By Grace, We are Slaves? – Romans 5-6

In chapter 5, Paul compares the transgression of Adam and its consequences to the cure for it- – Jesus and his sacrifice — and the consequences of that action. In the case of the former, sin reigned in the “death” that came from that. But grace reigns in the wake of the sacrifice of Jesus.

English: Fragments of the Epistle to the Romans

English: Fragments of the Epistle to the Romans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But in chapter 6, Paul makes it clear that this “free gift” of grace does not give us a license to continue to live in sin. We serve the Lord, and in doing so, we become slaves to righteousness. Otherwise, we are slaves to sin. There is no third choice. We are slaves to one or the other.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Romans 5, Romans 6, Romans 7, Romans 8, Romans 9

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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

The Move From the Law to Faith -Romans 3-4

In Romans 3, Paul tells them that Jews are no better and no worse than the Gentiles. All, he says, have sinned. He says that the Gentiles are now true Jews by way of the Spirit, Paul then addresses the question that would naturally come from the Jews.  Was there no advantage or value of being a Jew, or of being circumcised?  Paul says that indeed there was.  The Jews had been the keepers of the “oracles of God” (verse 2) – the Scriptures; and in that capacity at least, they had remained faithful.

Painting by Rembrandt of Paul, one of the most...

Painting by Rembrandt of Paul, one of the most notable of early Christian missionaries, who called himself the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Paul, a Hellenistic Jew, was very influential on the shift of Christianity to Gentile dominated movement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God’s word, as He would make certain, had been preserved; and just as importantly, God had remained faithful to His promises to them, despite the unfaithfulness they had shown to Him. In chapter 4, he speaks about faith throughout the chapter. The point he makes is that the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. It is this transition from the law to faith that is causing contention and division among the Jews there and the Gentiles. They must move past this.

 

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Acts 28, Romans 1, Romans 2, Romans 3, Romans 4

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Paul in Rome – Acts 28

After the shipwreck, they learned that the island they had safely reached is called Malta. He said that the natives were kind and welcoming, and even helped them with a fire. But a snake came out because of the heat, and fastened himself to Paul’s hand. The sight of the deadly creature hanging from his limb just after he had been rescued from a life-threatening shipwreck made them suppose that he must be a murderer, getting his just reward (Greek and Roman tales had long spoken of just such events – “The Argonautica”, for example). But God was certainly not going to let anything happen to him. When he neither died nor showed any ill effects from the bite, they then thought Paul himself to be a god.

Showing Castor and Pollux fighting at the Batt...

Showing Castor and Pollux fighting at the Battle of Lake Regillus. Woodcut from Engraving by John Reinhard Weguelin (1849 to 1927). Drawing is signed “JRW1880” in bottom right corner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Publius in verse 7, is described as a “chief man” – the Greek term for which is “protos,” of which term several inscriptions have been found. Several references to Publius and this chapter, along with photographs can be found in this article at BiblePlaces.com. Publius’ father was ill with fever and dysentery (the description of which ills fit those of an infection caused by goat’s milk called “Malta fever”). Paul healed him, as well as others of the island with diseases that were brought to him afterward (verses 8-9).

After three months, they again set sail in a ship from Alexandria that had been wintering there. Luke describes the ship as having a figurehead of the “twin gods” (Castor and Pollux, the mythological twin sons of Zeus and Leda, were seen as the protectors of seamen). They put in at Syracuse for three days, then ended up in Puteoli, where they stayed with brethren they had found for seven days, then to Rome. The brethren there heard, and came from as far away as “The Three Taverns” and the “Forum of Appius” (hence, the name, the Appian Way) (verses 12-16).

Paul spent considerable time preaching and trying to convince the Jews there of the good news of Jesus through the words of Moses and the prophets. Some believed, but others did not – the latter leaving disagreeably (verses 23-25). Paul quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 to them in verses 26-27; and then told them that now this news of the salvation of God will be brought to the Gentiles, for they will listen.

Verses 30-31 close out the book of Acts with the word that Paul remained there two full years, at his own expense, “teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” No further word is given of Paul’s appearance before Caesar, or any confirmation of secular writings that suggest he fulfilled his desire to go and preach in Spain, nor of a second imprisonment before his martyrdom. As much as we would like to know of the rest of Paul’s story, the inspired word of God does not tell us because the book of Acts is not Paul’s biography, but the word “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16).

 

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Acts 28, Romans 1, Romans 2, Romans 3, Romans 4

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Paul’s Shipwreck – Acts 27

Once again, Luke begins the chapter speaking in the first person plural, indicating that he was with Paul all the way to Rome as they set sail for Italy. The centurion, Julius, that Paul and the other prisoners were delivered to is said to have been “of the Augustan Cohort.” A cohort generally consisted of six hundred men under the command of six centurions. However, auxiliary forces of the cohort could push the numbers up to a thousand men. The cohorts were given names – this one likely given the name for the imperially dedicated regiment founded by the emperor, Augustus, who reigned from 27 BC to 14 AD.

Verse 9’s “the Fast” refers to the Day of Atonement, which would have been in October. From this time to about April, Meditteranean sailing is (and was) most dangerous; and Paul was already warning them that the voyage would result in “injury and much loss” (verse 10). But the centurion sided with the captain and the rest of the crew, who judged the harbor at Fair Havens to be unsuitable for the winter. So they decided to try to make it to “Phoenix, a harbor of Crete,” (probably present day Phineka Bay) to spend the winter. This was, after all, a 2,000 mile voyage to Rome.

Kaloi Limenes in Crete, where the ancient city...

Kaloi Limenes in Crete, where the ancient city of Lasea was located (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When a northeaster – a fearsome storm – arrived, it tossed them about so badly that they began jettisoning cargo and tossing the ship’s “tackle” overboard (the tackle may have been the beam supporting the ship’s mainsail). Most had lost hope when Paul told them that “an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship” had appeared and told him not to be afraid – that he must stand before Caesar, so they would all be spared. But, he told them, they would have to run the ship aground on “some island” (verse 26).

The mention of the men taking a “sounding” refers to measuring the depth of the water by use of a “sounding line.” When they found that they were nearing land, the sailors (afraid of the ship hitting rocks) were lowering boats to abandon ship under the pretense of laying anchors. But Paul warned the centurion, saying that they would not make it if the sailors left the ship. So the soldiers cut the boats loose from the ship to prevent escape.

Having conserved all they could, the fourteenth day without having eaten approached, and Paul urged them all to eat, in order to gather their strength. He did so himself, giving thanks to God; and they were encouraged, and all ate some. There were 276 aboard (verse 27) – about the right amount for the vessel to have been a large grain ship , meaning it was probably not worthy of such a voyage.

Verses 39-44 detail the horrific shipwreck on the reefs, and the escape to land that all of them made safely, hanging on to the wreckage. Verses 42-43 tell us that the soldiers had planned to kill the prisoners, so that none could escape. But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, prevented them. God had, as always, made good on his promise to save them.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Acts 23, Acts 24, Acts 25, Acts 26, Acts 27

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Paul Before Agrippa – Acts 25-26

Antonius Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus as the Roman procurator of Judea from about 59 to 62 AD. After some days, Festus met with King Agrippa II and his sister, Bernice, who was always by his side (one of his other siblings was Drusilla, who was the wife of Festus’ predecessor, Felix). This Agrippa was educated in the court of the emperor Claudius, and was the son of Herod Agrippa I, who in Acts 12:1-3 had the Apostle James killed and Peter arrested, and who the Lord stuck down dead in Acts 12:21-23. He was also the great-grandson of Herod the Great – who had ordered the killing of all the male children of the region around Bethlehem when Jesus was born. As Festus laid out the case against Paul, he concluded by surmising that the matter was a dispute about their religion, and the death of “a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive” (verse 19).

Herod Agrippa II was the seventh and last king...

Herod Agrippa II was the seventh and last king of the family of Herod the Great, thus last of the Herodians. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The next day, Festus introduced Paul, saying in a nutshell that (interestingly enough) he had found no charge deserving of death for Paul, and therefore he thought it wise to have him appear to Agrippa, so that maybe he (Festus) would have “something to write” before sending him to Caesar.

In chapter 26, Agrippa gave Paul permission to speak in his defense. Agrippa’s reputation was that of a pious Jew, though much of the rest of his reputation was not so good. Still, he was (like his uncle Herod) in control of the temple treasury, and the Romans consulted him on religious matters. Paul then gives us the third account in this book of his vision – his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus (the other two being in Acts 9 and Acts 22), and ending with the charge that Jesus gave him (verses 15-18). From this chapter’s account, we have more details about what Jesus said to him on that first occasion.

The outburst of Festus during Paul’s reference to the fulfilling of all that Moses and the prophets said would take place would seem to affirm his alignment with the Jewish accusers. But Paul seems pretty confident that Agrippa is not so inclined. Note verse 27 – “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” Agrippa is no fool, and Paul is surely not foolish enough to speak hastily when he says in verse 26: “For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.” Verse 28 is difficult in translation, but regardless of the translated version, it says that Agrippa was not quite ready to accept the fact of Jesus as Lord and Christ; and is the inspiration for the hymn, “Almost Persuaded.” Paul’s response is that he would have Agrippa and all who hear him to be as Paul himself is (minus the chains, of course) – that is, to believe in the Lord.

Agrippa’s statement to Festus after he, Bernice and the others had met outside Paul’s presence (verses 30-32) is a sort of vindication, but not the end of Paul’s ordeal. Agrippa could have set Paul free if he had not appealed to Caesar, but he had no choice by law but to send him to so appear before the emperor.

/Bob’s boy

Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke

Acts 23, Acts 24, Acts 25, Acts 26, Acts 27

___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

 

Saul Ravages the Church – Acts 8

Paul the Apostle, Russian icon from first quar...

Paul the Apostle, Russian icon from first quarter of 18th cen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first three verses of chapter 8 really belong with chapter 7 in this writer’s opinion because they really mark the end of what could easily be considered the first section of the book of Acts. The significance of the previous chapter’s cold-blooded murder of murder of Stephen cannot be understated. A t the end, they stoned Stephen to death, laying their garments at the feet of Saul. Verse one begins

And Saul approved of the execution.

The reality of those words from verse one would haunt the apostle Paul for the rest of his life. Known at this time as “Saul of Tarsus,” Paul was himself a Pharisee, having been “educated at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3), a much revered member of the Sanhedrin council.  Though himself not a member of the Sanhedrin, the last few verses confirm that Paul did enjoy a somewhat revered status himself. That status afforded him some authority as well. The fury over Stephens speech was not quenched by his death by way of stoning. The wrath of the council was then turned upon all Christians, and Saul acted upon their authority as he “was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison (verse 3).

The tremendous growth of the church from the day of Pentecost up until Stephen’s death had been a great blessing mixed with the growing pains we saw in chapter 6. Now as the church scattered, that growth would ensure that many more in many other places would be taught, as well as become teachers of, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostles, of course, remained where they were.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________

some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please visit this site’s menu item “The Author’s Books” for info on the author’s books, website, and Facebook page.

All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.

 

 

 

With All Authority – Paul’s Epistle to Titus

Paul’s authorship of the letter to Titus has been questioned by a few scholars, largely because of the mention of having been on the island of Crete, when there is no other scriptural record of Paul having visited the island. But of course, the Bible is neither the biography of Paul, nor is it his journal. In truth, it is plain to see that Paul wrote this letter after he wrote his first letter to Timothy and before his second letter to him, which he wrote from his final imprisonment in Rome, while awaiting his death. By bits and pieces, we at least get a partial picture of Paul’s travels after his first imprisonment there.

Tradition says that after Paul was released from prison in Rome (before his second and final imprisonment), he and Titus traveled together for a while. They stopped in Crete, and when it was time for Paul to go, he left Titus behind to help the churches there.

Tradition says that after Paul was released from prison in Rome (before his second and final imprisonment), he and Titus traveled together for a while. They stopped in Crete, and when it was time for Paul to go, he left Titus behind to help the churches there.

Crete is one of the five largest islands in the Mediterranean, only about 1/3 the size of Sicily and Sardinia, but it is the largest of the Greek islands. It is about 160 miles from east to west, and about 37 miles at its widest point. From the familiarity that Paul clearly has with the island and its people (as expressed in this letter) he must have spent considerable time there, before leaving Titus with a charge to nurture the fledgling congregations there.

Among the things that Paul has to say to Titus here is to urge him to set about the work of “what remained” to be put in order, including the appointment of elders in every town. Just how many towns were involved in this effort, we do not know. Paul also lists some important qualifications for those who would be considered for that task (Titus 1:5-9). One reason for the urgency was that Paul expressed some concern about the problem of false teachers, including those of the circumcision party that had made their way even to the island already.

With respect to those false teachers and the “deceivers,” Paul tells Titus to be firm in teaching the truth while dealing with such matters. In chapter 2:15, he tells him to “exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” In chapter 3, he concludes the letter with good advice for living as a Christian, and avoiding controversy and dissensions. He asks Titus to do his best to come to Nicopolis, where Paul says he plans to spend the winter. It is unclear which Nicopolis he referred to, but it could have been Actia Nicopolis, of western Greece. It was once the capital of the Roman province of Epirus Vetus.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week

 

/Bob’s boy

 

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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

 

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

 

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Philippians 3 – The Prize of the Upward Call

This chapter of the epistle begins with Paul telling the brethren to “rejoice in the Lord,” continuing his encouragement. Then he begins his typical “beware” admonition. This time, however, he speaks of “dogs” and evildoers, and then a clever mention of “mutilators of the flesh.” All three of these refer to the same group of people – Judaizers.  This is a faction of the Christian movement who, despite what Paul and the other apostles have made clear, were still teaching others that circumcision was still necessary – in particular, to force such teaching on Gentiles. This was causing problems in the church in many places, and Paul wanted to make sure the brethren at Philippi were vigilant to “nip it in the bud.”

Philippi forum

Philippi forum

Paul tells them that “we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.”  What he means is that the faithful Christians are the new children of Abraham. Referring to these Judaizers as “dogs” is intentionally ironic, as Gentiles were often so called by Jews in times past. It is in verse 4 that he refers to their unjustified pride, noting that if anyone has reason for “being confident in the flesh,” he himself does. He then recounts all of the things that he had always placed a high value on in his life. He was a Jew, circumcised on the eighth day according to the law of Moses. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, had been a Pharisee, and righteous and blameless under the law – a respected Hebrew among Hebrews.

Noting that he had lost all of those things he had valued, he now counts them as rubbish that he may know Christ, become like Him in His death, and attain the resurrection of the dead. It is with this in mind that he urges them to stand fast in the face of their enemies and trials, and press on to that goal.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Acts 28 – Paul Arrives in Rome

On Paul’s journey to Rome, his ship was wrecked on Melita, or Malta. There he was bit by a poisonous snake, but he didn’t die (Acts 27:39–28:6)

Luke picked up the account after the shipwreck, where they learned that the island they had safely reached is called Malta.  He said that the natives were kind and welcoming, and even helped them with a fire.  But a snake came out because of the heat, and fastened himself to Paul’s hand.  The sight of the deadly creature hanging from his limb just after he had been rescued from a life-threatening shipwreck made them suppose that he must be a murderer, getting his just reward (Greek and Roman tales had long spoken of just such events – “The Argonautica”, for example).  But God was certainly not going to let anything happen to him.  When he neither died nor showed any ill effects from the bite, they then thought Paul himself to be a god.

Publius in verse 7, is described as a “chief man” – the Greek term for which is “protos,” of which term several inscriptions have been found.  Several references to Publius and this chapter, along with photographs can be found in this article at BiblePlaces.com.  Publius’ father was ill with fever and dysentery (the description of which ills fit those of an infection caused by goat’s milk called “Malta fever”).  Paul healed him, as well as others of the island with diseases that were brought to him afterward (verses 8-9).

The shipwreck occurred on Malta, where the ship’s company spent three months. Finally, another ship gave them passage for the 100 miles to Syracuse, capital of Sicily, then sailed on to Rhegium, finally dropping anchor at Puteoli. Paul was taken to the forum on the Appian Way and to The Three Taverns before arriving in Rome.

After three months, they again set sail in a ship from Alexandria that had been wintering there.  Luke describes the ship as having a figurehead of the “twin gods” (Castor and Pollux, the mythological twin sons of Zeus and Leda, were seen as the protectors of seamen).  They put in at Syracuse for three days, then ended up in Puteoli, where they stayed with brethren they had found for seven days, then to Rome.  The brethren there heard, and came from as far away as “The Three Taverns” and the “Forum of Appius” (hence, the name, the Appian Way) (verses 12-16).

Paul spent considerable time preaching and trying to convince the Jews there of the good news of Jesus through the words of Moses and the prophets.  Some believed, but others did not – the latter leaving disagreeably (verses 23-25).  Paul quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 to them in verses 26-27; and then told them that now this news of the salvation of God will be brought to the Gentiles, for they will listen.

Verses 30-31 close out the book of Acts with the word that Paul remained there two full years, at his own expense, “teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”  No further word is given of Paul’s appearance before Caesar, or any confirmation of secular writings that suggest he fulfilled his desire to go and preach in Spain, nor of a second imprisonment before his martyrdom.  As much as we would like to know of the rest of Paul’s story, the inspired word of God does not tell us because the book of Acts is not Paul’s biography, but the word “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16).

So, one might wonder, if it was so important for Paul to appear before Caesar, why is there nearly a chapter and a half about the journey and shipwreck, and not a word about what was so important about that appearance?  The answer is that first, God had some reason for Paul to go to stand before Caesar that fulfilled His purpose, but there have been countless events since creation important to Him that are not  important for us to know about for teaching, for reproof, for correction, or for training in righteousness.  But the journey and shipwreck teach a couple of important lessons.  One is that when God wants something done, it gets done, period!  Nothing will stop it from completion.  The other is that God, as we have seen since Genesis, always keeps His promises.  Paul was imprisoned, betrayed, the target of assassination, 2,000 miles away from his destination, shipwrecked, stranded on an island, and had a deadly snake bite him severely enough to have hung from his hand.  Yet God wanted him to be in Rome, and had promised that he would get there safely.  We can take comfort, knowing that His will is going to be done, and that He has promised salvation for His faithful.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.