第三章：活教会的发展: 使徒行传 和 罗马书 （Chapter 3）
Chapter 3：Growth of the Living Church: Acts & Romans
第三章：活教会的发展: 使徒行传 和 罗马书
Luke’s history of the early Church (Acts) shows how the Holy Spirit used the Gospel message to help the Church grow and spread. Much of Acts tells of the work of the missionaries Peter and Paul because they boldly preached the crucified and risen Jesus to be the Lord and Savior. Acts describes the growth of the Christian Church around the coast of the eastern half of the Mediterranean Sea, from Jerusalem to Rome. Paul’s letter to the Romans tells of Paul’s plans for carrying the Gospel message all the way to Spain. Paul hoped that the Italian believers were as strong as the Christians in Syrian Antioch. Then he could use them to help spread the Gospel to the western half of the Mediterranean Sea.
Many things in the book itself show that it was written by Luke. First of all, this work is written to continue the story of Luke’s Gospel (compare Luke 1:1-4 with Acts 1:1-2). Second, most histories describe what happened to other people. The sentences begin with the words “he” or “they.” But some parts of Acts say “we”(16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). This can only mean that the writer Luke was present during these times. Third, Luke was known as the beloved doctor (Col. 4:14). The writer of Acts uses exact medical descriptions just as he does in his Gospel.
Luke’s Purpose in Writing
Acts continues the story of the church where Luke’s Gospel left off. It begins with Jesus’ return to heaven. At the beginning of his Gospel Luke gives his reason for writing his two books of history. He tells a believer named Theophilus that other people, even eyewitnesses, had already written down Jesus’ words and deeds. But, he says, after much research he had decided to write the events of Jesus’ life yet again so that Theophilus could be certain about what Jesus did and said (Luke 1:1-4).
Luke searched out the complete story of Jesus’ to make the faith of Theophilus stronger (Luke’s Gospel). He then wrote the Acts of the Apostles to show how the Holy Spirit spread the Christian message from Jerusalem to Rome. Thousands of men, women, and children became believers through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Outline of Acts
Theme: “You will be My Witnesses”
- Introduction (1:1-11)
- Witnesses in Jerusalem (1:12-7:60)
- Witnesses in Judea and Samaria (8:1-12:31)
- Witnesses to the Ends of the Earth (13:1-28:31)
a. Paul’s First Missionary Journey(13:1-15:35)
b. Paul’s Second Missionary Journey(15:36-8:22)
c. Paul’s Third Missionary Journey(18:23-26:32)
d. Paul’s Journey to Rome (27:1-28:31)
Theme: “You will be My Witnesses”
Shortly before going back to heaven Jesus told his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”(1:8). This is a summary of the book of Acts.
The Holy Spirit, named 70 times in Acts, created faith in the hearts of thousands of Jews and Gentiles. The means by which he produced such changes were the Gospel message and Baptism. The latter is mentioned 18 times in Acts while numerous Christ-centered sermons are recorded in detail.
- Introduction (1:1-11)
The first verses of Acts connect Luke’s Gospel to his history of how the Word of God spread. It tells Jesus’ instructions to the disciples and then his going back into heaven.
- Witnesses in Jerusalem (1:12-7:60)
The first 7 chapters of Acts describe the spread of Christianity as the Gospel is preached in Jerusalem. Peter and John are the main characters.
The 10 days after Christ went back into heaven were days of preparation. A group of about 120 believers met together and prayed. Then a new disciple was chosen to take the place of Judas Iscariot. Peter, who had been forgiven for denying Christ, again became the spokesman for the Jewish Christians (1:12-26).
Ten days after Jesus’ return to heaven and 50 days after Easter Sunday, the Holy Ghost came down on the believers in the form of tongues of fire. The apostles could suddenly speak in tongues (foreign languages) without having studied them. Now they were ready to begin spreading the Gospel to all mankind.
That Sunday, Jerusalem was filled with Jews and converts from many countries. They had come to celebrate the Jewish festival of Pentecost. When a crowd gathered to see these uneducated Christians speaking in so many languages, Peter used the chance to preach. The Holy Ghost worked through the sermon and 3000 people were baptized (2:1-41).
About 20% of Acts is made up of speeches and sermons given by Christian leaders. The following points are made in most of the sermons:
- The Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled. The promised Savior has arrived.
- Jesus is the Messiah. He suffered and died, but rose from the dead, went up into heaven and there will sit in glory as judge.
- Therefore, those who hear this message should repent and believe.
Acts 2:42-47 shows us the life of the early Christian church. “They spent their time studying what the apostles taught and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread [Lord’s Supper] and to prayer.” They shared and showed love to each other, lived godly lives, and witnessed to the love of Christ throughout Jerusalem. Their religion was not a part of their life. It was their life.
The power of the Gospel soon became known to all the people of Jerusalem (3:1 to 4:31). Peter and John called upon the name of Jesus to heal a man crippled from birth. A crowd gathered to see the results of this miracle and Peter, preached a sermon. The Holy Spirit worked through the spoken word and the number of Christians grew to 5000 men plus women and children. Satan, however, did not take this without a fight. The priests who earlier opposed Christ, the captain of the temple security guards, and the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the body, had Peter and John arrested.
When their trial began Peter preached boldly that Jesus Christ was the cornerstone. This sermon so surprised the Jews that Peter and John were released. However, the Jews threatened them not to preach again. The disciples refused to be silent.
Here we have another view of the early church (4:32-5:11). But while most of the church was full of love and sharing, others only pretended. Ananias and Sapphira could not hide their sin from the Holy Spirit.
The Apostles healed in the name of Jesus. These miracles made the disciples popular (5:12-16). Yet this made the Jewish leaders very jealous, and the Apostles were persecuted (5:17-42).
The early Christian church in Jerusalem was doing well sharing the Gospel, but it also had problems (6:1-7). The Apostles came to know that they could not manage the growing church by themselves. Thus, while they spent their time on spiritual matters, seven other men were elected to take care of the other work of the church. Two of these men, Stephen and Philip, soon played big roles in the church.
Luke now tells the story of Stephen (6:8-7:60). The Holy Spirit had given power to Stephen, like many of the believers, to do great wonders among the people. This earned for him the hatred of many Jews in a local synagogue. They were so angry that they were willing to bring false charges against Stephen. When given the chance to speak, Stephen recalled the Old Testament, showing that God was a God of the Gentiles as well as the Jews. But the Jews had not welcomed and listened to God’s messengers. The angry Jews took Stephen out and stoned him to death. Thus he became the first Christian martyr. The word ‘martyr’ means ‘a witness.’ Stephen, like the other believers, witnessed in Jerusalem. As a result of his death the faithful would witness throughout the Roman world.
- Witnesses in Judea and Samaria (8:1-12:31)
The murder of Stephen started a bigger persecution of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Many of the Christians were forced to flee to areas throughout Judea and Samaria. This great evil, however, resulted in a blessing. The Christians took their faith with them wherever they went (8:1-4).
Philip, a co-worker with Stephen, is a case in point (8:5-40). Sometimes after Stephen’s death, Philip went to a city in Samaria and preached Jesus as Lord and worked miracles in the name of Jesus. Even a famous magician was converted along with many others. When word of this reached Jerusalem, Peter and John went to visit that city and helped spread the Gospel there.
From Samaria Philip was called by an angel to a desert road in southern Judea. There he met a government official from Ethiopia who was reading a portion of the Old Testament (Is. 53:7-8). When Philip showed the man that this passage referred to Christ, the man believed and was baptized. From there Philip went up the Judean coast preaching all the way to Caesarea.
So far Saul (Paul) has hardly been mentioned (7:58; 8:1, 3). Now, however, Luke tells the story of the conversion of Saul (9:1-19). This event was so important that it is described in detail two more times in Acts (22:3ff and 26:2ff). Indeed the last half of the book shows the results of this conversion.
之前扫罗（保罗）很少被提及（7:58，8:1，3）。然而这里路加告诉我们了扫罗悔改的事情（9:1-19）。这件事非常重要以至于使徒行传中还有两处也对这件事进行了详细的描述（22:3ff 和 26:2ff）。确实这部书的后半部分告诉我们了悔改带来的结果。
Peter was the leading apostle to the Jews. Saul, renamed Paul, was the great missionary to the Gentiles. After his baptism Paul preached in Damascus, spent time in the Arabian Desert, and then returned to Damascus. There he found his life in danger and had to flee the city. He came to Jerusalem and through the help of Barnabas was brought together with the other Christians.
Meanwhile Peter was reaching out with the Gospel to the people of Samaria and Judea (9:32-12:25). In Lydda he called upon the name of Jesus to heal a paralyzed man. Many accepted Christ (9:32-37). In Joppa the Lord used Peter to raise a wonderful Christian woman named Dorcas from the dead. Again many people believed in Jesus (9:38-43).
One day in Caesarea a Roman soldier who believed in Jesus (Cornelius was his name) had a vision. Cornelius obeyed the order of an angel and sent for Peter. Before the messengers arrived, however, Peter saw a vision of his own. When Cornelius and Peter met together the meaning of the visions became clear – “God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right”(10:35). In other words, God wants his Word and salvation to bring Gentiles into the church too (10:1-48). Peter explained to the Jewish believers that salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ and not earned by what we do or don’t eat(11:1-18).
By this time Christianity had spread as far north as Syrian Antioch. Here Barnabas and Saul (Paul) taught for a full year. And it was here that the believers in Christ Jesus were called Christians (11:19-30). As it turns out, it was from Antioch that Paul would go out on his missionary journeys among the Gentiles.
The spread of Christianity was threatening the Jews. They started more persecutions. The disciple James was killed (12:1-3). Peter was arrested and put in prison by Herod. However, the Lord rescued him, sending an angel to take him out of prison (12:3-19). Herod, who had caused the death of Christians, also met with the justice of God (12:19-25).
- Witnesses to the Ends of the Earth(13:1-28:31)
The last half of Acts shows the Gospel message preached to the Gentiles and finally in Rome itself. Since Paul was the most important missionary to the Gentiles, his work is described most fully.
A. Paul’s First Missionary Journey (13:1-15:35)
Paul and Barnabas were in Syrian Antioch when God called them to go on a great missionary journey among the Gentiles (13:1-3). With the blessing of their fellow Christians they set sail for Cyprus.
Up to this time Barnabas had been the head missionary, but on Cyprus Paul stood up against a magician and helped convert a Roman proconsul (13:4-12). From that point on Paul seems to have taken over the leadership.
From Cyprus the missionaries traveled to the coast of Asia Minor (today western Turkey). Here John Mark left the missionaries and went home. Crossing the coastal mountains, the Christians walked to a city also known as Antioch (13:13-52). There Paul preached to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles. This was to become his normal method of bringing the message of Christ to Gentiles. But as so often would happen, most of the Jews rejected Jesus, while many of the Gentiles believed.
After a troubling affair in Antioch, the missionaries went to Iconium, then to Lystra and Derbe (14:1-20). In Lystra Paul called upon the Lord to heal a lame man. As a result of this healing miracle the Gentiles tried to honor Paul and Barnabas as gods. The Christian missionaries would not allow this. Also in Lystra the Jews tried to kill Paul with stones and left him for dead. There would be many other stories like this before Paul was finally martyred.
From Derbe the missionaries went back through Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch and finally arrived home safely in Antioch of Syria (14:21-28). Paul’s first missionary journey had come to an end.
What happened on this first missionary trip soon happened through the whole Christian church. More and more Gentiles were coming into the church. Two questions came up. What is necessary for a person to be saved and to enter the Christian church? Peter, Paul, and Barnabas said this happens by faith in Christ alone. Certain Jewish Christians, however, had a different answer. They said that to become a true Christian a person must first be circumcised and obey the Laws of Moses as well as have faith (15:5). The second question was this: Could Jewish Christians eat together with Gentile Christians.
At this same time, these same problems were being discussed in the churches which Paul had just started in the province of Galatia. The church in Jerusalem wanted these issues settled for their own peace of mind. Therefore an apostolic council was called in Jerusalem (15:1-35). It was probably just before leaving for the council that Paul wrote a sharp letter to his newly founded churches. We call this letter Galatians. In it Paul answers the questions. In Jerusalem Paul and Barnabas explained how salvation had come to the Gentiles without their obeying the Jewish laws. James, the head of the Jerusalem believers, then decided that Jewish laws should not be forced on the Gentiles. At the same time he demanded that Gentiles should not offend the Jews or sin. They wrote down this decision in a letter.
B.Paul’s Second Missionary Journey (15:36-18:22)
Paul’s second missionary journey began with a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas (15:36-41). As a result Paul teamed up with Silas and traveled by land to Derbe and Lystra. In Lystra Paul met a young man named Timothy. He now became a member of Paul’s missionary team (16:1-5).
The team then decided to move on to Ephesus, but they were stopped by the Holy Spirit. They then tried to go north, but again God said, “No.”So they went west to Troas. There, in a vision, Paul saw a man from Macedonia asking for help. Paul decided to go there (16:6-10). Verse 10 begins: “We got ready at once to leave for Macedonia.”. It seems that Luke joined Paul at this time.
Once in Macedonia Paul immediately went to the city of Philippi. There Lydia was converted and she and her household were baptized (16:11-15). Sometime thereafter Paul cast a demon out of a girl, and that started a small riot. Paul and Silas were beaten and put in jail, but God caused their release and the conversion of the jailer and his family (16:16-40).
From Philippi the missionaries went to Thessalonica. There Paul preached for about a month. Many were converted but many more rejected the Gospel. Paul had to flee for his life at night (17:1-9).
Paul next started a church in Berea. Soon, however, some of the Gospel’s enemies from Thessalonica came to Berea and made trouble. Paul left for Athens while Timothy and Silas stayed behind (17:10-15).
While in Athens Paul worked hard to bring Christ to the people there. Not many were converted (17:16-34) and no congregation was started there.
Silas and Timothy joined Paul in Athens. But Paul then sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to gather news about the Christian church there (1 Thess. 3:2). When Timothy returned to Athens and spoke of the Christian’s faith and love, Paul sat down and wrote what we know as First Thessalonians. Paul then went on to Corinth. Perhaps a month or two after arriving, Paul found out what was happening in the church at Thessalonica. He then wrote Second Thessalonians to give them a proper understanding of Christ’s second coming.
Paul worked in Corinth for 18 months and a church was started there. Again Paul was persecuted for his teaching (18:1-17).
Leaving Corinth Paul made a quick stop in Ephesus and then went to Caesarea and Jerusalem. Finally, he returned to Antioch (18:18-22).
C.Paul’s Third Missionary Journey (18:23-26:32)
The early part of Paul’s third missionary journey is told in a very few verses (18:11-13; 19:1). Paul traveled 1500 miles and visited many of the churches he had started.
Paul spent most of his third tour at Ephesus. There Priscilla and Aquila, whom Paul had taught at Corinth, met a Jewish preacher named Apollos. They shared more teachings about Jesus with him (18:24-28). Luther thought that Apollos wrote the Letter to the Hebrews although we are not sure.
Paul preached in Ephesus for many months. His message was received by some but totally rejected by others. Even his miracles did not convince all the people (19:1-22).
While Paul was in Ephesus he received word that things were not going well in the church at Corinth. Paul gave them advice in his First Corinthians.
After a riot broke out in Ephesus (19:23-41) Paul moved on to Macedonia (20:1). There he wrote his Second Corinthians.. Soon after Paul traveled on to Greece (20:2-6). While in Corinth Paul wrote Romans.
After his visit to Greece and Macedonia, Paul decided to return to Jerusalem. On the way he stopped in Troas where he preached all night. Eutychus fell asleep and died after falling out a window. The Lord worked a miracle through Paul and the boy was revived(20:7-12).
The Holy Spirit was calling Paul to Jerusalem, where the apostle felt he might be killed. Yet Paul hurried on toward the Jewish capital (21:1-16). First, however, he stopped near Ephesus to say goodbye to his friends (20:13-38). Paul had spent three years preaching the name of Jesus among the Ephesians.
There were problems in the Jerusalem church. Some Jewish believers still felt they had to obey the Laws of Moses. Some thought Paul was turning his back on this kind of holy life. To end such talk Paul joined four Jewish Christians in a Jewish ceremony (21:17-26).
When the time came to do this Paul went to the temple. There he was grabbed and accused of breaking the law and making the temple unholy. A mob surrounded Paul and began to beat him, but a Roman commander rescued him (21:27-32).
Paul, however, was concerned to tell the truth. He now defended himself before the Jews (21:33-22:21). When he reported that God told him to reach out to the Gentiles, the Jews shouted him down. The Romans kept Paul in prison (22:22-29).
Since the Romans did not understand why the mob was so angry with Paul, they brought him before the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin. Soon, however, those leaders were fighting among themselves (22:30-23:10). That night, Paul heard Jesus say, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome”(23:11).
It was not God’s plan that Paul would die at this time (23:12-22). Paul was taken to the governor at Caesarea (23:23-35). There he spent two years under arrest. During his time in prison Paul was examined several times: before the Roman governor Felix (24:1-27) and his replacement Festus (25:1-22), and before the Jewish King Herod Agrippa (25:23-26:32).
Throughout all of his trials Paul showed he was a bold and wise man. He had a true concern for the spiritual life of all men, even his accusers and judges.
Paul demanded his rights as a Roman citizen – to have his case heard by the Roman emperor. While waiting to be taken to Rome, Paul was under house arrest. He could receive news and visitors(Acts 24:23).
D.Paul’s Journey to Rome (27:1-28:31)
In chapter 27 Luke describes Paul’s boat trip to Rome. On the way the ship was caught in a storm and wrecked. Luke was with Paul and gives a complete description of these events. Through all the danger Paul was comforted by God’s promise, “Take courage . . . you must also testify in Rome”(23:11).
After spending three months on the island of Malta (28:1-10) Paul, his fellow Christians and the soldiers got on another ship and sailed on to Italy. The Christians in Rome had read the letter Paul had wrote to them years before. Now they came far out of the city to meet Paul and bring him into Rome (28:11-16).
One of Paul’s great hopes now took place: He could begin to witness to Christ in Rome. For two years Paul waited for his trial. During that time he was under house arrest in Rome. In addition to preaching (Acts 28:30-31), Paul took this chance to write the letters which have become known as the “Captivity Letters.” These are Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians and Philippians.
At this point Luke ends his story of the spread of the Christian Church. What happened to Paul after this? It seems that Paul was released by the Romans and traveled to Spain. After that the missionary again visited the churches in Asia Minor and Macedonia. While in Macedonia he wrote First Timothy to Timothy who had been put in charge of the church in Ephesus. Shortly after this he wrote Titus to the man he had put in charge of the church on the island of Crete. Then Paul was imprisoned in Rome a second time. There Paul wrote Second Timothy and in time was put to death as a martyr.
The last verse of Luke’s story serves as a good summary of Paul’s Christian life and service. He says, “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ”(18:31).
St. Paul wrote the letter to the Romans (l:l). A man named Tertius was his secretary (16:22-23). Phoebe, who was making a trip from Corinth to Rome, delivered the letter (16:1-2). This was in A.D. 57 near the end of Paul’s third missionary trip.
Paul’s Purpose in Writing
Paul wrote this letter to believers living in Rome (16:5,10,11,14,15). Some of the members of these congregations may have been converted at Pentecost (Acts 2:10). Later, Christians from other areas, some converted by St. Paul, moved to Rome and joined the church there (16:3-15).
Paul wrote to the Romans from Corinth (compare Rom. 16:22-23 with 1 Cor. 1:14). He was planning a trip to Jerusalem to take a collection to the poor believers in that city. After that Paul wanted to do mission work in Spain but not without first visiting Rome (15:25-28; Acts 19:21).
Paul wished to leave from Rome for his missionary work in western Europe. For this reason he wished the believers there to be firmly rooted in apostolic teaching and not to be weakened by arguments.
Romans is a letter which teaches many of the most important Christian doctrines. At the same time Paul discusses several matters which might cause problems in a congregation made up of both Jews and Gentiles.
Outline of Romans
Theme: “I am not Ashamed of the Gospel”
- Introduction (1:1-15)
- The doctrine of justification (1:16-5:21)
A.The universal need for justification(1:18-3:20)
B.How the universal need was met (3:21-5:21)
- The doctrine of sanctification (6:1-8:39)
A.Freedom from sin (6:1-23)
B.Freedom from law (7:1-25)
C.Freedom from death (8:1-39)
- An unusual truth in church history (9:1-11:36)
- Guidelines for Christian living (12:1-15:13).
- Conclusion (15:14-16:27)
Theme: “I am not Ashamed of the Gospel”
The theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans is given in these words, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes”(1:16). The apostle clearly shows that he is not ashamed of the Gospel’s Person (Jesus), the Gospel’s power (salvation), or the Gospel’s promise (to everyone who believes).
- Introduction (1:1-15)
Paul begins by saying that he has been called to be an apostle in order to preach the Gospel which brings salvation. He is sure that the Gospel is working among the Roman Christians and wants to come and meet them.
2、. The Doctrine of Justification (1:16-5:21)
God uses the good news of Jesus Christ to save those who believe it. This is the main point of the first five chapters of the letter. Paul first points out the need for righteousness (being declared blameless by God through faith) and then shows how the need can be met.
A. The Universal Need For Justification(1:18-3:20)
People everywhere need to be right with God (1:16-17). This is also true for the Gentiles (1:18-32). Their sinfulness and worship of false gods show their rebellion against God. God’s Law condemns all such people.
The Jews are no better than the Gentiles. The Gentiles have not listened to the voice of consciences. The Jews have gone against God’s word to them in the Law of Moses (2:1-29). “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew . . .”(3:1). Paul says the Jews are blessed to have God’s written Word, but that will not help them if they still are guilty before God (3:1-8).
Thus, neither the Gentiles nor the Jews are of themselves righteous before God. The written Word of God given to the Jews makes this point (3:9-20).
B. How the Universal Need Was Met (3:21-5:21)
Paul has first shown the universal need for men to be righteous in God’s sight. Now Paul shows how God answers this need. No one can become righteous through the law. Instead, righteousness comes only through faith in Christ Jesus. God has freely made it possible for man to be at one with him (atonement) through the saving work of Jesus (3:21-26). Therefore, all credit for salvation goes to God (3:27-31).
It is always true that “a man is justified by faith apart from obeying the law”(3:28). It was even true for Abraham (4:1-25). Abraham was saved by his faith and not by his works. This fact was established before he was circumcised, which shows that faith saves both those who are circumcised (Jews) and those who are not (Gentiles). Thus Abraham can be called the father of all believers from every ethnic or national background.
Through faith a person can be at peace with God. This coming to peace (reconciliation) produces joy and the hope of glory even when someone is still suffering (5:1-11). This is all because of Jesus Christ, who is like the first man, Adam (5:12-21). Through Adam sin and death came into the world, but through Jesus come righteousness and life
3、. The Doctrine of Sanctification (6:1-8:39)
Man’s salvation is earned by the work of Christ and we receive it through faith. What does this teaching of justification mean for how we live each day (sanctification)? Paul shows how our Christian faith gives the believer freedom from sin, the law, and death.
A. Freedom from Sin (6:1-23)
The believer is no longer a slave to sin. Christ died to pay for the sins of all mankind and then arose to a new life. When a person is baptized he receives the forgiveness of sins won by Christ’s death; and the Christian is raised to new life (6:1-14). Such a person has been freed from the slavery of sin and becomes a slave to God (6:15-23).
B. Freedom from Law (7:1-25)
The believer also no longer lives as a slave to the law. Since the believer shares in Christ’s death, the believer is freed from the law which leads to sin and damnation. Instead, he is united with Christ in living a holy life (7:1-6). The law does lead to the sin it condemns, but this does not mean that the law is responsible for our sins. The old sinful nature of man is guilty. Not man but only God can defeat man’s sinful nature (7:7-25).
C. Freedom from Death (8:1-39)
Finally, believers in Christ are freed from death. They receive the Spirit of God which gives life in the place of sin and death (8:1-8). Through the Spirit they overcome the sinful nature, become sons of God and inherit eternal life with Christ (8:8-17). All created things on earth suffer as the result of sin. But believers know for certain that glory awaits them (8:18-27). How can they be so sure? Because God has chosen to save those whom he brings to faith (8:28-30). Believers can be certain of his love. It was this love which made him sacrifice his Son in the first place. Therefore, nothing can separate the believer “from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”(8:39).
- An Unusual Truth in Church History(9:1-11:36)
Paul has given the details of how man is reconciled to (made at peace with) God through the blood of Jesus Christ. He has also shown that this means Christians can live free from the slavery of sin, the law and death. Yet Paul also knows that his own people, the Jews, have not accepted Jesus. How can this be explained?
Paul shows that this agrees with what the Scripture says. He shows there are two types of children of Abraham – those who are physical descendants and those who are his spiritual children. No promise of salvation was made to the physical children of Abraham (9:1-9). God also treats the unbelieving Jews in a just way (9:10-29). God chooses whoever he wishes to save. The Scriptures agree that God has a free will to do as he pleases. So rather than blaming God, Israel’s damnation is caused by its own unbelief (9:30-10:21). They try to become righteous in an impossible way – by trying to obey God’s Law. But they do not accept the righteousness which Jesus Christ offers them through faith.
However, not all the Jews have rejected the Gospel. God has preserved a faithful group of Christian Jews (11:1-10).
Paul also shows that the unbelief of Israel has, in a way, led to the conversion of the Gentiles (11:11-24). However the Gentiles must not become proud. God still seeks the salvation of Israel (11:25-32). Paul is amazed at this continued love of God(11:33-36).
- Guidelines for Christian Living(12:1-15:13)
Paul begins the next section of his letter with the word “therefore.” So far he had taught about God’s undeserved love for sinners. In light of this the Christians should live in a proper relationship with God (12:1-2) and with fellow congregational members (12:3-8). The love for God should be seen in every part of a Christian’s life. Christians are to conquer evil with good (12:9-21). The believer also is expected to obey the government (13:1-7) since God has put it in power. Love should guide how we act towards other people (13:8-10). This is important since the time of Christ’s second coming is not far away (13:11-14).
Paul now tells the Roman believers to live these principles in their own congregation (14:1-15:13). Since their congregation was made up of Jewish and Gentile Christians, there would be disagreements over what foods could be eaten and what festivals should be celebrated. Paul tells the Christians to think of the good of others, to be tolerant and understanding. He challenges the strong “to bear with the failings of the weak” (15:1). Above all, Paul encourages a spirit of unity.
- Conclusion (15:14-16:27)
In his letter Paul has taught basic Christian truths and applied them to life. He has called for unity among the Roman believers. Paul hopes his readers have taken this message to heart. If so, then Paul can better use Rome to help spread the gospel to the people of Western Europe (15:14-33).
Paul also greets some old friends and other Christians in Rome whom he has heard about (16:1-16). Before sending greetings from those with him, Paul once again calls for a unity based on an agreement in Christian teachings (16:17). Paul then closes with a missionary blessing (16:25-27).