Tag Archives: Paul

Building the Church of God

imageWhen building the church we should probably strive to adhere to the doctrines and principles of the first century church because it was founded on a first hand witness of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, the apostles were gifted with the Holy Spirit when establishing the early church and so you would expect the first churches to be an example of harmony, perfect knowledge, strong faith and enthusiasm.

The reality though is far different. The first century church was filled with problems which we read of in Acts and the many letters of Paul. There are many lessons we can learn, but we can also take comfort from the fact that the first churches were far from the one united body they should have been.

Read more in our sermon on Building the Church of God….

Romans 1 – Paul the apostle longs to visit Rome

Romans 1 : 8-15

Paul really wants to visit the church at Rome. It would appear that this church was set up by other disciples and not Paul himself. Perhaps a member of one of the other churches he was involved in went to Rome and formed a church there. Either way Paul had never been there, and he prayed to God that he will one day be able to make the journey.

Why does he want to visit the church at Rome?

  • The faith of the Roman church is widely reported. It seems that Paul feels he will benefit spiritually from having fellowship with people who are strong in faith.
  • Paul’s way of serving God is to preach the gospel. He wants to do this in as many places as possible.
  • Paul wants to share some spiritual gift with the Romans, in order to encourage and strengthen their faith and his also. Possibly he is talking about giving them a Holy Spirit gift. It is likely that the power to pass on the Holy Spirit was something that only the chief disciples could do, and that Holy Spirit gifts had not yet reached Rome.
  • Paul wishes to help increase their numbers with his preaching skills.
  • Paul feels he is under an obligation to preach to the non Jewish world, of all cultures and levels of intelligence. I think the obligation arose partly because Paul was commissioned directly by Jesus to preach to the Gentiles and partly because he clearly has a huge sense of guilt about his former life of persecution of Christians.

Paul did make it to Rome eventually. This can be seen at the end of the book of Acts. Unfortunately he ends up a prisoner, spending at least two years in a rented house under house arrest. He is free to see friends and write letters and we hope achieved some of his wishes in terms of preaching and strengthening the church at Rome.

It’s likely though that Rome was Paul’s final visit as tradition has it that here he was eventually put to death for his Christian beliefs.

So what can we learn from this?

  • Spending time with people who have strong faith can benefit our own faith.
  • We should meet together with other believers to encourage one another.
  • God wants the gospel to spread as far as possible – we should continue Paul’s preaching work today.
“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)

 

Romans 1 – Paul’s Greeting

The New Testament letters can be difficult to understand. Paul and the other writers explore deep theological arguments and answer difficult questions that arose in the early church. It is however really worth getting to grips with them because under the theology are many valuable spiritual lessons.

I am going to start with an exploration of the Letter to the Romans with the aim of looking at what the book tells us that can help us with our lives today, both spiritually and practically.

Romans – Chapter 1 : 1-7 

Paul’s Greeting

Paul begins his letter by telling the Romans that he has been chosen to preach the gospel.

He then summarizes the gospel neatly in a few sentences:

  • The gospel is the good news told long ago by the prophets.
  • The good news is about the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus had an earthly nature because he was the natural descendant of King David.
  • Jesus was also the Son of God, as shown by his powerful resurrection from the dead.
  • Through Jesus we have received grace – which is God’s favor.
  • We are also chosen as apostles to preach in all nations, to call everyone to adhere to the faith brought about by Jesus.

Paul then reminds the Romans that they have been specifically called to follow Jesus themselves, so that they can’t ignore his words.

Paul makes the gospel so simple. Despite all the complicated facets that make up many parts of the Bible we must never forget that the gospel message itself is straightforward. Anyone can understand the basics of Gods message – Jesus, the Son of God, was raised from the dead so that we might receive grace.

 

Long long ago…

It can be very easy to distance ourselves from those long ago events in the Bible that shaped history.  We easily forget that Bible characters were people just like us with same fears and emotions, and the same split personalities wrestling between doing the right thing and the wrong thing.

We can feel that it was easy for them to do what God wanted and can overlook the internal struggles many Bible characters went through, and feel that decisions are so much harder for us.

To refocus our minds it can be helpful to reread the story elements of the Bible and try to put ourselves in the shoes of these characters to understand their thought processes.  It helps to imagine the scenario, the geography, the political atmosphere of the time, and the social habits.

Take Moses – from prince of Egypt to an outcast and a killer hiding in the wilderness.  Is it any wonder he was scared and felt unable to speak on behalf of a people he barely knew? Yet he brought the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land.

O my Lord, I am slow of speech … please send by the hand of whomever else You may send – Exodus 4:10/13

Take Paul – zealous persecutor of Christians to zealous Christian missionary.  Is it any wonder he felt a conflict between his past life and his future work, doubting his worthiness?  Yet he almost single handedly commenced the spread of the gospel to the Gentile world.

When I came to you, I did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom … I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. – 1 Corinthians 2:1/3

Take Peter – impetuous and spontaneous in his love for Jesus, recognising the truth of the Messiah, and yet denying him three times when trouble struck.  Is it any wonder he wept bitterly?  Yet his strength in the early church is shown in his inspiring epistle.

Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” – Matthew 26:75

Take Jesus – perfect son of God, but even he would have not gone through with his death if there had been any other way.  Is it any wonder his sweat was like great drops of blood?  Yet he gave his life for us, bringing salvation to all mankind.

O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will. – Matthew 26:39

Sometimes all it takes to get us back on track is to realise that we face the same sort of conflicts that believers have faced for centuries. And how do we make our decisions?  How do we make our righteous mind win over our worldly mind?

The same way that Jesus did – we need to pray.  So let’s remember the words of Jesus’ prayer to bring us comfort and reassurance:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. – John 14:27