Monday: Read Romans 11:1-24
Paul is continuing the focus on God’s faithfulness to His covenant. The question has been: How can God be faithful when Israel has not responded to its Messiah? The problem is made even worse when we recognize that the Jews have rejected Christ, but many Gentiles are coming to faith in Christ.
Paul begins his summary-response by noting God has certainly not forgotten His promise to the Jewish people (the Greek is very emphatic “me genoito” [“God forbid”]). Paul reminds them that, after all, he is Jewish (1). In fact, many Jews have accepted Christ.
Paul then concludes this thought by asking if Israel has failed for good. (11). To which he again replies, “me genoito” (“God forbid”) (11).
Paul then notes that the Jewish rejection of Jesus has been a blessing (“riches”) for the Gentiles (12). The Gentiles, however, must be careful of becoming arrogant also (18), otherwise, they may be cut off also (20-22).
Remember that Paul is addressing real people in the Roman church. The Gentile believers may have concluded that they were superior to the Jews because they recognized Jesus and have been included in the covenant family of God without having been circumcised. They may have even argued that God has rejected the Jewish people.
One of Paul’s more famous analogies appears in 17-24. He refers to an olive tree. The olive tree represents the people of God (Israel in the OT; but the Church today). Paul says that unbelieving Jews are like broken-off branches (17). They, of course, can be grafted back in if they believe (23-24).
The Gentiles are like wild olive branches that are grafted into the pure olive tree of Israel/Church (17).
Questions to ponder/discuss:
- One of the stark realities that the Church must face is its history of antisemitism. Paul seems to be arguing here that God has not forgotten the Jews. The Lord’s goal is that when they see all the Gentiles embracing their Messiah, they will be moved to jealousy and return.
- There is no room for racism or discrimination among the people of God. We must call out such behavior when we see it and defend those who are oppressed.
- Talk with someone who is a minority or a female and learn their story. If you are a minority or a female then tell someone else your story.
Tuesday: Read Romans 11:25-36
Paul begins by noting that what he is revealing is so that they (likely the Gentiles) do not become conceited (25). He explains that there has been a “partial” hardening of Israel until the “fulness” of the Gentiles has come (25). This passage is highly disputed and we cannot enter into the debate here. I suspect that Paul is indicating that there will be some point in time (“until” 25)—after the Gentile mission has reached its end—when the hardening of Israel will end.
Paul, then, concludes, “and so all Israel will be saved” (26). The verse is among one of the more disputed statements in the NT. The questions are: does Paul mean by “all Israel will be saved” that at some future point in time there will be a mass conversion of Jews to Jesus? Or, does Paul refer to the full number of Jews and Gentiles?
Either way, we approach this issue, we must be reminded that the theme of Rom 9-11 is that God has been and continues to be faithful to his covenant with Israel. We should note that there are and always have been Jewish believers in Jesus.
Questions to ponder/discuss:
- Regardless of your theological outlook on Rom 9-11, we must recognize that the Jews are not pawns in some Christian eschatological (end times) game. That is, we are not to seek evangelism among Jews so that the end times will come. Jews are often offended that Christians only support Israel or the Jewish people because of alleged prophecies about the end times. We should support Jews and all other people because they are persons of value and made in God’s image.
- There is no doubt that Christians should support the Jewish peoples’ efforts to have their own nation-state: where they can be more assured that another Holocaust will not happen. But we cannot support the formation of that nation-state if it comes at the expense of another people group (namely the Palestinians). If the western nations want to help the Jewish people find a homeland, they may. They may not, however, give them someone else’s land (the Palestinians) and call it a day.
- Another problem has been the Christian (especially evangelical Christian) support for the modern state of Israel. Now, it is good to support a people—whether they be the Jews in Israel or the Chinese in China. Too many Christians, however, have given blind support for the modern state of Israel—because they are God’s “chosen” people—and have not held them accountable for their human rights violations against the Palestinians.
Wednesday: Read Romans 12:1-8
We have now reached the heart of Paul’s letter to Rome. In Romans 12-15 Paul describes in some detail what the Christian life should look like. Romans 12:1 presents one of the more emphatic “therefore’s” in the Bible. The word “therefore” regularly indicates something along the lines of, “in light of what I just said, this is what I want you to do/be/etc.” This means that Paul is taking the deep theological arguments that He has made and concludes: “okay, this is what it all means.” The question is, “how far back does this ‘therefore’ reach?” Paul’s point in this extended section (12:1-15:13) is that this is what Christian living looks like.
He begins, in 12:1, with an emphatic: “Therefore, I exhort you.” Paul then speaks of a life of total transformation. In fact, now the life of the Christian is to become a “living and holy sacrifice”—Paul even uses the language of the animal sacrifices in the temple. For Paul, this is what Christian worship looks like. Note the irony is found in the conception that the life of the worshipper is the life of the sacrifice (previously, a worshipper brought a sacrifice to the altar to be killed. Now, the worshipper brings oneself as the sacrifice—Just as Christ did).
In 12:2 Paul then sets forth the means by which this sacrificial life is to take place. Namely, we are not to be conformed “to this world/age” (2). Instead, we are to “renew” our minds (2). This is how we are to “prove what the will of God is” (2).
Paul then appeals to the unity of the body of Christ as the ground for living sacrificial lives (3-6). Living out this unity includes employing our gifts (5-7; note: 7 gifts are listed).
Questions to ponder/discuss:
- Spend a week or more memorizing Rom 12:1-2.
- Michael Gorman summarizes this section of Paul: “One might also say Paul is calling on his readers and hearers to ‘become’ the gospel: to become a faithful, living embodiment of the good news in service to one another and in mission to others for the glory of God.
Thursday: Read Romans 12:9-13
This passage continues as one of the most foundational texts for Christian living. The fundamental ethic of the Christian life is to manifest a cross-bearing love that sacrifices oneself for the sake of the other (9)—a love that is modeled on Christ’s love for us. A love that Paul says is “without hypocrisy” (9). A love that “abhors what is evil” and “clings to what is good” (9).
Paul then lays out what this looks like in 10-13 by means of 10 commands (does Paul list 10 commands because of the 10 commandments?).
Questions to ponder/discuss:
- It is too easy to look at verses such as these and gloss over them and move on. Today’s reading is intentionally short not so that you can have an easy day, but that it may be hard. Read these verses in 3 or 4 different translations.
- Biblical love is modeled on the cross. Biblical love lays down one’s life for the sake of the other. (This, of course, does not mean that a spouse who is being abused should lay down and allow the abuse to continue. That is not love. Love does not allow another to sin or commit crimes).
- What commands/definitions of love stand out for you? What commands do you struggle with the most?
- Read this list daily. Carry it with you at all times. Mark it on a notecard or a note on your phone and carry it with you at all times. Refer to it often.
Friday: Read Romans 12:14-21
In 12:14-13:7, Paul makes a shift to those who are persecuting them—meaning this section relates to how we treat those outside the Christian community. His admonitions here suggest that the Christian community should live peaceably among the nations.
Paul begins with “bless and do not curse” (14)—remember this is directed at those outside the church who are bringing persecution (14). He notes that we should not pay back evil for evil (17). Then he adds, “do not take revenge” (19).
When it comes to blessing our enemies Paul suggests that we give them food and drink (20).
At the end of the day, the church must not be “overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (21).
Questions to ponder/discuss:
- Read this passage in several different translations.
- What commands here do you find difficult or even troubling?
- Paul’s command in 12:14, which is also found in 1 Pet 3:9, to “bless” and “not curse” those who persecute you is profound beyond belief. It would have been an even more absurd statement in the ancient Roman world. It is one thing to not curse someone who is cursing you. That is a truly noble response. But Paul and Peter say to bless those who curse you. This is beyond difficult. To do so requires a radical transformation of our hearts that can only happen by a life that relies fully on the Holy Spirit. Do not consider this command impossible (to do so only allows us to dismiss the command and never put it into practice). Instead, recognize how counter it is to our nature and turn to Christ for help. After all, to bless and not curse is precisely what Jesus did for us (see 1 Pet 2:21-23).
- Living out the commands of this section suggests that the Christian community should be known as a community of peace. Some might suggest that this is impossible on two fronts: 1) it is not human to not retaliate and to bless those who are doing us wrong/harm; 2) to live this way is to invite others to take advantage of us. To which I would respond that: 1) this is why we need to Holy Spirit, and 2) you may be right. To this last point I would note two things: 1) This is what Jesus did for us and what He commands us to do as imitators of Him; 2) in the long term people will likely gain more respect for a community that lives like this (one can think of Amish communities and others like them that are often well-respected. Though I think that Paul is not commanding us to live as isolated communities, but as communities that are integrated into the heart of a local city or nation.
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 This guide is meant to be done either as a group study over the course of 2 or 4 meetings (Day 1-5; 6-10; 11-15; 16-20), or as a private devotion over the course of 4 weeks (or a calendar month—5 lessons per week).
 I say that it is Church today, knowing that this is a point of major contention because Paul’s argument here is that there is one tree and the gentiles are grafted in while the Jews are cut off. This tree, then, is the people of God, which was Israel, but now is Jewish and Gentile believers—hence, the Church.
 Some say all Jews at this time will be saved. This raises the question as to why God would save all Jews alive at some select point in time and condemn others just because they were not fortunate enough to be alive at the proper time.
 The Greek uses “age” though most translations use “world.”
 Gorman, Michael J.. Romans: A Theological and Pastoral Commentary. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition. Loc 5533.