Study On The Book Of Romans If you would like to comment on one of the lessons simply click on the title of the lesson and you will be take to the lesson page where you will find a comment section at the bottom.

*The material for these studies is from Jon Courson’s Commentary by Thomas Nelson Inc., R. Kent Hughes Preaching the Word series by Crossway, and Warren W. Wiersbe’s Commentary by Chariot Victor Publishing,  and  from James Montgomery Boice’s Expositional Commentary published by Baker Books, and from The Message of Romans, John R. W. Stott published by Inter Varsity Press, unless otherwise noted.

Romans 13:1-7 Heaven’s Citizens and Human Government


Romans 13:1-7 is Paul’s exposition of Jesus’ remarkable saying: “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (see Matt. 22:17-21). In fact verse 7 bears some resemblance to it, beginning with, “pay to all what is owed to them.”

We must keep several things in mind as we move through this passage. First, the political situation in Rome was explosive for the Early Church. Paul was afraid some of the revolutionary attitudes of Jerusalem’s Zealots might influence the Church. So Paul wrote to instruct the Church on how to behave properly toward the state. What he writes is not ivory-tower theory, but practical directions on how to live under an unfriendly government. Second, we must realize what the passage does not tell us. It does not directly say what we ought to do when our government is committing moral wrong. Lastly, we must keep in mind that understanding and living by what is taught here will not relieve the tension Jesus gave us when He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21).

Paul begins by giving the basic rationale for a Christian’s submission to human government (vv. 1-2). The apostle gives us what we might call “the divine right of state” as he says in the last half of verse 1, “for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Despite the fact that almost every time we pick up a newspaper we read of corruption in government, we must still recognize the state as an essentially divine and moral institution. The Scriptures testify that it is God who sets up governments – even bad ones – and He takes them down as well.

Seeing that human government is created by God and that He takes and active interest in it, many Christians do not take it seriously enough. Christians too often ignore government or participate as little as possible in government affairs. Perhaps this tendency comes from the mistaken belief that when we become members of the Kingdom of Heaven we cease to be members of the secular community. This falsehood, coupled with the revulsion toward the corruption that permeates so much of government, wrongly leads believers to adopt a non-participatory mind-set. This should not be! God is the originator of government, and to ignore it is to dishonor Him. Christians ought to be the best citizens.

The Christian’s obedience to the state is always conditional, and sometimes disobedience is a duty. There are at least three areas in which a Christian should resist authority. First, if he is asked to violate a command of God. The classic example of this is found in Acts 4 & 5. The command of God always takes precedence over the command of government. There are no exceptions. Secondly, Christians must resist when asked to do an immoral act. The sexual applications are obvious, but this also extends to ethical areas in which many are constantly asked to compromise – for example, falsifying records for “security reasons,” perjury for the sake of the department, covering for subordinates by means of falsehood. Christians must never think it’s okay to commit immoral or unethical acts simply because the state has requested it. Thirdly, believers must never go against their Christian conscience in order to obey the government. This could involve such diverse things as participation in licentious entertainment, or working in institutions that perform wholesale abortions, or working or not on nuclear weapons. Believers must never sin against their conscience.

The conclusion is this: a Christian must disobey his government when it asks him to 1) violate a commandment of God 2) commit and immoral or unethical act, or 3) go against his Christian conscience (a conscience that is informed by Scripture and is in submission to the Spirit of God). Verses 1-2 are a call to profound obedience. A profound subjection to the state is rooted in the realization of its “divine right.” With right understanding and attitude, believers should be the best citizens. This requires a profound submission to God, which may involve obedience or disobedience to the state. The committed Christian will continually experience tension in this matter.

Verses 3-4 begin a new section that portrays the basic role of government. The essential role of government is twice given in verse 4: God’s servant or deacon. Government is the deacon of God, and as with any deacon, its job is to humbly serve. The teaching here, then, is that government either wittingly or unwittingly serves God. Notice that the servant function of government is to do good – “God’s servant for your good” (v. 4a) – and that is what government does, even the worst government. At the end of verse 4 the apostle is most explicit about government’s beneficial function: “He is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” The state is given the responsibility of vengeance, a responsibility that is explicitly forbidden to the individual Christian (12:19). God’s way of dealing with evil is not by personal vengeance, but through justice dispensed by the state. As the state is faithful to its function, it does “good” to us (v. 4a). We should be thankful that it “does not bear the sword in vain,” even though it bears it imperfectly.

Thus far Paul has shown us that we are called to a profound, intelligent obedience to government (vv. 1-2) and that government is meant to serve us and do us good (vv. 3-4). Now in verses 5-7 he describes the kind of obedience to which we are called.

Verse 5 indicates the depth of obedience that is required of us. We are to be in subjection not just because we are afraid of being punished, but because, unlike the world, we understand that the state is divinely instituted and that rulers are wittingly or unwittingly God’s ministers. Christians are able to see the big picture, and thus through their informed consciences they are able to live in profound subjection. Verses 6-7 tell us how this works out practically. This is where the rubber meets the road for modern American Christians. And it was the same for the Romans. Taxes were exorbitant then too and were sometimes misspent. But the Roman Christians were to pay their taxes, understanding that government authorities are God’s servants. That is, they were to pay them with a good attitude.

Verse 7 ties the bow on this matter of obligation. As Christians we may deplore the politics of a particular person in office. We may be repelled by his scandalous conduct. But that does not disallow us from respecting the office. The person is just a human, but the office exists at the discretion of God. Even in our dissent we must always be Christian gentlemen and gentlewomen.

In conclusion, it is the Christian’s duty to obey those in political authority because: 1) government is divinely appointed, 2) it is a deacon to meet our needs, and 3) we see it for what it is. The question is, is it possible to obey in this way? Through Jesus Christ we can live out our duty to obey as described in the Word of God. We can also fulfill our duty to disobey when it is the will of God to do so.

When it became clear that the Nazis were pursuing their terrible racist policies, Pastor Martin Niemoller continued to preach the truth and as a result was thrown into prison. The prison chaplain upon visiting Niemoller asked somewhat foolishly, “What brings you here? Why are you in prison?” To which Niemoller replied angrily, “And, brother, why are you not in prison?” Jesus said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). This is a divine calling.

Romans 13:1-7 Reflection Questions:

What happens in a society when there are no properly accredited and generally recognized rulers? What examples can you give?

According to Paul in verses 1-5, what is to be the role of government? Paul describes the “ruling power” as “God’s servant” twice in these verses. How can government be a servant of God?

Read Acts 16:35-40 and 23:1-3. How can what Paul says in verses 1-7 regarding government be reconciled with Paul having no hesitation in telling authorities they are acting illegally or unjustly?

At this point in history, the Christians in Rome were considered very problematic by the Roman authorities. Why would Paul’s exhortations to the believers in verses 1-7 be important in this cultural context?

Romans 12:14-21 Love in the World


The apostle now switches his focus from love’s actions in the Church to love’s actions in the world. What we read should be interpreted from the perspective of one who is under pressure from the unbelieving world. We immediately know that a radical relationship with the world is in view from the supernatural injunction of verse 14: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” This is the radical way of Jesus as given in His Sermon on the Mount. More than speaking well of one’s enemies; it includes praying for their forgiveness and blessing. This is supremely radical. It is one thing not to curse your enemies, but entirely another to pray for their blessing. This is a life-changing call. The Arabs have a custom that (though practiced with different levels of sincerity) symbolizes what is called for here. They touch the head, lips, and heart indicating, “I think highly of you, I speak well of you, my heart beats for you.” What a way to love the world! “Bless those who persecute; bless and do not curse them.”

Next Paul commands in verse 15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Believers are to identify with the world in the ups and downs of human life, to be a healing balm for a cold world. The world is characterized by indifference, non-commitment, disengagement, no sharing or caring. Enter the loving believer – he who weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice. The believer is a tonic for life – a light leading to Christ! The call to love is radical indeed!

How perfectly this leads to the next thought: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight” (v. 16). Christians are to associate with everyone – the ordinary people, the unimportant, and the outcasts of society. Verses 14-16 call for a caring heart that is vulnerable to the world. A Christian who is an elitist, who only associates with people of the same intellectual or academic or professional interests, is not living up to what the Scripture mandates. We are to have a heart open to the world. We are to pray for those who persecute us, to enter others’ joys and sorrows, to associate with everyone regardless of their situation in life. What a way to go after the world!

In the final verses (vv. 17-21) we move into explicit counsel for loving a hostile world. This is supremely radical because it is supremely unnatural. Our conditioned reflex is to hit back. The world says, “Common sense demands getting even.” However, there is a better way, God’s way, and it has two elements. First, trust God. The apostle says: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (v. 19). We must trust God to work in the life of the one who wronged us. Leaving room for His wrath is to leave the vengeance to God, knowing also that He smites in order to heal (Isaiah 19:22). God’s wrath may one day come in ultimate judgment to those who abuse us, but His wrath may also bring enemies to repentance in this life. Whatever happens, God will be perfectly equitable. We can trust Him implicitly for this.

Second, do positive good, as verse 20 exhorts us: “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.’” Burning coals means: by doing good to our enemies, we will head burning pangs of shame and contrition of their heads that hopefully (not surely) will lead them to God’s grace. The best example of this in Scripture is the exchange between David and Saul after David had been so close to Saul in the cave that he cut off a corner of the king’s robe, but for conscience’s sake would not lift his hand against Saul even though the king was seeking David’s life (1 Sam. 24:8-19). Coals of fire were heaped on Saul’s head. Sadly, Saul never opened himself to God’s grace, but he well could have. The coals were meant to be a prelude to blessing.

We are never under any circumstances to avenge ourselves. Any plans we may have to the contrary are from the devil. Not only are we to not avenge ourselves, we are to do positive good to our enemies. Our text closes with, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v. 21). Love in the Church and love in the world go together. They are the demands of commitment. Our minds have been renewed. Our lives have been transformed. And the Holy Spirit can do all this through us. Are we loving the Church? Are we loving the world?

Romans 12:14-21 Reflection Questions:

In verses 14-21 Paul does not intend to say that believers should “go soft on evil.” Saying you shouldn’t take revenge isn’t a way of saying evil isn’t real, or that it didn’t hurt after all, or that it doesn’t matter. Evil is real; it often does hurt, sometimes very badly indeed and with lasting effects, and it does matter. What does Paul say we are to do about evil?

What happens when people do start engaging in private vengeance? How can a society make sure this doesn’t happen?

How is Christ Himself an example of living out what Paul calls for in verses 14-21?

The early part of Romans 12 (vv. 1-13) deals with what we might call the inner life of the Church. This last section (vv. 14-21) is about how Christians behave within the wider public world. How would the wider world respond to seeing the Church live out what’s described in verses 14-21?

In what specific ways can you be a “living sacrifice” to those around you right now?

Romans 12:9-13 Love in the Church


Paul begins with an all-important statement about the quality of the love that is to be in the Church: “Let love be genuine” (v. 9). The word for “love” here is agape, which to this point had been used in Romans only for divine love (5:5, 8:35, 39), except in 8:28 where it is used for man’s love for God. But here the word is used to indicate the kind of love Christians are to show to others – a Godlike love that loves regardless of the circumstances, a deliberate love that decides it will keep loving even if it is rebuffed. We are challenged to live out the highest love and to do so with the highest sincerity. Our love is to be genuine, not counterfeit.

This little statement is foundational to Christian conduct. But despite its simplicity, it is not easy to put into practice because much of our life is shot through with hypocrisy. Our culture encourages us to live an image. We even deceive ourselves into thinking we have love for people we neglect and, in fact, do not even like. Paul tells us that we must get beyond pretense – we must sincerely love. If we claim the commitment of Romans 12:1-2, we must love without hypocrisy. This is not optional! The Scripture repeatedly sets this requirement before us (1 Pet. 4:8, 1 Tim. 1:5, John 13:35). This is a call to honestly examine our own hearts, asking the question, “Do I love others, especially those in the Church, without hypocrisy?” If the answer is uncertain, we must go to God in prayer, because the Holy Spirit is the only One who can pour love into and through our hearts (5:5).

Having established that love is the foundation for Christian action, Paul now advances his thought in verses 9-13 with several challenging specifics. First, we see love’s morality: “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (v. 9b). Some might suppose that love is soft on evil. Not so! Evil is to be hated. Sincere love demands God-honoring moral resolve regarding good and evil.

Next, Paul mentions love’s commitment in the Church: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (v. 10). The word “love” is a translation of a Greek word that combines the words for friendship love and family love. Family-type devotion to one another is more than friendship. Such love involves commitment like that experienced in good families. The natural desire will be then, as the last half of the verse commands, to “outdo one another in showing honor” (v. 10b). Healthy families have a mutual respect for one another. They defer to one another and take pleasure in the elevation of other family members.

Next Paul challenges us with love’s energetic expression: “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (vv. 11-12). The word “fervent” carries the idea of burning. Our love is to be dispensed with burning energy toward those around us. Such fervent loving calls for our best and is costly. True love labors!

Lastly, there is love’s care: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (v. 13). Our care for brothers and sisters in Christ should reach down right into our wallets and purses and cost us. Paul presents this as a privilege rather than a sacrifice because the word “contribute” is one of our great Christian words, koinonia, which suggests a common sharing or fellowship. Love’s care is natural and right and joyful! When Christ’s Church is living in love, the needs of its people are met through sharing and caring. Love’s care is exhibited when we “show hospitality.” Here we must note something both beautiful and convicting: “show” and “pursuing” or “chasing.” The word sometimes even denotes strenuous pursuit. The idea is that the loving believer does not wait for the stranger to show up on the doorstep but goes out and gets him.

Of course, this was terribly important during the early years of the Church when believers were disinherited. Today it is equally important in many parts of the world where similar situations exist. Moreover, it is important to the life of the Church anywhere. The benefits that mutual hospitality brings to the Church are incalculable: relationships enhanced, love disseminated, souls encouraged. All of us are to do this. Peter put it this way: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9). And our text in Romans says we should aggressively pursue it. Genesis 18 gives us an example of Abraham, and Hebrews 13:2 tells us, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”

Let us review what we have seen about love. Love’s quality: “Let love be genuine.” Love’s morality: “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Love’s commitment: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Think of what it would be like to see such a family love in the Church. Love’s energetic expression: “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Think of such blessed fire in the life of the Church. And Love’s care: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Romans 12:9-13 Reflection Questions:

What do you find particularly challenging in verses 6-13?

How does this chapter so far (vv. 1-13) relate to what Paul has just been talking about in the previous chapters of Romans?

Which of the “love characteristics” do you need to work on this year?

Romans 12:6-8 God’s Gifts to Christ’s Body


Paul calls the parts of the body “members.” We are those members. So the image teaches that Christians have different gifts and are to function differently from others in the use of these gifts, while nevertheless being part of the body and contributing to the body’s unity.

Charismata, the word translated “gifts,” occurs seventeen times in the New Testament; sixteen of those occurrences are in Paul’s writings. Charismata is based on the word grace (charis) and actually means “a grace gift.” It’s something given to the people of God by God or, as can also be said, by Jesus Christ. Since grace is God’s unmerited favor, the word indicates that spiritual gifts are dispensed by God according to His pleasure and that the gifts will differ. Every Christian has at least one gift, like the people who received talents in Christ’s parables. Moreover, since these are given by God, they are to be used for His glory and according to His plans rather than to enhance our own glory or further our plans. This is where the thrust toward unity comes in. Each member of the body is to work toward the well-being of the whole so that when one member does well all the others do well and when one member suffers the entire body suffers. Another way of saying this is to say that we not only belong to Christ, we also belong to one another.

There are nineteen spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament (Rom.12:6-8, 1 Cor. 12:8-10 and 28-30, Eph. 4:11, 1 Peter 4:11), but the number in not absolute. Different words may describe the same gift, as with serving and helping, and there are probably gifts that could be mentioned but are not. Seven gifts are mentioned in Romans 12:

(1) The first is prophesying (v. 6b). In the Old Testament a prophet is one who speaks the words of God. The Greek word for prophet literally means “one who stood in front of another person and spoke for him.” An example is the relationship between Moses and his brother Aaron (see Exod. 7:1). It’s the same in the New Testament (Luke 7:26-28, John 4:19). From this and other passages it would seem that the prophets were men who spoke under the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit to communicate a doctrine, remind people of a duty, or give a warning. (Acts 21:10-14). The gift of prophesy is sometimes predictive, but not necessarily or primarily. This gift is normally the communication of revealed truth in a manner that convicts and builds up its hearers. Oftentimes one who has this gift will have penetrating things to say about specific problems in society or life. One is to do this “in proportion to our faith” looking, as we saw in verse 3.

(2) The next spiritual gift is serving (v. 7a). The Greek word diakonian is the root of our word deacon. So what is spoken of here is a diaconal, or service, ministry. Does this refer to the specific office of a deacon or deaconess in the church, as in Acts 6:1-6? Yes, but not only that. In the church we are called to serve others, though some are given this gift in special measure in order to lead others in the work. We need to remember that even Jesus was a deacon in that, as He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Here the text says, “If it is serving, let him serve.” In other words, just do it! Each of us has a service ministry to perform, because each of us is called to be like Jesus Christ.

(3) Next is the grace of teaching (v. 7b). Teaching differs from prophecy in that it instructs the mind, whereas prophecy is addressed more to the heart and will. Teaching is more concerned with knowledge, prophecy with revelation. The teacher is to apply his all to this task. Probably a third of the Christians has this gift and should be using it. If you know anything about Jesus and the gospel, you should teach what you know, formally if you have the opportunity but also informally by a casual word or testimony. You will be surprised what you are able to teach others.

(4) Then there is the grace of exhortation (v. 8a). The root idea is “to come alongside and encourage.” Exhortation can take many forms – warning, advice, counsel, encouragement. It is a wonderful gift, and we are to place it at Christ’s feet and be willing to be worn out in its use. What a tremendous need we have for those who have this gift.  Many people are hurting, but there are not many helping, because we are all absorbed in ourselves and our own private affairs. We are living in a narcissistic age, another “Me Decade.”

(5) Next is the grace of giving (v. 8b). “Generosity” should be translated “with simplicity.” This refers to our motive in giving. Those who have this gift are to exercise it without ulterior motives or hidden purposes, simply out of love. This is where Ananias and Sapphira failed (Acts 5:1-10). When we give, it is to be simply to the glory of God and to meet the needs of brothers and sisters in Christ in the world.

(6) Then there is the grace of leadership (v. 8c). Those who exercise spiritual leadership in the church, whether pastors or elders or deacons or committee leaders, are not “to wing it.” Leaders should not become casual and careless but should see their abilities as divinely granted gifts and their charges as from God.

(7) Lastly, there is the grace of showing mercy (v. 8d). This gift takes many forms – aiding the poor, working with the mentally handicapped, tending to the ill. But whatever the function, it must be done with cheer. There is no room for a hangdog expression in the Church. If you have come with sympathy to sorrow, bring God’s sunlight in your face.

Seven beautiful gifts, are they not? Perfumes for the Body of Christ. If Paul’s advice were followed, think how healthy the Church would be. Perhaps God is speaking to you about your gifts. Remember, the Church did not give you your gifts – God did. They are His. Use them for His glory!

Paul told Timothy, “Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6). That is exactly what you should do. You have a gift. The rest of the Body needs it. You will be accountable for what you do with it. Use it so that one day you will hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matt. 25:21, 23).

Romans 12:6-8 Reflection Questions:

How does Paul suggest that the gifts he mentions are not just ways in which we are carried away by supernatural power but that they also involve plain hard work?

How according to Paul, might our attitude make a big difference as we express our gifts?

How can you identify your spiritual gifts?

Romans 12:3-5 One Body in Christ


Assuming we are committed Christians according to the guidelines of Romans 12:1-2, how do we who are having our minds renewed and our lives transfigured think about life as we live it? Specifically, how do we who have had our minds renewed think about ourselves and fellow believers?

In verse 3 Paul again advises us negatively and positively. First the negative: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…” (v. 3a). The language here is alive. If we were very literal, we could render the phrase, “I say to everyone, do not super-think of yourself,” Or perhaps “Do not get hyper about yourself!” Perhaps Paul knew of some individuals in Rome who thought they were better than others. Whatever the case, thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to think is a universal tendency of the human race. Our Adamic nature loves to overthink about itself.

How then are we to think about ourselves? Paul gives us positive advice in verse 3b: “think [of yourself] with sober judgment.” Instead of super-thought there is to be sober thought. Paul continues, “according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” This most important phrase has often been given the misleading interpretation that sound judgment comes in proportion to the degree of our faith – if we have strong faith we will think rightly of ourselves. However the word “measure” should be translated “standard.” The idea is that God has allotted to each believer a standard of faith by which to measure himself – and that standard is Christ.

Paul is not asking the believer to estimate himself according to changing subjective feelings, but to examine himself according to his relationship to Christ. When one sees that Christ is the standard of measurement, he will not think of himself more highly than he ought, but will rather think of himself with sober judgment. It’s impossible to think more highly of ourselves than we ought if we are sound on this point. If we truly make Christ our standard, we will experience the reality of the beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).

From thinking rightly about ourselves, we move in verses 4-5 to thinking rightly about fellow believers. Here Paul, a master illustrator, gives us a wonderfully mystical conception based on the human anatomy: “For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” The word “as” at the beginning of verse 4 links it closely with verse 3 because when we think rightly about ourselves, with Christ as the standard, we will be able to think accurately about others – the Body of Christ.

This illustration underscores three characteristics of the Body of Christ: its unity, diversity, and mutuality. First, we will view its unity. Both verses 4 and 5 stress the one Body of which we are all members. We must emphasize that while this unity is mysterious, it is real! This is not an illustration that serves only to suggest that we should try to live in a more close-knit manner. It describes the reality that all of us are part of Christ’s Body if we trust in Him for our salvation. We share the same nature. We derive our spiritual life from the same source (John 15:5). Our unity is the subject of Christ’s prayers to the Father (John 17:21a, 22b, 23a).

Second, while there exists a profound, real unity, there is also a corresponding real diversity: “…the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one Body in Christ” (vv. 4b-5a). Without diversity the body would become a monstrosity. God’s glory is revealed in the diversity of His people. This means that as we measure ourselves by Christ’s standard we will be ourselves. Being Christ’s Body will maximize our uniqueness if we allow such. Of course we must be careful to allow others to be themselves. It is always a danger signal when members of a Christian organization or a church begin to all dress and act like the leader. When the Spirit of God is free to work in a church, there is diversity.

Finally, we must not stress this truth of diversity without grasping the balancing truth of our mutuality; we are “members one of another” (v. 5b). First Corinthians 12 beautifully emphasizes this mutuality by pointing out that when one member rejoices, the others rejoice, and when one member hurts, the others hurt. Each of us belongs to and needs the others. The church is no place for lone rangers. If your life seems stuck even though you read your Bible and pray, it may be that you are neglecting getting together with other believers and are depriving yourself of the exchange necessary for spiritual growth.

How beautiful this all is. Those who think rightly about themselves, measuring themselves by the standard that God has given them in their faith, discern the one body and recognize that they do not exist for themselves. As a result, they are free to develop and use their gifts.

Romans 12:3-5 Reflection Questions:

How do Paul’s words in verses 3-5 help Christians be more unified in one body?

What does Paul mean when he writes, “Be honest in your estimate of yourselves (v. 3)?

Romans 12:1-2 The Living Sacrifice


Romans 12:1-2 states a call to commitment. It can nourish us wherever we are in our spiritual pilgrimage. For those further along, it can serve as an affirmation and deepening of matters long settled. For those just beginning to seriously interact with the demands of Christ, it can be a spiritual benchmark.

The basis of commitment is the mercies of God, as Paul so clearly states in the opening phrase of verse 1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…” Specifically, Paul is talking about the mercy of God as spelled out in the eleven preceding chapters – God’s mercy to the terribly fallen human race through the provision of His Son. Radically sinful man was radically lost. But God provided a radical righteousness through the radical person of His Son, which made a radical new life and view of history possible. In view of this mercy God calls us to commitment. The greater our comprehension of what God has done for us, the greater our commitment should be. Practically applied, Christ’s gift, meditated on, accepted, taken to heart, is a magnet drawing us to deepest commitment to Him. There is scarcely anything more important for building our commitment than an increasing understanding of the greatness of God and His mercies to us.

The character of the commitment is given in the last half of the verse: “…to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” This commitment has two prominent characteristics: it is total, and it is reasonable. The totality of the commitment comes dramatically to us through the language of sacrifice. “Your bodies,” refers to more than skin and bones, it signifies everything we are – our totality. For Paul, true worship in offering ourselves to God is reasonable or logical because it is consistent with proper understanding of the truth of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Total commitment is the only rational course to take when you really see who God is. Nothing else makes any sense.

Halfway commitment is irrational. To decide to give part of your life to God and keep other parts for yourself – to say “Everything is yours, Lord, but this relationship, this deal, or this pleasure” – is beyond spiritual logic! If we are worshiping apart from commitment to God, it is false worship. We are deceiving ourselves if we are doing “Christian things” but are not consecrated to Jesus Christ.

Notice that in verse 2a there are two commands. The first is negative: “Do not be conformed to this world.” The second is positive: “…but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” These are two sides of commitment. Paul’s words in the first command can be paraphrased, “Don’t be conformed to the schemes of this passing evil age.” The painful truth is, such conformity is common to many of us to a greater extent than we like to acknowledge. Sometimes it’s difficult to know when we are conforming because there are many good things in the world. Moreover we are not to write off our culture entirely. Yet we must think critically. We must be careful what we read and watch. We must not fear to challenge others’ presuppositions. Above all, we must not be afraid to be different.

Then comes the positive command: “…but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” The full meaning of the word “transformed” is richer than the simple definition of a caterpillar to a butterfly, as other uses in the New Testament indicate. In Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2 it is used to describe the transfiguration of Christ – when the Lord’s glorious inner essence was allowed to show through His body so that His face radiated like the sun and His clothing was white with light. We experience such transfiguration in Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). How does this happen? This must be done by someone else, which is of course the Holy Spirit. We are to submit to the Holy Spirit who brings about “the renewal of the mind.” The Christian is to allow himself to be changed continually so that his life conforms more and more to that of Christ.

As we answer the call to commitment, we are called to voice a monumental “no” to the schemes of this fleeting evil age and a determined “yes” to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in renewing our minds. The “no” without the “yes” will lead to a life of futile negation. The “yes” without the “no” will lead to frustration because Christ will not dwell in Satan’s house. These are not suggestions, but are rather imperial commands to be obeyed by all!

The final phrase of verse 2 reveals the effects of genuine commitment in our lives: “… that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (v. 2b). A committed life has the power to perceive what God’s will is. The one who is committed to God sees life with a sure eye. While the careless and uncommitted are in confusion, he knows God’s will, and he finds God’s will to be “good and acceptable and perfect.”

To summarize; the basis of commitment is the mercies of God and His love for us. The character of our commitment is to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. The demands of commitment are that we are not to be conformed to this world and to be transformed by the renewal of your minds. And the effect of commitment is knowing the will of God. Nothing but total commitment of our lives to God makes any sense. He holds the universe together by the Word of His power – “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” And if this is not enough, He gave us His “mercies” through His Son, even while we were yet sinners. Total commitment is the only logical way to live. Let us live under the logic of God.

Romans 12:1-2 Reflection Questions:

What does it mean to be “living sacrifices” (v. 1)? What sacrifice is Paul talking about?

When did you really have to sacrifice for something? What did you give up? What made you willing to invest so much of yourself to achieve that goal?

Why does Paul emphasize the mind in verse 2?

Romans 11:33-36 To God be the Glory


We are now at the end of the doctrinal section of the book of Romans, the greatest theological treatise in the entire New Testament, containing truths that have often brought reformation and revival to the Church. In chapters 1:18-3:20 we encountered an explanation and condemnation of the sinful human race. From that grim theme, 3:21-5:11 moved on to the grand hope of justification. Then chapters 6-8 presented principles of living the Christian life. And finally in chapters 9-11 we saw a defense of God’s righteousness in His dealings with the Jews and Gentiles in history, eventuating in great blessing for both in the future. So wonderful is God’s plan that having voiced it, Paul now can scarcely contain himself, he breaks into praise in verses 33-36. Formally stated, Romans 11:33-36 identifies the proper response of our hearts to God’s sovereign working. Any person who truly appropriates something of Paul’s response in these verses will experience a marked increase in joy.

The expression of Paul’s wonder begins with the two exclamations in verse 33. First we read, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” “Knowledge” is the gathering of information; “wisdom” is knowing what to do with it. Paul marvels at how deep and rich God’s wisdom is, especially in reference to His dealings with Israel.

God has not failed Israel as a nation. God always has worked through the principle of election (for example, Jacob and Esau). God is the potter, and fallen humanity is the clay. Israel, however – i.e., the individuals who make up Israel – is responsible to accept the simple gospel by which God lovingly stretches out His hands to sinners. But they were hardened, so the gospel went out to the Gentiles. However, one day the blessing is going to return to Israel and there will be a great national repentance. Paul experienced a sense of wonder at a God who can so work in history.

One exclamation was not enough for the apostle, so he used another as well: “How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!” How beyond us God is! The word “inscrutable” (or “unfathomable”) literally means “untraceable.” Tracing God’s ways in His dealings with man is as futile as tracking His footprints on the sea (Ps. 77:19). God’s methods of operation do not conform to man’s preconceptions (Isa. 55:8-9). God is by nature incomprehensible to us. One of the reasons for this is, of course, that our experience limits us. We cannot think in categories beyond our range of experience or sensation.

In his exclamations Paul wonders at the greatness of his God, and his thoughts naturally flow into worship: “For who has known the mind of the Lord, who has been His counselor” (v. 34)? The prophet Isaiah put it this way: “Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows Him his counsel? Whom did He consult, and who made Him understand? Who taught Him the path of justice, and taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding? (Isa. 40:13-14). Who could ever suggest anything God had not thought of first? God knew all things before human history began and has never learned anything during the history of the world, because He has known all things forever. Thus, no man can call God to account, saying, “What are you doing?” To argue with God is to argue with the One who makes it possible to argue! Paul continues in verse 35” “Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?” God does not, and never will, owe anything to anyone. He is no man’s debtor.

Paul bows in awe at the depth of God’s knowledge and wisdom. Who can fathom His wondrous salvation of the lost human race…the miracle of justification…our sanctifying identification with Him…the victory of the Christian life…the mystery of His dealings with Israel? Worshiping God for His knowledge and wisdom fills us with mystery and hope for the future.

We come now to what is, I think, the most uplifting doxological statement in the entire New Testament. Certainly it is the proper affirmation of the believing heart. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen” (v. 36). “From Him…are all things.” There was a time when there was nothing but God. Matter and created mind were yet unmade or unborn. He was complete, and everything came from Him. Since He created everything, the first idea had to come from Him. No one could have suggested anything, because there was no one to suggest. The atomic structure of the atom, supernova, and pulsar – all came from Him.

Not only that, but “through Him… are all things.” There was no raw material with which to work. He created the universe out of nothing (see John 1:3). One second without God’s power and everything would disappear (see Col. 1:16-17). Matter is not God, but God is in everything, and nothing works or exists except through His might. Further, “to Him are all things.” Everything in the work of creation is to Him. Because there was none but Himself and none equal to Himself, His motive and glory was of necessity Himself. His own glory is His highest aim, and the day is coming when we shall see all things are “to Him.” The new heavens and the new earth shall ring with praise (v. 36).

As in creation, so it is in our salvation! Salvation is “from” Him. God ordained the plan, the hour it was promised, the moment Jesus should come, when He should be born, what death He should die, and when He should rise and ascend. He elected the heirs of salvation and called them to eternal life. Salvation is also “through” Him. Through Him came the prophecies. Through Him the Son was born. Through Him came the atonement. Through Him the world is preached. And salvation is ultimately “to” Him. Those who would give a single word of praise to man or angel will be silenced forever.

“For from Him…are all things.” What do we have that He has not given us? “…and to Him are all things.” Who else deserves highest honor? Finally, Paul reveals what is to be our ultimate devotion: “To Him be glory forever. Amen” (v. 36b). God’s glory should be our sole and constant desire. To this end we should raise our families. To this we must focus all prosperity. To this end we ought to live our entire lives (see Ps. 150). How right life is when theology becomes doxology!

Romans 11:33-36 Reflection Questions:

Verses 33-36 end chapter 11 by using the rich traditions of Hebrew praise from Isaiah and Job. How does Paul want us to feel and respond at the end of this amazing discussion of God’s grace and His covenant faithfulness?

Once Israel arrogantly assumed it was the sole repository of God’s mercy and blessing. Paul warns the Gentiles against a similar arrogance in Romans 11:20. How does the danger of arrogance, which was a temptation for the Jews and Gentile Christians alike, seep into our churches today?

How are you tempted by it in your own life?

Focus your prayer time on praising God for His mercy on all and His grace through Jesus Christ. Praise will keep us humble and protect us from the arrogance which destroys Christian community.

Romans 11:25-32 God’s Irrevocable Covenant and Call


We have been studying Paul’s unfolding of the purposes of God in history, focusing on the nation of Israel, and we come in Romans 11:25-32 to the last of the seven points Paul is making. His theme here is the future conversion of the great mass of Israel in the final days. Clearly this section is the culmination of what Paul has been saying in chapters 9 through 11 of this letter.

He introduced his line of thought in verse 6 of Romans 9, wondering rhetorically if God’s purposes in history may have failed, since so many Jews, God’s specially chosen people, have rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Our earlier studies have shown that Paul denied this implication and has been giving reasons for an entirely different view, namely, that God is still in control of history. Therefore, all that has happened both in the rejection of Israel and the conversion of Gentiles has been according to God’s wise and perfect plan.

This brings us back to the specific mystery Paul is writing about here, namely, that the mass of Israel will be saved. Why is it a mystery? Obviously, because it is not something any of us would ever figure out by mere reason or deduce by observation. As far as we can see, Israel has been rejected permanently. We do not see even a glimmer of national restoration. But what we cannot see or deduce Paul declares by revelation to be a future fact: “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in,” and then “all Israel will be saved” (vv. 25-26).

We come to the subject of God’s covenant in verse 27. A covenant is a solemn promise, usually ratified in some formal way. Strictly speaking, all covenants are unconditional from God’s point of view. God sets the terms, and the terms do not alter. They may be without condition: “I will do this, regardless of what you do.” They may have multiple responses, depending upon what human beings do: “If you obey, I will bless you; if you do not, I will judge you.” But what God promises to do is irrevocable from the start. Why? It is because God is God. He is sovereign in all He does, and He is faithful. He keeps His word. And also because He foresees or, which is a better way of saying it, determines all contingencies. We are not like that. We make promises and then are unable to keep them, because things happen that we could not foresee or because we change. But God does not change, and nothing surprises Him. His purposes at the end are exactly what they were at the beginning.

Anyone who has been studying Romans 11 carefully will be aware that verses 28-32 are a summary of what Paul has been at pains to prove earlier. The earlier teaching is summarized in verses 28-29: “As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gift and His call are irrevocable.” But how can Paul say this? On what possible basis could Paul suppose that one day the Jews as a people would be saved? There is only one answer. It is the character of God. God is unchanging. Therefore, His plans for the Jews are unchanging, and His call, which puts His plan into action, is irrevocable. To put this in simple language: God chose the Jews to be His special people, and nothing that has happened since, or will happen, can change that choice or relationship.

In verses 30-32 the summation is repeated: (1) the disobedience of Israel had led to the showing of mercy to the Gentiles, and (2) the mercy shown to the Gentiles will in time lead to Israel’s blessing. Yet Paul is never merely repetitious, and what is new in this section is the emphasis on mercy. This means that here Paul’s summary is extending further back than over chapter 11 alone. It is going all the way back to chapter 9, where the mercy of God was carefully discussed (Rom. 9:14-16, 18).

But we have come a long way since Romans 9, haven’t we? There, Paul was explaining how mercy accounts for God’s saving some and not others. But here in Romans 11, he is thinking of mercy inclusively rather than exclusively. That is, having pursued to the end his teaching about God’s historical dealings with the Jewish people and having prophesied a time of future Jewish blessing, Paul observes that in this way God is showing mercy to all (Rom. 11:32).

That verse does not teach universal salvation, of course. If it did, it would be contradicting Romans 9. Paul is talking about Jews and Gentiles as groups of people, not as individuals. But he is nevertheless inclusive in his assessment of God’s mercy. Although neither Gentiles nor Jews deserve mercy, God is merciful to both. That’s the point; and it’s the important insight that leads Paul, the formerly self-righteous Jewish patriot and proud Pharisee to regard all human beings as equal before God. If you are prejudiced against other people in any way, if you think yourself to be superior to them for whatever reason, it is because you do not understand the nature of your sin or God’s grace.

If you have found mercy, you must make it widely known. We know that God has mercy on whom He wills to have mercy and compassion on whom He wills to have compassion. God is sovereign. But there is nothing in the Bible that hinders you from saying as clearly and as forcefully as you can that God’s very name is Mercy and that He will save all who come to Him for it. God has never turned a deaf ear to anyone who asked for mercy. He has never rejected any person who has believed on Christ Jesus. Do you believe that? Will you come? If you do, you will find God to be exactly what Paul declares Him to be in this passage: the God of mercy who saves many through faith in Jesus Christ.

Romans 11:25-32 Reflection Questions:

How can righteousness be attained? Who succeeds in being righteous? Who fails? Why?

How is God’s mercy showered on all in verses 25-32?

Romans 11:16-24 Warning to the Gentile Churches


If I was to ask anyone today what he or she thinks of first when asked to list the characteristics or attributes of God, I’m sure that nearly every case the person would say “love.” Yet that would not have been true for the Old Testament saints. They would have said “holiness.” Surprisingly, that is a concept almost never thought about by most people today. Not only did the Old Testament figures think of holiness when they thought of God. They also thought of holiness in reference to anything or anybody who had contact with God, for they knew that only what is holy can have contact with Him. Holiness dominated their religious ideas.

We need to remember this when we come to Romans 11:16, for Paul is certainly writing within an Old Testament framework when he says, almost casually, “If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.” What Paul is doing here is drawing upon an Old Testament understanding of holiness to carry forward the important point he is making in Romans 11, namely, that God has not given up on Israel.

It’s true that the mass of Israel has been laid aside temporarily in order that by their rejection, salvation might come to the Gentiles. But even in this period of rejection, Israel has not been rejected utterly; a remnant is still being saved. Nor will Israel be rejected finally; for at the last the masses of Israel will be brought to faith in Jesus Christ, who died for them that they might have forgiveness for their sins.

In Romans 11, Paul is writing about the future of the Jews as a people. So it’s surprising how much of what he says in this chapter is to the Gentiles. He began by addressing them directly in verse 13, and he continues speaking to them exclusively until verse 25, where he begins to address a broader group of people again. In verses 17-22, he warns the Gentiles not to boast over Judaism because of the Gentiles’ current favored status, saying that if the Jews, who were God’s especially chosen people once, have been rejected at least temporarily because of unbelief, the Gentiles also will be rejected if they follow their bad example.

This is a serious warning, one that we must take to heart. As Paul writes to those of us who are Gentiles, he is aware that our present position might cause us to boast over the Jews who held a privileged position before us. But he warns us not to boast. Rather fear God, he says. We may be standing now, but we stand only by grace. If we cease to stand in grace by believing God, we too, will fail. Does that mean that salvation can be lost? No. Paul has been teaching the doctrine of perseverance. But what he says here is nevertheless a strong warning against spiritual presumption. What Paul tells us in these verses is that if the Gentiles fail to stand by faith, they will be cut off, just as the Jews were.

This warning extends to individuals today who suppose they are Christians because they are part of a Christian church and affirms the right things, but who are not actually anchored in the grace of God and are not exercising that true faith in God that comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit within them. Let me warn you that it is fatally easy to assume that all is well with your soul when actually you are perishing. In fact, in your unbelieving state it is the most natural thing in the world, because you do not perceive what is really spiritual and suppose that the externals of Christianity are what matters.

If you have any sensitivity to spiritual things, you must ask yourself, “Has my commitment to Christ made any discernible difference in my life?” In other words, is there anything you are doing now that you would not be doing if you were not a Christian? Is there anything you are not doing because you know it would displease Jesus Christ? Are you obeying His commandments? Do you love to be with other Christians? Are you studying the Bible? And when you study it can you really say that you hear God speaking to you in its pages? Do you recognize what you read there to be the truth? Do you change what you are doing as a result?  Are you trying to order your life according to the Bible’s teaching and redirect it according to right Christian priorities?

This is what it means to “make your calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1”10), in sharp contrast to what Jesus was warning of when He described sowing seed on ground where it seemed to grow well but soon dried up for lack of depth, was chocked by weeds, or was snatched away by Satan (Matt. 13:1-9). Churches and individuals who foolishly boast of their own attainments or coast along in their present favored standing without pausing to remember the grace of God that brought them to that place and the obligation they have to stand together as Christians in grace by faith alone. So do not forget! Stand in your high calling! Stand by faith! Greater individuals than you and I have perished. Nations as powerful as ours have been overthrown. And stronger churches than ours have fallen to the severity of God’s just judgments in history.

Romans 11:16-24 Reflection Questions:

Beginning in verse 13 and continuing through verse 32 Paul is speaking directly to the Gentile Christians in the Romans church. What seems to be in danger in the Gentile believers that Paul is addressing? What is his warning to them?

He uses two illustrations in verses 16-24 to highlight the point he wants to make to the Gentile believers. What is Paul saying here?

One thing that many people may not know about olive trees in ancient Israel is that, from time to time, gardeners performed grafting operations on them. Some olives grew wild, and would often be quite strong in themselves though not producing good fruit. The gardener might decide to take that energy and harness it by grafting shoots from a proper, cultivated olive into the trunk of a wild olive, thus combining the energy of the wild tree and the fruitfulness of the cultivated one. Why does Paul reverse the illustration?

What was Paul implying through the use of the grafting image? What possible wrong impressions, particularly among Gentile believers, was he attempting to correct?

Romans 11:11-15 Life from the Dead


To many people the doctrines of election and reprobation seem wrong because they appear to be arbitrary. “Arbitrary” means that there are no reasons for them. It means that God chooses one and not another as if He were plucking petals from a daisy, saying: “I love you…I love you not.” That is not an accurate picture, of course. True, we dare not think that God owes us an explanation for what He is doing or that we could fully understand it if He should give us a complete one. But even if we do not have an explanation, that does not mean that God does not have His reasons. God is a purposeful God, and we should rightly suppose that everything He does has a purpose, and an infinitely wise one at that.

However, God has given us some explanation of why He chooses some people and passes by others. We saw it when we were studying Romans 9. It is that God might be glorified, that is, that He might be known as He truly is. In Romans 9, Paul taught that God makes His patience, wrath, and power known in the case of the reprobate, whom He passes by and judges for their sin, and that He reveals His mercy in the case of the elect, whom He saves apart from any supposed worthiness in them. We remember that Paul is dealing with the meaning of history in these chapters, and this means that he is writing on what we might call a down-to-earth level as well as on a theological one. He has been talking about the passing by of the great mass of Israel, which has rejected Jesus as the Messiah. We might ask: “Does God have a purpose in that?” The verses we come to now teach that God does have a purpose. God is using the passing by of Israel to bring salvation riches to the Gentiles.

In Romans 11:11-12, Paul makes four points that govern his thoughts throughout the remainder of the chapter. (1) Israel has “stumbled,” but their stumble is not final. In this section he teaches that the unbelief of Israel will not be forever. They stumbled as a nation by their rejection of Jesus as their Savior and Messiah, but they will rise again. (2) Their “stumble” had a purpose: it would be used by God to bring salvation to the Gentiles. It’s an example of the “riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” about which Paul will write later (Rom. 11:33). (3) The salvation of the Gentiles will lead in time to the “fullness” of Israel that is to the salvation of the Jews as a nation and this in turn will lead to even greater Gentile blessing. It means that the Jews have not been cast off so that salvation might come to the Gentiles instead, but that through Gentile salvation the Jews themselves might find Jesus as their Savior. (4) The way this will happen is by the spiritual riches of the Gentiles making Israel envious. They will see what the Gentiles have, recognize that these spiritual blessings were intended for them, and long to possess them too.

When God sent Jesus to be the Savior, He sent Him not only to be the Savior of the Jews but as the world’s Savior, too. When Jesus died, God showed this by tearing the veil of the temple in two from top to bottom. That act signified that the way to God was now open to anyone who would come through faith in His sacrifice. In one sense that meant the end of Judaism, at least in its ancient form. No Jew today worships at a temple in Jerusalem. No Jew brings the required sacrifices for sin. The end of that system was the opening of salvation to the Gentiles.

The title of this study, “Life from the Dead,” is taken from the phrase Paul uses for the anticipated salvation of Israel as a nation in the final days of world history (v. 15). In verses 13-15 Paul speaks of Israel having been rejected, in verses 11-12 Paul made the same point by speaking of the people’s “fall” and “loss.” This is an all-too-sad reality, of course. As Paul saw it, the tragedy lay in Israel’s rejection as the Messiah, with all that entailed. For centuries the Jews had been waiting anxiously for the Messiah’s coming, asking themselves whether any leader who emerged above the average might be him. Israel’s rejection of Jesus was a rejection of the very future for which they had been hoping. It was a repudiation of their spiritual destiny. Paul was acutely aware of this and grieved for what his people had lost.

So why did the Jews reject Jesus, after all? The reason people (Jews and Gentiles alike) reject Jesus Christ is because they are dead in their sins, and being spiritually dead, they are unable to understand the extent of their need, comprehend the grace of God in the gospel, or yield their hearts to the Savior. This is what Paul was teaching in the earlier chapters of this letter (Rom. 3:10-11). Paul means that apart from a spiritual resurrection, which Jesus called being “born again,” no one is able to be good, understand spiritual things, or seek God. On the contrary, we run away from Him and make substitute gods to take the true God’s place.

So what is the solution? The solution is obvious. We need to be born again. We need a spiritual resurrection. We need God, because only God is able to give life and provide resurrections. But praise be to God, this is exactly what God does. God is in the resurrection business. I remind you of the death and resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). If the story was only about a physical resurrection, it would be spectacular enough. We have bodies, and our bodies die. We need physical resurrections if we are to stand before God, see His face, and worship Him forever – as we sense we have been designed by God to do. But the deaths of our bodies are not our greatest problem, nor is physical resurrection our greatest need. We also have dead souls, and we need the resurrection of our souls and spirits if we are to turn to Jesus Christ in living faith and find salvation in Him.

Fortunately, the story of Lazarus is also about spiritual resurrections and the promise that spiritual life is to be found in Jesus. He alone can do what needs to be done. He alone can call us from the dark, loathsome charnel house of sin. And He does. Everyone who has ever come to Christ in saving faith has experienced just such a spiritual resurrection. We were dead in our sins, but we heard Jesus calling, “come out.” And we responded. All who have ever heard that call have responded and have thereby passed out of spiritual death into spiritual life.

Have you? If you have not, I urge you to pay attention to the Bible, the Word of God, because it is through the Bible and its teaching that Jesus calls men and women today. Read it. Allow yourself to be exposed to sound teaching. Meditate on Bible truths. I believe that if you do that, you will hear Jesus calling and will find that His call is bringing you to new spiritual life.

This brings us back to Israel as a nation, for it is Israel we are talking about primarily, and it is the resurrection of that nation that is our chief concern in this passage. We are studying the teaching that the Jews will have a spiritual rebirth in the final days. I know there are people who consider that impossible for a number of reasons. But we are not talking on the human level here. We are speaking about God and resurrections, which only He is capable. “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Why should the future gathering in of Israel be thought impossible when it is God who is doing the gathering?

Romans 11:11-15 Reflection Questions:

Verses 7-15 (and all of Romans 9-11) echo the stories of tensions between younger and older brothers from Genesis (Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers) as well as Jesus’ own parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. In all these cases God establishes and vindicates the younger over the older. How is Israel now in the position of being the older brother in the prodigal son story?

How might jealousy, as described in verses 11-15, actually draw Jews to Christ?

How is it that Paul nonetheless has hope for Israel’s future and envisions its resurrection (vv. 11-15)?