Chapter Four of the Letter to the Romans deals with the issue of circumcision, one of the main issues of the letter. Paul is likening works with the flesh, the law, and therefore, condemnation, while faith is spiritual and deals with justification, righteousness and ultimately salvation. Continue reading
Paul is setting the context of this letter from the outset. Verse one states, “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.” Paul refers to himself as to be a slave. It is believed that he is in chains as one is bound as a slave. He is set to go to court in Rome while being accused of wrongdoing by the Jewish leaders of the time. It seems to be early in his bondage. Though human hands have bound him with the intent for death, Paul really does consider himself to be a slave to Christ Jesus. But this bondage is a path to freedom. He actually rejoices in this bondage. It is an opportunity to glorify God.
Verse two talks of how the Old Testament prophesied about the coming of Jesus. It states, “Which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy scriptures.” The Old Testament is considered to be the word of God known as Sacred Scripture. Paul is not referring to what he is writing is going to write. The New Testament has not yet been put together. In fact, it is still being written out, as is the case for the letter to the Romans. So the Old Testament is held very dear to the early Christians. Those Sacred Scriptures point to Jesus as the Messiah that is long waited for by the prophets.
Verse three continues to bring clarity that the gospel is about Jesus. Verse three states, “the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh” and verse four continues, “but established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” So Paul is establishing Jesus as a descendant of David in verse three as does the beginning of Matthew and Luke. It seems that Jesus has mere human origin, but in verse four, he states that there is more about this man Jesus than what appears to be. He is also a descendant of God. He comes to know this through the spirit of holiness and the fact that this Jesus rose from the dead.
Did you notice how it is worded about the Resurrection? Paul did not say “and about His resurrection from the dead.” No. It states, “through resurrection from the dead.” He does not limit the Resurrection to Jesus. Already, Paul is allowing for the reality of the promise that Jesus has made us of our resurrection. He is very aware of our eternal life, not just spiritually, but physically.
Verse 6, Paul recognizes that all the faithful are called to “belong to Jesus.” Paul realizes that the love of God is not his alone. He knows that it is for us too. In fact, he desires us to know of God’s love for us and really experience it in our lives. That is why he is writing this letter, so that others may know of the gospel message. The gospel message at this point in time is spoken. Some has been written, but not all of it as yet. So when Paul writes in the New Testament about the “gospel,” he is referring to the message of Jesus, His death and Resurrection, and His promise of Eternal Life.
The Romans by this time have already heard this message, but Paul wants to remind the people of this promise because it is the source of strength the Romans needed to persevere through all the hard times they had to endure. We need to hear this message too. That is why it is good to read the letter to the Romans. It can be an inspiration of faith and hope in the promise Jesus has given us. But do you understand what that promise is or even why it is so important? If we do not understand that, then the gospel message will mean nothing and we will remain in bondage and sin. Have you been freed from bondage and sin?
Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles begins with the first Church Council the Catholic Church has ever had. The Council of Jerusalem made a major pivotal decision on the issue of circumcision. Circumcision was established by God as mandatory for all Jewish men in order to partake of the covenant God offered to Abraham (Lv 12:3 &Gen 17:1-14). But in this process, the people are becoming more and more aware that they are not a sect of the Jewish faith. Peter challenges those present to put their faith in the promise of the grace of Jesus the Christ (Acts 15:7 & 11). Continue reading
In the last article starting the Acts of the Apostles, we discovered how the Apostles assumed the authority Jesus established in them. Just by a casting of Peter’s shadow, which would be considered superstitious or idolatry by denominations, is a means of God’s Grace, chosen by God. The authority of the Apostles is real and is lived and experienced by the people. It was something celebrated by the people. The hierarchy of the Church is well under way and common knowledge in its time. Continue reading
The Gospel of John does not have an account of how the birth of Jesus came about other than when it says, “And the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). The first historical context of the Gospel starts with John the Baptist. After that, John the Baptist introduces Jesus to the first disciples. Right after that, begins the second chapter and the Wedding in Cana. This is the first mention of Mary. Mary is mentioned again later in the suffering and death of Jesus.
I’ll give you some tips for looking up things in the Gospels. Remember, Mary is in only two of the Gospels, Luke and John. So, if you are looking for one of the stories where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is present, then you would look for it in either the Gospel of Luke or John. If it is a story about Mary when Jesus was a child, then it is in the Gospel of Luke. Most anything during Jesus’ adulthood that deals with Mary would be from John. John accounts Mary at the Wedding of Cana and at the suffering and death of Jesus. There are, however, parts in Matthew and Luke where the Mother of Jesus is mentioned (MT 12:47 & Lk 8:20) as waiting outside with His “brothers”. Matthew’s account, written originally in Aramaic, a Hebrew language, does not make any difference between brothers and cousins. Back then, they used the same word to describe both cousin and brother. That is why we can still believe that Mary remained a virgin.
John also gives great detail that the other Gospel accounts do not have. One example of this is in Chapter Five at the beginning. There was a pool called Bethesda “with five porticoes” (Jn 5:2). This is an odd detail for its time, and perhaps that is why John notices this. Most buildings in Jesus’ time would have four porticoes (meaning doorways). Usually a building would have one door facing each direction; one facing north, one south, and so on. But, this one has five. Many scholars believed that John got this wrong and were starting to teach that the Gospel accounts did not intend to be historically accurate, as if the Gospels were just stories of myths trying to explain a spiritual reality. But, as archeologists found a pool building with five doorways in it, near to where John described. Therefore, the sceptics and those who are considered to be the “professional scientists” were wrong in their assumption, and the believers were vindicated. The Gospel of John does in fact provide actual, historical accuracy in its details.
In the Gospel of John is also the great “Bread of Life” discourse. This is where Jesus performed the multiplication of the loaves, walked across the sea, and then taught about the Eucharist. First, He reminds the people of the Manna in the desert by the multiplication of the loaves. They even mention it in verse thirty-one of Chapter Six. The miracle of the loaves was a set-up by Jesus so He could speak about the true Bread of Life of (Himself), in the Eucharist. He goes so far as to say, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (V 53-54). Many people leave because of this teaching, but Jesus does not back down. He does not say, “wait a minute, you are misunderstanding me, I meant it as a mere symbol”. No, He really means that He is the Bread of Life and that the host is really His body and the wine is no longer wine; it is His blood. He turns to his disciples and asks if they, too, are going to leave. Notice the chilling coincidence that you note at verse 66 in Chapter Six, that those who do not believe in the Eucharist leave Jesus and no longer follow Him.
The Gospel of John is written differently. It has twenty-one chapters that are steeped in theology. John tells the story, but with a heavy emphasis on Jesus’ Divinity. John seems to go off into another world, and yet gives a lot of detail that the other gospels do not catch. This gospel is very symbolic and raises the soul to great heights without the reader really fully understanding what they read. Continue reading
The Gospel of Luke is twenty-four chapters long. Like Mark, Luke is not an Apostle, but he was taught about Jesus by the Apostles. He was known to take care of Mary, the mother of Jesus. He was a physician by trade. Many scripture scholars believe that Luke was possibly writing to people of gentile origin while he himself being in depth of Hellenistic Jewish origin. The Gospel of Luke is the first volume of his works, he also wrote the Acts of the Apostles to the same person, Theophilus. Continue reading