David Pawson - Romans Part 1
Thoughtful Thoughts 18 May 2018 Romans Part 1, Background to Romans
Problems, Problems, Problems.
Try to imagine the situation…
The previous Roman emperor, Claudius, had sent all the Jews in Rome into exile, (which included Messianic Jews, as the emperor didn’t distinguish between them). This meant that after the Jewish believers left Rome, the Gentiles were left to run the church. Previously the Messianic Jews had been in charge because they knew their Scriptures and the Gentile believers were the new boys on the block.
Time passed and Claudius died, and was replaced by Nero, who wanted Jewish business skills back again. So, he invited the Jews to return.
The returning Messianic Jews, (believers in Jesus), found that they were not being allowed a leadership role in the church which was now being run by Gentiles. Gentile leaders were no longer going to treat Jews as equals, let alone have their jobs. (Previously in Jerusalem, Messianic Jewish believers had not treated the Gentiles as equals when they were in charge, (see Acts 6:1-2), which may have contributed to the Gentiles cutting the Jews out of the picture in Rome, now that the boot was on the other foot. However, it was the Jews who knew their Bible and so should have been the teachers.
Anyway, the Christian community in Rome was split. It was a “them” and “us” situation, causing immense friction, and the tension needed someone to bang their heads together. As Paul’s apostleship was recognized by both sides, he was just the man for job!
Paul explained that neither Jew nor Gentile could puff themselves up. Firstly, Paul explained to the Gentiles that their problem had been unrighteousness, (licence), which they needed saving from; (Romans 1). Next, Paul explained to the Jewish believers that their problem had been self-righteousness, which they needed saving from, (Romans 2). Previously, as Jews, they had thought were going to save themselves because they thought they were already spiritually healthy. (Remember they had once said to Jesus, “We have Abraham as our father”.)
Paul explained that Jews and Gentiles were both just as much in need of God’s grace as the other. Both lots of sins were of the flesh. Both needed and had been saved by grace. Simply put, the Gentiles had been saved from unrighteousness, and the Jewish believers had been saved from self-righteousness. Neither side had looked at themselves as God saw them. The result of leaders justifying keeping their jobs and keeping the Jews out, was that God had finished with the Jews now. Paul fought tooth and nail against that teaching, saying in Romans that Gentiles are only grafted into the Jewish vine, but haven’t replaced the vine.
What bad teaching led on to...
The problem of Gentile believers rejecting Jewish believers for leadership roles, was accumulative, like a snowball, as it led on to bigger problems. It led on to rejecting the Jews completely and that rejection led onto ‘replacement theology’, which led onto anti-semitism. Jews were murdered by the Catholic church, and even those who became Catholics were murdered anyway. (We complain that the Japanese deleted their atrocities from the history books, but the Catholic Church was just as bad).
Well, hundreds of years later Luther brought his anti-semitic theology from Catholicism and included it into his own writings. Luther became even worse after Jews rejected him and his anti-semitic teaching became so bad, that Hitler loved it and used it. Hitler even used an anniversary of Luther’s for his infamous “kristallnacht”. Now we can see how dangerous the problem was that Paul was opposing. Paul wasn’t agreeing with going back to Judaism, but he was welcoming Jews to come and join him in God’s family, for as Jesus taught the Samaritan lady, “Salvation is from the Jews”.
Watch out for Romans Part 2 next week!
I’m John Dunning and that’s “Thoughtful Thoughts” for another week.
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