Paul Praises Women Ministers

 

2/08/2019

 

Romans 16 (NLT)

Synopsis:

 

  • The bearer of this letter, Phoebe, is a dear friend and fellow worker for Christ. Welcome her as you would me. I heartily recommend both her and her work as a minister in the church at Cenchrea. She deserves whatever you can do for her. She has helped many people, including me.
  • Say hello to Aquila and Priscilla. They have worked hand in hand with me. They once put their lives on the line for me.
  • Hello also, to my friend Epenetus, the very first follower of Jesus in Asia.
  • And then there are my cousins Andronicus and Janias. We once shared a jail cell. They were followers of Christ before me.
  • Hello to Mary. What a worker she has turned out to be!
  • And the list of people to be greeted goes on for another 30 more names.
  • One last word of caution my friends. Keep a sharp eye out for the smooth talkers who would take bits and pieces of what we have taught you to lead you astray. They have no intention of following the Master, their only aim is to stir up trouble.
  • Don’t be gullible in regards to the snake oil charlatans. Be smart, stay alert, making sure every “good deal” is the real deal.
  • Now, a few more greetings from our end. Timothy, my partner, Lucius and my cousins Jason and Sosipater have all said to tell you hello.
  • I, Tertius, who wrote this letter as Paul dictated, send my personal greetings.
  • So all praise be to the One who is strong enough to make you
  • All our praise is focused, through Jesus, on this incomparably wise God!

 

Reaction:

Through the years I have heard so much controversy about Paul’s admonitions to women concerning how they should act in church meetings.. about how they should dress for church, what they should or should not say… “If you have questions about what was taught in the meetings, talk to your husband.” “They are not to be leaders or teachers.” “They are NOT to be ordained as pastors.”

I was a little befuddled as I read this last chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Here he is commending different leaders in the church at Rome and sending greeting to so many leaders there. Not being a scholar of Biblical languages, as I read the list of names, I wondered, “How many of these people are women?

I recognized a few, Pricilla, Phoebe and Mary as being feminine names. But how about the other 40 or so names? I couldn’t even pronounce them, let alone tell if they were the names of women.

This is what I love about the internet! I searched for “names in the Bible.” This is one of the best sites that came up. Once on the site, I filtered by “feminine” and “Bible names.” It listed all 136 names in the Bible that were of the feminine persuasion from Abiah to Zipporah.

So, a quick check of Paul’s friends in Rome against the list of ladies names revealed some interesting insights.

 

Phoebe, the first woman mentioned. It appears that she was the mail courier of this epistle to the Romans.

Latinized form of the Greek name Φοιβη (Phoibe), which meant “bright, pure” from Greek φοιβος (phoibos). In Greek mythology Phoibe was a Titan associated with the moon. This was also an epithet of her granddaughter, the moon goddess Artemis. The name appears in Paul‘s epistle to the Romans in the New Testament, where it belongs to a female minister in the church at Cenchreae. In England, it began to be used as a given name after the Protestant Reformation. A moon of Saturn bears this name (in honour of the Titan).

 

So, Phoebe was the first female Christian minister! Notice what he has to say about her: “a dear friend and fellow worker for Christ.”

“I heartily recommend both her and her work as a minister in the church at Cenchrea.”

“She deserves anything you can do for her.”

“She’s helped many a person, including me.”

 

Doesn’t sound to me like he is putting down for anything.

 

Pricilla, the next woman on the list also gets high marks. She, along with her husband Aquila, taught Paul the trade of tent making. They taught him to be a self-supporting missionary. I they spent time together in the jail cells for preaching Jesus.

Mary, he was proud of the work she did for the Church.

 

Junias, one of Paul’s cousins, along with her brother, Andronicus spent time in jail with Paul.

 

Tryphosa and Tryphena, mentioned by Paul in his greeting to the Romans. They were companions in their work for the Lord.

 

Persis, “dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord.”

 

Julia, “Give my love to Julia”

 

So, out of the 40 or so leaders that received Paul’s greeting and praise, there were seven women who were ministers, deacons, and Bible workers within the Roman church. Strong women leaders. They were diligent, competent and hard working women whom Paul chose to point out by his greetings to them. He wanted to encourage them, by recognizing them in this way.

Phoebe was a special case. She may have been traveling with Paul and his companions, on their missionary journeys, as the first paragraph of the introduction would seem to indicate. Or she may have been living in the town from where Paul composed this letter. At any rate Paul came acquainted with her and her church work when he stopped in her town to get his head shaved. She volunteered or was chosen to carry this letter to the Roman church. (Romans 16:1 EXB)

Her work with Paul was extoled by him as he began reciting the virtues of other women within the Roman congregation.

 

I have spent several hours searching for a passage where Paul, it appeared, had been chastised for the women who followed his missionary journeys. In his rebuttal, he makes the defense that he has as much right to carry (or escort) women about as does Peter and other apostles. But, I have been unable to find the reference, so either I just thought that I read it, or I’ve been looking in all the wrong places.

 

If you, my readers, know of this reference, please share with me in the Comments section.

 

Now why do you suppose that the counsel give by Paul in other places, i.e. For women, be quiet in church. If you have comments or questions, ask your husbands in the privacy of your homes, was not given to the church in Rome? Or if they had read or heard this counsel, why were they being praised for not following it?

Why is their treatment by Paul so different from the praise given the women in the church in Rome? Could it be that sometimes women got contentious and would be quibbling over whatever trivia women like to “discuss”?

I like the way Eugene Peterson puts this in context.

“Wives have no license to use the time of worship for unwarranted speaking. Do you—both women and men—imagine that you’re a sacred oracle determining what’s right and wrong? Do you think everything revolves around you?”

 

Perhaps today, those “strong” women whom Paul was praising would likely be clamoring for their ordination into the ministry and the cantankerous ones would still be arguing over trivia.

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The Life of Encouraging Others

 

2/07/2019

 

Romans 15 (NLT)

Synopsis:

  • Those of us who are strong in our faith in God should be taking time to encourage those who are new believers. Love them, build them up.
  • Everything that has been written in scripture was written to teach us endurance and to give us hope.
  • May the God who gives encouragement and Hope unite you into one body, singing together and giving God the glory for our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Accept one another, just as Christ has accepted the Jews first, then the you, for it is written; “Therefor I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of Your name.” (Psalm 18:49)
  • Again, it says, Rejoice, you Gentiles, with His people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43)
  • And Isaiah puts it this way, “The Root of Jesse (Jesus was the descendent of Jesse) will spring up, One who will rule over the nations; in Him the Gentiles will hope.” (Isaiah 11:10)
  • May the God of Hope spring to life within you and fill you to overflowing.
  • God has given me the role of minister to the Gentiles. So, although most of you are well grounded in the faith and quite competent to instruct one another, I am writing you on these few points to remind you.
  • My ministry is to Gentiles everywhere that they might come to know the love of God for them also, and they will become an acceptable offering to God, through the Holy Spirit.
  • From Jerusalem to the farthest reaches of Northern Greece I has reached out to Gentiles, proclaiming the Gospel. This is why I have been hindered from coming to you earlier.
  • But it seems that now it is your turn for a visit. On my way to Spain I am planning on spending time with you.
  • But first I must stop in Jerusalem to deliver the offerings that I have collected for the poor.
  • Those who have received a spiritual blessing are obligated to share their material blessings, also.
  • I urge you to join with me by praying for my trip to Jerusalem. Pray that I my be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that these offerings arrive safely and be favorably received by the Lord’s people there.
  • May the Lord of peace be with you all.

 

Reaction: 

“We ought not to be self-serving,” Paul seems to be saying, “But delight in attending to the needs of others.”

“That sounds fair enough, Paul, but we are a very busy family. My wife and I work full-time and the kids have after-school activities. Most of the time we don’t make it to their games. We are just too busy! By the time the weekend rolls around I just want to sleep-in and “veg” in front of the TV.

That sounds about typical for today’s world, right? Maybe that would be your response, too. But why are we too busy? Why the two jobs? Haven’t we been enticed to have too many possessions? Are we desiring all the things that unbelievers have and can’t pay for, without going into debt, either?

If we are in debt up to our ears, maybe it’s time to downsize for the Lord and our sanity. Use some of that free time, after your debt it paid off, to help others. Few people are really working 7 days per week, so spend one of those days with your family, in doing something good for someone in need. Make it your weekly “Sporting Event.”

With God’s help in

  • Down-sizing
  • Paying off debts
  • Re-allocating
  • Sharing and encouraging others

It can be done.

 

The Dangers of Criticism

 

2/06/2019

 

Romans 14 (TLB)

Synopsis:

  • Don’t criticize or argue with new believers
  • For instance, those of you who have been living for Christ for a long time and may be vegetarians, be careful not to offend those who are not, by being critical of the rib-eye on their plate.
  • With the Lord’s help, they will stand in approval before God, just like you.
  • In the same way, some think that one day is more holy than another, while others think that every day is pretty much the same. Whatever day you choose to worship on, be fully convinced that whatever day you choose is acceptable.
  • For those who worship on a special day do it to honor God. Those who give thanks for their food eat to honor God.
  • We don’t live or die to ourselves, but to honor God.
  • Christ lived and died and lived again for the very purpose of becoming the Lord of the living and the dead.
  • What purpose is served by condemning or looking down your nose at other believers? Remember, we will all stand, side by side, before the judgment of God.
  • If another believer is distressed by what you eat or the day you choose to worship on, you are not acting in love if flaunt your lifestyle before them.
  • The Kingdom of God does not consist of what we eat or drink, but in living a life of peace, goodness and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  • Whatever they do in a clear conscience, is acceptable to God. If He wants them changed He will change them. It is your job to accept and love them.
  • If you have any doubts about what you are doing and you do it anyway, you are sinning by not following the convictions God has planted in you.

 

Reaction:

 

Wow! Does this pretty much strike a blow at the way we go about evangelizing people, or what? In the churches that I am used to attending, the emphasis is on the correct day upon which to worship. Then comes the keeping of the Laws of God, again emphasizing the day on which to worship. And of course, they always teach vegetarianism… no rib-eye steak, animal meatloaf, or hamburger will be found at a church potluck. This is in spite of the fact that Jesus himself ate lamb and fish.

I, like Paul, am convinced that eating meat does not condemn a person any more than being a vegetarian or vegan will save you. For it is not what goes into your mouth to be pooped out, that condemns us, but the condemning words that come out of our mouth that becomes the snare and stumbling blocks to others.

The whole point of living for God is to witness to others what God has done for us… how He is working out our salvation. In God’s sight, I am no better than you, nor you better than me.

If you have any doubts about what you are doing and you do it anyway, you are sinning by not following the convictions God has planted within you.

Civil Authority in Our Lives

 

 

2/05/2019

Romans 13 (TLB)

Synopsis:

  • Since all authority comes from God, we must submit to that authority.
  • Anyone rebelling against that authority is rebelling against God.
  • Would you like to live a fearless life? Then don’t be a rebel.
  • Authorities are God’s servant, sent for your good. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but to have a clear conscience.
  • Pay your taxes for the same reasons. Government workers need to be paid, for they are serving God in what they do.
  • Don’t owe anyone anything but love.
  • The Law code says, “Don’t murder, Don’t commit adultery, Don’t steal, Don’t covet.” And all the ‘Don’ts’ you can think of, can be summed up in this one command of Jesus, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Love does no wrong to others and fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
  • Time is running out. Our salvation is closer than when you first believed.
  • We must live decent lives for all to see. So, step out of the darkness of immoral living, the drunken parties and sexual promiscuity
  • Don’t even let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

 

Reaction:

 

Fulfilling God’s requirements are easy to understand even though they are impossible to do without Him living in us. But it is the first part of this chapter that has been my stumbling block. So, it is that portion on authority that I would dwell on this morning.

Governmental authority, especially, has been my life-long trip hazard. What does Paul mean by statements like, “Obey your rulers, because God has placed them in that place of authority. “Pay your taxes, because Governmental employees need to get paid.”

I have resisted this concept for most of my life, reasoning, “Since the beginning of written history, kingdoms were won and lost by conflict. Even in Paul’s day, virtually the whole world, was won in battle by the Romans. In our day it is no different world wide. In our country there is a struggle every four years to determine which group will run our government, so why would Paul speak such nonsense?”

Even until a few hours ago, my opinion has been, “we get the best government that money can buy, good or bad!” but Paul is trying to tell the Romans that their government was either, set up by God, or allowed by God.

There’s a big difference!

Let’s go back to the beginnings of Israel as a nation. When they first came out of Egypt and God started destroying the wicked people that were inhabiting the land that God had promised to Abraham. They rejoiced at nearly every conflict because God was winning the battles for them. He was their leader. He lived with them in a temple tent and occupied a cloud that protected them, not only from their enemies, but the severe elements of the desert.

Then, as they were getting pretty well established, they complained that they wanted to be like the nations around them. They want a kingly government. Through His prophets God warned them that a king would draft their sons for battle and extract taxes from their farms. Didn’t matter! They wanted a king. Now, come the hard to understand part.

God chose their king and let them crown Saul. God , knowing the end from the beginning, knew that Saul would be a failure, yet He chose the best man… for what purpose?

I now believe Saul was chosen to demonstrate to His people what a human ruler would do to a nation! They were, in effect, telling God that they were dissatisfied with His rule and they wanted to be like everyone else. They wanted to put some human in a place of power over themselves to receive their adulation… worship, if you please.

Saul let it go to his head, as God knew it would. It eventually drove him crazy. But the people persisted in his insanity, and instead of learning their lesson and returning to God, they stumbled ahead.

God raised up a new man, not of Saul’s family, but a man after God’s own heart, David, to be the next king. Was he perfect? Not by any mean’s, but he was a man willing to follow God.

So, does or did, God set up or allow ALL nations whether they profess to know Him or not? I don’t know. But let’s look example, Ancient Egypt. They were in existence long before Abraham began propagating. In fact, when they visited Egypt he almost lost his beautiful young wife to the pharaoh. Whereupon, God used pharaoh to teach Abraham that it isn’t nice to lie about your circumstances. Several generations later, He used this same nation to save His people from starvation. When Jacob died they should have returned to their homeland, but they didn’t. They put prosperity ahead of duty.

After that, when they didn’t return to their God-given land when Joseph died, He used the pharaoh to enslave His people so that they would consider living for Him instead of themselves. Some 400 years after arriving in Egypt He used pharaoh drive His people out of the land.

Now, did God set up or establish this kingdom or did He ALLOW the kingdom to rise up, then USE IT for His benefit?

I don’t know. There seems to have been tribes, nations, and kingdoms without number that were evil at their very beginnings. Others started out nice, but turned quickly to the dark side.

So, if I happen to be born in a nation that started out with generous liberties giving me freedom to worship the god of my choice or not worship at all, am I blessed? Most certainly! But if I am born in the later stages of that same nation, a time when many of those liberties are being withdrawn, am I still obligated to pay the taxes that support the licentious behavior of its leaders?

When Paul penned these words to the Roman Believers it had only been a few years since the Roman soldiers had crucified Christ on a criminal’s cross. In fact it had only been a few years since the leaders of his nation of Israel had dropped the guilty verdict on that same Son of God. Should the Jews of the day refused to pay the temple taxes or shred the leaders who collected the Roman taxes and skimmed off the top of the money pot?

I’m not sure. It would seem that God has always used one nation to chastise another nation or its own people.

I have tried to take a position of respect but not support. In my non-support I refused to file tax returns for many years because I didn’t want to support what I felt was corruption in government. I started paying taxes after caving in to the arguments of friends, based on this chapter of Romans.

Have I been blessed because I pay taxes?

Maybe, but I’ve been more blessed because I’m following God in many other areas of my life… not so much because I pay taxes.

When segments of my government make laws that result in the killing of babies or the euthanasia (convenience killing) of old people, how am I going to “not support” those laws? Do I just hide my head in the sand or in a cave and ignore what goes on around me. Or should I speak out against it!

I am that old person they are considering killing when I’m too old to pay my taxes or whenever it is convenient.

A What Does a Living Sacrifice Look Like?

2/04/2019

 

Romans 12 (TLB)

Synopsis:

The Message translates the first part of Romans 12 so beautifully… “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it..” (Emphasis are mine)

 

  • God brings out the best in you. Let Him do it.
  • Because of what God has done for me, I will share these warning with you.
  • Don’t feel like you are better than you are, be honest in your self evaluation.
  • Measure yourselves by the faith God has given us.
  • Look at it this way; Just as our bodies have many parts working in unison and performing unique functions, so it should be with us who make up Christ’s body.
  • In His grace He has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.
  • Whatever you do well, do it cheerfully, without braggadocio.
  • Don’t just pretend to love others, really love them. Take joy in honoring them.
  • Serve God enthusiastically, without laziness.
  • Always be ready to help others, ready with hospitality.
  • Be happy with those that are happy.
  • Live in harmony.
  • Don’t be so proud that you can’t enjoy the company of ordinary people.
  • Never pay back evil with more evil.
  • Don’t take revenge on the bullies in your life. The Lord says, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back.” (Duet. 32:35)
  • Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them a drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”(Proverbs 25:21-22)
  • Don’t let the evil around you get you down, but conquer evil by doing good.

 

Reaction:

Ahhh… So many thoughts are flooding my mind that it’s hard to concentrate on one or two.

It’s clear in this passage that Paul wants to teach his readers about self-sacrifice and what it means, what it looks like in the everyday, ordinary life. The sacrifice that he is referring to is not the like the sacrifice of a lamb for your sins as was the Jewish tradition. Nor is it like the sacrifice of your children to the god Ba’al, as was practiced in his day.

He is speaking here of giving your life to the God of the Universe, to be remade into someone He can be proud of; someone fit to be a witness to all He has done for you.

I like the illustration that he gives in comparing Christians, the body of Christ, to a single person’s body. We are made up of many unique parts that perform their various functions. If we had the stomach complaining about how the feet did their work, or the ear boasting that it did its work better than the eye, we would soon have chaos in our body.

The part that began pound at my temples is the part about not “getting even” with bullies. I used to cherish a book titled, “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even.” It was just filled with all kinds of ways to get even with people that have wronged you. Example after example!

But here, Paul is telling us the Godly way to get even. Not by returning evil with evil, but by doing good to those who bully you! What a concept!

As I have grown older, I learned that getting even usually did more harm than good, so I learned to just avoid the people who treated me “wrong.” In ignoring them I didn’t have to risk being abraded by them again.

Now, I’m learning that the proper way is to honor them with a kindly spirit and bless them. I need to pray for them…. and me. My sacrifice must be a willingness to let God change my life-long attitude of “getting even.”

This chapter teaches me that I’ve had it “my way” for far to long. I need to learn to let God handle the bullies in my life in His own way, on His own time schedule.

God’s Mercy is for Everyone

 

2/02/2019

 

Romans 11:25-36 (MSG)

Synopsis:

  • “I want to make this as clear as I can,” says Paul, “It’s rather complicated.”
  • Don’t assume you are all that special and that Jews are out of the picture.
  • This hardness of the heart of Israel is just temporary.
  • It’s effect has been to open the doors to outsiders, so that in the end He will end up with a full house.
  • Before it is all over there will be a complete Israel, a perfect number from each of the 12 tribes.
  • God’s commitment is to remove their sins.
  • From your point of view it may appear that the Jews and God are enemies.
  • Look at it from the long-range perspective of God’s purpose. God’s gifts and call are never rescinded or cancelled… they come with a full warranty, so to speak. It’s up to you to accept them.
  • The door is being held open for you, because so many Jews have rejected God’s gifts and calling.
  • In one way or another God makes sure that everyone will experience being on the outside so that He can personally open the door for you, to welcome you home.
  • Have you ever come on anything quite like His extravagant love? It will most likely be a mystery for eternity.
  • “For who can know the thoughts of God,” says Isaiah, “Who knows enough to give Him advice?”
  • Job put it this way, “Who has has given God so much that He is obligated to pay it back?”
  • Everything that exists comes from God and exists by His power and is intended to glorify Him.

 

Reaction:

I cannot even presume to understand God’s relationship with the Jews OR with us, except to say He loves this creation on earth. We were created in love and made to live by what we would later call “natural laws.” But, by Adam’s rebellion against God’s clear directions to NOT eat from a certain tree, the leadership of the whole earth was transferred to satan. Under his rule we have been going downhill ever since.

Despite the view of many “thinkers” in the world, things are NOT getting better and better. Yes, we have a lot of knowledge and inventions that were not around 2,000 years ago. But 6,000 years back we didn’t even have or need a written history, because man was smart enough to remember their history and pass it on to their children. Many are the people on record as having lived in excess of 800 years. What a history lesson they could teach! But many of them dropped the ball and began to teach a twisted view of history.

They built things that baffle current generations. There exist, maps of the galaxies and gigantic devices for predicting eclipses. It is only in the last 100 years that we have even figured out what some of their inventions were used for!

They were able to build with rocks weighing 100+ tons, as seen in South America, not in the “Cradle of Civilization.” How could we, today, replicate the pyramids of Egypt using the material they used?

No, I feel like we have lost more knowledge in the last 6,000 years, than we have gained.

I can’t even imagine the capabilities with which God created mankind, yet we brashly presume to tell each other that He doesn’t exist! Some teach that we can be the molder of our destinies. That some of us know best how to live, and if the rest of us don’t fall into line we will be exterminated. Not one of us has a complete picture of what God is up to concerning this would and its inhabitants. Paul called it a mystery.

During Jesus ministry on this earth he told a parable of a king who wanted to throw his son a lavish wedding feast. He invited every Friend in his Facebook list. When none of them seemed to be showing up, he sent messenger to remind them that this was the day of the feast. Some wouldn’t answer the door, some went on with their money-making ventures. Some, who had nothing better to do scoffed and ridiculed the messenger and finally killed him.

The king, understandably upset, sent his soldiers to raze the city and destroy those so called, “Friends.”

He then sent his servants out to all the major highway intersections to hold up their cardboard signs with hand-scribed invitations to come to the feast.

So, it seemed everybody came. The good, the bad, the indifferent, they all began streaming into the banquet hall until the place was filled. Everyone was given a sporty dinner jacket so that no one would feel out of place. Now, every seat taken.

As the king sat down to enjoy the feast with the guests, he noticed that one person was not wearing his dinner jacket.

Aproaching the guest, he asked, “Friend, (yes, I “Friended” you and gave you a dinner jacket). Why aren’t you taking advantage of your gifted dinner jacket?”

The guy was speechless, because he was wearing his very best clothes, which he considered to be a much better style!

The king called his servants over and instructed them to tie up the recalcitrant guest and ship him out on Instagram, and he tweeted out #tohellwithyou.

This rendition brought to you by the weird wit of yours truly.

The point of this and the original story being, God invited a special group of friends and they ended up turning Him down. He then invited everyone. They all came, but even then there was one who thought he was too good for the rest of the group and was ejected.

Like I said, I don’t really understand it, but I’m finally ready to accept it. It has taken me the better part of my lifetime, but I’m ready.

There Is a Loyal Minority

 

2/02/2019

Romans 11:1-24 (NLT)

Synopsis:

  • So, does this talk of rejection mean that God is fed up with us Jews? Hardly! Remember that I, the one writing these words, am an Israelite. So I’m not talking about repudiation.
  • God has too much invested in Israel to just wash His hands of us.
  • Do you remember the time when Elijah was agonizing over this same Israel and complained to God that he was the only one left who still believed in God?
  • And God answered, “Don’t be so hasty in your assessment, I still have seven thousand who have remained loyal to me.”
  • It’s the same today. There are probably many more than you would think, who are fiercely loyal to God.
  • They are holding on, not because of what they will get out of it, but because they are convince of God’s grace and purpose in choosing them.
  • When Israel tried to get right with God on their own, pursuing their own self-interests, she didn’t succeed.
  • Those who let God pursue His interest them, received His stamp of legitimacy. All the others became thick-skinned and hard-hearted toward God.
  • So the question is, “Is Israel out of the loop for good?” The answer is a hearty “No!”
  • Ironically, when some walked out on God, they left the door open for non-Jews, and the outsiders started walking in.
  • When a worldwide movement of outsiders began coming to God, some of those who had left began to wonder if maybe they had walked out on a good thing. Just imagine the effect of their homecoming!
  • Now if the first thing these hard-hearted Jews did brought about an influx of outsiders, their recovery is going to set off greater spectacle.
  • Even though what they did was wrong, it turned out to be good for you. Think what will happen when they get it right!
  • Behind all this action there has been the holy, God-planted and God-tended root. If the primary root is holy, then there is bound to be some holy fruit.
  • The branches as it were, that were not producing what God wanted, He pruned off and grafted some wild shoots… you were those wild shoots.
  • Just because you were grafted in, you have nothing to crow about. Remember, you are being fed by the root, not the other way around.
  • Of course it is possible that you will get all cocky and brag about your grafting in where others had been pruned. Don’t do it!
  • The only reason you are on God’s tree is because your graft “took” when you believed in God’s forgiveness and mercy.
  • If God didn’t think twice about taking His pruning shears to the natural, dead wood, why would He hesitate over you.
  • Make sure you stay alert to these qualities of gentle kindness and ruthless severity that exist side by side in God.
  • Don’t presume upon this gentleness with you as a grafted shoot. The moment you become deadwood, you’re off the branch.
  • Don’t go feeling superior to those pruned branches on the ground. Some with only a spark of life could get grafted back in.
  • Just be glad you’re on the tree, and hope for the best for the others.

 

Reaction:

There was a loyal minority back in the day and there is a loyal minority today. But today, there is also a bit of cockiness among the Christian community that says, “The Jewish nation was rejected by God when they had Jesus crucified.” Or they even point out that some Christian groups are nothing more than cults. “We have the unadulterated Truth, and the rest of you are deviating from that Truth.”

Paul add this warning:

“Don’t presume upon this gentleness with you as a grafted shoot. The moment you become deadwood, you’re off the branch.

Don’t go feeling superior to those pruned branches on the ground. Some with only a spark of life could get grafted back in.

Just be glad you’re on the tree, and hope for the best for the others.”

I think that I would rather be in the faithful minority than to be in the hardhearted majority that seeks to divide God’s people up, determined by their outward appearances.

But then, if we don’t make any kind of judgments of people, how can we decide who are “Closet Christians” and who are fake?

I would ask in return, “What difference does it make? That is for God to determine, not us. We have an obligation to treat all people as Jesus would, showing kindness and love.

Take a look at what Jesus did for the non-Jews of His day;

He healed the Centurion’s daughter

“Love your enemies,” he taught, “Do good to those who hate you.”

He cast the demons out of the naked man of Gadara

He witnessed to and offered salvation to the Samaritan woman

He prayed for you and me long before we were even born, “Father, I wish above all things that all men would come to know and love You as I do.”

“Feed and clothe the homeless,” he told us, “Take care of the widows and orphans.” And, “Visit and encourage those in prison.”

In the Great Day of Judgment these are some of the things for which Christians will be held accountable. These are some of the important choices which we have some control over.

I have heard people comment at seeing homeless people, “There, but for the grace of God, am I.” I’m sure most have meant well, but it does smack a little at pomposity. A little like the illustration that Paul used of the newly grafted branch looking down on the newly pruned branch, saying, “Too bad, you blew it and now you’ve made room for me on the Tree.”

I would remind all of us to not get “cocky” in our position in life, we may be forced into nothingness as was Job.