Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the conclusion of Paul’s “Second Epistle to the Corinthians,” as well as, the first chapter of his “Epistle to the Romans.”
The closing chapters of 2 Corinthians, beginning with chapter 10 and continuing to the final chapter, recorded Paul’s answer to his critics. Though they were members of the congregation in Corinth, they had continued in sin, and given rise to the necessity of Paul defending his apostleship and authority.
For the third time, Paul warned the brethren in Corinth, that their failure to repent would give cause for him to invoke “church discipline.” Following the guidelines of discipline Christ taught in Matthew 18:15-17, Paul warned he would call upon “two to three witnesses,” to establish his rebuke and their response (13:1-2). The old apostle promised he would exercise his full authority as an apostle of Christ (13:3-4). Before he came to Corinth, Paul urged the believers to examine and prove whether they were “in the faith” or “reprobates” (13:5).
Paul’s letter closed with three prayer requests for the Corinthian believers; that they would: 1) Not continue in sin (“do no evil,” 13:7); 2) Stand for the Truth (13:8); 3) Be strong in the Lord, and give Paul no cause to come in “sharpness,” but weak (for his desire was to edify, and build them up in the faith, 13:9-10).
Closing thoughts for 1 Corinthians 13 – Paul concluded his letter to the church in Corinth with a loving exhortation, and a benediction (13:11-14). His words and sentiments mirrored the heart of every caring spiritual shepherd: “Be perfect” (stop sinning); “Be of good comfort” (repenting of your sins); “Be of one mind” (in faith and purpose); “Live in peace” (be loving, and pursue peace with others). What was the promised reward for all who followed Paul’s exhortation? That “the God of love and peace shall be with you” (13:12).
Lastly, Paul’s benediction, also known as the “apostolic benediction,” expressed the Trinity (the three persons of the Godhead): “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God [the Father], and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”
Romans 1 – The Judgment of God
Paul opened his epistle to believers in Rome with a salutation that declared from the onset that he was the author, and his letter was addressed to saints living in Rome. He identified himself as a “a servant [slave] of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).
Lest some have a misunderstanding regarding the identity of the believers in Rome in Paul’s day, allow me to state unequivocally that they were not members of an early version of the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholicism, a blend of various elements of ancient paganism, and traditions, is a gross departure from “Sola Scriptura” (meaning the Scriptures are the supreme authority of the church and believers in all matters of faith and practice). The apostles and believers of the early church believed the Scriptures were infallible, while human authority was fallible and weak.
The epistle to believers in Rome was received by men and women whose confidence in their salvation was not predicated upon rituals and traditions, but upon the sincere, unadulterated Scriptures. The Gospel which Paul was called to preach was declared first by the “prophets in the Holy Scriptures” [the Old Testament] (1:2), and fulfilled in Jesus Christ (1:3). Romans 1 presented a familiar, pastoral affection that Paul has expressed in earlier epistles, and repeated in his letter to believers in Rome (1:7-12). Evoking an affirmation of God’s love for believers (“beloved of God, and called to be saints,” 1:7), the apostle stated his longing to visit them, whose “faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (1:8, 11).
Closing note from the author – Because I feel Romans 1 is an essential foundation to our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, I hope to follow this devotional with a second devotional thought based upon Romans 1.
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