Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Romans Bible Study #1 - Introduction (Video and Lesson Notes)

To go to Lesson #2, click here...
To watch entire series on YouTube, click here...

Notes From Lesson #1...

Just suppose you go to your mail box (remember those?) and find a letter in it (remember those?). Before you read the letter or even before you open the envelope, you will almost certainly do something...almost instinctively...what is it? You will find out who sent the letter...the author...and who it is sent to...the recipient. If you don’t know who sent the letter and it is not addressed to you or to someone you know...perhaps a member of your probably won’t bother to read it, will you? However, if you know the person who wrote the letter quite well, you will most likely read it. If it is someone quite close to you you will probably read it with great interest.

Tonight, before we open this letter...We want to look on the outside of the envelope, so to speak. We want to see who its from...and find out something about the letter’s author. And, then, we want to see who it is addressed to…

First of all, who is this letter from? The apostle Paul. What can you tell me about him? Who is he?

Paul was born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia (modern-day Turkey), in the southwest corner of Asia Minor. Tarsus was a thoroughly Gentile city, but with a substantial Jewish population. He was probably born about AD 1, so he was about the same age as Jesus. Paul’s father was most likely a skilled tentmaker. The black tents of Tarsus were used by caravans, nomads and armies all over Asia Minor and Syria. We unfortunately know nothing about Paul’s mother. Paul’s father must have been a wealthy man, because he held the title “civis Romanus” or citizen of Rome. Whether his father received this from his father, or whether Paul’s father purchased this distinction, it made him a man of distinction and hereditary privileges, which each member of the family could claim wherever he traveled through the Roman empire.

He had two names. One Greek and one Hebrew. His Greek name was Paullus (or Paul for short). On the eighth day after he was born at his circumcision he was given a Hebrew name. What was it? Saul. It was chosen for him for it’s meaning (“asked for”) or in honor of the most famous member of his tribe. King Saul, the Benjaminite.

We also know that Paul’s family were very religious Jews, and from the strictest Jewish sect. Anybody know what sect that was? Pharisees. He would later call himself a Pharisee of the Pharisee. So, of the strictest sect, he was among the strictest.

"Paul’s parents were Pharisees, members of the party most fervent in Jewish nationalism and strict in obedience to the Law of Moses. They sought to guard their offspring against contamination. Friendships with Gentile children were discouraged. Greek ideas were despised. Though Paul from infancy could speak Greek, the lingua franca, and had a working knowledge of Latin, his family at home spoke Aramaic, a derivative of Hebrew, the language of Judea."

They looked to Jerusalem as Islam looks to Mecca. Their privileges as freemen of Tarsus and Roman citizens were nothign to the high honor of being Israelites, the people of promise, to whom alone the living God had revealed His glory and His plans.” Pollard

By his thirteenth birthday Paul had mastered Jewish history, the poetry of the psalms, and the majestic literature of the prophets….He was ready for higher education. Tarsus had its own university... But a strict Pharisee would not embroil his son in pagan moral philosophy. (Such studies would have to come later.) So, probably in the year that Augustus died, AD 14, the adolescent Paul was sent by sea to Palestine and climbed the hills to Jerusalem. During the next five or six years, he sat at the feet of Gamaliel, grandson of Hillel, the supreme teacher who a few years earlier had died at the age of more than a hundred. Under the fragile, gentle Gamaliel...Paul learned to dissect a text until scores of possible meanings were disclosed according to the considered opinion of generations of rabbis. These had obscured the original sense by layers of tradition to protect an Israelite from the least possible infringement of the Law and, illogically, to help him avoid its inconveniences. Paul learned to debate in the question-and-answer style known to the ancient world as the diatribe, and to expound, for a rabbi was not only part preacher but also part lawyer, ready to prosecute or defend those accused of breaking the sacred Law.

Paul outstripped his contemporaries. He had a powerful mind, which could have led to a seat on the Sanhedrin in the Hall of Polished Stones and made him a “ruler of the Jews.”...Before Paul could hope to be a master in Israel, he had to master a trade, for every Jew was bred to a trade, and in theory no rabbi took fees but rather supported himself. Paul therefore left Jerusalem in his early twenties. Had he been there during the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, he would surely mention having argued against Him like other Pharisees did; in later years he spoke often of the death of Jesus by crucifixion but never as an eyewitness. Paul probably returned to Tarsus to work in the family tentmaking business and resumed the old routine:

Paul, then known as Saul, is believed to have been short, though he held himself well enough to stand out in a crowd. His face was rather oval with beetling eyebrows and fleshy from good living. He had a black beard, since Jews scorned the Roman taste for shaving, and his blue-fringed robe and the amulet strapped to a turban-like headdress displayed his pride in being a Pharisee. As he strode about the temple courts, he wore the arrogance of a man whose ancestors and actions made him feel important. He carried out the unending cycle of ritual cleansings of platters and cups as well as his own person. He kept the weekly fasts—between sunrise and sunset—and said the daily prayers in exact progression and number. He knew what was due to him: respectful greetings, high precedence, a prominent seat in the synagogue.

Story of Paul’s conversion
Acts 6:8-15;7:54-60; 8:1-3; 9:1-18

Approx. 20-22 years after his conversion, Paul wrote his letter to the Romans...his magnum opus. By this time, Paul has suffered many things. He had spent three years in the wilderness of Arabia shortly after his conversion, learning directly from Jesus many of the things he would share in the ensueing years. He would later go to Jerusalem and speak with Peter, learning directly from one of the original disciples of Jesus about the life of Christ. He would travel through the ancient world preaching the gospel, first with Barnabas, later with Silas. He would be instrumental in founding many churches, bringing thousands to Christ. In his second letter to the Corinthians, probably written right before he wrote to the Romans, he would give us a glimpse of what he had suffered in the twenty years since his conversion.

Read 2 Cor. 11:24-28

In AD 57, most likely while he was at Corinth, he began to write a letter to a church he had not founded, located in a city he had never been in. Yet, he knew well many of the Christians in Rome. About 12 years before, Emperor Claudius had expelled all the Jews in Rome. Most probably he had expelled all the Christians as well, as Rome looked at Christianity as a sect of Judaism at the time. Because of this, many of these expelled Christians fled to cities where they would encounter Paul and other Christians. Two of these Roman Christians were Aquilla and Priscilla. When Claudius died five years later, the edict was repealed and many of these Christians, including Aquilla and Priscilla, would return to Rome.

“Rome had an estimated population of one million residents; of these, many were slaves and many others were noncitizen immigrants from the provinces, including an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 Jewish residents. Most people lived in multistory apartment buildings. Wealthier residents and businesses occupied the ground floor, which often had access to running water, but most tenants lived in the flimsier and tinier higher stories. Most of the earliest members of the Roman church, both Jewish and Gentile, were predominantly Greek-speaking; many had immigrated from further east.

Chapter 16 suggests that there were at least five house churches in Rome, maybe many more. The believers in Rome were predominantly Gentile. However, Jews must have constituted a substantial minority of the congregation.

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