by Grace Hunter
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:9-16 NIV
Paul the Apostle wrote the book of Romans as a letter to the church in Rome in 57 AD. He was nearing the end of his third missionary journey and most likely he wrote this letter while in Corinth. Paul planned to visit Rome on his way to Spain, after he personally delivered the collection gathered from many churches for the poverty-stricken church in Jerusalem. He greatly desired to visit the Roman church, but he had not been there yet when he wrote Romans.
The church in Rome was predominantly Gentile but had a Jewish minority as well. The major theme of the letter to the Romans is the presentation of the gospel and God’s plan of righteousness for the world. Romans contains the clearest and most complete presentation of the gospel, perhaps because Paul had not yet visited Rome, nor had another Apostle taught the church in Rome directly.
- that all people are unrighteous;
- that we receive justification through Christ;
- the process of our sanctification,
- the role of Israel, and
- how we are to be righteous in the world.
Chapter 12 of Romans describes and instructs us on how we are to love one another in the body of Christ, His church. He begins Chapter 12 with:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 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,” Romans 12:1-2 NIV.
He then teaches on Spiritual gifts. Then chapter 13 instructs us on how we as Christians are to practice righteousness in the world around us, including interacting with governmental authority. Chapter 14 and 15 teach us how to interact with both mature and immature Christians.
Paul’s list of characteristics of how Christians should display God’s love and ways sacrificially (in giving of ourselves to others), precedes Paul’s instruction on how we are to interact with the world at large.
It’s always important to keep in mind the reason a particular book in the Bible was written, to whom it was written, by whom it was written, as well as the time and place it was written. Having an outline of the book as a whole is helpful in understanding a particular passage. For example, Romans is organized more like a theological essay than a personal letter. As you read over Romans 12:9-16, think about all that Paul is instructing the Roman Christians to live out in their spiritual lives. Think about how the Holy Spirit is speaking to you through this section of Romans.
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From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 4:17 NIV
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. Matthew 4:23-5:2 NIV
Why did Jesus sit on a mountainside to teach his disciples and the crowds? Mountains or hills were often places where God chose to reveal himself to the people of Israel. From Exodus 19:20 we learn that:
The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up.
God met and talked with Moses on Mt. Sinai, several times. Elijah asked for and God revealed His power on the top of Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18:16-46). Abraham was told to sacrifice his one and only son on Mt. Moriah, which later became the site chosen for Solomon’s temple (Genesis 22, II Chronicles 3:1-2).
…Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Matthew 17:1-2 NIV
Mountains will also be important in the last days as Micah told us.
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Micah 4:1-2 NIV
There is another interesting narrative in Joshua 8:30-35 that relates to the people of Israel and Joshua, declaring the blessings and curses that God will give to His people. Deuteronomy 27–28 describes what these exact blessings and curses are.
Why was Jesus seated to teach his disciples? Because this was the custom of the time for teaching.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:14-21 NIV (Emphasis added.)
Jesus seated on a mountain proclaiming God’s Kingdom is a powerful image that surely invoked memories of previous revelations of God, His power and of the Lord’s previous blessings. This week look at one or more of these other mountain top experiences and pray the Lord’s prayer remembering the many ways God has previously spoken to people and revealed Himself from the mountain top.
“`Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:9-14 NIV
Who did Jesus speak to in the Sermon on the Mount? Why does he bring this crowd together? What can we infer that he applies to us today?
Normally, when I think of a crowd, I think of an impersonal mass of people. In this case however, I believe Jesus has something completely different in mind that he delivers to a crowd for a very intentional purpose.
Matthew records that Jesus taught both this crowd of people and his disciples. Looking back at Matthew 4:18-25, describes the people following Jesus in more detail. Who are these people? How might they have received Jesus’ words?
- People came from all over Galilee. (4:23)
- Jesus taught in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom. (4:23)
- They were people in the synagogues that he healed from diseases and sicknesses. (4:23)
- They came from Syria. (4:24)
- People brought “all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.” (4:24)
- Large crowds came from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and the region across the Jordan. (4:25)
The answer seems to be that it was likely that Jesus could have spoken to everyone in the region: people from all the cultures, religions, and geographical locations. Matthew indicates that Jesus was drawing people from Greek, Roman, Syrian, and Jewish areas, people in the synagogues and people outside, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the ruling Romans, the conquered Judeans, people who had never met Jesus and his chosen disciples.
Given this description, it’s clear that the sermon on the mount is for everyone, religious and non religious, healthy and sick, rich and poor, from every area and every culture, those who already follow Jesus and those who are curious. There is no inner group in this crowd — all come equally at the feet of Jesus to learn from him.
What is the purpose of speaking to this vast and diverse crowd? To me, it shows that learning what Jesus has to teach us is not like scaling a ladder in a hierarchy of achievement, or becoming the star student. There is something for everyone in the sermon on the mount, but no one can master it entirely. I believe Jesus brought together this crowd to remind people of their shared humanity. He shows us that he doesn’t fixate on exclusionary, gated communities or walled off nations; he comes for all of us, and we all have something to learn. His disciples and those he healed did not become object lessons or stand out characters — everyone mingled together. Jesus is the center who brings everyone together in himself.The purpose of the sermon on the mount is for healing, both physically and spiritually.
How does seeing yourself as part of the diverse crowd that Jesus speaks to affect the way you enter this series?
For today’s exercise, meditate on the section of his Sermon on the Mount known as The Lord’s Prayer:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:9-15 ESV