Simple Bible Reading Guide
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"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
Rm 1 — ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME
"I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God leading everyone who believes in it to salvation, the Jew first, then the Greek." Romans 1:16
Paul planned to make Rome an evangelistic base for his mission to Spain (15:24). He wrote to the Roman Christians to prepare them for this by promoting unity between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. In the course of expressing the basis of this unity, Paul revealed in depth the fallen condition of human nature and the necessity of salvation in Jesus.
Prayer: Jesus, if not for You, I would be doomed. I adore You.
Promise: "For in the gospel is revealed the justice of God which begins and ends with faith." 1:17
Rm 2 — FROM CHURCH TO HELL
"He is a real Jew who is one inwardly, and true circumcision is of the heart; its source is the Spirit, not the letter." Romans 2:29
In the first chapter, Paul showed how Gentiles who had not followed their consciences were doomed to degradation and death. In the second chapter, Paul surprised the Jews by showing them that they were no better off than the Gentiles. Although they had the law, they didn't obey it. Therefore, the Jews came under the same condemnation as Gentiles.
Prayer: Father, may I not be among the religious people who never repent and thereby choose hell.
Promise: "God will pass judgment on the secrets of men through Christ Jesus." 2:16
Rm 3 — NONE AND ALL
"This means that every mouth is silenced and the whole world stands convicted before God." Romans 3:19
"Scripture says: 'There is no just man, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one in search of God. All have taken the wrong course, all alike have become worthless; not one of them acts uprightly, no, not one' " (3:10-12). "All men have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. All men are now undeservedly justified by the gift of God, through the redemption wrought in Christ Jesus. Through His blood, God made Him the Means of expiation for all who believe" (3:23-25).
Prayer: Jesus, I repent of sin and accept You as Savior, Lord, and God.
Promise: "God must be proved true even though every man be proved a liar." 3:4
Rm 4 — FATHER ABRAHAM
"Thus the promise holds true for all Abraham's descendants, not only for those who have the law but for all who have his faith." Romans 4:16
"We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from observance of the law" (3:28). Abraham, the father of the chosen people, illustrates this. "For what does Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as justice' " (4:3). "Certainly the promise made to Abraham and his descendants that they would inherit the world did not depend on the law; it was made in view of the justice that comes from faith" (4:13). "Hence, all depends on faith, everything is grace" (4:16). "Our faith will be credited to us also if we believe in Him Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, the Jesus Who was handed over to death for our sins and raised up for our justification" (4:24-25).
Prayer: Jesus, I can do nothing without You (Jn 15:5), but You can do all things. I trust You.
Promise: "Yet he never questioned or doubted God's promise; rather, he was strengthened in faith and gave glory to God, fully persuaded that God could do whatever He had promised." 4:20-21
Rm 5 — JUSTIFICATION
"Just as through one man's disobedience all became sinners, so through one Man's obedience all shall become just." Romans 5:19
The word "justification" is a term from accounting. It means the books are balanced, the debts are paid, the ledger is justified. The results of justification are:
- "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (5:1),
- "access by faith to the grace in which we now stand" (5:2),
- greater hope (5:2, 4-5),
- appreciation of the value of affliction (5:3), and
- the love of God "poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (5:5).
"It is precisely in this that God proves His love for us: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Now that we have been justified by His blood, it is all the more certain that we shall be saved by Him from God's wrath" (5:8-9).
Prayer: Jesus, may I be shocked that You loved me so much that You died in my place on the cross.
Promise: "The law came in order to increase offenses; but despite the increase of sin, grace has far surpassed it." 5:20
Rm 6 — BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST JESUS
"You must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus." Romans 6:11
We have a humanly unpayable debt because of our sins. Jesus paid the debt for us on Calvary. We claim by faith our justification effected on Calvary. We express our faith through baptism. "Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Through baptism into His death we were buried with Him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life" (6:3-4). Therefore, "offer yourselves to God as men who have come back from the dead to life, and your bodies to God as weapons for justice" (6:13).
Prayer: Father, may I celebrate the anniversary of my baptism even more than my birthday. (If you don't know the date of your baptism, find it out.)
Promise: "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." 6:23
Rm 7 — LAW AND DISORDER
"What a wretched man I am! Who can free me from this body under the power of death? All praise to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:24-25
When we were baptized into Jesus' death, we were freed from the law of sin and death, for "the law has power over a man only so long as he lives" (7:1). "Now we have been released from the law for we have died to what bound us and we serve in the new spirit, not the antiquated letter" (7:6). This does not mean that the law does not serve a purpose. The law increases offenses and reveals our fallen, sinful nature. The law helps us come to the conclusion that no good dwells in our flesh, that "the desire to do right is there but not the power" (7:18). We realize we are wretched and enslaved. Only Jesus can free us.
Prayer: Jesus, thank You for breaking the chains that held me bound.
Promise: "You died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to that Other Who was raised from the dead, so that we might bear fruit for God." 7:4
Rm 8 — LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
"But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Romans 8:9
Life in the Spirit means:
- no condemnation (8:1),
- freedom from the law of sin and death (8:2),
- the tendency toward life and peace (8:6),
- the Holy Spirit dwelling in us (8:11),
- putting to death the evil deeds of the body (8:13),
- being children of God (8:14),
- being heirs of God (8:17),
- considering our sufferings to be as nothing (8:18),
- help in prayer (8:26),
- all things will work together for the good (8:28),
- God will grant us all things (8:32),
- nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (8:35, 39), and
- we are more than conquerors (8:37).
Prayer: Father, may I never stifle (1 Thes 5:19) or sadden (Eph 4:30) the Spirit by giving in to the desires of the flesh.
Promise: "Is it possible that He Who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for the sake of us all will not grant us all things besides?" 8:32
Rm 9 — MESSIANIC JEWS
"Indeed, I could even wish to be separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen the Israelites." Romans 9:3-4
Faith in Jesus is the only solution to the human dilemma. By faith, sufferings seem to be nothing, all things work together for the good, and we are more than conquerors. Paul then applied these truths to the "great grief and constant pain" which was in his heart due to most of his Israelite kinsmen not accepting Jesus (9:2). "They stumbled over the stumbling Stone, as Scripture says: 'Behold, I am placing in Zion a Stone to make men stumble and a Rock to make them fall; but he who believes in Him will not be put to shame' " (9:32-33).
Prayer: Father, may the Jewish people soon accept Your Son Jesus as their Messiah, Lord, and God.
Promise: "Those who were not My people I will call 'My people,' and those who were not loved I will call 'Beloved.' " 9:25
Rm 10 — PRAY FOR THE PEACE OF JERUSALEM (Ps 122:6)
"But of Israel He says, 'All day long I stretched out My hands to an unbelieving and contentious people.' " Romans 10:21
"My heart's desire, my prayer to God for the Israelites, is that they may be saved" (10:1). "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (10:9). "And how can they believe unless they have heard of Him?" (10:14) "Faith, then, comes through hearing, and what is heard is the word of Christ" (10:17).
Prayer: Father, may all my relatives be totally committed to Jesus.
Promise: "Here there is no difference between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, rich in mercy toward all who call upon Him." 10:12
Rm 11 — THE JEWS AND JESUS' RETURN
"I ask, then, has God rejected His people? Of course not!" Romans 11:1
Paul prophesied that "all Israel will be saved" before Jesus' second coming (11:26). The effect of this will be "nothing less than life from the dead!" (11:15) "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery" (11:25). "How deep are the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How inscrutable His judgments, how unsearchable His ways!" (11:33)
Prayer: Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus. Lead the Jewish people to You, and come back as soon as possible.
Promise: "For from Him and through Him and for Him all things are. To Him be glory forever. Amen." 11:36
Rm 12 — BODY LANGUAGE
"We, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another." Romans 12:5
In many of Paul's letters, he begins with several chapters of teaching and concludes with a few chapters of encouragement and application of the teaching to everyday life. The first application of the teaching in Romans is that we must offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God (12:1). We must not be conformed to this age but transformed by the renewal of our minds. As members of the body of Christ, we are called to express our faith by using our spiritual gifts. Most of all, we must build up the body of Christ in love (Eph 4:16) by loving even enemies and thereby conquering "evil with good" (12:21).
Prayer: Father, may each part of my body be used to love and serve You (6:13).
Promise: "Your love must be sincere. Detest what is evil, cling to what is good. Love one another with the affection of brothers.
Rm 13 — "THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT" (8:2)
"You know the time in which we are living. It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first accepted the faith. The night is far spent; the day draws near. Let us cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light." Romans 13:11-12
We Christians are free from the law. This doesn't mean we break the law, but that we obey it by the power of the Spirit. Because the Spirit brings His order into our lives (1 Cor 14:40), we are obedient to the government. We "owe no debt to anyone except the debt that binds us to love one another" (13:8). We "live honorably as in daylight; not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy" (13:13). We "put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh" (13:14).
Prayer: Father, because of my love for You and Your grace in me, may I be the best citizen, worker, spouse, or parent possible.
Promise: "He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law." 13:8
Rm 14 — NEAR OCCASIONS OF SIN
"You would be acting nobly if you abstained from eating meat, or drinking wine, or anything else that offers your brother an occasion for stumbling or scandal, or that weakens him in any way." Romans 14:21
We should not be selfish, but rather accept one another and build our neighbor up in the Spirit. We should never be an occasion of sin for our brothers and sisters. Eating meat from the marketplace was an occasion of sin for many Roman Christians, because the meat had been used for pagan rituals. Therefore, Paul said he would never eat meat again (1 Cor 8:13). An example of this principle for us today would be the use of alcohol. Even the moderate and legitimate use of alcohol is an occasion of sin for many today, especially in American culture. Therefore, we should not drink alcohol except when we're sure it won't be a problem for anyone present.
Prayer: Father, may churches stop the public sale and availability of beer and other alcoholic beverages.
Promise: "The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of justice, peace, and the joy that is given by the Holy Spirit." 14:17
Rm 15 — "THE RAIN IN SPAIN"
"As soon as I can set out for Spain, I hope to see you in passing; I trust that you will send me on my journey only after I have had the joy of being with you for a little while." Romans 15:24
As Paul concludes his letter, he returns to his original purpose: his visit to the Romans on his way to Spain. He begs them to join him in the struggle of Christian ministry by their prayers to God on his behalf.
Prayer: "May God, the Source of all patience and encouragement, enable you to live in perfect harmony with one another according to the Spirit of Christ" (15:5).
Promise: "I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has done through me to win the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed, with mighty signs and marvels, by the power of God's Spirit." 15:18-19
Rm 16 — CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
"Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send you greetings." Romans 16:16
After the conclusion of the letter in chapter 15, we have an encore and another conclusion in this chapter. Paul brings up again the underlying theme of Romans, the development of Christian community. He calls for the Roman community to welcome the visiting deaconess Phoebe. He greets Prisca, Aquila, and "the congregation that meets in their house" (16:5). This couple had such a deep relationship with Paul that they even risked their lives for him. Paul then gives an honorable mention to thirty-three other brothers and sisters. We get the message that Paul is trying to draw us into Christian community. He cautions us against those who are causing divisions in the community. If his instructions are obeyed, Paul promises the Roman Christians: "The God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you" (16:20).
Prayer: Father, may I really be part of Your family and share my life with several Christian brothers and sisters.
Promise: "To Him, the God Who alone is wise, may glory be given through Jesus Christ unto endless ages. Amen." 16:27
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, April 25, 1997
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 28, 1997
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