?

Below are the words from the poem that is spoken in the middle of the “forever” song in the Kari Jobe concert Majestic. I reproduce it below as I think it has some powerful praise pointers:




















Copyrights acknowledged.

Romans the end of Chapter 1

Romans 1:24-32 (ESV Strong’s)

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

The end of Chapter 1. What we need to remember is that the chapter divisions and verses within them are somewhat artificial as it allows us to navigate ourselves through the bible which otherwise would be nigh on impossible to find what we are looking for. So Chapter 2 continues the narrative through to the end of the book. After all Romans is an Epistle, that is just an old fashioned word for letter with an emphasis on religion instruction. So in a sense like a letter that you might write to a friend or a loved one it should be read through (everyone should read through the epistles from start to end on occasion just to get a feel for the intentions of the writer if noting else), but in this post we will be looking at the last few verses of this chapter and to say the least they are potentially the most challenging verses in the chapter.

Lets remind ourselves of some basic things here. Paul was writing to both Jewish converts and Gentile converts to The Way (The name given to Christians in the early days of the Church). Paul is developing his arguments in these opening verses. He has been making the argument that no one is without excuse for at least not recognising that there is a creative person behind why we are here at all. He is making an argument that mankind has chosen to replace the living creator with things of mankind’s own making, graven and carved images and even worshiping the creation as opposed to the creator, itself (sun and moon worship are well know forms of paganism).

Through this rejection of the creator we see Gods eventual reaction and God gives mankind exactly what he wants.

There is a phrase “be careful what you ask for” that in some sense sums up these last few verses of Romans 1 but I am getting ahead of myself.

From verse 24 Paul moves onto the unrighteousness of men. The verse discussed in the earlier post are largely about ungodliness. Immediately Paul delves into sexual sin that mankind fell into through his rejection of Creator God by the worship of the creation. And this sexual sin is referenced through the “dishonouring of their bodies”. The first thing that this teaches us is that there is an innate dignity in our bodies. This puts to bed any theology that makes the material world unimportant. If there was no innate value in our material bodies then there would be no worries about dishonouring them. But what we see here in Pauls line of reasoning is that there is a dishonouring and it was as a result of mankind turning his back on his Creator.

Idolatry, that is worshiping graven images, these kind of things, may, especially to our western minds, seem like trivial things, unimportant things, but Paul shows us that it was exactly these things that led mankind into states of depravity. What we have to remember is that idolatry in the modern world takes on many different forms, money, fame, success, sex, these can all become idols in our lives and so many other things. In simple eras anything that takes the place of God in our lives has become an idol.

But back to our text, Paul then expands on the result of this idolatry and in essence talks about lesbianism and homosexuality. Note the assumption here is that the natural relationship is a man and a woman. This assumption by Paul comes form his earlier assumption in the passage that the cosmos in its entirety was created with purpose and thus certain things go “naturally” together whilst other things do not.

Note, Pauls conclusion here is not one of explicit condemnation but one of acknowledging that God in His sovereignty “gave men up” to their passions. The image here is one of a parent repeatedly telling their child not to touch the hot fire, why? Because the parent knows better, the parent knows that if the child touches the hot fire they will get burned and hurt and it will cause injury and pain and suffering. And this is where such pictures or metaphors have their limitation. Imagine if that parent “gave up” that child to allow it to do what it wanted? The result would be pain, injury and suffering. All parents eventually have to give their children up to allow them to make their own decisions. It is maybe one of the hardest thing we have to do as parents, and whilst this is not the reason God gave up man to his own desires, (we do it as parents because our children do need move into adulthood, God did it to mankind because basically mankind kinda “nagged” him to by his constant disobedience and rejection).

The discussion that is needed however is how should we as Christians react to homosexuals especially in this modern society where the LBGTQ community is making huge headway’s into the concept of normalising same sex relationships.

I think back to Jesus reaction, and after all he is our role model, to the woman caught in adultery brought to him by the men for his judgement on her actions. I have written about his elsewhere and so won’t labour the point but even though Jesus, God incarnate was the only person present in that entire situation that could have pronounced just and righteous judgement on that woman he instead decided to exercise grace.

In the account it is recorded that Jesus was writing in the dust of the ground, and I have heard many commentators and preachers suggest that this was the practice in the times of jesus of a judge writing the judgement in the dust when cases were presented to them. I think this is a fantastic image of the Judge of mankind righteously writing the legal result of her actions in the dust, but instead of exercising that judgement Jesus rather showed grace to teach us all a powerful lesson.

In all areas of our evangelism we need to build relationships with people in order that they begin to trust what we have to say. We have to love them, and show them the Love of Jesus through our actions and attitudes towards them. I am not advocating that we endorse their lifestyle choices just as we would not endorse the lifestyle choices of a persistent thief or liar or that of a serial adulterer. But we do have to meet with people of all walks of life and, as we ‘do life’ with them, God will give the opportunity to share the gospel with them.

I am not trying to over simplify this but an attitude of condemnation, an attitude of ‘hell fire’ and damnation will, I fear, in todays society loose more souls than it will win. Let’s considered others better than ourselves, lets consider the needs of others before ours whilst at the same time not compromising on the truth of the Gospel which after all is the power of Salvation.

Paul then gives us an extensive list of sins. We had a little bit of fun with these in our study group and took time out to put them in a chart ranging from something like “not very serious” to Hell Bound”. What was interesting from this activity was that amongst the group, most of the sins found themselves at least once in one of the columns ranging from nor very serious to Hell Bound. And whilst there were no right answers or wrong answers they were in a sense all right and in a sense all wrong. To read through to the end of the chapter Paul concludes that these sins all deserved death. Further he concludes that the people who practised them knew that they deserved death, the unspoken conclusion being that even knowing this they continued in them.

So how do we reconcile this? After all being disobedient to ones parents surely is not as serious as murder?

We have to remember Paul here is giving us his reasoned arguments as to how mankind found itself in the sorry state of sinfulness. But, and this is not to say that there are not a myriad of other lessons that we can learn from this passage, Paul here is talking to us about the sate of mankind apart form the saving work of Jesus Christ. He moves onto Gods plan of salvation later, but here is a description of, if you like, the world before Jesus. And we will, in later discussions, go on to all about our reaction to these sins following our salvation, but for now we leave Paul describing the sorry state of affairs where, because of our disobedience as a species, we deserve death. We have been disobedient as a species and so God has given us up to those desires and wants and the result is basically a mess. But, and we who are believers know this, God had a plan and God always retained fro Himself a remnant of faithful people so we can pause here at the end of Chapter 1 knowing that there is yes, more to come, but also that there is hope. And who could not do with a little hope in their lives?

Romans 1:18-23

Romans 1:18-23 (ESV)

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Verse 18 here opens with Pauls statement that God Wrath is revealed from Heaven. The first question we have to ask is what we understand by Gods Wrath? However before we do we have to ensure that we do not simply attribute what we perceive to be the human equivalent or wrath which many times is simply anger. We have to realise that Gos wrath is righteous and just. The wrath that we might experience as humans is but a shadow of Gods wrath and is corrupted due to our fallen nature. Thus we see wrath as a very negative thing almost without exception.

If however we view Gods earth as something that is just and righteous we see that it has two sides to it. There is of course the “anger” element within it but and this is significant, there is the “Just” element. What does this mean then? Well in short it means that depending upon where you stand in relation to God will very much depend upon your view and experience of Gods wrath. If you are a believer and have that relationship with God through Jesus Christ then Gods wrath is not something to be feared. Gods wrath has been and is and will be exercised on your behalf. Why? Because you are a child of God, you are justified through the works of Jesus Christ you are adopted into Gods family. (That is not to say that God will not discipline you, that is a whole different subject that is not part of this study).

If however, you are not in that relationship with God and have rejected the free gift of eternal life offered by Jesus and His work on the cross, then Gods wrath is a thing to be feared above all else.

One commentator (MacArthur) has identified 5 types of wrath that God exhibits:

  • • Eternal Wrath; which is Hell
  • • Eschatological Wrath; which is the Final Day of the Lord
  • • Cataclysmic Wrath; which is like the Flood in the days of Noah and the judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah
  • • Consequential Wrath; which is the principle sowing and reaping and cause and effect, and,
  • • Wrath of abandonment; which is the removal of restraint and allowing people to go their own way deeper into their sins

What we need to remember in all of this however is that the wrath of God, no matter how it is displayed is never an uncontrolled emotional outburst, but is rather a controlled display of justice and a holy reaction often only released after protracted periods of forbearance on Gods behalf.

I do not want to stretch the text too far but the phrase that “Gods wrath is revealed from Heaven” intrigues me. It s easy to see this in situations where hellfire and brimstone as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah rains down in a miraculous feat executed by God or when the angel of death visited Egypt on that fateful night and all the firstborn of any household that did not have the blood of the lamb daubed on the door posts was killed, but, it got me thinking about Jesus and His mission.

Primarily Jesus came that we might be saved through his sacrifice. It is often taught that on the cross the earth of God was poured out upon Jesus in response to the sins of mankind. In response to your sin in response to my sin! But yet, Jesus had led a righteous perfect life. The only man ever to have done so. And so here we see Gods wrath, revealed from Heaven in the person of Jesus Christ and His mission to come and save mankind. So there is a sense that even in Jesus’ life Gods wrath was revealed from Heaven because it required the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God in order to achieve the righteous justice in order for our relationship with God through Jesus to be restored.

This wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. It is easy to simply skip over these two terms and see them as meaning the same thing or as interchangeable terms and that Paul is using them both to drive home the point. There is an element of truth in this, but if the rest of the chapter is read very carefully it can be seen that in the verses up to 25 Paul is primarily speaking about Ungodliness in the remaining verses up to verse 32 Paul is primarily speaking about Unrighteousness.

Ungodliness then is in the main the act of ignoring God, the act of substituting something else in our lives that takes the place of God. Unrighteousness is primarily undertaking acts that make us “not right” with God. We will look at this in more detail in the next post when we study verse 24 – 32. The remainder of this post will deal with up to verse 23. Suffice it to say that by our “unrighteousness” we too can suppress the truth about God which leads us into ungodliness.

Paul makes an appeal to the history of the OT in the next few verses. For those of you who know their OT, you will know the story of Adam and Eve and how they fell and the rapid decline of mankind following their disobedience to God simple command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil. The first sign of that decline? They realised their nakedness and hid from God, then they diverted attention from what they had done, Adam saying it was Eve who gave him to eat of the fruit and Eve in turn trying to blame the serpent! Not exactly a lie, but certainly a using of the “truth” in a vain attempt to divert the gaze of a righteous God away from themselves.

The next big this we read about is a murder! Cain slaying his brother Abel because he was jealous of him. In short it went rapidly down hill from there.

Before long, part form a small remnant, we see mankind turning to idolatry using carvings of wood and stone and probably whatever materials were available to them to creat images of “gods” of either their or of Satans and his minions inventions. They ignored the Glory of the Creator God. They Ignored the “Evidence of their Eyes” that was clearly displayed in the creation and they decided to worship the graven images that they had created themselves.

The psalms talk about the heavens declaring the glory of the Lord. For those of us who live in urban areas we often miss this. I recall spending a weekend in the middle of the Derbyshire Dales National Park and looking up into the sky and seeing the Milky Way with my own eyes for the first time ever in my life. I look up now, and even though I now live in God’s own country (Yorkshire for those of you who don’t know this), it is difficult to see that display of Gods creative glory.

But even through the endeavours of scientists, many of whom would classify themselves as atheist we see pictures from things such as the Hubble Space telescope of distant galaxies and stars and nebulae and what we see in the narrow band of the electro attic spectrum that we call light, is beautiful beyond description. When the clever people who know about these things use infrared and ultraviolet and x-ray detectors we discover hidden worlds that are beyond human imagination. The heavens do truly declare the glory of the Lord!

Psalms 97:6 (ESV)6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.

And this is just one aspect of the creation. Look at the beauty of the world in which we live, look at the sky, the mountains, the rivers the vast oceans, the polar caps, plan life animal life, the eco systems the intricacies of how fauna and flora are interdependent on one another; these do truly display Yahweh’s eternal power and divine nature as stated by Paul, as a species, we are truly without excuse. And yet, back then, in the dawn of creation, during the time after the establishment of the nations, during all of Israels history, through to the birth of the early church and over the past 2,000 years and I woulda True at an accelerated rate since the time of the supposed “enlightenment” we have on the whole become futile in our thinking! (Vs 21).

This word futile is used only once in the NT and it means to be rendered worthless, vain (as in a waste of time etc), empty, foolish. The scarcity of its use in a sense rams the message home even harder, that Paul was as it were searching for a term that was powerful in its description, one maybe that was so strong it didn’t get used very often. (I don’t know this for a fact, but it seems this way to me).

How does this reflect our society today. How much do we hear about fake news, we hear falsehoods proclaimed from high office, we watch banal programmes on TV of people seeking their 15 minutes of fame, or even worse their 5 minutes of notoriety. (the state of being famous or well known for some bad quality or deed).

The result, which is as true today as it was in Pauls time, pursuit of these empty futile things renders us with darkened hearts. We become selfish, self centred, gossips, heartless, haughty, malicious, we covet things more and more and more, we become boastful, and worse…………. (read to the end of the chapter don’t take my word for it, see what Paul had to say).

Verse 22 rings true to me today as much as it ever has rung true, who, but mankind has become wise in their own opinion and yet the reality is we have become fools.

(Psalms 14:1 (ESV)

1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.

The rise of “the new atheists is the epitome of this. It is as though nothing has really changed and in a sense it hasn’t. Mankind is still seeking to find a reason to forget God. It’s just that now it is easier to simply claim that God does not exist. That we are the product of Time +Matter+Chance. What has changed is our sophistication as a species. Scientist us complex calculations and predictions and on occasion simply blind us with science. But sophistication and intelligence does not equate to wisdom. Exercising wisdom, in particular Godly wisdom is the exact opposite of foolishness. Paul declares that the foolishness of God is superior to the wisdom of man in every way (my paraphrase). So yes there may be things that we can not explain but science whilst it will answer many of the how questions as time goes on it will never be able to answer they why questions. We need a revelation from God for this.

The sad fact is, that as we travel down this route as a society in general, it becomes darker. As Paul said take God out of the equation and our hearts become darker. It’s a slippery slope that we are on.

Go re-read Romans 1 verses 18-23 again and as you do think of what you know already about society, the world view of none Christians, and society in general and be amazed at how accurate Paul is in his descriptions. It was Solomon who, when in a state of despair stated “ there is nothing new under the sun”.

Romans 1:16-17 I am not Ashamed!

Verses 16 – 17

  • Romans 1:16-17 (ESV)

  • The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

  • 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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

  • Our last study form Chapter 1 of Romans concentrates on the last two verse. Verse 16 within Christin circles is probably a very popular one. Pauls assertion that

    “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for Salvation to everyone who believes,”

    It is a powerful declaration of the gospel message and contains much that can feed us spiritually.

    Let’s look first at the concept of shame. In todays western society it seems that there is not much that shames us anymore. The reality is, that even in Pauls day, the debauchery and sinful ways of life were not to dissimilar to modern society and our studies in Romans will expose some of that as we move on.

    But there was one way that is significant that was considered shameful and it relates directly to our faith.

    The Romans had very little in their culture that was original, they stole the Greek gods that they worshiped, they renamed them but essentially they took the Greek mythology and adopted it into their culture. And they adopted the worst form of torture and execution that to that time had been dreamt up by man and that was crucifixion . It was the Medes and Persian before them that had developed this form of execution as a means of state execution and for none Roman citizens the Romans adopted it as their ultimate deterrent. It was considered a most shameful way to die and would cast a shadow over the surviving family members. Often victims were hung on the crosses naked after having been ridicule led and tortured beforehand. The very nature of the act of crucifixion was highly public. Whilst the height above the ground of the crosses may not have been as high as those we see on modern dramatisations of crucifixions there was clearly an act of lifting the victim up higher than the height of the onlookers. Also as we see in the case of Jesus the executions were undertaken in public places and in Jesus case on a hill just outside the city walls.

    Maximum pain, maximum humiliation maximum exposure all added up to a most horrendous end for any victim.

    In addition to this, for the Jew they would be mindful of Deuteronomy 21:22-23:

    22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. (ESV).

    Not to sound too irreverent about it but it was a double whammy for a Jew to be crucified. There is an extra level of curse from God himself for anyone hung on a tree. The law of Moses is not explicit about what is meant by the term hang and in our western minds we might immediately think of execution by hanging or suicide, but to the first century Jew crucifixion fell into the definition of been hung on a tree!

    The Church was relatively small still, the Romans still worshiped their multiplicity of Gods and Caesar worship was on the rise and politically, socially and morally to be a member of “The Way” would have put you on the fringes of society.

    Bearing in mind the social/political context, Paul sweeps in with this amazing statement of faith:

    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 other wringing Paul talks about the cross of Christ been a stumbling block to the Jew and a folly to gentiles in other words secular society struggles with the logic, the message and the wonder of the cross and its implications for us.

    Paul was nailing his colour well and truly to the mast in this statement because it undermined Roman rule and it undermined the Temple system of the Jews who saw salvation only in the Law of Moses. Paul could easily and eventually was executed for his faith, but that end did not prevent him from proclaiming very publicly what the cross meant, who Jesus was and why salvation is by no other name than the name of Jesus.

    Paul here is declaring also that the Good News of Jesus (the gospel) is the power fo God! Mediate on that a while. Jesus was crucified, he was beaten, he was ridiculed, and here Paul is saying this is the Power of God. Its not found in the Law, but it is found in the person of Jesus! And it is the power fo God for the biggest single problem that our planet faces. The earth faces many problems most of them of mankind’s making, but the worlds main problem, even though it is not recognised by many, is the need of salvation. The need to enter into a relationship with creator God. The need to have our sins forgiven on a personal basis, not as a nation, not as a body of people in church, not as a family, but you and I individually one by one personal, intimate, special.

    And note how Paul clearly states here that it is for those who believe. Not those who do good works to try and earn brownie points with God. Believe that Jesus died and rose again, that Jesus is Lord and Saviour that Jesus is the answer and he will enter not your heart and transform you both supernaturally and through the renewing of your mind!

    Why first to the Jew and then to the Gentile?

    Well there is no doubt a deep theological reason in this phrase, but simply Paul is following the pattern established by God.

    God set up the nation of Israel to be a light to the nations, their mission was to be established in the Holy Land and tell the rest of the world about their God so that the peoples of the world could get to know him. So first to the Jew then to the Gentile.

    Jesus followed this pattern in that in the early part of His ministry he sent the disciples out to tell the people of the news that the Kingdom of God was upon them. But initially He instructed them only to tell the Jewish people. It was almost os if they were been given one last chance to fully understand and accept Gods purpose for them, that they might receive the Good News first. But they didn’t and so Jesus sent the disciple out to tell whoever would listen, see first the Jew then to the Gentile.

    Next we see it in the early church history recorded in Acts. Almost exclusively in the early months of the church the converts, the followers were Jewish converts to the extent that it is regularly recorded in the book of Acts that they regularly attended Synagogue still. Eventually God made it clear to Peter that the Gospel message was for everyone and he did it in a most dramatic way. In Acts Chapter 10 (go look it up) Peter receives a vision regarding clean and unclean food. If I had a pound for every sermon I have heard on this passage which extols the message that this justifies the eating of any food stuff and not just restricting us to the Levitical laws, I would be a little bit richer than I am presently, but the real message of this vision is God telling Peter that he is to go to a gentile house and tell them about Him. This results in Cornelius and his household being converted and finally the acceptance that gentiles equally with Jews can receive salvation through faith and be baptised by the Holy Spirit. So you can see the pattern, first to the Jews then to the Gentiles. For everyone!

    Finally this part of chapter 1 concludes with Paul making astounding statements of faith:

    “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith”.

    Righteousness is one of those more technical Christian terms that sometimes we can miss the point of a simple way of remembering what it means theologically is to think of it a “rightness”, being right with God. Gods righteousness stems for his very being he is righteous by definition all His acts, all his words are by definition righteous and we see that righteousness through revelation according to Paul here. But what does Paul mean by from faith for faith?

    The writers of the Old Testament exercised faith, the writing of the Law was undertaken in faith the promises revealed fo the coming saviour right back in Genesis were statements of faith inspired by God, the prophets foretold many many details of the first coming of the messiah by faith and so the righteous act of Jesus’ death was revealed by faith in the OT to us believers for our faith. And simply put Pauls seals this with a quote from the OT that confirms that righteous people live by faith. Not by self righteousness that is simply hypocrisy but by having faith in God through Jesus our Lord and Saviour we were under His banner, we are part of his family, we are His children, we clothe ourselves in His righteousness.

    Before we move onto the rest of Chapter 1 take some time to meditate on this, how it impacts on you as an individual, how it should impact on you if it doesn’t quite yet impact, how it will influence your decision making and the way that you act and live out your daily life. Think on it and pray over it ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and understanding. Be blessed.

    Romans Chapter 1 Continued

    The next several verses of Romans explains Pauls longing to visit the church established in Rome:

    Romans 1:8-15 (ESV)

    Longing to Go to Rome

    8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, 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.

    So what can we learn form this. On face value it is the desires of the Apostle simply been expressed to make a visit to the church in Rome. A church, which unlike most of the other Epistles penned by Paul to church’s is one that he had no role in helping to establish.

    It is not known how the church in Rome was established, maybe from visitors to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost seeing the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and being one of the 3000 added to the embryonic churches numbers at that time, who knows it is mere speculation.

    What we do know is that there were both Jewish converts to Christ and Gentile converts to Christ. And it would appear from Pauls opening words in this section that they were quite active because their faith was been proclaimed in all the world. Just as a side note, we know that there is a degree of hyperbole in such statements. Critics would at times try to impose a literal translation on such phrases as “in all the world” and say either this was impossible as the Americas and Australia were not yet discovered. Of course Paul means the “known world” and even then he probably didn’t literally mean every town, village and hamlet, every valley and mountain top, every continental area and every island, rather, it is a figure of speech meaning, as I am sure you already know, the Rome church had a reputation. This may be obvious, but this is an easy example to use to show such literature devices that are used in the Bible. Been forewarned is been forearmed, as the saying goes.

    So the church in Rome was active. This in itself tells us something of the power of the Gospel. At this time Christianity, or “The Way” as the faith was known was a sect, a minority religion and certainly one that worried the authorities. The Romans worshipped an pantheon of Gods and even so, they were moving towards ceased worship and so anything that undermined his authority was frowned upon and usually dealt a fatal blow very early on.

    The message of the Gospel was counter-cultural because it placed Jesus on the throne of peoples lives, not Caesar. Oh how things have changed! Caesar has a salad dressing named after him, Jesus is the head of the largest single people movement the world has ever known, the church!

    So what does this passage tell us about what our attitude should be? “that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.” In these few words we see that Paul has no jealousy regarding the Church in Rome. Remember Paul is a Roman Citizen and considered to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, arguably he could have tried to claim that the church in Rome should be under his oversight. But here we see Paul praying for them and not just praying for them, but praying for them continuously. “Without ceasing” “always in my prayers” what an example for us to follow. I have to confess that all too often I speak to someone and end the conversation with ‘of course I will pray for you’. Then what do I do? Move on to the next thing be it work, shopping, cleaning, cooking almost anything but actually doing what I said that I would do. Paul here shows us an example of how our attitude should be one of constant prayer.

    And paul was praying for something that he cannot himself take the glory for.

    Pauls desire is to impart some gift to them what we don’t know exactly, a blessing, teaching, encouragement, a revelation who knows. But here is a demonstration of putting the welfare of others before your own. Paul wants to impart a gift to them. By extension the lesson for us here is to fulfil the second great commandment considering the welfare of others before our own, “Love Others as Yourself”.

    But Paul also recognises that there may be mutual benefit, he is not lording it over them, he is not so arrogant so as to consider that they cannot minister to him, it is not a one way street.

    Our relationships need to be based on this. Those we have regular contact with, our friends, family and brothers and sister in Christ all have gifts and things to impart, no one is higher then the next, we are all equal in Gods sight. Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles, the one “abnormally born” looked forward to meeting with his fellow believers in Rome not only to give to them, but also to receive from them.

    Also we need to note here that the word used in the original Greek translated Brothers in this passage, in this context also means bothers and sisters. All too often people have twisted the evidence of the biblical narrative to place women into a second place, but if the gospel accounts are read and studied carefully Jesus’ interaction with women is radical and empowering. Just some brief examples:

      The Samaritan woman at the well – according to the culture of the day this encounter was wrong on several levels; first she was a woman, second a Samaritan, third had a dubious past, and fourth had a dubious present. Jesus however treated her with dignity, respect and grace
    • The woman brought to Jesus caught in the act of adultery – Again Jesus treated this women with respect and grace and did not judge her even though He, the creator of the world was the one person present who had the authority to judge and righteously so. What is telling about this story is how the man who she was caught with in the act of adultery, was notable by his absence. The Jews dragged the woman to be judged by Jesus but somehow the man involved escaped their judgement! In spite of their best efforts she received forgiveness and grace in abundance from Jesus rather than judgement.
    • The first people Jesus appeared to and allowed to “discover” His resurrection were women go check out the gospels they all tell the story of that first resurrection Sunday morning.

    I could go on, but the reality is that Jesus treated women with respect and equally as he treated the men. There may even be a case for arguing that He treated them better, but that would have been on the basis that by virtue of the society they lived in women could not be priests or teachers in the Temple or Synagogue. There are, as far as I am aware no female priests or rabbi’s. Therefore they by definition, women can not have been in the positions of responsibility that allowed them to be criticised for their hypocrisy that Jesus so often pointed out to the Pharisees and Saducceces of the day,

    What strikes me in the final verse that this post is looking at is Pauls obligation. In the original Greek this is quite a strong word in that it can also be translated sinner depending on the context. That is not to say that Paul was committing any form of sin in relation to the church at Rome, but what is does demonstrate is the profundity with which Paul took his responsibilities seriously. I ask myself and by extension you the reader, how obligated do I feel to share the Good News of the Grace of Jesus Christ with people? All to often not obligated enough, yet when you think about the debt of gratitude we owe Jesus for what he did on the cross my apathy towards it is all too pathetic!

    Another lesson we get form this verse is to learn who Paul and by extension every believer since, is obligated to? Paul talks about Greeks and Barbarians, the wise and the foolish. Elsewhere Paul talks about there being no such thing as Jews and Gentiles, male and female, free and slave, in simple terms Paul is saying we are obligated to everyone to share the Gospel with them. Barbarians here is not a derogatory term as we would understand it, is simple referees to less educated people when contrasted with Greeks who were the epitome of the educated.

    So, we too must not distinguish who we share the Gospel with. God loves everyone we must too, even the unlovely.


    I am!

    Notes on Romans Continued

    Chapter 1 Verse 2-6

    Romans 1:2-6 (ESV)

    2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

    We see immediately that isolating a verse, as I did in the previous post is potentially dangerous. Verse 2 continues Paul’s greeting to the Church in Rome and immediately clarifies for us what the Gospel of God is. It is the promises of God (in the Old Testament). These promises were made through his prophets and were written down in the holy scriptures.

    The promises of God in the OT were/are many and varied but the golden thread that runs right through the OT right from the third chapter of Genesis is that of a promised saviour. The Jews, certainly first century Jews of Jesus’ time, were hopeful for a saviour that would be a military/political leader that would overthrow the invading forces of the Romans and give them their promised land back in terms of their own rule and autonomy. Even then some far thinking Jews of that time would likely have seen that only as Messiahs first job, the next phase would be the ruling of the nations, (maybe).

    Few had caught Gods real vision for the coming messiah. There were one or two, Mary Jesus mother maybe had an inkling. And Joseph was told that the child Mary carried was of God and so perhaps he too had an idea. Simeon certainly had an idea as it had been revealed to him through by the Holy Spirit:

    Luke 2:25-32 (ESV)

    25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

    29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

    according to your word;

    30 for my eyes have seen your salvation

    31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

    32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

    and for glory to your people Israel.”

    But on the whole the nation was pretty clueless when it came to Gods plan of salvation. The reasons for this are many and again this is something that will be touched upon in later studies as we walk through Romans.

    But we, who have the benefit of looking back and over 2000 years of biblical studies and interpretation can see clearly how Jesus was the fulfilment of so so many OT prophecies concerning the promised messiah. This is what Paul is making reference to here.

    One of my favourite NT stories is that of the disciples who, (we don’t know who they were), were walking on the road to Emmaus and the resurrected Jesus meets and walks with them. While they walk they do not realise who is with them, but talk to him about recent events and Jesus in response opens up the whole of the OT scriptures concerning the promised messiah. What a bible study that would have been!

    But again I digress. You see in these first few verses of Romans Paul is introducing some fundamental and significant doctrines.

    • God had a plan of salvation – We have established that. (Verse 2)
    • God has a Son (Verse 3) But His Son is a descendant of David (verse 3) and a descendant of God Himself (verse 4) – we will clarify the Father Son relationship in due course.
    • The bodily resurrection of Jesus
    • Paul introduces the doctrine of Grace
    • The idea of evangelism – and the fulfilment of Gods intended purposes for Israel as a nation (but again more on that as we go on). And
    • Finally here we see Paul making reference once again to the concept of been called (to belong to Jesus Christ verse 6)

    God plan of salvation, whilst clearly the driving force behind Pauls letter(s) in the context in which it is referred to here also teaches us other lessons.

    Firstly – God made promises and he kept them – We then can take encouragement in the fact that when God makes you a promise he will keep it and fulfil it. Oftentimes what the “problem” is with Gods promises is that, like His plan of salvation, His way of fulfilling them to us is far above what our minds can conceive and always so much more wonderful than what we can imagine. Israel’s view on salvation, if indeed they had any was that they were Gods chosen people and pretty much that was it. If you were born into the Jewish culture then, for those that believed in the resurrection (which the sect of the Sadducee didn’t), then you were okay and would be part of the resurrection. They had lost sight of the fact that God wanted no one to perish and that they were to be light to the nations.

    But Gods idea was bigger, better, more inclusive, and much more universal than that, and, he had a plan!

    The next really big idea that Paul introduces us to here and this is a big one, is Jesus dual nature. He was fully human – a descendant of David and he was fully divine – he was begotten of God This, Paul tells us, was proven by Jesus resurrection from the dead. And even more profoundly Paul also introduces us here to the idea that today we call the trinity. Because here in these two verses 3 and 4 we have God, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Salvation was executed by all three each with a different emphasis but each in one accord. Again we shall be making references to the triune nature of God as we go through various studies.

    Also fundamentally here is Paul’s confidence that Jesus was resurrected. A bodily, physical, miraculous, resurrection, but certainly not, absolutely not a spiritualisation of the resurrection. As we will see, even though Paul only saw Jesus after Jesus had ascended and the Holy Spirit had come and fallen on the believers at Pentecost, Paul was convinced beyond doubt that Jesus sat up and walked out of that tomb on Sunday morning after having been tortured, hung and having died on the cross the previous Friday.

    The next real, really, really big idea that Paul introduces us to is that of Grace.

    Grace, a classic definition is “unmerited favour” you receive something from someone for which you have not paid, indeed cannot pay for, something that you have not earned, indeed cannot earn, something for which even if you were “a good person” you simply do not deserve! Amazing grace. Outrageous grace.

    Paul here tells us that we as believers have received this grace. If you are unsure then pray about it, go and seek God about it, but one of the reasons people are so joyous when they “are saved” is because of this profound realisation that they have received this most precious gift imaginable, through grace. It is one of the cornerstones of the Christian faith, the concept of grace, you and I, no one ever in the whole wide world can achieve anything of any lasting worth towards God, except through the gift of grace!

    Evangelism – Does that word scare you? Are you afraid of “been called” to some distant third world country? Maybe that is Gods plan for you and indeed if it is He will speak to you about it, but Evangelism is about so much more than that.

    Look at your neighbours,

    Look at your work colleagues,

    Look at your family members,

    Look at the stranger in the street,

    Look at that person who seems to have it all together and is materially wealthy

    Look at the beggar on the street corner

    Look at your friends,

    Look at anyone who you have contact with even if it is fleeting

    The potential to share the good news of Jesus Christ is with us all day every day

    We are blessed in the UK we don’t have to go to all the nations, the nations have come to us. There are so many potential openings to share with people of other faiths. Oftentimes as well you will find that people of other faiths are actually more open to talk constructively about your faith as they at least have a concept of ‘a god’. People who have been raised in our secular god banning society who have little Bible literacy are often the most difficult to talk to because often they think they have it all sorted. Until of course, they realise that they don’t.

    But evangelism in its widest sense is not about missions and preaching but about sharing your daily faith daily with those around you. through your words deeds and actions preferring others needs in front of your own, loving others as you love yourself.

    And again Paul introduces the concept of “been called”. This time however he broadens it out. Been called isn’t just for the elite, the intelligent, the wealthy, the ones in the know (although there is a sense where this is true) but it is for everyone. Realise that you are called and as Paul says you are called to belong to Jesus Christ. Let me assure you there is no higher calling that you could wish for!

    Notes on Romans

    Imagine if you like, a sponge. Soaked with water and that as you rest it in your hand, some of the water drains out over your hand as a simple result of the weight of the sponge and water combination resting in your hand.

    The Bible can be a bit like this, it can rest in our hand and we can be blessed as the truths and challenges and blessings it contains naturally flow from it simply because it is the living word of God.

    Now think of that same sponge and the effect that tightening your grip has on it. Now the water that was previously content to stay within the sponge is forced out and your hand and most probably your wrest and lower arm are likely to be soaked as the water flows freely from that sponge but more than that, the floor beneath you hand will also be soaked wet as the excessive quantity of water that was previously in the sponge now pours down and rains onto the ground below it.

    In a similar way we can “squeeze” the Word of God and the truths and blessings and promises will flow out from its pages in an abundance that we would not have thought possible and very much like the sponge, other parts of us and our surroundings will benefit from the blessings that such study and understanding of Gods Word can bring, and even more than the water in this analogy Gods Word is Living! It will if allowed to, produce a crop of blessings and even souls into Jesus kingdom. So as I write these notes on the book of Romans it is my intention to squeeze the Word and my prayer and hope is that the blessings that are unearthed will overflow and “splash” onto your life giving you a portion of the blessing that these studies have given me.

    Of course, analogies and pictures when compared to the eternal truths that are Gods Words all eventually breakdown and in this case this analogy breaks down as soon as the sponge is squeezed so tightly and so completely that it ends up been a dried out, primitive, sedentary, aquatic, invertebrate. Whereas in contrast the Living Word of God is never “dried out”. You can go back to it time and time again and always find something new, fresh or refreshed that you have not noticed before or that hits you with a new and deeper understanding.

    A word of caution is also relevant here, our analogy does not allow a twisting of the scripture it is simply one that seeks to extract, at this moment in time, as much meaning and understanding as is possible (which I know is ultimately impossible), but to realise that there is meaning and reason in every word sentence and phrase in God written revelation to us. I will venture into the realms of “what ifs” but hope that I catch these and make sure they are clearly my own thoughts and not necessarily those of established Christendom and likewise there will be times of conjecture which again I hope to capture and clarify. But the primary aim is to feed whoever reads these words and bring all of us into a deeper understanding and relationship with Jesus as a result.

    Let’s begin in Chapter 1:

    The introduction to the Book of Romans (verses 1-7), ought to be read in its entirety but for the purposes of these notes I shall break them down into the verses that are in use today. Therefore we will be dealing with incomplete sentences and phrases but hopefully if you have the chapter open for you to refer to in reading these notes it won’t be too disjointed

    Verse 1:

    Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle set apart for the gospel of God

    It is clear from the outset that we realise who the author of this epistle is, it is Paul, formerly known as Saul, the former Pharisee who had stood and watched the martyring of Stephen (Acts Chp 8 v1). At the time of writing, Paul a Jewish convert, but Roman citizen had not managed to visit the church in Rome, even though as we find out in this chapter that he had tried but had been prevented from doing so. Paul had not planted the church in Rome, in fact we do not know who was responsible for its planting but as the capitol of the Roman Empire it is perhaps understandable why Paul would wish to visit apart form his desire to use the visit as a launchpad to take the gospel further afield even to Spain.

    Immediately we get into the verse we get a hint of Paul’s character he describes himself as a “servant of Christ Jesus.” Some translations will have to word slave or bondservant which can help us to understand Paul’s relationship to Christ and the example that it sets us in living our lives.

    Jesus was and always will, of course, be the ultimate example of the way we should live our lives, and he lived his life as a servant king. He demonstrated His Love for us by serving those around Him whilst at the same time demonstrating amazing authority such that even the wind and waves obeyed him. This brings me to another analogy. Society, in particular western society would have us live our lives in a manner that means we must get to the top, or as close to the top of the pyramid in order to be successful, fulfilled and content. Jesus economy however is quite the opposite, he famously calls that the first shall be last and the last shall be first and teaches us in so many ways to be humble and innocent preferring the needs of others to ourselves, teaching us that the second greatest commandment is to love others as ourselves, showing us through the way he lived His life that we should consider others needs before our own. In order to do this we too must become servants or slaves if you will to Christ we should bond our lives to his in such a way that His attitude to others becomes our attitude to others, that the love He expressed for the lost, the lonely, the hungry, the sick, the infirm, the widow, the orphan becomes ours. This is what it means to be a servant of Jesus Christ. The pyramid is turned upside down and those at the top should be the ones we serve and we, as His bondservants should be at the bottom.

    Paul then goes onto describe himself further as one “called to be an apostle” this raises the spectre of an interesting debate that no doubt these notes and our studies in Romans will inevitable come to the fore that of what appears to be two opposing doctrines that of predestination and that of total free will. But for now we can accept that Paul when he was Saul was called by Jesus at his Road to Damascus experience in Acts chapter 9. But what was he called to? Well according to this verse he was called to be an apostle. Many mainstream Christian denominations do not “recognise” the office of apostle in the modern church structure. This is because in the main it was accepted that there were 12 apostles and they were apostles because they had a personal encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus. Clearly Judas was not an Apostle because he had killed himself prior to the burial and resurrection of Jesus. But the remaining 11 all had encounters with Jesus after His resurrection from the dead. Early in the Book of Acts the story is recorded of the Apostles (who as far as I am aware were not called Apostles until after the resurrection), and they drew lots for Judas’s replacement in Chapter 1 we read Matthias was selected to be the twelfth Apostle:

    Acts 1:15-26 (ESV)

    15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

    “‘May his camp become desolate,

    and let there be no one to dwell in it’;


    “‘Let another take his office.’

    21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

    Now in reading this text we have Peter, the disciple whom Jesus said was to be called the rock and upon whom he would build his church (which is a whole separate study in its own right), perhaps for the first time taking the “bull by the horns” and doing something sensible, reasoned and well thought out. Notice in the above reading how Peter even relies on OT scripture in the justification of his suggestion. Peter was not just going to let any upstart from Jerusalem take the 12 disciple slot he insisted that the replacement had to be one of the people who he’d walked, fellowshipped and lived with them since the baptism of Jesus and had witnessed Jesus resurrection. So good so far. The casting of lots to help in decision making was not a new concept to the Jewish mind and again there is a whole study that is possible on this, and reference in such a study would be made no doubt to the Urimm and Thurrim stones of Aaron’s breastplate, but I digress, and to top off all this sensibleness surrounding the choosing of the replacement 12th disciple they even pray.

    It seems like all the pieces are in place a working partnership with God, sensible decisions, based on scripture and covered in prayer.

    The upshot however is that in this they were wrong. Not that they were dramatically and fatally wrong, but they did not understand Gods plan for who would replace Judas, and indeed, how could they humanly speaking. The evidence in all of this? Matthias is never spoken of again in the NT. (that is not to say that Matthias didn’t go on to do wonderful and amazing works for Jesus and that when we meet him in eternity, I am sure he will be able to fill us in, but in Gods overall scheme of things Matthias was not going to play much of a role that would be handed down through the ages).

    Rather Gods plan was that Saul the most feared and possibly hated Pharisee of the day would meet with Jesus on his journey to Damascus and come into that relationship with Jesus the one he was persecuting. He fulfilled therefore the essential requirement of apostleship in that he saw the resurrected Jesus albeit in a manner that causes him to describe himself as one “untimely born”.

    1 Corinthians 15:8-9 (ESV )

    8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

    Gods plan brought into the Kingdom the man who was ultimately to wrote the lions share of the NT outside fo the Gospels who would have thought it? Who would have dreamed it? No one but God.

    Next we move onto Pauls claim that he was “set apart” this brings us to the concept of holiness and the word holy.

    What is the image that pops into your mind when you hear the word holy? Is of men in dresses, smells, bells and holy water? Or maybe it is a devout person who seems to be in a constant state of prayer. Maybe a church building, the magnificent York Minster, or Beverly Minster or Westminster Abbey? I could go on, but is this what the word holy really mens in a Biblical context? I would say no, and it never was meant to men that. It simply means set apart, separate.

    God intentions for Israel were that they were to be a holy nation, He wanted the to be different from the surrounding nations, set apart if you like in their customs and practices, different and thus by demonstrating this separation and difference they would be a light to the nations.

    Similarly we are called to be holy. But not in some pious, “smells and bells” kind of way, but by the way we live our daily lives. Its good to have your head in your Bible regularly don’t get me wrong, but if we don’t look up and see the world around us and be moved to respond there is something wrong. To be set apart, to be holy, means that we are a part of the world we interact with it and we act, live and behave differently. To be holy therefore is not something that is unattainable, but something that is in a sense within our control. Yes of course God by His grace will help us, The Holy Spirt will prompt us to do things that are good and wholesome, to not do things that are damaging to us and others, the Word of God will guide us and be our moral compass and the fellowship of believers (church in its widest sense) will be our support and encouragement.

    And the word gospel simply means good news. What is interesting here is that the gospel is considered to be “Gods” gospel, in other places it is clearly referred to as the “gospel of Jesus Christ”. But this is where we can begin to get a glimpse of the complexity of God, (and again this is something we will return to time and time again in our studies). God or the Father clearly had a plan for the salvation of mankind. Jesus was the ‘executor’ of that plan in that He emptied Himself of all but love and died for yours and my sins. The Holy Spirit is the guarantor, the deposit made within us of the plans completeness. I short the Gospel of God is the good news that we can come into right relationship with Him we can be saved from our sinful natures and be sons and daughters of God Almighty. No wonder there are times when Paul, in his writings to the various churches and individuals moves into a stream of praise and worship written down for our benefit praising God for his mercies, Hie blessings and the marvellousness of his salvation. Words really cannot express the joy, peace and wisdom of God all we can do is try.