Friday, December 31, 2010

Romans 5

I'm going to deal with Romans 5 in two sections: verses 1-11 first with some brief comments and verses 12-21 with some more in-depth comments.

I will be quoting from the English Standard Version.

[5:1] Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [3] More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, [4] and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, [5] and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
[6] For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— [8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
(Romans 5:1-11 ESV)

First some claim that this chapter is about sanctification. However that is simply not the case.

What do I think this section is talking about then:

Paul in this section is expounding the benefits and results of Justification by faith. That is why the "therefore" or "because" is there for.

Instead of the estrangement and enmity of 3:10-17, verse 1 tells us that there is peace with God.

Instead of falling short of God's glory through sin mention in 3:23, verse 2 says there is the hope of glory and access to God's presence.

Instead of suffering under judgment like in 2:5-6, verses 3 though 5 say there is joy in tribulation because of what God produces through it by his Spirit. Here is your reference to sanctification, but notice it is mentioned in passing as a result and benefit of Justification by faith. Paul's more full treatment of sanctification is chapter's 6 though 8.

Instead of fearful uncertainty like in Hebrews 10:27, in verses 6 through 8 there is assurance of God's love.

In verses 9 and 10 Paul argues from the greater to the lesser. If God has done for us the greater thing in the suffering and death of his Son, he will also give us the lesser thing, that is, he will give us final salvation.

So Paul ends this section in verse 11 by telling us one of the best benefits and results of Justification by faith, and that is joy in God.

Onward to the next section....

[12] Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— [13] for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. [14] Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
[15] But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. [16] And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. [17] For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
[18] Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. [19] For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. [20] Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, [21] so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Romans 5:12-21 ESV)

What do I think this section is talking about:

In the second half of this chapter Paul expands upon the blessings, benefits, and results of Justification by faith by introducing the greatest blessing, benefit, and result of them all: the triumph of Christ's work over the inherited guilt of Adam's sin. Paul is trying to show how one person's death can provide salvation to so many. The proof for this claim is Adam. Adam proves that it is possible for one man's actions to affect many other people. We see here a comparison between Adam's disobedience and Christ's obedience.

In verse 12 Adam is portrayed as the federal head or representative of all those who are in the old creation. Christ is later presented as the federal head of all those who are in the new creation. A federal head is someone who acts on the behalf of all those who are under him, kind of like the president. Adam was the representative of humanity. As a result of his one sin, human death entered the world.

The context shows that Paul is not talking about actual sins that people commit every day of their lives, because the entire section is about the comparison between Adam and Christ. When Paul says "so" in "and so death spread to all men because all sinned", he is saying that through the sin of Adam "all men sinned". All men sinned in Adam. The word translated here as "so" is hutous and it means "thus, in this way", that is through Adam's sin. Adam was the federal head of the race and acted on behalf of us all. When Adam sinned everyone sinned. The text doesn't say "because all men sin", it says "because all men sinned". It's past tense, so when did all men sin? When Adam sinned. The idea is that "all men sinned" means that God thought of us all as having sinned when Adam disobeyed.

This is proven by verses 13 and 14. Here Paul shows us that from the time of Adam until the time of Moses, people did not have God's written laws. Although their sins were "not counted" as violation of the law, yet they still died. Although Adam violated a commandment specifically revealed to him by God, those who lived from Adam to Moses didn't sin that way because they didn't have that revelation. Yet they still died. There was no law, sin can't be imputed to them, but they still died. The fact that they died is very good proof that God counted people guilty on the basis of Adam's sin.

The idea that God counts us guilty because of Adam's sin is also proved in verses 18 and 19. Notice the key phrase in these verses: "For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners". Paul says explicitly here that through Adam's disobedience many were made sinners. The word for "made" is katestathesan. Here it is the aorist indicative. This means that it is a action completed in the past with results stretching into the future. As our representative Adam sinned, and God counted us guilty as well as Adam. He imputed Adam's guilt to us. Adam's guilt belongs to us.

If you say, "that is unfair", let me point something out to you. If you think that it's unfair for all of us to be represented by Adam, then we should also think that it is unfair for us to be represented by Christ. If you don't think it's fair to have Adam's guilt imputed to us, then it is also not fair to have Christ's righteousness imputed to us.

So notice that this section is all about the benefits, blessings, and results of Justification. Adam, the first man, was the God appointed representative head of the entire human race. His sin forfeited righteousness for all those he represented. In the same way, God made Christ the representative head of a new humanity so that his obedience to death might gain the justification of all who believe. The results is that salvation in Christ reverses the effects of Adam's fall and our inherited guilt. Notice the comparison in verses 15 to 19:

Look first at Adam:

Through one man's trespass:

Through one man's trespass many died.
Through one man's trespass judgment and condemnation followed for everyone.
Through one man's trespass death reigns on everyone.
Through one man's disobedience all are reckoned sinners.

Through the free gift:

Through the free gift grace abounded for many.
Through the free gift brought justification for many.
Through the free gift life reigns.
Through the free gift many are made righteous.

In verses 20 and 21 Paul says that the specific laws of Moses were added to increase sin in the lives of unbelievers. This gave God occasion to be even more gracious by forgiving sins, and he did this through the Jesus Christ. His atonement outweighs the sinfulness of both our actual sins and our inherited guilt from Adam.

What Paul teaches here has been called "Original Sin" and the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (Ch. 6 Sec. 3-4) along with similar wording in the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith (Both Puritan confessions) summarise Original Sin this way:

The family of man is rooted in the first human pair. As Adam and Eve stood in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of their sin was reckoned by God's appointment to the account of all their posterity, who also from birth derived from them a polluted nature. Conceived in sin and by nature children subject to God's anger, the servants of sin and the subjects of death, all men are now given up to unspeakable miseries, spiritual, temporal and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus Christ sets them free.

The actual sins that men commit are the fruit of the corrupt nature transmitted to them by our first parents. By reason of this corruption, all men become wholly inclined to all evil; sin disables them. They are utterly indisposed to, and, indeed, rendered opposite to, all that is good.

Grace and peace,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Enter the Narrow Gate

23 "Lord," someone asked Him, "are there few being saved?" He said to them, 24 "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won't be able 25 once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door. Then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, 'Lord, open up for us!' He will answer you, 'I don't know you or where you're from.' 26 Then you will say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets!' 27 But He will say, 'I tell you, I don't know you or where you're from. Get away from Me, all you workers of unrighteousness!' (Luke 13:23-27 HCSB)

Jesus' story here answered the question in verse 23 about why so few people were being saved.  There is an implication here, and that is we actually need to be saved. Jesus says that we are "workers of unrighteousness" before we enter the gate. Jesus' response to the question tells us what workers of unrighteousness should do to be “saved.” To be “saved,” one should make every effort to enter through the narrow door.

Now Jesus is clearly using a metaphor here and thus must be understood metaphorically. The metaphor is making every effort to enter through the narrow door. The narrow door is salvation. "Making every effort to enter" is how we are saved. In effect he is saying let your salvation be the grand business of your whole life. Entering the narrow door involves repentance. That is was verses 3 and 5 say in this same chapter. "No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well!" (Luke 13:3,5) This also involves faith. This is stated earlier in Luke as well. "The seeds along the path are those who have heard. Then the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved." (Luke 8:12 HCSB). It is because they were not entering by the narrow door (repentance from sin and faith in Jesus) while the Lord gave them opportunity (in this case, while Jesus was present, preaching the gospel).

Unbelievers may say that they knew Jesus socially (we ate and drank) or they knew his public ministry (You taught in our streets), but they don't know the Lord, they haven't embraced him as Savior.  This can be seen in Jesus response to them, "I don't know you or where you're from". Because they had not been justified (declared righteous) through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1), they were ultimately workers of unrighteousness.  Listening to Jesus' teachings and sharing social fellowship with his people is not going to save anyone. You can go to Church and hang out with Christians all you want but it won't save you.  Salvation only comes through personal trust in Christ.

Jesus says we must "enter through the narrow door" because "many will try to enter and won't be able." There will eventually be a time when the opportunity to trust in Christ will be taken away. Christ is now offered to you as Saviour and Redeemer.  However, a day is coming when he will sit on his throne and be Judge. So here we find the answer to the question in verse 23. Are there many going to be saved? Jesus doesn't answer directly, but says that many would try to enter after it was too late. As you read this post, it is not too late... "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." (Hebrews 3:15 HCSB) " In an acceptable time, I heard you, and in the day of salvation, I helped you. Look, now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2 HCSB)  Repent of sin and turn to Christ, and he will forgive you.  Enter the narrow gate!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thoughts on Christmas....

Is Christmas a day Christians can celebrate with a good conscience, or is Christmas condemned in the Scriptures? Whilst I understand that there used to be a Pagan festival on Dec. 25th, and whilst I also understand that "Christmas" today is a really just a consumer driven, money grab, those are not the things that I want to remember and celebrate during "Christmas".

If I don't do the Santa thing or engage in the secular "Christmas" celebrations, which usually lead to some sort of debauchery, what in the world is wrong with me taking time out to remember the second most important event ever in the history of the entire human race?

The incarnation, the birth of Christ, is one of the most essentially parts of the Christian Gospel. "The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14 HCSB) This is something about which Paul says, "most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great: He was manifested in the flesh." (1 Timothy 3:16 HCSB) Why is it such a mystery? "For the entire fullness of God’s natures dwells bodily in Christ." (Colossians 2:9 HCSB)

This was such an important event that, "Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!'" (Luke 2:13-14 HCSB)

The hymn sung by the choir of angels (heavenly host) is well-known today as the "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," from the first words of verse 14 in the Latin Vulgate (glory to God in the highest).

If I want to spend this time with family and fellow believers, praising the wondrous glory of God, what's wrong with that? If I want to use this occasion to offer to others the peace of God that is available through faith in Jesus Christ, what is wrong with that?

You may not want to become engaged in a secular celebration. You may not want to celebrate the pagan Sol Invictus. Neither do I. I want to give glory to God for the birth and incarnation of my Lord Jesus. Without this birth nothing would have been possible in regards to our salvation and the age to come.

"One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. Whoever observes the day, observes it to the Lord but whoever does not observe the day, it is to the Lord that he does not observe it." (Romans 14:5-6 HCSB)

Then Paul says a few verses later:

"But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God." (Romans 14:10 HCSB)

So if you choose not to celebrate Christmas, God bless you, may you do so to the glory of God. Don't judge others who do celebrate Christmas to the glory of God.

It seems that some have a bone to pick with Christmas. They don't like Santa? Neither do I. They don't like the consumerism? Neither do I.

However, there is nothing wrong with Christmas being instituted to counteract a very popular pagan/secular. Christmas can be a great alternative to secular/pagan nonsense. We cannot and should not stop the peoples of the world from celebrating. Therefore we should not be surprised that at this time of the year even non-Christians are celebrating "Christmas," that is, using many of the customs now called Christmas customs.

I am not condemning the "Christmas is pagan" crowd. And I certainly am not going obligate them to celebrate Christmas. That would be wrong. Christians have never been commanded to celebrate Christ's birth annually. But we have never been forbidden from doing so. Therefore we are free to do so or not do so. Many dear Christians have been falsely taught that celebrating Christmas is celebrating paganism, and they are wracked with guilt because of it. My message to them is: you are doing nothing wrong to celebrate the birth of God's Son; in fact, praising and thanking God for the gift of His Son is beautiful worship in the sight of God. There is also nothing wrong with using some of the winter customs, provided you keep them in perspective and don't allow them to bury the celebration of Christ's birth.

The Christmas that Christians celebrate is a feast in honor of the great mystery of the Incarnation. In that mystery the Word who was God, became man. In order to redeem us, God became one of us. He became part of His own creation. The Incarnation affirms the importance of both man and the whole of creation. “For God loved the world in this way...”

What am I advocating?

"I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David." (Luke 2:10-11 HCSB)

Messiah the Lord, was born for you. YOU dear sinner!! You have a Savior!! REJOICE MY FRIEND!! THIS IS GREAT NEWS. He gave up his glory to become a man for you!! Rejoice and SING ALOUD! Is this not reason to celebrate???!!! I certainly think so!!

Grace and peace to all,