Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 2 * BOOK 20
INTRODUCING ROMANS CHAPTER 1:1-5
We begin our study in the Book of Romans. When we teach we try to compare Scripture with Scripture and see what The Word really says, as well as what it doesn’t say. Never treat the Word carelessly. As you know, I take teaching The Word of God as an awesome responsibility. Whenever we handle the Word of God it’s not something that we can do flippantly, but rather it has to be done with the leading and directing of the Holy Spirit. I can honestly say that my daily prayer is, “Lord, keep me from error.” I would never certainly want to mislead anyone, and all I hope to do is to get people into The Book, and enjoying it. I’ve told my classes over and over that the Dark Ages were called the Dark Ages, whether the historians realize it or not, because The Word of God was locked up in the monasteries and the common man never had access to it. Of course, that’s what the Reformers wanted to completely change. They wanted The Word of God in the hands of everyone. This Book is for everyone in every station of society. I try to bring it to the level of young children, and yet get deep enough so people can honestly say, “My, this is so deep, I’ve never realized it before.” Hopefully that is what we are also accomplishing.
Now as an introduction to Paul’s letters, I don’t have to repeat, as you have heard me say over and over, that I think the Apostle Paul was the greatest human being that ever lived, other than Christ Himself. I think he probably even overshadows Moses, as great as he was. As I was preparing my thoughts to introduce the Book of Romans, I couldn’t help but remember what Jesus said back in His earthly ministry, and I’m going to have you turn to that. Go if you will to Matthew Chapter 11. For a long time this verse was a mystery to me, then all of a sudden I realized what Jesus was referring to, and it makes all the sense in the world. And that is true of all of Scripture. Sometimes we wonder what it’s trying to tell us, and then all of a sudden there it is.
I compare Bible study, or understanding the Scriptures, to the way I experience mathematics. I’m not a mathematical genius. When I was in algebra and those advanced courses, I had to work at it. But I found when doing some of these mathematical problems, that it was just like something I couldn’t break through. It was just like a cement wall. And then all of a sudden it opened up, and I couldn’t write fast enough, especially in geometry and trigonometry, and some of those tough courses. But once you start those formulas unfolding, they just feed the others. But until I got to that place it was just like a stone wall. Well, that’s the way that Scripture can be. We can hit a portion and wonder, “What is this trying to tell me?” I’ve told people over the years not to wrestle with it, but just let it rest for the time being, and in time The Lord will open it up. Now this is what happened with this verse that I will show you. Here we have Jesus speaking:
“Verily I say unto you, `Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist (pretty strong statement isn’t it): notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.'”
Now who could be the least in the kingdom of heaven? Let’s compare Scripture with Scripture, turn to I Corinthians Chapter 15. And as I said in the last lesson, every word that this man writes is Holy Spirit inspired. There is not a single a word, not even a simple article that was not written exactly like God wanted it. This includes the whole Bible. Now when men have gone through The Bible using numerics as they call it (putting a value on every letter as the Hebrew language did and as the Greek language did), they can prove numerically that these main themes of Scripture all fit exactly numerically. You can take out one word and it falls apart. So always remember that every word that this Apostle writes is Holy Spirit inspired. Now in this Scripture in I Corinthians Paul has made mention of the fact that Christ had been raised from the dead. This is the great Resurrection chapter, and verse 6 tells us that Christ was seen of at least 500 brethren.
I Corinthians 15:6-8
“After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present (that is, at this writing), but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James: then of all the apostles (that, of course, was before His ascension). And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”
Now here we’ve got to stop for a moment because it will be quite a while before we get to Corinthians. What did Paul mean by the statement that he was like one born out of the due time? Well, he was speaking of himself spiritually, as a mother-to-be who has lost her baby. It was a “preemie” or an aborted one, or it was a miscarriage. And that is what Paul is referring to himself as. That he had come on the scene before the due time for the Nation of Israel as a whole. He was that sampling that the Nation of Israel will one day be suddenly converted as he was on the road to Damascus. Remember that the Nation of Israel is still going to experience what Paul experienced, but he’s the sampling that came these 1900 + years ahead of it. But the Scripture we came to look at is in verse 9. Remember, who could be least in the Kingdom of Heaven? Jesus had said, “notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (John).” Now look what the Scripture says:
I Corinthians 15:9
“For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God (those Jewish believers back there in the early chapter of Acts).”Now for another verse in the Book of Ephesians, Chapter 3. Again the Apostle is making reference to himself.
“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints,…” Do you see it? Who do you think Jesus had in mind when he made that statement in Matthew 11:11? This man right here. According to the Holy Spirit we have seen Paul called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.
As one writer I read many years ago put it this way, “I am sure that when the Church is finally caught up to meet the Lord in the air, that the Apostle Paul will introduce the Bride to the Groom.” And I tend to agree with this gentleman. And remember, the first event in Heaven will be the marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church. As we study the writings of Paul which are the most neglected in Scripture today, I give that as the reason for the demise of the power of the Church. The reason our Churches are weak, filled with members, but spiritually dead, as Revelation puts it, “…they are destitute.” They say, “Look at us we’re rich, look at our huge sanctuary, look at our plant, our gym, our tennis court,” and this is exactly what Jesus said they would say in Revelation 3, speaking of the Laodicean Church. And that’s where we are at the present time. But Jesus said, “You’re poor, you’re miserable, you’re wretched, and you’re blind.” And the reason they are is because they are neglecting this Apostle. How many times my class people have said all they hear from their pulpit is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And I know that’s also Scripture, but yet you see they are not in the portion of Scripture that the Church needs today, and the Lord knew this Laodicean Church age would be that way. They are neglecting the very basis of our faith, then they wonder why every thing is falling apart spiritually.
So starting in the Book of Romans Chapter 1 verse 1, this least of the Apostles, according to his own description, has to always defend his apostleship. And no wonder, because after all he had been steeped in Judaism, he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, of the tribe of Benjamin. I think, personally, that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a Jew’s Jew, and yet he is the very one that God saw fit to save out Judaism, and commission him to be the Apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). And again, very few people see that verse, or if they do they ignore it. But it is what God has said, “That this man is the Apostle of the Gentiles.” Now granted, even Paul said that there would be other apostles that would follow him, and I’m sure he considered Barnabas and Silas apostles. And some of the other men that follow right up in that period of time between Paul and the end of that first century, were reckoned as apostles. But so far as the writing of this Book is concerned, there is only one apostle of the Gentiles, and that is the Apostle Paul. His letters, and his letters alone are written to the Church! And any good commentary will point that out. This man always addresses the believers of Grace by faith alone. So here again he begins this tremendous Epistle written to Gentiles at the very center of the Roman Empire, and he starts off by saying:
PAUL, a servant (the word servant in the Greek is a lot stronger than our word `servant.’ In the Greek it was a bondslave. And so he’s saying, “Paul a bondslave”) of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,”
I’m going to be making mention of all these things that point up the differences between Paul’s Epistles, and much of the rest of Scripture. Because, as I have pointed out over and over, remember that everything from Genesis 12 all the way up until Paul’s Epistles were directed primarily, if not exclusively, to the Jew. And especially as he was under the Law. But this man now was commissioned right away at his conversion at Damascus, when God told Ananias:
“But the Lord said unto him (Ananias) `Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles…'”
And then, of course, the Lord took Paul out into the desert, and gave him His revelations. Paul refers to them in Galatians Chapter 1, how that by revelation, God made known unto this man all these things that are now going to come from his pen that you won’t find anywhere else in this whole Bible. Paul’s pen also says that all Scripture is inspired of God. All of it from cover to cover, not just Paul’s, and it’s all profitable, it’s all good for everyone of us, as well as anyone who has lived before or after us. So Paul never lifts himself up as the only one we are to pay any attention to, but yet he brings out so many doctrines that you won’t find anywhere else in Scripture. It behooves us to spend the best part of our time then in Paul’s Epistles, and from them funnel back and forth throughout all the rest of the Scriptures.
Now let’s go back to the Book of Galatians, Chapter 1, for a moment. I’m not intending to make our study of Paul’s letters anything near a commentary. But as I was mulling this over, I see we now have been on the air from Genesis to this point in time for almost four and one-half years. And I think I could very easily spend five years on just Paul’s Epistles. It wouldn’t be any trouble at all, because there is so much in this little section of our New Testament that is so intrinsic to our daily needs and our salvation needs. Everything is in this little section of our Bible. For the most part, the average church-goer gets very little of what Paul is trying to teach. And, of course, all Paul knows is the work of the Cross. How that Christ died for our sins; He shed His Blood; He was buried, and He rose from the dead. That’s the core of everything that he is going to write about. Now to Galatians Chapter 1, where again in verse 1, he is defending his apostleship.
“PAUL an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead);” No man or group of men commissioned this apostle. See how Paul is constantly bringing in the fact that Christ died and rose from the dead?
“Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:”
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Remember the problem with the Galatians believers was they were being pressured to go back under the Law (Legalism); do this and do that, keep this and keep that. And so Paul has to hurriedly write this little Epistle to warn them, and to wake them up. “Listen, you’re not under Law, but rather under Grace!”
“Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”
Christianity, since the turn of the century, when higher criticism started in Europe, has been bombarded with perversion. Now don’t think of perversion as something way down in the gutter. Perversion is anything that has twisted the truth far enough that it’s off center, and it’s going to mislead people. And so Paul even here is recognizing that the Galatian Church is being perverted. Someone is coming in and telling them that they have to also keep the Mosaic Law. Now verse 8:
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
That is powerful language! I say this kindly, but I shudder to think of the end of someone who takes this Gospel and perverts it. If I were behind the sacred desk (pulpit), and if I had any inkling that I was misleading those hundreds or thousands of people, then I couldn’t sleep at night. Because it is an awesome responsibility when you take the very eternal destiny of people, and lead them astray. I’m going to give you an illustration and no one can put names on it, because the parties are no longer around. One time, a dear brother said, “You know, on Wednesday night, our pastor preaches and teaches almost identical to the way you do, Les. I can’t see that much difference. So one time I asked the pastor, `Why don’t you preach like this on Sunday morning?’ And the pastor replied, `I don’t dare.'” I could never ever stand in front of people and give them a bunch of warm soup, just to give them something to tickle their ears, because I’m afraid of the consequences. Yet that is what a lot of leaders are doing. They are afraid to give the people the truth; they are afraid they will lose that big giver; and they are afraid they will have some people get a little bit disgruntled. And listen, Paul said that he wasn’t afraid of anybody. He didn’t care what anybody thought about him. Oh, he loved everyone, he loved his Jews; he loved the Romans; but he wasn’t going to back down from preaching and declaring his Gospel, because he knew the consequences. Now read on:
“As we said before, so say I now again, `If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received (from Paul. Reference I Corinthian 15:1-4), let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.'”
You see when you preach or teach The Word of God, you’re not going to make everyone your best buddy. It’s just not going to happen. And for that very reason Paul went through all the trials and tribulations that he lists in II Corinthians 11:23-33. We found that he was beaten, imprisoned, starved, shipwrecked, all for the sake of the Gospel, and not only the effects of men, but the satanic powers, and don’t think for a moment that it isn’t real. And for every one of us that stand for The Word of God, we are going to feel these opposing forces. But we don’t do it to please men, we do it to please God. Now verse 11:
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (this was from the ascended Lord in glory).”
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,”
Oh, the Grace of God which is past our understanding, and it was past Paul’s understanding. Why should he, as he called himself the least of all, be made the greatest? Well, Paul will be the first to tell us: “The Grace of God.” Now verse 16:
“To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen (Gentiles); immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.”
Now we covered all that previously. But what Paul is emphasizing, the natural, the normal human thing to have done after having that tremendous experience on the road to Damascus, was to scoot right back down to Jerusalem, look up Peter and the eleven, and say, “Now look fellows, fill me in. You were with the Lord for three years, you knew Him from start to finish, tell me everything, because I’m supposed to preach to the Gentiles.” But he makes a point of it. He didn’t! Why not? Well, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: God wanted to distance Paul from the Twelve. He could have nothing to do with them under this new economy of Grace, because they were steeped in Judaism and the Law.
Someone said to me that if I felt Paul was three years out in the Arabian desert (and I do), why so long? Well, it took a year and one-half in prison in Caesarea, I think, to put together all the doctrines that came out from his prison Epistles, and I told my class, very lightly, that it probably took The Lord two and one-half years to get Judaism out of his system. Now that took some doing. I’ve even had people that came to my classes say, “I had to get rid of all that other stuff that I had been hearing since I was little.” And we do. We have to start with a fresh slate. And that’s what Paul had to do. He had to put all that background in Judaism and legalism, all aside, so that he could be totally the preacher of God’s Grace. And remember, Grace is unmerited favor.
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