[Bible study on Romans – post 2]
I read some more in Romans this morning, but I didn’t get very far! I actually like it when this happens.
Years ago I learned that I get the most out of my time in the Bible – and I hear from God most clearly – when I read slowly and stop the moment I think anything about a verse. Then I open up my journal and being typing my thoughts and questions as I ask God about the verse. Conversational-style prayer.
I got through Romans 1:8-12 this morning. ::smile::
Paul starts this big, long dissertation on Christian theology by praising and encouraging the Roman Christians. He also tells them how often he prays for them.
And then he says this:
I noticed that Paul spoke as if spiritual gifts were imparted from one Christian to others, and I began asking God about that.
Can one Christian give a spiritual gift to another?
Can it be done at any time, or is it subject only to God’s will?
Me…I find it impossible to believe that God gave us the ability or authority to hand out gifts whenever and however we feel like it. If that was possible…well, it only takes a quick look at the church and world to know that God has not made that possible. Therefore, God does retain control of who gets spiritual gifts and when.
So in that case, if it’s subject to God’s will, then why couldn’t God give them the gift without Paul going there?
I think the equally obvious answer is that God, being the maker and owner of His gifts, can give His gifts to whomever He wants, whenever He wants.
So why did Paul write this? Why did he not instead write that he was asking God to give them gifts?
As I asked God about this, I began to see that in this verse, Paul was not making a deep theological statement about how gifts were given. He was merely expressing a desire to see something happen–something that his past experience had taught him often happened when he met with others who believed in Jesus Christ.
Then God pointed out the next verse to me:
12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Paul was indeed referring to what happens when believers gather together! What I find interesting and amazing is that Paul, the great apostle who already had received the revelation necessary to write this book we have in our Bible, said that he too was encouraged by the faith of other Christians he met!
And herein we find a truth that Paul also refers to when he says:
When you come together, each of you(B) has a hymn,(C) or a word of instruction,(D) a revelation, a tongue(E) or an interpretation.(F) Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.(G) – 1 Corinthians 14:26
16 Let the message of Christ(A) dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom(B) through psalms,(C) hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.(D) – Colossians 3:16
If you search through the Bible, there are many verses addressing how things should be conducted when Christians come together, and the over-riding focus is that we are all to be building up one another. How sad it is that much of the “body of Christ” is doing anything but that when we gather together! (Jesus did say that “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” This has serious implications, which I will not get into now, but which the world has been pointing out for years when they look at Christians.)
Ecclesiastes 4:12 says that “if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”
I believe this is what the writer of Hebrews is referring to in this famous verse that people say “commands church attendance.”
23 Let us…consider how (AU)to stimulate one another to love and (AV)good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own (AW)assembling together, as is the habit of some, but (AX)encouraging one another; and all the more as you see (AY)the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:23-25
This is the truth that Paul knew… that when those who truly believe in Jesus Christ gather together in love, for the purpose of encouraging and building up one another, something special happens. He’d seen it happen before, and he was eager to see it happen again with the believers in Rome.
I’ve seen it happen, too. There is “going to church.” And then there is going to church and meeting with people who have the same hunger for God and love for people that you do. When we all go to church for more than just obligation…when we go both eager to receive from God but also eager to encourage those who are there…when we call or write to or meet with others to share what God has done and what God is doing…to praise Him and give Him glory and focus on Him and His goodness in our conversation, God blesses it. This kind of getting together encourages and inspires me… it quickens my spirit and fires up the hunger in my spirit for more of Him… to know the God who shows Himself to to all of us in slightly different ways and who is so great and marvelous that it will take the combined revelation of all of us to even come close to revealing all He is.
Can I encourage you… if church-going is a chore… if you’ve not found a church or group of people where you find this sort of encouragement…seek Him for guidance. I don’t pretend to know what churches or gatherings may be near you, nor will I tell you what to do or judge anything you or those in past churches you have gone to have done so far. All I know is that this is part of God’s desire for His people. If He has spent so many verses pointing out what He wants to happen when we gather together, then I believe He is capable of somehow providing this kind of fellowship for those who seek Him for the guidance on where to find it…even if it’s just two or three people in a coffee shop every week.