There's going to be quite a build up to some simple thoughts, but, alas, if you're crazy enough to visit this blog, and assuming you know me, that's to be expected from time to time. If you'd like to back up from all the set-up, just go down to the part beyond the long line.
I've been teaching through Romans. Many a fine folk have been humbled by reading and studying this fine letter, given to us by the Spirit, as He desired to have a word with the church, through His apostle, Paul, beginning with the believers in Rome. Add me to the list. Really, it seems whatever book I'm meditating through becomes my favorite. Right now, Romans is being used of the Lord to rock my world, and I am grateful!
Namely, I believe Paul was assuring the Romans that he was thoroughly converted, complete in understanding and seeking to follow whole-heartedly the will of the Lord Jesus. He wanted them to know he was consumed with the Gospel of God's Kingdom, and at the discretion of King Jesus.
But, that doesn't fully capture the purpose of the letter. WHY does Paul want to be confirmed in these things? I think the simple answer is this: Paul wanted the believers in Rome to partner with him in reaching lost people in Spain and beyond. His intentions cannot be more obviously stated than this: "I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while." (Romans 15:24 ESV, emphasis mine)
However, for the sake of thinking things through, consider these things:
- Paul felt like he was prevented BY THE LORD from going east: "And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia." (Acts 16:6 ESV)
- Paul felt like the Gospel had already been preached everywhere between Jerusalem and Rome: "For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation." (Romans 15:18-20 ESV, emphasis mine)
- The Spirit was always pressing Paul's ministry team's hearts forward: "We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence." (2 Corinthians 10:15-16 ESV, emphasis mine)
- He expected to find partnership and blessing: "When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ." (Romans 15:28-29 ESV, emphasis mine)
- Paul's ministry team felt compelled to act in faith upon the promises of God to Israel: (I cannot say more succinctly what was said in the introduction of Romans 9-11 in the English Standard Version Study Bible) ---> Rom. 9:1–11:36 God’s Righteousness to Israel and to the Gentiles. Paul has made it clear that God’s saving promises have been fulfilled for the Gentiles. Indeed, the church of Jesus Christ now enjoys the spiritual blessings promised to Israel: the gift of the Spirit (8:9); adoption as God’s children (8:14–17); future glory (8:17, 30); election (8:33); and the promise of never being severed from God’s love (8:35–39). Paul now asks in chs. 9–11 whether the promises God made to ethnic Israel will be fulfilled. If his promises to the Jews remain unfulfilled, how can Gentile Christians be sure that he will fulfill the great promises that conclude ch. 8? Paul answers that God is faithful to his saving promises to Israel (9:6) and that he will ultimately save his people (11:26).
- Paul purposed to encourage the church in Rome to (a) unity and (b) mission, understanding that unity allows / encourages believers to focus on mission: The "Therefore..." then in Romans 1, begins to open the ball on a very encouraging discussion and list of imperatives to Christian living in response to God having given us new life in Jesus. In other words, there's is an expected, reasonable response from people toward God's goodness.
The Holy Spirit was always pushing Paul's ministry team to more than they were experiencing; more of Jesus; more of the Gospel; more evangelism; deeper into discipleship. Paul desired unification in fellowship, and his letter to the Romans was not trying to get them "straight" but rather letting them know he was "straight" --- letting them know, before speaking of confident expectation of partnership, that his heart was screwed in straight.
I'm thoroughly inspired.
It was just about the Gospel...living it, encouraging others, preaching Jesus' as King, proclaiming God's just rule...and taking off from the fellowship of Roman believers and the geography of Rome itself into the wilds of Unreacheddom.
Now, all that being said...
It's simply important to dwell on Jesus; to consider Him, meditate upon His character, to revel in the beauty of His perfection, to appreciate His work, seek to understand His person --- all of it. It's just good to have Jesus on the mind. It's appropriate for Him to dwell at the surface of our thoughts in all things and to be coursing through the depth of our deepest considerations
As I've been reading and re-reading and reading Romans again and again, some things have occurred to me in a fresh way. The chief thing that has been brought to the forefront of my mind is the resurrection of Christ. I already knew, from Scripture, it was the central and most important theme in the New Testament Church's preaching, but I've seen in a fresh way Christ's resurrection in the book of Romans.
To be sure, MUCH more could be said about each thought I'm introducing below. All I'm saying today is how sweet it is to contemplate these things, how wonderful to meditate (blog post about THIS soon) upon the things of the Lord, to plunge into the depths as a method of growth and an exercise of worship.
Think about these things:
- Death not only did not defeat Jesus, but vindicated His work and proved His deity: "and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 1:4 ESV, emphasis mine) ---> Consider that: many pretenders have risen to the claim of "god" but death has consumed them. Even if people have been praised or worshipped beyond their death, it is only Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, who rose from the dead, was seen of many witnesses and lives still. Romans 1:4 even says that the resurrection was God showing His "power." I mean, hey, c'mon now! Of all the miracles that could be mentioned here, it's the defeat of death that God says takes His power. Not creating or upholding or multiplying fish or healing the sick or parting a sea or river...resurrection = POWER!
- The resurrection not only showed Jesus' righteousness, but grants to us unworthy folk His righteousness, too: "But the words 'it was counted to him' were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." (Romans 4:23-25 ESV, emphasis mine) ---> Notice it if you will, it's not who knows about Jesus, not who goes to church, not who knows Bible stories, or has a religious family...it's not who was baptized, who can speak in tongues, who gives money, not who has joined a local church...it's none of those people. It's not who is a "nice person" and it's not who "does more good things than bad things." Righteousness comes to those who believe in HIM who raised the dead Jesus our Lord. That's how significant the resurrection is! It points to HIM who has the power! Even in dying and being raised from the dead, it was "Thy will" to be done, and the Father's glory to be gotten!
- It's in His life that we are partnered, and have living hope: "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:4-11 ESV, emphasis mine) ----> It is a wonderful to understand and keep constantly before us that Jesus did not just die for us, but counted through His death us dead with Him. Why is that wonderful? Simple; just as He counts us dead with Him, He partners us with Him in new life!
- We are dead to the law and raised to life in Christ, thus our responsibility is not to keeping the law, rather it is in enjoying fellowship with Christ: "Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God." (Romans 7:4 ESV) ---> Now, this is wildly exciting to me! In the preceding three verses, Paul uses the illustration of a married couple and says the spouse is not released from the bond of the relationship until the other spouse died. Well, dear friend, when we died with Christ, we died from our relationship to the law. When Christ was resurrected, He gave us new life and that new life is in relationship to Christ, for the glory of God. (See, another point on "till death do us part..." meaning no divorce but death. Oh my. Yep.) Since believers die with Christ, our old spouse, the Law, has no claim on relationship with us, and we are now alive, being made ready to be the Bride of Christ! WOW!!!!!
- In Christ's resurrection, death is not the final answer; likewise, in our death, because HE lives, death will not be the final answer for believers either: "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11 ESV) ---> Notice the "if." That's something folk need to settle, and it's a whole other conversation. Two of the most delightful words any believer will ever hear or read are "will also." Yes, and wow and amen! He raised from the dead, 'cause He could. He raised from the dead, 'cause death couldn't hold Him. And He "will also" give life to a believer's mortal body! And, here's the best part, it's not only when we all get to heaven, but eternal life IS HIM and IS GRANTED to us and BEGINS while we yet live in these mortal bodies! It's because the resurrected Christ is alive in us -- living right now, you see -- that death will not hold us, just as it did not hold Him. I wish I had some words bigger than "WOW!" and "AWESOME!" but I don't.
- In the resurrection of Christ, in that Living Savior, there is someone to answer the debt collector: "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." (Romans 8:33-34 ESV) ---> Let me create a little conversation, for the sake of illustration:
- Satan: "Well, Judge, here's Tim Bowes. Nevermind whatever he has been, let me tell you what he is. He'll want to tell all about what he used to do and be and no doubt highlight the nice changes in his life, but I want to talk about what Tim Bowes is."
- Judge: "Bring the charges!"
- Satan: "He's proud. Many times he is lazy. He often lusts and covets. He is judgmental. He speaks with lewdness and tells coarse jokes. He responds with apathy to many needs around him. He..."
- Jesus: "ENOUGH! Good Judge, all that Satan says is true, and more. What should be noted above all these things is He is mine, by my gift and according to the faith You have given Him in me."
- Judge: "He is justified, not condemn and free to enter My rest. Case closed!"
- Satan: "But, Judge, You said 'Surely you will die!' That's what You said! You said so! Death! Tim Bowes should die! He should die! Don't do this, Judge! You said 'surely die' so why is this wretch being given rest? I demand..."
- Judge: "Silence! My Precious Son died for Tim Bowes, and many more. He died for Tim and defeated death. I make Tim right in My Son; I declare My Son's righteousness be extended to Tim. What of death? It is nothing to My Son! If My Son does not condemn Tim Bowes, neither do I. Silence, Satan! Your accusations mean nothing!"
- Jesus' resurrection is the confession we make and cling to: "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." (Romans 10:9 ESV) ---> it must be and remain our constant confession. I have believed. I do believe. I will continue to be believe. I have confessed. I do confess. I will continue to confess. JESUS IS LORD! JESUS IS RAISED FROM THE DEAD! HE IS ALIVE! Hallelujah! I believe! I believe! He was, is and shall remain my hope and stay! I have no hope, save Jesus! It's not the history of His life nor the quality of His teaching...it IS Him, alive and living and I trust Him now, and now, and now, and now....
- And, because Jesus knows death without sin and knows life beyond death, He is Lord of both the dead and the alive: "For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living." (Romans 14:9 ESV) Therefore, Jesus is Lord over those dead in sin and those alive in Him. HE IS LORD. He absolutely has the right to judge both the living and the dead. It's not me; I do not have that right. I can judge no man. Jesus can judge every man.
More and more... I will find other points of beautiful contemplation, but these, concerning the resurrection have meant much to me lately.
More than ever, I am convinced to trust Christ with all is the only logical choice I can make. Thank God. Thank God for Jesus. Thank God for the resurrection!
So, then, a natural conclusion comes to me. If it's all about Jesus, and all my hope is in Jesus, and my only hope is Jesus, then I'd better be about walking as a disciple of Jesus. Point blank; end of story. Jesus' business must be mine, or I'm missing His life in my soul.