DAY 176 – FOR OUR GOOD
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
In the Old Testament story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, we have an example of how God can turn clearly unpleasant, ill-intentioned, bad events into something very good. Joseph was one of Jacob’s twelve sons, and he was his father’s favourite. That lead his brothers to dislike, even to hate, him. Eventually, they sold him into slavery and Joseph ended up falsely accused and in an Egyptian prison. There, he was forgotten by a man he had helped, until finally, he had opportunity to be used by God to set aside grain that saved the nation from severe and lengthy famine. The famine led his brothers to go to Egypt to buy food and thus, they faced Joseph who now had the power to repay them for the wrong done to him – or, to forgive them and preserve the Hebrew nation. Joseph chose forgiveness:
Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
Romans chapter 8 has several well-known and impactful verses. See, for example, verses 1, 11, 15-17, 18, 31-35, and 37-39. And, there is verse 28 that appears at the top of this Short Thought, above. How are we to understand this verse? In Joseph’s case, a series of hurtful things happened that ultimately put Joseph into a situation of “weakness” (a slave in Egypt) where he was elevated to a position where he could help save many people. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. I’m sure Joseph prayed hard and often for relief from the tough spot he was in. He prayed, not knowing why all that happened to him and not knowing how to get out of his dilemma. Romans 8:26-27 states that God the Holy Spirit prays for us when we don’t know what to pray for. In fact, the Spirit prays with intensity to the Father, “with groanings too deep for words”. He “intercedes for the saints according to the will of God”.
In Joseph’s case, I wonder who prayed for him. His father thought he was dead, but the brothers knew he was alive. I think that perhaps Reuben and Judah might have been praying for their brother – seeing that they showed some concern for Joseph. But how could they pray? They did not have any knowledge about his exact whereabouts, nor the type of slavery he might be experiencing, nor how he could ever be relieved of the torturous condition he was enduring. In our case, we have people and situations for whom we are concerned but no idea of how to change the circumstances. Our verses say that the Spirit of God communicates with God the Father for the will of God to be accomplished.
Our passage also identifies for whom things will “work together for good”(v. 28). This passage is addressed to “the saints” (v. 27) – those who have accepted God’s provision of salvation, as has been the focus throughout chapter 8. The chapter began with a word of assurance for “those who are in Christ Jesus” and therefore have the Spirit of God dwelling in them (verses 9-11). Believers are described as “sons of God” (v. 14), as ones adopted (v. 15) and thus “children of God” (v. 16), and “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (v. 17). To these, verse 28 says all things work together for good.
The passage also describes believers as persons who “love God” and ones “called according to His purpose”. It gives us much meaning to consider ourselves called for a purpose in life. God works to conform us to His Son, Jesus (v. 29), the ultimate purpose. That’s what He has “predestined” us for, by justifying us (clearing us from sin and making us acceptable to a pure God). His plan also includes glorification (an eternal life in a resurrection body like Christ’s – v. 30).
The ”good” that God plans for those who love Him is challenged in many ways throughout life. Jesus faced strong opposition and struggles on the way to something that, at first, looked like anything but good – a cross and a grave. Joseph faced a variety of painful situations that took him to something that looked anything but good – enslavement and imprisonment. You may face hard times and see no way out. But, the Spirit prays intensely for God’s purpose to be fulfilled in your case, too.
- Read Romans 8.
- Do you love God?
- Do you look back and see how God has brought you through some real difficulties, perhaps even using those hard times to equip you for some wonderful “good” later on?
- What about the person of Christ do you see as still needed for you to be conformed to Him?
- Are you seeking to set your mind on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5)?
- Notice that the Spirit who lives in the believer brings freedom from sin’s bondage (8:2), life and peace (8:6, 11), hope for the redemption of our bodies (8:23), and intercession on our behalf (8:27).
- Notice also the mention of the other members of the Trinity in verses 31-39. All three members of the godhead work together for our sakes. Nothing can separate the believer from God’s love (8:37-39).
DAY 177 -THE POTTER & THE CLAY
22 What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory. Romans 9:22-23
I recall a time when our second child was in high school and had a sculpture assignment to do. She chose to make a horse out of the clay provided for her. When she brought it home, I was amazed at this creation – a beautiful figure of a horse’s head. I asked how she did this and she replied, “Well, it just came out of my hands.”
In Romans 9, the Apostle Paul refers to God as a craftsman. He imagines a lump of clay from which the artist can make a vessel for honourable use (e.g., a beautiful flower vase) or another for dishonourable use (e.g., a pot for garbage collection). After all, he is the potter and the clay has no right to say, ‘Why did you make me this way?’ (9:19-21)
This chapter speaks to the matter of the sovereignty of God. Sovereignty is defined as supreme power or authority. When used in relation to God, sovereignty refers to God’s right to rule over His creation. In Romans 9:1-5, Paul says that his nation, Israel, was chosen by God- verses 4-5: “unto them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises…, the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”. Wow! That’s amazing. Then, there comes verse 6, “But…” There is a “but” – But not all born into the nation are truly God’s chosen ones. Only those who are “children of the promise” (verse 8).
In the remainder of the chapter, Paul will explain what this means, arriving at the conclusion in verses 30-33 – namely, that righteousness is acquired by faith, not works. It is that way for Gentiles as well as Jews and for Jews as well as Gentiles.
This is God’s sovereign work. We might ask, “Is God unjust in choosing this way?” That is the first of a series of questions posed in verses 14, 19, 20, 22, 30. Why does God show mercy to whom He wishes? Who can resist Him? And he answers, “Can’t God do as He pleases? Cannot He choose a remnant of Israel and of the Gentiles also to receive His righteousness and to do so by faith not by religious good works? Of course, He can! Especially since our efforts at good works don’t succeed (verse 31). What does work is belief (faith) in Jesus (verse 31).
The sovereign God had a plan which He worked out over centuries in order to rescue a people He would call His own, children of the living God.
- Read Romans 9.
- Have you ever asked God, “Why did you make me this way?”
- Have you wondered if God is unjust? Consider the justice of God as found in these words Paul uses when describing God and His actions: promise, mercy, compassion, glory, my people, beloved.
- Look at the questions of this chapter and reflect on the answers Paul gives (verses 14, 19, 20, 22, 30).
DAY 178 – CONFESS & BELIEVE
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.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:9-11
I recall an evening when I was visiting a young couple who had a connection to our church. The wife had come to faith in Christ. The husband had not and I shared as simply and clearly as I could what the Bible says about our need, Christ’s provision for us, and his responsibility. He was cordial and agreed with what I had said, but, sadly, stated that he was not ready to make that choice. I liked this man and desired that he be saved (to use the word our found in Romans 10:1). In that passage, the Apostle Paul says, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them (the nation Israel) is that they may be saved.”
Romans chapter 10 explains the process by which someone may come to the place of belief in Jesus Christ. The Apostle makes clear that this opportunity is there for both Jew and Gentile: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (v.13).
So, what is the process?
1st – Someone is SENT with the message: verse 15, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” God sends a messenger with the good news: “Their voice has gone out go all the earth and their words to the ends of the world.” (verse 18, quoting Psalm 19:4)
2nd – The sent-one PREACHES the good news: verse 14, “And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” In the Old Testament book of Jonah, the prophet was sent but, at first, did not go where God directed him. When God intervened and Jonah finally did go, good results followed!
3rd – There is an audience of one or more who HEAR the message: verse 14, “…And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they hear without someone preaching?” The “preaching” may be what occurs in a Sunday church service, or it may be a conversation where a believer shares what his faith means and why Christ came.
4th – The hearer must then make a decision: BELIEVE or NOT BELIEVE. Romans 9:16 says the “not all obeyed the gospel”.: Verses 20-21 add that in times past, some did not seek God, being disobedient and contrary. He is speaking of his own people, Israel, whom he longs to receive and believe in Christ. The ones who believe have heard “the word of Christ” (verse 17).
The passage begins and ends with Paul’s stated concern for the Israelites (verses 1-4, 21). It explains the process by which people are given opportunity to become children of God (verses 5-18). And it proclaims that this process is available to Gentiles as well as Jews (verses 19-20).
- Read Romans 9.
- Have you made a conscious choice to believe, that is, to place faith in, the gospel of Christ?
- Note all the “Old Testament references, ten in all: – three in verses 7-8 (from Deuteronomy 30:12, 14; 32:21) – five in verses 11, 15, 16, 20, 21 (from Isaiah 28:16; 52:7; 53:1; 65:1,2) – one in verse 13 (from Joel 2:32) – one in verse 18 (from Psalm 19:4) The gospel is found in both Old and New Testaments.
DAY 179 – A MYSTERY
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom & knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable His ways ! Romans 11:33
In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul says he is writing about a “mystery” (v. 25) This mystery concerns the nation Israel whom God chose for a special purpose in history. It also concerns non-Jews, i.e., Gentiles, whom God also wanted to include in His kingdom.
Paul begins with another question, “Has God rejected His people?” Some might wonder since in chapter 9 Paul had pointed out that the Gentiles were included in God’s plan of salvation – where they now replacing Israel? The answer is, “By no means!” Paul emphasizes that he, himself, is an Israelite. “God has not rejected His people.” (11:2) Indeed, there has always been at least a remnant who have been faithful. – just as there were in Elijah’s day – almost 900 years earlier (verses 2b-5; see I Kings 19:18).
His point is that the way to God and His righteousness is by faith, not works, and that this applies to both Jew and Gentile. Paul adds, “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.” (Romans 11:5-6), Paul adds that in the future, there will come a time when much more than a “remnant’ will know their “Deliverer” (v. 26).
All of this is too much for us to understand by our own thinking. It is beyond us (vv.33-36)
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Not only is God’s way deep, unsearchable, and inscrutable, but also only the sovereign God could accomplish our salvation. We must not be wise in our own mind (verse 25). We lack the wisdom and knowledge of God when it comes to His plan for both Israel and the Gentile nations. Humankind usually thinks that our own good living will save us, but God does not accept that. We need His grace (free gift; verse 5-6) and mercy (verses 30-31).
- Read Romans 11.
- How much do you think you know about God and His ways?
- Consider the use of the word “mystery” in this and other New Testament passages. The apostle Paul used the word mystery 21 times in his Epistles.
In each case, the “mystery” involved a wonderful declaration of spiritual truth, revealed by God through divine inspiration. A mystery is that “which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:5). The mystery of God’s will is that “which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:9–10; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:7; Revelation 10:7). The mystery of God is the consummation of God’s plan in bringing His kingdom in Christ to fulfillment.” [https://www.gotquestions.org/mystery-of-God.html]
- Some additional verses that speak of mysteries made known in the scriptures are as follows: Daniel 2:28; Matthew 13:11; Romans 16:25; I Corinthians 2:7; 15:51-53; Ephesians 1:9-10; 3:4-6, 8-9; Colossians 1:26-27; 2:2; I Timothy 3:16.
DAY 180 – SPIRITUAL WORSHIP
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1
We may not think of Romans 12 as a chapter that is about worship. Yet, that is what the first verse points to right from the start – giving to God “your spiritual worship”.
The first eleven chapters of Romans are doctrinal in nature, presenting the great doctrines of humankind’s sinfulness, God’s righteousness, justification, and salvation by faith. Then chapter 12 begins with the words, “I appeal to you therefore…” Because of all God has done for us, ”therefore” live a certain way. That way will occupy our attention in chapters 12-16. These last five chapters are practical in nature – practical applications for the believer. Overall, it can be summed up with the call to present our bodies a “living sacrifice” to God. Such surrender is called our “spiritual worship”. (verse 1).
Let’s consider these terms found in verse 1. This is an appeal to ”brothers”, meaning fellow believers. Those who accepted the mercies and grace of God, given through Jesus Christ, are now to respond in a life of surrender. We are to present our “bodies as a living sacrifice” – all of our being belongs to God. In the Old Testament animals were sacrificed and burnt on an altar. We are not put to death because Christ died in our stead. We give ourselves in the way we live our lives. God appreciates such surrender – it is “holy and acceptable” to Him. It is viewed as “spiritual worship”. We usually consider such things as singing songs of praise, giving of our financial resources, expressing adoration and praise through prayer, as acts of worship. God gratefully accepts those types of worshipful actions, but He also approves of right living, obedience to His commands and directions, and one’s the godly choices of day-to-day living as worship.
Such worship is found in humble and thoughtful dedication of ourselves through the use of the gifts He has given us. Seven specific gifts are identified in verses 6-8. We use these gifts, alongside other believers, to benefit others (verses 4-5). Each believer has been granted a “measure of faith” and is to use his or her gift to the full measure given. In summary, these gifts are as follows: 1. Prophecy – meaning presentation of the message of God; and in the “proportion” of faith we have within us
- Service – or ministering; serving others is carried out in practical ways, like the first deacons appointed in Acts 6 who cared for the needs of widows
- Teaching – to teach requires study and seeking the understanding given by God’s Spirit. It takes time and energy in preparation.
- Exhortation – is often a one-to-one encouragement and admonishing of the hearer
- Giving – all of us are to give but some have significant resources and need to use them thoughtfully and generously, not grudgingly
- Leadership – the church needs wise management; leaders must be zealous for God’s work to be accomplished
- Showing Mercy – merciful acts towards those who are hurting in some way can be tiring; such service is to be carried out with gladness
Then, in the final section (Romans 12:9-21) consists of a long list of loving actions (23 of them) that should characterize the servant of God. Take time to reflect on each one:
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast towhat is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal; be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not cursethem. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with thosewho weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
That’s how to live!
- Read Romans 12.
- There are four lists of spiritual gifts in the Paul’s letters. These ones in Romans 12 are personal gifts – which one is most likely your gift? I Corinthians 12:7-1110 has a list of nine effects or manifestations of the Spirit’s work through believers. I Corinthians 12:28 has a list of eight gifts God has given to the church. In Ephesians 4:11 you will find four gifts of people Christ has provided for His church.
- Now, go back to the opening two verses of this chapter and prayerfully think about what you have given of yourself to God. How much would you consider yourself conformed to the world and how much have you been transformed to God’s will for your life.
DAY 181 Submit & Love
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. . . Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:1, 8
According to PEW Research Center, in 2021 governments and social groups harassed Muslims in 126 countries and Christians in 124. Harassment of Christians included such persecution as killing, abduction, forced marriages, targeted organized criminal activities, secular intolerance, intolerance by majority religious groups, forced conversions, surveillance by government agencies, and more. Governments not only single out specific religious groups for persecution, but also more than 80 governments favour one religion over another. Thus, in both negative and positive ways government and religion are tied.
The Apostle Paul speaks to the relationship of government and Christianity in Romans 13. We must remember that Paul lived in the time when the Romans Empire ruled. Rulers included Caesar Augustus (d. AD 14), Tiberias Caesar (AD 14-37), Caligula (AD 37-41), Claudius (AD 41-54), and Nero (AD 54-68). All of these emperors were notorious for their persecution of Christians (among them, Paul), as were lesser, local officials such as Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, and Herod Antipas. Yet, Paul begins chapter 14th these words, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”
Why? Why submit to governmental authority when so often it is unworthy, even cruel? The passage offers four reasons: (1) God instituted government and thus to resist it is to resist God– verses 1-2, “There is no authority except from God, those that exist have been instituted by God.” In Daniel 2:21, Daniel prays, “He removes kings and sets up kings” and in Daniel 5:26 says to Belshazzar, “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end” and in verse 30 we read that the king was killed that very night. To resist God is to risk judgement.
(2) Rulers are not to be feared by those who do good – vv. 3-4a, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct…do what is good and you will receive his approval.” Those who break the laws will have fear, but those who obey the laws generally have no fear.
(3) Government authorities punish those who do wrong – v. 4b, “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.,.”
(4) Your conscience tells you that obeying government is a good idea – v. 5, “Therefore one must be in subjection, noy only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.”
Paul adds an application in verses 6-7. “Because of this – that is, for the reasons mentioned, pay taxes. We pay all we owe and in so doing show respect and honour to those owed it.
But, is there ever a time not to obey? Yes, when a law was made to forbid prayer to anyone but the king, Daniel still prayed to God, and he was sentenced to death in the lions’ den (Daniel 6), just like his three friends who disobeyed King Nebuchadnezzar’s order to worship only the new statue he had made (Daniel 3). Other examples are the Hebrew midwives who refused to kill Hebrew baby boys (Exodus 1:15-22), Moses’ parents who kept baby Moses alive (Exodus 2:1-2), Mordecai who would not bow to Haman (Esther 3:1-6), Esther, who entered the king’s inner court uninvited (Esther 4), Jeremiah who ran afoul of officials by advising people to go along with the invading Babylonians (Jer. 38:1-6), Peter and John who were commanded not to teach in Jesus’ name but “listened to God rather than men” (Acts 4:1-22), additional apostles who did likewise and were beaten (Acts 5:17-42), Paul & Silas who were imprisoned for stirring up the people by their preaching (Acts 16:16-40).
The teaching of these verses is to obey the laws of the land except when they are contrary to the laws of God.
The last part of chapter 13 makes clear that the way to fulfill God’s law is to love one another. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (v. 8) The Law of God as given through Moses is briefly stated in the Ten Commandments. Four in particular are mentioned – no adultery, no murder, no stealing, no coveting. Paul adds, “and any other commandment”. Then, Paul says that these commands are summarized in the simple statement, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
The two sections (verses 1-7 on the law and government plus verses 8-14 – on loving one’s neighbour) are linked. If you love your neighbour, you will be a good citizen, obeying the laws of the land. “Let us walk properly”, he concludes in verse 13. He uses an image of rising in the morning and putting on your clothes. We are to cast off the works (sins) of darkness and rise, putting on the armour of light, namely the Lord Jesus Christ (verses 13-14).
- Read Romans 13.
- Notice how Paul moves from obeying government to obeying God. He also directs us to submit to government and submit to Christ. Loving God by following His commandments shows love to our fellow citizen, or neighbour.
- How do the four commandments mentioned in verse 9 apply to loving one’s neighbour?
- Consider these words from the great 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, “ As we have already said, a first necessity is to awake, and truly none can lie and dream after they have once beheld his glorious robe; they are eager to obtain it. Our next necessity is to cast off the old garments of the night, and nothing helps us more than to put on Christ. Only look at this robe of righteousness as yours, and you will loathe the filthy rags of sin at once. When a man perceives the perfection of the righteousness of Christ, which is freely given to him of God, he abhors his sin, he loves his God, and pines to be like him in holiness.” [https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/dressing-in-the-morning/#flipbook/ ]
Day 182 Stumbling Block
Therefore, let us not pass judgment on one anoher any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Romans 14:13
In chapter 13 of Romans, Paul went from talking about getting along with government, to getting along with fellow citizens. Now, he speaks about getting along with fellow believers. The chapter has three individuals involved: myself, my brother/sister, and my God.
The matter at hand in Paul’s day was the eating of prohibited foods. This could mean foods prohibited by the Jewish food laws of the Old Testament (Leviticus 11), or it could be foods (especially meat) that had previously been offered to idols and then sold in the marketplace (see also I Corinthians 8). Should believers in Christ be eating these foods? Some in the church Paul was addressing said, “No, certainly not”; others said “Sure, why not; aren’t we free from these prohibitions?” As a result of this difference, the first group judged the second (who felt free to eat anything, verses 3b-4), while the second group mocked or despised the first group (the abstainers), considering them “weak” in the faith (v. 1). They also argued over the observance of special days – perhaps whether Christians must still worship on the Sabbath (Saturday) or could they choose a different day? (Romans 14:5-9).
How would this issue be illustrated in our day? Over the years Christians have differed over such things as the wearing of makeup by believing women, going to the theatre, drinking alcohol, etc. In more recent years, there have been strong differences re. styles of music in worship services – traditional (hymns, organ & piano), or contemporary (upbeat worship songs, guitars & keyboards), or mixed. And then, there are the differences we may have over politics!
How are we to handle these differences? I probably prefer one style of music and my brother of sister believer, another. Here’s what the passage says:
- Do not quarrel over opinions. (v. 1)
- Don’t despise or pass judgement on the other. (v. 3)
- Follow your conscience. (v. 5)
- Whatever your choice, do so to honour the Lord (vv. 6-9)
- Remember that we will one day have to give account for our actions to God alone. (vv. 10-12)
- Avoid presenting a stumbling block to another believer. (v. 13)
- Paul elaborates this point in the remainder of the chapter.
- “Pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (v. 19) How to do this is verses 20-23. Even if we believe our way is approved by God, we must consider the other person and avoid practices that might cause offence.
Individually, we must be right with God, living a life of faith, not bringing judgment on ourselves for wrong attitudes and actions.
- Read Romans 14.
- Do you respect the fellow Christian who has a different preferred worship style than you do, or do you make fun of them, or judge them? Do you love a fellow believer who holds to political opinions opposite to your own?
- Have some of your preferences in lifestyle issues changed over the years? Why? Are the views you hold supported in the scriptures? Can you stand before God with a clear conscience?
- The passage is about myself and my sister or brother in Christ, yes. But it is much, much more about my God. In the 23 verses of this chapter, there are 25 times that the names of God are used (God, Lord, Christ, Jesus, Holy Spirit). Re-read verse 12.