How to Read Romans [Studies in Romans]

Certeza Unida and Kairos will publish my Romans commentary as part of their Comentario Bíblico Contemporáneo (Contemporary Bible Commentary). More than 160 scholars participated in the project.

11222491_1028680553839403_3462959078166812279_o

What follows is adapted from the section “How to Read Romans,” in which I show its particular application for Latin America.

The epistle to the Romans meets the Christian on two levels: (1) as a treasure house of beloved gospel texts; (2) as an ancient missionary letter, written for a specific moment in Paul’s work among the nations.

Both levels are valid, since the disciple today first comes to know Romans because of its neat formulations of, for example, the deadliness of sin (3:23), the free gift of eternal life (6:23), the transformation of the new person in Christ (12:1-2). Then beyond that, we must enter into the mind of Paul and appreciate his plan for the final years of the AD 50s – a missionary journey that would take the gospel farther west from Jerusalem than it had ever gone, across several of what we know as time zones. We then see that Romans, when first delivered, was a clear call to action for the believers in the capital to receive Paul for a time, and later to sponsor his trip to evangelize Spain.

In Latin America too we are arming ourselves to take the gospel to the nations, in particular, unreached ones. We too will benefit from knowing, not just what Paul said about salvation, but why he said it to these Christians in Rome, and by extension how it is God’s summons to us to show forth the gospel.

Romans is the largest extant letter by Paul. It is also the most systematic in its structure, touching on many facets of the doctrine of salvation (soteriology) but saying little about other themes, for example, the Last Days. Paul begins with the lostness of the world, then God’s solution in the death of Christ, the power of the new life in the Spirit, and later, details about how to live the Christian life. He also introduces a long section in chapters 9-11 to answer the questions Why don’t Jews believe in their own Messiah? Will Israel come to God eventually?

The best way to enjoy this letter is to read it; one can read Romans aloud at an unhurried pace in about one hour.

“How to Read Romans [Studies in Romans],” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

Advertisements
Published in: on February 8, 2017 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“Paul’s Frustrated Travel Plans” 1 Thess 2:17-3:13 [Sermon Notes on 1 Thessalonians, Week 9]

These are notes of a sermon outline, not a full message.

17 But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. 18 For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. 19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

3 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.

But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

INTRO – frustration at travel plans

2:18 – following hard on the first statement is that “Satan blocked” Paul and Silas (2:18c). Paul introduces this event with a bare “and” (καὶ), which seems to be a deliberate understatement on his part. It is an abrupt, harsh description, without elaboration: Satan just shut us down. (more…)

“How do we know God is at work in us?” Part B [Sermon Notes on 1 Thessalonians, Week 3]

Paul has spoken about how he knows that the Thessalonians are genuine Christians: first of all, because they have the fruit of the Spirit. Words, yes, but also attitudes, actions, values that go beyond what we would expect from a human being, apart from Christ.

imagesYou can’t see the Spirit, but you can see what he does. Let’s start with v. 5 and later go to v. 4.

In v. 5 we read about “power, the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction.”

When Paul speaks of power and the Holy Spirit, he is usually talking of miracles that he performed.

2 Cor 12:12 – I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.

Rom 15:18-19a – I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.

In Macedonia, we assume that there were many miracles, although we have the record of only one, and that was in Philippi, not Thessalonica – the exorcism of the demon from the slave girl.

If there are miracles, Paul is saying, then God is at work. (more…)

A most unusual wish: “Damn me to hell!”

Should you pray for the lost? I mean, as if it’s crushing you like a huge weight? Let’s step back 2000 years.

You and Paul are walking past the synagogue of Corinth, a building where he is unwelcome and could be beaten for trying to attend the Sabbath service. He sees dozens of men inside, chanting a psalm. His eyes grow misty: “You know,” he finally gets out, “I pray for them and for all of my fellow Israelites, constantly, that they might have redemption in the Messiah. It’s a burden on my soul, to see them saved. I can taste it, I ache for it.”

“I would give up everything I have in Jesus just to see the nation of Israel come to his feet. No exaggeration; all of it, 100%.”

“You don’t believe me?” he says. “Well, let me spell it out for you:”hell

  • God works out all things for my good; I would forego that.
  • The Holy Spirit prays for me, constantly; I would unplug that.
  • I have a purpose in God’s eternal plan; I would allow my name to be erased from it.
  • “Save them, not me!” I would cry out.
  • I was predestined to be like Christ for eternity; I would give that up.
  • I felt God’s call on me to believe on the Damascus Road; I would rewrite that history.
  • I was given the verdict that I am absolutely right with God my Judge; I would petition to have that decision reversed.
  • I would allow charges to be brought against me.
  • I am on my way to the glory of the final resurrection; I would willingly get in the other line, for those  who will be resurrected to damnation
  • I would make myself forget that Christ died for sinners. I would bare my chest to trouble and hardship without God’s kind protection.
  • I would settle for being less than a conqueror, in fact, a loser.
  • I would let death be the victor over me.
  • I would allow demons to do their worst to me.
  • I would taunt anything, in all creation, I would dare them to demolish me and separate me from God.

(more…)

The thief on the cross: a close shave, or a miracle?

One thief on the cross cursed Jesus to the end, the other stopped and turned to him in faith: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

Let’s not paint a portrait of the repentant thief as the nice, sensitive member of the criminal gang, who felt badly about Jesus and reasoned that he should put his life in order. Both thieves were serious Bad Boys: the term used for them means “bandits”, the same word Jesus used in his “den of thieves” statement. Both taunted Jesus at the outset (Matt 27:44). But one repented because of the work of God in his heart, not because he had a better family background, a better education or was more “spiritual”.

imagesAs the hymn puts it:

“All our knowledge, sense, and sight
Lie in deepest darkness shrouded
Till thy Spirit breaks our night
With the beams of truth unclouded.
Thou alone to God canst win us;
Thou must work all good within us.”

From “Blessed Jesus, At Thy Word”

“The thief on the cross: a close save or a miracle?” By Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Seminario ESEPA, San Jose, Costa Rica

 

2 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT

zecnt-cover.jpg

Here is my own translation of 2 Thessalonians from the original Greek, which I produced over a long  period of time as part of my Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians. The book may be purchased from Amazon and now on pre-pub from Logos. Zondervan had asked that I provide an “expanded” translation. One thing to note about this letter is that it cites the Old Testament much more than does 1 Thessalonians; we mark it with red ink.

2 Thessalonians ZECNT translation

A few observations

ONE: 2 Thess 2:3 says that “the Day of the Lord will not come if there has not first come the Apostasy [from the Greek apostasia] and the Man of Lawlessness has been revealed.” Some translate the word apostasia as the rapturing away of the church, but this is untenable. This passage is no proof of some pretribulational rapture before the tribulation. See proof HERE.

TWO: 2 Thess 2:6 says “and as you know you know what it is that restrains the Man of Lawlessness…only the one who restrains it will do so until he is taken out of the way.” Many Christians automatically assume that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit, present in the church. This is by no means clear; I lean toward the view that it is a powerful angel (see Dan 10:13 – “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia”).

THREE: Some versions translate 2 Thess 3:11 and import their own ideas of what was going wrong in the church. For example, the Good News Bible says that “we hear that there are some people among you who live lazy lives and who do nothing except meddle in other people’s business.” In fact, the text does not mention laziness at all; the word is best translated “in a disorderly manner”.

Related posts:

Studies in Thessalonians Series

“2 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT,” by Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

1 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT

zecnt-cover.jpg

I invite you to read my own “expanded” translation of 1 Thessalonians from the original Greek, part of my Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians. The book may be purchased from Amazon and now on pre-pub from Logos.

1 Thessalonians ZECNT translation

While the commentary is based on the Greek text, we place a great deal of emphasis on how the pastor might preach the epistle, and how it might be applied to today.

Zondervan asked me for this type of translation, as will be seen in 1 Thess 1:3 where I unpack “your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope” (so the ESV).

Here are some interpretative questions:

ONE: “Without fail we remember before God your work that arises from your believing, and your hard labor that comes from your love for others, and your endurance that comes from the hope you have, faith, love and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ as you live in the presence of God our Father” (1 Thess 1:3). I render “love” as “love for others” rather than love for God. In these letters Paul speaks much of mutual love, and I believe he is concerned about the sign of the end times when “the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24:12).

TWO: 1 Thess 1:9b-10 I take to be an outline of Paul’s gospel, one that the Thessalonians would have memorized. It is thus similar to his preaching outline in 1 Cor 15:3-5.

THREE: “We took the position of little children among you” (1 Thess 2:7). Most English versions have “we were gentle” among you. The difference between the two readings is based on the Greek text: the oldest manuscripts have the Greek nēpioi, “little children”. The majority of the manuscripts have ēpioi, “gentle”. When read aloud they would have sounded exactly the same, and this is what led to two readings. By “little children” Paul means that his team did not use adult guile to deceive his audience.

FOUR: “We who are alive and remain will be taken up together with those who were dead in the clouds to welcome the Lord in the air” (1 Thess 4:17) I translate the word apantēsis as “welcome.” The word was commonly used when a king or dignitary was going to visit a city, and the inhabitants went out to meet him and accompany him back. That is, the saints will ascend to meet Christ and then accompany him back to the earth at the beginning of his kingdom; this would all take place at the very end of the tribulation. I see no proof in the passage that the rapture will take place before the tribulation. See article HERE.

We will share the translation of 2 Thessalonians in another post.

Related posts:

Studies in Thessalonians Series

“1 Thessalonians, Shogren translation for ZECNT,” by Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

The Gospel and Choice, Part 1 – Is the battle for belief played on an even field?

Have you debated the doctrine of election, jaw clenched, over coffee? In a classroom? In your small group?

"Election!"  "Free will!"

“Divine sovereignty!”                                      “Free will!”

It’s a vital topic, but your venue is ill-chosen. Rather, we should be discussing the doctrine of election to the extent we are doing evangelism and being eyewitnesses to God’s transforming power.

That’s how the apostles did it, as traveling evangelists who by the Spirit were applying God’s truth to real life, analyzing their preaching and prayer life, and later the psychological, cognitive and behavioral transformation of their hearers. Only then did they draw conclusions about whom God had elected. (more…)