Saturday, August 22, 2020

200823 Stephen’s Sermon (2)

We resume our look at Stephen’s sermon. We need to remember that this is Stephen’s answer to the chief priest’s question, “Are these things so?”

We left off last week at Acts 7:34 as Stephen was explaining Moses’ response to God’s greeting in the wilderness.

After a 40 year sabbatical we now find God tapping Moses on the shoulder. His first response might have been, “Oy Vey, what is this!” OK, it is not likely. Since Yiddish, as a language, did not exist in Moses’ time. Let’s step into the middle of Stephen’s sermon/response…

Acts 7:35-37 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’”

In the case of Joseph, who could have been a shepherd all his life, God needed a prime minister to rule over Egypt at the right time to bring his people into Egypt. It was very important that the Israelites have a place of relative peace until the wickedness of the people who lived in Canaan could come to completion. They lived in Egypt about four hundred years.

At the end of that time God needed a shepherd — Moses! When he was three months old he had been left in a basket in the Nile River to be rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. He grew up a Prince of Egypt! But God did not need a Prince at that time. He needed a shepherd! When he was a Prince he tried to rescue his people the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but had failed! When he tried to persuade the Israelites that he had good intentions he was rejected. “Who made you ruler and a judge?” was the reaction he encountered.

Then, 40 years later, he could have answered the question with a single word. That word would be “Yahweh” who had sent an angel to meet him in the bush that burned but did not burn up.

When he encountered this angel he had nothing to offer. He was a shepherd not even a farmer. Even worse, the farmer he worked for was his father-in-law. 40 years of labor that ended with Moses leading his father-in-law’s sheep!

Now that he no longer had any skills, other than shepherding, God sent an angel to him in a burning bush! God assured him through that angel that he had seen the affliction of his people. He had heard their groaning. And now, it was time to send Moses to Egypt to deliver the people. Moses was about 80 years old and no longer possessing any governing skills. The story is told in the book of Exodus chapter 3. When Moses heard the angel say it was time for him to return to Egypt and tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” He did not reply to God with a resounding “YES”! Instead he said something like, “Who? ME?” Moses knew that the people he was to rescue did not even know who God was. They had been parked in the in the land of Goshen. Still one of the best farming areas in Egypt. The angel gave him the words of God. “I AM WHO I AM”. A phrase that is converted to the name, YAHWEH!

The people listening to Stephen knew all these things but did not understand them the way Stephen did.

God sent Moses to be ruler and Redeemer. After a 40 year rest he now had great responsibility. There were hundreds of thousands of people who would have to be organized and taken care of. They would have at least understood some kind of regimentation because they had been slaves for at least one generation. We are not told how long it was before there was a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph and feared the people of Israel enough to take away their freedom. Stephen now inserts, for the first time, the concept of a prophet like him. Stephen saw that prophetic statement as a proclamation of Jesus coming into the world. That would happen more than a thousand years later.

In order to understand it better let’s look at Stephen’s words, Acts 7:37-38 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.

Stephen wanted to be very clear that “this Moses” was the one who took the congregation into the wilderness. They were protected and guided by that angel who had met him in the burning bush. Having established that relationship Stephen goes on to make it clear that the people of Israel were not easy for Moses to lead. The words given to Moses by God, Stephen calls them oracles of God, should have been adequate to guide them as they went forward. When God gave them these living words they still did not obey him. Acts 7:39-40 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’

History has a way of intruding unpleasant reality into our lives. We know the whole story at least as far as Moses recorded it. Moses went up on the mountain to receive from God the 10 Commandments. He spent 40 days and 40 nights with God on the mountain! He did not have to eat or drink during that time. Imagine what it might be like! Not only did God give him clear instruction he also gave him two tablets of stone that he had written the 10 Commandments on. God did not take a chisel and hammer he carved those words with his finger!

Stephen reminds us that during that 40 days and 40 nights Moses was on the mountain the people took advantage of his absence and became idol worshipers. Stephen is pretty gentle in his depiction of this part of the story. While Moses was gone the people, and their hearts, returned to Egypt. More than once while they were in the wilderness they remembered the excellent variety of food they had in Egypt. At the same time, they forgot that they had been enslaved by the Egyptians.

With Moses gone from the camp they went to Aaron and told him to make them gods who would go before them. While Moses was away the children would play. Stephen left out the part where Aaron explained what he had done. He said they brought gold jewelry to him and he threw it in the fire and the golden calf came out. I’ll bet a sculptor would like to have seen that happen.

Again, Stephen jumped over a long list of historical fact going back to the time in the wilderness. It would be expected the people of Israel would have been obedient to God. After all, they were the first generation to leave Egypt and follow God’s man, Moses. Instead, they actually worshiped the pagan gods even while they were in the wilderness.

The priests must have been extremely angry as Stephen brought up the subject of their pagan worship. In Acts 7:41-43 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: (from Amos 5:25-27) ‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices, during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 43 You took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan, the images that you made to worship; and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’

Again, I say, history can be very uncomfortable. Truthfully, I never thought of them worshiping idols while they were in the wilderness. They were too close to God! They saw him in the fire and cloud! They heard his voice on the cloud on top Mount Sinai. They saw his hand part the water of the Red Sea! They saw a huge rock give up adequate water to provide for themselves and their cattle. Then, for most of 40 years they simply needed to gather mana every morning and they could eat all day. Yet, while they were doing this they worshiped the evil gods they had been introduced to in Egypt. Wow! After all that they had been exposed to they still turned away from Moses and from God.


Stephen wanted them to see that they had never really been faithful to God. I can imagine this may have been shocking to the younger men that were there. I really believe anyone who studied their history would have known the things that Stephen was telling them. At the same time I do not believe they would have appreciated him sharing. Stephen goes on with the condemnation of Israel. While they were worshiping the pagan gods Moses was erecting a tent that would be called the tabernacle.

(Acts 7:44-47)  “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.”

Notice that Stephen calls this tabernacle “the tent of witness” all the while they were worshiping the pagan idols in their tents or in secret meeting places. The tent of God was there with them. Can you imagine? Wherever they were in the wilderness during the daytime a column of cloud stood above the tabernacle. At night it turned into what was called a pillar of fire. How could they have ignored God? Yet that’s what Stephen presents to this group of judges.

When they left the wilderness Joshua brought it into the land God was giving them. It was King David who wanted to build a dwelling place for God. David was prevented from constructing the temple. God commended him for wanting to build the temple but he could not because he had shed so much blood in his rise to the throne. It was Solomon during the relatively short period of peace in Israel who built the temple and placed the Ark of the Covenant inside. God made it clear that he did not dwell in buildings. Heaven is his throne and the earth’s footstool.


Stephen now moves ahead to settle the issue of whether he should live or die. (Acts 7:51-53) “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

Stephen understands that he is not to walk away from the situation. And why should he? These stiff-necked people always resisted God. Their fathers persecuted all the prophets. The prophets who announced the coming of the Messiah were executed. Even though the prophets had clearly announced his coming the high priests had betrayed him and murdered him. These religious leaders had received the law delivered by angels and did not keep it.

Having heard him they could stand it no longer! They were enraged and they gnashed their teeth at him.

Stephen, on the other hand, gazed into heaven being filled with the Holy Spirit and saw the glory of God. The psalmist (Psalm 110:1) saw God the father seating God the son beside himself! Mark when he recorded his gospel (Mark 16:19) said that Jesus was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

What Stephen saw was Jesus standing at the right hand of the Glory of God. Seeing was believing for Stephen. He shouted out (Acts 7:56) “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Many of you have heard me tell this story. So you know what I’m going to say next.

Why was He standing? Just as one of us might stand to receive a visitor the Lord Jesus who stood to receive his friend. When he spoke those words the crowd took him, dragged him through the streets to the place of execution and stoned him to death.

He said two things while he was dying. First, he said “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and second, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Listening to those words and observing the face of Stephen was a young man called Saul of Tarsus. He was a Pharisee a student of Gamaliel and determined to put an end to the Christian faith. Doctor Luke reported, “Saul approved of his execution.”

This Saul led a gang who went door-to-door arresting men and women because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Later, Saul would become Paul the apostle and suffer much for the sake of the kingdom. He learned that all people have sinned and that the wages of sin is death! He would write to the Romans later that the love of God is seen in the fact that he loves us so much that he sent his son to die in our place. And, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.


Have you trusted Jesus for your salvation? Today could be your day.


All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

200816 Stephen'ss Salvation Sermon

 All week long I have felt impressed to share with you the first complete Christian sermon found in Acts 7. In the earlier chapters there are several references to other sermons presented by the Apostle Peter. However, this is the only example of a complete sermon. In every example there is a question to be answered. Stephen has been charged with blasphemy. The same charge that earned Jesus death on a Roman cross! One of the most horrible forms of execution known to man.

The question Stephen was asked is found in the first verse of Acts 7. Let’s look at that and the beginning of Stephen’s response.

Acts 7:1-4 And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living.

We know very little about Stephen’s background. He is first introduced in Acts 6. There he is presented as one of the seven men that are usually referred to as the first deacons. The church had grown until there were thousands of believers in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. The twelve, as the apostles were known, found themselves being overwhelmed by a common problem in the church. Apparently, when people came to faith in Christ they were put out of the synagogue and no longer received needed support. When the church began to take over responsibility for feeding the widows there was a problem. An unexpected problem. But a problem nonetheless that could lead to a division in the body of believers. The Greek speaking minority apparently were being neglected. The Apostles called a congregational meeting to select men to solve the problem. The Apostles needed to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.

It is interesting that when they chose these seven men all of them have Greek names! The wisdom provided by the Holy Spirit solved the problem of the division by taking away all reasons for conflict on that subject. The devil is always busy finding a way to create divisions in the church.

The qualifications for these men that they be of good reputation and full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Beginning with a solid foundation what did Stephen do to get himself into so much trouble? We are told that he was doing great wonders and signs among the people. When the organization of the church began to solve the problems a great number of priests came to the faith. Doing good resulted in many more people coming to faith in Christ. The priests coming to the church increased the jealousy of the Jewish leaders. When they argued with Stephen they always failed because they could not withstand his wisdom given by the Holy Spirit. The Jewish leaders organized opposition by encouraging men to lie about Stephen and his message. That is what got him arrested!

Stephen began his defense by going back a couple thousand years to the calling of Abraham out of the region called Ur. Remember, there was no Bible for Abraham to learn from. Instead, the God of glory appeared to him. We are not told how this appearance happened. We just know that he went up from Ur to a place called Haran. There he lived with his family until his father died. God is extremely patient. That made Abram the leader of the clan and we are told that God removed him from there and brought him to the land of Canaan. (Verses 5-6).

Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years.

Let’s not forget we are talking about the sermon delivered by Stephen. What had he been charged with? He was charged with blasphemy, with being opposed to the law of Moses, and with being opposed to the temple and the temple worship.

There was one other charge against him. (6:14) The false witnesses said, we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.

Then the chief priests asked the question leading to Stephen’s sermon and the story of Abraham. The priest certainly did not intend what was about to happen to him. When he asked if these things were so he would have been glad to hear “yes” or “no”! But that’s not what he heard coming from this man whose face reminded them of an angel. We need to remember that what they ask is not necessarily what they need to receive. In 1 Peter 3:15 we are told, in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

Let’s look back at Stephen’s response. Stephen quickly moves past many things that happened between Abraham and God. He moves past Isaac and Jacob and brings them into Egypt.

The trip to Egypt was laid out in the lifetime of Joseph. Now, Joseph was the spoiled child among the children of Jacob. His brothers hated him and were jealous of him. So they sold him into slavery to be rid of him. They had no idea how he would be treated or if they would ever see him again. In fact, I believe you can be pretty sure they never expected to see him again. We do not know how much time would pass in Joseph’s life. His brothers sold him to some traders who sold him on the market in Egypt to Potiphar chief guard of Pharaoh. Time passed. We don’t know how long! Joseph was treated very well because God was with him. God had a plan and it involved Joseph being mistreated. Folks, if you’re a child of God you can expect that he will love you and care for you. He will protect you and he will use you for his own glory not yours. Joseph certainly was useful to God.

Stephen told us just enough about Joseph’s situation that satisfied their basic need to know. Joseph was soon moved up to household manager. As time went by Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him and caused him to run away from her. When she told her husband that his slave had insulted her he grew very angry. We are not told exactly what he was angry about but I don’t think it was the usual “husband anger”! Potiphar had the right to put him to death which is what I would have expected to happen. Instead he was put in Pharaoh’s prison that must have been one of the better places to be incarcerated. Again, time went by and Joseph rose up in rank to be the chief trustee in the jail.

Stephen reminds us that God was with Joseph and rescued him out of all his afflictions. That rescue had God’s purpose all over it therefore it had to happen at the right time and in the right place. Without going into details Joseph spent over two years in that prison before he was brought before Pharaoh. He was able to interpret two dreams that were disturbing Pharaoh and, as a result, he was appointed prime minister of Egypt. Had he stayed with his brothers in the wilderness as a shepherd he would have been a shepherd when God needed a prime minister! Being in that position allowed him to bring his family to Egypt to escape a famine. When Jacob died, he was carried back to the tomb Abraham had bought to bury his dead.

All of this is included in the sermon Stephen was bringing so as to answer the question “is this true?” Just as God had promised Abraham, Jacob and his entire clan, about 75 people, did not leave Egypt when the famine was over. They stayed there and were blessed a good number of years. We do not know exactly how long they stayed as free men. The time to depart was coming and they would need a little encouragement to go. You see, they had been settled in the best part of Egypt for shepherds and farmers. They had all the things that they needed and were very happy. They grew into a large population. When it was time to prepare them to leave God allowed a Pharaoh to arise who did not know Joseph.

That Pharaoh realized that having a strong nation who would not consider themselves to be Egyptians on his northern border was not a good idea! So, Stephen goes into a little more detail. He explained that this new king forced the families to kill their babies. Moses tells us that it was the boys they killed leaving the girls to eventually be absorbed into Egyptian society. From the viewpoint of the Egyptians this is a good idea. From the viewpoint of the descendants of Jacob it was a horrible idea. I believe it was allowed by God to bring the people of Israel into a position where they were willing to leave Egypt.

Think of it, suppose they had been left as free men in a land that flowed with milk and honey and they had lived there for more than 300 years. Then suppose Moses came wandering into their settlements telling them that God wanted them to go across the great wilderness to the east and go into battle to take the land of Canaan from the giants who lived there. Actually there were only a few giants. But when the spies went into the land they said, “we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seem to them.” (Numbers 13:33). Moses would’ve had a very difficult time persuading them to go with him. So God allowed them to be put under strong bondage. Once again Pharaoh and his household became useful to God. When Moses was born, he was beautiful in God’s sight. When he was three months old he was put in a watertight basket and placed in the edge of the river near where the daughter of Pharaoh bathed. Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and took him into the family. As a member of the royal family Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians and became mighty in words and deeds. He lived in the lap of luxury for 40 years!

He knew he was an Israelite. I assume that was because Pharaoh’s daughter hired Moses’ mother to take care of him. At the age of 40 he felt the need to go among his people and see how they were being treated. When he saw one of them being wronged he defended the Israelite and killed the Egyptian. Moses assumed the people of Israel would recognize him as their deliverer.

So the next day when he went among his people he saw two Israelites quarreling. He intervened in the fight and he was immediately confronted by the one who was in the wrong, “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?” Immediately, he knew he had to get out old town. At the age of 40 Moses traveled into that wilderness that he would lead them through later. This Prince of Egypt now found himself a shepherd in the wilderness! He settled down to await instructions as to what he should do now. Remember, God’s work must be done God’s way and in God’s timing! Between the ages of 40 and 80 Moses had a simple life. He was no longer in a position to do anything in his own strength to deliver his people.

At the age of 80 he was shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep and he saw a sight he had never seen before and would never forget. He saw a burning bush that did not burn up. Curiosity overcame him and he turned aside to see this great sight. Suddenly there was a voice coming out of the burning bush.32 I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and Jacob… 33 Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you’re standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and I have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.” (Acts 7:32-34)

Several things were going on here. There was the need to cause the people of Israel to want to leave Egypt. In order to bring that about, they had to be held as slaves until they were ready to go. There was the preparation of Moses so that he would not operate at his own strength. He had lots of ability when he went into the wilderness. Folks, the only ability God needs on our part is avail — ability! If we could do it in our strength we would not need God. Moses had to come to the place where he knew he had to believe God and operate in God’s strength. In Exodus chapter 3, verse 10-22 Moses had quite a debate with God. By the way, God doesn’t mind you having opinions he simply minds us operating on the strength of them.

Another thing that was operating was the preparation of the land they were going into. The land that is often called Canaan.

When God made a covenant with Abraham to give the land to his descendants Moses tells us Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:13-16).

Everything in God’s plan worked out the way he wanted. Imagine that! Even Joseph being sold into slavery. After Jacob died and they observed his funeral Joseph returned to Egypt with his family. His brothers, discussing among themselves assumed Joseph would now take some kind of revenge on them. Near the end of Genesis we find this account.

His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:18-21).

God willing, next week we will take up the rest of Stephen’s sermon and perhaps get into the results.

Have you trusted Jesus for your salvation? Today could be your day.


All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Good News 200802


Romans 1:16-17

The apostle Paul was preparing for a trip to Rome. He sent this letter so that the people there would understand who he was and what he believed. He thought he would be going to Rome on his way to Spain. But first, he needed to go to Jerusalem to visit the temple of God for the last time. On his way to Jerusalem several different people warned him that he would be arrested there and possibly killed. Apparently he had a premonition of his coming death. Paul had suffered much in order to tell the good news to the world. I believe he had worked out a plan whereby he would visit with the apostles in Jerusalem and then he would set his face toward Spain. I hesitate to say that he was surprised by the things that happened to him when he arrived in Jerusalem. Paul had seen many things that he had expected to be one-way that turned out totally different. He had been an active opponent of the Christian faith until he was stopped by the Lord Jesus himself on the Damascus Road. That completely changed his attitude towards the church. From that day forward he lived up to these two verses. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Paul came to faith in Christ and was immediately warned that he would suffer much for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ! He had told the Corinthians about his suffering in his second letter to them. Being a servant of Christ meant that he would face beatings, constant danger and periods of hunger and thirst. He lived with a constant concern for all the churches. (1 Corinthians 11:22-29).

While he was planning his trip to Spain he went into the temple completely innocent of anything wrong. He was recognized by some of the folks from the Province of Asia and they started a riot. Roman soldiers came and rescued him. He had said that he was willing to die in Jerusalem. I think he actually wanted to die for his Lord. I suspect that he was anticipating his death and felt robbed by the soldiers.

In order to protect him from the Jews in the temple the Roman soldiers arrested him! He might have been martyred there except for the fact that he was a Roman citizen! While he was being held for questioning his nephew came to warn him that there was a plot to kill them. 40 men had taken an oath to not eat or drink until Paul was dead. He had his nephew tell the plan to the commander of the Romans. He was immediately sent to Caesarea, with a large armed escort, which appears to have been the seat of Roman authority in the region. There he was able to give his testimony to the soldiers guarding him and to the governor himself. But he was kept in prison! Instead of going to Rome he sat in a Roman jail for two years.

When it appeared that the Romans were going to take them back to Jerusalem he exercised his rights as a Roman citizen. He demanded that he be tried by Caesar. Now finally, he was going to Rome. Not just traveling to Rome but going first class with the Roman government paying for the passage and guarding him along the way. This letter that he had sent contained all the information needed by the church in Rome and the Romans themselves.

He was not ashamed of the gospel and he wanted them to understand it. We don’t have time to read the whole letter but we can summarize parts of it that support the idea that the message Paul preached was good news. In the first chapter, aside from the theme verses, Paul tells about God’s wrath on the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

Paul explained the need everyone has for justification through faith. Because, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That is bad news! Now, what is sin? Sin is anything we do that God is not pleased with. Sin is failure to obey God in action or attitude. God had given his people 10 Commandments and hundreds of laws and rules. When Jesus came onto the scene he explained the commandments. The Jewish teachers had created a large volume of rules so that they could believe they obeyed the law of God. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus pointed out that being angry with your brother makes you subject to judgment and calling someone a fool but make you subject to hell.

The law said, “You shall not commit adultery.” Jesus said that anyone who looks with lustful intent has already committed adultery in their heart. Sin is not just acting wrong. Sin is harmful and has destructive consequences. Sin ought not to be but it is and has been since the beginning.

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden they did not only become guilty they passed their guilt on to all their unborn children even until today. The bad news, that all have sinned, is made worse by the fact that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is typical of sin in general. First, it caused mankind to doubt the truth of God. Second, their sin proclaimed that God was holding them back from what they could be. Third, their identity is taken from them. They were no longer subject to God. Satan had convinced them they would be like God. Last of all, sin makes no sense at all! James, our Lord Jesus’ brother, pointed out, So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17).

Paul told the Romans, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). He added --  The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

With all the bad news there is also the beginning of good news. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8).

Part of the good news is that we have been set free from the law and its punishment. We died to the law through the body of Christ (Romans 7:4). As a result…

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4). So, we are no longer subject to sin. The Spirit of God has come to live in those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ!

Paul’s instruction to the Romans is very clear…

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9-11). And verse 17,so faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. The faith we have received from God has given us the ability to believe.

The remainder of the book of Romans teaches how to apply the truths in chapters 1 through 11. In chapters 12-16 the marks of a true Christian is revealed.

What was the result of this letter being sent to Rome and of Paul being sent there after it? What good came out of all the bad? During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul wrote other letters. Probably, the letter to the Ephesians was one that was written in the prison in Rome. Without a doubt, in my mind, the Philippian letter was written in Rome. At the end of the letter to the Philippians, in his greetings, Paul wrote, The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. (Philippians 4:21-22). Had he bypassed Rome and gone on the Spain he could not have written those of Caesar’s household. He would not likely have met them.

This passage points backward to an event and Paul’s trip to Rome. The decision had been made to travel to Rome by ship rather than walking, or horseback. During that journey they encountered a severe storm. During that storm Paul was visited by an angel and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:24-26). Paul understood from that encounter that he could not die before he came to Rome.

Three or four years before Paul had gone up to Jerusalem realizing it probably would be his last visit. He intended to move on from Jerusalem to Spain so that he could preach the gospel to people who would not have heard it before. That was his intention and he planned accordingly. God had a different plan that involved two years in prison and shipwreck in a violent storm.

The angel had promised that Paul would go on to Rome even though he was in a ship that was doomed to be destroyed by a storm. When they grounded the ship on the island of Malta they went ashore and built a fire to dry off. In the course of building the fire Paul joined in with those who were gathering wood. As he took his load to the fire a snake came out of the bundle of wood and bit him on the hand and he shook it off in the fire. The natives recognized that this was a very poisonous snake and assumed he would die of the poison very quickly. They assumed that he was a very bad person and was being punished. When he did not die they decided that he was a god! From one extreme to another!

Have you trusted Jesus for your salvation? Today could be your day.

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.