Thursday, July 20, 2017

Romans 11:25-36 All Israel Will Be Saved.

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I wonder why nobody asked me why this portion of chapter 11 was left out, as I forgot to post it here in its proper sequence. Nonetheless, here it is!

Romans 11:25-27 (HCSB) So that you will not be conceited, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery: A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Liberator will come from Zion; He will turn away godlessness from Jacob. And this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins.

Last week we saw that Paul turned his attention explicitly to the Gentiles in the church at Rome. He argued that Gentiles have no cause of boasting, as it was grace that grafted us into Abraham’s spiritual promise just as it was for the Jews – perhaps more difficult for us as we were not in the covenant people to whom the oracles of God were given. Verse 25 continues in this thought, plainly revealing a mystery to us so we will not be conceited. The mystery, that had confounded many Jews and, no doubt, caused many Gentiles to get the big-head, was that the rejection of Israel was complete; it was a partial hardening. There has always been a remnant in Israel, the 7,000 who did not bow the knee to Baal, who were brought from spiritual darkness that enveloped the nation into the glorious light of Christ that all His redeemed enjoy. As with much of Paul’s use of the word “mystery,” here it does not mean something difficult to understand, it means something revealed that had been hidden. Jew and Gentile both thought national Israel was God’s chosen people, just as the Pharisees demonstrated – through trust in their flesh. The mystery is that most of Israel’s people were hardened and only a small number were reconciled to God. For from the beginning, God made clear that ALL nations would be blessed in Abram – not only national Israel. This partial hardening continues until all the Gentile elect – people from every nation, tongue, and tribe – have been brought into the sheepfold of Christ. As one commentator put it, “until all elect Gentiles come into Israel.” And in the same way, all Israel will be saved. What does he mean, “in the same way”? How are Gentiles saved? Paul explained to us in chapter 10 how one calls upon the Lord and is saved. In the same way means that those Jews who will be saved, the ones who were not hardened, will be saved in the same way as us Gentiles are saved. They will call upon the name of the Lord! Every one of His elect will call upon His name and be saved.


Paul then does what is fairly common in the New Testament – he cobbles together a “quote” from the Old Testament from several fragments that his audience would have been familiar with. Not a precise citation as we are accustomed to when we read books. He grabs part of Isaiah 59 (which has connections with Psalm14, Micah 4, and Isaiah 2) and Jeremiah 31. The Liberator will come from Zion; He will turn away godlessness from Jacob. And this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins. These were promises of the Messiah coming to redeem Israel. Paul applies these promises the work of the Spirit that was going on as he was writing to the Romans, and will go on until the full number – all Israel and Gentile – are saved. Those who were by nature captive to the sin we hold so dear will be liberated by the King of Zion. Freedom does not come from Sinai! This King will turn His people away from godlessness, take their sins away, and bring them into the New Covenant. All this action is of God. Our part is godlessness and sin. His part is to take those away and make us new creatures in Christ. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Romans 13:1-7 The Rub With Government

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Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Some have noted the abrupt change in content and tone that takes place here, changing subject and tone from chapter; thinking this passage was inserted later, perhaps by a scribe. However, if we consider other teaching from the New Testament, we see this as a familiar thread: render under Caesar the Lord taught (Mark 12); and pretty much thought-for-thought in 1 Peter 2:13-17: Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Both passages tell us the role of earthly governments, our role in submitting to them and honoring them, and the reason we should submit to them.

Doug Moo points out that this passage in Romans 13 actually builds on what we studied in chapter 12 – where we read that we are not to take out vengeance but leave that to God. Here we are told that God has appointed civil governments as His ministers to punish those who do evil. While God will bring His vengeance to bear on dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (Revelation 22:15) at the end of this age, He has given to the state the role to do so until then. Verse 4 of our text: if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Paul is not contradicting himself – saying the only wrath to be suffered is at the hand of; he is pointing out God’s provision until He returns.


One complementary point that must be made: we see in the Bible, in history, and in our times that our civil governments are most often comprised of God-haters. Yet they are appointed by God as His ministers of justice! How can this be? In this passage, Paul doesn’t say each and every person in government is appointed by God; he says God established every earthly authority. However, we see in the Old Testament that God selected the good kings and the evil kings for Israel and the Arab nations, and it YHWH Who claims this role for Himself. Psalm 75:6-7 For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. So it would seem that Paul assumes his audience would know that not just the institutions are established by God, each person put in a key position is put there by Him. We see in the record of Paul’s life how we might respond when mistreated by ruling authorities.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Romans 12:9-21 Proverbs for Christian Living

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Last week we began our trek through the application portion of Romans. Everything we will be told to do in this part of this epistle is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit which means none but the redeemed can truly walk as Paul instructs. However, we all know that behaviors and speech that looks like Christian life can be imitated by false brothers, so our on-going mission is to keep an eye ourselves to make sure we see reasons for the hope we profess.

Verses 9-18 are a series of short statements of instructions, very much New Testament Proverbs as he contrasts good behavior and attitudes with those which are bad.

Romans 12:9-18 (HCSB) Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.

Love is to be without hypocrisy. These two are polar opposites. Worldly love is self-seeking and must be hypocritical, so we don’t lose face. We give birthday and Christmas gifts because we want others to think well of us much of the time; usually feeling guilty if our gift isn’t valued as highly as another or liked as much as another. This represents self-love and is not biblical love, which is to seek what’s best for the person. Love in truth can only truly be done when it’s done by the Spirit.

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Do we stop and ponder what is good, what is evil? Recall how at the end of a long road filled with much sorrow, Joseph declared to his brothers that though they meant it for evil, God meant it for good. Being locked up on false charges after surviving being thrown in a hole and sold as a slave, who would have thought Joseph’s life was good? We are short-sighted, selfish people – that’s why we can’t see the good our Lord intends when we experience something unpleasant, which we think is evil. That’s why we must be people of the Book wherein our God has revealed what is good and what is evil, so we might live as wise a serpents in this evil age, not being led astray by its agents.

Show brotherly or family affection with brotherly love. There is One who is closer than a brother and He shows us what love is. He disciplined Himself, withstood temptation that would cause us to crumble, allowed creature He called into existence to mistreat and murder Him. Betrayed by those He called to be apostles. After Peter had denied Him the third time, he caught the eye of the Lord Jesus looking at him from across the courtyard. Is was not the look of condemnation but of love, knowing the frailty of the man yet loving him such that he became a stout man of God. Affirming one another is not the bedrock of this type of love, teaching, exhorting, rebuking – all with the aim of heralding Christ more clearly – is.

To out-do each other in showing honor – esteeming others more than ourselves – is another aspect of biblical love. This is what the Lord taught in Luke 14 when He advised people not to take the seat of honor at a wedding feast, but wait to see if the host invites you to that seat. What James (chapter 2) was talking about when told us not to give preference to the rich man in the assembly but associate with the poor. How is that working out in most churches? Yet the counsel of God is to out-do one another in showing honor.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Romans: 12:1-8 How Should We Then Live?

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Every good sermon will have a theological point and an action point or application. God’s people are still people and it is helpful for us to be instructed on how to apply instructions to our lives. This is the structure of Paul’s letter to the Roman saints. Having taught the theology of salvation, the apostle now turns to the application. It is a grand level application of the principle of indicatives and imperatives: having covered the theology, Paul proceeds on the reasonable assumption that his readers are Christians. Since this is true of them, they can comprehend and live in accordance with the instructions that follow.

Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB) Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

The first two words gave me the indication that I mentioned – Paul is speaking to people he considers to be brothers and sisters in Christ and he wants them to bear in mind what’s been covered as he begins the application. Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, Not content to rest on the identification of his readers as brothers, Paul pleads with them according to their standing in Christ – by the mercies of God! This reinforces their identity and the foundation for next 4 chapters. As Lamentations 3:22 & 23 reminds us, God’s mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness in providing us needed mercy is great, overly abundant! While we ought to be working diligently to be pleasing to our God in our thoughts, words, and deeds, we need His guidance and provision to do so. Those who are not in Christ have the general provision granted in Noah’s covenant (seedtime and harvest, food and shelter) but they cannot be pleasing to Him. They do not have these mercies that are shed upon the souls of the redeemed.

Having established their identity, Paul tells them the over-arching goal of whatever time each one of them has left: present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. We all know that animals that were sacrificed were killed for that purpose. This picture ought to provoke us to wonder about how serious we are in living deliberately for the glory of God in our daily lives. The animal being sacrificed has no say-so in how his life will go; it is not happenstance that Paul used this word here. He says elsewhere that we have been bought at a price and are longer our own. When we reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ, we will live more in line with Paul’s teaching here. And doing so will be pleasing to our God and Judge. The apostle says living this way is our spiritual or reasonable service. There are some who think living an obedient life is easy (they are not doing so, mind you); other say it is too difficult (they are imagining it in their own strength). And some think they are to obey the law spelled out in the Mosaic Covenant – surely those laws reveal what pleases God! Do you recall from Matt’s sermons from Galatians, this message: Galatians 3:3 (HCSB) Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? And in chapter 7 of this letter, Paul is speaking to those under the law, explaining how the law does not bind them since they have died to it by becoming alive to Christ. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Romans 11:13-24 The Penalty of Unbelief

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Romans 11:13-15 (HCSB) Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. In view of the fact that I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if I can somehow make my own people jealous and save some of them. For if their rejection brings reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

Since the beginning of chapter 9, Paul has been mostly talking to a Jewish audience, making the case that he began in chapter 2 – that the Jews do not have an advantage over the Gentiles regarding reconciliation with God. Here, he addresses the Gentiles. This is one of the clearest clues that Paul has been focused on the Jews these past few chapters – he announces that he is turning his attention to the Gentiles. 

Notice his tentative approach to his former audience – since he was called by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul is saying that if makes much of that ministry, being very public among the Jews in preaching the gospel to the Gentiles; he might, somehow, incite his kinsmen of the flesh to envy with the result that some of them might be saved. The theme is consistent – there is not seen thus far in Paul’s letter or in the redemptive prophecies found in the Old Testament that project an unbounded optimism that all ethnic Israel will be saved. There is a remnant that will be saved, having been marked out by God from the beginning. David Gay provides a literal translation of verse 14: “‘My services I glorify if by any means I shall provoke to jealousy my flesh and shall save some from among them’. This is a far cry from any note of certainty and talk of ‘success’.” The point our brother is making is simply that there is no basis in this passage for thinking national Israel will be turning to the Lord in huge numbers.


Verse 15 is a parallel to what we saw last week in verse 12: (ESV) Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! Romans 11:15 (ESV) For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? In both places Paul posits an – off-putting of Israel as bringing benefit to rest of the world. Let’s pause for a minute to recall the singular benefits Israel had as a nation, chosen to be favored by God. They were called forth from Abram, who was called from the post flood mass of humanity. YHWH began bringing a few men to Himself and provided a cultivating ground in Egypt, where their slavery kept them from polluting themselves with the pagan religions so dominant in that culture. When He considered the timing right, He raised up Moses to lead them out of Egypt – there were more than 2 million Hebrews at the time. They were given a covenant by which to live, that would keep them in God’s pleasure should they follow it. He gave them a peculiar religion and plans for a tabernacle so the whole world would know Who He was. Early on, YHWH told them they were His chosen people, not because they were big and powerful, but because He had chosen them and is faithful to the promise He made to Abram. They grew and number and wealth, though they gave God much reason to discipline them for disobedience and by the time of Christ, they had added so much to the religion He gave them, adopting much from the pagan nations, that they reflected Pharaoh. They hardened their hearts and YHWH pushed them along. That’s how we end up where we are  - with Paul’s desire that many of his kinsmen be saved but no presumption on his part that such will be the case. Recall how he opened chapter 10, be stressing his desire, contrasted with his knowledge: Romans 10:1-2 (HCSB) Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation! I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Romans 11:1-12 Has God Rejected His People?

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Romans 11:1-3 (HCSB) I ask, then, has God rejected His people? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he pleads with God against Israel? Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars. I am the only one left, and they are trying to take my life!

Last week, we learned a little more about how bad off national Israel was. It was a gloomy picture that Paul started painting in chapter 2. So he asks another rhetorical question – Has God rejected His people? By this, the apostle clearly refers to ethnic Israel. He has been locking them, locking them out of the kingdom of God, putting their very identity as God’s people in question. Natural means cannot beget spiritual life – this is the essence of all that has gone before. This is a major point for this chapter, same as he taught in chapter 9 – Israel as a nation has no standing before God. But God has always kept a remnant and Jewish people will continue to be brought into the kingdom until New Jerusalem is complete. Has God rejected His people? Is there no hope for Abraham’s children of the flesh?

Paul rushes in to answer this rhetorical question, wanting to make sure his fellow Jews understand that they have NOT been rejected by God. His proof is himself - Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. His evidence that God has not rejected his people is simply that he, Paul, was redeemed by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This evidence is indicative of one thing – God does not save groups of people, He saves individuals from every group of people. He always has His people present, in every generation – to be a witness to the world of His power and authority and redeeming love. So Paul goes back to the Scriptures to provide his support – Don’t you Jews know about Elijah, how he cried out about Israel’s disobedience, holding himself out as the ONLY one left? This is the human condition – we think we are alone.

When we moved up here from Houston, in the summer of 2014, I was called to serve as pastor in a small church near our property. 4 weeks into the arrangement, I was fired – because I preached according to how I told them I would and because I did not go along with extra-biblical traditions without explanation. People who have lived in that part of Latimer County all their lives told me they had never met a Calvinist before. We visited church after church, looking for a gathering of God’s people who know salvation is of the Lord. There were times I wondered if we were the only people in SE Oklahoma who accepted God at His Word. And these others who claimed the same Savior I do didn’t want us around. Some were angry simply knowing we believed things differently than did they. But in due time, God showed me there was a small gathering, not so close to our home, where sovereign grace was preached and taught. There was a remnant in SE Oklahoma!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Romans 10:16-21 Faith Comes By Hearing ...

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Last week we saw, as Paul quoted from Isaiah, that the gospel was intended to be proclaimed to national Israel and all people. The first century Jews had as much difficulty accepting that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the redeeming savior of Gentiles as well. They had selective learning from their biblical authors – just like we do!

And therefore, the apostle to the Gentiles works to show his kinsmen of the flesh how their standing as Abraham’s children (according to the flesh) accounts for nothing in the kingdom of God. Romans 10:16-17 (HCSB) But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. We now read what some call Isaiah’s lament – the prophets’ anguish as he realizes not all of God’s ethnic people, the Jews, believed the gospel he proclaimed. Paul brings this to his people, to make sure ignorance is no excuse. The 4 gospels in the New Testament record the Lord Jesus doing much the same thing, in the parables wherein He shows the Jews how they have persecuted His prophets and will kill Him.

We see in verse 16 the statement that not all obeyed the gospel. What does it mean to obey or not obey the gospel? Is it a law or set of laws that one must obey to be saved? Here’s where a proper understanding of the gospel is vital. We have covered the gospel before – it is a proclamation of who Christ Jesus is and how He saves people from their sin. It is NOT a set of laws or rules that must be obeyed. Here’s a short poem thought to be by John Bunyan that rightly contrasts law and gospel:

Run, John, Run! The Law commands;
But gives me neither feet nor hands.
Far grander news the gospel brings;
It bids me fly and GIVES ME WINGS!

Verse 17 sums up much of what Paul has written and all of came before in this chapter: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Recall verse 14? But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? Sinners hear Christ when we proclaim the gospel and their ears are opened if the Spirit has prepared them. In this redemptive work, we cooperate with God, we do not take the place of God.

Hear the anguish from this apostle, as he quotes the Hebrews’ prophets to them again:

18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
 “Their voice has gone out to all the earth,

and their words to the ends of the world.” 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Romans 10:14 – 15 How Can a Man be Saved?

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Last week ended with verse 13: For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. We discussed a little about who was able to savingly call upon the Lord, but we will see that Paul supplies a better answer than what I provided. He does so by asking 4 more rhetorical questions; questions, the answers to which were so obvious that nobody would misunderstand him.

Romans 10:14-15a (HCSB) But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? Note the progression of these questions. The last question is the beginning point for time-bound humans. Some Christians are called and equipped to preach. All Christians are called and equipped to proclaim the gospel. While people can be brought into the kingdom by reading the Bible (it is the Word which the Holy Spirit attends to, not the human communicator thereof), we who have been bought by the blood of the Lamb are commanded to be His witnesses. We see how this was affected in the early church in the Acts of the Apostles. Those men who had hidden when Jesus was murdered on the cross, as the craven cowards they were, started turning the world upside down with the gospel. Recall Peter’s denial of Christ the night He was killed – three times he vigorously denied knowing who Jesus was. About 45 days later, read Acts chapter 2. Listen to bits of what Peter preached:

Acts 2:22-24 (HCSB) “Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. Though He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it. Acts 2:32-33 “God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. Therefore, since He has been exalted to the right hand of God and has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He has poured out what you both see and hear. Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” Acts 2:37-38 When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”  “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Take note of the content of Peter’s message. Christ Jesus is the message. He is the promised seed, appointed by God to do wonders (proving Himself as the Messiah); crucified by lawless men – those who thought themselves righteous – according to God’s plan. God does not have a “Plan B” – this event was predetermined by God before He formed the world. This Christ was raised from the dead and approved by God the Father, Who crowned Him Lord and Messiah. Through Him along mercy and grace are available and obtained only by repentance and faith. There’s the gospel – somewhat oriented towards the Jewish people. Something like this, in agreement on the essentials of who Jesus is, what man’s greatest need is, and what Jesus did to solve that problem, is what we have been sent to proclaim to every creature under the sun.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Romans 10:6-13 - The Righteousness That Comes From Faith!

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Last week, we ended with this statement by Paul: Romans 10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is from the law: The one who does these things will live by them. We start this week right there, with a great word - “but.” Knowing his audience has not lived by the law of Moses, we knowing neither have we, this “peoples’ apostle” speaks to us more about the righteousness of faith.

Romans 10:6-7 (HCSB) But the righteousness that comes from faith speaks like this: Do not say in your heart, “Who will go up to heaven?” that is, to bring Christ down or, “Who will go down into the abyss?” that is, to bring Christ up from the dead. He quotes Deut 9 and 30 in verse 6, explaining that if man were to go to heaven in this age it would be to bring Christ down to where He is needed. He is God and He came down in the right moment at the predetermined counsel of God the Father (Acts 2:23). There is a common misperception about Jacob’s ladder that his passage in Romans helps clarify. Genesis 28 reveals a dream Jacob had while he was on the run from his brother. In this dream, he saw a ladder reaching into Heaven, upon which angels were going up and down. How many times have you sang the song about climbing Jacob’s ladder? It portrays people climbing up to Heaven on the ladder – as if to bring Christ down? The ladder prefigures Christ, bridging the gap between Heaven and Earth. If it were a ladder for sinners to draw near to Jesus, we would have much reason to boast in ourselves. By this we know this is the wrong interpretation as much of this epistle has been focused on killing the desires of the flesh, including any boasting in the flesh for our relation with God. All interaction between God and man is initiated by God – Paul has made that clear in this epistle as have others quoted in the Scriptures. So we do not go up to heaven to bring Christ down.

Verse 7 then asks who will down into the abyss to bring Christ up from the dead, quoting Deut 30:13 and Heb 13:20 – which tells us the God of peace brought Jesus up from the dead. In Paul’s mind, it is just as crazy that a mortal would think he could bring Christ down from heaven as thinking he could bring Him up from the dead! No matter what Benny Hinn has said (and he has claimed to raise several people from the dead!), such a work can only be wrought by the One Who creates life!


The righteousness of faith, Paul tells us, does NOT make these claims. The false righteousness of works – pictured well by the small boy who wants to show his mother every little thing he has done, and is all-too-often told how wonderful he is! No matter how young, we do not need encouragement to think highly of ourselves. The righteousness that comes from faith speaks against this notion that we can determine or influence where the Lord Jesus is. Romans 10:8 (HCSB) On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. Here, Paul continues quoting from Deut 30, this time verse 14, where Joshua is presenting the nation with the challenge to follow after YHWH and enter into promised land. When the gospel is presented to lost people, the message is very near them. We bring this message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to people, not the message of working harder. For those being called, the message resonated in their souls and is very close to them and will evidence this by being in their mouths. Just as there are two categories of people, in two very different realms, so there are two types of righteousness – one spiritual and one fleshly. In each case, the more common, larger group or trait is the one at war with God. For them He is not the God of peace spoken about in Hebrews 13. For those of us in Christ, He is the God of peace!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Romans 9:30-10:5 Without Faith, It Is Impossible To Be Reconciled To God

Romans 9:30-33 (HCSB) What should we say then? Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness—namely the righteousness that comes from faith. But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the righteousness of the law. Why is that? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written: Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over and a rock to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame.

Having addressed his Jewish kinsmen about their need of grace and God’s mercy in saving a remnant – a small number of the multitude of Hebrews who had lived since Abram’s time – the apostle asks a question to draw attention back to the age-old promise of including the Gentiles into God’s kingdom. The Jews didn’t get into the kingdom by law-keeping or lineage of their flesh. How about the Gentiles? They did not have the Law of Moses to pursue self-righteousness, yet they obtained the righteousness of God that comes by faith. Think of Rahab the harlot – kept the spies safe and were included in God’s kingdom. Think of Ruth – stayed with her mother-in-law, caring for her and is in the line of Christ! And Abraham – justified by faith before he was given the covenant of circumcision. Reconciled to God apart from the Law. But Israel – given the Law to lead them to Christ, instead used it to try and earn God’s favor. They could have achieved righteousness through the Law, Paul says, if they had pursued it by faith. But they, by and large, thought their feeble fleshly attempts at keeping the Law of Moses would close the gap. We know from Scripture that God is jealous, will not share His glory with another, if there were another worthy of sharing! How much less will He consider sharing with a lowly creature? This ought to call to mind the apostle’s question in chapter 3 of this letter: Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. (Rom 3:27) He went on to say, So the one who boasts must boast in the Lord. (2 Cor 10:17). The law of faith ties to our current passage, contrasted here as in chapter 3 with the Law of Moses. When one pursues righteousness by faith, he will boast in the Lord, for there is no-one else who played a part in our resurrection from spiritual death to new life in Christ.

In our day, the opportunity for men to falsely boast in the flesh comes in too many local churches to count. Any place where raising a hand, walking an aisle, praying a prayer, or any other action by the creature is heralded as what brings or helps bring a sinner into relationship with God would be in Paul’s gun-sights. Our focus is to be on the heavenlies, wherein our help comes from – and from Whom our help came from in answer to our greatest need.


Those who pursued righteousness by works stumbled over a stone. Paul calls it a stumbling stone – its mission was to cause works righteousness to stumble. This stone is the same rock that gave water to the ancient Jews, it is the rock on which the wise man builds his house, the same rock upon which the church is built, and the chief cornerstone that holds what is built on the foundation to hold together. This the stone cut without human hands that Daniel saw smashing the kingdoms of this world; and on this stone, men will fall upon and be broken or it will fall on them and they will be crushed. Of this stone, Paul tells us, As it is written: Look! I am putting a stone in Zion to stumble over and a rock to trip over, yet the one who believes on Him will not be put to shame. This comes from Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16: He will be a stone to stumble over and a rock to trip over, and a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And Therefore the Lord GOD said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable. Those who have faith in the Son of Man will not be put to shame, will be unshakable. These are precious promises for the children of God! 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Romans 9:22-29 God is God and I am man.

Last week, we ended with: Romans 9:20-21 But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor?

We pick up this same train of thought, God’s absolute sovereignty, today: Romans 9:22-24 (HCSB) And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction? And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory — on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? The first thing that we ought to take note of, because it’s first in Paul’s train of thought and because it goes against the prevailing false view of God that is so popular in our time. The apostle posits the idea that one reason Creator God raises up and hardens some (such as Pharaoh) is to display His wrath and make His power known. For many people, their only religious creed is “God is love” – they know nothing about God other than He is love, and that’s all He is in their view. We know from Romans 8:1 that we who are in Christ are not subject to His wrath, free from condemnation. When we read that verse, do we contemplate those who are not in Christ, what their doom is? That is one thing Paul is getting at here: God intentionally pours out His wrath on the children of disobedience – now and in the age to come. He desires to have attention focused on Himself by the display of His power. We see the positive side of this in those familiar stories such Gideon and his army, which I touched on last week. When ancient Israel would rightly boast in YHWH – some put their trust in horse and chariot, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God! (Psalm 20:7) – they were doing the same thing. But we also saw in Romans 2 how people who are not repentant are storing up wrath against themselves to be revealed on the great and terrible day of God’s judgment against the people of this world. While God’s wrath is not the gospel, we should not be shy about talking of it. Neither the Lord nor His apostles shied away from this topic. The stiff-necked and rebellious people need to be warned to flee the wrath to come!

Paul goes on to explain another aspect of Truth that our post-modern humanistic friends must get a grip on. These people tend to think they don’t deserve God’s punishment, that if they’ve done evil, it isn’t really that bad and shouldn’t be subject to such horrible punishment. This is one part of the argument used in the book I mentioned last week, which a publisher I spoke with had written, denying the doctrine of hell. But our apostle tells us God has endured with much patience objects of wrath that are ready – fit, prepared, suited – for destruction. God’s character is so completely different from ours that it is difficult for us to grasp His holiness and how horrible our sin is. Infinitely holy and good Creator God is sinned against by His creatures. Such rebellion truly warrants an infinitely horrible and dreadful punishment.

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Romans 9:10-21 The Difference Between Man and God

Last time we ended with verse 9 which had Paul stating the promise YHWH had given to Abram and Sari – He would give them a son, through whom all nations would be blessed. The apostle is pressing the point that divine blessings come through divine means; mortal man is incapable of conferring God’s favor on one another. And so Abram and Sari had to wait on God 13 years after they delivered what they were able. But Paul is concerned that his audience get the message – as he has been in this entire letter. So he repeats his message, from another familiar part of Israel’s history.

Romans 9:10-12 (HCSB) And not only that, but also Rebekah received a promise when she became pregnant by one man, our ancestor Isaac. For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand—  not from works but from the One who calls—she was told: The older will serve the younger. In order to build a solid identity for national Israel that would not be able to deny was due to YHWH’s will, He determined who would be the patriarchs of that faith – contrary to the norms in that culture, which always rested on the first-born male. Recall how the Lord worked with Gideon to reduce the number of soldiers going into battle? God kept sending men home until there were only 300 – so when they won the victory, everybody would know Who had given them the day.


And there’s another aspect, just as important, that our apostle is bringing to our ears: God’s doctrine of election. John Wesley taught that God looks down the corridors of time to see who will choose Jesus and then He selects those to save. Here we see yet again how wrong he and his disciples are. Paul has already built the case of our depravity and inability to seek after God (chapter 3). Here he shows us that He chose the younger to rule before either was born, so that nobody could deny His hand in making this determination. Many passages tell us that God is jealous of His name, will not share His glory, will do what He declares. This one short passage is in complete agreement with those others – He elects whoever He wanted to, without regard for anything the elect may end up doing of their own volition. This order of brothers was turned on its head so Rebekah and all Israel would know YHWH rules!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Romans 9:1-9 Concern for friends, Confidence in Christ

Doug Moo observes that Paul’s tone moves from one of celebrating the joy of being in Christ to that of lamentation as he considers the condition of his kinfolk.

Romans 9:1-4 (HCSB) I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience is testifying to me with the Holy Spirit—  that I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart. For I could almost wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises.

In our passage today, Paul reveals his deep-seated love for his kinsmen of the flesh. This should show us that it is acceptable for us to likewise care especially for our kin folk. He stresses how his conscience is clear, he speaks as one united with Christ – speaking truth, and goes on to say he is not lying. He wants his fellow Jews to know that his desire for them is to be truly united to YHWH is sincere. But we also should learn from Paul that we can do nothing to overturn God’s redemptive plan. Here he describes how could almost wish to sacrifice himself for the sake of the Jews. I believe he recognized how outrageous his desire was, for he had written previously about the sovereign nature of God in the redemption of sinners. He further knows he cannot serve as a suitable sacrifice for them because of his own sin. It’s almost like Paul is trying to convince himself that the Israelites are worth saving – he lists several things that set them apart from the rest of humanity. The promises belong to them!

Recall what the apostle said about this in chapter 3 when he asked, What advantage do the Jews have? Considerable in every way. First, they were entrusted with the spoken words of God. Yet this advantage did not help them in the matter of utmost importance, as Paul noted in that chapter – where his point was that man cannot judge God as being unfair because He saves some but not others. Think about that in our culture. Those who think man chooses to have God save him rely on the human notion of fairness to rebut the biblical doctrine of election. Paul denies this argument as it directly bears on the Jewish people of his day. 

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Romans 8:28-30 The Golden Chain

Romans 8:28-30 (HCSB) We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.

This short paragraph is called the golden chain of redemption. Each link precious and necessary, no weak link in the chain. It starts out with a very familiar but often misunderstood declaration – Creator God works all things together for the good of His people. Just as the Spirit of God helps us when we don’t know what to pray, so He helps us in our human frailty by causing all the things we encounter to work for our good. This is not “good” as the people of the world consider things. One of the reasons the apostle has been so determined to point out the two categories of people – the redeemed and the condemned – is so that we, the redeemed, would better grab hold of the different way we view this world than those for whom it is their best life. In this first sentence, Paul was inspired to make clear for whom God works all things for good – those who love God. Not content with this – for there are far too few people who admit they do not love God; many countless people claim to love God and know Him not and are not known by Him – Paul describes further for whom God works all things for good. For those who are called according to His purpose. When you talk to people who say they love God, and move on to talking about His purpose for all He does regarding us, many of them grow disinterested – more willing to talk about their desires, perhaps; anything but what they perceive as God’s demands.


To be called by God in this manner carries the idea of being made new, born again by the Holy Spirit. This call will show up in chapter 10 where the apostle strings together some rhetorical questions to reveal the truth that without God’s call, none can call upon Him. I like to bring up the scene with Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus because this shows the condition of man (dead in sin and trespass), the authority of Christ (at one with the Father), the personal nature of His call (by name), and the power of His call (the dead shall come forth – alive). Called by God, according to His purpose. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Romans 8:18-27 Suffering for Christ

We left off last week with a note about the suffering we are bound to endure if we indeed walk and talk as children of the living God. This paragraph builds on that, opening with one of the most encouraging declarations in Scripture. Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. There will be suffering because the world hates us and we must be on guard that we do not fall into a trap set by the enemy. Peter wrote that we should live in such that our conscience is pure, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:16-17) Jesus told us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves when dealing with the world (Matt 10:16). Here’s how not to follow this instruction:

When I worked for Compaq Computer, they celebrated “Gay Pride Week” every year. During one such week, a fella in one location made a poster with Leviticus 20:13 on it - If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. Some people complained that they were uncomfortable and his boss told him to take down the poster. He refused and was fired. He appealed to the EEOC and they ruled against him, saying he had contributed to a hostile work environment. Christians that I worked with were outraged at this report and asked me if I was. I told them I was sad that a brother was so dumb. Our message for the world is the gospel, not the law. We cannot bring a sinner into the kingdom by the law, but YHWH has given us the gospel for that very purpose. The Holy Spirit will convict His people of their sins and grant them repentance. If we suffer for the cause of Christ, let it be on account of us being unashamed of the gospel.


There’s another type of suffering that is common to all folks. Some people think life is hell, or some particular trial is hell. You hear people talk like that all the time. Business meetings are hell! These statements tell me those so speaking know nothing about hell. All of these things – and lots that are worse – are normal suffering that are the product of the Fall. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Romans 8:14-17 Slave to a new Kingdom

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.


If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you are being led by the Spirit – and this is the sign or evidence that one is a child of God. There are those who claim all people are children of God, but this is not true in the sense spoken of here. Unredeemed sinners were made in the image of God but must be born by the Spirit of God to become His children. There are some who claim a specific sign or gift must be in evidence of all of God’s children, such as speaking in gibberish tongues or having a second baptism in the Holy Spirit. But Paul says elsewhere, There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6) The universal church, the total number of redeemed saints, are THE body of Christ, each and all are indwelt by THE Holy Spirit, subject to ONE Lord in ONE faith, ONE baptism, belonging to the ONE God. This baptism that ALL children of God participate in is not the water baptism that characterizes Baptist churches. It is the same thing as the circumcision made without human hands spoken about elsewhere – the invisible yet undeniable work almighty God does on each person ransomed from hell and death by the all sufficient work of Christ Jesus. In Christ there is no Gentile, Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, or female. It’s not that we lose those characteristics when we get saved (slaves are told not to worry about being free since they are free indeed in Christ); it’s that these things which matter so much to mortal man do not make a difference in the kingdom of God.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Romans 8:1-13 Christ Jesus is our Refuge!

One of the difficult things to do when we study the Bible in detail is to keep in front of us the context surrounding our passage. In the literary sense, we need to work at comprehending how our text fits within the book and the whole of Scripture, as well as who the audience was and how they fit into the historical, redemptive context. If lose sight of these things we will be vulnerable to wretched misuse and wrong application of the Word of God. On social media this week, lots of people showing support for police. Some of them putting Matt 5:9 over a police badge. Whether one considers the police force to be peace keepers or law enforcement, is there any way imaginable to reasonably conclude our Lord was speaking about them when He said Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”? It’s clear from the context that He is talking about those who proclaim His gospel, as ambassadors of reconciliation to bring peace between warring sinners and Holy God. Do police officers become, categorically, sons of God? No! Yet many people who support the police and profess Christ argue that this verse rightly applies to the police. This is a cavalier attitude towards the Scriptures our God has given us and ought not to be so!

All of that because this part of Paul’s letter to the Roman church relies heavily on parts we’ve already studied. In chapter 5 we saw how being “in Christ” means we have eternal life rather than eternal death that is our default. Doug Moo points out 18 or so strong references to content in chapters 3, 5, 6, and 7 in this opening passage from chapter 8, as the apostle moves to describing the benefits of having the Holy Spirit in our lives. Moo observes, “Thus Paul weaves together various threads from chaps 6-7 in a new argument for the assurance of eternal life that the believer may have in Christ.”


Verses 1-4: The transfer from death to life is grounded in the work of the Holy Spirit. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The focus on this verse is to put a stake in the ground, declaring to all the saints that being in Christ means peace with the Father, rather than condemnation. The KJV and few other newer manuscripts include a gloss that is not in the older manuscripts, but is in verse 4: who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Theologically, this gloss is not problematic, but it tends to draw attention away from the victory Paul wants us to know, onto our efforts to perform well. When we became children of God we were translated from the realm of sin and death into the glorious presence and security of the kingdom of God. It’s a different realm, a different kingdom than what people of this present age belong to. We will get to the imperatives but we must first rightly grasp the indicatives: we have been freed from the pending wrath of God by the two-fold imputation of the cross of Christ. For our sake, He made Him who knew no sin to become sin so that we would become His righteousness. Our redemption is a monergistic work of God, without cause or condition in us playing any part. If we think our attitude or action inclines God to save us or make our salvation possible, we are sliding down to the pit of works-righteousness, away from the grace that saves.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Romans 7:7-12 Sin Used the Law to Bring Death

I will rely heavily on Doug Moo’s commentary for this passage. He divides verses 7-25 into two sections, with verse 13 described as a bridge between them. Let’s read the entire passage and then open it to see if we can grasp what God spoke through the apostle.


Romans 7:7-12 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Moo describes verses 7-12 as “a narrative to show how sin has used the law to bring death.” This should be no surprise to Paul’s readers, or us, as he has been beating this drum for a while. I think some folks are hard-headed and reluctant to face truth. Moo says verses 14-25 moves to present tense verbs to show the battle between the mind and the flesh, which succumbs to the law of sin. We are told, again, that the law can arouse sin but it cannot defeat it.

Perhaps the biggest debate regarding this passage is aimed at answering the question, Who is Paul describing? There are 4 directions of interpretation held by people:

1.      The autobiographical view. Paul uses the Greek word egō which is interpreted as “I” all through this passage. Therefore, he must have been describing his own personal spiritual journey and, to a degree, each of ours. This position runs into a problem in explaining verses 7-12: How does this awakening to the sin provocation of the law in this Pharisee’s life? Was it when he was a young man being brought to know the Torah better, realizing he was responsible for his sin and no longer “alive?” Or does this relate to his time shortly before being converted by Christ, having thought he was keeping the law but awakened by the Spirit to the depths of his sin? And then the last part of this passage (verses 14-25) we are told this is Paul’s struggle with law shortly after his conversion, as he works out the conflict between the Jewish religion and Christianity.

2.      The Adamic view sees this passage as directly describing Adam before and after sin. This view was held by many early Christians, leaning on Paul’s identification of being in Adam or in Christ.
3.      The Israel view see egō in this passage (especially verses 8-10) to be a representation of Israel, as Paul continues to build on his identification with his kinsmen of the flesh. Chrysostom was an early advocate of this view, showing the nation of Israel to “relatively speaking, spiritually ‘alive’ before the giving of the Law at Sinai. But when that law was given, it gave sin opportunity to create transgressions and so deepen and radicalize our spiritual lostness.” Most hold this view think Paul is describing the on-going situation of Jews who were then under the Mosaic Covenant. This is also called the “salvation-historical” view, fitting into the overall redemptive historical motif of the larger Bible story.

4.      The existential view insists that egō cannot relate to any one person or group of people; it must mean everybody in general. Paul is using figurative language to describe the confrontation between a hypothetical person and demand of God.

Moo finds elements of all views in this passage but believes that the first and third accord best with the text – Paul is describing his own or other Jews’ experience with the Law of Moses and how that law brought death rather than life. Paul certainly is discussing the Mosaic Law here, as he has been for much of this letter. This makes it rather difficult to put Gentiles into this passage, as the first view would do – seeing it as every Christian’s conversion story in addition to Paul’s. Aside from those who joined with national Israel early in her history, Gentiles were not and are not under the Mosaic Law. And Jews beyond the first century are not under it either, as the Old Covenant, of which the Mosaic Covenant was part, has worn out and been abolished as a covenant with the coming of the New. This means view 2 is wrong because nothing in the Bible supports the common idea that Adam was given the Decalogue. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Romans 7:13-25 Death Brings Liberty From the Bondage of the Law

Romans 7:13 (HCSB) Therefore, did what is good cause my death? Absolutely not! On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure. 


Do you see why verse 13 is considered to be a transition between the two major parts of this passage? Verses 7-12 had a main focus on the goodness of usefulness of the Mosaic Law, ending with a strong defense of its holiness and righteousness all the while acknowledging that sin was strengthened by that law. Many Bibles have a subject heading for verses 13-25 something like The Problem with Sin in Us, which is what the Holman uses. The question in verse 13 answers the question of verse 7 but this verse also ties strongly to the discussion about sin in the following verses. It acts like a bridge tying these two paragraphs together.

Christians are in the New Covenant, not the Old and are such by the judicial declaration of Creator God – imputed righteousness that results in “good works;” yet still and always, to one degree or another, entangled by sin. But we are free in Christ from the slave master of sin and we are identified with Him, not with our flesh or the sin that once ruled us with an iron fist. Let me challenge us to think of this passage as describing Paul and his kinsmen of the flesh as he and some of them struggled with yoke that was too heavy for any man to bear (in Acts 15 this phrase refers to the Judaizers’ demand that Christians be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses); knowing that our own experience reflects some of this same struggle against the powers of darkness.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Romans 7:1-6 Marriage and the Law

Marriage is an example of how death frees one from obligation. Nobody expects marriage obligations (and privileges) extend beyond physical death. But Paul explains how this works – death frees one from marriage. Giving one’s self to another who is not your spouse while the spouse is alive makes you an adulterer. If your spouse has died, however, you are free to marry – not guilty of adultery. That’s the example – death ends marriage.

The Jews of Jesus’ time understood this, even though they had contrived countless reasons for which a man could divorce his wife, abusing the two reasons God provided (because of our natural hardness of heart). We see the Jewish perspective, not only was a widow free to re-marry, if she had no children, her dead husband’s kin were obligated to marry her so she might produce offspring. In Matt 22:23 and following, the Sadducees tested Jesus because they denied the resurrection and were trying to trap Him with a complicated story. The point I want to bring out from that story is that everyone accepted that death freed one from a marriage. That’s the point Paul is making.

And yet, some teach that this passage is instruction on marriage, meaning that only death ends marriage. I don’t know how the language could be much plainer. All the arguments these folks muster up fall into extra-biblical rules and they crumble in the face of life. They teach that divorce was required in the Jewish engagement period (and it was!) but not used in the actual marriage. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and and Jeremiah 3:1 tells us that woman is thrown out by her husband can get married to another man; but she is NOT permitted to return to be the wife to her first husband again.  The first marriage has been ended and may not be re-instituted. Paul tells us that he is using marriage as an example about how death affects a legal relationship – it ends it. 

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Romans 6:12 – 23 Both Dead AND Alive!

Our last lesson finished up with verse 11 - So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. This serves as an indicative – we Christians are dead to sin and alive to God. We pick up in verse 12, where Paul explains what he meant, giving us two negative commands and one positive one, imperatives; followed by the promise and rationale.

Romans 6:12-14 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

First command: do not let sin reign in your mortal body. Second: Do not present your members to sin. Third: Present yourselves to God. None of these imperatives are possible for anyone that is not dead to sin and alive to God, the indicative in verse 11.

Take note of the difference between the first two commands and the third: the negative commands relate to our physical being – our mortal body, our members. The third command relates to our whole being, including our souls – present yourselves. If one is in Christ, he can give his mortal body and its members – all that is fleshly – to sin for a season. But he is ever of the Lord and cannot give himself over to sin. The Christian can and will want to give himself – all that he is – to the Lord Who redeemed him, though sin lurks and temptations abound.


Paul does not here speak of our mortal body as if it were the body of sin that has been put to death. He recognizes that as long as the Lord tarries, we are bound to space and time in a body that is weak and vulnerable. This is why he spoke elsewhere that flesh and blood (meaning that which has not been glorified) cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 15:50). 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Romans 5:20 – 6:11 The Purpose of the Law

Romans 5:20-21 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Here the apostle refers to the Mosaic Law, appearing to address his kinsmen of the flesh once again. It is not the design of the Law to create sin, what Paul is saying here is that the Law provokes sinners to sin. It’s the same effect as one of us seeing the “wet paint” sign – we want to test that. It’s what happens when we face a speed limit that is simply too low for the road and conditions – we want to go faster. This is the sinful nature of humanity at work; we do not like to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man as unto God. We conveniently forget Paul wrote Romans 13 while the morally bankrupt Roman government rules the known world.

Further still, the Law was given to Israel so, as God’s chosen people for time and space, they would see how hideous their sin was. All law given to man by God reflects and reveals some of His character: His holiness, purity, and judgment. The Mosaic Law was given in writing to Israel and it drew a sharp contrast between the nature of God and that of man. Many theologians have compared this to the jeweler’s practice of displaying his choice diamonds on black velvet. Paul is painting a contrast here to give encouragement to the Christians, showing us how far greater than our sin is the grace of God that reigns in righteousness, conferring eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus.


Paul addresses this same topic in Galatians 3, telling those who want to live under the Mosaic Law that its time and purpose have passed. As Jesus came in the fullness of time, the role of the Old Covenant wound down. Once Jesus came in the form of man and suffered for the sins of all the elect, the Old Covenant served no further purpose; the type gave way to the anti-type as the New Covenant was cut in the blood of the Lamb of God.

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.