In Romans 9-11, Paul struggles to address the failure of so many Jews to profess faith in Jesus. If the Jews were the chosen people, and Jesus was the point of the entire Old Covenant, why didn’t all Jews come to accept Jesus as Lord? This leads Paul through the concepts of predestination, God’s sovereign choice in salvation, and the true nature of Israel as a people defined by faith rather than genetics. Ultimately, Paul concludes that God has hardened the hearts of the unbelieving Jews, so that the gospel could be carried to the rest of the world. This is challenging stuff, but Paul makes a few key concepts clear:
- God alone is in control of salvation, and he has a plan!
- We have been graciously included in Israel, though we are not biological descendants from Abraham
- Our faith, not our heritage, defines our relationship with God
Then, in Romans 12:1-2, we come to the great “therefore” of Paul’s letter. Having understood the gospel message of salvation by faith in Christ Jesus, what should we do?
Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brother and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The remainder of the letter speaks to the quality of a life transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ. Our love, our respect for authority, our graciousness to those “weaker” in their faith, and the quality of all our relationships reveal whether we are conforming to the world or being transformed.
While the process of salvation is 100% God, we have a critical role to play in the process of sanctification (or being transformed into holiness). Where are you in the journey of being transformed to look like Jesus? What is the next step in that journey, or the next area that Christ calls you to turn over to him?
What does it mean to be “weak” or “strong” in the faith? How would you define yourself?
Hear Paul’s blessing from Romans 15:13 as God’s word to you today:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
1 Corinthians 1-8
This is a radically different letter from Romans. Paul knows the church at Corinth very well, and writes to address specific concerns, rather than as a general theological introduction. As you read, see if you can identify some of the problems that Paul is trying to solve.
Read carefully 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. What does this suggest about the value of living a life of faithfulness? Will all be equals in heaven?
There are several chapters that touch on sexuality in the church. Paul writes, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own. For you were bought with a price; therefore honor God with your body.” What practical implications does this have for our daily lives? For our physical relationships with others? For your own understanding of the value of your body?
Enjoy your reading, and I’ll see you Sunday!