Study Guide

Epistle to the Romans Humility

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Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (NRSV 1:28-31)

Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful. (KJV 1:28-31)

Being boastful is in there somewhere. Did you spot it? Does this mean that Paul thinks being haughty and bragging a lot is just as bad as murder and God-hating?

But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? (NRSV 2:17-21)

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? (KJV 2:17-21)

This one goes out to the know-it-alls out there. Paul is accusing this religious person of boasting about their superior relationship with God but also failing to see the ways he falls short. Take that, religious hypocrites.

You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? (NRSV 2:23)

Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? (KJV 2:23)

Again, Paul hits the religious hypocrites hard. These guys talk up their obedience to the law, but don't realize that they're not really following the law because they're not following Christ. Check and mate.

[God] did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. (NRSV 3:25-27)

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. (KJV 3:25-27)

Okay, so according to Paul, God has done some pretty great things for us, but that doesn't mean we should get a big head. After all, it's not like we actually did something to deserve God's goodness. He's just that nice of a guy. It doesn't make sense for Christians to gloat about their salvation. It's just tacky.

If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. (NRSV 4:2-5)

If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (KJV 4:2-5)

Paul uses the story of Abraham to demonstrate how humble we should be. If you remember way back to Genesis, Abraham didn't do anything to earn God's favor. He just believed in what God told him and God liked him for it.

We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (NRSV 5:2-4)

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope. (KJV 5:2-4)

So there are some things it's okay to brag about? Christians shouldn't go on and on about how great they are, but it is totally fine to boast about bad things like all the suffering they're doing for Christ. Sounds like a lot of fun.

For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (NRVS 5:10-11)

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (KJV 5:10-11)

And, of course, Christians can brag about what God has done for the world. After all, according to Paul (and the whole New Testament), Jesus's death made us right with God. That deserves some kudos.

If some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. You will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. (NRSV 11:17-20)

If some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear. (KJV 11:17-20)

This one is for the Gentile-Christians. They're feeling mighty superior when it comes to the Jews who don't believe in Christ. But if they think they're better, Paul has a reminder for them. Those roots you're standing on right now? Yeah, those are Jewish roots, little branch. So who's feeling high and mighty now?

I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (NRSV 12:3)

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (KJV 11:3)

Sound advice from Paul. Let's keep those egos in check, everyone.

In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. (NRSV 15:17-19)

I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (KJV 15:17-19)

Paul isn't boasting here. Not at all! He's just talking about all the things Jesus has done through him. That's not bragging. It's just giving credit where credit is due… right?

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