Monday, March 20
Romans 9:1-33 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own brothers and sisters, my own flesh and blood. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
It is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all those descended from Israel are Israelites, and not all of Abraham’s children are his descendants, but “it is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. For the word of the promise is this: “About this time I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac: even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” As it is written,
“I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau.”
What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
So it depends not on human will or exertion but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I may show my power in you and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.
You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who indeed are you, a human, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction, and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the gentiles? As he also says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”
“And in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they shall be called children of the living God.”
And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.” And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left descendants to us,
we would have fared like Sodom
and been made like Gomorrah.”
What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith, but Israel, who did strive for the law of righteousness, did not attain that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,
“See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall,
and whoever trusts in him will not be put to shame.”
This week we will read a controversial section of the letter of Romans—the ninth through twelfth chapters. These chapters have formed many views about God—predestination, election, salvation, that have confused people.
In chapter nine Paul is trying to come to terms with his ancestors—the Jews—falling away from God. He acknowledged his great sorrow and anguish that was in his heart (verse 2). Paul asked the question of whether God had failed because of his ancestors rejecting Jesus. We can see this question in verse 14, “What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part?”
We can sense the turmoil that existed within Paul.
We might have had a time in our life when something went very wrong. In our grief about what had happened we looked to God for being responsible. If something didn’t go well, then God—who is in charge of all—must be accountable in our own minds. Right?
Paul answered the question he posed in verse 14. His answer is simple, “By no means!”
God was not responsible for some of the Jews falling away from Jesus.
Questioning God is a human vocation. It’s inevitable to question the intentions of God when something goes terribly wrong. It would be surprising if we haven’t questioned God in our own life.
Do you think that God is responsible for our own suffering? Please share.
Tuesday, March 21
Romans 10:1-21 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not based on knowledge. Not knowing the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?
“The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim), because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart, leading to righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, leading to salvation. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all have obeyed the good news, for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith[ comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.
But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have:
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth
and their words to the ends of the world.”
Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Paul turned to the topic of salvation in this chapter. He shared a significant teaching in verses nine and ten that most have undoubtedly heard.
“because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” Romans 10:10-11
The offer of salvation is for everyone.
We can take these words of Paul and do with them more than they were intended. Salvation is not a formula. Instead, it is receiving & opening up and ultimately enjoying a gift that God has given to all of us.
Paul would want people to be assured of their own salvation. He wouldn’t want people to experience anxiety or be frightened about it.
Have you at some time in your own life been insecure about your own salvation, or have you known someone who was or is? Please share.
Wednesday, March 22
Romans 11:1-32 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So, too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
What then? Israel has not achieved what it was pursuing. The elect have achieved it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,
“God gave them a sluggish spirit,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”
And David says,
“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and keep their backs forever bent.”
So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world and if their loss means riches for gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Now I am speaking to you gentiles. Inasmuch as I am an apostle to the gentiles, I celebrate my ministry in order to make my own people jealous and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted among the others to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember: you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off on account of unbelief, but you stand on account of belief. So do not become arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen but God’s kindness toward you, if you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And even those of Israel, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.
I want you to understand this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not claim to be wiser than you are: a hardening has come upon part of Israel until the full number of the gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.”
“And this is my covenant with them,
when I take away their sins.”
As regards the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their ancestors, for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so also they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they also may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
Paul noted that when his own faith tradition rejected Jesus, this led him to share a message with Gentiles. The acceptance of the message by the Gentiles led Jews to receive the message of Jesus.
People in Paul’s day could take this message and criticize God. “God how could you have let or even encouraged this to happen?”
Paul didn’t want people to criticize God. He asked in the first verse of this chapter whether God had rejected God’s people. And Paul answered the question. No. God had not done that.
Have you ever felt or have you known someone who felt rejected by God? It’s a difficult place to be. If so, consider sharing your story.
Thursday, March 23
Romans 11:33-36 O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him,
to receive a gift in return?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
This lengthy and somewhat complicated chapter ends with a beautiful verse.
“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are [God’s] judgments and how inscrutable [God’s] ways.” Romans 11:33
This is a verse that is worth committing to memory.
Paul was sharing that God knew what God was doing. God’s wisdom and knowledge is unsurpassable.
It might seem odd to question God’s wisdom and knowledge, but all of us do this at some point.
Paul shared that God’s wisdom is complete.
How is this reality helpful to you on your own faith journey? Please share.
Friday, March 24
Romans 12:1-8 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the encourager, in encouragement; the giver, in sincerity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Paul thankfully comes back to grace and the impact that grace has on people’s lives. That impact is transformation. The second verse shares this.
“Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
Discerning God’s ways or will is the most important task of a follower.
Each of us has different methods for discerning God’s ways or will. Discernment might involve prayer or fasting; it might involve worship or Bible reading; discernment might come after serving.
What do you find most helpful as you discern the ways or will of God? Please share. Your sharing might help someone else.
Saturday, March 25
Romans 12:9-21 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal; be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; pursue hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” Instead, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink, for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Paul closes these chapters by sharing a flurry of imperative teachings. Any one of them could be put on a bumper sticker and hung in a place that we see them often.
These teachings illustrate the way to be a follower or disciple of Jesus. They teach what it means to be formed in God.
Our life on earth is a journey of living out these imperative teachings. We gather in community to help each other do this. And on our own journey we become more like Jesus.
Becoming like Jesus does not mean we suddenly have magical powers. It means that our spirit is a reflection of the spirit of Jesus.
What does it mean to you that your spirit would be a reflection of the spirit of Jesus? Please share.