For this week’s Bible study, we’ll close out the book of Romans from a Progressive Christian perspective.

Finishing Up The Book of Romans

open minds
open minds

Today I will complete the study of the book of Romans that I started some weeks ago. I will conclude this series by selecting some passages from the end of chapter 15 through all of chapter 16. The following quotes from Scripture are a summary of Paul’s closing thoughts as he finishes up his letter to the early Roman church. I will begin by taking up where I left off last week in chapter 15, beginning at verse 14.

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15: verses 14-16 NIV)

“I myself am convinced … that you yourselves are full of goodness…”. As it was with the apostle Paul when he wrote this letter to the early Christian church at Rome, so it is with this Bible study that I send over the Internet today. All of you who are reading this must be doing so because you are seeking Spiritual knowledge and growth, realizing that the empty pursuit of material possessions and meaningless wealth has no bearing on where you stand with God, let alone one’s own happiness. So let me take this opportunity to encourage you to continue in your faithful studies of God’s Word, and to never let up in your quest for more learning of the deeper mysteries of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. By getting to know Jesus Christ personally as Savior, teacher and best friend, He then causes us to gravitate toward him as we are drawn ever closer to our dear Lord Jesus.

“…the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God…” As I wrote about in an earlier study of Romans, Paul was a Jewish man and a Roman citizen. The audience Paul spoke to and the class of people Paul wrote to were neither Jews nor were they Roman citizens. Although this may seem insignificant to the modern Bible student, it was a really big deal in Paul’s day because, being raised and educated as a traditional Jew, he would normally have had nothing to do with non-Jews. The religious Jews of Paul’s day regarded themselves as being superior to non-Jews because of their faith, traditions and their formal training. If this sounds familiar to you, it is because this same attitude of spiritual snobbery and religious “superiority” has infected the modern church just as it did back in the day when the book of Romans was written by Paul. That is what Paul meant when he mentions his “priestly duty” in his letter to the early church at Rome. He was referring to the Levitical priesthood described in detail in the first five books of the Old Testament known to the Jews at that time as the Law of Moses. Paul then continues with this train of thought starting in verse 17.

Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Holy Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written, ‘Those who were not told about Him will see, and those who have not heard will understand’. This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.” (Romans 15: verses 17-22 NIV)

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me…”. I strive to do what Paul did when he wrote these words nearly two thousand years ago. You have noticed as you have read these weekly Bible studies that I never mention anything from my past, nor do I cite any of my own experiences in life as illustrations. Instead, I have always stuck with God’s Word and I have taught solely from that frame of reference. I do this in order that what I am teaching and writing about conforms to the Word of God and to the teachings of Christ Jesus. In point of fact, as a teacher and minister I am held to a higher standard in God’s eyes, and He expects me to live up to it. Since this is my Christian responsibility, I “study the word to show myself approved” and I make myself “transformed by the renewing of my mind”. There are those who teach the Word of God but who do so from their own frame of reference, based on their experiences in the secular world outside the Church. Paul warned the early Christians about this in chapter 16 as he was finishing his letter to the early Roman church.

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” (Romans 16: verses 17-19 NIV)

When Paul implored the early church at Rome to “watch out for those who cause divisions”, he was actually prophesying about the advent of church denominations that was beginning at the time these words were being written. In the first century AD, various churches were already proclaiming themselves to be followers of Paul, Peter, James and other apostles who were the original twelve followers of Jesus during His ministry on earth. As you read the New Testament you will notice numerous occasions where Paul and the other apostles preached against this very thing. The above example is only one of many throughout the Bible. In the early 21st century here in America, there are over 400 denominations not counting the rest of the world. That’s just here in the US! You have no doubt heard or read about examples of this sort of thing either in church or in print. One denomination preaches against another as they try to convince other people that their pastor’s point of view is the only correct one. In the worst cases, different churches from the same denomination preach and teach against each other, no doubt to the complete chagrin of Almighty God. What will God do with these churches? I will tell you: When the rapture of the Church – that is, the Bride of Christ, not just certain denominations – occurs in the next few years or so, these churches will find themselves left behind to endure the Great Tribulation prophesied in the Book of Revelation, Matthew’s gospel chapters 24 and 25, and in a fair number of other places in the Bible as well. Let’s not go there, people! Instead of following one denomination or another, let us instead be followers of Jesus Christ and Him alone.

Watch out for and steer clear of churches such as this. It is for this very reason that this web site is not connected with or affiliated with any one particular denomination. If you go to a church and you hear hate or intolerance being preached against any other church or group of people, get out of there immediately. Pray and ask God to lead you to a good church, one where the preaching and teaching comes straight out of the Bible, and one where the baptism by water and by the Holy Spirit is being taught. This is how you know you are on the right track. Above all, keep searching until you find a church that you are comfortable with and where the full gospel of Jesus Christ is being taught. And always stay in the Word, reading and studying your Bible diligently, because you reinforce your own Spirituality whenever you do so. And next week we will begin our study of the first of Paul’s two letters to the church at Corinth, known as the Corinthian epistles. Until then, keep Jesus in your hearts and minds.

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