Friday, May 23, 2008

Romans 3:1-4

God, in His divine pleasure, has bestowed upon all who believe the right to be called His children. Our identity, our seal, lies first and foremost in our innermost being, in our hearts, for “no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” (Romans 2:28-29) We have been given a title above any other, that we may be called a people set apart for God.

God, in various times and in various ways, has spoken to our fathers by the prophets. (Hebrews 1:1) Not our fathers by first right physical, but by first right spiritual. Through these people, the Jews, a nation was set aside, a nation holy before God, a nation “entrusted with the oracles of God.” (Romans 3:2) To entrust one with something bears a close correlation to the idea of faith, as does the Greek word. The Jews were given the very words of God, and were called to be faithful therein. However, the question arises, if God has set aside a people to be his own, and some have acted unfaithfully to that calling, has God failed in His intentions? It is for this reason that Paul speaks, “What if some were unfaithful?” (Romans 3:3) What God has ordained to be accomplished, He will accomplish, thus being faithful to His own word. Paul affirms this immediately as he glorifies the holiness of God’s truthfulness, “Let God be true though every one were a liar,” and then defends the holiness of God’s truthfulness, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” (Romans 3:4)

We listen to David as he speaks in the Psalms:

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” - Psalms 51:3-6

God is wholly (and holy) other; He is truth when all else fails. He is the God over the entire universe. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Furthermore, where an action most rightly is (and my rightly, I mean righteously) exhibited, therein will God’s character be. Therefore, as truth brings about the most righteous form of judgment, there becomes a necessity, a necessity, for God to judge. It is intrinsic to His office, even His very nature, for Him to judge, for God delights in the truth. Where there is truth, there is no hypocrisy, as David writes of God, “you delight in truth in the inward being.” We see then Paul’s main grief, which is found in those who “changed the truth of God into a lie.” (Romans 1:25) The Jews had taken the oracles of God, the law and the prophets, and through their hardness of heart, had rejected the truth found within, namely, “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) Even if God willed not to judge, He must judge, that He may be justified in His words, and remain blameless before all. Therefore, where truth avails, there is a standard, and it would go against the very standard of God to allow unfaithful Jews to go without judgment.

We see, therefore, the necessity for God to judge, but for God to remain faithful to His word, we also see hope, but to fully understand God’s faithfulness through this hope, we must first understand the remedy for unfaithfulness of the Jews. We listen to the prophet Isaiah:

“And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him—for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” - Isaiah 49:5-6

This is a radical statement, for along with those Israelites whom God had preserved, Isaiah is saying there is a necessity for nations to be saved beyond Israel! Paul makes an equally radical statement when he claims that a Jew is one inwardly, and that circumcision is a matter of the heart. When we look at Isaiah’s statement and Paul’s statement side-by-side, an amazing truth unfolds. Our true identity is not flesh and blood, but that to which the Spirit attests; to be called the children of God requires a radical excision of sin from our hearts, an excision that physical circumcision could never achieve. We read in the prophet Jeremiah:

For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.” – Jeremiah 4:3-4

Furthermore, it is in this inward circumcision where God truly delights, for as Paul writes, there is where our praise comes from God, and not of man. (Romans 2:29) Therefore, as God had promised Abraham a nation, and the nation promised had acted unfaithfully, God remains true to His promise by including those beyond the physical line of Abraham into the covenant family, that God my be justified in the truth of His promise…that He may remain blameless…that God may delight.

Yet God’s love for the nation of Israel never changed, though they rejected Him. We hear Christ cry out as He looked over Jerusalem:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” – Matthew 23:37

But in the faithfulness of God, and through His righteousness, there remains a hope.

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.” – Isaiah 10:20-23

They shall lean on truth, Christ, for the Lord God of hosts will make a full end, the Lord will do right…

“…but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:2-3)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Romans 1.1

So I thought that since I made some annotations to Romans 2, I may as well do the same for Romans 1. I wanted to specifically highlight Romans 1:14-16, and make special note of Paul's three "I am..." statements.

"I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." - Romans 1:14-16

1. I am under obligation to preach the gospel. Concerning missions, John Piper stated, "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity, But worship abides forever."
Let The Nations Be Glad by John Piper (p. 17) We are obliged to preach the gospel for the simple reason that there are people in this world who are not worshipping God. We, as Christians, must be fervently seeking God's glory among all the nations of the world.

2. I am eager to preach the gospel. What Good News has been presented to us we must not keep to ourselves. The appropriate Sunday school answer would say, "Imagine you had a cure for cancer which was free and in infinite supply. Would you keep it a secret?" I personally think this is a great analogy! :) We must be eager to spread the hope that is within us to the glory of the grace found in that great name which is above every name, that is Jesus Christ.

3. I am not ashamed to preach the gospel. The gospel of Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing, as is the cross of Christ, and to preach this is risky business. In fact, it was just as risky then as it is now. Paul was severely persecuted for the gospel of Christ. However, Paul held Christ as his treasure above any calculable value, and he was not afraid to display Christ (both through word and deed) to the glory of God the Father.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Romans 2.1

I felt the need to create a short addendum to the post on Romans 2.

I purposely avoided Romans 2:14-16 in my initial post for the simple reason that the apparent implications of those verses were extremely hard to grasp. Even so, I feel the need to speak something of them:

“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” - Romans 2:14-16

I will first look at what Paul is saying, and then put forth some ideas as to what he means by this passage.

I would like to look at the phrase “by nature do what the law requires.” The Greek word being used here for “nature” is physis, which here refers to a person who is “guided by their natural sense of what is right and proper.” (Thayer’s lexicon) Again, this would give credence to Paul’s following statement that “they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts.” The Greek word being used here for “work” is ergon, which here refers to the “course of action demanded by the law.” (Thayer’s lexicon) Therefore, it may be asserted that there is a type of action, a natural course of action, inherent to every living being, which guides in the direction of the right and the proper. These actions are equated with the demands of the law, that is, they are not contradictory guidances; they are equivalent. There is, however, a second witness, as Paul states in verse 15, and that is one’s conscience. The Greek word being used here for “conscience” is suneidesis, which here refers to the “soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other.” The conscience, as a second witness, is not a witness apart from the heart, but a joint witness of sorts. If we compare this passage with Romans 9:1 (i.e. Christ and the Holy Spirit are working jointly), where suneidesis is also used, we also see that the conscience is not an entity devoid from the workings of the Holy Spirit. Now, I would argue that a non-Christian’s experience is categorically different in regards to how the heart and conscience work together, but I would claim that the following is simply my best interpretation, and I am eager for correction: for a non-Christian, the law is written on their heart, and their conscience is driven by the ability to distinguish what is good and proper from what is not good and improper, an ability which finds it’s origins in the law. For a Christian, Christ is written on their hearts, and their conscience is driven by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit, a drive which finds it’s origins in Christ. (John 16:7-15) Our conscience, therefore, works as a type of filter, a filter which acts on our thoughts and should subsequently delineate our actions. We see further a relation of this point from Thayer’s lexicon, in reference to the Greek word being used here for “thought,” logismos, which refers to thoughts “which have passed the judgment of one’s conscious.” This is why Paul says then that their conflicting thoughts may either accuse or excuse us. When a thought is judged by the conscience of a non-Christian, there are going to be instances when the thought conflicts with what the conscience has deemed as good and proper through the working of natural law on the heart. In those cases, if the non-Christian acts on those thoughts (either mentally or physically), they shall be justly accused, for they have broken the law of God which has been written on their hearts. If the non-Christian does not act on those thoughts (either mentally or physically), Paul states that they will be excused, for they have acted in accordance with the law written on their hearts. Now, ultimately, all will stand condemned before God, for regardless of how many excuses we may obtain, “all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And furthermore, if we are found guilty of breaking even one small point of the law, “we are guilty of breaking the whole.”

The important thing to remember here is that Paul is writing to the Jew is regards to the Gentiles, and the point he is inevitably making is that the Jews boasting in their adherence to the law is ultimately futile, for not only do the Gentiles have the law written on their own hearts, but the Jews themselves are acting as hypocrites, boasting in the law, but breaking it in the same breathe. (Romans 2:21-29)

It is interesting to note verses 23-24, which state: “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’” These verses reminded me of the chastisement of King David by the prophet Nathan after David has sinned by murdering Uriah in 2 Samuel 12. We see in verse 10, “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.” And again in verse 14, “Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” In the King James, verse 14 reads, “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. The Hebrew word here for “great occasion” (נאץ) literally means “to give occasion for evil speaking.” It would seem to me, therefore, that what these passages, and Paul himself is saying that to sin is primarily an issue of dishonoring God! Notice how David did not say “I have sinned against Uriah.” Now, I am not trying to discriminate God’s law from God’s honor, for they are directly related. What I am trying to do, and I believe what Paul is trying to do, is show that there is a certain hypocrisy that can creep into our lives that echo’s Christ’s words, “You have heard it said, ‘Thou shall not commit adultery,’ but I tell you the truth, any man who looks at a woman lustfully has committee adultery with her in his heart.” In other words, am I following the law to honor the law, or am I following the law to honor God? As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

This is, most assuredly, the greatest sin in my own life. In the most regard, the greatest sin a Christian can commit is that of hypocrisy. In Dante’s Inferno, the placement of hypocrites was the Eighth Circle of Hell, located just above the Ninth and final Circle, that reserved for traitors, who the most notable of which was Judas. This is not to say that Christians who fall into hypocrisy and then seek forgiveness will not be saved. I say this merely to point to the seriousness of sin in hypocrisy, for indeed, was it not the sin Christ was repeatedly calling the Pharisees out on? It seems Paul is doing the same in this chapter of Romans.

I will state this again for my benefit as much as it is for your own:

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Romans 2

In the first chapter of Romans, Paul lays the foundation for his subsequent argument, mainly, we, as humans, have no excuse before God when it comes to sin.

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” - Romans 2:1

This is a condemnation of hypocrisy, a condemnation of a “plank and speck” type, a condemnation similar to that handed down by Christ to the teachers of the law. It is interesting to note that the only person worthy of judging another was Christ, for He was sinless, but instead of judgment, Christ honored His Father by reserving that privilege for Him.

“If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” – John 12:47-50

Yet even though Christ reserved His judgments, He still had the authority to judge.

“You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.” – John 8:15-16

And finally, in all of His judgment, Christ sought to aline Himself with the will of the Father, in order to bring Him glory.

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” - John 5:30

Call me crazy, but I think Christ just exemplified the perfect approach to judgment, and it’s a lesson we need to take to heart: God has the right to judge, God’s Word has the right to judge, but we do not. When we judged as sinners, we are condemning ourselves, when we judge as believers, we are robbing God of his proper glory. “The LORD rebuke you…” (Jude 1:9)

Perhaps it was out of our insecurity that we, when sinners, were so quick to judge. We were so afraid to look back at ourselves. At times, we even treated with contempt the very forbearance, patience, and kindness God showed us before we knew Him.

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” - Romans 2:4

Leading to repentance…here it is…the reason we were not all dead and burning in hell at that very moment…that very first moment we sinned…and this is the reason: Even in our former rebellion, God was patient.

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.” - Romans 2:5

They were obstinate, they were unrepentant. They new the truth, but they chose their own way. That is why they deserve the just wrath of God. That was Paul’s point in his introductory chapter (Romans 1). And this…is the point where Paul makes a statement that seems very out of place:

“He will render to each one according to his works…” - Romans 2:6


Did you read that too?

Was it not Paul himself who stated in Chapter 1 “The just shall live by faith?” (Romans 1:17) Why is he now mentioning works? Is Paul making a salvitic statement?

First, a good working definition for “render” and “works” is needed in order that Paul statement be properly understood. The Greek word for “render” is apodidomi. Thayer’s Lexicon defines apodidomi, in the sense it is being used in Romans 2:6, as “requite, recompense in a good or a bad sense.” The Greek word for “works” is ergon. Thayer’s Lexicon defines ergon, in the sense it is being used in Romans 2:6, as “(to recompense one in accordance to their) works.” The key word here seems to be “recompense.” In the positive sense, recompense is understood as rewarding someone for services rendered. In the negative sense, recompense is understood as making restitution for damage or injury. In the neutral sense, it simply means compensation.

A concrete example of how these words are also used by Paul can be found in 2 Timothy 4:14, where Paul states, “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.

It is quite obvious in this passage that this Alexander did some work which was purposely damaging the ministry of Paul (what he was exactly doing is somewhat of a debate among scholars). Paul, however, does not seek immediate justice from man, but is confident that God will serve the justice due for the wrongs done.

Returning to Romans 2, we see that what we seek plays a vital role in what we obtain. Those “who by patience in well-dong seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” (Romans 2:7) But those “who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” (Romans 2:8) Again in Romans 2:9, tribulation and distress falls on “every human being who does evil”, and in Romans 2:10, there is glory, honor, and peace “for everyone who does good.”

It is important to note here that those who do not seek God are not justified by the excuse that they didn’t know Him, for in chapter 1, Paul has already presented the argument that shows this line of reasoning doesn’t hold. Pointing again at verse 8, they are not disobeying a mystery, but a revealed truth!

So where is Paul going with this? I believe Romans 2:11 gives us the answer: “For God shows no partiality.”

What you sow, that shall you reap! (Job 4:8, Galatians 6:7)

God shall not be mocked!

God’s justice shall not be mocked!

God’s mercy shall not be mocked!

There is no excuse, there is no loophole!

For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.”- Rom 2:12

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” - Rom 2:13

God has shown no partiality. He has rendered each according to their works, for under the law, all justification preceded from doers…from works.

If we were to stop here, our doctrine would be in danger of heresy. Therefore it is necessary to peek ahead into Romans 3:23, which states: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

In Romans 2:12, Paul states, “all who have sinned”, and in Romans 3:23, Paul states “all have sinned.” Therefore, according to Romans 2:12, all shall either perish or be judged.

The law…death…

We have fallen short, we have failed, but where we have failed, Christ succeeded. This is where the necessity of Romans 2:6 and Romans 2:13 arises, and this is where the necessity of God rendering each according to their works comes to full fruition. Without this truth, Christ’s perfect life is meaningless. This is the justification to be found in works, but this justification is unattainable to a sinner. Only Christ overcame, only Christ was sinless, and God rendered to Him the just recompense of His act, glorification, and rendered also to Him anything for which He asked.

And what did Christ ask for?

“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” - John 17:24

He asked for us, a miserable bunch of sinners…he asked for us…

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

We are Christ's compensation.

May we stand amazed.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Romans 1 Rome. (Part 1 of ?)

“Everyone soon or late comes round by Rome.” – Robert Browning, English Victorian poet

This final entry (or more correctly entries) has possibly been the hardest to concisely place in a means adequate of it’s importance, both in the life of the man from Tarsus, and also in the ramifications it rightly carries as being the most important book in the New Testament aside from the Gospels and Acts (respectively).

It is fitting, then, that this man be named.

I have strayed from a name until this point for the empathetic purpose of placing myself in this man’s shoes. I have been called by Christ (Tarsus), and have publically been called Christian (Antioch), but I have yet to reach the full fruition of my faith, the very thing this man from Tarsus received in his final missional journey to Rome. When I say fruition, I do not necessarily refer to passing from this life to the next, but moreso the ability to see that the garden God has grown through my planting. This man from Tarsus was able to see (to his exceeding joy; Philippians 4:1) this fruition, and, Lord willing, someday I will be able to see the same.

His name was Paul, and he was an apostle to Jesus Christ.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:1-7)

The encouragement of this opening greeting, in its foundational doctrine, bears with it the advent of one of the hardest eras of Christianity- the persecution of the Christians by the Roman emperor Nero.

“…your faith is spoken of throughout the world.” (Romans 1:8)

Paul knew what it meant to be persecuted, almost as well as he formerly knew how to persecute. Perhaps it is fitting irony that his life, as it is believed, was ended on the command of Nero himself.

Paul knew the inevitability of that potential persecution that lay in store for him in Rome. “I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also… for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:15-16)

The gospel of Christ, a power leading unto salvation, a portrayal of the righteousness of God.

God, by His very righteous nature, condemns the sinner- a condemnation unto death. It is important to say “by His very nature,” for it saves from any contradiction, and it paints vividly the “God-ship” of God. We see, as with the Ark of the Covenant, the severity of this righteousness. To touch the ark, as a sinful being, meant certain and instant death, much like looking on the face of a Holy God (Exodus 33:23).

I see it as a grace that God commanded Moses to construct a veil between The Holy of Holies and the rest of the tabernacle. As we well remember, the nation of Israel quaked when God descended to earth at Mount Sinai. In Revelations, we read that men will wish for mountains to fall on them to hide themselves from the “wrath of the Lamb.” (Rev. 6:16) Paul draws from these truths when he states, “…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” (Rom. 1:18) The Greek word Paul uses for “reveal” may also be translated as “lay open that which has been veiled.” The veiling of wrath brings imagery of temporal grace, yet when this veil is removed, Paul makes it clear that the wrath of God is due to the unrighteousness caused by the suppression of truth.

As Pontius Pilate so aptly put it, “What is truth?” (John 18:38)

In Romans 1:19 we see “what may be known of God is manifest in them.” Interestingly enough, the word for “know” (gnōstos) here can be understood as a “common perception”, or “common knowledge.” The word “manifest” may also be translated as “made evident.” In Romans 1:20, we see that God’s invisible attributes are “clearly” seen, and in verse 21, we see that they “knew” (ginōskō) God. Both highlighted words imply a certain degree of "thorough perception."

In other words, the common (and I would argue intrinsic) understanding of God leads to an evidential, thorough perception.

Think of it this way: if God had not revealed Himself in a way common to all men (i.e. through nature, testimony of our conscious, Jesus Christ), evidential perception would not be distorted, for there would be no truth to suppress. If there was no truth to suppress (and truth is a prerequisite for righteousness) then Paul would have no grounds for his statement. Therefore, Paul lays out his argument, beginning with the perception of God made evident, and only then makes his condemnation on those who suppress the common knowledge of God when He has been made evident in them, and all of this pointing to the righteousness of God….in all of this, God has done right…

All who reject stand condemned, and all have rejected, therefore all stand condemned.

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:24-25)

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:28)

It would be very hard for me to reconcile these two verses. To give someone up to something, especially something that will inevitably reap terrible repercussions, is never an easy thing to do. Perhaps this is why God proclaims in Ezekiel:

“Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Ezekiel 33:11

The two condemning words in Romans 1:24-25, 28 are “because” and “since.”

“…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie…”

“…since they did not see fit to acknowledge God…”

And the most condemning verse of them all …

“Although they know (epiginōskō; recognition, associated with) God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32)

For why will ye die…?

For why will ye die…?

Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways!

Do you not know that it is God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death?

“The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” (1 Corinthians 15:56)

Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways!

See, has not Christ torn back the veil?

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us…” (Gal. 3:13)

Flee to Him, flee to the mercy seat.

Dead men walking…may Christ have mercy…

NOTE: As I have repeatedly inferred, the original post length for Romans was about 3 posts, but now it is looking as if it may be much longer, bear with me on this one. I'd love to hear your comments!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Rome is Coming...

It looks like it may be a two parter, being that it is a hugely dense book. I'm stuck in Romans 5, but it's a good kind of stuck, the kind of stuck that will inevitably produce fruits of knowledge by the quickening of the Spirit. I'm hoping to get through 8 before I post part one, Lord willing.

In the meantime, check out this link. It is a masterfully crafted parody rebuttal to Hitchen's God is not Great book.

Monday, December 24, 2007

An Emergen(cy)t Intermission

I recently paged through some online articles which talked about Rob Bell, or more specifically, the Emergent Church. I felt rather compelled to write down some thoughts, some which I drew directly from the articles I read, some of which seemed an issue which arose naturally from the theology of the Emergent movement. Eventually, I hope to post on how the many of the core values of the Emergent church can be redeemed, and in fact better utilized, in a Christ-adoring, Scripture-savoring, Spirit-soaked approach to Christianity.

Question #1: Do people apart from Christ need to fear the wrath of God?

Absolutely! The gospels all make this message very clear in their message of repentance, lest those who disregarded it should perish (Matt. 4:17, Mark 1:15, Luke 13:3, Luke 13:5, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, Acts 8:22, Acts 17:30, Acts 26:20). Furthermore, Jesus commanded his disciples to preach a strict repentance (Mark 6:11-12). Why do those who are apart from Christ need to fear the wrath of God? Because they are sinful and deserve the wrath of God! Apart from Christ, we all deserve the wrath of God. Praise God for the grace found in our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus!

Question #2: Do people who are found in Christ need to fear the wrath of God?

Absolutely not! Now, we must have an utmost respect for the infinite holiness of God (respect that causes us to kneel before a King), and seek with our whole heart (through our love for Christ) to avoid sin, but we need not fear God’s wrath! As Christians, if we fear the wrath of God, we are robbing Christ of the proper glory He received, and the righteousness He imputed, on the cross. (Hebrews 4:16)

Question #3: What is the gospel?

The gospel is the good news found in Christ Jesus, namely, through Christ, we now have access to the Father. That is the good news! It was this very thing that was destroyed in the Garden of Eden- direct access/communion/intimacy with the Father. That was the good news Jesus came to declare, that through His sacrifice, we, who believe, are forgiven.

Question #4: But isn't the gospel feeding the poor and advocating for the oppressed?

Although these actions are truely one of the marks of a faithful Christian (Gal. 2:10, James 1:27), these actions are not the gospel themselves, but instead a RESULT of accepting the gospel of Christ through saving faith. Caring for the poor and advocating for the opressed are the natural result of the renewing of ones heart by the words of Scripture and the fruits of the Spirit. Martin Luther, in his commentary on Galatians 2:10, says thus: “Next to the preaching of the Gospel, a true and faithful pastor will take care of the poor. Where the Church is, there must be the poor, for the world and the devil persecute the Church and impoverish many faithful Christians.” Here we see that Luther makes differentiation between preaching the gospel and caring for the poor, and therefore, although one leads to another, there is still a clear distinction between the two.

Question #5: What is the best method of evangelism?

In reference to evangelism, I would pose this question: is it not true that Christ will return like a thief in the night? (2 Peter 3:10) If a man is walking on the edge of a precipice, do we shout a warning or simply whisper a simple observation or anecdote? Sir, if I am ever walking on the edge of a precipice, please shout, for although it is not pleasant to my ears, in hindsight, it is a far more loving thing to do. Now, granted, “shout” can moreso be understood as metaphor for a fervent, heartfelt, Scripture-soaked warning, and not necessarily yelling at someone through a loudspeaker (aka Bell's bullhorn guy), but to assume that the one shouting is not showing love in his actions is an equal tragedy. (Matt. 10:27)

Question #6: When Scripture speaks of "being a witness", doesn't it refer more to an identity rather than an action?

The Greek word for “witness”, when speaking of the action “to bear witness”, most literally means “to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something," or “utter honourable testimony, give a good report” or “to implore.” (Strong’s G3140) The word witness must not simply be used as a strict identity, when Christ used it as both an identity AND an action.

Question #7: Does hell exist? Is the Bible literal when it speaks of hell?

If the Bible is understood as a metaphoric literary hodgepodge of the Jewish nation's history, then hell's existance and literal meaning is definitely up for debate, but if the Bible is understood as the divinely inspired, breathed, infallible Word of God, then I believe the following verses would answer the question in a satisfactory manner: Isa. 26:44, Eze. 33:4, Matt. 13:49-50, Matt. 25:46, Luke 3:9, Luke 3:17, Luke 16:19-26, Romans 2:5.

Question #8: Is preaching the "fear of hell" a legitimate means of bringing nonbelievers to accept Christ?

I would argue yes (Matt. 13:47-51, Matt. 25:14-46, Luke 3:9, Luke 13:3-5, etc.), but at the same time argue that, ultimately, fear of hell is NOT the reason for accepting Christ, and Scripture makes this quite clear. John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, and Paul make it quite clear that when speaking of fear, it is the fear of the WRATH OF ALMIGHTY GOD which should drive us to Christ! It is a terrible TERRIBLE thing to fall into the hands of the Living God! (Heb. 10:30-31, Heb. 12:29) We MUST turn to Christ for any hope of salvation! Our God is a just God, but He is also a God of mercy, compassion, and love, which He portrayed through His Son Jesus Christ, to the glory of His grace.

Question #9: Doesn't the Hebrew word "to save" really just mean "to be made whole"?

The Greek word “sozo” (Strong’s G4982) or “to save” does indeed also translate as “made whole.” The interesting thing, however, is that every time “sozo” is translated (in the New Testament) as “made whole”, it is ALWAYS referring to a physical healing by Christ. Now, granted, Christ never healed physically and neglected spiritually. On the contrary, Christ’s healings were almost always paired with a command to “go and sin no more” or “your faith has healed you.” The point is, when “sozo” is translated in reference to literal salvation, it ALWAYS refers, first and foremost, to a “saving from destruction.” (Luke 9:56, etc.) As a side note, the word “sozo” is used 110 times in the New Testament. 93 times, it is translated to being “saved”; 11 times it is translated in reference to being “made whole” (and once again, “made whole” is always paired with physical healing).

Question #10: Do you have any last comments on the Emergent Church?

I would like to make a statement to those reading this blog concerning the Emergent Church. Be wary of those who create a doctrinal theology around a handful of verses. This is a distributional fallacy, or more specifically, a fallacy of composition, which is understood as using the truth of the parts to understand/ascertain the truth of the whole. Now, this fallacy does not negate the truth of the parts, for on the contrary, it affirms them. However, Scripture must use the truth of the WHOLE to understand the truth of the whole, and not simply the truth of the parts. A proper Biblical exegesis is growing rare a little too quickly. For example, if we were to understand Scripture based off of a few key verses in the Old Testament (which incidentally is what the teachers of the law did), we would be in big trouble doctrinally and theologically, not to mention we still might be slaughtering animals for sacrifices! The point is, the Emergent Church may point to some Scriptures, e.g. "It is my will that none shall perish..", "For the Son of Man came into the world, not to condemn the world...", "God so loved the world...", and with them attempt to create an exhaustive theology/doctrine, but this simply cannot be done without being unfaithful to Scripture as a whole. Again, my statements here are NOT DENYING the truthes of the Scriptures aforementioned, but simply saying that, in good faith, the Bible must be read as the entire, revealed will of God. I would also make the point that the Emergent movement is not the only Christian movement guilty of this, and it is necessary to carefully examine our own doctrines to make sure we are savoring the whole of Scripture, and not just a part.