This month we are going to work our way through Paul’s Letter to the Romans, in an attempt to grasp some of its most important themes.
Wednesday 1st November
Paul begins with a few words of greeting to these Roman Christians (verses 1-7) and a general introduction (verses 8-15) before stating the theme of the letter in verses 16-17. It is this last verse which is a kind of text upon which the next eight chapters are based. Notice particularly in these verses the words, ‘righteousness’; ‘salvation’ and ‘faith’. These are the key themes. What Paul is saying is this: the only kind of righteousness which is acceptable in the eyes of God is that which comes from faith. Or, to put it another way, we are saved by faith.
Pray for Andrew and June McGowan as they fly to the Netherlands today to spend five weeks of Andrew’s Study Leave in the Theological University of Kampen.
Thursday 2nd November
Having established the principle of faith, Paul now has to make it clear that there is no other way for a person to be accepted before God. In other words, he has to show that keeping the law or doing one’s best is simply not enough. He begins in these verses by considering the position of the Gentiles (non-Jews). In verses 18-19 he says that everyone knows there is a God and if people deny it then this is because they are ‘suppressing’ the truth. In fact, even although the Gentiles knew God in their hearts, they lived wicked lives and so brought judgement upon themselves. The Gentiles could not be saved by their own achievements or obedience because they were sinners.
Pray for Fraser Turner as he looks after any urgent pastoral needs during the Minister’s Study Leave.
Friday 3rd November
From the first verse of chapter 2 until the twentieth verse of chapter 3 Paul turns his attention to the Jews. You can imagine a Jew reading what Paul says to the Gentiles in 1:18-32 and agreeing with Paul’s view but, all the while, believing that the Jews are different, a special case. After all, they had the Law, the Prophets and the Temple. They were God’s people. Imagine their surprise when Paul makes it clear that the Jews are no better than the Gentiles. The main theme of these verses is the justice of God (note particularly verse 11). The point is well made. In this matter of faith there are no exceptions, no special cases.
Pray for Ross and Irene Macaskill and family. Ask God’s blessing on their work and ministry.
Saturday 4th November
Paul here presses the point home. The fact that someone was a Jew guaranteed nothing. Faith, not blood descent from Abraham is what brings salvation. We might say that the same is true today: being a member of the Church guarantees nothing. What matters, says Paul, is that our hearts are right with God. What Paul writes about circumcision in verses 25-29 is equally true of baptism. The actual sacrament is meaningless unless the Spirit works in the life of the baptised person. When he adds ‘a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly’ we can substitute the word ‘Christian’ for ‘Jew’.
Pray for the Scottish Bible Society and for its Chief Executive, Elaine Duncan. Pray that God would prosper and advance their work.
Sunday 5th November
In this section Paul answers some objections. The Jews are saying ‘What advantage is there in being a Jew?’ Paul notes that there are many advantages, particularly the fact that they have the Scriptures and therefore know the truth about God. At the same time, however, Paul insists that when it comes to justification (being pardoned and accepted by God) the Jew has no ultimate advantage. Like the Gentiles, the Jews must come to God in faith and repentance. Obedience to the law, while a good thing, does not bring salvation. Paul confirms this doctrine with a number of verses from the Old Testament and then presents his conclusion in verse 20: no-one will be justified by obeying the law (either written or unwritten) because what the law does is to make us aware of our sin and our need of God’s grace.
Pray for Hector Morrison, taking the morning and evening services today and for Ian Challinor taking the Raigmore service.
Monday 6th November
In the first part of this letter, Paul has demonstrated that salvation by obedience to the law (the Jews) or through good personal conduct (the Gentiles) is impossible. He has shown that both Jews and Gentiles are unable to receive salvation by their own efforts and so has declared all humanity to be sinners. Having reached that judgement, Paul now begins to explain that there is a way of salvation offered in the Gospel. A man or a woman can be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Have we been trying to earn our salvation? Or have we been trying to get to heaven by another route? There is no other way, to find salvation and eternal life, we must simply have faith in Jesus.
Pray for the Office Bearers of the congregation, including Donald MacVicar, George Campbell, Marlene MacRae, Duncan Fraser and Calum Campbell.
Tuesday 7th November
Paul now turns his attention to an objection to his teaching. He can imagine a Jew saying, ‘What about Abraham then?’ as if to suggest that Abraham was saved by works not faith. This is an important point because Abraham was the father of the nation, the one called by God in Genesis 12, the one through whom God brought into existence his chosen people. If Abraham was saved by works, then Paul’s whole argument will be discredited in the eyes of the Jews. This whole chapter is given over to answering the objection. Paul’s conclusion is that it was Abraham’s faith, his believing, which brought him into a right relationship with God. Abraham received the free gift of God’s grace and salvation by faith. This is the same conclusion to which the writer of Hebrews came concerning Abraham (11:8-12; 17-19).
Pray for the outreach of the congregation in the Raigmore estate and for all those involved in the different aspects of the work.
Wednesday 8th November
In chapters 1-4, Paul has demonstrated that all human beings need salvation and he has spelled out the Gospel way of salvation (by faith in Jesus Christ). He has also shown that this agrees with the Old Testament teaching on the subject. Now he begins to demonstrate the benefits of this salvation. First, he speaks about peace with God. Human beings are separated from God because of sin and stand under his wrath and judgement. When by faith we receive God’s gift of salvation, we are then at peace with God. The second benefit of salvation is access to God. This means that we can come to God without hindrance. The third benefit is hope, the hope of eternal life and seeing the full glory of God. Spend some time thinking about verse 8.
Remember in prayer those in the congregation who are sick at home or in hospital.
Thursday 9th November
These verses are crucial for our understanding of Christianity. The Bible has two key figures, Adam and Christ. Sin and death came into the world through the disobedience of Adam. Life and salvation came through the obedience of Jesus. Adam is the ‘head’ of all who are in sin and Christ is the ‘head’ of all who are in grace. Paul also deals with this subject in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 45-49. Taken together, these two passages of Scripture teach us that all human beings are either ‘in Adam’ or ‘in Christ’. This passage is pivotal in understanding the whole Bible, Old and New Testament. If we do not grasp the significance of these verses, then much of the New Testament will not make sense to us.
Pray for Ian Challinor as he gives the message at the Senior Citizens’ lunch in Raigmore today.
Friday 10th November
The first verse of chapter 6 is the ‘natural’ reaction to Paul’s teaching. If God, by his grace, forgives all of our sin and if grace increases to cover sin (5:20) then why not go on sinning? A sinner might well think that this is a perfect situation: God likes to forgive and I like to sin! This foolish and dangerous attitude does not take account of one important fact: if we have become believers, we have died to sin and have been spiritually united to Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin but are the servants of God. If God forgave our sins but did not change us (regeneration) then the question of verse 1 might be valid but he does change us. We become new creatures and sin does not fit with our new nature.
Pray for Bob Matheson and his Open Doors’ team and pray that God will bring in people who will be interested to know the Gospel.
Saturday 11th November
Having shown that our ‘union with Christ’ is the basis for a life of holiness not sin, Paul confirms this with an illustration from the slave market. A slave must obey his master but when the slave dies that obligation is broken – a corpse will not obey instructions! In the same way, says Paul, we have ‘died’ to our old master, sin, and must obey no longer. The key word now for Christian is ‘holiness’. It could be said that the whole point of Christianity is to make people holy, as we see from the last two verses of our passage: ‘But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in b Christ Jesus our Lord’.
Pray for Ross Macdonald and Kimberley Johnson who are to be married today.
Sunday 12th November
In chapter 6, Paul has explained that the believer is free from sin, now he shows that the believer is free from the law. These verses are quite complicated and must be read carefully. Paul partly changes his illustration half-way through. What he is saying, however, is this: we are no longer bound simply to obey a written law, instead, the Spirit of God working in our hearts will produce exactly what the law should have produced! Paul is not saying that the law was a bad thing as he now makes clear (verses 7-12). He is saying that a good thing (the law) did not have a good effect because of our sin. This is explained by an illustration from his own experience, and one with which we can all identify. Paul found himself doing the very things he didn’t want to do. In each Christian there is the ‘old self’ struggling to regain control, and we must fight it.
Pray for Fraser Turner today as he takes the morning and evening services on this Remembrance Sunday. Pray too for Bill Flett taking the Raigmore service and for Rev. D.A. Maclennan taking the Gaelic service.
Monday 13th November
In chapter 6, Paul demonstrated our freedom from sin. In chapter 7, he demonstrated our freedom from the law. Now, in chapter 8, he demonstrates our freedom from death. We shall have eternal life because we are no longer ‘in Adam’ but rather we are ‘in Christ’. It is also in these verse that Paul begins to speak extensively about the Holy Spirit. We should take careful note of the number of references to the ‘Spirit’ in these verses. It is because the Holy Spirit is now living within us that we have both life and hope. Take time to consider carefully all that the Holy Spirit accomplishes in the life of the believer.
Pray for the Middle East Reformed Fellowship and for their work in a difficult area for Christian evangelism. Pray for wisdom.
Tuesday 14th November
In verse 18, Paul expresses the certainty of the believer’s hope. Despite the sufferings of the present (more particularly the sufferings of the Church in Paul’s day) there is a glorious future ahead. It is the hope of glory which keeps us going as Christians when everything else looks hopeless and the situation in our world seems daily more insecure. Notice verse 23: ‘Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’. As Christians we do not believe simply in the survival of the soul after death. We look forward to the day when our bodies will be resurrected and reunited with our souls.
Pray for the Elders of the congregation in their work of pastoral care and oversight. Pray that they might be encouraged in the work.
Wednesday 15th November
These verses constitute the finest statement of the ‘assurance’ of the Christian, and for that reason are often read at the funeral service. The two most significant verses are verse 28 and 37. All things work out for the best in a believer’s life whatever we night think at the time, and ultimately will be victorious. We should take great comfort from the teaching that nothing can ever separate the believer from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. If we belong to him, then we are safe through all eternity. No-one can remove us from God’s hand, from his gracious loving care.
Pray for Scott and Heather McRoberts and their family. Continue to pray for Scott’s work in St Columba New Charge and pray for Heather’s health.
Thursday 16th November
Paul now turns his attention to Israel and to God’s choice of Israel as his own people. These verses are sometimes hard to understand because they are dealing with a mystery: how can God choose some and not others? We are told that Abraham’s son Isaac was chosen (not Ishmael) and his son Jacob was chosen (not Esau). If this seems unjust or unfair then read verses 14-24, where Paul deals with this very issue. This is a mystery but we must accept these verses as God’s word. The teaching of verse 18 is quite clear: ‘Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden’.
Pray for Jack Macdonald, working as Pastoral Assistant at Palmerston Place in Edinburgh.
Friday 17th November
Paul supports what he has said about God’s election by quoting various passages of Scripture (verses 25-29) and then explains that Israel’s downfall came because the Jews tried to get ‘righteousness’ by works and neglected faith. For this reason, Jesus was a stumbling-block to them (see 1 Corinthians 1:23). They could find no place in their thinking for Jesus because they didn’t really believe that they needed salvation; they thought they had it already just because they were Jews. This was a regular problem when Jesus engaged the scribes and the Pharisees, who appeared to believe that simply by being a Jew, descended from Abraham, they were in a right relationship with God.
Pray for the Church of Scotland and for all its Councils and Committees. Pray that God will guide the Church by his Holy Spirit and will bring reformation and renewal.
Saturday 18th November
Paul had a deep love in his heart for the Jews, who were, after all, his own people. He expresses that deep love and concern in verse 1 and testifies in verse 2 to their zeal for God. Nevertheless he is obliged to point out that it is misplaced zeal. Enthusiasm and zeal are useless unless channelled in the right direction and based on truth. In verses 9-10 we have a fine summary of the Gospel: ‘if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord ,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved’.
Pray for the Deacons of the congregation, for the door duty teams and for all who work behind the scenes ensuring the smooth running of the church.
Sunday 19th November
As Paul has explained, many of the Jews failed to find salvation, either because they thought they didn’t need it or because they tried to obtain it in the wrong way. Despite this, some Jews (like Paul himself) did find salvation. Who are these Jews? As Paul says in verse 7, they are the ‘elect’. The ‘elect’ consists of all those who will ultimately be in heaven. All those, in other words, who have been saved by God’s grace through faith. This teaching is summed up in verses 5-6: ‘So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace’ We are back once again to the mystery of God’s choice of some and ‘hardening’ of others. This is beyond our understanding but grace is the key word in these verses.
Pray for Bart Buell as he takes the morning and evening services today and for Alex Stephen as he takes the Raigmore service.
Monday 20th November
Paul now raises another question: Why did God send the Gospel to the Gentiles in the first place? This is a question in which we have a close interest because we are Gentiles. This passage gives a surprising answer: to make the Jews jealous! This is not very flattering to we Gentiles but it emphasises God’s covenant love for his chosen people and his desire to see them saved. The situation of Jew and Gentile is thus intimately connected. The illustration is of a tree with branches being grafted on. We Gentiles are only grafted on to the vine. In this way Paul calls on the Gentiles to be conscious of their true status and to recognise the place of the Jews in God’s plan.
Pray for Sheila Murray and for her work in the church office. Pray that God would give her pleasure and satisfaction in her work and that she would be encouraged.
Tuesday 21st November
This is probably the single most important unfulfilled prophesy in the whole Bible. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us that one day Israel will be saved. Notice verses 25-26: ‘I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved’. Notice the salvation of Israel will take place after the ‘full number’ of the Gentiles have ‘come in’. What joy there will be on that day. Many believe that it will herald a great revival immediately before the coming of Christ. Pray for that to come soon.
Pray for Jim Fraser, our organist and for the Music Group. Play too for those who serve on the multimedia team.
Wednesday 22nd November
In contrast to what has gone before, chapters 12-15 are extremely practical. This does not mean that the ‘doctrine’ is completed and now we move on! On the contrary this practical teaching is a direct result of the doctrine. In these chapters we are told how the ‘justified’, believer ought to live. In a day when there is constant pressure upon us to conform to an increasingly secular world, Ee should take particular note of verse 2: ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will’. We should also underline what Paul says here about the Church being a body with many people and many gifts.
Pray for all the churches in the world which are growing, including the Presbyterian Church of Brazil and the Churches in South Korea.
Thursday 23rd November
This passage teaches us that the way of the Christian is the way of love. This teaching is found throughout the New Testament. Jesus told his disciples to love one another. Indeed, he told them that their love for one another would be the sign that marked them out as true disciples (John 13:34-35). In that same chapter he showed his love for them by washing their feet. Jesus also told them to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). We could also turn to Paul’s great chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13. Or we might consider the connection between God’s love and our love in 1 John 3:11-20 and 4:7-21. In this passage of Romans we have clear guidelines for everyday living. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest…
Pray for the Sunday School, the Ark Sunday Club and the Girls’ Brigade. Pray that our children would grow up to love and serve the Lord.
Friday 24th November
It is a Christian duty to be obedient to government. It is also a Christian duty (verse 7) to pay taxes. The reason Paul gives for these instructions is very interesting: ‘The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves’. This does not take away from our rights as citizens to vote to change a government but it rules out rebellion and subversive action. The only occasion in the New Testament where the disciples did not obey the authorities was when they were told to stop speaking publicly about Jesus (Acts 5). Are we obedient to the governing authorities? Do we pay tax on our total earnings?
Pray for the Guild ‘Big Sing’ taking place in our church today. May a joyful sound of praise be offered before the Lord.
Saturday 25th November
The ten commandments can be broken into two parts, said Jesus: love God and love your neighbour. Here Paul tells us to love our neighbour. We are to reach out to those in need in the name of Christ and care for them. It is a mark of Christian discipleship that we should love our neighbours. Over against all the evil things we should not do, Paul says, ‘Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature’. What does it mean to ‘clothe’ ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ? John Murray writes, ‘To put on Christ is to be identified with him not only in his death but also in his resurrection.’ See also Galatians 3:27.
This is the Church of Scotland’s National Day of Prayer. Take time to pray with others. Check the Bulletin for details.
Sunday 26th November
The theme of this chapter is Christian freedom and concern for the weaker brother (or sister). There are some practical matters about which Christians may legitimately disagree. Each is to be guided by conscience and we are not to impose our views on others. Love for one another means recognising that some issues are a matter of conscience not legislation. Nevertheless, our freedom ought to be curtailed by our concern for others. Even if we believe that something is all right for us to do, we should refrain from doing it if it will badly affect a brother or sister in Christ. The picture being painted here is the church as a loving company of brothers and sisters who always put the needs of others before their own.
Pray for Douglas Horne as he takes the morning and evening services today and for Donald MacVicar as he takes the Raigmore service.
Monday 27th November
The theme of chapter 14 is continued here: although we are free in Christ we must not abuse that freedom but must live for God and for others. Paul gives the example of Christ to support this. Each of us ought to examine ourselves: do we live simply to please ourselves or do we live as a real community of faith? Above all, Paul is concerned with the unity of the church, as we see in verses 5-6: ‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Is that a picture of our church?
Pray for Fraser and Dawn Jackson as they finalise plans for their move to South Africa.
Tuesday 28th November
As he nears the end of his letter Paul defends his reasons for writing. His only concern was the spiritual welfare and sanctification of these Christians in Rome. This passage gives us an insight into the life and ministry of Paul, a man utterly dedicated to the salvation of the Gentiles. Listen to what he says concerning his work: ‘So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation’. Do we share Paul’s desire for the salvation of unbelievers? Do we recognise that this desire for the salvation of sinners is one of the main functions of the Church?
Remember in prayer our young people who have left Inverness for study or work. Pray that God would watch over them and that they would be faithful to Christ.
Wednesday 29th November
In his description of his travel plans and his expression of anticipation concerning a visit to Rome, there are two points of significant interest in these verses. First, the help being given to poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Paul is often found arranging collections for God’s people who were in need. His commitment to evangelism did not lead him to neglect his responsibility to care for the poor and those in need. In the life of the church these concerns should stand side by side. Second, we see Paul’s teaching on the importance of prayer in verse 30. Paul tells the Romans that the way for them to help in the struggle was by prayer. Prayer is a real power in the hands of God.
Pray for the city of Inverness and for the many thousands who do not know Christ. Pray that God would sent his Holy Spirit in reviving power.
Thursday 30th November
Paul finishes his letter by greeting many of his friends and fellow-Christians, but even here there is a serious issue raised. In verses 17-19 he tells them to beware of false teaching and a divisive spirit. Given that these issues remain important today, take time to meditate on these verses: ‘I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil’.
Pray for the Deacons’ Court tonight and for Donald MacVicar as he chairs the meeting