Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Psalm 8:1-4 "O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! 2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease. 3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; 4 What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?"
In the last post we introduced the reader to the concept of God's necessary existence. The Bible affirms God's necessary existence in general without hardly going into exquisit detail. God's eternality, omnipotence, omniscience and so forth sets Him apart from all other fraudulent conceptions of other deities in all other religions. In these series of posts, we are affirming the fact that not only does the God of the Bible exists, but that He exists necessarily. This idea of "necessary existence" means that it is impossible for God not to exist, since without Him we would have no universe, no morality, no meaning and no life! As we noted already, the Bible does not go into fine detail as to how God necessarily exists. Nevertheless, we often find God contrasted with His creation and human beings, going the route of affirming what God "is-not" (for example, God is "not-finite" but "infinite" - Psalm 147:5). In today's post we are going to contrast human beings and creation with God to hopefully bring further clarity to this idea of His necessary existence.
Contrasting Our Existence To God's Necessary Existence
As noted earlier, when we attempt to meditate on God's being and nature, we consider what God is not or by way of negation (called by theologians "via negativa" or "by way of negation"). By noting our particular situation and state of existence, we can contrast what is not the case with God in order to grasp what can be said about Him. A quick example of what I'm referring to is when we speak of God as being of an "infinite" nature. Unlike all other things and people - which are finite or inscribed within the limitations of creaturely existence (i.e "finite"), God by nature, revelation in the scriptures (see Psalm 147:5) and by definition is not finite - hence, "infinite".
Whatever we have left over from stating what God "is not", we can then discuss what God "is" by way of revelation, then by reason and finally by reflection.
Whenever we think a little bit about our own existence, a simple question can be raised: "could I had been born with different color hair, have a different height or have other different qualities?" The short answer to this question would be: "yes". Another question we could ask about our own existence would be: "is it necessary for me to exist in order for the world to carry-on as it always has? The short answer to this second question would be: "no". We may not like to think about it, but it is not necessary for us to exist in order for the world and the universe to continue on in this present moment and into the future. History could had been otherwise with or without us.
As human beings, when we speak of our reliance upon things outside of ourselves to maintain our existence or the fact we could had been different than what we are at this moment, we are referring to what thinkers call: "contingency".
This fundamental property of "contingency" is shared by all created entities: from planets to people, from galaxies to germs. Anything that is "contingent" is described as having been at one point not in existence (i.e having a beginning and thus a cause for its existence) and relying upon things outside of itself.
It is also possible for us to have different qualities and properties than what we actually have, since as human beings, we are subject to changes both internally and externally. Even though we as human beings are alive, we still require other factors to sustain our existence: air, food, a suitable environment, a planet, a solar system that supports a suitable cosmic environment for our planet to continue its orbit, a main-sequence star that adequately warms our planet and so-forth. Such reflection on our "contingent" existence helps us to see the opposite type of existence that God alone possesses: namely, "necessary existence".
Today we introduced the reader to a second important concept that describes the way in which we exist, the universe exists and all-other created things exist - namely, contingency. A contingent being does not have to exist and could had been different. Contingent beings and things require a necessary being or cause to originate them and to sustain them. Reflections such as these will aid us as we further pursue understanding God's necessary existence. In the next post, we will consider some key Biblical texts that affirm this vital truth of God's necessary existence.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Exodus 3:14 "God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
A child learns from an early age to depend on their parents. Everything that the child needs derives from either the parents or other people. Even when children grow into adulthood, though many people would like to think they are "on their own", no man is ultimately an island unto themselves. The trait of "self-sufficiency" can only be applied to one being - God Himself. As we begin reflecting on God's existence, I'd like us to think about the manner in which God exists. Over the course of today's post and perhaps the next couple of postings, we are going to look at a feature of God's existence that is unique to Him: namely, God's necessary existence.
God's Necessary Existence
To begin our thinking about this topic, let's ask ourselves the following question: "if God did not exist, would it matter?" How one answers this question gets to the heart of this important topic of God's necessary existence. In this post, we will contend that God's existence as a necessary being means that He must exist. The important ramifications and further reflections on this truth will be fleshed out below.
The Bible Asserts God's Necessary Existence
Exodus 3:14 records God's self-revelation of His name, nature and character as the God of Israel and thus the God of creation and redemption. By asserting Himself with the Hebrew verb translated: "to be", God is proclaiming His uniqueness as the self-existing God responsible for the existence and sustaining of everything else in the created order (see Genesis 1:1; Psalm 33:6; 102; Isaiah 43:10-11; Romans 11:36; Hebrews 1:4-13). Theologian J.I. Packer notes the following about God's necessary existence in his book: "Concise Theology":
"Children sometimes ask, “Who made God?” The clearest answer is that God never needed to be made, because he was always there. He exists in a different way from us: we, his creatures, exist in a dependent, derived, finite, fragile way, but our Maker exists in an eternal, self-sustaining, necessary way—necessary, that is, in the sense that God does not have it in him to go out of existence."
Author, philosopher and theologian Norman Geisler discusses the necessary existence of God in terms of answering the question: "who made God?" in the book: "Who made God? And Answers To Over 100 Other Tough Questions To Faith", page 23, with the following response:
"Who made God? No one did. He was not made. He has always existed. Only things that had a beginning-like the world-need a maker. God had no beginning, so God did not need to be made."
Today I wanted to introduce the reader to this important concept of God's existence, namely, that God exists necessarily. We noted that it is impossible for God not to exist, since without God, there would be no universe nor any other set of objective standards (such a morality, logic and so forth). My aim in the next post will be to flesh this out further by contrasting God's necessary existence to our own.
Monday, May 29, 2017
1 Timothy 4:13-16 "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you."
Over the last few posts, we have explored key attributes or characteristics of the Bible. In what author Kevin DeYoung suggests, the following acrostic "S.C.A.N" captures the four main attributes of our study: sufficiency, clarity, authority and necessity. My hope is that this short study has introduced you to some rich concepts and has helped you to have a higher regard for the precious Book of God.
We have looked thus far at three attributes of scripture: Sufficiency, Clarity and Authority. The final attribute of scripture we will consider is that of its necessity.
Gaining A Better Understanding Of The Bible's Necessity
Whenever one goes to purchase a car, there is “standard” equipment and then “options”. Pinstripes, chrome and a certain type of feature in the car’s audio doesn’t make the car go faster or go period. However, if the car didn’t come with tires, a motor and a transmission, then one would not have a working automobile! Such standard equipment is “necessary” for the car to operate.
For many of us who are Christ-followers, we surely ought to know from this study that the Bible is “necessary” for the Christian’s life’s beginning and continuance. Yet, how often do we treat the Bible as an “option” rather than as “standard equipment”?
Author Kevin DeYoung describes the necessity of scripture as follows:
“We need the revelation of God to know God, and the only sure, saving, final, perfect revelation of God is found in scripture.”
Imagine what would happen if the Bible had never been revealed? People would never know about the Gospel, how to get to Heaven, anything about Jesus, the meaning of life and the specifics about the God that created this world and all it contains. Centuries ago it was said that science explains how the heavens go, whilst the Bible explains how to get to heaven. The Bible is necessary for understanding this life. The Holy Spirit converts the souls of sinners who respond by faith through the Bible being taught, preached or explained (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18). We could go on, but it ought to be patently clear that the Bible’s sufficiency, clarity and authority leads to this final attribute of its necessity.
Closing thoughts and applications
As we close out this study, I want to leave the reader with life-practical points that demonstrate the necessity of scripture and by implication, include the other three attributes of scripture expressed in this study. The Bible’s sufficiency, clarity and authority are needed to:
1. Battle sin. Psalm 119:9-11
2. Live for God. Joshua 1:8; 24:15; Psalm 1:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:17
3. Think clearly. Hebrews 4:12
4. Believe rightly. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13
5. To do church correctly. 1 Timothy 4:13-16
6. To preach effectively. 2 Tim. 4:1-5
7. Share the Gospel. Romans 10:8-17
Sources Cited In The Last Four Postings
Baptist Faith & Message 2000. Available at: http://www.sbc.net/bfm2000/bfm2000.asp
DeYoung, Kevin. Taking God At His Word: Why The Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, And What It Means For You And Me. Crossway. 2014
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Zondervan. 1994
Ryrie, Charles. "The Importance Of Inerrancy". Biblotheca Sacra. Volume 120. Page 137ff
Saturday, May 27, 2017
2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."
We've noted in the last two posts how the four main attributes of scripture (sufficiency, clarity, authority and necessity) rise and fall together. To state it another way: one cannot assert the sufficiency of scripture and yet deny its clarity, authority and necessity. When we affirm one of these qualities, we affirm all of them. In today's post we want to consider the Bible's authority.
A Brief Exposition On The Bible's Authority
We’ve looked at the Bible’s sufficiency and clarity, but what about its authority? Author Wayne Grudem gives the following definition of “authority”:
“The authority of scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of scripture is to disobey God.”
Kevin DeYoung, in his book: “Taking God At His Word” uses the term: “final word” on page 78 to designate the role of scripture in his chapter on the Bible being the final authority.
When we designate the Bible is our final authority, are we excluding all other forms of authority (such as pastors, church congregations, science, government, etc)? not at all! All other authorities are important and function to provide guidance, protection and accountability. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 notes about the Bible’s authority:
“the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”
When we talk of the Bible's authority, two very important doctrines must be mention: inerrancy and infallbility. Biblical inerrancy is another way of saying that the Bible is "totally true" in all it says, containing not one error in its words as originally given. The latter term "infallibility" refers to how the scriptures are never wrong, or, put another way: "always lead to a correct knowledge and understanding of God and everything else. The late theologian Dr. Charles Ryrie comments on this link in his article: "The Importance Of Inerrancy", in volume 120 of Bibliotheca Sacra:
"Both the authority of Christ and the authority of the Scriptures depend on the inerrancy of the Scriptures, for statements that are not completely true cannot be absolutely authoritative. Furthermore, parts of the Bible cannot be true and thus authoritative while other parts are not. It is not a book that is authoritative only in matters of “faith and practice.”
What Jesus Said About Biblical Authority
The best Person to look to in understanding the Bible’s authority is none other than Jesus Himself. In almost 30 spots in the four Gospels, we find Jesus using the phrase “it is written” in His quotations of the Old Testament. This little phrase was distinctly used by Jesus to highlight the Old Testament as God’s words in contrast to when He referenced the Jewish teachers, wherein He would say: “you have heard it said”. One of the names we use for the Bible, “scripture”, which derives from a Latin term “scriptura” meaning “that which is written” and undoubtedly reflects the attitude Jesus had toward the Bible being God’s written, authoritative revelation to us.
The Bible’s authority is unique authority, in that it alone has sway over the conscience and it alone is the final court of appeals when it comes to weighing not only matters of life but also in getting ready for the life to come. Some great scriptures that unfold further the meaning of the Bible’s authority are: Matthew 5:18; 24:35; Luke 16:17; Psalm 119:89,160; Isaiah 40:8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:3-4.
Friday, May 26, 2017
Psalm 19:7-8 "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes."
In yesterday's post we briefly considered the sufficiency of the Bible for everyday life, spiritual life and the life to come. We meditated upon this important trait or attribute of the Bible, noting that it occupies four main attributes expounded by various Bible teachers: sufficiency, clarity, authority and necessity. In today's post we want to consider the second of these important attributes, namely the Bible's clarity.
Clarity of the Bible
The clarity of the Bible is perhaps the most attacked attribute of scripture in the 21st century. Skeptics often will accuse the Old Testament of portraying a mean, vengeful God and the New Testament presenting the God of love. Such accusations make the Bible out to be a fragmented book that is unclear when it comes to presenting the full-treatment of God's revelation.
A quick caveat from church history will reveal that indictments about the Bible's inconsistency and lack of clarity are not new. In the second century we find similar accusations from a heretic named “Marcion” who rejected all of the Bible except portions of Luke and some of Paul’s letters. Is the Bible unclear and fragmented in its revelation of God? Not at all! In addition to the Bible’s sufficiency, we must also affirm its clarity or by the older term used by some: “perspicuity”, to grasp why such attacks are unwarranted. Author Kevin DeYoung offers the following definition:
“the perspicuity of Scripture upholds the notion that ordinary people using ordinary means can accurately understand enough of what must be known, believed and observed for them to be faithful Christians.”
Does clarity lead us to conclude that every verse of scripture is going to be easy to understand? No. We must compare harder to understand portions to those portions of scripture that speak more clearly. The Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:16 of how some of Paul’s letters were hard to understand and yet Peter affirmed that one’s Christian understanding could be clearly enlightened by the “great and precious promises” of the Bible in 2 Peter 1:3-4.
Thankfully, the Christian is not left to their own devices to figure out the meaning of the Bible. The Holy Spirit has been sent to aid, guide and instruct our hearts and minds as we read and study the scriptures through His ministry called “illumination” (see 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 1 John 2:20,27). Great passages that speak further on this attribute of clarity are: Psalm 19:7-8; Habakkuk 2:2; Psalm 119:104; Psalm 119:89,160; Isaiah 40:8; Proverbs 6:23; John 16:12-14; 1 Corinthians 2:13 and 1 John 2:20,27.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
In today's post, we want to briefly consider a key characteristic of the Bible that marks it as the unique revelation of God to man - namely its sufficiency. One could certainly focus attention on many such qualities, however, for this post, we will restrict ourselves for the time-being to this particular quality of scripture. The sufficiency of scripture comprises one of four main qualities that theologians call “the attributes of scripture”: sufficiency, necessity, authority and necessity. Each of these characteristics are precious in their own turn and all four rise and fall together.
To aid us in our reflections on this subject of the Bible's sufficiency, three resources will be mentioned. First, author Kevin DeYoung has suggested a helpful way to remember the attributes of scripture by the acrostic “S.C.A.N” in his book “Taking God At His Word”. DeYoung puts "sufficiency" at the head of his discussion on the doctrine of scripture, and thus we will utilize his order of presentation. Secondly, we will consider some observations from author Wayne Grudem, whose book “Systematic Theology” references these same four attributes of scripture and provides helpful insights. Then finally, the doctrinal statement of the SBC, The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, will round out our brief exposition on the sufficiency of the scriptures.
Sufficiency of the Bible
What is meant when we speak of the sufficiency of scripture? In Kevin DeYoung’s book, the following definition is offered: “The scriptures contain everything we need for knowledge of salvation and living. We don’t need any new revelation from heaven.”
Dr. Wayne Grudem notes further about the sufficiency of scripture:
“it (the Bible) contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting Him perfectly, and for obeying Him perfectly.”
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 offers this short description of Biblical sufficiency under its article on the Bible: “the true center of Christian union.”
Near the end of the Bible we find an example of the Bible’s own statement on its own sufficiency in Revelation 22:18 – “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book.” Other similar cross references that emphasizes this attribute of scripture are: Deuteronomy 4:2; 5:22; 12:32 and Proverbs 30:6.
If we were to put into our own thoughts the life-practical importance of Biblical sufficiency, it would be this: God’s Word is the basis for providing what we need to live life, grow in the Christian life, carry-on church-life and prepare for the life to come.
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Romans 8:16-17 "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him."
In our last post we considered the Christian's new inheritance in Jesus Christ as found in Romans 8. We focused particular attention upon Romans 8:1-11, and noted two particular elements of this new inheritance the believer has in Jesus Christ:
1. A New Position. Romans 8:1-4
2. A New Guest - The Holy Spirit. Romans 8:5-11
This theme of "inheritance" provides the backbone for what comprises the Christian's spiritual and relational identity to God in Jesus Christ. Romans 8 covers quite a bit of ground in its coverage of the rich, spiritual inheritance that can be enjoyed by all Christians. I thought that we would consider what else is revealed in Romans 8 with respect to the Christian's new inheritance in Christ, followed by some remarks on other key texts that spell out this remarkable truth.
The Christian's New Inheritance in Jesus Christ in Romans 8
When one studies Romans 8:1-39, there are at least seven distinct elements that comprise the overall spiritual inheritance gained by the believer in Jesus Christ. As witnessed in the opening text of today's post, Romans 8:16-17 occupies the anchoring theme of the chapter. All that Paul writes about the Christian's spiritual inheritance is enjoyed or partaken of by the them as a result of being co-heirs with Christ in God. If we were to offer an outline of this new inheritance in Christ from Romans 8, it would be as follows:
1. New Position. Romans 8:1-4
2. New Guest. Romans. 8:5-11
3. New Name. Romans 8:12-17
4. New Expectations. Romans 8:18-25
5. New Prayer-life. Romans 8:26-27
6. New Assurance. Romans 8:28-37
7. New Life-goal. Romans 8:38-39
A Brief Survey Of The Believer's New Inheritance As Spelled-Out In The New Testament
As can be seen, the theme of the believer's inheritance is rich in both its content and application. Paul's argument for sanctification includes its design (Romans 6); its battle (Romans 7) and the inheritance that the Christian begins to partake of in Romans 8. Other New Testament books expound further on this incredible truth of the believer's new inheritance. A sample of some of the key texts will be pursued at this point, since a full treatment would require several posts!
Galatians 4:1-6 and its extended context beginning from chapter three all the way to the end of Paul's letter centers around the contrast between who were were formerly as slaves separated from God to sons adopted by God. Galatians 4:4-6 states - "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Perhaps none of Paul's letters is more saturated with this theme of the believer's spiritual inheritance in Christ than that of his letter to the church at Ephesus. Almost immediately into the first chapter, we discover that the Christian's inheritance was pre-planned by God the Father, Son and Spirit before time began (Ephesians 1:1-14). Paul prays for the Ephesians to have further enlightenment about their spiritual heritage in Ephesians 1:18-20.
Throughout the remaining 5 chapters of Ephesians, something is said of the Christian not only partaking of such blessings here in this life but of their ultimate destiny of reigning with Christ in the coming age (see Ephesians 2:6-8; 3:20). Such a spiritual inheritance informs how the Christian ought to conduct their life (Ephesians 4:1; 5:1); their families (Ephesians 5:22-23; 6:1-4); jobs (Ephesians 6:5-10) and fight the good fight of faith (Ephesians 6:11-18).
As one travels throughout the rest of Paul's letters, this theme of the Christian's new inheritance in Christ pervades (see Philippians 3:7-11; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 4-5; 1 Timothy 6:11-16). The Apostle Peter touches upon the believer's spiritual heritage in 1 Peter 1:8-9 and 2 Peter 1:3-11. The writer of Hebrews uses this theme in conjunction with the illustration of the ancient Hebrews and the Promised-land in his exposition of portions of the book of Joshua in Hebrews 3-4. The Apostle John refers to this same spiritual heritage in 1 John 3:1-3, wherein we read:
"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."
As one rounds out surveying a sampling of what the New Testament presents regarding the believer's new inheritance in Christ, the material is seemingly unending! In the tiny letter of Jude, Jude writes of how the believer's inheritance is none other than God's very glory in Jude 1:24-25. The Book of Revelation, particularly chapters 21-22, detail what will be the ultimate manifestation of this heritage when believer's are finally brought with Christ into the New Heavens and New Earth wherein righteousness dwells (also compare 2 Peter 3:13). Is it no-wonder that Paul states in Ephesians 3:8 - "To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ."
Today's post aimed to explore what both Romans 8 and the New Testament had to say regarding the believer's new inheritance in Jesus Christ. The hope is that this will whet the appetite of the reader to explore God's Word and to see how awesome it is to know what one can truly have by being united to Jesus Christ in salvation and sanctification.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Ephesians 1:18-20 "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places."
Romans 8:1 "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Romans 8 is a remarkable chapter in the Bible. In Romans 8 we are given an exposition of the wondrous inheritance that God has for believers in Jesus Christ. The spiritual inheritance is of such a nature that its dividends are paid out by installments of spiritual blessings in this life. In Christ Jesus, the believer experiences an "already-not-yet" spiritual inheritance, with a foretaste in this present age and with full reception in the age-to-come. I included Ephesians 1:18-20 in the opening passages to show the reader how much this inheritance requires the Holy Spirit's ministry of stirring up the spiritual senses and affections to see the significance of this truth. Today's post is going to consider the beginnings of Paul's exposition on the Christian's new inheritance in Jesus Christ in Romans 8:1-11.
How can we tell that Paul is laying out the totality of the believer's inheritance in Christ Jesus in Romans 8? The following verses reveal to us this central theme of the believer's rich inheritance in Jesus Christ.
1. The Christian's New Inheritance Entails A New Position - Romans 8:1-4
First, we see in Romans 8:4 that "the requirement of the law" might be fulfilled in us". This statement takes us back to the wonderful doctrine of justification by faith stated by Paul in Romans 5:1 - "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". Christ in the Christian supplies the credited righteousness demanded by the Law of God. Christ the Law-giver came to earth to be the law-doer for us who believe. By His active obedience, Christ fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law. By being the perfect Adam, Christ took care of completing the covenant of works broken by the first Adam (see Romans 5:11-21; 2 Cor 5:21). As the Law-giver came to be the Law-keeper, Christ then went to the cross to be treated as the Law-breaker, taking upon Himself the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10-13).
Romans 8:1-4 lays out for us the fact that in Christ, we have a "new-position". The James-Fausset-Brown Commentary notes about Romans 8:
"But this is no mere legal arrangement: it is a union in life; believers, through the indwelling of Christ’s Spirit in them, having one life with Him, as truly as the head and the members of the same body have one life."
The highest-state that original Adam had prior to the fall was being in a state of "no-condemnation". When Adam fell from his "original-state-of-righteousness", he experienced, in the words of Milton: "Paradise lost". In God's redemptive plan of salvation in Christ, the goal was not only to restore what had been lost in Adam - but to exceed such. In the New Adam - Jesus Christ - believers begin in a new position that at its bare minimum represents in its beginnings the highest point of the original Adam. The inheritance in Christ is going to be shown by Paul to be far greater than what Adam originally had.
2. The Believer's New Inheritance Entails A New Guest - The Holy Spirit - Romans 8:5-11
So in Romans 8:1-4, one could say that in Christ, we have a new position. We then come to the second key verse of Romans 8 that points to this theme of "the believer's inheritance in Jesus Christ": Romans 8:9-11. In Romans 8:9-11 we read - "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."
We know from this second text in Romans 8 that the Christian is already, by position, ahead of original Adam by virtue of the fact that God indwells the believer by the Person of the Holy Spirit. God spoke "to Adam" and gave him commands in Genesis 2. For the Christian, God in the Person of the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian and empowers Him to live out the commands of His word (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:6; 6:19-20; Galatians 5:16; 25). These verses tell us that in addition to the "new" position we acquire in Christ at saving faith, we immediately receive the "new" Guest - the Holy Spirit. "Warren Weirsbe in his commentary on Romans 8 observes:
"Every believer is a child of God by birth and an heir of God through adoption. In fact, we are joint-heirs with Christ, so that He cannot receive His inheritance in glory until we are there to share it with Him. Thank God, the believer has no obligation to the flesh, to feed it, pamper it, obey it. Instead, we must “put to death” (mortify) the deeds of the flesh by the power of the Spirit (v. 13, see Col. 3:9ff) and allow the Spirit to direct our daily lives."
We know that the inheritance given to the saints is none other than God Himself. Ephesians 1:13-14 "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory." The resurrection power of the Spirit begins in the human spirit of the believer and will find its full-culmination in the resurrection of the body at Christ's return. Christians experience the foretaste of the world-to-come by the Spirit as He presses us onward to what will be the full-reception of our spiritual blessings in the world to come. The age-to-come had broken into this present age by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Romans 7:14 "For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin."
Introduction: The Christian Is In For The Fight Of Their Life
When we pass through the start of Paul's discussion of sanctification in Romans 6:1-7:6, we understand the urgency to understand our Christian identity. The blueprints of Christian growth following one's justification by faith are laid out in those verses. We find that not only is our relationship to Jesus Christ changed relative to pre-conversion versus post-conversion, but our relationship to sin is changed as well. Romans 7:1-6 illustrates Paul's discussion in Romans 6 by showing how the believer in Jesus Christ break with the former life before Christ is likened unto the death of an old spouse. Freedom enters into the picture, meaning that the Christian is free to live rightly for God.
The design of sanctification has been laid out by the Apostle. The question of the hour is of course: "what will occur when the Christian is put into the context of working out their salvation with the internal conflict of left-over indwelling sin and this new-found nature in Jesus Christ? It is in answering this question that we will consider what I'm calling: "the fight of your life".
What Life Is Like Before Salvation With Respect To Sin And God's Law
As we come to The Holy Spirit's ongoing discussion of the victorious Christian life through the pen of Paul, we see Paul sharing his pre-conversion life in Romans 7:7-13. Recognizing who he was before Christ, Paul changes the tenses of his verbs from "things that were" to "things that are now" in his life. Why does Paul first mention his life before salvation in Jesus Christ? The mention of the law of God in these verses serves to remind us of the one way we become aware of the fact that sin is sin.
Much like traffic traveling down the interstate, many of the drivers will travel above the speed limit. However, whenever a police cruiser is sitting along the highway or is in their midst, all the drivers suddenly become "law-abiding" citizens. Why? The presence of the "law", so-to-speak, heightens the work of the consciences of the drivers, reminding them to "slow-down". Does it follow that the absence of the police officer meant that speeding was any less unlawful? Not at all. But now consider the funny thing that happens when the officer is seen by the drivers. Some of them will feel resentful, and the impulse will still be to try to speed!
Is it the officer's fault if they still speed? Not at all. Rather, the presence of the "law" stirs up the impulse to want to rebel against authority. That impulse and bent toward unlawfulness was in that driver already.
Paul's mention of his interior spiritual condition before salvation (and really, the spiritual conditions of all human beings born into this world) reveals the treachery of sin. God is not to blame for the sinner's sin. Rather, the sinner is the source of blame. Before we can ever get saved, we must first see that were lost. Sinners are in a war but don't know they are fighting on the side of the enemy. Only when we see sin as sin will we see it as our enemy. This determination, only made possible by the Holy Spirit working His convicting work through God's Word or Law will bring this point to roost in the heart of the sinner.
The Fight For One's Sanctification Begins From The Moment Of Justification or Salvation
A wise pastor once told me that in order to understand the ramifications of Christian sanctification in Romans 6, you have to grasp the conflict of it in Romans 7 in order to experience the victory of it Romans 8. As Christians, we would prefer, I think, to skip having to fight the world, the flesh and the Devil (see 1 John 2:14-17) and just get on in becoming more like Jesus. Scripture of course doesn't portray Christian growth in this way. The Christian life is not to be conceived as developing in a serene, sterile test-tube environment free from conflict.
In Romans 7:14-25 Paul is describing his Christian life as a boxing ring, wherein two opponents are sparing with one another. There is "the law of sin" or "the old man, nature" (7:23) versus "the law of my mind", the "inner man" or the operations of the new nature in Christ. (7:22) As you go down through this verse, Paul describes the interior of His Christian life in relationship to sin:
7:15 "For I am doing the very thing I hate"
7:18 "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not."
7:19 "For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want"
7:22 "for I joyfully concur with the law of God in my inner man"
7:23 "but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war..."
Clearly there is conflict, a 12-round all and all out fight. The underlined phrases tells us that sinning for the Christian is a matter of choice. To sin as a Christian is not "I have to", but rather "I want to". Even the Great Apostle Paul dealt with this inner boxing ring. Christians are by position and experience counting themselves dead to the voice of the sin still resident in their flesh (please read Romans 6:11). However that voice that needles daily in their "old man", if not dealt with and regarded as dead by the believer, will as it were get off the cross and attempt to live. The fight is on.
Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world
In the context of Romans 6,7 and 8 we discover one important truth about this boxing match in the Christian life: greater is the Holy Spirit that is in me than Satan that is in the world (see 1 John 5:4-5). Paul's argument, though showing the boxing match between "the old man" and "the inner man", reveals that the inner-man (that is, me in the the Lord and the Lord in me, my new nature) is much stronger and more skilled than the old man (the left-over remnants of sin that plague me in my sanctification). The Holy Spirit says through the Apostle John in 1 John 4:4 "greater is He that is in you, and he that is in the world". The argument carries on into Romans 8 and we read in Romans 8:2 "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death."
So is there a boxing ring in the Christian? Undoubtedly! Are the opponents evenly matched? Hardly. My inner man has with Him God the Holy Spirit, living in and through me and expressing Himself by way of my mind, emotions and will. Even though the presence of sin is still in me, it is weakened and its power to utterly imprison me was taken away.
Closing thoughts and final applications
Today we have focused upon expounding on Romans 7:7-25. We've considered the fight one has in wrestling with the left-over remnants of sin whilst having the internal new nature acquired in saving faith. The Christian life is an ongoing-internal boxing match. The question is: when it is all said and done, how can one get through to victory? Consider the following three exhortations for our application:
1. Determine your enemy: sin. Romans 7:7-13
2. Determine to fight sin. Romans 7:14-20
3. Determine to win against sin in Jesus. Romans 7:21-25
The argument of Romans 6 for the victorious Christian life requires the conflict of Romans 7 to demonstrate that victorious Christian living is a real thing and not a fiction of some pious imagination. Its not easy, but it is worth it. Let's fight the good fight of faith!
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Romans 7:7-9 "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died."
In our last post we considered the wider context of Romans 6,7 and 8. We noted four "r's" that can aid us in keeping Paul's main argument in mind: realities of our Christian identity; responsibilities of the Christian flowing from such identity; wrestlings internal to the Christian and the rights of sonship. The third of these "r's" will be our focus, since in Romans 7:7-25 we see the Apostle Paul zeroing in on what exactly is experienced by the Christian in their daily struggles with and against sin. As the Bible Knowledge Commentary notes on its introduction to the main issues of Romans 7:
"It is one thing for a believer to understand that his identification with Jesus Christ means that he has died to sin (6:2) and to count or reckon that to be true (6:11). But it is something else for him to deal with the sin nature that remains within and its efforts to express itself in his thoughts and actions. This is the internal conflict in the area of sanctification that every believer faces."
The Struggle To Rightly Interpret Romans 7:7-25
Ironically, the subject matter of Romans 7:7-25, namely the wrestlings of sin and righteousness inside every Christian, has led to another type of wrestling: namely, how to rightly interpret this chapter. John Hart in the August-September Edition of the theological journal "Biblotheca Sacra", pages 318-319, identifies the three historic categories of interpretation:
(a) a believer’s experience (for example, Paul at maturity or pious Israelites under the law)
(b) an unbeliever’s experience (Paul [primarily in vv. 7-13], Paul and every human in Adam, or historical Israel under law)
(c) the experience of both believer and unbeliever.
Space and time does not permit me to chase down all of the streets and allies of the discussion. In future posts I hope to deal with the details of this very important conversation. Safe-to-say, how one interprets Romans 7:7-25 will determine how they grasp the presence of still-indwelling sin in the Christian life. If one goes with "option a", then Paul is describing the difference of experiences between an "immature believer" in Romans 7:7-13 and a "mature believer" in Romans 7:14-25. If one chooses "option b", then Romans 7 is chiefly talking about the "pre-conversion" life, followed by a final mention of someone who has been converted. Option "c" seems to nuance the second option and appears to be a most straight-forward handling of the text. For sake of time and space, this writer finds option "c" to be the most satisfactory in the handling of the chapter. The Holman New Testament Commentary summarizes this option:
"The best assumption to be made concerning the entirety of Romans 7:7–25 is that it is divided into two sections (as mentioned above): the value of the law and the conflict with the law. Again, this is easily the plainest way to view the past tense verbs in verses 7–13 and the present tense verbs in verses 14–25. He seems to be referring to his past experience in coming to a realization of sin through the law in verses 7–13, and his ongoing experience in wrestling with what the law continues to reveal in him in verses 14–25. In both cases, the law is “good” (vv. 12, 16). In the first case, the law aids in his salvation; in the second, the law aids in his sanctification."
Dr. John MacArthur also favors Romans 7:7-13 speaking of Paul's experience or the general experience one has before salvation with respect to the law, followed by conversion and the struggle with internal sin depicted in Romans 7:14-25. MacArthur states in one of his sermons on this text:
"When he was talking about himself before his conversion it was past tense. Verse 9, "I was once alive." This is in the past. "And then I died when I truly saw myself in the Law as a sinner, crushed under the weight of the Law," of course that's what led him to salvation. He's describing how it was in the past in verses 7 to 13 and all of a sudden the verbs come into the present tense. I am...verse 14, I do not, I am, I am doing, I do, I agree, I am the one doing it, I know, I wish, I'm doing, I find, I joyfully concur, I see...all present tense. This is post-conversion in the immediate presence. And there's a change also in the circumstance. Verses 7 to 13, "Sin killed him."
"Here he is pictured fighting with sin and refusing to give in. There's a sense in which our sin does kill us at our salvation. We die in Christ to rise in newness of life. And yet there's a sense in which even now in our new life we go on fighting with sin, refusing to give in. So this is Paul's testimony as a Christian. And it's very, very important for us to understand that because what's here is what we live with every day...every day."
Suggesting An Outline Of Romans 7:7-25
As we close out today's post, let's consider a proposed outline to get a handle on Romans 7:7-25. It is fair to say that Romans 7 is among the more difficult chapters to interpret in God's Word. Thankfully, when we consider it in its wider context, and compare scripture with other scripture, we can arrive at what appears to be a satisfactory understanding of the text. Again, how we get a hold of Paul's key argument in Romans 7:7-25 will determine how we understand the Christian's daily struggle with indwelling sin as they strive to grow in Christian sanctification. Below I will close out with the following simple outline:
1. The Pre-conversion life (of Paul and all of us). Romans 7:7-13
2. The Post-conversion life (of Paul and every Christ-follower). Romans 7:14-20
3. The Pre-heaven hope (of Paul and every Christ-follower). Romans 7:21-25.
Monday, May 15, 2017
Romans 7:24-25 "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."
Introduction: The 4 R's Of Romans 6, 7 and 8 as shedding light on the wider context of Romans 7:7-25
In today's post we want to gain a clearer understanding of Romans 7:7-25. In order to understand Paul's main points in this passage, we need to approach it from ever-narrowing circles of context. To do this, I will simply refer to what I'm calling the "4-R's" of Romans 6-8.
Realities and Responsibilities of the Christian life - Romans 6:1-7:6
First, we see the first two "r's" in Romans 6, namely the realities and responsibilities of the Christian life. The realities are what Bible-teachers call "Gospel indicatives" , which is to say: those realities of one's position in Christ that describes "who I am" and "whose I am". Such statements as "united with Him" in Romans 6:5; "crucified with Him" in Romans 6:6 and "consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus" in Romans 6:11 are samples of Gospel indicatives. The second "r" deals with the responsibilities or "gospel imperatives" that urge the Christian to take heed to the commands or imperatives set forth in the Bible. So for instance, a Gospel imperative like, "Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body" follows from the Gospel indicative or reality of me being dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ. Realities and responsibilities follow as cause and effect in the Christian life. To reverse these first two "r's" is to short-circuit one's Christian growth. The Christian is given freedom to enjoy Christ's Lordship (Romans 6:20-22); Christ's life on the inside of them (Romans 6:23; Colossians 1:27) and Christ's love having rescued them from the old former "spouse" of their former union with sin and condemnation (Romans 7:1-6).
The Internal Wrestlings Experienced By The Christian In Romans 7:7-25
So we see the first two "r's" of Romans 6 as having to do with the "realities" of one's Christian identity and the responsibilities that follow in Romans 6:1-7:6. So what about the third "r"? In Romans 7:7-25 we find the "wrestlings" experienced by the believer. Inside every Christian there ensues a wrestling match between the "old-man" and the "new-man" or between "who I was" in Adam vs "who I am" in Christ. Romans 7 deals with the "rubber-meets-the-road" aspect of the Christian life. Author John Hart in his study of Romans 7 notes in volume 170 of the 2013 July-September edition of the theological journal "Bibliotheca Sacra", page 318:
"One presupposition of the present study is that the interpretation that best explains the contents of chapter 7 in light of the Roman Christian readers and their life circumstances is probably the correct interpretation."
In future posts, this blogger hopes to devote further treatment to the interpretation and application of Romans 7:7-25.
Rights Of Sonship In Romans 8
Years ago one old preacher told me that only when we understand the reality of Romans 6 and the conflict of Romans 7 will we be able to enjoy our inheritance laid out in Romans 8. We've considered three "r's" thus far in our exploration of the wider context of Romans 6-8. We've observed the realities and responsibilities of the Christian in Romans 6:1-7:6 followed by the description of the wrestlings each Christian has in Romans 7:7-25.
It is when we come to Romans 8:1-2 that we find out why it is we have realities, responsibilities and wrestlings: so that we can taste and live in the rights we have as children of God. Romans 8:1-2 states - "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." Now notice the seven inherited rights or privileges we have as Christians:
a. New Position. Romans 8:1-4
b. New Guest, The Holy Spirit. Romans 8:5-13
c. New Home. Romans 8:14-17
d. New Expectation. Romans 8:18-25
e. New Prayer-life, Helper. Romans 8:26-27
f. New Assurance. Romans 8:28-37
g. New Goal For Life. Romans 8:38-39
This of course scratches the surface of this amazing chapter in Paul's magisterial letter to the church at Rome.
The four "r's" expounded above proceed in a cycle in both Christian experience and from what follows from the logic of Romans 6-8. As we come to know the realities of our identity in Christ, and the responsibilities that follow, we will find ourselves wrestling and come to a deeper awareness of our rights as sons and daughters by adoption into the family of God in Christ. May these thoughts serve to make more accessible the rich contents of Romans 6,7,8. To God be the glory!
Thursday, May 11, 2017
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified."
Life has been very busy as of late. Since 2014, I have been a very active runner. I may not be the fastest guy around, but, I do find running. Running is an enjoyable physical and spiritual activity. This coming Saturday will be the biggest race up to this point in my fledgling running experience - a half-marathon. Over the last three years I have ran in 5Ks (3.1 mile races) and 10Ks (6.2 mile races). Each one has been enjoyable and the Lord has enabled me to net a some medals and win some races. None though have been more challenging in preparation than what I'm deeming "big-race" on Saturday. On Saturday, the half-marathon I'll be running will be through the rolling hills, streets and country-sides of a Northern New York town. In lieu of thinking about what the Lord has taught me thus far as a runner, I thought I'd share some reflections on Paul's challenge of running the race called the Christian life.
Just as the beginning of one's running must include important disciplines for there to be improvement, Christian salvation must include spiritual disciplines to improve in one's sanctification.
What the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 very much captures what is involved in preparing for a running competition. There is much preparation and discipline that goes into preparing for any race of any size. Whenever I ran my first race three years ago, I had no preparation. I had turned "40" and on a whim, decided to enter a 5K race. When I finished the race, I remember laying on the ground for quite a while, regretting the decision. I had no experience and I had not a clue on what "training" involved. I almost gave-up and said to myself: "if one feels like they're going to die after every run, then running surely cannot be all that it is cracked-up to be." Thankfully, that would not be the last time I ran. I learned over-time the necessity of training and weekly exercise.
The imagery of "training", "exercise" and "running" are applied to illustrating the Christian life. Whenever we talk about the Christian life, we first and foremost must begin with the miracle of the New Birth in saving faith (John 3:3-5; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). At the event of saving faith, the Holy Spirit enters into the human spirit (that inner-most part of one's immaterial nature) and begins the process of changing the sinner into more and more of a saint. The process following from the new birth is what the New Testament deems "sanctification" (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Sanctification is the cooperative effort between the Holy Spirit and the Christian that enables the Christian to become more like Jesus in thought, word and deed.
An effective Christian life involves both training (the spiritual disciplines, like Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, partaking of the Lord's supper or baptism if one is a new convert) and running (the daily Christian life). Notice again 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 "Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." It was only when I talked to other, more experienced runners, that I learned what training involved. Over time, I have purchased books on running, researched proper dietary needs of runners and have entered into various races. What one puts into the body makes a difference in how well one can endure in running days and race days. The indwelling Holy Spirit in the Christian makes all the difference in stirring the Christian to run the race of faith. In between race seasons, I try to run over 20 miles a week. By attending to all of these various disciplines, I have developed a lifestyle of running. When the Christian attends regularly to the Christian disciplines listed above, they will find the Christian life to be more enjoyable, doable and powerful.
Like running and racing, all those naming the name of Christ must run so as to win.
As I said earlier, I may not be the fastest runner in town, but, when race day comes, I plan on giving it all I got. The Apostle Paul is very fond of athletic imagery - and rightly so. In first century Greco-Roman life, especially Corinth, the Isthmian games were highly popular. In mimicry of the great Olympic games of Athens, such athletic competitions were central to Corinthian life. To run in such races involved running so as to win (since in some cases, losers could lose their lives)!
There was plenty of motivation, but more important than even one's life was the goal of pleasing people like the Emperor of Rome or some other high ranking official present at such competitions. All of these details of first-century life are flowing through Paul's mind as he applies pen to paper. I know when race day comes, I will run as to win. We read in 2 Timothy 2:5 "Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules." The author of Hebrews 12:2 (if he be the Apostle Paul), capitalizes on the imagery above - "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
In my first half-marathon, all competitors will get a medal. All who run the race of faith will receive rewards when they appear before Christ at His return
The one thing that encourages me about my pending race is the fact that all participants in the half-marathon will get a medal. Certainly, for those who place overall or finish first through third in their age group, there will be additional medals. Still, to know that there will be medals for all makes running the race worth it. As a runner, I certainly strive for the medal, but I also want to run as hard as possible to perhaps get one of those other rewards! All true followers of Jesus are urged to adopt a similar attitude in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." Anyone who has a lifestyle of running wants to do all they can to place and maybe even win. Anyone who is a true follower of Jesus ought to be eager to run the race of the Christian life and bring pleasure for their Lord.
As time passes, all the medals that I've acquired will lose their luster. To be honest, when the day comes where I may not be able to run anymore, I'll likely give the medals to our children. They're neat little trinkets that bring back memories of past races, however, they are perishable nonetheless. The Christian's true prize - seeing the face of God in the face of Jesus Christ - is the "imperishable" crown alluded to by Paul. The ultimate prize of seeing Jesus' face and his words: "well-done good and faithful servant" is what drives the Christ-follower to run-so-as-to-win (Matthew 25:21; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; 1 John 3:1-3). May all who name the name of Jesus run the Big race of the Christian-life for the glory of Jesus!