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The UK experienced a busy and historic weekend as Operations London Bridge and Unicorn became reality after the Queen’s death on Thursday, September 8, 2022.

The nation is now in a 10-day period of mourning, which continues through Monday, September 19, the day of the Queen’s funeral in Westminster Abbey. King Charles III has declared the day to be a bank holiday. The Royals, including their staff, will mourn for an additional week.

Before going into the weekend’s events, I have a few items to add from the end of last week.

Wednesday and Thursday, September 7 and 8

Last Wednesday, possibly having been busy preparing for her parliamentary statement on the energy crisis on Thursday, Liz Truss’s office cancelled the weekly update on Operation London Bridge, the funeral plans for Queen Elizabeth II. However, Simon Case, the civil servant who is Cabinet Secretary, informed the Prime Minister of the Queen’s decline early on Thursday morning.

Former Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu told GB News that Operation London Bridge was originally planned in the 1960s and has been regularly reviewed since.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s — Prince Philip’s — plans were Operation Forth Bridge, so named for the magnificent bridge that links the Scottish capital to Fife.

Operation Unicorn involves funeral plans for Scotland in the event the Queen died there.

As my post on Friday explained, the Prime Minister found out about the Queen’s death during the energy debate in the Commons.

On Friday, September 9, Conservative MP Michael Fabricant told GB News that the note she received at lunchtime might well have said:

London Bridge is down.

At that point, the Queen was receiving medical attention and her closest family members were on their way to Balmoral.

The Times reported how Thursday afternoon’s events unfolded (emphases mine):

The six hours that followed brought together a fractured royal family and seemed to unite a nation in apprehension. At 12.32pm, moments after the first signs in the Commons, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision.”

It was immediately clear the news was more significant than previous announcements about the Queen’s health. Newspaper websites swiftly reported the announcement …

… At 12.45pm the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall announced that they were travelling to Balmoral. They were already in Scotland after hosting a dinner at Dumfries House in Ayrshire the previous evening. A minute later the Duke of Cambridge, 40, announced that he would be travelling from London. It was now clear that the situation was grave.

The Duchess of Cambridge, 40, remained at their Windsor home and drove to collect Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis following their first full day at their new school to tell them of the news. At 1.30pm the Duke of York, 62, who was stripped of his royal duties after the scandal surrounding Jeffrey Epstein, said that he would also be flying to Scotland. Six minutes later the Earl and Countess of Wessex confirmed that they would also be travelling to Balmoral.

The Princess Royal, 72, had been on the Isle of Raasay on Wednesday and stayed at Balmoral overnight. The Duke of Sussex, despite his long- running troubles with the monarchy, announced at 1.52pm that he was also travelling to Scotland, separately from other senior royals but “in co-ordination with other family members’ plans”. He arrived at Balmoral almost two hours after the announcement of his grandmother’s death. He had flown into Aberdeen airport alone, and his wife remained in Windsor.

Prince Harry, 37, happened to be in the UK anyway, and had been due to attend a charity event in London last night.

The first signs of serious concerns about the Queen’s health had emerged at 6pm on Wednesday, when it was announced that she had “accepted doctors’ advice to rest” rather than attend a virtual meeting of the privy council that evening.

That would have been only an hour after I’d heard a long pealing of bells from Westminster Abbey on Wednesday, which I mentioned in my post on Friday.

More of the timeline continues, including the hour when the Queen’s death was announced:

Soon after the announcement of concerns of the Queen’s doctor, Charles, 73, was seen clutching a large briefcase as he boarded the royal helicopter from Dumfries House with Camilla, 75, for the journey to Balmoral.

The flight carrying William, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Sophie took off from RAF Northolt in northwest London at 2.39pm. Royal Air Force flight KRF23R landed at Aberdeen airport at 3.50pm. A short while later, at 4.30pm, the prime minister was informed of the Queen’s death by Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, according to her official spokesman.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Cambridge was driving his two uncles the 40 miles from Aberdeen airport to Balmoral, arriving just after 5pm. William was behind the wheel of the Range Rover, with Andrew in the passenger seat and Edward, 58, and Sophie, 57, in the back

The Palace said in a statement: “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

Charles had acceded to the throne immediately.

The flags in Downing Street were lowered to half mast at 6.36pm. BBC One played the national anthem following the announcement of the monarch’s death, showing a photograph of the Queen, followed by a royal crest on a black background and the words Queen Elizabeth II …

The double rainbow, which I also referenced on Friday, appeared as soon as the flags were lowered to half mast, not only in London but also in Windsor.

On Friday afternoon, The Telegraph reported that only Princess Anne and Prince Charles made it to Balmoral in time to see the Queen before she died:

The King and the Princess Royal were the only two senior members of the Royal family who made it to Balmoral before Queen Elizabeth II’s death, it is understood

As for Prince William and his uncles and aunt:

Royal Air Force flight KRF23R took off shortly after 2.30pm, according to flight tracking website Flightradar24.com, landing in Aberdeen at 3.50pm.

Prince William drove the quartet from the airport to Balmoral and they were pictured sweeping into the gates of the castle shortly after 5pm.

It is possible they had known they would not make it, perhaps even before their plane took off.

In the event, by the time they arrived, it was too late.

Prince Harry’s flight was delayed and he did not arrive until 8 p.m.:

he is believed to have been mid-air when Buckingham Palace announced at 6.30pm that the Queen had died, arriving at Balmoral an hour and a half later.

The Duke’s Cessna had been due to land at 6.29pm, a minute before the historic statement. But it was 20 minutes late taking off at Luton Airport, meaning he did not land in Aberdeen until 6.46pm.

The grief-stricken Duke was photographed as he was driven into Balmoral Castle just before 8pm to join other members of his family.

That evening, France paid the Queen tribute by turning off the lights on the Eiffel Tower at midnight and on Friday, at 10 p.m.:

https://image.vuukle.com/21414c90-8f1a-445b-989f-74a955755b28-2ce0bcad-ca7c-47b3-bd29-f5e95920369e

Friday, September 9

On Friday morning, the Telegraph article said that Prince Harry left Balmoral early:

Prince Harry was the first to leave Balmoral on Friday morning, driven out of the gates at 8.20am.

He had to take a commercial flight back to Windsor:

He later boarded a British Airways flight from Aberdeen to Heathrow and is thought to have returned to Frogmore Cottage, Windsor, where the Duchess of Sussex was waiting for him.

Later that morning, the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) head, Mick Lynch, announced that the rail strikes planned for September 15 and 17 were cancelled.

Guido Fawkes said that a postal strike was also cancelled (emphases his):

The Communication Workers Union has also called off a planned Royal Mail strike, with General Secretary Dave Ward saying “Following the very sad news of the passing of the Queen, and out of respect for her service to the country and her family, the union has decided to call off tomorrow’s planned strike action.”

Fair play to both Lynch and Ward, whether they’re genuinely in mourning or its cynical comms, they made the right call…

England’s three main political parties suspended campaigning during the mourning period. This is fine, except that Parliament is adjourned until after the Queen’s funeral, at which point it will continue to be adjourned for three weeks’ worth of annual political party conferences.

If Liz is smart, she will find a way to get the Commons, at least, to reconvene during conference season. There is no justification, especially this year, for every MP to attend these rather superfluous events. Furthermore, the evening events are also times of revelry, which seems inappropriate at this time.

Guido‘s Friday post says:

With King Charles instituting 17 days of mourning, the death of Queen Elizabeth will certainly cast shadows over all three of the major parties’ conferences. Guido understands the Tories are having conversations about how to proceed with their Birmingham gathering in light of the news. With politics grinding to a halt, it’s going to be difficult for PM Truss to enjoy the full political dividend from yesterday’s energy policy announcement…

Parliament is not due to reconvene until October 17. October is the month when the new energy ‘price cap’ — i.e. a dramatic increase — comes into effect. This will affect everyone and a policy really needs to be finalised before then. Conservative MP John Redwood tweeted:

As I write on Monday afternoon, GB News’s Tom Harwood says that a ‘fiscal event’ — an energy policy announcement — could be made on one of the four consecutive days after mourning and before conference recess. He says that his sources tell him that separate legislation would not be required. Let’s hope he is right.

Friday is not normally a day when either House of Parliament meets. However, both MPs and the Lords met to pay tribute to the Queen. The sessions, which also included taking the Oath of Loyalty to King Charles — optional, as the Oath includes successors — continued into Saturday. Every MP and Lord who wanted to speak was able to do so.

The Commons session on Friday afternoon began with a minute’s silence:

Afterwards, the Prime Minister began the tributes:

Guido has the video and pulled out the key quote from her address:

The United Kingdom is the great country it is today because of her, the Commonwealth is the family of nations it is today because of her.

Hansard has the full transcript of Friday’s and Saturday’s tributes from MPs. I commend them to everyone, because many MPs mentioned that the Queen visited their respective constituencies more than once during her reign. Only a handful had never had met her. The contributions reflected a monarch with not only dignity but also good humour. Everyone who met her said that she knew how to put them at ease.

Truss pointed out other historical highlights in her address:

In the hours since last night’s shocking news, we have witnessed the most heartfelt outpouring of grief at the loss of Her late Majesty the Queen. Crowds have gathered. Flags have been lowered to half-mast. Tributes have been sent from every continent around the world. On the death of her father, King George VI, Winston Churchill said the news had,

“stilled the clatter and traffic of twentieth-century life in many lands”.

Now, 70 years later, in the tumult of the 21st century, life has paused again.

Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. She was the rock on which modern Britain was built. She came to the throne aged just 25, in a country that was emerging from the shadow of war; she bequeaths a modern, dynamic nation that has grown and flourished under her reign. The United Kingdom is the great country it is today because of her. The Commonwealth is the family of nations it is today because of her. She was devoted to the Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. She served 15 countries as Head of State, and she loved them all

Her devotion to duty remains an example to us all. She carried out thousands of engagements, she took a red box every day, she gave her assent to countless pieces of legislation and she was at the heart of our national life for seven decades. As the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she drew on her deep faith. She was the nation’s greatest diplomat. Her visits to post-apartheid South Africa and to the Republic of Ireland showed a unique ability to transcend difference and heal division. In total, she visited well over 100 countries. She met more people than any other monarch in our history.

She gave counsel to Prime Ministers and Ministers across Government. I have personally greatly valued her wise advice. Only last October, I witnessed first hand how she charmed the world’s leading investors at Windsor Castle. She was always so proud of Britain, and always embodied the spirit of our great country. She remained determined to carry out her duties even at the age of 96. It was just three days ago, at Balmoral, that she invited me to form a Government and become her 15th Prime Minister. Again, she generously shared with me her deep experience of government, even in those last days.

Everyone who met her will remember the moment. They will speak of it for the rest of their lives. Even for those who never met her, Her late Majesty’s image is an icon for what Britain stands for as a nation, on our coins, on our stamps, and in portraits around the world. Her legacy will endure through the countless people she met, the global history she witnessed, and the lives that she touched. She was loved and admired by people across the United Kingdom and across the world.

One of the reasons for that affection was her sheer humanity. She reinvited monarchy for the modern age. She was a champion of freedom and democracy around the world. She was dignified but not distant. She was willing to have fun, whether on a mission with 007, or having tea with Paddington Bear. She brought the monarchy into people’s lives and into people’s homes.

During her first televised Christmas message in 1957, she said:

“Today we need a special kind of courage…so that we can show the world that we are not afraid of the future.”

We need that courage now. In an instant yesterday, our lives changed forever. Today, we show the world that we do not fear what lies ahead. We send our deepest sympathy to all members of the royal family. We pay tribute to our late Queen, and we offer loyal service to our new King.

His Majesty King Charles III bears an awesome responsibility that he now carries for all of us. I was grateful to speak to His Majesty last night and offer my condolences. Even as he mourns, his sense of duty and service is clear. He has already made a profound contribution through his work on conservation and education, and his tireless diplomacy. We owe him our loyalty and devotion.

The British people, the Commonwealth and all of us in this House will support him as he takes our country forward to a new era of hope and progress: our new Carolean age. The Crown endures, our nation endures, and in that spirit, I say God save the King. [Hon. Members: “God save the King.”]

Labour’s Keir Starmer, Leader of the Loyal Opposition, spoke next. Guido has the video:

The highlight of his speech was this:

She did not simply reign over us, she lived alongside us. She shared in our hopes and our fears, our joy and our pain, our good times, and our bad.

Interestingly, when they were younger, both Starmer and Truss wanted to abolish the monarchy.

Boris Johnson spoke a short time later, declaring the Queen:

Elizabeth the Great.

Historian David Starkey would disagree and did so on GB News on Sunday, September 11. He said that ‘the Great’ has applied exclusively to monarchs who waged war, e.g. Peter the Great.

Guido has the video. Boris began by saying that the BBC contacted him recently to speak about the Queen in past tense:

I hope the House will not mind if I begin with a personal confession. A few months ago, the BBC came to see me to talk about Her Majesty the Queen. We sat down and the cameras started rolling, and they requested that I should talk about her in the past tense. I am afraid that I simply choked up and could not go on. I am really not easily moved to tears, but I was so overcome with sadness that I had to ask them to go away.

I know that, today, there are countless people in this country and around the world who have experienced the same sudden access of unexpected emotion, and I think millions of us are trying to understand why we are feeling this deep, personal and almost familial sense of loss. Perhaps it is partly that she has always been there:

a changeless human reference point in British life; the person who—all the surveys say—appears most often in our dreams; so unvarying in her pole-star radiance that we have perhaps been lulled into thinking that she might be in some way eternal.

But I think our shock is keener today because we are coming to understand, in her death, the full magnitude of what she did for us all. Think what we asked of that 25-year-old woman all those years ago: to be the person so globally trusted that her image should be on every unit of our currency, every postage stamp; the person in whose name all justice is dispensed in this country, every law passed, to whom every Minister of the Crown swears allegiance; and for whom every member of our armed services is pledged, if necessary, to lay down their lives.

Think what we asked of her in that moment: not just to be the living embodiment, in her DNA, of the history, continuity and unity of this country, but to be the figurehead of our entire system—the keystone in the vast arch of the British state, a role that only she could fulfil because, in the brilliant and durable bargain of the constitutional monarchy, only she could be trusted to be above any party political or commercial interest and to incarnate, impartially, the very concept and essence of the nation.

Think what we asked of her, and think what she gave. She showed the world not just how to reign over a people; she showed the world how to give, how to love and how to serve. As we look back at that vast arc of service, its sheer duration is almost impossible to take in. She was the last living person in British public life to have served in uniform in the Second World War. She was the first female member of the royal family in a thousand years to serve full time in the armed forces.

That impulse to do her duty carried her right through into her 10th decade to the very moment in Balmoral—as my right hon. Friend said—only three days ago, when she saw off her 14th Prime Minister and welcomed her 15th. I can tell you, in that audience she was as radiant and as knowledgeable and as fascinated by politics as ever I can remember, and as wise in her advice as anyone I know, if not wiser. Over that extraordinary span of public service, with her naturally retentive and inquiring mind, I think—and doubtless many of the 15 would agree—that she became the greatest statesman and diplomat of all.

She knew instinctively how to cheer up the nation, how to lead a celebration. I remember her innocent joy more than 10 years ago, after the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, when I told her that the leader of a friendly middle eastern country seemed actually to believe that she had jumped out of a helicopter in a pink dress and parachuted into the stadium. [Laughter.] I remember her equal pleasure on being told, just a few weeks ago, that she had been a smash hit in her performance with Paddington Bear.

Perhaps more importantly, she knew how to keep us going when times were toughest. In 1940, when this country and this democracy faced the real possibility of extinction, she gave a broadcast, aged only 14, that was intended to reassure the children of Britain. She said then:

“We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well”.

She was right

It was that indomitability, that humour, that work ethic and that sense of history that, together, made her Elizabeth the Great.

When I call her that, I should add one final quality, of course: her humility—her single-bar-electric-fire, Tupperware-using refusal to be grand. I can tell the House, as a direct eyewitness, that unlike us politicians, with our outriders and our armour-plated convoys, she drove herself in her own car, with no detectives and no bodyguard, bouncing at alarming speed over the Scottish landscape, to the total amazement of the ramblers and tourists we encountered.

It is that indomitable spirit with which she created the modern constitutional monarchy—an institution so strong, so happy and so well understood, not just in this country but in the Commonwealth and around the world, that the succession has already seamlessly taken place. I believe she would regard it as her own highest achievement that her son, Charles III, will clearly and amply follow her own extraordinary standards of duty and service. The fact that today we can say with such confidence, “God save the King” is a tribute to him but, above all, to Elizabeth the Great, who worked so hard for the good of her country not just now but for generations to come. That is why we mourn her so deeply, and it is in the depths of our grief that we understand why we loved her so much.

Theresa May’s speech was the funniest. I do wish she had shown this side of herself as Prime Minister. Her comic timing was impeccable:

Guido has a video of most of her address:

Arguably one of May’s most poignant speeches. Some needed light relief for the day...

Here’s the best part:

This excerpt follows:

Of course, for those of us who had the honour to serve as one of her Prime Ministers, those meetings were more frequent, with the weekly audiences. These were not meetings with a high and mighty monarch, but a conversation with a woman of experience, knowledge and immense wisdom. They were also the one meeting I went to that I knew would not be briefed out to the media. [Laughter.] What made those audiences so special was the understanding the Queen had of issues, which came from the work she put into her red boxes, combined with her years of experience. She knew many of the world leaders—in some cases, she had known their fathers—and she was a wise and adroit judge of people.

The conversations at the audiences were special, but so were weekends at Balmoral, where the Queen wanted all her guests to enjoy themselves. She was a thoughtful hostess. She would take an interest in which books were put in your room and she did not always expect to be the centre of attention; she was quite happy sometimes to sit, playing her form of patience, while others were mingling around her, chatting to each other. My husband tells of the time he had a dream: he dreamt that he was sitting in the back of a Range Rover, being driven around the Balmoral estate; and the driver was Her Majesty the Queen and the passenger seat was occupied by his wife, the Prime Minister. And then he woke up and realised it was reality!

Her Majesty loved the countryside. She was down to earth and a woman of common sense. I remember one picnic at Balmoral that was taking place in one of the bothies on the estate. The hampers came from the castle, and we all mucked in to put the food and drink out on the table. I picked up some cheese, put it on a plate and was transferring it to the table. The cheese fell on the floor. I had a split-second decision to make: I picked up the cheese, put it on a plate and put the plate on the table. I turned round to see that my every move had been watched very carefully by Her Majesty the Queen. I looked at her, she looked at me and she just smiled. And the cheese remained on the table. [Laughter.]

This is indeed a sad day, but it is also a day of celebration for a life well spent in the service of others. There have been many words of tribute and superlatives used to describe Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but these are not hype; they are entirely justified. She was our longest-serving monarch. She was respected around the world. She united our nation in times of trouble. She joined in our celebrations with joy and a mischievous smile. She gave an example to us all of faith, of service, of duty, of dignity and of decency. She was remarkable, and I doubt we will ever see her like again. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Saturday’s session in the Commons was another marathon.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle opened it with this:

I now invite the House to resume its tributes to Her late Majesty. I expect to conclude tributes at 10 o’clock, when I shall invite Ministers to move the motion for a Humble Address to His Majesty. A hundred and eighty-two Members contributed yesterday, and many want to contribute today. I hope Members will therefore keep to the informal time limit of three minutes.

An excerpt from John Redwood’s speech follows.

On Friday, he pointed out how historically significant three of our Queens were in British history and for women:

On Saturday, he said:

What always came across to all of us was just how much she respected every person and every institution that she visited. She showed that respect by impeccable manners and great courtesy—always on time, always properly briefed, always appropriately dressed for the occasion.

But, as so many have said from their personal experiences, there was something so much more than that. She was not just the consummate professional at those public events: there was the warm spirit, the personality, and above all the understanding that everyone else at that event was terrified that something was going to go wrong, that they had not understood the protocol, or that there was some magic way of doing it—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) was explaining—that they had to get right. At those public events, the Queen always relaxed people and showed them that there was no right way, because she was there for the people; she was there for the institution; she was there for the event. That is what we can learn from.

Of course, she was also Our Majesty. She was the embodiment of the sovereignty of people and Parliament; she represented us so well abroad and represented us at home, knowing that as a constitutional monarch, she represented us when we were united. She spoke for those times when we were gloriously happy and celebrating, or she spoke for those times when there was misery and gloom and she had to deal with our grief and point to the better tomorrow. That was why she held that sovereignty so well and for so long—a constitutional monarch who did not exercise the power, but captured the public mood; who managed to deal with fractious and difficult Parliaments and different political leaders, but who was above the politics, which meant that our constitution was safe in her hands. I wish her son, the new King, every success in following that great lead as he has told us he will do, and I can, with others, say today—“God save the King.”

Redwood later tweeted that he had omitted an important part of his speech:

Indeed.

The Queen attended only two of her former Prime Ministers’ funerals, those of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

These are links to Friday’s (continued here) and Saturday’s (continued here) tributes from the Lords, both Spiritual and Temporal.

On Sunday, our vicar said that the Church of England lost her greatest evangelist, the Queen.

I cannot disagree with that.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke earlier on Friday afternoon, excerpted below.

He recalled her deep faith, something I wish more CofE clergy had:

… What has been said already today has been extraordinarily eloquent. I do not intend to repeat it but to say something about the Queen’s links to faith and to the Church of England. First is her assurance, her confidence, in the God who called her. At her coronation, so long ago, conducted by Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher—the first of seven Archbishops of Canterbury who had the privilege of serving her—the service began with her walking by herself past the Throne, where she would very shortly be seated, and kneeling by the high altar of Westminster Abbey. The order of service said, “She will kneel in private prayer”—and so she did, for some time. The next thing to happen was that homage was paid to her, starting with the Duke of Edinburgh. What that said about her understanding of her role was that she pledged her allegiance to God before others pledged their allegiance to her. She had this profound sense of who she was and by whom she was called.

Then there was her profound, deep and extraordinary theological vision. Many years ago now—seven or eight years ago—I was travelling abroad, and someone who had no knowledge of these things said, “Well, of course, she’s not really got that much intellect, has she? I mean, private tutors and all this—what can she know?” Well, what ignorance. In 2012, she spoke at Lambeth Palace on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, and the speech she made there is one we return to very frequently, because she set out a vision for what an established Church should be. It was not a vision of comfort and privilege; it was to say, put very politely, “You are here as an umbrella for the whole people of this land”. The subtext was, “If you are not that, you are nothing”. That is a deep vision of what it is to be the Church—of what it is to be not an established Church but a Christian Church. That came from her deep understanding of faith. Every five years, at the inauguration of the Church of England’s General Synod, she came with messages of encouragement and assurance of her prayers. In 2021, her message was,

“my hope is that you will be strengthened with the certainty of the love of God, as you work together and draw on the Church’s tradition of unity in fellowship for the tasks ahead.”

Publicly, Her late Majesty worshipped regularly and spoke of her faith in God, particularly in her Christmas broadcasts, with quiet, gentle confidence. Privately, she was an inspiring and helpful guide and questioner to me and to my predecessors. She had a dry sense of humour, as we have heard already, and the ability to spot the absurd—the Church of England was very capable of giving her material—but she never exercised that at the expense of others. When I last saw her in June, her memory was as sharp as it could ever have been. She remembered meetings from 40 or 50 years ago and drew on the lessons from those times to speak of today and what we needed to learn: assurance of the love of God in her call, and then humility. It would be easy as a monarch to be proud, but she was everything but that. It was her faith that gave her strength. She knew that, but she knew also her call to be a servant, the one whom she served, and the nation she served, the Commonwealth and the world. Over the last 24 hours, I have had so many messages from archbishops, bishops and other people around the world, within the Commonwealth and way beyond it—from China, Latin America and many other places—in a deep sense of loss.

It has been the privilege of those on these Benches to be intimately involved with momentous occasions so often throughout Her late Majesty’s life. As has been said, she has been a presence for as long as we can remember. Jesus says in the Gospel of St Matthew:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.

May God comfort all those who grieve Her late Majesty’s loss, and may God sustain His Majesty King Charles III in the enormous weight and challenges that he takes on immediately, at the same as he bears the burden of grief, and those around him in his family. May God hold Her late Majesty in His presence, firmly secured in the peace that passes far beyond our understanding.

The Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, spoke in the first of Saturday’s sessions in the Lords. He added some light relief:

My Lords, like most Bishops from these Benches, I have stories to tell; stories of doing jigsaws in Sandringham on Sunday evenings and of barbeques in the woods at Sandringham in the middle of January—I even have a slightly scurrilous story about healing the Queen’s car. Perhaps I will tell it.

I had preached in Sandringham parish church. We were standing outside and the Bentley was there to get the Queen. It did not start. It made that throaty noise cars make in the middle of winter when they will not start, and everybody stood there doing nothing. I was expecting a policeman to intervene, but nothing happened. Enjoying the theatre of the moment, I stepped forward and made a large sign of the cross over the Queen’s car, to the enjoyment of the crowd—there were hundreds of people there, as it was the Queen. I saw the Queen out of the corner of my eye looking rather stony-faced, and thought I had perhaps overstepped the mark. The driver tried the car again and, praise the Lord, it started. The Queen got in and went back to Sandringham, and I followed in another car. When I arrived, as I came into lunch, the Queen said with a beaming smile, “It’s the Bishop—he healed my car”. Two years later, when I greeted her at the west front of Chelmsford Cathedral, just as a very grand service was about to start and we were all dressed up to the nines, she took me to one side and said, “Bishop, nice to see you again; I think the car’s all right today, but if I have any problems I’ll know where to come.”

When I became the 98th Archbishop of York, during Covid, I paid homage to the Queen by Zoom conference. I was in the Cabinet Office; everyone had forgotten to bring a Bible, including me, but there was one there—which is kind of reassuring. Just as the ceremony was about to begin, the fire alarm went off.

The Queen was at Windsor Castle, but we all trooped out of the Cabinet Office, on to the road, and were out there for about 20 minutes until they could check that it was a false alarm and we could go back in. When I went back into the room, there was the screen, with Her late Majesty waiting for things to begin again. I do not know why I find myself returning to that image of her, faithful watching and waiting through those very difficult times. That was a very small part of a life of astonishing service.

The other thing I have noticed in the last couple of days is that we are all telling our stories. Yesterday, I found myself sharing stories with somebody in the street. I at least had had the honour of meeting Her late Majesty; this person had never met her, but we were sharing stories. I said, “Isn’t it strange how we need to tell our stories? It’s not as if she was a member of our family.” Except she was. That is the point. She served the household of a nation. For her, it was not a rule but an act of service, to this people and to all of us.

I remind us, again and again, that that came from somewhere: it came from her profound faith in the one who said,

“I am among you as one who serves.”

The hallmark of leadership is service, watchfulness and waiting. It was her lived-in faith in Jesus Christ, day in and day out, which sustained, motivated and equipped her for that lifetime of service. How inspiring it was last night and this morning to see the baton pass to our new King, King Charles, in the same spirit of godly service to the people of a nation.

I had not thought of this, but the Archbishop of York pointed out the important feast day that coincided with the Queen’s death, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Her Majesty the Queen died on 8 September, the day on which the blessed Virgin Mary is remembered across the world and the Church. Another Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, said of her when she knew she would be the mother of the Lord:

“Blessed is she who believed that the promises made to her would be fulfilled”.

Shot through all our tributes in this House and another place, and across our nation, is that which we have seen, especially as it was only on Tuesday—I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, for reminding us—that the Queen received a new Prime Minister. Can it really be possible? She served to the end—a life fulfilled.

I will finish with a handful of her words. This is what the Queen wrote in a book to mark her 90th birthday, reflecting on her faith in Jesus Christ in her life:

“I have indeed seen His faithfulness.”

I am not supposed to call noble Lords “brothers and sisters”, but dear friends, we have seen her faithfulness too, and we see it now in our new King. May Her late Majesty the Queen rest in peace and rise in glory. God save the King.

Friday, September 9

At 6 p.m. on Friday, two significant events occurred.

The first was an hour-long service of prayer and reflection held at St Paul’s Cathedral:

This service was for people who work in the City of London along with a limited number of members of the public who could apply for wristbands — tickets — to attend. St Paul’s posted a page on how to obtain a wristband and how to queue on Friday afternoon for admittance.

Cabinet members attended and sat in the choir stalls. Prime Minister Truss and her Cabinet Secretary Simon Case sat in the front row. On the opposite side were Labour’s Keir Starmer and other Opposition MPs.

This was an excellent service. The Cathedral helpfully posted the Order of Service, which can be downloaded from the aforementioned webpage.

Truss read Romans 14:7-12:

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live
to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written,

‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

This prayer in memory of the Queen is beautiful:

Eternal Lord God,
you hold all souls in life;
send forth, we pray, upon your servant, Elizabeth,
and upon your whole Church in earth and heaven
the brightness of your light and peace;
and grant that we,
following the good example of those
who have faithfully served you here and are now at rest,
may at the last enter with them
into the fullness of eternal joy
in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Amen.

Meanwhile, King Charles III addressed the nation for the first time as monarch:

He spoke for ten minutes, first discussing his late mother then pledging his service to the people of the United Kingdom.

He ended his address by saying that Prince William would become the new Prince of Wales and that he had much love for Prince Harry as he and Meghan continue building their life together overseas.

The Telegraph included the following blurb. The last line comes from Shakespeare:

The broadcast was recorded in the Blue Drawing Room of Buckingham Palace, after the King and Queen greeted crowds of mourners outside the gates.

In a final message to his mother, the King said: “To my darling Mama, as you begin your last great journey to join my dear late Papa, I want simply to say this: thank you.

“Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years.

“May ‘flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest’.”

The walkabout the paper refers to involved much emotion from members of the public, especially women. One lady kissed him on the cheek and another shook his hand. Historically, one does not touch the monarch. That also applied to the Queen, even if a few people did touch her.

Another similar walkabout by the new King and Queen Consort occurred on Saturday afternoon outside the Palace.

The Accession Ceremony took place on Saturday morning. More about that tomorrow.

holy_trinity by st andrei rublevTrinity Sunday is May 30, 2021.

The readings for Year B in the three-year Lectionary can be found here.

The Epistle follows (emphases mine):

Romans 8:12-17

8:12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh–

8:13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”

8:16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

8:17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This passage discusses the believer’s privileges, which are many.

Paul exhorts the Romans not to be debtors to the flesh (verse 12). We have a higher calling. We are debtors to Christ and to the Holy Spirit; if we live in a carnal way we will surely die, but if we conquer sin during our lives, we will live forever (verse 13).

Matthew Henry’s commentary elaborates further:

Let not our life be after the wills and motions of the flesh. Two motives he mentions here:– [1.] We are not debtors to the flesh, neither by relation, gratitude, nor any other bond or obligation. We owe no suit nor service to our carnal desires; we are indeed bound to clothe, and feed, and take care of the body, as a servant to the soul in the service of God, but no further. We are not debtors to it; the flesh never did us so much kindness as to oblige us to serve it. It is implied that we are debtors to Christ and to the Spirit: there we owe our all, all we have and all we can do, by a thousand bonds and obligations. Being delivered from so great a death by so great a ransom, we are deeply indebted to our deliverer. See 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Corinthians 6:20. [2.] Consider the consequences, what will be at the end of the way. Here are life and death, blessing and cursing, set before us. If you live after the flesh, you shall die; that is, die eternally. It is the pleasing, and serving, and gratifying, of the flesh, that are the ruin of souls; that is, the second death. Dying indeed is the soul’s dying: the death of the saints is but a sleep. But, on the other hand, You shall live, live and be happy to eternity; that is the true life: If you through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, subdue and keep under all fleshly lusts and affections, deny yourselves in the pleasing and humouring of the body, and this through the Spirit; we cannot do it without the Spirit working it in us, and the Spirit will not do it without our doing our endeavour. So that in a word we are put upon this dilemma, either to displease the body or destroy the soul.

John MacArthur says that, with the Spirit’s help, we can vanquish sin in our lives:

When you became a Christian, the Spirit of God took up residence in your life. And with the Spirit of God came the power of God, mighty enough to pull down strongholds, to tear down every high thing that exalts itself against God and to bring you into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Right? In other words, there’s a resource there that can enable you to have victory over Satan and victory over demons and victory over the flesh and bring everything in your life into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Listen, I’m going to say something that might shock you. You have the potential to be perfect. You have the potential to be perfect. If you do not have victory in each individual case, it is not because the power for victory isn’t there, it is because the appropriation isn’t there. And I confess, I agree that it is somewhat debilitated by the power of the flesh but nonetheless, the potential is there.

You say, “You mean I’ve got power to deal with the sin in my life?” That’s right. You say, “I’m not doing too well.” I understand that. And there’s something else you might need to know that will help you. Look at Ephesians chapter 5, verse 18, a familiar verse. And I want to remind you of something you perhaps have studied before. By the way, the word “power” in the Bible is dunamis, from which we get our word “dynamite.” And as a believer, you ought to be explosive; the power of God ought to be blasting its way through you.

But there is a key to that and I think it’s given in Ephesians 5:18 where it says, “Be not drunk with wine in which is (astia, dissipation) excess, but be being kept filled with the Spirit.” You see, the key is in appropriation. And the way you appropriate the available power is to be filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit, basically, simply means to have habitual permeation of your life by the Holy Spirit. You think His thoughts, you feel His feelings. You obey His will. It’s to be controlled by the Spirit of God. Frankly, you’re controlled by whatever fills your mind, isn’t that right? You’re controlled by whatever fills your mind. And that’s the old computer thing: G.I.G.O. — garbage in, garbage out. Whatever you pump into your computer is going to come out in your behavior. Whatever controls your mind is going to control your behavior. And if the Spirit of God can control your mind, then you’ll have a mind renewed in the Spirit, as the Bible talks about. You’re going to find that that fleshes itself out in your good and godly and holy behavior. And so all it means here when it says, “Be being kept filled with the Spirit,” doesn’t mean fall backwards in some trance. It doesn’t mean you flip out into some sort of ecstatic experience. It simply means you get under the control of the Holy Spirit so that He fills your life.

Paul makes a simple, yet powerful, statement: all who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God (verse 14).

This is the greatest privilege anyone can have.

Henry explains:

Observe, (1.) Their property: They are led by the Spirit of God, as a scholar in his learning is led by his tutor, as a traveller in his journey is led by his guide, as a soldier in his engagements is led by his captain; not driven as beasts, but led as rational creatures, drawn with the cords of a man and the bands of love. It is the undoubted character of all true believers that they are led by the Spirit of God. Having submitted themselves in believing to his guidance, they do in their obedience follow that guidance, and are sweetly led into all truth and all duty. (2.) Their privilege: They are the sons of God, received into the number of God’s children by adoption, owned and loved by him as his children.

Paul says that when we received the Holy Spirit, we were no longer to be afraid of judgement having received a spirit of adoption (verse 15), which we recognise when we cry ‘Abba! Father!’

Henry tells us:

it is God’s prerogative, when he adopts, to give a spirit of adoption–the nature of children. The Spirit of adoption works in the children of God a filial love to God as a Father, a delight in him, and a dependence upon him, as a Father. A sanctified soul bears the image of God, as the child bears the image of the father. Whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Praying is here called crying, which is not only an earnest, but a natural expression of desire; children that cannot speak vent their desires by crying. Now, the Spirit teaches us in prayer to come to God as a Father, with a holy humble confidence, emboldening the soul in that duty. Abba, Father. Abba is a Syriac word signifying father or my father; pater, a Greek work; and why both, Abba, Father? Because Christ said so in prayer (Mark 14:36), Abba, Father: and we have received the Spirit of the Son. It denotes an affectionate endearing importunity, and a believing stress laid upon the relation. Little children, begging of their parents, can say little but Father, Father, and that is rhetoric enough. It also denotes that the adoption is common both to Jews and Gentiles: the Jews call him Abba in their language, the Greeks may call him pater in their language; for in Christ Jesus there is neither Greek nor Jew.

MacArthur explains how adoption by God is similar to adoption in Roman times. As such, it was encouraging for the Roman converts — as it should be for us, too:

Now let me just talk for a minute about adoption as such because when you say the word “adoption” some people think that’s sort of a second-class status. You’re not a real son, you’re an adopted son. You’re sort of a Johnny-come-lately or a Janie-come-lately. You got added on to the end of the deal because nobody wanted you and sort of second-class idea. But that is not true. It may be that some people in our day think of it that way but in the first century, it was quite the very opposite.

For example, in the Roman culture, if a father looked over his children, particularly his sons, and he didn’t see among the born sons that he had brought into the world a son that he deemed to be worthy to inherit his name, his title, his offices, his estates, he would go outside and he would find such a worthy son and he would adopt him into the family based upon his virtue, based upon his character, based upon his talent, and that adopted son would then take precedence over all of his natural sons who didn’t qualify at the level of qualification that the father had established. So an adopted son is not, in the Roman culture, a waif picked up off the street just so he’s gotten cared for. No, no. An adopted son in the Roman system is a son who is chosen by the father for the purpose of inheriting the estate and of bearing the name and the title of that father.

And so, when it says in the Bible that we have become the adopted sons of God, it is not to say that God scoops us off the street somewhere just so we can get cared for, it is to say that God out of all the world has chosen us to bear His name and His title and inherit His estate. And it is not just that He takes us because we happen to come along through natural process, it is that He sovereignly chooses us out of all the world. That’s a little different, isn’t it? And that’s the essence of this thought. We are the preferred of God. We are the choice of God by His free involuntary election and in no sense in the world are we inferior, in no sense. We have been chosen to bear His name. We have been chosen to inherit His kingdom.

Our Spirit bearing witness distinguishes us as children of God (verse 16).

Henry says that this should be a great source of comfort to us:

those that are sanctified have God’s Spirit witnessing with their spirits, which is to be understood not of any immediate extraordinary revelation, but an ordinary work of the Spirit, in and by the means of comfort, speaking peace to the soul. This testimony is always agreeable to the written word, and is therefore always grounded upon sanctification; for the Spirit in the heart cannot contradict the Spirit in the word. The Spirit witnesses to none the privileges of children who have not the nature and disposition of children.

Paul ends by saying that if we are children of God, then we are also joint heirs with His Son, Christ Jesus, meaning that if we suffer with Him, we will also be glorified with Him (verse 17).

What a happy thought. Our suffering in this world for our faith will be eclipsed when we are glorified with Him in Heaven.

Henry tells us:

It surpasses all that we have yet seen and known: present vouchsafements are sweet and precious, very precious, very sweet; but there is something to come, something behind the curtain, that will outshine all. Shall be revealed in us; not only revealed to us, to be seen, but revealed in us, to be enjoyed. The kingdom of God is within you, and will be so to eternity.

What an encouraging message for us!

May all of my readers have a happy and blessed Trinity Sunday.

Bible read me 1The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

I have included verse 24 from some — not all versions (including the ESV) — below.

Romans 16:21-23(24)

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.

22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.[a]

24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

——————————————————————-

Last week’s reading concerned Paul’s warning to the obedient Romans about false teachers and their earthly (carnal) appetites.

Previous entries were about Paul’s commendations of his church family who were in Rome at that time. This was the final one; there were more prior to that.

In Paul’s closing, we discover who sends greetings to the church in Rome.

Paul begins by mentioning young Timothy, his ‘fellow worker’. He also mentions Lucius, Jason and Sosipater (verse 21).

In the King James Version, Timothy is called Timotheus:

21 Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that the name Timothy was a diminutive in that era, yet Paul had an immense amount of respect for his protégé (emphases mine below):

Timotheus my work-fellow. Paul sometimes calls Timothy his son, as an inferior; but here he styles him his work-fellow, as one equal with him, such a respect does he put upon him

Paul says that Lucius, Jason and Sopater — Sosipater — were his relatives (verse 20).

We saw Paul mention others earlier in Romans 16, to whom he referred as his ‘kinsmen’.

Henry has more, surmising that if they were not relatives of Paul’s, they were close enough so to be:

Lucius, probably Lucius of Cyrene, a noted man in the church of Antioch (Acts 13:1), as Jason was at Thessalonica, where he suffered for entertaining Paul (Acts 17:5,6): and Sosipater, supposed to be the same with Sopater of Berea, mentioned Acts 20:4. These Paul calls his kinsmen; not only more largely, as they were Jews, but as they were in blood or affinity nearly allied to him.

The Luke of the eponymous Gospel was of Troas, in Asia Minor. Cyrene was in what is now modern day Libya. Therefore, that Lucius — Luke — was unlikely to have been the same as the one mentioned in Acts.

When Luke, the physician from Troas and the author of the Book of Acts, first appeared in Acts 16, and for a few chapters afterwards, he wrote in the first person. In Acts 16, he narrated the divine instruction to Paul to cross the sea from Asia Minor to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). Note how the narrative changes from third person to first:

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul[a] had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

With Luke’s sporadic first person narration, Acts 20:6 says:

but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

John MacArthur surmises that if Lucius were from Cyrene, he would have been a Gentile. MacArthur then posits that Jason and Sosipater — Sopater — were fellow Jews:

if Lucius is a Gentile then these two would be Jews because he says “Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen, greet you.” Now we don’t know who these men are specifically, other than just brief reference. In Acts 17 verses 5 to 9 Jason was Paul’s host on his first visit to Thessalonica. He was a man who gave hospitality to him and he was saved at that time. So no doubt because he was a convert of Paul there was a love bond there, and here was Jason with Paul, companion in his travel and ministry. Sosipater, also called Sopater, just shortening his name a bit, was from the town of Berea and was probably one of those noble Old Testament students who studied the Scripture. He was in Paul’s group at this time as well and is mentioned in Acts chapter 20 verse 4.

These are the verses about Jason in Acts 17:5-9 in Thessalonica. He must have gone through a hard time, protecting Paul and his friends. Jason and the others had to post bail:

5 But the Jews[a] were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

As for Sopater, I wrote about Acts 20:1-6 in 2018. Note that we also see a mention of Timothy:

Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus.

The Bereans studied Scripture diligently. Acts 17:10-15 tell us so. Those verses also mention Silas and Timothy:

10 The brothers[b] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

MacArthur sums these men up as follows:

Now the ministry of Timothy is clear He served Paul in a wonderful way The ministry of Jason was one of support, providing a home for him The ministry of Sosipater, we don’t know anything about But they were his friends and they were part of his life and they demonstrate again that loving relationship he had with people.

Then we come to Tertius — Latin for ‘third’ — in verse 22. Paul dictated the letter to the Romans to Tertius to transcribe. Tertius was Paul’s secretary, taking dictation. That role was traditionally known as ‘amanuensis’.

Henry posits that Tertius could have been — although we do not know for certain — Silas:

Paul made use of a scribe, not out of state nor idleness, but because he wrote a bad hand, which was not very legible, which he excuses, when he writes to the Galatians with his own hand (Galatians 6:11): pelikois grammasi–with what kind of letters. Perhaps this Tertius was the same with Silas; for Silas (as some think) signifies the third in Hebrew, as Tertius in Latin. Tertius either wrote as Paul dictated, or transcribed it fairly over out of Paul’s foul copy. The least piece of service done to the church, and the ministers of the church, shall not pass without a remembrance and a recompence. It was an honour to Tertius that he had a hand, though but as a scribe, in writing this epistle.

Although he says nothing about Tertius being Silas (Acts 16), MacArthur agrees that we do not know anything more about Tertius, only that he was Paul’s transcriber of this magnificent doctrinal letter to the Christians in Rome.

Finally, Paul mentions Gaius, Erastus and Quartus, the last meaning ‘the fourth’ (verse 23).

We know nothing about Quartus, but he must have had some meaningful role to play in Paul’s ministry if the Holy Spirit inspired those who compiled the scriptural canon to include his name. He will be forever remembered in the New Testament.

As for Gaius, Luke mentioned a man by that name in Acts 20:4, along with Timothy and Sopater:

Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus.

However, Henry was unsure whether that Gaius was the same person, as there were others of the same name:

… Gaius my host. It is uncertain whether this was Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4), or Gaius of Macedonia (Acts 19:29), or rather Gaius of Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14), and whether any of these was he to whom John wrote his 3 John 1:1. However, Paul commends him for his great hospitality; not only my host, but of the whole church–one that entertained them all as there was occasion, opened his doors to their church-meetings, and eased the rest of the church by his readiness to treat all Christian stranger that came to them.

MacArthur has a different take on Gaius:

Verse 23 wraps up the greeting, “Gaius, my host.” In Acts 7…Acts 18:7 he is called Titus Justus, and was a noble free man, first seen in Corinth. It was said of him then that he worshiped God, he was a true seeker after the true God and, get this, he lived next door to the synagogue. And you remember, of course, that Paul reached him, he responded to Paul’s preaching as a Gentile, he was baptized by the apostle. In 1 Corinthians 1:14, he says I baptized Gaius, and so he was dear to him. He had led him to Christ. This man had provided again for Paul’s ministry and now is with Paul supporting him. He is not only Paul’s host — would you notice this — he’s the host of the whole church. What do you think that means? The church met where? Probably in his house, and he sends his love, too. This is a wonderful group, isn’t it?

Then we come to Erastus, a man who held a high position in Corinth.

MacArthur says:

“Erastus, the treasurer of the city,” now that’s a coup, to have the treasurer of the city. And here was a man of prominence, the treasurer of the city. His name was a common one so we don’t know what Erastus he was, probably not the same one mentioned in Acts 19:22 or 2 Timothy 4:20, but a city treasurer, a somewhat noble person who had come to Christ. There aren’t many noble and there aren’t many mighty, 1 Corinthians says, but here was one of some nobility. And we find some interesting things. By the way, the American School of Classical Studies in Athens discovered in 1929 on the site of Corinth a marble paving block, and this is what it said on the block, “Erastus, commissioner for public works, laid this pavement at his own expense.” Now the commissioner for public works is called Erastus and here the city treasurer or chamberlain is called Erastus. It may not be the same Erastus or it might be that he got a promotion or a demotion. I don’t know which was the higher job. But it is a possibility, though perhaps remote. We really don’t know who he is.

Henry has this:

Erastus, the chamberlain of the city is another; he means the city of Corinth, whence this epistle was dated. It seems he was a person of honour and account, one in public place, steward or treasurer. Not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but some are. His estate, and honour, and employment, did not take him off from attending on Paul and laying out himself for the good of the church, it should seem, in the work of the ministry; for he is joined with Timothy (Acts 19:22), and is mentioned 2 Timothy 4:20. It was no disparagement to the chamberlain of the city to be a preacher of the gospel of Christ.

Afterwards, we reach verse 24, wherein Paul — as he did in Romans 16:20 — wish that the grace of Jesus Christ be with everyone in the church at Rome (verse 24). Paul cannot send that prayerful wish enough, as MacArthur says:

His heart is so filled with love. People, I believe this is just coming out of his emotion. He said it just two verses…four verses back in verse 20, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” He just has a heart of compassion for these people. What a loving, loving man he was.

Recall that those were people he had never met. Yet he had the burning desire to travel to Rome and meet them.

The final verses of Romans 16 are in the Lectionary used in public worship:

Doxology

25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

A doxology is a praise of God, often added to the end of a canticle, psalm or hymn. In traditional churches with a liturgy, a doxology follows the sermon. In Protestant churches, this may take the form of Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow, which, in Catholic churches is sung at the end of Mass as appropriate.

In any event, this was Paul’s final message to the Romans, which Henry aptly describes as follows:

Here the apostle solemnly closes his epistle with a magnificent ascription of glory to the blessed God, as one that terminated all in the praise and glory of God, and studied to return all to him, seeing all is of him and from him. He does, as it were, breathe out his soul to these Romans in the praise of God, choosing to make that the end of his epistle which he made the end of his life.

Next week, I will start on 1 Corinthians. Stay tuned.

Next time — 1 Corinthians 2:13-16

Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 16:17-20

Final Instructions and Greetings

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites,[a] and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s reading concluded Paul’s warm commendation of members of his church family to the Christians in Rome.

Before he finishes his letter to the Romans, he has words of warning for them. Paul wrote similarly to the other churches in his letters.

Our Lord warned of false teachers infiltrating the faithful.

Paul sends an appeal to the Romans to avoid those who want to divide them through obstacles that go against Christian doctrine (verse 17).

In the King James Version, the verb used is ‘beseech’, to ask earnestly. Matthew Henry calls our attention to the fact that Paul doesn’t dictate, but asks through love for the Romans:

I beseech you, brethren. He does not will and command, as one that lorded it over God’s heritage, but for love’s sake beseeches. How earnest, how endearing, are Paul’s exhortations!

John MacArthur elaborates on Paul’s love for the faithful (emphases mine):

This is a pleading. This is something he feels very deeply. The same heart attitude we saw in chapter 12 as he pleaded for commitment to the will of God, for separation from the world, for total dedication. And here the same pleading comes and his pleading here is to mark them who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you’ve learned and avoid them. To be aware of those who cause division and offenses contrary to the doctrine you have learned.

… false teachers inevitably come with human teaching, doctrines of human invention, sometimes very close to the truth, sometimes taking part of the truth and thus being very subtle. But they bring division and they bring offense, trapping people, causing them to stumble, and fracturing the purity of the church.

Love, as proposed in the contemporary ecumenical movements of today, is a far different kind of love than this kind of love. This kind of love warns against error. The kind of love we hear about today, which is sort of a sickly sentimentalism, wants to set doctrine aside in the name of so-called love. Any love that is destructive of truth, any love so-called that ignores truth, any love that is tolerant of error or propagates error has to be shunned, because that’s not…that’s not the essence of real love. All the talk about love and all the talk about unity among people that want to set truth aside is the work of false teachers, false prophets. They just want to cause division. They want to break up the church, and they’re very successful at that … You can go back to … Matthew 7:15 to 20 and … find there the character and the content and the effect of the false teachers, as our Lord outlined it.

Henry says that, through the ages, some Bible scholars thought the false teachers might have been Judaizers:

Some think he especially warns them to take heed of the judaizing teachers, who, under convert of the Christian name, kept up the Mosaical ceremonies, and preached the necessity of them, who were industrious in all places to draw disciples after them, and whom Paul in most of his epistles cautions the churches to take heed of.

MacArthur elaborates on the Greek word for ‘watch out’, or, in other versions ‘mark it’:

“To mark it,” simply skope, identify it, look through the scope, take a good look at it, observe it, scrutinize it, identify it, pick it out, see what it is. And if you know sound doctrine you’ll be able to do that. Identify it as heresy, identify it as false teaching and then avoid it, or really in this case avoid them because false teaching always has a source, a propagator. That means to come away from it, to shun it.

Paul tells the Romans that false teachers serve only their own carnal appetites as they work to deceive the vulnerable by inveigling themselves into a congregation through honeyed words and flattery (verse 18).

In older versions of the Bible, such as the King James Version, the word ‘belly’ is used rather than ‘appetites’. It means that these false teachers have a gnawing hunger to subvert the Church for ego, power, influence and/or money: carnal desires all.

Henry certainly had a way with words:

Their God is their belly, Philippians 3:19. What a base master do they serve, and how unworthy to come in competition with Christ, that serve their own bellies, that make gain their godliness, and the gratifying of a sensual appetite the very scope and business of their lives, to which all other purposes and designs must truckle and be made subservient. (2.) The method they take to compass their design: By good words and fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple. Their words and speeches have a show of holiness and zeal for God (it is an easy thing to be godly from the teeth outward), and show of kindness and love to those into whom they instil their corrupt doctrines, accosting them courteously when they intend them the greatest mischief. Thus by good words and fair speeches the serpent beguiled Eve.

MacArthur describes the false teacher well, too:

He gains the ear and deceives the heart, deceives the heart. And, beloved, that’s why we have to test everything by what? By the book.

Paul praises the Romans for their obedience but says that such a virtue also opens the door to infiltrators; therefore, he warns them to be on their guard, being outwardly innocent but inwardly discerning (verse 19).

Of their obedience, Henry explains:

Therefore, because it was so, these seducing teachers would be the more apt to assault them. The devil and his agents have a particular spite against flourishing churches and flourishing souls. The ship that is known to be richly laden is most exposed to privateers. The adversary and enemy covets such a prey, therefore look to yourselves, 2 John 1:8. “The false teachers hear that you are an obedient people, and therefore they will be likely to come among you, to see if you will be obedient to them.”

Recall our Lord’s instruction when He sent the Apostles out to teach, preach and heal (Matthew 10:16):

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Paul concludes this part of his letter by reassuring them that the God of peace will ‘soon’ crush Satan under their feet and wishes them the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ (verse 20).

This ‘soon’ is used in the same sense as ‘soon’ in Revelation 22:20:

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

It means ‘quickly’ or ‘suddenly’ rather than ‘imminently’. Even so, this is why we need to be prepared for the Second Coming. We know neither the day nor the hour.

Henry explains:

The victory shall be speedy: He shall do it shortly. Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come. He hath said it, Behold, I come quickly. When Satan seems to have prevailed, and we are ready to give up all for lost, then will the God of peace cut the work short in righteousness. It will encourage soldiers when they know the war will be at an end quickly, in such a victoryIt is rather to be applied to the victory which all the saints shall have over Satan when they come to heaven, and shall be for ever out of his reach, together with the present victories which through grace they obtain in earnest of that. Hold out therefore, faith and patience, yet a little while

MacArthur says the same:

He devastates and destroys in final judgment to set up His kingdom and bind Satan. And so in a sense we reign with Him and Satan under His feet is Satan under our feet and that’s really where he belongs and what a happy occasion it will be when that comes to pass, when all things are subdued, as 1 Corinthians 15:25 and 28 says, all things are subdued to Him …

The word “shortly” doesn’t mean in a little bit of time, it means suddenly. When it happens it’ll happen fast. And I believe he has in mind there the final full destruction of satanic work and effort that comes in the setting up of the eternal state.

With regard to ‘the God of peace’, Henry tells us that He will put an end to spiritual conflict with Satan, which happens now to the truly faithful and will be completely fulfilled at the Final Judgement:

The victory shall be complete: He shall bruise Satan under your feet, plainly alluding to the first promise the Messiah made in paradise (Genesis 3:15), that the seed of the woman should break the serpent’s head, which is in the fulfilling every day, while the saints are enabled to resist and overcome the temptations of Satan, and will be perfectly fulfilled when, in spite of all the powers of darkness, all that belong to the election of grace shall be brought triumphantly to glory.

Paul’s desire for the grace of Jesus Christ to be with the Romans is a benediction, a blessing. We need His grace to get by in this world, temporally and spiritually.

Henry explains the spiritual importance of grace:

This will be the best preservative against the snares of heretics, and schismatics, and false teachers. If the grace of Christ be with us, who can be against us so as to prevail? Be strong therefore in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. Paul, not only as a friend, but as a minister and an apostle, who had received grace for grace, thus with authority blesses them with this blessing, and repeats it, Romans 16:24.

MacArthur observes that Paul loved to give benedictions because he had so much love for his fellow Christians:

He’s really into benedictions. He gets a few of these in. He got one in at the end of chapter 15. He throws one in here. He’ll give you another one in verse 24, and then a big one in verses 25 to 27, so there are three benedictions in a row here. And this one is a simple one, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” That’s a prayer, that’s a wish.

I know you need empowering grace. I know you need empowering grace to recognize false teaching. I know you need empowering grace to stay away from it. I know you need empowering grace to hold on in the battle until Christ defeats the enemy. And may that grace be with you.

What a marvellous thought on which to end.

We are nearly at the end of the Book of Romans. My next post will be the final one from this letter.

Next time — Romans 16:21-23

Bible openThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 16:14-16

14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers[a] who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

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Last week’s post discussed the identities of those in Paul’s church family, including one of his relatives, Herodion.

While a good deal of information was available through the centuries, JB Lightfoot, an Anglican priest from the Victorian era and  William Barclay, a 20th century Church of Scotland minister did a lot of research in finding out more about who these early Christians were.

This is the end of the list. Unfortunately, there isn’t much about most of the people in today’s verses. Matthew Henry has nothing, but John MacArthur has a bit of information.

The five men mentioned in verse 14 had a home church, MacArthur says (emphases mine):

… what this says is here were five men who had a church in a home. And he says say hi to those guys out there, those five who are leaders of an assembly within the whole Roman church. He’s probably pointing out some leaders, some elders who are pastoring or shepherding one group of the Christians in Rome. As I said, they met in many places.

The list ends in verse 15. MacArthur tells us those people led smaller groups:

They were little branch fellowships. And he says greet all the rest of these folks, men and women, greet them all.

However, there is information about Nereus, likely to have been a slave:

Who is Nereus? William Barclay … says, “In A.D. 95 there happened an event which shocked Rome. Two of the most distinguished people in Rome were condemned for being Christians. They were husband and wife. The husband was Flavius Clemens, he was the consul of Rome, the wife was Dom[i]tia and she was of royal blood. She was the granddaughter of Vespasian, a former emperor and the niece of Domitian, the reigning emperor in 95 A.D. In fact, the two sons of Flavius Clemens and Dom[i]tia had been designated Domitian’s successors in the imperial power. Flavius was executed and Domitia…Dom[i]tia was banished to the island of Pontia … where she drew out a long martyrdom for the Christian name.”

And now the point. “The name of the treasurer of Flavius and Dom[i]tia was Nereus. Is it possible,” says Barclay, “that Nereus the slave had something to do with the making into Christians of Flavius Clemens, the ex-consul, and Dom[i]tia, the princess of the royal blood? Perhaps, perhaps. “Greet Nereus and his sister and Olympus and all the saints who are with them.”

So we see from not only Nereus but others in Paul’s list that a number of slaves were Christians. Some converted their heads of households and/or their children. What a powerful message, especially today, when so many people wilfully fall away from the church or refuse to hear the Good News.

And, on the other end of the social scale, what about those of noble blood, such as Domitia, a widow martyred in exile?

These are amazing stories of real people who lived and died in the first decades of the early Church. Whether bondservant or nobility, they were all one in Christian faith, as Paul wrote (Galatians 3:28):

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[a] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Paul concludes his list of Christians in Rome by encouraging them to greet each other with a holy kiss (verse 16), signifying agape, a unified brotherly love in faith.

Paul also included the greetings from the churches he planted, a moving final sentence reinforcing Christian unity.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

“The churches of Christ salute you; that is, the churches which I am with, and which I am accustomed to visit personally, as knit together in the bonds of the common Christianity, desire me to testify their affection to you and good wishes for you.” This is one way of maintaining the communion of saints.

MacArthur makes this observation:

… may I suggest to you that you’re probably feeling in your heart what I felt that all of a sudden that early church has come to life and it lives and breathes just like our church does. And we’re not so far away, are we? We could as well describe ourselves here. Some of us who are laboring in the Lord, others labored much in the Lord, those who have endured hardship, those who are willing to give their lives, those who are beloved and well beloved, those who have been used by God to reach others for Christ, these are just people and Paul knows them and he loves them and if he could he would kiss them. I mean, we’ve all gotten letters from mom through the years with X’s and O’s on the bottom. We’ve gotten letters that say kiss everybody in your family for me. This is Paul, this is family. This is intimacy. This man knew what it was to stand for the truth but he also knew what it was to love his people. And that’s the mark of the uniqueness of his wonderful character.

Paul then gives the Romans a sombre caution about imposters causing division. That will be the subject of next week’s post.

Next time — Romans 16:17-20

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 16:11-13

11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.

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Last week’s reading delved into the identities of Andronicus, Junia (Junias), Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles and those who belonged to the household of Aristobulus.

Paul commended them to the Christians in Rome.

His list continues this week.

One of the interesting things is the way Paul uses certain phrases in his commendations: ‘in the Lord’, ‘worker in Christ’ and, the highest compliment, ‘approved in Christ’.

While a good deal of information was available through the centuries, JB Lightfoot, an Anglican priest from the Victorian era and  William Barclay, a 20th century Church of Scotland minister did a lot of research in finding out more about who these early Christians were.

Andronicus and Junia were kinsmen of Paul’s, most probably his cousins. So was Herodion (verse 11).

John MacArthur says that the unusual name implies some relationship with Herod’s family (emphases mine):

Here is a Jewish relative of Paul who definitely has some relationship to the family of Herod … And so we can perhaps speculate, we can’t be certain, that there was within the very imperial household a growing congregation of those who loved the Savior. What a wonderful thought, what a wonderful thought.

Paul asked that the Romans greet those ‘in the Lord’ from the household of Narcissus (verse 11), implying that not everyone in that household was a believer.

Biblical research indicates that Narcissus was probably dead by then and that he was an unbeliever.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

some think this Narcissus was the same with one of that name who is frequently mentioned in the life of Claudius, as a very rich man that had a great family, but was very wicked and mischievous. It seems, then, there were some good servants, or other retainers, even in the family of a wicked man, a common case … The poor servant is called, and chosen, and faithful, while the rich master is passed by, and left to perish in unbelief. Even so, Father, because it seemed good unto thee.

MacArthur tells us more about Narcissus:

Now who is Narcissus? Well William Barclay has done a little bit of looking into this and he suggests and agrees with Lightfoot, who holds the same view, that the household of Narcissus can be defined in this way. Narcissus is a common name but the most famous Narcissus was a free man who was secretary to the Emperor Claudius. And he exercised a tremendous influence over the emperor. In fact he is said to have amassed a private fortune of inestimable wealth, in Barclay’s terminology, four million pounds. But he had a tremendous amount of wealth. His power had lain in the fact that all correspondence addressed to the emperor had to pass through his hands and never reached the emperor until he allowed it to do so. So he made his fortune from the fact that people paid him large bribes to make sure their petitions and requests reached the emperor. Not a bad business.

When Claudius was murdered and Nero came to the throne, Narcissus survived for a little while. In the end he was compelled to commit suicide and all of his fortune and all of his household of slaves passed into the possession of Nero. It may well be his one-time slaves which are here referred to. It may have been those who once belonged to Narcissus who now have been redeemed. And Barclay says, if Aristobulus really is the Aristobulus who is the grandson of Herod, and if Narcissus really is the Narcissus who is Claudius’ secretary, then this means that many of the slaves at the imperial court were already Christians and the leaven of Christianity had reached the highest circles of the empire. Wonderful to think aboutin Paul’s letter to the Philippians at the end he says the believers in Caesar’s household greet you.

That is amazing.

The names in verse 12 are all female. Note how Paul worded his sentence. Tryphaena and Tryphosa were ‘workers in the Lord’, but Persis ‘worked hard in the Lord’. We saw that in verse 6, where Paul mentioned a lady named Mary.

MacArthur explained the Greek verb associated with Mary as well as Persis:

The word is a strong word, it means to labor to the point of weariness, it’s that very familiar verb kopia. It means to work to sweat and exhaustion. And he says greet her who bestowed much labor on you.

He says the same verb is also used to describe Tryphaena and Tryphosa, whose names mean ‘delicate’ and ‘dainty’, respectively. Yet, we get the impression that Persis worked harder:

… what he is using there is a strong word for labor, again it’s that kopia word. And what he is saying is maybe a little play on word, you may be dainty and delicate but you sure work hard for the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. We don’t know anything about them except that they labored in the Lord and that’s enough, I suppose.

And then he mentions Persis, another female name. In fact, it literally means a Persian woman. In the church at Rome there was a Persian woman who loved Christ. We don’t know how he met her but she labored much in the Lord. Now you say, “Was she better than Tryphaena and Tryphosa?” I don’t know. God keeps the records and I’m sure there are some saints who will commended for laboring and some who will be commended for laboring much. Would you agree to that? It may well be that she was older. It is interesting that Tryphaena and Tryphosa, present tense, who are laboring in the Lord, and the beloved Persis who labored in the Lord, again an indication that Tryphaena and Tryphosa may have been young and Persis much older, so that it is the volume of labor on the basis of years rather than the quality of it. She labored much, perhaps because she was older.

Now we come to the big reveal of the day: Rufus, ‘chosen in the Lord’ (verse 13). Those who know their Scripture will already be aware that there were only two degrees of separation between Rufus and our Lord Jesus. His father was Simon of Cyrene, who carried the Cross because Jesus was too weak and wounded by then.

In his Gospel, Mark describes Simon of Cyrene as being the father of Alexander and Rufus.

Matthew Henry did not have that detail, but MacArthur does:

You want to know about Rufus? Look at Mark 15:21 and I…you’ll never believe who Rufus is. Mark 15:21, Jesus is on the way to the cross and his cross is becoming very heavy. And in Mark 15:21 the soldiers compelled a man by the name of what? Simon of Cyrene, North Africa, who was…who happened to be passing by. Here’s a guy who comes out of North Africa, comes to visit the city of Jerusalem for the Passover, he happens to be walking along the street and the next thing he knows he’s immortalized as the one who carried the cross of Christ. And just… It says here in Mark, he is the father of Alexander and who? And Rufus. You know who Rufus was now? He’s the son of the man who carried the cross. It may well have been that his brother wasn’t a Christian and that’s why Rufus is called “chosen in the Lord,” to set him apart from Alexander who was not. We don’t know that.

Alternatively, perhaps, for some reason, Paul never met Alexander or perhaps he was working away from the family home. There could have been other reasons why Paul did not mention Alexander.

MacArthur goes on to explain how Simon’s sons names appear in Mark:

But how fascinating it is that Mark wrote his gospel very likely from Rome. Alright? And Mark wrote his gospel with the Romans in mind. Now if Mark was writing from Rome and had in view a Roman audience to read that gospel, then how wonderful for him to make a connection between the Roman church and the man who carried the cross. And so to make that connection, as he writes about Simon of Cyrene, he simply says, “By the way, he’s the father of Rufus in your own fellowship, in your own fellowship.” And we remember, don’t we, that the book of Mark, the gospel of Mark, was written after the epistle to the Romans, and so Mark, no doubt, identifies this Rufus who is the same Rufus here greeted by Paul who is famous. And can you imagine how he was asked to repeat the story of how it was when his father carried Jesus’ cross? These are real people, real people.

Paul also mentions Simon of Cyrene’s wife, who must have been a holy woman and generous with her time, because Paul says that she acted as a mother towards him:

And his dear mother, who obviously came to faith in Christ through this passing incident and a whole family, perhaps even Alexander, we don’t know, all have come to know Christ through God’s grace in asking their father to carry the cross.

I like what Henry’s says about Rufus’s mother:

This good woman, upon some occasion or other, had been as a mother to Paul, in caring for him, and comforting him; and Paul here gratefully owns it, and calls her mother.

What a lovely sentiment on which to end.

Paul has more names of people to commend to the Roman Christians. I’ll finish the list in next week’s post.

Next time — Romans 16:14-16

Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 16:3-6

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert[a] to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.

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Last week’s post was about Phoebe, the first person Paul commended to the Romans in the final part of his letter to them.

John MacArthur explains the significance of naming so many people he had met during his ministry who were now in Rome (emphases mine):

… the first insight into his love and into his relationships with people, his accountability, his dependency is related to this commendation. Now let’s look at the second one and that’s his cordiality. And that takes us from verse 3 all the way to verse 23 with a little break in verses 17 to 20 … But starting in verse 3 we begin a list of names that runs down to verse 16 and then stops where there’s a greeting. And then we pick up more names in verse 21 to 23. Now all of these names really extend to us insight into Paul’s love, because it’s a whole lot of cordiality, a whole lot of loving greeting to everybody. It is a real display of open love. He greets the saints. I love the fact that he knows who they are. I mean, they’re not a lot of nameless folks. This is not a man who is so isolated from reality, who is so into his own thing, who has reached such a level of esteem in the minds of everybody and in himself that he just loses touch with everybody. Not at all.

We see here, Paul knew who was his helper. Paul knew who stood by him. And he loved them and they were an essential part of his life. The breadth of his ministry, the sweep of it can be seen in the fact that though he has never been to Rome he names here 24 individuals, 17 men and seven women, and he names two households along with some unnamed brothers and unnamed sisters in the Savior who are at Rome. Though he had never been there he had been instrumental in winning so many to Christ who had gone to Rome and were now there as a part of that church in that great city. Undoubtedly what we have in these 24 individuals and two households and unnamed sisters and brothers is a catalogue of very choice Christians.

The next people he mentions were Prisca — Priscilla — and her husband Aquila (verse 3), formerly of Rome but exiled when the emperor Claudius decreed that all Jews had to leave the city. They went to live in Corinth, in Greece.

Those who know the Book of Acts or who read my series on it, will remember this couple from Acts 18:1-4. My post has a description not only of Corinth but also of this couple, who, like Paul, were tent makers. They welcomed Paul into their home and the three became close friends. He stayed with them for quite a while, then the three moved on to Ephesus, where Priscilla and Aquila founded the church there (Acts 18:18-19).

While they were in Ephesus, they instructed Apollos more precisely in scriptural doctrine enabling him to prove in his preaching that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 18:24-28).

Many Bible scholars believe that Priscilla is named before her husband because she had a more dominant personality. Others say that her command of Scripture was better than her husband’s. In any event, she was the first female preacher.

Priscilla and Aquila were still in the city when young Timothy was preaching (2 Timothy 4:19).

They had risked their lives for Paul (verse 4). Corinth was a dangerous place for Christians. Phoebe hosted worship services for Corinthians in her house in Cenchreae, the port outside of Corinth.

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains:

They exposed themselves to secure Paul, hazarded their own lives for the preservation of his, considering how much better they might be spared than he. Paul was in a great deal of danger at Corinth, while he sojourned with them; but they sheltered him, though they thereby made themselves obnoxious to the enraged multitudes, Acts 18:12,17. It was a good while ago that they had done Paul this kindness; and yet he speaks as feelingly of it as if it had been but yesterday.

Paul says that all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.

MacArthur says that is because they protected Paul:

Why are they thankful? Because they’re all a product of Paul’s ministry, right? And a dead Paul means the end of everything.

So it’s not only that I’m thankful for them, everybody else is thankful for them. I mean, we don’t know that story. We say, “Oh the apostle Paul, the apostle Paul, isn’t it marvelous, what a man.” But do we need to be reminded that it may have been that there would have been nothing but a dead body had it not been for these two rather obscure dear people who were willing to lay their head on a chopping block to spare the life of that man they knew God had anointed? That’s great devotion, great devotion.

MacArthur points out that Paul refers to Prisca rather than Priscilla:

Priscilla is a diminutive form which is used by Luke. Luke favors the diminutive forms on many names whereas Paul favors the more classical formal forms. This is true not only of Prisca and Priscilla, but of Silas and Silvanus. That tends to be a difference between Luke and Paul.

Once Claudius died, Prisca and Aquila moved back to Rome:

… they had returned to Rome because of the death of Claudius, so the banishing of the Jews was a past matter.

They held worship in their house in Rome (verse 5). As it was a large city, Christians worshipped in various people’s houses. Prisca and Aquila’s home was but one of those locations.

MacArthur says:

Now here they are in Rome and their house is open to house the church. Oh this is a magnanimous couple. On the one hand they have laid down their life for the great apostle Paul. On the other hand they have opened their home to the church. Now you’ll get a flow as we go through here and you’ll find out that the church in Rome met in several places. The church in Rome was not always meeting in one place, they had no building. So they were meeting in varying homes. They were really a whole lot of Flocks, a whole lot of home Bible studies and since the church could only come together in a public place, perhaps outdoors for maybe the Lord’s Table or a love feast or a communion or a great celebration of some kind, its weekly meetings would have to be held in the homes of those who were gracious enough to open them for the use of the church.

The next person Paul mentions is Epaenetus, the first convert in Asia (verse 5), which in those days meant Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).

The King James Version states ‘Achaia’ rather than ‘Asia’. If that is true, then Epaenetus came from Greece, as that is where Achaia is located.

Henry says:

Of Epenetus it is further said that he was the first-fruit of Achaia unto Christ; not only one of the most eminent believers in that country, but one of the first that was converted to the faith of Christ: one that was offered up to God by Paul, as the first-fruits of his ministry there; an earnest of a great harvest; for in Corinth, the chief city of Achaia, God had much people, Acts 18:10. Special respect is to be paid to those that set out early, and come to work in the vineyard at the first hour, at the first call. The household of Stephanas is likewise said to be the first-fruits of Achaia, 1 Corinthians 16:15. Perhaps Epenetus was one of that household; or, at least, he was one of the first three; not the first alone, but one of the first fleece of Christians, that the region of Achaia afforded.

MacArthur leans towards Asia Minor and says that Epaenetus had reason to move to Rome:

Now who is Epaenetus? He is the first fruits of Asia unto Christ, the first convert in Asia Minor, which is now modern Turkey. Asia Minor had the city Ephesus and all the other cities mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3, the cities of Laodicea, Philadelphia, Smyrna, Sardis, and Thyatira, Pergamos and Ephesus, they were all there in Asia Minor. The first convert in Asia was Epaenetus and now he is in Rome, a part of the church at Rome, moved there for whatever reason. He calls him, and here you get to see the love of Paul, “My well beloved.” There’s little doubt in my mind that there was something significant about the first convert in Asia, don’t you think? The first one that came to Christ, Epaenetus, had a special place of affection in the heart of Paul. And he is the first fruits. Now the fact that he was the first fruits means that many others followed, right? He doesn’t say he’s the only fruit, he says he’s the what? The first fruit, the first fruit not unto me, but “the first fruit unto Christ.”

And you know, don’t you, that he is the one to whom all the first fruits are offered. Go back to chapter 15 verse 16, how Paul says that he offers up the Gentiles to God as a sacrifice, an offering, and the first…the first fruits of his ministry in Asia that he offered to Christ is none other than Epaenetus, who has a special place in his heart. We know nothing more about this man at all. But Paul loved him greatly and Paul knew where he was, I like that, he knew he was in Rome. He followed these people. He understood where they were because they were so deeply ingrained in his life.

The next person Paul mentions is a lady named Mary, who has ‘worked hard’ for the church in Rome (verse 6).

MacArthur says that the Greek word used means that she worked tirelessly, to the point of exhaustion:

The word is a strong word, it means to labor to the point of weariness, it’s that very familiar verb kopia. It means to work to sweat and exhaustion. And he says greet her who bestowed much labor on you.

He surmises that Prisca and Aquila must have told Paul about Mary:

the best idea is that Aquila and Priscilla who had come from Rome would have informed Paul about her and this dear lady that had given so much labor to the church was known to him through the testimony of Aquila and Priscilla. And the idea of much labor expresses the fact that she probably had been an early part of the church at Rome. The fact that it’s in the past tense indicates that by now she may have been very old and her labor was much behind her. And he commends with a loving greeting this woman who in the past rendered much labor to the establishing and the developing of the church of the believers in Rome.

Henry’s commentary says that Paul might have met Mary elsewhere during his ministry:

Some think this Mary had been at some of those places where Paul was, though now removed to Rome, and had personally ministered to him; others think Paul speaks of her labour as bestowed upon him because it was bestowed upon his friends and fellow-labourers, and he took what was done to them as done to himself.

It is fascinating that the names of these people have been recorded and will be forever remembered in the New Testament.

We can be grateful to Bible scholars who made the effort to research their lives through the ages. MacArthur mentions JB Lightfoot, an Anglican priest from the Victorian era and  William Barclay, a 20th century Church of Scotland minister:

we could just read names and say, well, we don’t know who they are, and go on. But there are some in history who couldn’t do that and we’re grateful to them. A great exegetical commentator by the name of J.B. Lightfoot seemed to be preoccupied with finding out who all these people were. And he has some fascinating data. William Barclay, also personally preoccupied with trying to find out who all these people were, adds some very important and interesting data and I want to intersect with a little bit of that, anyway, as we go through because I want you to see that these are flesh and blood real people. And some of them, even the New Testament gives us a little information about.

There are plenty more names and insights to follow in the weeks ahead.

Next time — Romans 16:7-10

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 16:1-2

Personal Greetings

16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant[a] of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

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At the end of Romans 15, Paul concluded his theological teachings with a benediction — a blessing — to the Christians in Rome.

In Romans 16, he writes about the network of Christian leaders in the churches he planted. Several would go to Rome. Others sent their greetings from a distance. Paul names all of them.

He begins with Phoebe, who is serving the church at Cenchreae (verse 1), the port outside of Corinth.

It is possible that Cenchreae’s church was an offshoot of the one in Corinth.

However, Matthew Henry posits that, as it was dangerous to worship in Corinth, Cenchreae might have been where the Corinthians met for worship at that time (emphases mine below):

Cenchrea was a small sea-port town adjoining to Corinth, about twelve furlongs distant. Some think there was a church there, distinct from that at Corinth, though, being so near, it is very probable that the church of Corinth is called the church of Cenchrea, because their place of meeting might be there, on account of the great opposition to them in the city (Acts 18:12), as at Philippi they met out of the city by the water-side, Acts 16:13. So the reformed church of Paris might be called the church at Charenton, where they formerly met, out of the city.

John MacArthur thinks it was a separate church:

Now Paul is writing from Corinth and about nine miles away, eight or nine miles, on the Saronic Gulf was a port city, really the seaport for Corinth, known as Cenchreae. Any shipping that needed to be done from Corinth would be done at Cenchreae. It’s very likely that the church in Cenchreae was founded as a result of the ministry of the church at Corinth, that church spawning, if you will, a daughter church in that seaport town.

Paul ‘commends’ Phoebe to the congregation in Rome. He recommends her to them, in the way we have letters of recommendation from former employers when we interview for new jobs.

Therefore, he thinks very highly of her.

Paul asks that the Romans welcome Phoebe as they would a fellow believer — ‘worthy of the saints’ (verse 2) — because she is one of them, called by God to follow Christ.

He also asks that they give her all the help she needs while she is in Rome, because she has been a generous patron of her church and a patron to him as well (verse 2).

This is the only time Phoebe is mentioned, but Bible scholars have deduced several things about her.

She was a ‘servant’ to her church, the Greek word being diakonon, a deacon. At that time, around AD 56-58, there was no formal role of deacon, as we have today. At that time it was a more loosely-defined function, implying a leadership role in looking after those in need, as in Acts 6 with Stephen, the first martyr.

The early male deacons would have taken care of those in need and also preached.

Henry doubts if Phoebe would have been allowed to preach:

As a servant to the church at Cenchrea: diakonon, a servant by office, a stated servant, not to preach the word (that was forbidden to women), but in acts of charity and hospitality. Some think she was one of the widows that ministered to the sick and were taken into the church’s number, 1 Timothy 5:9.

Female deacons later became known as deaconesses.

However, deaconesses are very different from female deacons in today’s churches. Don’t ever call a woman deacon a deaconess today or you’ll live to regret it! I made that mistake once. I won’t do it again.

Historically, a deaconess performed acts of charity to the sick and others in need. She had no remit to preach to men, but she could teach women and, no doubt, children.

MacArthur explains:

They are to have been one-man women, that is women who were not unfaithful to their husbands. They were well reported of women for their good works, women who had brought up children, who had lodged strangers, and again we’re back to the fact that hospitality was very important in that world, women who washed the saints’ feet, who relieved the afflicted, who diligently followed every good work. Now that would be sort of the characteristic of deaconess, and surely those widows put on the list would function in that capacity as a deaconess.

As we look in the history of the early church we find that the role of those women in the first few centuries was to care for the sick, to care for the poor, to minister to strangers, to show hospitality, to serve martyrs in prison, taking them supplies and needs and providing for whatever might be desperately needed because of the exigencies of imprisonment. Those deaconesses were used to instruct new women converts in the discipling process, to assist in the immersion of women and to exercise a general supervision over ministries to the needs of women in the churches. Now that was the role of a deaconess and this was such a woman, a sister in Christ and a servant of the church who was no doubt recognized as one worthy of commendation.

By contrast, depending on the denomination, today’s female deacons — not deaconesses — can preach and baptise, but they cannot consecrate the bread and wine for Communion. They can continue with seminary and become priests or ministers.

Henry thinks that Phoebe might have hosted the church at Cenchreae for worship and for lodging:

Probably they used to meet at her house, and she undertook the care of entertaining the ministers, especially strangers.

Phoebe was probably financially independent:

Phebe seems to have been a person of some account; and yet it was no disparagement to her to be a servant to the church.

Note that Paul describes her as a ‘patron of many and of myself as well’. That implies she gave the church a lot of money as well as time:

verse 2 … thirdly it says, “That you are to receive her in the Lord as becomes saints and assist her in whatever business she has need of you for she has been (a succorer, or) a helper of many and of myself also.” We can use the word “succorer,” which is to say she has been a helper of many. The word actually means a benefactor. Now when I say the word “patron” do you know what that means? Do you know what a patron is? If you ever read any of ancient European history you understand the word “patron.” A patron was someone who financially supported someone else. Many artists had a patron. They would paint and they would do their sculpture and they would do whatever they needed to do. There were people who were researchers and students and scholars, and people like that would find a patron who would support them. Apparently this woman had enough means to provide a patronage for not only the apostle Paul but for others in the church. The term is prostatis and it basically in the Jewish community came to refer to a wealthy supporter. So this dear woman was a wealthy supporter, no doubt, of the church at Cenchreae. It may well have met in her home. She may have been to that church what Lydia was to the church at Philippi. And she also offered some support in some way to the apostle himself.

She must have had financial means, otherwise, she would not have made a journey to Rome. There was no tourism at that time. Most women did not travel far from where they lived unless it was for something important. If they did, they needed to be sure of safe accommodation. There were no hotel chains at the time.

Interestingly, Phoebe, living in Greece, had reason to travel hundreds of miles away to the heart of the Roman Empire.

MacArthur tells us more, including the dubious accommodation that inns offered in that era:

I like this, you assist her in whatever business she has need of you. She was on her way to Rome for some business, if indeed she was a wealthy patron it’s obvious she was probably going with some special business in mind. The word, by the way, there is not specifically the word “business,” it is a Greek word pragmateia, from which we get pragmatic. She was there for some pragmatic reason, for some transaction, would be the technical translation. She had come to Rome for a transaction of some sort, perhaps a legal matter related to her business and he tells the church, assist her. Now isn’t that an important thought. When someone comes to us, a stranger, we are in the church to provide not only love and spiritual affection but assistance in the matters of finance or business or whatever other matters that person might have in view that are not necessarily related directly to the kingdom of God. In other words, we’re to provide all of the resources necessary for bidding Godspeed and allowing that person to accomplish whatever objectives are in mind.

And it’s a wonderful thing for the church to do that, to assist each other in these kinds of things. Whatever she did, Paul said, whatever her business might be, whatever transaction she enters in, you know the people in Rome, you know how things are, you know who to see, you know who to talk to, you expedite that situation on her behalf

Letters of commendation were written — that was a well-worn custom in Paul’s day — when a believer, for example, would be traveling to another city and would want to go and fellowship with that church, that believer could carry a commending letter from the church in their own home town which would ensure to that new congregation that this was indeed one of the children of God, a brother or sister to be loved and received with hospitality. The reason for that was the need for a place to stay. In those days inns were nothing short of brothels. They were places where there would be perhaps looting and stealing. They were not safe places. And as Christian people traveled around in the Roman world, the letters of commendation allowed them to be received with love into varying Christian communities and shown hospitality and care for whatever matters of business they needed to carry on.

MacArthur says of the name Phoebe:

her name means “bright and radiant,” and perhaps that was true of her testimony.

Phoebe took Paul’s letter to the Romans with her and personally delivered it to them.

MacArthur says:

may I encourage all of you ladies that are here tonight that God has always used women and still does and uses them mightily in the advance of His kingdom. And though He did not use a woman to write a book of the Bible, He used a woman to transport that book, that most important perhaps of all books in terms of its presentation of the gospel, and therefore demonstrated that within the bounds of biblical definition and function designed by God for women, He uses them in marvelous and glorious tasks that do not violate His holy design for them. And so this woman is emblematic of all those women, who within the framework of God’s design, have borne a place of honor. And we see in the love of Paul the commendation of one woman that no doubt would extend to many other people who served him so well.

That is the story of Phoebe.

The Church remembers her in feast days at various times during the year, as Wikipedia explains:

The Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commemorates Phoebe with Lydia of Thyatira and Dorcas on January 27, the day after the commemoration of the early male missionaries Silas, Timothy and Titus and two days after the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The Episcopal Church does likewise. However, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod remembers her on October 25, while the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church place her feast day as September 3.

What a wonderful, holy lady she was.

Paul had more to say about his friends in the Church, men and women alike. More on that next week.

Next time — Romans 16:3-6

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 15:30-33

30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s magnificent ministry, to which he referred in Romans 15:22-29.

These verses conclude Romans 15 and the theology of the letter. Romans 16 details the teachers among the people he has converted in his wide-ranging trips from Asia Minor to Macedonia and Greece.

Paul was a big believer in the power of prayer. He prayed continually. He prayed fervently. He prayed for himself as well as for new Christians.

Here he asks that the Roman Christians ‘strive together’ in their prayers for him (verse 30).

John MacArthur discusses those words:

Notice verse 30, “I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake” as we saw “and the love of the Spirit,” then this word on prayer, “that you sunagōnizomai.” Agōnizomai would be enough. That means to agonize together in a struggle. To add sun to the front of it intensifies it. “That you intensely struggle together with me in your prayers to God for me.”

Now he realizes that ministry in the will of God is dependent on prayer. That is an essential element. The word agōnizomai or sunagōnizomai is a word taken from gymnastics. It’s taken from athletics. It is a gymnastic term meaning “to agonize.” It could be translated “to fight.” It takes tremen­dous exertion and energy and maximum effort to fulfill the significance of this word, a very strong term. In fact it’s translated in John 18:36 “fight.” Jesus said, “My servants would fight if My kingdom was of this world.” It is a word of great intensity.

Prayer, beloved, is a battle. And I say this from time to time as we come to passages like this but I want to remind you of it. Prayer is a battle. I think sometimes we don’t understand that because the battle isn’t where we can see it. We’ve been talking, haven’t we, in 1 Timothy, about the spiritual battle. And I hope we’ve learned some things. Prayer is a war waged against the forces of evil. In fact, Isaiah 64:7 speaks of, quote: “Arousing oneself to take hold of God in prayer.” That’s the idea of the Hebrew terminology in Isaiah 64:7, arousing one’s self to take hold of God. And you remember, no doubt, reading Genesis 32:24 to 30 where it says that Jacob wrestled with the Lord and he wouldn’t let go of the Lord until he was what? He was blessed. In Colossians 2:1 Paul calls prayer great conflict. He sees it as great conflict. It is not an easy thing, it is a conflict. He says, “I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you.” What is he talking about in writing to the Colossians? I’m engaged in a battle, a prayer battle over your spiritual situation. And in 4:12 of Colossians, as I mentioned earlier, Epaphras, that wonderful man of prayer, is said to be always laboring fervently for you in prayer that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Prayer is a battle, an agonizing experience.

Now I realize there is a certain paradox between the sover­eignty of God and fervent prayer, but the Bible teaches us to pray fervently. We go back to Luke 11 and remember the story of the man for his much knocking who was heard, because he gave much effort he finally received what he sought, and it’s an illustra­tion of what we call importunity, or intensity in prayer. We remember James who said in 5:16 of his epistle, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Even our Lord fasted and prayed for 40 days. It wasn’t easy for Him.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that as Paul prayed for them, he desires their prayers for himself. This was not out of selfishness but as a sign of mutual love (emphases mine below):

He had prayed much for them, and this he desires as the return of his kindness. Interchanging prayers is an excellent token of the interchanging of loves. Paul speaks like one that knew himself, and would hereby teach us how to value the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous.

He asked for the Romans’ prayers for his deliverance from the unbelievers in Judea and for the success of his ministry in Jerusalem, his next destination (verse 31).

MacArthur elaborates on the Greek word for ‘deliverance’:

The word “delivered” is a very interesting word. Rhuomai means to be rescued, to be rescued out of a dangerous life-threatening situation. I want you to pray for my rescue. I want you to pray that I will be delivered from a very dangerous situation.

It was not uncommon for Paul to face danger. In fact, it was a way of life. He was in danger most of the time. He continually asked for prayer because of that

So what he is saying in verse 31 indicates to us that it marks a person in the will of God really moving ahead for the glory of God that they’re going to be persecuted because they’re invading the kingdom of the enemy. Now he had no idea at the time of the writing of Romans what was to come from those who do not believe in Judea, Jews who resented him, he had no idea at this particular time what they would do to him. But it was very predictable that they would be hostile toward his message.

Henry says:

The unbelieving Jews were the most violent enemies Paul had and most enraged against him, and some prospect he had of trouble from them in this journey; and therefore they must pray that God would deliver him. We may, and must, pray against persecution. This prayer was answered in several remarkable deliverances of Paul, recorded Acts 21:1-24:27.

I wrote about Acts at length in 2018 and 2019. The passages from the chapters of Acts that Henry mentions are posted below. This was a highly charged and dramatic time in Paul’s ministry over the course of two years:

Acts 21:1-6 – Paul, Luke, Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Tyre, kneeling in prayer

Acts 21:7-14 – Paul, Luke, Caesarea, Philip the Evangelist, Philip the Evangelist’s daughters, Agabus

Acts 21:15-16 -Paul, Luke, Caesarea, disciples of Caesarea, Jerusalem, Mnason of Cyprus

Acts 21:17-18 – Paul, Luke, James, elders, Jerusalem

Acts 21:19-26 – leaders of the church in Jerusalem, Paul, Judaisers, Nazirite vow

Acts 21:27-36 – Paul, completion of Nazirite vow, riot, Ephesian Jews, Asia Minor Jews, Trophimus the Ephesian

Acts 21:37-40 and 22:1 – Paul, Roman tribune, Jerusalem

Acts 22:2-21 – Paul, Jerusalem mob, conversion story

Acts 22:22-30 — Paul, Jerusalem, Roman justice, Roman citizenship, Roman tribune (Claudius Lysias)

Acts 23:1-5 – Paul, Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin, Ananias the high priest

Acts 23:6-11 – Paul, Sanhedrin, Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, Jerusalem, Roman tribune (Claudius Lysias), Jesus Christ, ‘take courage’

Acts 23:12-15 – Paul, Sanhedrin, oath, murder plot, Jerusalem

Acts 23:16-22 – Paul’s nephew, Paul, centurion, Roman tribune, Claudius Lysias, Jerusalem, murder plot

Acts 23:23-30 – Paul, divine intervention, Claudius Lysias, two centurions, 200 troops, Caesarea

Acts 23:31-35 — Paul, military escort, Antipatris, Caesarea, Felix

Acts 24:1-9 — Tertullus, the Sanhedrin, Felix, Paul, Caesarea, Claudius Lysias

Acts 24:10-21 — Paul, Felix, Sadducees, Caesarea

Acts 24:22-27 – Paul, Felix, Drusilla, Caesarea, Porcius Festus

As our commentators have said, Paul had no idea about any of those events, although he certainly would have anticipated danger. At that point, he expressed his longing to finally meet the Romans, if it be God’s will, and be ‘refreshed’ in their company (verse 32).

For good or bad, the Lord and the Holy Spirit guided Paul’s ministry from the beginning, as evidenced by the accounts in Acts. Therefore, Paul was a great believer in the will of God.

MacArthur summarises a few instances from Acts and Galatians for us:

The reason I believe Paul is obedient is multiple. One, he lived in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. And I believe since he was committed to doing the will of God and obeying the will of the Spirit, he would have not flagrantly denied the Spirit’s will in this case. When in chapter 16 he started to go into one area, Bithynia, the Spirit stopped him, he turned around. When he started to go into another area, the Spirit stopped him; he went the other way and finally went in to the Macedonian region because the Spirit stopped him in all the other areas. I believe he lived in sensitivity to the Spirit. And I believe also in chapter 20 when he says, “I am bound in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem,” he is saying, “I have a strong leading from the Spirit of God within me.” Furthermore, he had the right reasons for going. His reasons for going were to accomplish the ministry of collecting this offering which he knew was from the Lord. From the very beginning of his commission as recorded in Galatians 2:7 to 10 he was told to remember the poor, he was doing what he was told, he was doing what the Spirit of God had put in his heart to do. And I believe the Spirit actually sent him. I believe he was dispatched by the Spirit of God to carry out this ministry.

And, after two years of imprisonment in Judea, the authorities sent Paul to Rome:

The Romans themselves sent him there so that he could have a trial before Caesar. After two years of being kept a prisoner for his own sake in Caesarea, they then sent him to Rome and even on the way to Rome I believe the devil tried to drown him. There was a terrible shipwreck. But not only did Paul escape but so did everybody else on board, Acts 27. He made it to Rome. Well that’s the testimony to the power of prayer.

In Rome, Paul was martyred for his faith, but not before he was able to meet the Roman Christians and convert more to the faith over a period of two years:

Acts 28:30-31 – Paul, Rome, ministry

The final verse (33) of Romans 15 is the benediction, the blessing Paul sends to the Romans, asking that ‘the God of peace’ be with them all.

Henry gives us the scriptural history of the benediction and the application for us today:

The Lord of hosts, the God of battle, is the God of peace, the author and lover of peace. He describes God under this title here, because of the divisions among them, to recommend peace to them; if God be the God of peace, let us be men of peace. The Old-Testament blessing was, Peace be with you; now, The god of peace be with you. Those who have the fountain cannot want any of the streams. With you all; both weak and strong. To dispose them to a nearer union, he puts them altogether in this prayer. Those who are united in the blessing of God should be united in affection one to another.

MacArthur has this:

The God of peace, what does that mean? That’s a com­mon term for God, the God of peace. It is to say that God is the source of peace. What do you mean by that? He is the source of peace in two ways. He provides peace with Him. Before you came to Christ you were at war with God. In Christ you are saved, you make peace with God. We call that peace with God. He also provides the peace of God which is the settled heart confidence that all is well that removes anxiety and brings tranquility to the soul. He is the God of peace, that is to say He reconciles men to Himself. He is the God of peace, that is to say He brings tranquil­ity to the reconciled soul, the God of peace.

Our God is identified in this chapter in verse 5 as the God of patience and the God of comfort. In verse 13 He is the God of hope. And here He is the God of peace; the God of patience, the God of comfort, the God of hope, the God of peace.

Those of us who attend churches with established liturgies hear and/or say ‘Peace be with you’ in every service, often more than once. Sometimes I think we hear it so often that we forget or take for granted what it means. I do.

I will be reflecting silently on this in the week ahead.

Next time — Romans 16:1-2

Bible and crossThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (see links below).

Romans 15:22-29

Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome

22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected,[a] I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing[b] of Christ.

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Last week’s post covered Paul’s last teaching in the Book of Romans: the pleasure in the fulfilment of the obligation he had in bringing Gentiles to the Church.

He says that this is why he has not been able to visit the church in Rome sooner; his obligations were elsewhere in other lands (verse 22). And, as he had told the Romans 15:14, they were good and knowledgeable enough to teach each other and build each other up in faith.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that the Christians in Rome felt a similar heartfelt desire for Paul to visit them (emphases mine):

It should seem that Paul’s company was very much desired at Rome. He was a man that had as many friends and as many enemies as most men ever had: he passed through evil report and good report. No doubt they had heard much of him at Rome, and longed to see him. Should the apostle of the Gentiles be a stranger at Rome, the metropolis of the Gentile world? Why as to this he excuses it that he had not come yet, he promises to come shortly, and gives a good reason why he could not come now.

Furthermore, he had no desire to visit the great monuments, structures or great thinkers in the heart of the Roman Empire. He wanted to meet his brothers and sisters in faith, humble as they all were, Paul included. Paul was but a humble tent-maker.

Henry elaborates:

He assures them that he had a great desire to see them; not to see Rome, though it was now in its greatest pomp and splendour, nor to see the emperor’s court, nor to converse with the philosophers and learned men that were then at Rome, though such conversation must needs be very desirable to so great a scholar as Paul was, but to come unto you (Romans 15:3), a company of poor despised saints in Rome, hated of the world, but loving God, and beloved of him. These were the men that Paul was ambitious of an acquaintance with at Rome; they were the excellent ones in whom he delighted, Psalms 16:3. And he had a special desire to see them, because of the great character they had in all the churches for faith and holiness; they were men that excelled in virtue, and therefore Paul was so desirous to come to them.

Paul knew that his desires were dependent upon God’s will:

This desire Paul had had for many years, and yet could never compass it. The providence of God wisely overrules the purposes and desires of men. God’s dearest servants are not always gratified in every thing that they have a mind to. Yet all that delight in God have the desire of their heart fulfilled (Psalms 37:4), though all the desires in their heart be not humoured.

That is a difficult lesson to grasp. We feel it these days in our troubled times, whether it be the heavy weight of the coronavirus pandemic on our lives, the seemingly endless protests or the US presidential election in November. We all want a measure of relief from any or all of those. And, yes, it seems as if the will of Providence has a bearing on any relief of all of those. We must pray for patience and, as Paul and the other Apostles wrote so often, endure.

It is not an easy yoke to bear.

Let us look where Paul had travelled by that time. Whereas Jesus stayed within the nucleus of the Jews, His Father’s people, in order to let them know He was the Messiah, Paul made an incredible three-mission journey all over Asia Minor and what we know as Greece to bring the Gospel to the people, including the Gentiles.

John MacArthur discusses this:

He went all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and that’s in excess of a thousand miles, maybe as much as 1,400 miles if you drew a line. He covered a lot of territory, but you might be interested to know that all three of his missionary tours – he took three missionary journeys – all three of his missionary tours basically covered the same area. He kept going back and strengthening, going back and strengthening. Each time he’d go back, he’d extend it a little further. He’d go back again, extend it a little further; go back again, extend it a little further – strengthening and extending, strengthening and extending. And finally, the reason he got as far as he did was because of his imprisonment, really, which took him all the way to Rome. But he had great precision in terms of his ministry from the very beginning.

If you go back to the ninth chapter of Acts, you’re going to find in verse 6 he says, trembling and with tremendous fear because he’s just been knocked to the dirt on the way to Damascus, and now he’s blind – and trembling and with great fear, he says, “Lord, what do you want me to do? What do you want me to do? Give me direction. Give me some orders.”

And the Lord said to him, “Arise, get up, go to the city and you’ll find out.” And he went into the city, and that’s when he met Ananias, who was God’s instrument. And in verse 15, “The Lord said to him, ‘Go your way. Ananias, you can leave him; he’s a chosen vessel to me, and here’s his calling: to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.’” So, he had a very specific calling. And he had a great sense of that calling.

… from chapter 22 of Acts … chapter 22, verse 21 – “And He reciting his testimony, ‘Depart! For I will send thee far from here unto the Gentiles.’He had this sense of mission that was very precise. In the chapter in which he gives his testimony later in the book of Acts, that being chapter 26, in verse 15 he says – reciting his testimony, he says on the Damascus Road, “I said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’

“He said, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, stand on your feet; I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of these things which you have seen, of those things in which I will appear to you; delivering you from the people, from the Gentiles unto whom now I send you. And here’s your mission, to pen the eyes of the Gentiles, turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God” – that is an evangelism ministry – “that they may receive forgiveness of sins, inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith that is in Me.’”

So, he had great sense of precision and direction from God in his ministry. He articulates this back in the twentieth chapter of Acts in a discussion with the Ephesian elders at Miletus. And he is very, very committed to the task that God has given him. Particularly I want you to notice verse 22. He says, “I’m going to Jerusalem, even though I’m bound in my spirit” – my spirit is captive to this mission – “I don’t know what’s going to fall on me there; I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says, “except the Holy Spirit keeps telling me in every single city that I’m going to get put in chains and I’m going to be afflicted. So, I know it’s going to be difficult, but I’m going; I’m moving; I’m on my way.” Why? “Because none of these outward physical circumstances move me for the simple reason that I do not count my life dear unto myself. I’m not concerned with my own self-preservation. The only thing I want to do is finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, which is to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

“And now, behold, I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. But I can testify to you this day that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not failed to declare to you all the counsel of God.” In other words, “I’m going to keep doing what I’ve always done, and that is to do exactly what God called me to do.”

In Colossians 1, he reiterates the fact that God had made him a minister, and God had set him in motion. In Galatians chapter 2, verse 7 and verse 8, you get the same impression, that he was sent to the Gentiles and the testimony of Scripture is that he was mighty in his ministry to the Gentiles. So, Paul knew precision.

The Church has never had a greater church planter.

Paul readily acknowledged that his work was done in the regions that he had visited (verse 23) — some more than once — therefore, it was time to move on to the furthest reach of the Empire, Spain, via Rome, where he hoped to meet the church members there (verse 24). He hoped that they would give him further resolve to travel on to what he thought would be his final destination in evangelising for Christ. Historians record that he was martyred with Peter in Rome.

Paul had ‘hope’ he would meet the Christians residing in Rome. He knew from past experience not to take anything for granted. The Holy Trinity ordains so much in our lives.

MacArthur reminds us of Acts 16 and the Holy Spirit’s intervention:

… let’s look at chapter 16 for a moment and get a view of how providence may work. In Acts 16, verse 6, “And when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia” – this is Paul and his traveling companions – “they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.” Now, how did he do that? How did the Holy Spirit forbid them? It doesn’t say. It doesn’t say it was miraculous. It doesn’t say they heard a voice out of heaven. Somehow the Holy Spirit didn’t allow them to go to Asia. So, “They came to Mysia and attempted to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit wouldn’t allow that either.” How did that happen? We don’t know. “And so, they passed by Mysia and came to Troas. And there a vision appeared to Paul,” and he knew what the Spirit wanted. The direction was go over across the water to Macedonia, and that was the Macedonian call. But here is God ordering the circumstances to bring about His own will.

There Paul met the purple fabric merchant Lydia — the first convert in Europe — and was later imprisoned for a short while.

Henry points out:

Observe how doubtfully he speaks: I trust to see you: not, “I am resolved I will,” but, “I hope I shall.” We must purpose all our purposes and make all our promises in like manner with a submission to the divine providence; not boasting ourselves of to-morrow, because we know not what a day may bring forth, Proverbs 27:1,Jam+4:13-15.

As has been so often said, ‘Life is what happens when you make other plans’.

If you think that was merely about Paul, MacArthur has a personal anecdote to tell about his ministry and his marriage in 1985, when he gave this sermon. He knew the way to San Jose — just as in the old song — but he could not get there because of bad weather.

The rapidity of airport check-in back then will bring tears to the eyes of those of us old enough to remember:

I was supposed to fly to San Jose a week ago, to speak to a youth rally at Mount Herman on a Friday night – the Friday night after Thanksgiving. And so, my son, Matt, took me by the airport and dropped me off because it was only ten minutes till the flight, and I was just going to go in and get on the plane and leave. And he took off, and I walked in, and there was a sign that said, “San Jose flight cancelled.” That was the only flight, at that time, that was cancelled, though the weather got bad in the north, I guess, and they began to cancel a whole lot of flights.

So, I’m standing there, realizing that there are people coming from all over every place to this rally to hear me speak, and I’m supposed to be flying in. And somebody, at that time, is already on their way to the airport because it’s about a 55-minute flight. There’s nothing I can do, and I don’t even have a ride home. So, there I am.

And in the providence of God, they were having a sale in the shop, and I bought my wife’s birthday present, which was really providential at 50 percent off. If you ask her, she’ll show it to you after the service tonight; she’s wearing it. But that was providential, as God would have it, because it’s something she needed greatly; she lost the last one I got her. But anyway, we won’t go into that. I’m digging a hole for myself; you’ll have to help me out. No.

So, anyway, I’m standing there in the airport, and I called, and we tried everything we could possibly conceive to get me to San Jose. There was a flight leaving later, but it was overbooked, and there was a long standby waiting list, and it would get me there not in time to drive all the way down anyway.

And so, we were trying to get a hold of people and so forth and so on, and there was nothing I could do. So, I went home – and everyone said, “Why are you here?” – which was a little bit of a surprise. We had a wonderful evening and a wonderful day. And the Lord, perhaps, provided that day for my family.

But anyway, I went through the next couple of days and a couple of days later, a young man came up to me and said, “By the way, you didn’t get to San Jose, did you?”

And I said, “No. How did you know?”

He said, “I was there in anticipation of hearing you speak.” But he said, “I want to set your heart at ease.” He said, “Another person was there also who had come to hear you speak, who was speaking there in the area over the weekend, and when he walked in the back door, they informed him that he had been elected to take your place. And so, without any preparation, he got up and spoke. And I want you to know that that was of God because the message he gave was directly to my heart, and the Spirit of God used it to change my life. So,” he said, “I just want you to know that the Lord is in control.”

Well, I was really thankful to hear that. I mean I don’t believe for a minute that I’m necessary to what God wants to do, and it’s just as wonderful not to be somewhere as it is to be there if the Lord’s God something else in mind. But that’s how God works providence.

Yet, MacArthur cautions us about leaving planning aside, the ‘let go and let God’ theory, which was only beginning to become an idea when he preached his sermon. No. We must be prepared:

Trusting in the providence of God is no excuse for a lack of planning, or a lack of purpose, or a lack of direction, or a lack of goals. There are those people who want to sit back and say, “Well, we’re just going to let the Holy Spirit lead.” That’s a poor excuse for laziness. Let me tell you something; I believe in the leading of the Holy Spirit, but effective ministry just doesn’t happen without very careful planning and strategizing. “Man makes his plans” – Proverbs 16 says – “but God directs his steps.” But man makes his plans. I mean we spend a lot of time around here planning. Things happen because we plan.

So, Paul reveals his plan. Look at it in verse 23. Now he says, “But now, having no more place in these parts” – that is to say, “I have evangelized this far; I’ve evangelized from Jerusalem to Illyricum and there’s no sense in staying around. The church is growing. There are others who can carry on the ministry. There are elders ordained in the various places; the work will go on. There are no more regions where Christ is not at least named in this area. I have” – as verse 19 says – “fully preached the gospel of Christ all around about Jerusalem to Illyricum.”

“And since this is thoroughly covered” – and I love that idea; he wasn’t going to move on till he’d done the work where he was – great principle, if I can say it to you that are in seminary, learn it and learn it well: thoroughness before breadth, depth before breadth; it is not the breadth of a ministry, it is the depth of a ministry; not how much ground did you cover, but how fully did you cover the ground you covered; not how far did you reach, and not how many, but how complete and how effective.

Paul then draws himself back to his circumstances at the time and tells the Romans that he is taking charitable contributions to the church in Jerusalem (verse 25) from the Gentile Christians in Macedonia and Achaia (verse 26). The people there were much wealthier there than the converts in Jerusalem. 

Note that Paul never collected funds for himself but for the faithful elsewhere. He never forgot the various churches that he either planted (e.g. Asia Minor) or visited (Jerusalem).

Therefore, Paul’s call was to Jerusalem at that point, not Rome, regardless of his heart’s desire.

MacArthur explains that there was a great famine in the region around Jerusalem at the time. Think coronavirus — loss of work and food. Perhaps we are not hungry, but many are suffering because of this political drama. It is milder than Jerusalem’s crisis and worth putting into perspective when one reads the following:

if you read in the book of Acts carefully you will find that there was a great famine. It’s recorded in chapter 11 and into chapter 12. There was a great famine in Jerusalem. And because of the influx into the city of these Christians, because of the presence of those that were saved on the day of Pentecost and never went home, because of the hatred of many Jews toward Jesus and His followers which generated persecution and dispossession of homes and the loss of jobs and even imprisonment — they were throwing them in to prison in Acts chapter 8, they were breathing out threatening and slaughter against them — so the Christians had a very difficult time in earning a living.

Many of them couldn’t get a job. Many of the fathers of the homes were put in prison and so, there was nothing to supply for the wife and children. There was a great need because of the poverty there. And so, in light of that need the apostle Paul had arranged for a collection. He had arranged to take an offering and take it back to the poor saints.

Paul says that the people from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia were rightfully happy to donate to the converts in Jerusalem, because they shared mutually not only in spiritual blessings coming from a belief in Christ as Saviour but also in the material blessings that a united church of believers brings (verse 27).

MacArthur tells us that Paul brought with him to Jerusalem the leaders of those churches to demonstrate Christian unity:

when he went back with the money he also took representatives of all those churches so when he came back to Jerusalem finally – finally, he not only had a large amount of money for the poor but he had representatives from all the Gentile churches there with the money. And you have to understand that with Paul it wasn’t just a question of the money, it wasn’t simply making a certain contribution for the poor among the saints or, literally, the poor of the saints who were at Jerusalem.

It was a way to conciliate two factions in the church. You had a Jewish church in Jerusalem, you had a Gentile church in the rest of the world and everybody at that time knew Jew and Gentile had very little relationship. And so, in an act that was not only meant to relieve some distress by virtue of the money but also to demonstrate the unity of the church, Paul was committed to taking this money, along with the Gentile representatives who gave it, so that there might be conciliation.

MacArthur also explains the meaning of the word ‘contribution’ in Greek:

The word “contribution,” by the way, a very important word, verse 26, the word is koinōnia. It is the word for fellowship. It is the word for fellowship. And sharing money is so essential a part of fellowship that three times in referring to this collection Paul uses the word koinōnia. Romans 15:26 right here, 2 Corinthians 8:4, 2 Corinthians 9:14, he calls the collection fellowship, common sharing. This is to be the priority. Now listen, I believe that Paul in his mind knew that, ultimately, the evangelization of the world would be hard pressed to succeed unless there was unity in the church. And he was committed to the strengthening of the base church, that it might be strong and have its needs met before he went out to reach the world. Very important.

In older translations, e.g. the King James Version, ‘contribution’ is translated as ‘fruit’, which has even more significance. A contribution seems abstract. Fruit seems more tangible.

Henry has more:

He calls the alms fruit, for it is one of the fruits of righteousness; it sprang from a root of grace in the givers, and redounded to the benefit and comfort of the receivers. And his sealing it intimates his great care about it, that what was given might be kept entire, and not embezzled, but disposed of according to the design of the givers. Paul was very solicitous to approve himself faithful in the management of this matter: an excellent pattern for ministers to write after, that the ministry may in nothing be blamed.

In verse 28, Paul is more determined than ever to evangelise Spain, travelling by Rome: ‘I will leave for Spain by way of you’ (verse 28).

Regardless of the outcome of his desires, Paul knew that God would bless him one way or another (verse 29).

MacArthur tells us:

Verse 29, “I’m sure,” – he says – “when I come to you I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” Now what an assurance that is.

He says I’m going to come in spiritual prosperity. When I come to you I’m going to come with blessing. In spite of difficulties, in spite of trials, I’m going to come in blessing. By the way, that last phrase “of the gospel” is not in the better manuscripts and so the verse would read, “I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” I know when I come to you I’m going to be blessed.

You say, “Well how did he know that?” Because that’s the way it always was with him. Some people — mark this — by virtue of an obedient spiritual life always live in the place of blessing. No matter what negative circumstance they may have, they enjoy the blessing of God. He has enjoyed the fullness of the things of Christ throughout his ministry so he says, and I love this. “I am” – look at it, verse 29 – “I am sure.” I am sure …

You say, “How does he know that? How has he enjoyed the fullness of the things of Christ?” Because of obedience, because of obedience. Now he says, notice again verse 29, “I’m sure that when I come to you,” — Now he didn’t know whether he was going to come and the fact that he said that doesn’t mean it necessarily had to come to pass. The fact that he was coming is not inspired, the fact that he thought he might come is inspired. He was planning to come, whether he came or not. But he said, – “When I do come” – obviously within the will of God – “I know one thing, I’ll be blessed.”

I mean, that’s the way to live, isn’t it? To me, that’s the only way to live. To be able to say, “Well I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow but I know one thing, I’ll be blessed. I don’t know where I’ll be a couple of years from now, but I know one thing, I’ll be in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” How can you promise yourself that? Because the key to that is an obedient life. Now that is true positive thinking, not the cheap substitute we hear about today.

True positive thinking says, “I live in submission to Christ, I live in obedience to His Word so I know wherever I am I’ll enjoy the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” Marvelous way to live. By the way, as it turned out, he did get to Rome. That’s right, only he got there as a prisoner. But this still came true. He got there as a prisoner, and even as a prisoner he wrote the Philippians. And in writing to the Philippians, chapter 1, he talks about the difficulties, chains, and some people are criticizing him and so forth and so on.

Wow. These two commentaries took my breath away. Paul, although not one of the original Twelve, was no less an Apostle than any of them (bar Judas, of course).

I know that many of my readers are aware of Paul’s importance. Yet, in a historical context, his ministry is brought to life for others amongst us.

Those of us who are Gentiles have so much for which to be grateful, thanks to Paul’s ministry, guided by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.

Next time — Romans 15:30-32

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