NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER SIXTEEN (Lesson IV)

16:6-7: Greetings also to Mary. She worked very hard for you. And greet Andronicus and Junia. They are my relatives, and they were in prison with me. They were followers of Christ before I was. And they are some of the most important of the ones Christ sent out to do his work.

In this set of greetings, we learn something about additional followers of Christ in Paul’s day. The mention of a worker named Mary here makes it difficult to assess her contribution unless more is said. One thing that scholars mention is that “Mary” is a Jewish name (Miriam). If this lady is a Gentile convert then she may have adopted this name much like sisters in Catholic convents do up upon being approved to become a nun.

Adam Clarke feels compelled to say something about the woman called Mary in these greetings. He laments that whoever this Mary was, or whatever great work she did for the Apostles, we don’t have any more information. But in any case, even though the great works that she did is concealed from us they are not hidden from God. That’s why her name is mentioned here with honor and is also recorded in the Book of Life.1

But the one thing that catches most readers attention is that the writer of this salutation claims that some of these are his relatives and were Christians before he was. If Paul is dictating this, it is the first time he mentioned such relatives. However, if this is from Tertius (see verse twenty-two), then it might fit better into the narrative as Tertius’ personal greeting to them. Of Andronicus and Junia there is very little else in church history to describe them except that Andronicus is a Greek name that means “warrior.” This certainly raises the possibility that he was a Gentile believer.

Origen, one of the earliest church scholars, supports Paul’s backing of women’s role in the church. This clearly shows, that for Paul women ought to have the right to work for the churches of God. For instance, they work when they teach children how to behave, when they love their husbands, when they feed their children, when they are modest and virtuous, when they keep a tidy house, when they are kind, when they are submissive to their husbands, when they exercise hospitality, when they wash the feet of visiting saints, and when they do all the other things which are allotted to women in the Bible.2

Chrysostom (349-407) also continues to champion the rights of women in the early church. For him, it is remarkable that here another woman is honored and proclaimed victorious by the Apostle Paul which should put the men in the church in his day to shame yet again. And not only put them to shame but for them to recognize that as men a special honor was conferred on them. And that honor is that they were privileged to have such women of character among them. This adds to the men’s disgrace in that by Chrysostom’s time women in the church were being left so far behind. Once the men realize why these women are so honorable they will quickly help in accepting them as peers.

Chrysostom also addresses the fact that Paul did say that he does not permit a woman to teach in the church?3 What did he mean by that? Chrysostom believes that Paul indicates that women are not used to preach publicly from the pulpit, but that does not stop them from teaching. We see that Jesus took many women supporters with Him on His ministry endeavors but never let them take His place in teaching. Yet, it did not prevent them from teaching their families, friends, and neighbors about Jesus the Christ. After all, didn’t Priscilla take the time needed to instruct Apollos?4 So it appears that the Mary mentioned here worked hard among them there in Rome, and along with teaching, she performed other ministerial duties besides. Chrysostom says this shows that women of those days were more spirited than lions, sharing with the Apostles their labors for the Gospel’s sake.5

Then the Bishop of Cyr sees another reason why these hardworking saints of the early church should be so admired. For one thing, they were companions of Paul’s in his sufferings and even shared imprisonment with him. Hence he says that they are men and women of note, not among the pupils but among the teachers, and not among the ordinary disciples but among the great Apostles. If we take these as Paul’s actual relatives, he even praises them for having been Christians before him. At the same time if they are relatives of Paul’s scribe Tertius,6 they would also fit the text since he no doubt knew them too.7

John Calvin makes some interesting points concerning Andronicus and Junia. In Paul’s other writings he scarcely if ever mentions his relatives, yet as the relationship which Junia and Andronicus developed with him caused him to refer to them in this light with a worthy commendation. Calvin notices though, in Paul’s second eulogy he calls them his fellow-prisoners.8 Among all the honors belonging to the warfare of Christ, prison bonds are not overlooked. Thirdly, Calvin notes that Paul calls them Apostles. This was almost always used for those who not only taught in Churches but also spent their time evangelizing.

Calvin further notes that Paul, in a general way, calls those in this place Apostles who planted Churches by carrying here and there the doctrine of salvation. It should be noted that elsewhere Paul confines this title of Apostle to the first disciples chosen by Christ at the beginning of His ministry. However, it would seem strange that this dignity should only be ascribed to them, but to a few others. After all, the term Apostle simply means a delegate, a messenger, one who is sent with orders. But seeing that they embraced the Gospel by faith before he himself did, he does not hesitate to refer to them this way.9

And Jewish scholar David Stern makes a valid point on those mentioned with Mary. He points out that “Junia,” appears to be a feminine name (the masculine-form of Junius), and perhaps she was the wife of Andronicus. The matter takes on more importance by Paul’s remark that they were well-known among the Apostles. This can either mean that they were well-known by the Apostles, or, that they themselves were well-known Apostles. If so, Junia would be the only female Apostle in the New Testament.10

16:8-12a Give my greetings to Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord, and to Urbanus. He worked together with me for Christ. Give greetings also to my dear friend Stachys and to Apelles, who proved himself to be a true follower of Christ. Give greetings to everyone in the family of Aristobulus and to Herodion, my relative. Greetings to all those in the family of Narcissus who belong to the Lord, and to Tryphaena and Tryphosa, women who work very hard for the Lord.

We are told that “Urbane” or “Urbanus,” was a common name among servants in Roman households, and they are often found in inscriptions of the imperial roster of servants. In fact, Dr. J. B. Lighfoot tells us that on one inscription dated from 115 AD, Urbanus is found on a list of imperial freedmen connected with the Roman mint.11

As far as Stachys is concerned, there is nothing else given in the Scriptures by which to identify him. However, in the list of Greek Ecumenical Patriarchs, we find that the Apostle Stachys was one of the Seventy Apostles of the Lord. In 38 AD the Apostle Andrew appointed him first bishop of the city of Byzantium, which three centuries later would be renamed as Constantinople. According to the Synaxarion,12 he built a church in which many Christians were gathering. There he taught and shepherded his flock. He lived sixteen years doing apostolic preaching, and then rested peacefully in the Lord. As a disciple of the Lord, he was called “an all-bright beacon of Christ,” “a pure vessel” full of Holy Spirit, and “a pillar of the Church.” He was named a saint of the Church and his memory is honored on October 31st, together with the holy Apostles Apellos, Amplias, Ourvanos, Aristovoulos, and Narkissos.

Apelles is a typical Jewish name and can be found among the dependents of the Emperors. It means “approved,” and in this case that of a disciple whose faithfulness to Christ was tried and stood the test. In Weymouth’s translation, he is called, “that veteran believer.13 No doubt that is why Paul says here that Apelles proved himself to be a true follower of Christ. Not much else is known of this true warrior in our Lord’s army.

Early church scholar Ambrosiaster noticed that Paul does not greet Apelles as just a friend or fellow worker, but because he was tried during hard times and found to be faithful to Christ. In fact, the Greek adjective dokimos that Paul uses here can be understood as something “accepted,” such as if you saw a sign that read: “Foreign Currency Accepted Here.” But it is also used for something that was approved by passing a test.14 This latter use is what Thayer in his Greek Lexicon chose for this instance. So when we add this adjective to “in Christ,” it means whatever test or trial that Apelles when through it had to do with his commitment and loyalty to Christ.

And Chrysostom notes that there is no single word of praise for a commendation like this for Apelles because the phrase “approved in Christ” includes a whole list of virtues. And by listing praises particular to each one he chooses to send his sends greetings, Paul sets before us their individual virtues. He does not cause those whose names he only mentions to be envious of those to whom gives honor for their service. This way Paul does not open himself to cynicism by praising them all equally in the exact same way.15

1 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 293

2 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

3 1 Timothy 2:12

4 Acts of the Apostles 18:26

5 Chrysostom: Ibid

6 See 16:22

7 Theodoret of Cyr: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

8 It is not certain to what the Apostle refers; for we have no particular account of him hitherto as a prisoner, except for a short time at Philippi, Acts 16:23-40; and it is probable, that it was on that occasion that they had been his fellow-prisoners; for it appears from the narrative, that there were more prisoners than Paul and Silas, as it is said that the “prisoners” heard them singing, Acts 16:25; and Paul’s saying to the jailer, in Acts 16:28, “we are all here,” clearly implies that he had some with him besides Silas. Calvin: On Romans, loc. cit., footnote [476].

9 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

10 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.,

11Commentary on Philippians: Ch. 4.22, by J. B. Lightfoot, p. 189

12 The Synaxarion is a list of the Lives of the Saints of the Greek Orthodox Church.

13 The New Testament in Modern Speech: by Richard Francis Weymouth, James Clarke & Co., London, 1903, p. 385

14 See 1 Corinthians 11:19; 2 Corinthians 10:18; 13:7; 2 Timothy 2:15

15 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 31

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER SIXTEEN (Lesson III)

16:3-5 Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, who’ve worked together with me for Christ Jesus. They risked their own lives to save mine. I am thankful to them, and all the non-Jewish churches are thankful to them. Also, give greetings to the church that meets in their house. Give greetings to my dear friend Epænetus. He was the first person to follow Christ in Asia.

As mentioned before, Aquila and Priscilla were Jews driven out of Rome, between 41 and 53 AD while Claudius ruled as emperor, who died in 54 AD. Since Paul wrote this letter sometime after 56 AD, there is every reason to believe that Aquila and Priscilla returned to their home in Rome. They were very good friends of Paul’s since they ministered with him and organized a church to meet in their house.1 They were also friends with young Timothy along with Onesiphorus in Ephesus.2 Paul makes it clear that they were committed to what Jesus said was the greatest act of love for a friend.3 In fact, Paul once described Epaphroditus to the Philippians, this way: “He risked his life and nearly died working for the Messiah, in order to give me the help you were not in a position to give.4 Paul then mentions Epænetus of whom nothing else is known except he was Paul’s initial convert in Asia. The fact that Paul addressed him in this fashion suggests that he was an experienced senior Christian who held a position of responsibility under the leadership of Aquila and Priscilla. So it is clear that this first group of people were very precious to Paul.

It’s highly possible that Paul not only mentioned these precious friends by way of giving them the honor they deserved but also as models for other Christians to follow. Wouldn’t it be nice if we are remembered by those who served along with us in the church with such stellar accolades? But since many serve quietly and unnoticed, if they are not called out down here for their bravery and service, they will be so recognized when the saints go marching in through the New Jerusalem’s pearly gates.

Again, Chrysostom says that Paul is the champion of women’s rights in the ministry. He notes that Paul points out her gracious hospitality and financial assistance, holding her and other women in admiration because they all gave blood, sweat, and tears, along with making all their resources available to everybody. In fact, Chrysostom notices how noble were all the women Paul named in this section. They were in no way hindered by their gender from following the path of virtue, and this is only to be expected. “For in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female.56

Chrysostom continues with his admiration of these lay people who were so helpful to the Apostle Paul in his ministry. He adds that Priscilla was noble enough to make their home a church, both by converting everyone in it and by opening it to strangers. Paul would not refer to someone’s house as a church unless there was much Godliness to be found in them. This serves as an example of how married couples can become worthy of admiration by treating their home as God’s home. In the case of Priscilla and Aquila, it didn’t matter that their professions were that of tent-makers, the same as Paul, which was not held in high esteem back in Paul’s day since it was a common occupation. Chrysostom also notes how Paul calls Epænetus “beloved,” which is high praise indeed. Paul did not use a word like this to show favoritism. Rather, it was the result of admiration and reflection. Moreover, he was the first convert in Asia, which was a reference to an area in the Roman province where Ephesus served as the capital. Since we see that it was most likely that all these people were of humble birth, Paul shows what true nobility is and honors them accordingly.7

John Calvin notes what Paul says about Prisca (meaning “prime, venerable, classic“).8 and Aquila was his way of honoring those who were faithful and worthy. This was done because faithfulness should be honored because it is the recognition that they who did more good than others might have authority. Calvin also makes the point that with Prisca being a woman, Paul did not hesitate to include her the honor he gives to those were of the highest standards in the church. The modesty of Paul clearly shines here for he did not disdain having a woman as his associate in the work of the Lord; nor did it seem to matter that some may look at here as only the wife of Aquila.9

Calvin also makes the point that Prisca and Aquila had risked their lives to preserve the life of Paul. No wonder he was so thankful for their service. But he wasn’t the only one, all the churches admired this couple. Could it be that Paul was using them as an example to influence the Romans? Calvin also notes that by calling those who met in their house for worship, was something worthy of being noticed. According to Calvin, Paul could not have more splendidly complimented their house than by giving it the title of “Church.”10

On Paul’s recommendation of Priscilla and Aquila, John Bengel says we should observe the politeness of the Apostle in writing the salutations; the friendly feeling of believers in joining theirs with his. Bengel notes that Prisca is the better rendering based on strong evidence from history. He points out that this holy woman from Italy was given the Latin name Priscilla, which is a diminutive,11 but in the Church, the name, Prisca, is more dignified. The name of the wife is put here before that of the husband, because she was the more distinguished of the two in the Church,12 or even because in this passage a woman named Phœbe was already mentioned. For Bengel, the inclusion of all these proper names of believers, Roman, Hebrew, and Greek show the riches of God’s Grace in the Final Covenant exceeding all expectation in teaching and other areas of ministry.13

Bengel continues by pointing out that Paul not only thanks those willing to risk their own necks for his safety, but gives thanks to all the churches of the Gentiles. Bengel notes that Paul does not lump them together, but individually distinguishes them by their own respective graces. But Scripture never praises anyone so as to give them any reason for self-pride, but for praising God and rejoicing in Him for His gifts to them. Bengel believes that not only will the saints at Rome be grateful for their service but we may all find plenty of reason to give thanks to Aquila and Priscilla, even if we do so in the hereafter.14

Albert Barnes supports what we already know about Aquila and Priscilla since they are mentioned by Luke and Paul.15 When Paul first met them at Corinth. Aquila was a Jew, born in Pontus, who resided at Rome, and who left Rome and went to Corinth after Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from the city of seven hills. In all likelihood, they were converted under the preaching of Paul. Paul then was given room and board by them. That way, they enjoyed the advantage of his private instruction. Upon the death of Claudius, after the decree for the expulsion of the Jews was repealed somewhere between 49 and 53 AD,16 it is obvious that they returned to Rome.17

Henry Alford is taken by the fact that the ministry of Aquila and Priscilla,18 as well as some other Christians,19 held assemblies for worship in their houses, which were all saluted and sent salutations as part of the one body of Christ.20 Alford goes on to reference a passage from a work called, Acta Martyrum (Acts of the Martyrs), which tells us that when a man who was known for his ability in teaching doctrines of the church, after settling down in a town would often form a circle of friends from the church to come to his home for the purpose of teaching them insightful exposition on God’s Word. This makes the passages in Paul’s epistles concerning churches in the house of Aquila and others a valid part of church history.

Justin Martyr also alluded to this upon his visit with a church administrator in Rome who asked him where did people assemble for worship, he told him, “Wherever they can and will.” Justin went on to say that people would think that they all gather in one place for worship but that was not the case. That’s because since God is not confined to one spot but that His invisible presence fills heaven and earth, and in all places He is worshiped by the faithful. Justin then added that whenever he came to Rome it was his custom to find a place to stay where those believers he mentored before wanted him to teach them some more, and they were accustomed to gathering together in small groups for the study of the Word.21

1 1 Corinthians 16:19

2 2 Timothy 1:16-18; 4:19

3 John 15:13

4 Philippians 2:30

5 Galatians 3:28

6 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 30

7 Ibid. Homilies on Romans 31

8 So called in 2 Timothy 4:19 This would be like calling a lady named Cynthia (Prisca), Cindy (Priscilla) in our day.

9 Acts of the Apostles 18:2, 18, 26; Whether Aquila was a layman or not, the Apostle connects his wife with him in the work of cooperation with him in his ministerial work. They both taught Apollos. It is somewhat singular, that the wife, not only here but in several other instances, though not in all, is mentioned before the husband. Calvin: On Romans, loc. cit., footnote [471]

10 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

11 Acts of the Apostles 18:2

12 Ibid. 18:18

13 See Ephesians 3:20

14 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 364-365

15 Acts of the Apostles 18:2, 26; 1 Corinthians 16:19

16 Roman historian Paulus Orosius (375-418 AD) – a student of Augustine of Hippo, in his writings placed the repeal in 49 AD or upon its expiration date in 53 AD due to Roman senator and Proconsul Lucius Junius Gallio’s health, who eventually died in 65 AD.

17 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

18 1 Corinthians

19 Colossians; Philemon

20 Henry Alford: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p.130

21 General History of the Christian Religion and Church: From the German of Dr. Augustus Neander, Translated by Joseph Torrey, Volume First, Crocker & Brewster, London, 1847, Section Third, p. 290-291

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER SIXTEEN (Lesson II)

It is a great surprise that churches during my lifetime took so long to recognize the value of women in ministry. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, most were Sunday school teachers and Women’s Auxiliary Leaders. In fact, to this day, in some Protestant and Pentecostal churches, women are still denied being ordained as bishops. If a woman can run for mayor, governor, and even president, why can we not take a cue from Phœbe and promote them according to their talents and gifts, not their gender?

Paul also emphasizes that Phœbe should be welcomed in Rome as a servant of the Lord, something that genuine saints of God would recognize. As far as Paul was concerned, it would prove unbecoming of the Roman church not to show a servant of Christ the honor and respect they deserve. Calvin believes it would be to our advantage to embrace in love all the members of Christ’s body. In fact, we ought to respect and especially to love and honor those who perform an outreach ministry to the community. And besides, since Phœbe was always known for being full of kindness to all, Paul feels that help and assistance should now be given to her for all her concerns. Real courtesy requires that those who are naturally gifted in being kind to others should not be forsaken when they are in need of aid. Then to top it off, Paul emphasizes the fact that he is among those whom she assisted.1

John Locke makes note of how the KJV translates into English the Greek feminine noun prostatis as “succourer.” This is the only place in the Final Covenant where the word is used. Locke feels that in order for us to understand the role of Phœbe in our churches today, we might use the term “hostess,” which denotes someone whose house is where traveling evangelists stay during their visit. The church supplies the items for their food and bedding. In more modern times, this is often the role of the Pastor’s wife, since the evangelist usually stays in the parsonage most of the time. However, Locke points out that we must keep in mind that earlier in verse one he not only called her “sister,” but also “servant of the church.”2

John Bengel makes the observation that Phœbe obviously maintained her Gentile name. In ancient Greek religion, Phœbe was the grandmother of Apollo and Artemis. She was considered the Titaness of the intellectuals. In any case, from what we are told, Phœbe certainly epitomized that name. Bengel remarks, that there was an obvious, all-embracing relationship among believers in Paul’s day. Phœbe is recommended to the Romans for acts of kindness, which she did far from Rome. Bengel believes that Phœbe was financially well-off but did not shrink from the duty of ministering to strangers and the needy. Furthermore, it did not bother her, as far as her fellow citizens who seemed to be wrapped up in their own interests were concerned, what they thought of her as a wasteful spender by throwing her money away on the poor. Bengel cautions that believers should return a favor not only to those who are of service to them but also to those who offered their service to others.3

Adam Clarke repeats many of the things already mentioned by other scholars about Phœbe. But he does enlarge our understanding of the type of ministry she was involved in. According to his research, there were deaconesses in the primitive Church whose business it was to instruct female converts and candidates for baptism; attend the female converts at baptism; teach catechism; visit the sick, and those who were in prison. In short, perform those religious services to the female part of the Church which could not with propriety be performed by men. They were chosen in general out of the most experienced of the membership and were ordinarily widows who already raised their children. Some ancient constitutions required them to be forty, others fifty, and others sixty years of age.

It is evident that they were ordained to their office with the laying on of hands by the pastor and elders,4 and the form of prayer used on the occasion is extant in the apostolic constitutions.5 In the Roman Church, the order became extinct by the end of the fifth century but continued in the Greek Orthodox Church till the end of the twelfth century.6 However, during the Medieval era, in the late tenth or early eleventh century, women leaders began to emerge in the Roman Catholic Church. Most notable were Clare of Assisi, Catherine of Sierra, Joan of Arc, and Teresa of Avila. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is the most recent such individual reaching out to help the poor and sick. Protestant churches never established such nunneries or convents.

Robert Haldane speaks of Paul’s introduction of Phœbe to the believers in Rome and that it was common in those days that letters of recommendation were unnecessary for those who claimed to be called of the Lord for ministry, but who were officially well-known by churches leaders. Paul disclaims the necessity of such letters for himself to the church at Corinth, although in his first visit to the Jerusalem church he needed the introduction of Barnabas. There might be doubts in Rome respecting Phœbe, as there were doubts at Jerusalem with respect to Paul, and these could not be removed by one’s profession or merely claiming to hold office in the church, unsupported by sufficient evidence whether of her faith or of Paul’s Apostleship. But with Priscilla and Aquila being in Rome, Paul didn’t think there was much to worry about.7

Charles Hodge also mentions that early Christians retained their names that were derived from false gods because in their minds those names lost all religious significance. He notes that up to this day we still retain the names of the days of the week without ever thinking of their pagan derivation. The city of Corinth, being situated on a narrow isthmus, maintained two ports, one facing Europe, and the other facing Asia. The latter was called Cenchreae, where a church was organized, in which Phœbe served as a deaconess. Many ecclesiastical writers suppose there were two classes of these female officers: the one, presbytes, – corresponding in some measure to the duties of male elders, and the other whose duty it was to attend to the sick and the poor.8 While many of these positions in the early church were in large part based on the manners and customs of that era, they do speak to the concern and care that Christians held dear for one another. It might be considered old fashion, says Hodge, but such ministries are in dire need in today’s churches.

On the role of the deaconess in the early church, Albert Barnes notes this being a reference to a class of females in the church whose duty it was to teach other females and to take the general superintendency of that part of the church, and their existence is expressly affirmed in early ecclesiastical history. They appear to have been of advanced age and experienced widows with stellar reputations, not just because they were of advanced age but that they were well advanced in their Christian life and well-suited to guide and instruct those who were young and inexperienced.9

Barnes also makes reference to an “Apostolic Constitution.” We find the first one composed by the church in 1570 under Pope Pius V. There we read what was said about widows: “The widows, therefore, ought to be serious, obedient to their bishops, and their presbyters, and their deacons, and besides these to the deaconesses, with piety, reverence, and fear; not usurping authority, nor desiring to do anything beyond the constitution without the consent of the deacon.10 In that same portion, we read: “We do not permit presbyters to ordain deacons, or deaconesses, or readers, or ministers, or singers, or porters, but only bishops; for this is the ecclesiastical order and harmony.11

Then we find a section where it talks about deaconesses being involved in the distribution of charity.12 Then there is a whole section on deacons and deaconesses. There it says: “Ordain also a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministrations towards women. For sometimes he cannot send a deacon, who is a man, to the women, on account of unbelievers. You shall, therefore, send a woman, a deaconess, on account of the imaginations of the bad. For we stand in need of a woman, a deaconess, for many necessities; and first in the baptism of women, the deacon will only anoint their forehead with the holy oil, and after him, the deaconess will anoint them.13 There is no reason to believe that this was initiated by this Apostolic Constitution but simply ratified as part of church ministration based on what was started by the Apostle Paul.

Jewish scholar David Stern points out that in an age where feminism is an issue, it should be noted not only that this woman held a prominent office in the Cenchrean congregation, but that in Thayer’s Lexicon he lists the Greek diakonos as a masculine/feminine noun. In other words, Phœbe was a deacon, not a deaconess (as some English versions render the word). However, in writing to Timothy Paul gives the qualifications of a diakonos,14 and seems to have the male deacons in mind.15 Nevertheless, this certainly goes along with what Paul wrote the Galatians: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.16

1 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

2 John Locke: On Romans, op. cit., loc., cit., p. 382

3 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 364

4 1 Timothy 4:14

5 See Ephesians 1:17-19; 3:16-19; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-11

6 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 291

7 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 633

8 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 692

9 Cf. 1 Timothy 5:3, 9-11; Titus 2:4

10 Apostolic Constitution: Bk. III, Sec. 1, Ch. 7

11 Ibid. Bk. III, Sec. 1, Ch. 11

12 Ibid. Bk. III, Sec. 1, Ch. 14

13 Ibid. Bk. III, Sec. 2, Ch. 15

14 1 Timothy 3:8-13

15 David J. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

16 Galatians 3:28

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER SIXTEEN (Lesson I)

16:1-2 I want you to know that you can trust our sister in Christ, Phoebe. She is a special servant of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to accept her in the Lord. Accept her the way God’s people should. Help her with anything she needs from you. She has helped me very much, and she has helped many others too.

This is the first mention of our Christian sister, Phœbe (also spelled Phebe). She was no doubt a devout believer who decided to keep the name she was given in honor of the pagan female deity Artemis, also known as, the Moon-Goddess. It is supposed that the term Phœbe is associated with the aura of the moon but the Phœbe Paul extols here is associated with the aura of God’s Son. Back in those days, it took an extraordinary woman to be selected to carry a masterpiece epistle all the way from Greece to Rome. Although we only have Paul’s beautiful cameo of this saintly servant of Christ in this letter, Paul held back no words in appealing to the Romans to assist her in every way possible.

Paul begins by calling her “sister.” This should not be confused with their being any part of a natural family as siblings. By this time calling a fellow believer in the family of God a brother or sister was well established by Paul’s day.1 Paul spoke of he and Phœbe’s relationship in the spiritual family of which Christ was the head, telling them that because we are God’s sons and daughters, we are now able, due to the Spirit of Christ His Son living in us, to refer to God as our Heavenly Father, and others in the family as brothers and sisters.2

By Paul referring to Phœbe as a sister in Christ and describing her as a faithful servant of the Lord, he is echoing the words of our Lord Jesus who told a group He was ministering to: “Anyone who does what My Father in heaven wants is My true brother and sister.3 And to those who questioned whether it was right to leave father, mother, sister, and brother to follow Him, He had good news: Here in this world they will get more brothers and sisters.4 The Apostle James kept this tradition going in his letter by referring to his readers as brothers and sisters,5 as did the Apostle Peter.6

But in addition to Phœbe, a member of Christ’s spiritual body, she was very active in the local church in Cenchreae, Greece. This is where Paul arrived on his third missionary journey and from where he no doubt wrote this epistle to the Romans. After referring to Phœbe as his sister, Paul calls her a special “servant” in the church there at Cenchreae. Paul uses the Greek noun diakonos which occurs some 36 times in the Final Covenant and is translated by the KJV not only as “servant,” but also as “minister, servant, and deacon.”7 It appears to have come from an ancient word that means “to run an errand,” and this is certainly what Phœbe was used by Paul to do. Even though the English female term “deaconess” does not appear anywhere in the text of the Final Covenant, the male term “deacon” does appear in Paul’s letter to Timothy.8

Then Paul uses the Greek noun prostatis to define her contribution to the congregation in Cenchreae. The KJV translates it as “succourer,”9 to describe her caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her personal resources. These were mostly the poor and underprivileged who looked upon a prostatis as a guardian, protector, and patron saint. Paul says that he personally benefited from her assistance as well. Anglican Bishop Handley Moule translates this verse this way: “For she, on her part, proved to be a good standby (almost a champion), one who stands up for others, of many, aye, and of me among them.

In noting Phœbe to be a resource of great help, this is a subliminal way of saying that she was either a woman of means or belonging to a family of some wealth. Bishop Moule notes that her devotion did not start upon the arrival of Paul but that she already was a caregiver and it would seem particularly a brave friend of new converts in trouble, especially those with unbelieving family members, as well as Paul himself. Perhaps in the course of her visits to those who were shunned and abandoned she also stood up in difficult times to protest because of the harshness and oppression she saw them receiving. It may be, that she pleaded her case for assistance to the poor with her brothers and sisters who were in a position to share.10 So we can see why Paul recommended her so highly to the believers in Rome.

Early church preacher Chrysostom makes some remarks about this chapter, noting that there are many, even some apparently good commentators, who hurry over this part of the epistle because they think it is pointless and of little importance. They probably think much the same about the genealogies in the Gospels. They see it as a catalog of names and think they can get nothing good out of it. But people who mine gold are careful even about the smallest specks that eventually add up to be very valuable. Chrysostom laments, sad to say, some of these commentators even ignore huge bars of gold!11

Paul mentions here that Sister Phœbe was active in the same church in Cenchreae where Priscilla and Aquila attended.12 It was there that Paul cut off his hair in order to fulfill a vow. Cenchreae is located about nine miles south of Corinth. It is also important to notice that Aquila and his wife Priscilla were Jews that once lived in Rome.13 So Sister Phœbe is not being sent to strangers in Rome but a couple she already knew from their days in Cenchreae. There is no documented evidence anywhere in the Bible or ecclesiastical history that Phœbe made it to Rome. However it is clear that Paul assigned Phœbe to carry this letter to Rome, that’s why he asks them to accept her as a trustworthy servant of God. On the other hand, this portion of Romans is considered by many Bible scholars as something added later on as it was copied and circulated throughout the churches. The oldest known copy of Romans from the early third century places the benediction, found here in verses twenty-five to twenty-seven, previously after verse thirty-three in chapter fifteen. But one thing cannot be discounted and that is that these precious saints should be remembered as stalwart servants of the Lord during very difficult times in Church history.

We also read where early church theologian Origen prepared some instructions for the leaders of the church in his day, but apparently they were not all persuaded to take his advice. He took this passage as a lesson from Paul on appointing women as leaders of church outreach ministries. Not only that, but they were eligible to be ordained into the ministry, because they helped in many ways and by their good services deserved the praise even of the Apostle Paul.14 And preacher Chrysostom also gives his support for Phœbe. He is impressed by the many ways Paul dignifies this great lady. He mentions her before all the rest and even calls her his sister. It was no small thing to be called the spiritual sister of the Apostle Paul! Moreover, he mentioned her rank of deaconess as well.15 Then Constantius joins in by pointing out that the Apostle Paul demonstrates that no discrimination or preference between male and female ministers in the church is to be tolerated, because here he sends this letter to Rome by the hand of a woman and sends greetings to other women in the same epistle.16

Then Pelagius lets us know the situation in the East Orthodox Church during his time (354-420 AD). He reports that even in his day women deaconesses in the East were known to minister to their own gender in baptism or even in the ministry of the Word. They were inspired by the fact that some women taught privately, namely, Priscilla, whose husband was Aquila17.18 Also, the early church Bishop of Cyr makes note that because Cenchreae was a village outside Corinth, that the Gospel was spreading quickly, even to the villages outside the metropolis. In fact the church at Cenchreae was so large that they appointed woman as deaconesses, and one of which was trusted and chosen to carry Paul’s letter to Rome.19

According to what Martin Luther understood and believed in his day, this letter to the Romans was dictated by the Apostle Paul to Tertius while in Corinth, then sent and carried by deaconess Phœbe to Rome. She was a deaconess in the church in Cenchreae, a port city some eight miles south of Corinth. Also, by Paul calling the believers in Rome “saints,” we are to understand those who were already established in the church. But Luther is perplexed about how the Apostle Paul could enumerate the names of so many even though as yet he had not been to Rome nor ever met them? Luther answers his own question by saying he believed that Paul heard about them by way of reports from several member he did know such as Priscilla and Aquila whom he met in Corinth. After all, in his opening he wrote: “Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”20 Luther also suggests that the early church followed the Hebrew custom of recording all members of the synagogue according to their family ties, which we know today as church membership.21

Fellow Reformer John Calvin states that he planned to touch only on those salutations which required some explanation for better understanding. He begins with Phœbe who would carry the letter to Rome. He notes that Paul commends her on the basis of her performance in a most honorable and a most holy function in the Church. Another thing was that Paul requested that the leaders in Rome receive her with great hospitality since she always proved to be an excellent helper as an assistant minister in the Cenchrean Church to the believers seriously disadvantaged.22

1 See 1 Corinthians 7:15

2 Galatians 4:6

3 Matthew 12:50

4 Mark 10:30

5 James 2:15

6 1 Peter 1:22

7 Matthew 20:26, 28; Mark 10:43; Romans13:4; 15:8; 1 Corinthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6, etc .

8 1 Timothy 3:10, 13

9 Succor is an old English term for giving aid and assistance

10 Expositor’s Bible, Ch. 32, Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

11 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 30

12 Acts of the Apostles 18:18

13 Ibid. 18:2-3

14 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

15 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 30

16 [Pseudo-]Constantius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

17 See Acts of the Apostles 18:1-3, 24-26

18 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

19 Theodoret of Cyr: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

20 Romans 1:8

21 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 222

22 Origen and Chrysostom considered her to be a deaconess, but the word does not necessarily prove this; for it is used often to designate generally one who does service and contributes to the help and assistance of others. She was evidently a person of wealth and influence, and was no doubt a great support and help to the Cenchrean Church. Calvin: On Romans, loc. cit., footnote [469]

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POINTS TO PONDER

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Learning To Think Like Jesus Rethinking Your Life Part 2

by Pastor Rick Warren, Saddleback Church

Paul said, “We can understand these things because we have THE MIND OF CHRIST!” 1 Corinthians 2:16 – (New Living Translation)

He also said, “In your lives, you must think and act like Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5 (New Century Version)

[Reflection: When Nicodemus came to Jesus to inquire if He would teach him more, Jesus replied that unless Nicodemus had a complete change of mind by being born again, it wasn’t possible for him to understand the Kingdom of God. Likewise, we believers face the same challenge when we try to comprehend our purpose and goals in life with human logic. Since Christ lives in us through the Spirit, we must let His mind be in charge of our thinking.]

TEN CHARACTERISTICS OF THINKING LIKE JESUS

(All quotes are from the words of Jesus)

Our Lord knew exactly who He was, why He came, what He came to do, why it was necessary to fulfill the will of His Father in Heaven, and the consequences if He failed. Jesus shared this confidence with all who heard Him, especially His disciples. Here are two important things Jesus told them:

1. I KNOW exactly who I am, said Jesus:

I AM. . . . “the Bread of Life.” John 6:35

I AM. . . . “the Light of the world.” John 8:12

I AM. . . . “the Good Shepherd.” John 10:11

I AM. . . . “the Resurrection and the Life.” John 11:25

I AM. . . . “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” John 14:6

I AM. . . . “the True Vine.” John 15:1

I AM. . . . “the Son of God.” Mark 14:61-62

[Reflection: Do we know who we are? What does the Bible say about us who are now living in Christ Jesus who also lives in us?

• I am a child of God. (John 1:12).

• I am a branch of the true vine, and a conduit of Christ’s life. (John 15:1, 5).

• I am a friend of Jesus. (John 15:15).

• I have been justified and redeemed. (Romans 3:24).

• I have been accepted by Christ. (Romans 15:7).

• I have been called to be a saint. (1 Corinthians 1:2).1

• I am a new creature in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

• I am no longer a slave, but a child and an heir. (Galatians 4:7).

• I have been set free in Christ. (Galatians 5:1).

• I am redeemed and forgiven by the grace of Christ. (Ephesians 1:7).

• I am God’s workmanship created to produce good works. (Ephesians 2:10).

• I am a member of Christ’s body and a partaker of His promise. (Ephesians 3:6)

• I have been raised up with Christ. (Colossians 3:1).

• I have been chosen of God, and I am holy and beloved. (Colossians 3:12).

Then Jesus also said:

2. I KNOW God’s purpose for my life.

I KNOW. . . . “where I came from and where I am going.” John 8:14 (New International Version)

I KNOW. . . . “I must be about my Father’s business.” Luke 2:49 (King James Version)

I KNOW. . . . “I must proclaim the Good News about God’s kingdom, for I was sent for this purpose.” Luke 4:43 (RSV)

I KNOW. . . . “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” John 10:10 (New Living Translation)

[Reflection: Since Jesus was so confident about what He knew, by using the way He thinks, what is it that we must be sure of in life. When we are asked about our faith and hope as we journey toward God’s destiny for our lives, what answer would the mind of Christ give us? Here are eight things we must be confident of:

3. I’M ALWAYS AWARE that God is with me.

“I am not alone because the Father is always with me.” John 16:32

“Jesus OFTEN slipped away to be alone so he could pray.” Luke 5:15-16 (New Century Version)

[Reflection: What did God and Jesus say that convinces us that we too are never alone, that they are with us always? Here are some things for us to keep in mind:]

Remember, I commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t be afraid, because the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (Easy-to-Read Version)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you; don’t be distressed, for I am your God. I give you strength, I give you help, I support you with my victorious right hand. Isaiah.” 41:10 (Complete Jewish Bible)

Be strong! Be courageous! Do not be afraid of them! For the Lord your God will be with you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (Living Bible)

Adonai your God is right there with you, as a mighty Savior. He will rejoice over you and be glad, He will be silent in His love, He will shout over you with joy.” Zephaniah 3:17 (Complete Jewish Bible)

Teach them to do all the things I have told you. And I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20 (New Life Version)

Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have. For God said, ‘I will never, never fail you nor forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5 (Living Bible)

For I know that nothing can keep us from the love of God. Death cannot! Life cannot! Angels cannot! Leaders cannot! Any other power cannot! Hard things now or in the future cannot! The world above or the world below cannot! Any other living thing cannot keep us away from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (New Life Version)

4. I LET GOD HELP ME choose my words.

I have not spoken on my own. Instead, the Father who sent me tells me what I should say and how I should say it.” John 12:49 (God’s Word Translation)

[Reflection: In order for us to have a “spiritual vocabulary,” we must think like Christ when speaking to situations or answer questions about our lifestyle in Christ. To begin with, our words must transmit confidence, faith, courage, strength, humility, love, compassion, transformation, hope, prayer, gratitude, truth, praise, meditation, challenge, listen, joy, grace, rejoicing, inspiring, healing, peace, enlightenment, unity, and forgiveness. Then, all of these must be seen in us and practiced by us. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words..]

5. I DON’T WORRY ABOUT trying to please everyone.

I only try to please the One who sent me.” John 5:30 (New Century Version)

No one can serve two masters . . .” Luke 16:13 (New International Version)

[Reflection: Everyday we struggle with serving ourselves or serving God in the things we think, say, and do. When the disciples were caught arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God, Jesus rebuked them and said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35).

And for those who wanted to become His followers, He told them, to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for His sake, and for the sake of the Gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35).

And when Peter rebukes Jesus for talking about the cross, about suffering and death, in response Jesus says, “You are setting your mind not on divine things but human things. You are directing your attention not on God’s concerns, but your own selfish concerns.” (Mark 8:33).]

6. I DEPEND ON on God’s power instead of my own.

Jesus said to those who questioned His authority to teach and preach the message He carried. He told them: “I assure you, the Son can do nothing by Himself. He can only do what he sees his Father doing . . .” John 5:19 (New International Version)

[Reflection: The Apostle Paul is a good example of confessing that all of his success was owed to the power of Christ working in him. When he explained to the Philippians why he was able to persevere under all circumstances, he told them: “I know how to get along with little and how to live when I have much. I have learned the secret of being happy at all times. If I am full of food and have all I need, I am happy. If I am hungry and need more, I am happy. Christ is the One who gives me the strength I need to do whatever I must do.” Philippians 4:12-13 (Easy-to-Read Version).

That serves as a lesson to all of us that with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit being in us and with us at all times, we depend totally on their strength to get us through.]

7. I FORGIVE my enemies and those who hurt me.

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (New International Version)

Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those which despitefully use you or persecute you.” Matthew 5:44 (King James Version)

[Reflection: Since love is more than an emotional case of infatuation, it is an act of the will, then forgiveness must be the same. It’s one thing to tell someone you forgive them, but it’s another to back up those words with action. The two must go together for it to be believed. Forgiveness is the highest form of love. Furthermore, forgiving others is the prerequisite for forgiving ourselves. In the prayer that Jesus gave His disciples as an example on how to pray, it says, “Forgive us what we have done wrong, as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us.” Matthew 6:12 (Complete Jewish Bible)

This means that our lack of forgiving others breaks our fellowship with God. In another place, Jesus instructs His disciples, “So, what if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that someone has something against you? Leave your gift there and go make peace with that person. Then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 (Easy-to-Read Version)

This means we owe others forgiveness even when they don’t ask for it. In fact, we owe forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it. When Stephen was being stoned for being a disciple of Jesus, he fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.” Acts of the Apostles 7:60 (New Life Version).

Also, there are consequences for choosing not to forgive. In the story Jesus told about the man who was forgiven much by the king, but then had someone who owed him little jailed because he couldn’t pay, the king became angry and sent him off to the torture chamber. So Jesus said to His followers, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat you unless you each forgive your brother from your hearts.” Matthew 18:35 (Complete Jewish Bible).

On the other hand, when Peter came to Jesus and asked if there was a certain number of times we are obligated to forgive someone who does wrong against us. Peter asked if seven times was enough. Jesus answered and told him, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:22 (God’s Word Translation).

In other words, the number of times we are to forgive never runs out. To put this in perspective, just think of how many times God has forgiven you since you became His child?

8. I AM WILLING to sacrifice for others.

I am the good shepherd . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15 (New Living Translation)

I CAME here not to be served but TO SERVE OTHERS, and TO GIVE my life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for each other.” 1 John 3:16

[Reflection: When we fact adverse circumstances and must take action or must make a vital decision, whose interest do we think of first? Ourselves, or others who will be affected. Paul told the Philippians,

“Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.” Philippians 2:4 (Living Bible).

In another place, he told them, “Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3 (Common English Bible).

And to the Romans, Paul wrote: “I tell everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think in a way that results in sound judgment, as God distributed a measure of faith to each of you “ Romans 12:3 (Evangelical Heritage Version)

9. I WANT TO DO God’s will, not my own.

I came. . . to do what God wants me to do, not what I want to do.” John 6:38 (New Century Version)

I want the world to know that I love the Father and that is why I do everything exactly as the Father tells me to do.” John 14:31(New Century Version)

Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Mark 14:36 (New Living Translation)

Jesus humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death on a cross. So, God exalted him and raised him to the highest place, and made his name greater than every other name.” Philippians 2:8-9 (New Century Version)

[Reflection: In the prayer that Jesus gave His disciples as a model to follow, we are to pray, “May Your Kingdom come soon. May Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 (New Living Translation).

And when asked who would make it into heaven, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 7:21 (Evangelical Heritage Version).

When instructing the Romans on how to better serve God, he told them, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is – what is good and pleasing and mature. Romans 12:2 (Common English Version).

The Apostle James put it another way: “Don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” James 1:22 (New Living Translation)

10. I THINK WITH AN eternal perspective.

Jesus was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven.” Hebrews 12:2b

[Reflection: No day should ever begin or finish without remembering that this life is only the beginning of our eternal existence. That’s why the Bible tells us to use our time wisely:]

Jesus said to His Father, “I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to.” John 17:4 (Living Bible)

Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.” Colossians 4:5-6 (|The Message)

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” James 4:14 (New Living Translation)

So be careful how you act; these are difficult days. Don’t be fools; be wise: make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good.” Ephesians 5:16-17 (Living Bible)

So teach us to count our days, so that we will become wise.” Psalm 90:12 (Complete Jewish Bible)

HOW CAN I LEARN TO THINK LIKE JESUS?

STUDY His life and words IN THE BIBLE

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. ” Hebrews 12:2a (The Message)

ASK GOD TO SHOW ME the meaning of the text AND how it applies to my life today.

Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word.” Psalm 119:18 (Living Bible)

Jesus: “. . . the Spirit will take from what I have to say and make it known to you.” John 16:15

[Reflection: All of this has been designed for us to begin and continue to think like Jesus. Paul put it succinctly: “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. ”] Ephesians 5:1-2 (The Message) – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 See also Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1, and Colossians 1:2.

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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SOMETIMES FAITH COMES AFTER SEEING

This story was written by a doctor who lived and worked in South Africa. I could not find his name, but from personal experience, such as Dr. Paul Osteen, many of them do this labor of love. As the story goes…

One night he worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all he could do, she died leaving behind a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. It also proved difficult for the medical team to keep the baby alive, as they possessed no incubator. And besides, they didn’t have the electricity needed to constantly run an incubator. The small medical center also provided no special feeding facilities.

Although they were serving on the equator, nights often grew chilly with treacherous drafts of cold air. One student-midwife went to get the box they kept for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby needed to be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle.

The midwife came back shortly in distress to tell us that in filling the bottle, it burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). “And,” she exclaimed, “That was our last hot water bottle!” There’s an old saying in the West, that it is no good crying over spilled milk. But in Central Africa, it might be considered fruitless crying over burst hot water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down winding forest pathways.

So this doctor told the midwife to put the baby as safely near to the fire as she could and to sleep between the baby and the door to protect it from the chilling, cold drafts of air that blew in. He told her, “Your job will be to keep the baby warm.”

The following day at noon, as the doctor did most days, he went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with him. He gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. He explained their problem in trying to keep the tiny baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. He also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother died unexpectedly.

During prayer time, as they went from child-to-child who prayed giving their request to God, one ten-year-old girl, named Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of the African children. “Please, God” she prayed, “send us a hot water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead so please send it this afternoon.”

The doctor gasped inwardly at the audacity of the girl’s prayer when she added, “And while You’re about it, would You please send a doll for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?” As often with children’s prayers, an adult is put on the spot as to what to say. Could he honestly say, “Amen.” He was doubtful that God could do such a thing, even for an innocent believer like Ruth.

So he took the middle lane and told here, “Oh, yes, God can do anything and everything, the Bible tells us so. But sometimes there are limits, aren’t there?” He knew that the only way God could answer this particular prayer would be having a parcel containing these items miraculously sent from his homeland in time for it to arrive that day. He started living in Africa some four years ago, and I never ever received a package from home. And besides, if someone did send a package, who would think of putting in a hot water bottle or a baby doll, seeing his practice was in a facility on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while he was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent to tell him that there was a car just pulled up at his front door. By the time he reached his house, the car was gone, but there, on the veranda stood a large package. He felt tears well up in his eyes. He didn’t want to open the box alone, so I sent for the orphanage children to come help him.

Together they pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. They folded the paper, taking care not to accidentally tear it. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on this large cardboard box. Excitement mounted as the time drew near to open this mysterious package.

As the flaps came up revealing its contents, on top he saw some brightly colored, knitted jerseys folded neatly. Eyes sparkled as he lifted them out of the box and passed them out. Then came knitted bandages for their leprosy patients. This was followed by a box of mixed raisins and small currant-like fruit called “sultanas,” used to make fresh batches of buns. Oh my, that would provide something wonderful for the weekend.!

Then, as he put his hand in the box again, he felt something that made him gasp. Could this really be what he thought it might be? He slowly took hold of it and slowly pulled it out – yes! A brand-new, rubber hot water bottle! Little Ruthie screamed with joy. And that’s when it hit him! He didn’t have enough faith to ask God to send it; he really didn’t think it would possible, let alone probable.

As he looked up he saw little Ruth in the front row of the children with a big grin on her face. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God could send the bottle, He must have sent the doll too!” So she started rummaging around at the bottom of the box. That’s when her little mouth fell open as she pulled out a small, beautifully dressed doll. Her eyes sparkled with joy. She never doubted it would come! Looking up at the doctor, she asked: “Can I go with you and give this doll to that little girl so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?”

After examining the mailing label and a letter inside, the doctor found out that this package was in transit for five whole months. It was packed up by his former Sunday school class whose leader said God told him, and obeyed, to make sure there was a hot water bottle put in the box for shipment. Yes, a hot water bottle to the equator. And one of the girls in his Sunday school class brought a doll for any little African girl to enjoy – five months before ten-year-old Ruth’s prayer for God to get it to them that afternoon. This truly proved what God told the prophet, Isaiah, “Before they call, I will answer.”1

What a lesson this is for us who often pray in desperation, not anticipation. It’s not so much that we don’t believe God can answer, but we’re not sure He will answer right away. Just remember, any answer to prayer does not depend solely on our ability to pray but in God’s ability to answer. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 Isaiah 65:24

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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FACEBOOK FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND FOLLOWERS

We are about to embark on our next journey through Chapter Sixteen of the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It is one of the least read and taught on chapters in this marvelous Epistle. And the reason given is that it is only a list of names that we don’t recognize.

I like what early church preacher Chrysostom had to say: He noted that there are many, even some apparently good commentators, who hurry over this part of the epistle because they think it is pointless and of little importance. They probably think much the same about the genealogies in the Gospels. They see it as a catalog of names and think they can get nothing good out of it. But people who mine gold are careful even about the smallest specks that eventually add up to be very valuable. Chrysostom laments, sad to say, some of these commentators even ignore huge bars of gold!1

There is much that these names can teach us if we are only patient and dedicated enough to examine them. When we think that on the anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, all the names of those who perished in that terrible act of terror are read. We may not recognize any of those names unless they were somehow connected to us. Yet, we listen in reverence for the price they paid for the freedom we enjoy.

Let’s look at these names here in Romans Sixteen the same way. By reading and seeing what the Apostle had to say about them is our way of paying respect to these early church champions of the Gospel and our Lord Jesus the Christ. So I encourage you to go along and see what we find out about these heroic disciples of Christ that may inspire us in our walk with Him.

I’m so proud of all of you who’ve stuck with it so far and proved yourselves as true lovers of God’s Holy Word. It’s our last chapter in this great letter, so there’s no reason to quit now when we are so close to the finish line. God loves those who don’t give up and persevere to the end. God bless you all, you have my greatest admiration.

We will begin Chapter Sixteen this coming Monday, February 18th. I’ll be looking for your names as you say that you like what you are reading. Again, God bless you for being such wonderful students of this wonderful Book of Romans.- Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 30

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