The early Christians were crystal clear on what it meant to be a Christian. It was not a title they inherited from a by-gone generation. Rather, it describe how they thought, how they acted, and ultimately how they died. However, ask five people on the street today what it means to be a Christian and you’ll get five different answers. Yet, Romans 12:2 supplies us with a threefold definition of what it means to be a Christian. In this lesson we’ll not only learn what it means to be a Christian but how to apply these lessons to our lives.
On your first day of orientation for your new job what was the first thing the HR rep gave you? That’s right, it was an employee hand book. Let me ask you this, when was the last time you looked at your employee handbook? Well if you are like most folks, the last time you looked at it was your first day of orientation. While the information it contained was value, it really did not get down to the nuts and bolts of how to interact with your co-workers, or deal with the stresses of work, or how to be a success in the workplace.
However, in Romans 12:9-21 the apostle Paul gives us seven practical insights into how a Christian should conduct him/herself in the workplace. We might think of this passage as the Christian’s Employee Handbook for success in the workplace. Listen to what Paul had to say:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If you enemy is hungry feed him, if he is thirst give him something to drink and in so doing you will heap fires of coal upon his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)
Be Prayerful (vv. 12, 14) – The workplace has a way of trying our patience, our integrity and our faith like nowhere else. What is Paul’s answer then to the pressures of work? Be prayerful. Whether it is the stress brought on from a heavy workload, or the hurtful actions of a co-worker, or the blessing of a new account, Paul wants us to be workers who are constantly praying to God. Praying that God would bless our companies with continued business and good leadership. Praying that co-workers will be safe during the workday and taking their concerns to God through prayer. Praying for blessings on the co-workers or supervisors who are mean and rude. And also Paul desires us to be prayerful that God will help us do our work with joy and with thanksgiving. Work is a busy, hectic place, but let’s slow down and pray. Remember this; no Christian has ever been successful at any endeavor without first being prayerful..
Be Hospitable (v. 13) – For most people the workplace is their second home and if that’s true then we need to be hospitable at work. We might think of it as being inviting or welcoming to others. Paul said to “seek” to be hospitable and by extension, “seek” to meet the needs of others. He is saying look for hidden opportunities to be hospitable and to do good for others. It might be that you invite someone to lunch with you, or contribute to someone’s fund raiser, or have someone to your home. Being hospitable at work is a great way to open doors of opportunity to share Jesus with someone. Paul said, the successful Christian seeks out hidden opportunities to be hospitable to others at work.
Be Humble (vv. 15-16) – Humility can be rare commodity in the workplace. But you can change that. Paul’s desire for all Christians is that they be humble, and especially at work. He wants Christians to be humble by “Rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep.” In addition he says be humble by associating with humble people and by not thinking you have all the answers all the time. The truly successful Christian knows that in order to rise up one must be humble..
Be Peaceable (vv. 17-20) – Let’s just face it, office politics is just a way of life in most workplaces. It is amazing that anybody can get any work done for all the bickering, jockeying, and infighting that goes along with office politics. What is Paul’s advice for avoiding office politics? Be peaceable. The workplace is a place to work not war. This is why Paul said, “Repay no one evil for evil,” and “as much as depends on you, [work] peaceably with all men.” While we are not responsible for other’s actions, we are responsible for our own. And if we are going to be successful Christians at work we will need to seek to be peaceable with those we work with..
Be Vigilant (v. 21) – The workplace is fraught with dangers for the Christian to be overcome by evil. It could come in the form of material success which chokes out the Word. It could come in the form of a forbidden relationship that steals not only the heart but the soul as well. It could be something as simple as pilfering the supply closet, or as serious as embezzlement. Around every corner is a trap that Satan has set to try to overtake us. Paul wants us to know that the successful Christian will be vigilant in the workplace. Always watchful for her soul. Ever mindful of temptations. Constantly seeking to overcome Satan’s evil with God’s goodness..
Paul’s seven insights, if taken to heart, will make us not only better employee but also successful Christians who serves as a shining light for God in our workplaces.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Romans 6:1
On the surface it seems strange that anyone, especially Christians, would think that it would be okay to continue to sin so that God’s grace may abound toward us. Yet, it seems that was the attitude of some Christians who thought, “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20).
There’s a danger in this sort of thinking (that we can continue to sin because of God’s grace and forgiveness), because it leads to a life becoming more and more entrenched in the ways of sin. Paul uses terms such as, “slaves of sin” (6:6) and “instruments of unrighteousness” (6:13) to describe our lives when under sins sway.
What was Paul’s answer then to his original question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” (6:1-2a) Paul gives three compelling reasons why we, as Christians, can overcome sin’s temptations and do not to continue in sin:
We Have Died to Sin (6:2b-11a) – Paul doesn’t want us to continue in sin since we have died to sin (6:2, 11a), we have been freed from sin, it no longer has dominion (influence or power) over us (6:7).
To illustrate that we’ve died to sin, Paul uses to Jesus’ death and resurrection to prove his point. When Jesus died and was raised from the dead to life he broke the bonds that death held over humanity, death no longer had dominion over Him in that He will die no more (6:9).
When we were baptized we were “buried…with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (6:4). Freedom from sin is the new life that we live. Paul continues, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like His” (6:5). Jesus’ resurrection broke the bonds of death and sin; they no longer had dominion over man (6:9-10). When we are resurrected from the tomb of baptism the dominion of sin over our lives has been broken, we are free, we no longer have to obey it as slaves.
How does this help us overcome temptations to continue to sin? We know that we don’t have to obey sin. Praise God that he has set us free and has given us an avenue of escape (1 Cor 10:13). Does that mean that we want sin? No, but what it does mean is that we don’t have to powerlessly obey sin because it is no longer our master.
We Are Alive to God (6:11b-14) – Just because we are to consider ourselves dead to sin, that doesn’t mean we are act dead, rather, Paul wants us to consider ourselves “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11).
Since we are alive to God, we present our bodies to God as “instruments for righteousness” (6:13). In just the same way we were once “instruments for unrighteousness” in perpetuating sins desires, we are to seek to perpetuate the desires of our God who raised us from death to life. We can do this because God has promised that sin no longer has dominion over us since His grace rules in our lives (6:14).
How does this help us to overcome the temptation to continue to sin? God fills the void sin left in our lives. By giving us purpose through Jesus Christ (being alive to God and instruments of righteousness), we don’t have to obey sin and allow it to once again reign in our lives.
We Are Slaves of Righteousness (6:15-23) – Here Paul again anticipates another question, this time it appears to be from the perspective of an adversary saying, “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” Again, Paul answers with a resounding, “Certainly not!” (6:15)
Even though we are not under law but grace, we are not free to live our lives as we please and sin at will as if there are no commandments to live by. As humans, we are going to be slaves by way of obedience to either sin or to righteousness. By being obedient to sin, we become its slave, the wages that sin pays its slaves is death (6:23). By being obedient to righteousness, we become God’s slave, to His slaves He gives the free gift of eternal life (cf. 6:16, 22-23).
When we live in sin we are bound up in sins lies. One of those lies is that if we follow God, He will cramp our style, because His ways are restrictive. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We’re truly free when we’re slaves of righteousness (6:18). If we’ve been set free from sin then it was a life of bondage. If we’re slaves of righteousness, which is the opposite of being slaves of sin, then we are truly free.
How does this help us overcome the temptation to continue to sin? We don’t have to obey sin because as slaves of righteousness we are free from sin’s control and influence, we no longer have to please sin, instead we seek to please God by being obedient to Him (cf. 6:20).
Is God’s grace a license to sin? Certainly not! Paul has shown us that since we, as Christians, have died to sin, are alive to God and are slaves of righteousness sin no longer has control over us so that we should obey it. When we’re tempted to sin and become entangled in its web once again let us hold fast our faith and remember the lessons that Paul has taught us.
Let’s start this article by playing a game. I’ll start a verse and you finish it. All right here we go… “For whatever things were written before hand were…” Can you finish it? That’s right, they were “written for our learning, that we though the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Good job, you know your Bible verses.
Okay, for extra credit can you tell me the context of this verse? What was Paul talking about when he told us why the things of old were written for us? Don’t know? That’s okay; I didn’t know what it was either until last week. And therein lies the problem. We quote some passages so often and used them to make our standard applications that we have either forgotten or neglected their usage in their original context. By doing this, we fail to embrace the richness of their original meaning and application. Such is the case with Romans 15:4. Let’s take a fresh look at this great passage and together let’s gain a greater understanding of its message in light of its context.
The Context of Romans 15:4 – For the context of Romans 15:4 we must first start with what is written in Romans 14. In the 14th chapter Paul addressed the need for patience between the strong Christian and the weak Christian in the area of “doubtful things.” The weak felt they could not eat any meat (14:2, 14), drink wine (14:21 cf. 1 Tim 5:23), and had to esteem some days as being more important than others (14:5). While on the other hand the strong believed they could eat anything since nothing was unclean, drink wine, and that all days were of equal importance. Paul wanted both the strong and the weak to have a mutual acceptance for one another. He called for the weak to not judge his stronger brother because he didn’t refrain from eating certain foods, or from drinking wine, or keep days (14:4). Nor does Paul want the stronger brother to destroy the faith of the weaker by allowing the exercise of his liberties to become as a stumbling block, or hindrance, to the faith of the one who Christ has saved (14:13-21).
Paul concludes his teaching by saying, “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.” (15:1-2) He illustrate the point of the strong bearing with the scruples of the weak by turning to the example of Jesus saying, “For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.’” (15:3 cf. Psalm 69:9) Why should the strong bear with the weak? Because even the strongest, Jesus the Christ, bore the failings of us, the weak. It is at this point that Paul says, “For whatever things were written before hand were written for our learning, that we though the patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (15:4).
Now that we have established the context of Romans 15:4 let’s turn our attention to understanding its contextual meaning.
The Contextual Meaning of Romans 15:4 – Paul was encouraging his readers not to neglect the things that were written before hand, the Old Testament, because in its pages the strong would learn patience in dealing with their weak brethren and be comforted in refraining from their liberties for the good of the others. With these two lessons firmly planted in their hearts they could then have hope.
And what was their hope? For the answer look at vv. 5-6, “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeminded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In the context of the passage their hope was that both the strong and the weak have unity of mind (i.e. be likeminded, with one mind) and glorify the Father together.
Now do you see the richer meaning of this passage when we examine it in its context? Before we end let’s make two points of application.
The Application for Us – There are two points of application that we should make from our examination of the context of Romans 15:4.
The first is, make sure you understand the context of a passage and the way the speaker/author used it before make applications and teachings from your chosen passage. While you may teach the truth, it’s always best to keep passage(s) in context so as to not go beyond what the speak/author intended. Remember, if it’s true there’s a passage that teaches it.
The second is, read the Old Testament. While the names, places, and events may seem foreign to us, there is a great wealth of knowledge and insight to be gained from the Old Testament. In keeping with the theme of dealing with weaker brethren you might read about how Joseph dealt with his brothers, or Moses dealt with the Children of Israel, or Nehemiah dealt with the people of Jerusalem when the walls were rebuilt. In reading these stories you’ll learn strategies for being patient and be comforted in that you too can deal with your weaker brethren. While we may not be justified by the Old Testament today Paul tells us we shouldn’t ignore it.
I hope that this has helped you see the richer meaning of God’s word. Keep on reading, keep on studying, and keep on praying for wisdom and understanding. May God bless.
Whenever I go camping I have to get ready for my trip by making provisions for it. I have to get out all my gear and check it to make sure it is sound and in good working order. I have to get food, extra clothes and supplies ready and packed. I have to get weather forecast, maps and permits. Then I have to pack it all in by backpack. All of these provisions have to be made for my trip long before I hit the trail and go camping. In a similar way Paul realized that we have to get ready to sin just like we have to get ready for a trip.
In Romans 13:14 he said, “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lust.” He was saying don’t get ready to sin by making provision for sin to come to fruition. How do we go about not making provisions for the flesh? Let’s use the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:1-20) to teach how not to make provisions for the flesh to fulfill its lust.
KNOW YOUR TEMPTATIONS
Joseph had been very successful while in the serve of Potiphar. When Potiphar placed all that he had under Joseph’s authority, God began to bless him and his house for the sake of Joseph. Potiphar was so comfortable with Joseph’s management of his house he didn’t even know what he had except for the bread that was placed before him.
When Potiphar’s wife began to make sexual advances toward Joseph, he said to her:
“Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in the house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-9)
Joseph is simply expressing his limitations; he knows himself and his weaknesses better than anyone else. Joseph knew Potiphar was disconnected from the goings on in the house and if he had wanted to he could have had Potiphar’s wife and Potiphar would have never known. But Joseph knew his himself and his limits and he was willing to verbalize them for all to know.
If we’re going to overcome sin by making no provision for the flesh then first we have to know our limits and be willing to verbalize them. We have to know the temptations that can so easily ensnare us and we have to be willing to say them out loud so those limitations become more real to us. Not only do we need to know our limits but we also need to…
HAVE A PLAN
Joseph knew his limits and the dangers of being tempted by Potiphar’s wife so he set out to have a plan that would keep him from indulging in this temptation. So what was his plan? The answer is in vv. 11-12:
“But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.” (Genesis 39:11-12)
Joseph’s plan was to not be alone with Potiphar’s wife. From v. 10 were learn that his plan well because the text says, “she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.” Not only did it keep him from having sex with her but it also kept him from being in her company, which in context of making no provision for the flesh would have been the first step in giving in to temptation. Not only did Joseph have a plan (don’t be in the house alone with her) he also had a backup plan in case his first plan fell through and that was to run.
If we’re going to make no provision for the flesh then we have to have a plan to overcome the temptations that we will encounter. Without a plan we’re sitting ducks for our temptations. For example if drinking alone is the problem then have a plan of not being alone. If you’re enticed to lust after a certain server at a particular establishment, then have a plan of not going there anymore. If gambling is your demon, then have a plan of not going into gas stations that sell lottery scratch-offs or let your spouse handle the money. The point is to have a plan (and a backup plan) and do whatever it takes to so we don’t make provision for the flesh to fulfill its lust.
ACT ON THE PLAN
Not only did Joseph have a plan but he also acted on his plan. Look at vv. 11-12 again:
“But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.” (Genesis 39:11-12)
How much good would it have been for Joseph to have a plan but not act on it? Well it wouldn’t have done any good. He not only had to have a plan but he had to act on that plan that’s why we see him resist her day after day in v. 10 and again in v. 12 when he ran (plan #2).
Once we’ve made our plans to not make provision for the flesh to fulfill our lust we have to be willing to act upon those plans. Acting on our plans is where the real struggle of overcoming sin lies. It’s not all that hard to identify our faults, or to come up with a plan on what to do when we’re tempted but the difficult part is acting on our plan. But if we are going to overcome the temptations and sin that have ensured us in the past we have to put our plans into action. If the plan is to call a friend when tempted then make the call. If the plan is to leave the room, house, restaurant, or wherever then leave. If the plan is to simply run… then run! Is it going to be hard? Sure, but remember we “can do all things through Christ you strengthens you” (Philippians 4:13).
Paul said “make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lust.” How do we go about making no provisions for the flesh? By knowing our temptations, by having a plan for what to do when we’re tempted and acting on our plan. With God’s help you can overcome the sin in your life. May God bless you.
I would love to share in your joys and struggles. Make a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me the joy of overcoming sin or the struggles that you still have.
When one reads the bible it seems as if the writers of old had looked into the future and tailored their message for our generation. It seems as if they saw our time and its perversions, its excesses and its wickedness. But from the Bible, we learn that the first century world was one that was just as engrossed in all sorts of perversions (1 Cor 6:9-11), consumed with the same lustful excesses (1 Jhn 2:15-17), and gripped by the same wickedness (Jms 1:21) as our world is today.
At the heart of this sin craved first century world was Rome. Rome served as the ancient world’s Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles all in one. It was to the brave band of Christian sojourners there that Paul wrote:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:1-2)
In the midst of the extreme sins of Rome, Paul was urging those saints to be different than the world around them; he wanted them to be nonconformist. Instead of going along with the world to get along with the world, he wanted them to live by the phrase When In Rome… be a CHRISTIAN. Paul’s words echo down through the centuries and he cries out to us today, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” He says to us, wherever you live… be a Christian.
What’s involved in not conforming to the world around us? The usual answer is that as Christians do not act like the world around us. Meaning Christians are not to drink, dance, dress immodestly, gamble, cheat, or any other sinful thing the world would do. Is this what Paul meant when he said “Do not be conformed to the world”? Did he merely mean that all we had to do was change our external actions so as to not conform to the world and we would be right before God?
Paul wants us to not just be conformed to the world in the way we act (by simply refraining from sinful behavior) but he also wants to not be conformed in thought by transforming our minds and the way we think. The two cannot be separated. To not be conformed to the world by our actions, first requires us to transform what we think about sin and the world. If we are ever going to change our actions, and not be conformed to this world, then we must first change our thinking so that we reflect God’s view of sin and wickedness. Jesus affirmed that thoughts lead to actions when he said, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mat 12:34b). We know that God hates sin and since God hates sin we as Christians are to hate sin as well (Rom 12:9; Psa 97:10). When we hate sin, then and only then, will our actions change.
I’m afraid that we as Christian today have not transformed our minds and we don’t hate sin the way we should. It’s quite evident is it not? When Christian women dress in clothing that barely covers their breast and thighs are they exhibiting a hatred for the sin of immodesty and lust? When Christians, both young and old, engage in sex with someone they are not married to can it be said that they hate the sin of fornication and/or adultery? When Christians by lottery tickets or go to Vegas to gamble do they really hate the sin of covetousness? When Christians are entertained by all sorts of sins on TV, movies, and in music do they truly hate sin? When Christians use foul language, take the Lord’s name in vain, or converse on vulgar topics do they really hate the sins of the tongue? Instead of taking part in these sins, let us expose them for what they are; the unfruitful works of darkness, produced by a world bound for destruction. Come out from them among them brethren and be separate, do not be conformed to the ways of this dying world.
Friends, it’s time that we renew and transform our minds and bring them into alignment with God’s perspective of sin. Instead of the hypocrisy of affirming one thing with our speech and practicing another with our actions, let our minds be transformed by God’s word and then not conforming to this world around us will naturally flow from a heart that is attuned to God’s perfect and acceptable will. It would be the least we could do for a merciful God who has saved us and forgiven us of our sins.
Look for this article and many others articles on Worldliness in the April issue of Biblical Insights.
There’s no doubt about it, the apostle Paul loved his countrymen. For a time, he was a flag waving, chest thumping, red-blooded Israelite. However, when he surveyed the spiritual landscape of his people it didn’t bring him joy, instead it brought him “great sorrow and continual grief” in his heart (Rom 9:2) because they had not accepted God’s righteousness through His son Jesus. Paul’s so loved his countrymen, and was so concerned with their spiritual wellbeing that he “could wish that he was accursed from God” if it meant that his countrymen would be saved (Rom 9:3). But he couldn’t. Even though he couldn’t condemn himself so they would be saved this didn’t stop him from doing what he could to save his countrymen. Notice what he did:
Paul’s belief in God’s promises moved him emotionally – Paul was a man of great faith and belief in God and His promises. Paul believed in God’s promise of salvation to any and all who would call on His name (cf. Rom 10:13). He also believed in God’s promise of wrath and condemnation would come to any and all who would not believe in His son, Jesus the Christ (cf. Rom 5:9, 8:1; 2 Ths 1:3-12). It was Paul’s belief in God’s promise of “eternal destruction” (2 Ths 1:9) on those who would not submit to the “righteousness of God” (Rom 10:3) that he had “great sorrow and continual grief” (Rom 9:2) in his heart for his unfaithful countrymen. So first he allowed himself to be moved emotionally by God’s word and his countrymen’s lack of faithfulness.
Paul prayed often for Israel’s salvation – Paul’s “great sorrow and continual grief” were not some set of emotions that simply existed in a vacuum, instead they were strong, motivating emotions that permeated his prayers and his work. Paul’s heartfelt desire and prayer to God was for Israel to be saved (Rom 10:1) because he knew they weren’t and because he believed God’s judgment was upon them for their unbelief. He allowed his sorrow and grief over his countrymen to provoke his spirit to action, first by praying without ceasing and then by…
Paul took the message of Christ to his countrymen – Paul didn’t just hide behind his prayers for his countrymen, he prayed and acted by taking the message of Christ to his people. It was Paul’s custom that whenever he went into a city that he first went to the synagogue to preach Christ to the Jews (Act 17:2). Even when he was under house arrest in Rome, Paul called for the “leaders of the Jews” to come to him so he could declare to them the “hope of Israel” which is Jesus Christ (Act 28:17-29).
We see in Paul a deep love for Israel, his countrymen. His deep love for them and their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah caused him great sorrow and grief that lead him to earnestly pray and teach them the gospel of Jesus.
I think it’s safe to say that there are people in your life that have not accepted Jesus as their Savior. There’s no doubt that their lack of faithfulness to the Lord causes you great sorrow and continual grief because you know eternal punishment awaits them. Just like Paul, I know that you have often said “I wish I could take their place.” Perhaps you’ve prayed for the Lord to condemn you if it meant they would be saved. You know He won’t (and it’s to your souls benefit that He won’t), but that doesn’t mean you are left powerless. Let me ask you question… what are you doing with your sorrow and grief? Are you burying it deep down in your soul, trying to medicate it somehow with wishful thinking? OR are you allowing it to provoke your spirit to praying for them and seeking to teach them the gospel of Jesus? Friend it is only through prayer and teaching that your loved one will come to the accept Jesus as their Savior. So please let me urge you, be about the work of prayer and teach before it’s too late. I pray that you’ll learn from Paul and follow his example.
I would love to hear from you about your efforts to save a loved one that is dear to you. Would you share you story with me? You can email me at email@example.com, I look forward to hearing from you. God bless you in your efforts.