Thursday, February 16, 2017

Romans 5:12-19 In Adam All Die

Romans5:12 – 19 (I am going to put verses 20 & 21 into the first lesson from chapter 6, as that’s where I think they best relate.)

Romans 5:12 (HCSB)  Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned. Our first word prompts us, once again, to consider what was previously said. What is the point Paul previously made that he is pulling to our attention here? (We were ungodly enemies of God when we were reconciled to Him. We were sinners in need of His righteousness.) Therefore, death spread to all men because all have sinned and because all are in Adam by nature. Death got its start when Adam sinned and the earth was cursed because of his sin (Gen 3:17). And though people are by design made in the image of God, that image was broken and since the Fall we also carry the image of Adam (Gen 5:3). Sin spreads to all the children of Adam through our DNA. We are NOT sinners because we commit various types of sin. We are sinners by nature – that is why we sin. David knew this and that’s why he said he was conceived in iniquity; he was sinful from his beginning, just as you and I were. No longer does Paul divide people according to the flesh – Jew and Gentile. He moves in this argument just as he did in his own life, noting in his letter to the Corinthian church that he no longer regarded or considered anyone according the flesh, even though he once did so with Jesus. But he no longer does so and ties this to being a new Creature in Christ (2 Cor 5:16 & 17). Paul’s major dividing line is one we can more readily relate to: the two groups of people are represented by Adam and by Jesus, respectively. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15:22, in Adam all die and in Christ are we made alive. This contrast is the basis for this passage, with Paul’s emphasis on the supremacy of Christ.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Romans 5:6-11 While We Were HELPLESS - Christ Died for Us, the UNGODLY.

Romans 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. In our natural state, we are helpless – unable to help save ourselves. There are several OT passages Paul may have had in mind:

Ecclesiastes 7:20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

Isaiah 64:7 There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.

Jeremiah 10:23 I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.

Long before Paul met Truth on the road to Damascus, other servants of YHWH had diagnosed man in the same way. Isaiah comes closest to Paul’s description in our text, although Jeremiah is very close as well. The natural man does not call upon the Lord, he does not rouse himself to grasp Christ; his ways are not his – his steps are influenced by his spiritual father, the devil. But doesn’t Paul later say that everyone who calls upon the Lord will be saved? How many go to his source documents (the OT) to find out his meaning? How many read on in Romans 10 to see Paul’s answer: he asks a rhetorical question to make known to his readers that only those who believe in Christ can call upon His name in this manner. Those who obey the gospel are the ones who were given faith, raised up into new life, with a soul that cried out in faith to God.

Salvation is a work of God on a sinner who is helpless; dead in sins; unable and unwilling to do anything good. Those who call upon helpless men to make a decision for Christ are asking the clay to hop up onto the potter’s wheel. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Romans 5:1-5 Peace with God

Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

The desire of everyone who knows anything about God is to have peace with Him. Pagans of all stripes want peace with their image of God. Buddhists have an elaborate system of how to live in order to have peace. Mormons have a bizarre system of theology and works to generate peace with their god. Every false religion is based on works of some sort that the creature does to appease God and come to peace with Him and other creatures or nature itself. But take care to note how Paul structures this sentence: we have peace with God through Christ Jesus, Who has declared us righteous by faith. We who have been raised to new life in Christ are not seeking peace with God, we have peace with God; He has declared us righteous which is necessary to have this peace. Another reminder of how careful this statement is and how biblical truth differs from heresy.

We cannot have obtained access to God’s saving grace unless He declared us righteous and gifted us the faith to believe in Him. But since we have been declared righteous and do have peace with God, we have access into this grace in which we stand. What does Paul mean by this statement? Peter ends his first letter with a similar expression, telling his readers that he has declared the true grace of God to them and admonishing them stand firm in that grace (1 Peter 5:12). In 1 Cor 15:1 our apostle reminds us of the gospel he preached in which we stand and hold fast to that word. This same message is in 2 Thess 2:15 as we are told to stand firm and hold to the teachings that Paul and other apostles had delivered; not traditions yet to be thought of and handed down by church leaders in the 21st century. The Christian faith is an informed faith, built on the Word of God, which must be read and prayerfully studied.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Romans 4:13-25; A Grand Contrast!

What do you recall from last week’s lesson? Contrast of law and faith.

Romans 4:13-15 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. We can easily imagine Paul’s former colleagues of the Jewish faith were hard-headed, for he continues to beat the drum of faith over law, using Abraham as his primary wedge. As he drills down even further into the promise made to Abraham and how one is related to him, Paul stresses that people are Abraham’s offspring not because of the law but through righteousness that comes through faith. As he noted elsewhere, if works are added to faith, then faith is worthless and the promise – made in Adam’s hearing after the Fall and to Abraham 19 generations later – is void. If a promise from God is voided, the character of God is thrown down and He is no more reliable than a man!  

This hinges on Paul’s assertion that the promise did not come through the law. This is the idea that man must be disengaged from, as we are by nature hard-wired for works-righteousness. And we tend to have a very superficial concept of faith, believing it mere wishful thinking rather than firm belief in God. Our trust in God can be subtly undermined if our understanding of His Word is not solid. How many times have you seen picturesque portrayals of Phil 4:13 plastered on walls? Without regard to context, people abuse this verse to claim outrageous things they think God will equip them to do – because they can do ALL things through Christ! Here’s the context, which sheds light on that one verse: Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. He is speaking explicitly about having learned to be content in Christ Jesus without regard to his physical comfort. He is not teaching us that God will provide everything the prosperity gospel pimps claim. Context is critical in understanding how to interpret and apply Scripture in our lives. Knowing which covenant you are in helps a great deal as well – this is how we know the Levitical laws about diet and mixed materials in clothing do not apply to us who are in the New Covenant while the one about loving God does.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Romans 4:1 – 12 Whose Righteousness Saves?

Romans 4:1-3 (ESV) What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For 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 counted to him as righteousness.”

We see that chapter 4 is a continuation of chapter 3, as the apostle brings up THE patriarch of the Jewish faith as the test or proof of his point that the works of man play no part in the redemption of sinners. The question to the Jews is intended to provoke a response – of course Abraham gained right standing with YHWH! Paul identifies with the Jews, observing that Abraham is their – the Jews’ – forefather according to the flesh. This phrase represents a critical idea. Recall that in his greeting, Paul refers to David as Christ Jesus’ father according to the flesh (Rom 1:3). He will develop this further in this epistle, in addition to the word “father.” He leaves that phrase hanging – I wonder if his audience caught the parallel with David and Jesus. As it is, no doubt the Jews readily agreed with Paul’s statement – they will soon find out the limitations of this fleshly relationship.

Building on the implied agreement that Abraham had right standing with God, the apostle asks how it came about. Was it by works he had done? If so, Abraham would have something to boast about. And this was the practice of the Jewish leaders in this day. Recall Matt 6, where Jesus talks about those who love attention when give money or pray. These people did their religious works and believed they had something to boast about, to make a public display of themselves. Not too far different, in my opinion, from how the so-called priests of Rome parade up and down the streets with the communion cracker in a fancy box mounted on top an ornate pole as ignorant and superstitious people pay homage.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Romans 3:21-31 The Righteousness of God

From mid-way in chapter 1 on, this letter has been bad news: For God’s wrath is revealed; Therefore God delivered them over; This is why God delivered them over; Therefore you have no excuse; So what advantage have the Jews?; What then – are we any better? For no one will be justified. And that brings us to our text for today:

Romans 3:21 But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed. Finally some good news! Of particular interest to the Jews, but of importance to all men – the righteousness of God is revealed to man through something other than the law; whether the Law of Moses or the universal law. What is revealed of God through the law cannot reconcile sinners to Him. The law, as Paul has been explaining and will continue to explain, brings knowledge of sin and condemnation, leading some to cry out for mercy and others to seek out escape routes, as W.C. Fields is said to have done on his deathbed while flipping through a Bible. Apart from the law righteousness is revealed, from faith to faith as Paul wrote in chapter 1. In declaring, “But now,” the apostle is drawing the line between the hopeless estate of fallen men apart from Christ and the sure eternal hope of those in Christ.

Lest we think the Old Testament was useless, this verse reminds us that the gospel is present in all of Scripture as the Law and the prophets bear witness of it. Let us not fall into the trap of writing off the Old Testament as if it has no relevance to us. Some of the most glorious revelations of Christ are found in the types and shadows of those earthly things that bore witness to the heavenly things. I love the gospel presented in the great flood, wherein we see salvation of those God called into the boat at great expense. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Romans 3:9-20 The Importance of Proper Hermeneutics.

Two weeks back I mentioned the danger of literal interpretation of texts that some sort of word picture, specifically chapter 2 verse 25 - For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. I forgot to comment on what it does mean. Paul is telling his Jewish kin folk that if they obey one part of the law (circumcision) but not the balance of the law, their law-keeping (circumcision) becomes lawlessness (uncircumcision). Partial obedience is lawlessness and physical circumcision is not complete obedience to the Law of Moses.

9 What then? Are we any better?  Not at all! For we have previously charged that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin, 
As the apostle moves into deeper theological waters, he pauses to reinforce the main point thus far: natural man is doomed by sin; the sinful nature we all inherit from our father Adam and the sin we commit from the moment our brains are functioning. How can a man come clean? How can some claim man is able to do the best thing – seek peace with God? Paul answers these questions from a conglomeration of Old Testament passages; not with exact quotes, verse by verse as we are accustomed to, but an unquestionable reference to Jewish Scripture that his audience would have comprehended as such. The question that haunts me is how can so many Christian fail to see Paul’s point, made here and in many other places in the Bible? 

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