Good Morning, Siblings!
Today’s readings are Romans 1-3
If you haven’t watched my Facebook live that I posted a couple of days ago, it will be helpful as we enter into the book of Romans. Click here to watch it now.
We’ll begin with a few notes from my husband, Ricky, as they are far more concise than mine:
In starting Romans today we begin the first writings of Paul, whose letters will make up a large amount of the remaining portions of our study.
Before we dive too deep there are a few things about Paul that should be noted. First and foremost, Paul was a Diaspora Jew born in Tarsus. He was a highly trained and established Pharisee (a rabbi). (Acts 23:6) (Philippians 3:5). When our Messiah confronted him on the road to Damascus, Paul did not stop being a Pharisee nor did he stop being Jewish.
He did not “convert” to an entirely new religion.
Paul was trained as a Pharisee under the guidance of Gamaliel (who is mentioned in Acts 5:34). The “point”/“counter point” argument style (sometimes referred to as straw man) that Paul often used is rooted in his training as a Pharisee. All of Paul’s writings have to be read carefully as the apostle Peter warned us:
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:14-18
Without taking into account the understanding of who the Father is and the knowledge of His ways and attributes (the study of what we call the Old Testament), the words of our Messiah, the the context of the times, and the writing style/background of the author, Paul’s writings can easily be misinterpreted and unfortunately this has happened throughout centuries just as Peter predicted.
Now Christy’s notes, might want to grab a snack and maybe even a cell phone charger
When we ventured to read the word from start to finish, most of us had never spent time diving deep into the “old” testament. As a result, we were surprised by what we found! We were able to read it objectively for the most part, with fresh eyes. When we come to Paul’s writings, though, many of us have studied these our whole life. A disproportionate amount of modern Christian theology is rooted solely in Paul’s letters. Therefore, it is easier for us to read them through the filter of our expectations – and that is a disservice to both Paul and to ourselves.
You see, when we come from Scriptures and head into Paul, If we’ve read him out of context most of our lives, it can feel as if a train is coming down the tracks heading straight for us. Why? I was actually taught that Paul taught a different message than Yeshua! But I want to assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. Paul was a man of YHWH. He LOVED YHWH and he LOVED our Messiah. And he deserves the respect of being read with fresh eyes in order to see that.
Our dear beloved Paul is going to talk himself blue in the face throughout his letters trying to dissuade the inclinations of man and explain the true and rightful nature of Grace – along with the proper response to being shown grace. I feel for Him and I know he’d be horrified at what his words have been used to justify today.
In our time, we have entire churches based primarily on the letters of Paul. From time to time, whenever I hear of a new church, I like to go to their website and look up their faith statement. More and more, these statements include almost exclusive references to the letters of Paul with a Psalm or Proverb thrown in for good measure. It’s crazy. It is doubly tragic when we consider that the Word of YHWH was what Paul spent his entire life teaching, living by, and expounding upon again and again.
As Ricky stated, Peter predicted this: 2 Peter 3:14-18. It is precisely because of Paul’s writing style and the ease at which his words are twisted that he has become so beloved in a time and culture that seeks a god who permits us to live according to our own wisdom. Romans 3:11-18 is the result, the fruit of our ways.
Anytime we study the Bible we must realize there are over 30000 verses in it. Now we can pull a single verse out of context and decide what it means, but we are better served looking at that verse as being part of the whole with the other 30000 verses pressing down upon and around it. The Bible proves the Bible. Taking these verses out of context and twisting them around has created the muddy waters Christianity finds itself in today. Many of you have talked about struggling with contradictions in the Bible and I’ve read countless stories in the group from folks stating the relief at discovering that reading the entire Bible from the beginning has helped to dispel those seeming contradictions.
YHWH’s Word will always prove true – and how wonderful it is for us to get to experience that firsthand!
Now, let me illustrate it this way:
If you woke up and found two letters on your desk- one from YHWH and one from Paul…which one would you open first?
The answer should be YHWH but for many it is actually Paul.
And many still would never open the one from YHWH, ignoring it as they do now.
YHWH’s word is our foundation.
The rest of the Bible is divinely inspired and reinforces YHWH’s teachings IF we start with the foundation.
The Bible proves the Bible.
Anything Paul says, if it is in proper context, backs up the words of YHWH and Messiah.
Paul, taken out of context, can only be backed up with more quotes from Paul.
This is our litmus test and we must use it whenever needed.
I want to encourage you: If you ever ever ever feel that Paul is contradicting the Father – for goodness sake – side with YHWH. Trust that He will be proven true because He always will.
And now I’m going to say something that is going to be hard to read, might bring about a gasp or two, but we need to face it just so we are clear.
Paul and Messiah are not equals.
Nothing in Paul’s letters was ever meant to override the words of Messiah or YHWH.
I want to caution us all to never refute words spoken by YHWH or Messiah with “But Paul said…”
“Paul said” is never an excuse to dismiss what YHWH said.
But most importantly, Paul never contradicted YHWH. Never. We will see that is the case as we read.
There is deep value, blessed learning, and divine teachings from Paul’s letters. But we must put them back in context, understand who he is writing to, and pay attention to his writing style throughout in order to be able to glean the fruit of his work.
I dearly love Paul, but I am not a Paulinian. However, in Paul’s much deserved defense, neither was he.
Questions to ask in the coming readings:
•Who is Paul speaking to?
•Is this teaching something new?
•Does this new teaching contradict YHWH’s word? If so, we must reexamine our understanding of what is being said.
•Is there Scripture found which foretold of this change? If not, we must reexamine our understanding of what is being said.
•Did YHWH sanction this?
•Have I lined this interpretation up with YHWH’s Word to see if there is a different angle I am missing?
•Are we reading the Bible seeking to understand YHWH’s instructions so that we may obey or are we reading the Bible seeking assurance that we can follow our own hearts?
Congratulations! You made it through my Paul intro, now let’s talk about today’s readings.
Paul, a servant of Messiah…. That is how this letter opens. He immediately places himself under the authority of Messiah in order to advance the gospel of YHWH in a beautiful, humble way.
In Romans 1:7 we see who this letter is addressed to: all believers in Rome, a mixed multitude of Jews and Gentiles. As the letter unfolds we see that a serious problem has developed and Paul’s letter is intended to address it. The root of the problem seems to be the contagious spirit of Phariseeism having been contracted by new believers.
Something we need to remember: While we have Paul’s letters to read, we are not given the benefit of knowing the contents of the letters he was responding to. Therefore, in many cases we will read of Paul offering solutions to very specific problems but we only have conjecture as to what those problems were. This leaves us at a disadvantage in some areas but disadvantage is diminished considerably when we remain aware of it.
When I say Phariseeism, I’m referring to people who feel they are justified by how “good” they are, which “earns” them salvation. You know the whole “Holier than thou” attitude, which is often also seen as “more set apart than thou”. It is clear that we cannot possibly earn our way to right relationship with YHWH, we can never be “good enough” to earn this gift, but many have gone down that road and many still do today. Today’s term for this would be “legalism” but I find all too often that to be accused of being a “legalist” is to be condemned in someone’s eyes for seeking to be obedient to YHWH.
Ironically, some take this teaching to the opposite end of the spectrum and decide that faith is all we need, just call upon His name, live however we like, and since Grace is free, rely solely on that.
However, when we love Him and seek to know Him, we quickly see that His ways are above and beyond our own, and seek to follow Him in obedience and wisdom out of our love, appreciation, and understanding of the supremacy of the gift of His leading.
In short, obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit of our salvation.
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12
This is a big bonus to this group for me. I see us mutually encouraged by one another’s faith daily. I praise the Father for the gift of being able to study His word alongside all of you!
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”- Romans 1:17
The righteous shall live by faith, what does that mean? Faith and trust go hand in hand. And they both rest in His wisdom. Do we have faith in our own wisdom? Do we trust in our own judgement? Or do we rest wholly on having faith in His wisdom and trusting in His judgement?
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
I know you’re reading this and likely immediately think “I’ve never worshipped a creature”. However, our culture today encourages us to do that at every turn. To worship the created creature rather than the Creator, what does that look like? I want to give you a modern example of this: When we put ourselves above Him. When we sit on that throne. When we declare ourselves exempt from anything that He has clearly told us to do. When we choose to exalt self over YHWH we have exchanged the truth for a lie and worshipped the creature rather than the creator. Romans 1:18 states that when we do this, we are without excuse. And so what happens? Let us keep reading.
Y’all, I promise the following verse is actually in Romans. I need to tell you that, lest you think I’m sharing a current news report with you.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge YHWH, YHWH gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of YHWH, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parent, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless… Romans 1:28-31
This is the result of exalting self over YHWH.
Now I admit, a lot of the folks practicing the sins detailed in the above passage today do acknowledge YHWH with their mouths – but simply saying He is God is not the same thing as treating Him as if He is God. We can say He is God all day long but unless we give Him authority in our lives, unless we submit our tongues, our keyboards, and our lives to His authority – He is not our God. And this has to be a daily submission because we are all prone to falling into these sins.
Remember, we read time and again in the Word that demons know and acknowledge that He is God. We must be careful not to set the bar so low that our goal is just to be on part with the demons. We must strive for faith and trust in His wisdom, not our own. Full reliance. Wholehearted. To attempt any less is to deny ourselves the fullness of relationship with Him.
Romans 2 begins with warnings for us not to judge others as we, ourselves, remain in guilt. This is another symptom of the hypocrisy of the day. The “holier than thou” arrogance that we are so prone to. We, ourselves, are entirely dependent on the mercy and grace of our Father and yet we spend our time condemning others as if we are now righteous in and of ourselves? We break the simplest of commandments daily and yet sometimes our own sin seems to serve only to make our voices louder in condemning the sin of others, as if doing so will make ours seem less apparent.
The Bible is meant as a mirror in which to see ourselves first and foremost, not as a magnifying glass with which to examine others.
Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that YHWH’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4
Bam. Ouch. Wow. Paul is not one to soft step and he isn’t pulling any punches right out of the gate. I don’t know about y’all but my toes don’t just feel bruised reading this, they feel crushed. YHWH’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance, not to disobedience. Romans 2:5 says that when we choose not to repent in light of His grace, we are actually storing up wrath for ourselves on the day of judgement that is to come.
YHWH’s Grace is meant to lead us to repentance. If we were a child and we broke something that belonged to our father, and confessed this to him, the hope is that he would forgive us, right? What, then, would his hope for us be in return? That we not break it again once it has been restored.
Romans 2:6 He will render to each one according to his works.
He goes on to warn, in this same statement, about those who do not obey the truth but choose to obey unrighteousness instead. This statement from 1 John drives it home for me:
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 1 john 3:9-10
Romans 2:13 is a key statement to remember, backed up by every book, story, prophet, and prophesy in the Bible.
“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before YHWH, but the doers of the law who will be justified.“ Romans 2:13
Now keep in mind that Paul said this, and it is wholly in line with Scripture. Because there are going to be some pretzel twisted sentences of Paul’s that can cause us to forget this if we are looking for a verse that sets us free from obedience to YHWH.
Being disconnected from the wisdom of YHWH is the worst kind of bondage. Paul sees that, too.
Romans 2:15 we see that new covenant in action! We always hear that we are under the “new” covenant. Many like to say it is covenant of grace, as a means of saying that faith in YHWH’s grace and goodness allow us to live however we choose. (remember this sentence for the big finish at the end)
Well, remember what that covenant is?
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
(Paul quotes this in Hebrews 10)
Romans 2:15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, YHWH judges the secrets of men by Messiah.
Note: When Paul says “my gospel” is referring to the gospel he is sharing, not a gospel created independently by Paul.
The gut punch for me is always the end of a long indictment against hypocrisy in the church (body of believers) that states:
“For, as it is written, “The name of YHWH is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”” – Romans 2:24 (possibly quoting Isaiah 52:5)
Wow. Now listen because I want you to hear me here: My behavior has caused YHWH’s name to be blasphemed. My behavior, as a person professing to represent Him, in passing on errant second hand knowledge of the Word, has misrepresented the Father and caused others to turn away from Him. This is absolute truth. I freely confess to this grievous sin.
This is part of the reason why we must diligently study the Word and make sure we are in the book each and every day. We are walking out there in the world under the banner of the Messiah and we had best represent Him accurately or we will have folks running in the opposite direction.
Romans 3 holds a reminder of what I mentioned in the introduction to this section. If we ever feel that Paul is contradicting YHWH, the advice from Paul himself is to side with YHWH.
“Let YHWH be true though every one were a liar” Romans 3:4
Paul goes on to explain righteousness and keeping the law. He goes around the block a few times with examples of what to do and not to do.
He uses a writing style of straw man debate, and realizing that makes Paul a lot more readable. He asks a question and then answers the question.
Here is a definition from Wikipedia: A straw man is a form of argument and an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent.
So Paul is bringing up current and possible arguments and examples and immediately refuting them. This is why his writing goes around in circles from time to time, because it is by design that he is, in fact, doing that.
But we end with another key statement that backs up the previous one I told you to keep in mind:
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before YHWH, but the doers of the law who will be justified.- Romans 2:13
Romans 3:19 Lets us know that through the law, we are made aware of our sin, so that we can know what is good in YHWH’s eyes, repent, return to Him, and live as HE calls us to live. What is sin? 1 John 3:4
Romans 3:27 We have faith in His wisdom. We aren’t obeying to keep score, we are obeying because we love Him and we trust Him.
Paul is convicting. He throws some gut punches and his arrows hit the mark. But don’t go feeling defeated because of your sin. Trust in YHWH. Trust in Messiah. You are where you should be – in His word. And that means He is molding you, refining you, teaching you. It is a process – have faith in the Creator and trust in the process. Book open, eyes on Him.
Here is the big finish for today, something I want you to ruminate on as we continue to read:
“Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. “ – Romans 3:31
Faith -> In His Wisdom. Trust-> In His Wisdom
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!
May YHWH bless the reading of His Word!