I am not in the habit of reading other people’s mail. I suspect you aren’t either but you may be surprised to know that if you do, you stand to be fined! Stealing and reading other people’s mail could actually land you in gaol!
Well, I felt like I was reading Paul’s personal mail when I started work on Romans 15:14-33. As we draw to the end of this great letter Paul has some personal reflections, personal news and personal greetings to pass on. But they are not without theological intent and the potential to teach us.
With this in mind, you may want to start your growth group asking the question: if you could obtain and read someone else’s mail of any secret file, what would you want to read and why?
(I’d be glad to know if aliens were real! Or to read the Queen’s mail for a day!)
While it feels personal, this passage has a lot to teach us. The passage itself can be broken into two parts
Paul’s task 15:14-22
Paul’s future 15:23:33
Some questions you may want to ponder…
1. Do you think Paul is being sarcastic in verse 14-15 or is he making a point about Christian growth (that despite fullness there is more room for growth)?
I suspect the latter is correct and it reminds us not to be lazy in our faith or to think you don’t need to keep growing!
2. How do verse 15-16 help us understand the Christian’s relationship to the OT laws and sacrifices?
I think this is a really helpful way of Paul expressing the reality that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the OT and we are acceptable to god because we trust I his sacrifice of Jesus for us. There are depths to be plunged here in terms of assurance. God in Christ has done all that is necessary for us to be accepted by him. The job is done as we trust in Christ! Paul overflows with joy becasue of this in verse 17. It has not been about Paul but about Paul preaching Jesus to those who don’t know him.
3. No doubt people will want to ask about v.19 – put simply it is a description of what happened with Paul not what will happen with our preaching of the gospel. The Spirit of God is still at work to be sure – opening blind eyes so they may see the glory of Christ and equipping the Church with gifts and fruit of service – transforming lives to be like Christ. This work is often amazing and miraculous!
In a second post I will provide a map that will help you here and perhaps through the whole passage. It is quite a visual learners nightmare without a map!
You can work your way through v.23-29 and then focus on the urgency to prayer.
4. Why does Paul call for urgency in prayer in these matters? What matters matter to you that you might call for urgent prayers? Do you pray for things that matter? What shapes your prayer life? What should shape your prayer life? What do the prayers of all of chapter 15 indicate should be the focus of our prayers and concerns?
Remember that this is not a call to not pray for the little things, it is a call to expand our prayers beyond our own concerns or navels to the big things that matter more than our own desires. You may want to explore with your group the content of your group’s prayers and how might you add other matters to your prayer life together in a disciplined and constant way – not just in response to what we heard this week?
I hope these thoughts are helpful and I look forward to hearing how your groups go this week!