The Epistles of Paul - Romans Part 17, 08-15-2014: The Living Sacrifice

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The Epistles of Paul - Romans Part 17, 08-15-2014: The Living Sacrifice

In the last segment of our presentation of Paul's epistle to the Romans, we discussed Romans chapter 11 and the broken and grafted branches of Paul's famous analogy depicting wild and cultivated olive trees. We asserted that the Romans, being wild olives, must have therefore been Israelites who, as a society, grew up and developed without the law and the prophets. Yet there are many who would assert that simply anyone who believes in Jesus is somehow grafted onto the olive tree. There is nothing more important to proper Biblical interpretation than context. Yet again, there is nothing more divisive when properly interpreting Scripture than context. Christ came not to bring peace, but a sword, and Paul said in Hebrews chapter 4 “12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The keeping of the Word of God certainly has real-life consequences for those who abide by it.

Paul said in Romans chapter 8 “29 Because those whom He has known beforehand, He has also appointed beforehand, conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be first born among many brethren. 30 Moreover, those whom He has appointed beforehand, these He also calls; and those whom He calls, these He also deems worthy; while those whom He deems worthy, these He also honors.” In Romans chapter 9 Paul had said that “the purpose of Yahweh concerning the chosen endures, not from rituals, but from the calling”. Paul said at Romans 11:29 that “Indeed the favor and the calling of Yahweh are not to be repented of.”

If the Romans as well as the Israelite Judaeans were not among the foreknown, the predestined, the called, the chosen and the appointed beforehand, then the purpose of Yahweh does not endure, but rather, it would be broken. However in Romans chapter 4 Paul explained that the promise was sure to all the seed of Abraham in reference to the nations which were of that seed, which proceeded from Abraham's loins, and that the Romans themselves were one of those nations. In Romans chapter 10 Paul quoted both Hosea and Isaiah, from prophecies which were specific to the children of Israel of the ancient dispersions which occurred over the many centuries before the advent of Christ and which eventually resulted in the settlement of the nations of Europe. Then after his explanation of the broken and grafted branches Paul said in Romans 11: “30 Even as you were at one time disobedient to Yahweh, but now are shown mercy due to their disobedience; 31 in that manner these also are now in opposition to your mercy, so that they may have mercy shown to them. 32 Therefore Yahweh has enclosed all in disobedience, that He may show mercy to all.”

Only Israelites could ever be considered as having been disobedient to God, since from the time of Jacob only Israel was ever expected to be obedient to God. The word of God says in Amos chapter 3, in respect to those same dispersions of ancient Israel, that “2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. 3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”

The Gospel is a call for the children of Israel to be obedient to Yahweh their God, and to be restored to Him from their punishment in captivity. One place where this is prophesied in Isaiah chapter 49: “1 Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. 2 And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; 3 And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. 4 Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God. 5 And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. 6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. 7 Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.”

The sin and punishment of the children of Israel is half of the story of the prophets. The election and restoration of those same children of Israel under a New Covenant is the other half of the story of the prophets. Paul was teaching the fulfillment of that story. Even the concept of mercy is meaningless without violation of the law. Yet in all of the words of the Old Testament, there is no law, no predestination, no election, no mercy, no calling, no appointment and no purpose mentioned by Yahweh God for any people other than the seed of Abraham found in the children of Israel. Therefore only dispersed Israelites could be wild olives grafted into the cultivated olive tree which is found in true Israel, which are Paul's brethren “according to the flesh” as he himself explained in Romans chapter 9.

1 Therefore I encourage you, brethren, by the compassion of Yahweh, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, sacred, acceptable to Yahweh; that is your reasonable service. 2 Also do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of the mind [א and the MT have “your mind”], towards approval by you to do that which is the good and acceptable and perfect will of Yahweh.

From the First epistle of Peter, chapter 2, we see the apostle express the same idea which Paul does here, that Christians should live their lives as a living sacrifice to their God, where he wrote: “1 Therefore putting off all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 as a newborn infant you must yearn for the pure rational milk, in order that by it you would grow into preservation, 3 if 'you taste that the Prince is benevolent'. 4 Coming forth to Him a living stone, indeed having been rejected as unfit by men but honored elect before Yahweh, 5 and yourselves as living stones are built a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Yahweh through Yahshua Christ.”

While in Romans chapter 6 Paul was discussing the relationship of a reconciled Israel to the law of God and to sin, there is an idea which must be expressed in relation to what we see Paul discuss here, that of the “living sacrifice” which we see that Peter had similarly described in his first epistle. From Romans 6, where Paul explains the true Christian baptism: “3 Or are you ignorant that as long as we are immersed in Christ Yahshua, into His death we are immersed? 4 So we were buried with Him through that immersion into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the honor of the Father, so then we in newness of life should walk. 5 Therefore if united we have become in the likeness of His death, then also shall we be of His resurrection; 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body would be left void of guilt, that no longer are we in bondage to guilt. 7 Therefore, dying one is judged worthy apart from fault. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we also will live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ having been raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer lords over Him. 10 Therefore when He died, the guilt upon all died; but because He lives, He lives to Yahweh. 11 In that manner you also consider yourselves to be dead indeed in guilt, but living to Yahweh, in Christ Yahshua. 12 Therefore do not let fault reign in your mortal body, for which to submit to its desires. 13 Neither should you surrender your members as instruments of wrongdoing in error, but present yourselves to Yahweh as living from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to Yahweh.”

To die with Christ is to deny ourselves and offer our lives for our brethren as Christ did. This is how Christians “live to Yahweh”, how they can live for their God becoming “instruments of righteousness to Yahweh”. From Matthew chapter 16 we read this: “24 Then Yahshua said to His students: 'If one desires to come behind Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me! 25 For he who would wish to save his life shall lose it, and he who would lose his life because of Me shall find it! 26 For what shall it benefit a man if perhaps he should gain the whole society but his life is lost? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with the splendor of His Father with His messengers, and then He shall render to each according to his practice.'” From John chapter 15 we read: “12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.”

Christ giving His life for His brethren is our example, and Christians in turn offering themselves for their brethren must bear in mind that their brethren are reckoned “according to the flesh”. That is how Paul reckoned his brethren, and the definition has not changed. While Christ said in another place that those who do the work of Yahweh are His brethren, He came only for Israel and only the children of Israel can do the work of Yahweh. Therefore the brethren of Christ are accounted from those of the children of Israel who seek to do the work of Yahweh. From Isaiah chapter 41: “8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. 9 Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. 10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” This is being fulfilled in the Gospel, and therefore Christians should not be deceived by satanic and Jewish egalitarianism.

However giving one's life for one's brethren does not mean that one must die literally, but rather that one must be devoted to his brethren. Otherwise Christians could not be living sacrifices. Doing so they must be careful not to exalt themselves, but must deny themselves instead. In other words, Christians should not live solely for their own gratification. From Matthew chapter 13, the words of Christ: “8 But you should not be called ‘Rabbi’, for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And you shall not call your father upon the earth, for One is your Father, the heavenly. 10 Neither should you be called guides, because One is your Guide, the Christ. 11 And he who is greater among you shall be your servant. 12 But whoever should exalt himself shall be humbled and whoever should humble himself shall be exalted.”

3 Therefore I say, through the favor which is given to me, to each [or “all”] that are among you, not to think proudly, above where it is proper to think; but to think with a sound mind, as Yahweh to each has imparted a measure of faith.

From Job chapter 40: “9 Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? 10 Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. 11 Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him. 12 Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place.”

In the Old Testament worldview, the proud are those who put trust in themselves and their own judgments rather than in Yahweh God and His judgments. Therefore the proud are frequently associated with the wicked. From Psalm 40: “4 Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.” From Psalm 119: “51 The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law. 52 I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself. 53 Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.”

In contrast, the humble are they who submit themselves to the law and judgments of God. In the Epistle of James chapter 4 we read “10 Humble yourself before the Prince and He shall exalt you.” The meek are those who humble themselves before God, who subject themselves to His word and seek to serve Him. But this does not mean that we give place to wickedness, since in that same chapter the apostle said “6 But more greatly He gives favor, on which account it says: 'Yahweh opposes the arrogant, but He gives favor to the humble.' 7 Therefore subject yourselves to Yahweh, but stand against the False Accuser and he shall flee from you.”

4 Just as in one body we have many members, but the members all do not have the same function; 5 in this manner we are many in one body with Christ, and each one members of one another.

Notably, Paul makes a lengthier example of this analogy in 1 Corinthians chapter 12. It is also notable that this analogy was frequently used in the profane Greek and Latin literature. In the middle of a Socratic dialogue concerning brotherly relations between two men [Chaerophon and Chaerecrates] which includes a discussion comparing baseness and bribery with kindness and humility, Xenophon, a Greek historian, soldier and student of Socrates from the late 5th and 4th centuries BC, wrote in his Memorabilia, Book 2 “Well, in that case, I presume you will have shown that you [meaning Chaerecrates] are honest and brotherly, he [meaning Chaerophon] that he is base and unworthy of kindness. But I am confident that no such result will follow; for I think that, as soon as he is aware of your challenge to this contest, he will be all eagerness to outdo your kind words and actions. What if a pair of hands refused the office of mutual help for which God made them, and tried to thwart each other; or if a pair of feet neglected the duty of working together, for which they were fashioned, and took to hampering each other? That is how you two are behaving at present. Would it not be utterly senseless and disastrous to use for hindrance instruments that were made for help? And, moreover, a pair of brothers, in my judgment, were made by God to render better service one to the other than a pair of hands and feet and eyes and all the instruments that he meant to be used as fellows. For the hands cannot deal simultaneously with things that are more than six feet or so apart: the feet cannot reach in a single stride things that are even six feet apart: and the eyes, though they seem to have a longer range, cannot at the same moment see things still nearer than that, if some are in front and some behind. But two brothers, when they are friends, act simultaneously for mutual benefit, however far parted one from the other.” (Xenophon, Memorabilia, 2.3.18-19.)

Plato, another student of Socrates, was a contemporary of Xenophon. Plato is also said to have been influenced by Pythagoras, and Pythagoras is in turn said to have had writings from the Hebrew Old Testament as an inspiration. It is not that Christian philosophy came from the Greeks. Rather, Greek philosophy and Greek culture find their roots in that of the Hebrews. Paul often quoted from or used analogies borrowed from the Classical Greek and Roman writers, and this is one example of many. Other Greek and Latin writers made use of this same analogy which compares members of a community with the parts of the human body. Among them are Cicero (De Officiis, 3.5.22) and Livy (History of Rome, Book 2 [2.32.9-12]). Paul of Tarsus, being educated in both the Hebrew Scriptures and in the profane authors of the Classical world, was uniquely qualified to bring the Gospel to the dispersions of ancient Israel, who along with some of the tribes of the Japhethites were indeed the authors of the Classical world.

6 But having varying gifts according to the favor which is given to us: whether interpretation of prophecy according to the proportion of faith; 7 or service in the ministry; or he that is teaching, in education; 8 or he that encourages, in encouragement; he that is sharing, with simplicity; he that is leading, with diligence; he showing mercy, with cheerfulness.

In reference to the phrase “interpretation of prophecy”: The Greek word προφητεία (4394) is “the gift of interpreting the will of the gods... [to the profane Greek writers, and] II. in the N.T., the gift of expounding scripture, of speaking and preaching”, according to Liddell and Scott. With this I would agree in part, and the Greeks had other words, such as μαντεία, which described the ability of divination. However as it is used in the New Testament, there are three aspects of prophecy which this word προφητεία describes. Here and elsewhere in Paul's epistles (1 Corinthians 12:10, 13:8, 14:6, and 14:22) the word is rendered as “interpretation of prophecy” or even “the gift of interpretation of prophecy” (1 Corinthians 13:2); and in other places it is rendered as “expounding of scripture” (I Thessalonians 5:20), “interpretation of scripture” ( I Timothy 4:14). These are all in accord with the use of the word as a description of those who have the ability to explain the words of the prophets of the Old Testament. Likewise, the correlating verb προφητεύω (4395) is to interpret prophecy (1 Corinthians 11:4).

However in some places and in an appropriate context the word is simply “prophecy” (I Timothy 1:18 and 1 Corinthians 14:24). In 1 Timothy 1:18 Paul used the word in accordance with the Old Testament usage, where Yahweh God revealed the future through chosen men who put those revelations into poetic writing, and those men were therefore called prophets. Therefore we see that the same term was applied both to the prophets themselves, and to their later interpreters.

But there was a third way in which these terms were used. In 1 Corinthians 14:24 Paul clearly used these terms in the same way that the Samaritan woman of John chapter 4 is recorded as having used the correlating noun for prophet (προφήτης, 4396). That is, of one who has the ability to reveal things which would otherwise be unknown. Yahshua revealed to the woman certain aspects of her personal life that no stranger should know, and she responded by saying “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.” Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter 14, speaking of an unbeliever having come into the Christian assembly, that with such prophecy “thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God”.

Translating the Christogenea New Testament, an attempt was made to determine which of these three ways these terms were used wherever they appear, and to make an appropriate translation.

In reference to the phrase “service in the ministry” (διακονίαν ἐν τῇ διακονίᾳ), which may have been rendered “service in the service”, the word διακονία was basically used for servants, waiting-men, messengers, etc. (see Liddell & Scott) and that is the proper sense of the word minister, which should only be seen as a synonym for servant (as the A.V. usually translates the word, “ministry”). The Greek word διάκονος and its related words were at times abused by the translators of the King James Version, and often they are abused today. The word διάκονος is a servant, and in the New Testament it is usually used to describe one who performs a service to a Christian assembly or to God Himself. The King James Version alternately translated the word as deacon, minister or servant in a way that dishonestly gave the appearance that Scripture would uphold the structure of the offices of the Anglican Church.

The word διάκονος must be contrasted with δοῦλος (Strong's # 1401), which is properly an involuntary servant or slave, and originally referred to one who was born as a bondman or slave (Liddell & Scott). A διάκονος may refer to a voluntary or a hired servant. The word διακονία was used of the mission to spread the Gospel, but it was also used of menial tasks such as Martha's serving of food to those who were listening to Christ (Luke 10:40) or to the seven who were chosen to oversee the dispensation of sustenance to widows (Acts 6:1). Therefore a minister can serve the people of God in many capacities, and not merely in the pulpit. Christ said that “whosoever will be great among you, let him be your διάκονος”, or servant.

In reference to the phrase “he that is sharing, with simplicity”, the word for simplicity may have been rendered as sincerity. Some translations (such as the RSV) have liberality here, which is plainly dishonest. The King James Version did not make that error here, although it did misinterpret the same word in that manner in other places. The word, ἁπλότης (Strong's # 572), is “singleness, simplicity, frankness” (Liddell & Scott) and by no means can it be liberality, unless organized religion has a tendency to steal by weighing down the consciences of the faithful.

From the Wisdom of Sirach, chapters 34 and 35, we see what constitutes righteous giving: “18 He that sacrificeth of a thing wrongfully gotten, his offering is ridiculous; and the gifts of unjust men are not accepted. 19 The most High is not pleased with the offerings of the wicked; neither is he pacified for sin by the multitude of sacrifices. [Therefore we do not want as gifts the fruits of crime.] 20 Whoso bringeth an offering of the goods of the poor doeth as one that killeth the son before his father's eyes. 21 The bread of the needy is their life: he that defraudeth him thereof is a man of blood. [Therefore we do not expect or require tithes from the poor.] ... 6 The offering of the righteous maketh the altar fat, and the sweet savour thereof is before the most High. 7 The sacrifice of a just man is acceptable. and the memorial thereof shall never be forgotten. 8 Give the Lord his honour with a good eye, and diminish not the firstfruits of thine hands [ἁπλότης means singleness. It is closely related to the word meaning single found in Matthew 6:22 where Christ said “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.]. 9 In all thy gifts shew a cheerful countenance, and dedicate thy tithes with gladness. 10 Give unto the most High according as he hath enriched thee; and as thou hast gotten, give with a cheerful eye. 11 For the Lord recompenseth, and will give thee seven times as much.”

There is an admonition to giving, however, in that one must have communion only with the Godly, and never with the ungodly. From the Wisdom of Sirach, chapter 12: “4 Give to the godly man, and help not a sinner. 5 Do well unto him that is lowly, but give not to the ungodly: hold back thy bread, and give it not unto him, lest he overmaster thee thereby: for else thou shalt receive twice as much evil for all the good thou shalt have done unto him. 6 For the most High hateth sinners, and will repay vengeance unto the ungodly, and keepeth them against the mighty day of their punishment. 7 Give unto the good, and help not the sinner.”

These gifts mentioned here by Paul are for the most part spiritual gifts: interpretation of prophecy, service in the ministry, teaching, encouragement, sharing (the ability of which must come from the more worldly talents), leading (not “ruling, as the King James Version reads), and even the showing of mercy.

In the Old Testament there seems to be no general statement such as this one which explains the various gifts distributed to individual children of Yahweh. However it was indeed perceived that a man's abilities were a dispensation from God. Therefore, speaking of Joseph's travail in Egypt we see these words in Acts chapter 7: “9 And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, 10 And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.” There are other such examples which are made, namely of David, Moses, Samuel or Daniel, but all of these were great prophets and leaders.

However of lesser gifts there are also clear examples. One such example of a man skilled in artistry and building is given of the tabernacle in the wilderness. While the details of the design of the tabernacle were given to Moses along with the details of its operation, as they are found in Exodus chapters 25 through 30, in chapter 31 it says this about the actual construction of the tabernacle and its accoutrements: “31:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: 3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, 4 To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, 5 And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. 6 And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee”. What we perceive as a skill is actually a gift from God, and since we all have quite different abilities we are all obliged to use them for the common benefit of our brethren, regardless of the esteemed value of our individual gifts. If Yahweh God made one man a rocket scientist, that man is still no better than his kinsmen who is a butcher or a carpenter.

9 Love without acting [ἀνυπόκριτος, without hypocrisy]; abhorring wickedness, cleaving to goodness: 10 brotherly love affectioned towards one another; in honor preferring one another 11 with diligence, not hesitating; fervent in Spirit, serving the Prince. [D has “... serving at the proper times.”]

The word σπουδή (Strong's # 4710), regardless of the fact that it is accompanied with the definite article here, does not mean business, as the King James Version has it, and I have not found any lexicon which attempts to assign such a meaning to the word (neither Strong's, nor Thayer, nor Liddell & Scott, nor the lexicons found in the BibleWorks software attempt to do so). Rather, the Greek word σπουδή is “haste, speed … zeal, pains, exertion, trouble...”, and therefore the phrase τῇ σπουδῇ μὴ ὀκνηροί is a continuation of what precedes. Opposed to the idea of hesitation or timidity found in the word ὀκνηρός, it is expressing the idea that Christians should prefer one another with diligence and without hesitating or being timid. The statement is clearly an instruction by Paul for Christians to discriminate in favor of their fellows, and to do so with diligence, and that it is honorable to do so in that manner.

Therefore when we do business, when we trade in merchandise, when we hire laborers or services, or whatever else we engage in, if we do not first seek out Christian brethren by whom to do these things, we have failed. From the Wisdom of Sirach, chapter 34: “21 The bread of the needy is their life: he that defraudeth him thereof is a man of blood. 22 He that taketh away his neighbour's living slayeth him; and he that defraudeth the labourer of his hire is a bloodshedder.” From 1 John chapter 3: “15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” Perhaps the greatest failure of our people is economic, that they do not support their Christian brethren in labor and in trade, and they are quick to enrich themselves by hiring or trading with aliens and antichrists. If one clings to aliens to enrich oneself, one is not seeking to be that living sacrifice.

12 Rejoicing in expectation; persevering in afflictions; firmly persisting in prayer; 13 sharing [having communion with, taking part in] in the needs of the saints; pursuing hospitality.

Rejoicing in expectation: Both Paul and the other apostles taught that the return of Christ was imminent, for the simple reason that Christians should live each day of their lives as if it were imminent. As Christ is recorded saying in Matthew 25:13: “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” If the first Christians thought and taught that it would be two thousand years or longer that the beast prevailed, there may not be a Christianity today. From Proverbs chapter 23: “17 Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long. 18 For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.”

Persevering in afflictions: David wrote in the 23rd Psalm “4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” In Acts chapter 5, the apostles upon being persecuted by the authorities in Jerusalem and being released had “departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” That is how Christians should view all of their trials.

Firmly persisting in prayer: The apostles were told to remain in prayer not in order that some laundry-list of personal desires may be granted, but that they themselves would not enter into temptation. In Matthew chapter 26 Yahshua told Peter to “41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The idle Christian mind should meditate on the Gospel, the works and the law of Yahweh his God. From Joshua chapter 1: “8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Likewise, from Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

Sharing in the needs of the saints: The Codex Claromontanus (D) has μνείας (3417), or remembrance, rather than χρείας (5532) or need here, although perhaps that would not change the verse’s meaning. As Paul writes this letter, in perhaps 57 or early 58 AD, he himself is on his way to Jerusalem for this same reason, as he explains in Romans chapter 15: “25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. 26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.”

14 Speak well to those who persecute you; speak well and do not curse.

The Codex Vaticanus wants the word for “you”, and the 3rd century papyrus P46 has only “Speak well to those who persecute; and do not curse.” The text agrees with the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Claromontanus (D) and the Majority Text.

David always spoke well to Saul, and never spoke evil of him, only praying to Yahweh for deliverance from those who wanted his life. Christ spoke well to the Sadducees when they confronted Him, and He also spoke well to Pilate, Paul spoke well to his captors. But they nevertheless told them the truth.

The word curse here is καταράομαι (Strong's # 2672) and it means “to call down curses upon, imprecate upon … to utter imprecations” and therefore Paul is telling us not to desire and pray for evil to come upon those who persecute us. However that does not preclude us from praying for Yahweh God to execute His judgment against those who hate Him. Neither does it preclude us from telling the truth about our enemies or His, even if they cry persecution in turn. Note that while Christ spoke well to Pilate, he would not even speak to Herod, who was with certainty an Edomite.

15 Rejoice with those who are rejoicing; lament with those who are lamenting; 16 being of the same mind towards one another, not thinking of lofty things, but accommodating oneself to those that are humble: do not be wise on account of yourselves;

From the Wisdom of Sirach, chapter 7: “34 Fail not to be with them that weep, and mourn with them that mourn. 35 Be not slow to visit the sick: for that shall make thee to be beloved. 36 Whatsoever thou takest in hand, remember the end, and thou shalt never do amiss.”

The admonition to not be wise on account of yourselves may be clarified in Proverbs 3:7: “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” The author of Proverbs explains that true wisdom is wisdom from Yahweh God, and that is the wisdom which men should seek. From Isaiah 5:21: “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

From Proverbs 16: “17 The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul. 18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. 19 Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. 20 He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he. 21 The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.”

17 to no one returning evil in place of evil: having noble intentions in the presence of all men; 18 if possible from yourselves, being at peace with all men;

Once again there is a similar statement from Peter, found in 1 Peter 3:9: “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” If possible on the part of the Christian, one must be at peace with all men: but this does not preclude the Christian from fighting. However fighting should only be a necessary and final resort. Even Christ told the apostles that “he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one”, foreseeing the day that they would have to defend themselves. Any need for self-defense is also not precluded by this next admonition:

19 not taking vengeance yourselves, beloved, rather you must give place to wrath; for it is written, “vengeance is Mine! [literally “for me is vengeance”] I will requite, says Yahweh.”

Here Paul quotes from Deuteronomy chapter 32: “35 To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. 36 For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left. 37 And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, 38 Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection. 39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. 40 For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. 41 If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. 42 I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy. 43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.”

20 Now, “if your enemy were to hunger, feed him with scraps; if he thirsts, give him drink; for doing this, you will heap coals of fire upon his head.”

The verb ψωμίζω (5595) is fully “to feed with sops or tid-bits...” and its corresponding noun ψωμός is “a morsel, a bit...” (Liddell & Scott). The word must be contrasted to other Greek words which may mean “to feed”, of which there are quite a number. Certainly Paul is not telling us to feed our enemy in the sense of continual support (βόσκω, 1006), or to make him a meal (δειπνέω, 1172), or to wine and dine him at dinner (δειπνίζω); or to dispense of food to him in large quantities (νέμω). There are other words yet, however hopefully the reason for my rendering is supported.

In hindsight, morsels may have been a better translation than scraps. But the meaning of the passage, I believe, is that when your enemy hungers you should give to him whatever spare food you may have in order to sufficiently ward off his immediate calamity. In the passage which Paul is quoting from the Masoretic Text says bread to eat. Paul's quotation in Romans agrees with the Codex Vaticanus manuscript of the Septuagint, although rather than ψωμίζω the Codices Alexandrinus and Sinaiticus have another verb, τρέφω, which indeed means to support or nourish.

From the King James Version of Proverbs chapter 25: “21 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: 22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.”

Christians are not required, however, to feed non-Christians, just as the words of Proverbs were not meant for Canaanites or others of God's enemies. We care for our enemies who are of our people. We must not let the enemies of Yahweh our God take advantage of our Christian love for one another by abusing the Scripture and allowing them to force themselves upon us. There is no Scripture which supports that.

Therefore Paul's words here cannot be misconstrued to contradict the words of the apostle John in his second epistle, where he wrote that: “9 Each who going forth and not abiding in the teaching of Christ has not Yahweh. He abiding in the teaching, he also has the Father and the Son. 10 If one comes to you and does not bear this teaching, do not receive him into the house and do not speak to welcome him! 11 For he speaking to welcome him takes a share in his evil works.”

Paul taught this same idea, but did not state it so succinctly. For instance, in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, closing his epistle, he had asked the assembly thusly: “1 For what remains, pray brethren, for us - in order that the Word of the Prince may move quickly and be extolled, just as even with you, 2 and that we should be protected from those disgusting and wicked men, since the faith is not for all. 3 But trustworthy is the Prince, who will establish you and keep you from the wicked.” Then later in that same chapter he admonished them: “6 And we instruct you, brethren, in the name of our Prince Yahshua Christ, you are to avoid every brother conducting himself in a disorderly manner, and not in accordance with the tradition which they have received from us... 10 Also when we were with you, this we instructed you, that if anyone wishes not to work, neither must he eat. 11 For we hear that some among you are conducting themselves in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but rather meddling with others’ affairs.... 14 and if anyone obeys not our word through this letter, make him known, not to associate yourselves with him, that he may turn about, 15 and do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

The faith is not for all: Those outside of the faith are also outside of our communion. We also see that we avoid communion with those of our own who do not seek to conform themselves to Christ. Again, from the Wisdom of Sirach, chapter 12: “4 Give to the godly man, and help not a sinner. 5 Do well unto him that is lowly, but give not to the ungodly: hold back thy bread, and give it not unto him, lest he overmaster thee thereby: for else thou shalt receive twice as much evil for all the good thou shalt have done unto him. 6 For the most High hateth sinners, and will repay vengeance unto the ungodly, and keepeth them against the mighty day of their punishment. 7 Give unto the good, and help not the sinner.”

We feed our enemies, those of our Christian brethren who are for one reason or another opposed to us. But we do not feed the enemies of Yahweh our God or His Christ. We must interpret statements such as Paul made here in Romans within the context of Paul's Christian worldview expressed throughout his writings, as we said in the beginning of this presentation: there is nothing more important to proper Biblical interpretation than context.

21 You must not be overcome by evil, rather overcome evil with that which is good.

However overcoming evil does not mean that we placate evil. From Ezekiel chapter 13, the Word of Yahweh: “ 16 To wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord GOD.... 22 Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life; 23 Therefore ye shall see no more vanity, nor divine divinations: for I will deliver my people out of your hand: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.”

We do not give our bread to the wicked. We do not let the wicked take advantage of our good nature and Christian communion. Rather, we set an example of good and that should encourage our brethren to conform to that example. Those who are not our brethren are not the children of our God and ultimately they will never conform. Yahweh has not changed. The Sermon on the Mount is only meant for the children of God, and not for His enemies. He was speaking to those who would follow Him, and not for those who would reject Him. However when we display Christian charity to those of our own who have done wrong to us, with our mercy we seek to hasten their repentance.

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