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Romans 13-16 The Voice (VOICE)

13 It is important that all of us submit to the authorities who have charge over us because God establishes all authority in heaven and on the earth. Therefore, a person who rebels against authority rebels against the order He established, and people like that can expect to face certain judgment. You see, if you do the right thing, you have nothing to be worried about from the rulers; but if you do what you know is wrong, the rulers will make sure you pay a price. Would you not rather live with a clear conscience than always have to be looking over your shoulder? Then keep doing what you know to be good and right, and they will publicly honor you.

Look at it this way: The ruler is a servant of God called to serve and benefit you. But he is also a servant of God executing wrath upon those who practice evil. If you do what is wrong, then you’d better be afraid because he wields the power of the sword and doesn’t make empty threats.

At the time, Christians are a tiny minority within Judaism, a minor religion in the largest empire the world has ever seen. Minorities are often the subjects of rumors, suspicions, and innuendos. Christians don’t need to add to the problem by developing a reputation as lawbreakers and rebels. So Kingdom citizens are not to dodge taxes or cheat on fees imposed by legitimate governing authorities. They are to show the proper respect for officials in power. Ultimately those who follow the truth of the gospel under the banner of the Anointed One may find themselves at odds with the powers that be. But Paul’s counsel here is not a blanket approval of any and every government that may arise in a broken world.

So submission is not optional; it’s required. But don’t just submit for the sake of avoiding punishment; submit and abide by the laws because your conscience leads you to do the right thing. Pay your taxes for the same reason because the authorities are servants of God, giving their full attention to take care of these things. Pay all of them what you owe. If you owe taxes, then pay. If you owe fees, then pay. In the same way, give honor and respect to those who deserve it.

Don’t owe anyone anything, with the exception of love to one another—that is a debt which never ends—because the person who loves others has fulfilled the law. The commands given to you in the Scriptures—do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not take what is not yours, do not covet[a]—and any other command you have heard are summarized in God’s instruction: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Does love hurt anyone? Absolutely not. In fact, love achieves everything the law requires.

Believers are not to have any obligation of any kind. Borrowed money and granted favors always come with strings attached. How many lives and families have been ruined by debts and deals made in haste! There is only one obligation Paul allows, and that is love. When we share God’s care and compassion with others, we fulfill His law whether we realize it or not. Fundamentally, God’s law has always been about love.

11 And now consider this. You know well the times you are living in. It is time for you to wake up and see what is right before your eyes: for salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The darkness of night is dissolving as dawn’s light draws near, so walk out on your old dark life and put on the armor of light. 13 May we all act as good and respectable people, living today the same way as we will in the day of His coming. Do not fall into patterns of dark living: wild partying, drunkenness, sexual depravity, decadent gratification, quarreling, and jealousy. 14 Instead, wrap yourselves in the Lord Jesus, God’s Anointed, and do not fuel your sinful imagination by indulging your self-seeking desire for the pleasures of the flesh.

14 It’s high time that you welcome all people weak in the faith without debating and disputing their opinions.

Here’s the issue: One person believes that nothing’s off the menu; he’ll eat any food put before him. But there’s another believer—we’ll call him the weaker—who eats only vegetables because the meat is tainted through contact with an idol. If you are an eater of all things, do not be condescending to your vegetarian brother or sister. In turn, those who abstain from certain foods on religious principles should not judge your brothers and sisters who eat meat—if God has accepted them, you have no reason to reject them. How could you think for a moment that you have the right to judge another person’s servant? Each servant answers to his own Master, and he will either stand or fall in His presence. The good news is that he will stand because the Master is able to make it so.

There may be a believer who regards one day as more sacred than any other, while another views every day as sacred as the next. In these matters, all must reach their own conclusions and satisfy their own minds. If someone observes a day as holy, he observes it in honor of the Lord. If another eats a particular diet, he eats in honor of the Lord since he begins by giving thanks! If yet another abstains from that same food, he abstains out of respect for the Lord and begins his meal by thanking God too. The truth is that none of us live for ourselves, and none die for ourselves. For if we live, we live for the Lord. If we die, we die for the Lord. So in both life and death, we belong to the Lord. The Anointed One, the Liberating King, died and returned to life to make this a reality: through His death and resurrection, He became Lord of the living and the dead.

10 So how is it that you continue to judge your brother? How is it possible for you to look down on a sister? We will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,

“As I live, so I promise,” says the Lord, “every knee will bow down to Me.
    Every tongue will confess to God.”[c]

12 So every one of us, regardless of our eating habits, should expect to give an account for our own lives to God.

13 In light of this, we must resolve never to judge others and never to place an obstacle or impediment in their paths that could cause them to trip and fall. 14 Personally I have been completely convinced that in Jesus, our Lord, no object in and of itself is unclean; but if my fellow believers are convinced that something is unclean, then it is unclean to them. 15 If the food you eat harms your brother, then you have failed to love him. Do not let what you eat tear down your brother; after all, the Anointed laid down His life for him. 16 Do not allow people to slander something you find to be good 17 because the kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking. When God reigns, the order of the day is redeeming justice, true peace, and joy made possible by the Holy Spirit. 18 You see, those who serve the Anointed in this way will be welcomed into the whole acceptance of God and valued by all men. 19 Join us, and pursue a life that creates peace and builds up our brothers and sisters.

20 Do not sacrifice God’s work for the sake of certain foods. It is true that all things are clean, but it’s wrong to eat if you know that eating something will cause offense. 21 It is right for you to abstain from certain meats and wine (or anything else for that matter) if it prevents your brother from falling in his faith. 22 Hold on to what you believe about these issues, but keep them between you and God. A happy man does not judge himself by the lifestyle he endorses. 23 But a man who decides for himself what to eat is condemned because he is not living by his faith. Any action not consistent with faith is sin.

Paul says he is free to eat, but he is not free to injure another in what he eats. Personal freedom must always give way to corporate responsibility. To put it another way, the gospel of love demands that we surrender individual liberties for the sake of our brothers and sisters. We see this demonstrated powerfully in the example of Jesus who gave up His life and freedom for the sake of the world. When we live by this ethic, we create a community marked by warmth and hospitality. Food, drink, and holidays may well be personal options within the Kingdom. But justice, peace, and joy are communal essentials for life in the Kingdom.

15 So now what? We who are strong are not just to satisfy our own desires. We are called to carry the weaknesses of those who are not strong. Each of us must strive to please our neighbors, pursuing their welfare so they will become strong. The Anointed One Himself is our model for this kind of living, for He did not live to please Himself. And as the Scriptures declared, “When they insult You, they insult me.”[d] You see, everything written in the days of old was recorded to give us instructions for living. We find encouragement through the Scriptures and a call to perseverance that will produce hopeful living. I pray that our God, who calls you and gives you perseverance and encouragement, will join all of you together to share one mind according to Jesus the Anointed. In this unity, you will share one voice as you glorify the one True God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, our Liberating King.

So accept one another in the same way the Anointed has accepted you so that God will get the praise He is due. For, as I am fond of saying, the Anointed One has become a servant of the Jews[e] in order to demonstrate God’s truth. Effectively this confirms the promises He made to our ancestors and causes the non-Jewish nations to glorify God for His mercy. As the Scriptures say,

For this I will praise You among the nations
    and sing praises to Your name.[f]

10 Again the Scriptures say,

Nations, celebrate with His covenant people.[g]

11 And again,

Praise the Lord, all nations.
    Raise your voices, all people; let your praises flow to God.[h]

12 Again Isaiah says,

Then, the root of Jesse will emerge—
He rises to rule all the peoples of the world
    who come to Him for guidance and direction.
In Him they place their hope.[i]

13 I pray that God, the source of all hope, will infuse your lives with an abundance of joy and peace in the midst of your faith so that your hope will overflow through the power of the Holy Spirit.

14 My brothers and sisters, I am ultimately confident that you are full of goodness, knowledge, and the ability to help and instruct one another. 15 I have written to you with unflinching honesty on many topics because I do not want you to ever lose sight of the tremendous grace God has given me. 16 His grace makes me who I am, a minister of the Anointed One, Jesus, called to serve the nations.

Though Paul’s churches are made up of Jews and non-Jews, Paul’s special calling is to be God’s emissary to the nations beyond Israel, known as the Gentiles.

The good news of God is the focus of my priestly work. In effect, these nations have become an offering to God, totally acceptable, indeed made holy by the work of the Holy Spirit. 17 So in Jesus, the Anointed One, I have reason to celebrate the things I do for God. 18 I don’t want to be presumptuous, so I will restrict myself to what the Anointed has accomplished through my words and actions, which has culminated in the obedience of the nations. 19 My words and actions have been rooted in Spirit-empowered signs and miracles. The upshot is this: I have been able to preach the good news of the Anointed One in city after city from Jerusalem all the way around the Mediterranean to Illyricum. 20 I have dreamed of preaching the gospel in places where no one has ever heard of the Anointed so that I do not build on a foundation laid by anyone else. 21 But as the Scriptures say,

They will see Him even though they’ve never been told about Him;
    they will understand even though they never heard of Him.[j]

22 Because of many issues, I have not been able to visit you in the city of Rome. 23 But my time to serve those here is coming to an end, there’s no room left for me in this region, and I have longed to come to you for many years. So I plan to visit you 24 on my journey to Spain. I am hoping that I will not only see you face-to-face, but that you will assist me in the journey west after I have enjoyed our time together. 25 But right now I must make the journey to Jerusalem to serve the saints there. 26 Those in Macedonia and Achaia decided it was a good idea to share their funds to help the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 I must tell you that they were thrilled to be able to help. They realize that they are indebted to the believers in Jerusalem. If the nations share in the Jews’ spiritual goods, then it’s only right that they minister back to them in material goods. 28 When this work is complete and the funds we’ve collected are delivered, I will make my way to Spain through your grand city of Rome and enjoy some of your hospitality. 29 I’m sure that when I come to you I will come as a blessing and as one fully blessed by the Anointed One.

30 My brothers and sisters, I urgently plead with you by the name of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, and by the love of the Spirit to join together with me in your prayers to God for my success in these next endeavors. 31 Pray that I will be rescued from those who deny and persecute the faith in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem will meet the approval of all the saints there. 32 If that happens, then my journey to you will be filled with joy; and, if God wills, I can rest and be refreshed in your presence. 33 I pray the God of all peace will be with you all. Amen.

Before Paul treks west to Rome, he must complete an important mission he started years earlier. He must carry to Jerusalem an offering for the poor collected from the outsider churches. Paul, the emissary, hopes not only that the offering will alleviate the human need and suffering brought on by years of famine, but that it will also build a bridge between his mainly non-Jewish churches and the Jewish mother church in Jerusalem. But when he arrives in Jerusalem, Paul’s enemies trump up charges against him that ultimately land him in jail. So Paul makes it to Rome, but not as he planned. Several years later, after a lengthy confinement in Caesarea and a perilous journey at sea, he is led into Rome as a prisoner of the empire.

16 I commend to you our beloved sister Phoebe; she serves the church in Cenchrea as a faithful deacon. It is important that you welcome her in the Lord in a manner befitting your saintly status. Join in her work, and assist her in any way she needs you. She has spent her energy and resources helping others, and I am blessed to have her as my benefactor as well.

Give my best to Prisca and Aquila; they are not only my colleagues in my profession of tent making, but more importantly they are my fellow servants of Jesus the Anointed. They put their lives on the line to keep me safe. Not only do I owe them my thanks, so do all the churches of the non-Jews. Send my regards to the church that meets in their house.

Send greetings to Epaenetus. I love him dearly and celebrate his journey to faith because he was the first to believe in the Anointed One in all of Asia.

Salute Mary for me; she has worked hard for all of you.

Give my regards to Andronicus and Junias, who are part of my own family and served time in prison with me. They are well known among the emissaries[k] and have been in the Anointed longer than I.

Give my best to Ampliatus whom I love in the Lord, and greet Urbanus (our fellow worker in service to the Anointed One) and my beloved Stachys.

10 Send greetings to Apelles, a tried and true believer in the Anointed, and to the entire family of Aristobulus.

11 Do not forget to greet Herodion, another of my relatives, and everyone in the family of Narcissus who belong to the Lord.

12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, faithful laborers in the Lord, and our beloved Persis, who also has accomplished a great deal in the Lord.

13 Give my best to Rufus, clearly one of the Lord’s chosen, and also his mother. She’s like a mother to me.

14 My regards also go to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and all the brothers and sisters who are along with them.

15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and let me not forget Olympas and all the saints who journey with them.

16 Greet each other with a holy kiss. All of the churches of the Anointed under my care send their greetings to all of you.

17 I am pleading with all of you, brothers and sisters, to keep up your guard against anyone who is causing conflicts and enticing others with teachings contrary to what you have already learned. If there are people like that in your churches, stay away from them. 18 These kinds of people are not truly serving our Lord Jesus the Anointed; they have devoted their lives to satisfying their own appetites. With smooth talking and a well-rehearsed blessing, they lead a lot of unsuspecting people down the wrong path. 19 The stories about the way you are living in obedience to God have traveled to all the churches. So celebrate your faithfulness to God that is being displayed in your lives—seek wisdom about the good life, and remain innocent when it comes to evil. 20 If you do this, the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet soon. May the grace of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King, be ever present with you.

21 Timothy, my coworker in the spreading of the gospel, also sends his greeting to all of you, as do my kinsmen, Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater.

22 I, Tertius, the one who wrote this letter for Paul, greet you in the name of the Lord. 23 Gaius, my host here as well as patron for the whole church, sends his[l] best to all of you. Erastus, the city administrator, sends his greetings along with brother Quartus. [24 May the grace of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, touch you all. Amen.][m]

25 So to the One who is able to strengthen you to live consistently with my good news and the preaching of Jesus, the Anointed, with the revelation of the ancient mystery that has been kept secret since the earliest days, 26 this mystery is revealed through the prophetic voices passed down in the Scriptures, as they have been commanded by the Eternal God. In this time, this mystery is being made known to the nations so that all may be led to faith-filled obedience.

27 To the one true and wise God, we offer glory for all times through Jesus, the Anointed One. Amen.

Footnotes:

  1. 13:9 Leviticus 19:18
  2. 13:9 Leviticus 19:18
  3. 14:11 Isaiah 45:23
  4. 15:3 Psalm 69:9
  5. 15:8 Literally, “the circumcision”
  6. 15:9 Psalm 18:49
  7. 15:10 Deuteronomy 32:43
  8. 15:11 Psalm 117:1
  9. 15:12 Isaiah 11:10
  10. 15:21 Isaiah 52:15
  11. 16:7 Literally, apostles
  12. 16:23 Some early manuscripts read “their.”
  13. 16:24 Some early manuscripts omit this verse.
The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

1 Corinthians 1 The Voice (VOICE)

Paul, called out by God’s will to be an emissary[a] for Jesus the Anointed, along with brother Sosthenes, to God’s church gathering in the city of Corinth. As people who are united with Jesus, the Anointed One, you have been set apart for service. You are all called into community to live as saints with all who invoke the name of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed

I pray that God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, will shower you with grace and peace.

I am continuously thanking my God for you when I think about the grace God has offered you in Jesus the Anointed. In this grace, God is enriching every aspect of your lives by gifting you with the right words to say and everything you need to know. In this way, your life story confirms the life story of the Anointed One, so you are not ill-equipped or slighted on any necessary gifts as you patiently anticipate the day when our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, is revealed. Until that final day, He will preserve you; and on that day, He will consider you faultless. Count on this: God is faithful and in His faithfulness called you out into an intimate relationship with His Son, our Lord Jesus the Anointed.

10 My brothers and sisters, I urge you by the name of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, to come together in agreement. Do not allow anything or anyone to create division among you. Instead, be restored, completely fastened together with one mind and shared judgment. 11 I have heard troubling reports from Chloe’s people that you, my siblings, are consumed by fighting and petty disagreements. 12 What I have heard is that each of you is taking sides, saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with the Anointed One.” 13 Has the Anointed One been split up into many small pieces? Do you think Paul was crucified for you? Were you ceremonially washed through baptism[b] into the name of Paul? Absolutely not!

Paul knows that if the work of Jesus’ gospel degenerates into a cult of personality, it will hardly resemble true Christianity. If the focus is on Paul, Cephas, Apollos, or any famous religious leader, then that distracts from the person and central message of Jesus. Any cult of personality is intoxicating, and it is often easier to claim to follow a person who can be seen and touched. But Christianity is founded upon the belief that Jesus is the head of the church and that all of His followers serve His will as a part of the royal priesthood.

14 Now I am thankful that I baptized[c] only Crispus and Gaius, 15 so none of you can falsely declare you were baptized in my name. 16 Now wait, as I think about it, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; if there are others in your community whom I baptized, I cannot recall at this moment. 17 The mission given to me by the Anointed One is not about baptism, but about preaching good news. The point is not to impress others by spinning an eloquent, intellectual argument; that type of rhetorical showboating would only nullify the cross of the Anointed.

18 For people who are stumbling toward ruin, the message of the cross is nothing but a tall tale for fools by a fool. But for those of us who are already experiencing the reality of being rescued and made right, it is nothing short of God’s power. 19 This is why the Scripture says:

I will put an end to the wisdom of the so-called wise,
    and I will invalidate the insight of your so-called experts.[d]

20 So now, where is the philosopher? Where is the scholar? Where is the skilled debater, the best of your time? Step up, if you dare. Hasn’t God made fools out of those who count on the wisdom of this rebellious, broken world? 21 For in God’s deep wisdom, He made it so that the world could not even begin to comprehend Him through its own style of wisdom; in fact, God took immense pleasure in rescuing people of faith through the foolishness of the message we preach. 22 It seems the Jews are always asking for signs and the Greeks are always on the prowl for wisdom. 23 But we tell a different story. We proclaim a crucified Jesus, God’s Anointed. For Jews this is scandalous, for outsiders[e] this is moronic, 24 but for those of us living out God’s call—regardless of our Jewish or Greek heritage—we know the Anointed embodies God’s dynamic power and God’s deep wisdom. 25 You can count on this: God’s foolishness will always be wiser than mere human wisdom, and God’s weakness will always be stronger than mere human strength.

The cross challenges human values because no one expects to find freedom through capital punishment. Unlike most of the thousands who faced crucifixion before and after Jesus, He was clearly not a criminal. God uses this contradiction to reveal His power and wisdom: Jesus has offered Himself to death and has been raised to life to bring liberation to others. Those who truly follow this crucified king do not seek power and authority through the normal patterns of the world; they offer themselves in loving sacrifice for others. That is where God’s transforming power is truly revealed in the church.

26 Look carefully at your call, brothers and sisters. By human standards, not many of you are deemed to be wise. Not many are considered powerful. Not many of you come from royalty, right? 27 But celebrate this: God selected the world’s foolish to bring shame upon those who think they are wise; likewise, He selected the world’s weak to bring disgrace upon those who think they are strong. 28 God selected the common and the castoff, whatever lacks status, so He could invalidate the claims of those who think those things are significant. 29 So it makes no sense for any person to boast in God’s presence. 30 Instead, credit God with your new situation: you are united with Jesus the Anointed. He is God’s wisdom for us and more. He is our righteousness and holiness and redemption. 31 As the Scripture says: “If someone wants to boast, he should boast in the Lord.”[f]

Footnotes:

  1. 1:1 Literally, apostle
  2. 1:13 Literally, immersed, in a rite of initiation and purification
  3. 1:14 Literally, immersed, in a rite of initiation and purification
  4. 1:19 Isaiah 29:14
  5. 1:23 Literally, Gentiles
  6. 1:31 Jeremiah 9:23–24
The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

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