Thu, Jul 31st - 5:54PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith(12:6).
"Gifts" is the Greek word charismata, which comes from the same stem as the word for grace. It can be translated as "grace" or "free gift" and is what the Holy Spirit gives you. Each member of the body of Christ has a gift and a function to perform.
"Differing according to the grace given" simply means that the gifts differ, not that some people do not receive any. Each and every person in the church of believers has a gift. The gift is an integral part of the grace of God to us. We are meant to function once God places us into His family of saints. Not as a machine, but as a member of a body, a living organization. Are these gifts for us to use to become wealthy, to become famous? No, they are to be used to educate, build up, support, heal, those who are members of God's family of believers.
Every believer needs to test his/her gift. Analyze your effectiveness at using your gift: are you really a blessing to people? Are you building up the church? Or are you dividing the church, ripping it apart?
"Prophecy" here does not mean to predict but to any message from God. It is to be done in proportion to God's provision. So we see a mathematical application being made here, as God has given you in faith so you are to utilize your spiritual gift/s.
Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teaches, on teaching(12:7).
"Ministering" is performing an act of service to God, a ministry with practical implications. There are seemingly unending forms of service within the body of believers which this covers. Some people do not have a gift of speaking, but they do have a gift of service. Perhaps it is as simple as putting on a potluck supper once per week prior to a midweek bible study time. They might not be able to carry a tune, but they sure know how to satisfy our hunger. And that is a blessing to the body of believers that shares in that time.
Or he that exhorts, on exhortation: he that gives, let him do it with simplicity; he that rules, with diligence; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness(12:8).
"Exhortation" is the Greek word paraklesis, literally "a calling near" or "a calling for." So this is something that can comfort people. In these posts I am encouraging people to stand strong for Christ, to trust in Christ, I am exhorting everyone to broaden and deepen their faith in Christ, so I am an exhorter.
"He that gives" is the one who shares his earthly possessions with others. God may very well have given you the gift of making money. Whatever you put your hand to prospers and earns lots of money. It is a gift from God. It is not for you to hoard to your self, you are meant to share with those believers who are less fortunate than you. A brother or sister in Christ has fallen on hard times, share some of what you have in excess with them and be a blessing.
"He that rules" speaks of the gift of leadership. Certain men are gifted as leaders, and they need to exercise their gift in the church so that everything might be done decently and orderly. It does not mean that they command everyone else to do whatever they feel like telling them to do. Leadership through being a servant of others, preferring others over themselves. Not pushing their own personal agenda on the congregation as a whole.
"He that shows mercy" indicates those who use the gift of performing acts of kindness. Some can bring a ray of sunshine into a hospital room while others can only bring the clouds of gloom.
That is all for today, beloved. We have seen our relationship to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that they are determined by God and that He gives them out as He sees fit. We do not merit any gifts. They are given out through grace. Next time we shall look into our relationship to other believers in the body of Christ. It is an area that many congregations fall dreadfully short in. You might think that I fall into this category by what I have posted about the Catholic Church of Rome. But I have exceptions with the people who have placed themselves in charge of telling all other membes of that denomination how to behave and what they can and can't do. Regular Catholic members I pray for, that their eyes may be opened up to see the truth of what is happening up above them within the priesthood. I pray for all Catholics that they may come to a saving grace in Christ Jesus. Nothing less is acceptable to God. I pray for both Republicans and Democrats, that they come to trust in Christ and allow Him to guide their thoughts and actions. Until next time, be true to the Word, be faithful to the body of Christ, and be steadfast in your defense of God's Word.
Thu, Jul 31st - 1:07PM
A STUDY IN "THE CALLED."
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.
|18||And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.|
|19||I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.|
What Jesus Christ said to Peter in these verses is not said to him personally and separately from the rest of the apostles, but is meant for them, as well as him. Just as Peter spoke in the name of them all, to Christ; so Christ speaks to him, including them all. Peter never assumed any preeminence over the rest of the apostles, and none was ever granted for indeed, Jesus often showed His resentment at such a spirit and conduct, whenever it appeared in any of them
|20||Then came to him the mother of the sons of Zebedee with her sons, worshipping [him], and asking a certain thing of him.|
|21||And he said unto her, What wouldest thou? She saith unto him, Command that these my two sons may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy kingdom.|
|22||But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I am about to drink? They say unto him, We are able.|
|23||He saith unto them, My cup indeed ye shall drink: but to sit on my right hand, and on [my] left hand, is not mine to give; but [it is for them] for whom it hath been prepared of my Father.|
|24||And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation concerning the two brethren.|
|25||But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.|
|26||Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister;|
|27||and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant:|
even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many(Matthew 20:20-28).
We see that Christ rebuked the sons of Zebedee, along with their mother, for making a request that reflected favoritism. In God's church there is are to be no rulers. You wish to be the leader of a congregation? Then become the last among them and be a servant to all of them. Be willing to wash their feet. Be willing to feed them, physically and spiritually.
Of course, Peter, John, and James had some particular favor bestowed upon them by Christ; as to be at the raising of Jairus's daughter, and at the transfiguration of Christ on the mount, and with Him in the garden. Peter went to the tomb, saw the linens there without any body in them and believed, all before He was seen by the rest of the disciples; yet in some other things Peter was inferior to the other disciples, being left to deny His Lord and Master, they did not; and upon another occassion Christ calls him Satan, which the others never were; all of which demonstrate that Peter is not the rock upon which the church of God is built. Peter as an apostle had no office which had power to delegate authority to other believers so that they could coerce people into believing in Christ. Peter was not the bishop of Rome either, and he had no successor. But here in Matthew 16:18 by the rock is meant, either the confession of faith made by Peter, or rather Christ Himself, who points with His finger to Himself, and was prefigured by the rock that the Israelites drank water out of while in the wilderness of Exodus; and He is comparable to any rock for height, shelter, strength, firmness, and duration. Christ is a rock that is higher than all of us, where we find safety in times of distress, and whose shadow is refreshing when stranded out in the dry, thirsty land of unbelief.
I ask you, beloved, how can any mortal man provide us with salvation, justification, and consecration? We are all lost, sinners, falling woefully short of the glory of God. None of us qualify to be the "Vicar of Christ." I cannot forgive you of your sins. I can forgive you of whatever you may have done to me, but that is as far as it can go. I do not have authority and power enough to forgive your sins against others. Jesus never told His apostles that He had given them power and authority to forgive sins in their names. Nothing was to be placed between a person and Jesus Christ. Jesus brought the barriers down when He shed His blood upon the cross and they are not to go back up, ever. No mortal priest is needed to provide intercession, for Jesus Christ is our Highpriest and Intercessor now. We can only pray to God, not to any saints, not to the mother of Jesus Christ. I realize some may be wondering, "Where are the scriptures to back up what you are saying here?" Most of these supporting verses are in my other posts here on this site. This is a summary of how we are to approach this concept of "church."
Who decides when a believer qualifies to become a "saint?" I say it is Jesus Christ. Scripture supports that claim without any doubts. What man alive can determine what is in someone else's heart? Who alive is able to determine whether or not someone has truly changed through faith in Christ? This why we must depend solely upon Jesus Christ, walking by faith and not by sight.
As has become quite apparant, I do not agree with Roman Catholicism. They have strayed away from the doctrines' of the apostles and have created their own traditions. They have apparantly walked a path to become the new Jewish nation. They have imposed rules and regulations upon the liberty of the believers which Christ and His apostles spoke against doing. They have esteemed some among themselves to be greater than others. They have allowed immorality to exist within their agencies of governance. They have knowingly placed a human intercessor between the people and Christ, which God forbid to do. They are questionable in their service whereas it is well known their demand that all Catholics obey their ordinances as issued.
I pray that any and all members of this denomination will here the voice of Christ calling them out of the Roman Catholic Dioceses. That they will here "the call" and respond in kind so that they may become "the chosen." That is my heartfelt prayer each day. It goes without saying that this prayer applies to all of the other denominations as well for a remnant of believers exists worldwide. We are the body of Christ and must support each other in prayer, in grace, in faith.
Well, that concludes this short study. There are many other verses that can be studied that apply to different aspects of what was posted here. I do not wish to remain overlong on this for there are many other topics that I desire to explore and share with everyone who stops here. I plant seeds, God waters and grows them, and later on someone else probably will harvest the results. I look forward to heaven and all of the people that will be there. It will be exciting! Until next time, grace and peace be yours.
Thu, Jul 31st - 6:41AM
STUDY IN ROMANS
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith(12:3).
According to the amount of grace given to him by God Paul speaks to all of us. He says that we are not to esteem, or highly regard ourselves, but rather we should think soberly according to the amount of faith God has given to us. In other words, do not become personally ambitious within the congregation of believers. Do not desire to obtain an office just for the prestige that you feel will come with it. That is a wrong motive for desiring a prominent position among the brethren, beloved. You should desire that position because you feel led by God to serve the saints in that fashion. You see, service ought to drive you to seek it out, not personal vainglory. I know a man who many years ago went into the business of being a pastor. I was helping him one time with his small business and as we drove along to the job site for that particular day he said to me, "You know, with your education you really ought to go get your divinity degree and become a pastor of a church. You could easily get paid $50,000 per year with some or all of your benefits too." Well, I was taken back by this statement. It had come out of the blue. I did politely decline his offer, but it made me think, and conclude, that this man only wanted to be a pastor for the money. And that was a wrong motive to do so. He had no heart for serving the faithful, I strongly suspect he was not of the faithful at all. Today, my friends, many a successful pastor has gotten that way simply because he created a bunch of offices, committees, boards, and promoted a variety of chairmen/women. Alot of folk will work on these who would not work otherwise. Why? Because they think more highly of themselves than they ought to think.
What we need to do is think soberly. There is the ever-present danger of the saint falling captive to the snare of overestimating his/her gift and/or character. The saint needs to be on guard against forgetting that it is God working through him and it is not his natural abilities that are being successful. We need to recognize our inabilities and do the things God wants us to do. When we do so, oh the joy that fills our souls for we are where God wants us to be!
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another(12:4-5).
Here is the introduction of that great theme of the church as the body of Christ. It is the primary theme of Paul's letter to the Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians. The church is to function as a body. This means that just as my body does not consist of all legs, so too, the church does not consist of people with all of the same abilities, or gifts. You may have a gift that I do not have, and vice versa. Is there a superlist somewhere of all of the possible gifts God can give to us? Not that I know of. God alone knows the number of gifts that He can give out to the saints. So some of us are gifted to teach well, others to prayer, and some to organization. All of us together accomplish God's will for His body of believers.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time I will bring to your attention this matter of differing gifts and how we should deal with them. Until then, grace and peace of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, be with you this fine summer day!
Wed, Jul 30th - 1:54PM
A STUDY IN "THE CALLED."
Let's look at Matthew 16:17-19 again:
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
First of all, Jesus blesses Simon Peter for stating what obviously had been spiritually revealed to him concerning who Jesus really was. Here Peter was speaking on behalf of all of the disciples for Jesus had asked the question of all of them. What question? "Who do they say I am?" Then Jesus moved on to also say to Peter that He, Jesus, would build His church upon this certain rock. The controversy arises over the interpretation of who "this rock" is referring to. Before delving into this debate over who is being spoken of here, I want to take a look at John 1:42 first:
And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, He said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
In Aramaic Cephas means "a stone." Jesus Christ is the Rock of Ages, the Rock from which living water flows, the Rock upon which His eternal church will continually be built. Peter is just a foundational stone in the church just as are all of the other apostles as we saw in the earlier study on the book of Revelation. Can there be found anywhere else in scripture instances where Christ states explicitly that Peter is to be His representative here on earth? In the book of Acts we can see instances where James is in charge and not Peter. We can find instances where Paul appears to be the one being submitted to. All of this reinforces the precept given by Christ that each of us is accountable to one another. None of us have been given permission by Christ to lord it over the others of faith.
Going back to the cite from Matthew we then can determine that Jesus probably was reiterating to Peter that yes, indeed, you are a stone. Your confession of faith is undaunted, free, and open. But the church is owned by Jesus Christ for it was purchased with His blood on Calvary. The church never was Peter's to have, nor is it the property of the Pope today.
What is meant here by the "church?" Is Jesus meaning a structure of wood, stones, concrete, stained glass, and shingles? Or is He talking about an assembly, a congregation of people; and not just of any type; not disorderly and noisy; nor just of one faithful family; nor even of a particular denominational congregation? Could He be referring to the elect of God, the general assembly of the "first-born," whose names are written in the Book of Life? They are the materials of this building. Just as with natural materials, these people originally lay in the same quarry with others; they were singled out, and separated from the rest, according to the sovereign will of God through His powerful grace; and were broken and hewn by the Spirit of God using the ministry of the Word, made into spiritual, living stones. These are the only people which make up the true and invisible church of Christ which resides within the varied denominational congregations scattered all around the world. The church of Christ has no physical walls nor roof. It is not a thing but rather a group of saints saved from their sins through the mercy of God by faith in Jesus Christ. I cannot go to church, I am part of the church!
It is not the church of Peter but rather, the church of Christ. He is the head, the king, the governor; although the Father is the head of all. Although His ministers(all believers) are builders in their own right, they are builders who act under direct supervision of God through His Holy Spirit which indwells each believer. The whole purpose of the church is to daily have conversions of unbelievers, build them up in faith and holiness, and teach them to share their experience with others. Another purpose is to train up sober leaders to lead brand new congregations in other places where there are none at this time. Nowhere in the bible is there found the concept that we are to erect superchurches of many thousands of members. Rather, we consistently read of how the believers met in homes to share their faith with each other, to pray together, to help each other physically. That is where we learn about how to love our fellow saints in Christ, not by sitting next to unknown believers in a pew Sunday after Sunday.
I could post what the Greek and Aramaic meanings of Cephas and Peter are as well as for "rock." But I do not think that we need go that far. By the rock on which Christ builds His church, is meant, not the person of Peter; for Christ did not say, "upon thee Peter," but "upon this rock," referring to something distinct from him: even though his name signifies a stone or rock and there could be some allusion to it I believe Peter is so called because his trust and confidence in the Lord was open and free. Peter was not the foundation rock of God's church for he along with all of the other apostles have had the church built upon them(Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14).
That is all for today, my friends. I will continue tomorrow. Until then, ponder the meaning of these passages and come to your own conclusions. Do so soberly, and patiently. Peace and grace be with you this day.
Tue, Jul 29th - 9:11PM
A STUDY IN ROMANS
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service(12:1).
Paul is begging his fellow believers and countrymen to yield their bodies as a living sacrifice to the holy calling and service to Christ. This is nothing less than a call to separate from the way the world around us does things, and allow ourselves to be set apart for God's use, which is our spiritual service. And it is considered to be reasonable, not outrageous. Notice that Paul once again utilizes the term "therefore" to tie this verse into everything that has come before it in the last chapter, at the very least. "I beseech you" is spoken in grace, not in law. No thunder issues from Mount Sinai here. Moses commanded, Paul exhorts. Paul could have commanded but being led of the Holy Spirit he beseeches instead.
"By the mercies of God" is in the plural which is a Hebraism, showing an abundance of mercy. God has had to use an awful lot on me, but He still has plenty for you too. "Mercy" means compassion, pity, and the tenderness of God Almighty.
All of us are called to present/yield our bodies to Christ. This is the same word as we encountered back in chapter 6. In both cases it would seem to refer to our will. Here yielding is the way to Christian consecration and conduct.
Paul says we are to yield "our bodies," our complete selves. The body is the means through which we express ourselves. The mind, the affections, the emotions, the will, and the Holy Spirit can, and will, use the body. Here are some verses that reflect this: I Corinthians 6:20; Philippians 1:20; II Corinthians 4:10. By an act of the will we place our bodies at the disposal of God. This is our reasonable service, our acceptable service, and it is well-pleasing to our God.
And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God(12:2).
Paul would appear to be saying that the believer is not to mold his life and conduct by those around him, even those in the church. Even those in your church? Kind of harsh, isn't it? Can you think of any within your congregation who on Sunday appear super pious? Do they act that way whenever you bump into them out in public during the week? If not then they are not normal and not natural. The child of God ought to be normal and natural all of the time. What you see is what you get! Anything else makes one a hypocrite. Shakespeare said something about the whole world being a stage and that every man must play a part. This is not to be the case with a believe in Christ. The believer's cues come from God and not from any other person.
So, I am not to be conformed to what is going on around me. Okay, got that. But what about this "transforming" part? What do I do to renew my mind? We have been told earlier that God's Holy Spirit dwells within us once we accept Christ. Perhaps He has a hand in all of this? If we look over in II Corinthians we find what Paul wrote to them: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord"(3:18). Okay, that implies that our bodies shall surely change to be the same type as Christ's. He wrote to Titus: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (3:5).
By allowing the Holy Spirit to renew the mind, the believer would seem to be able to test the will of God and find it to be good. As soon as you and I assume a pose and pretend to be something we are not, it becomes impossible for us to determine the will of God for our lives. Will it be self-will, or yielding oneself? Yielding our will to that of God makes our will fit His will exactly. First it is good, and then it is acceptable, and finally it is perfect for our will and God's will are then equal to each other. How could Paul say, "I can do all things?" Because it was "through Christ which strengthens me."
Oh, I yearn to reach that place of just turning everything over to the Lord Jesus Christ! I am better today at this than I was 20 years ago but I need to do better still. Why do I desire to get better at turning things over to Him? This is the way to happiness and joy. It is the way to achieving fulness in your life. That is how to become a normal Christian and enjoy God's blessing.
That is all for tonight, beloved. Next time I will begin looking into our relationship to gifts of the Spirit. Do we all get the exact same gifts? To the same extent? Is it possible? What does scripture say about this? How many healers ought there to be within a congregation? One, five, ten, everyone? Is this where our word "charisma" comes from? Is that word misleading? What is exhorting, and is it good for me? You see, there are alot of questions contained within the next six verses that need answering. That is next time. Until then, rest in the Lord Jesus Christ and experience His joy and peace.
Tue, Jul 29th - 1:26PM
A STUDY IN "THE CALLED."
We as believers need to realize that men in general disallow and reject Jesus Christ out of hand; they slight Him, dislike Him, oppose and refuse Him, just as scripture and experience declares as in Isaiah 53:3. No matter how Christ may be rejected or refused by the ungrateful world, yet He is Lord of the universe, the head of the church, the Saviour of His people, and the Judge of the world. Christ is chosen of God the Father, He is precious in the excellent nature and dignity of His office. Those who expect mercy from this gracious Redeemer must come to Him. I will repeat: if you expect mercy from Christ then you must come to Him. Granted, this is your act, though done by God's grace - an act of the soul, not of the body - an actual endeavor and not simply a wish.
So Jesus Christ was called, and chosen, of God the Father. Him having been described as the foundation, the apostle goes on to say that the materials built upon Him are: "You also, as living stones, are built up"(I Peter 2:6). The apostle says that the Church is composed of a nobler fabric than the Jewish temple; it is a living temple, consisting of living parts, not dead materials. Christ, the foundation, is a living stone, Christians are lively stones, and these make a spiritual house, a royal priesthood; and though we have no bloody sacrifices of animals to offer up, yet we have much better and more acceptable sacrifices to offer upon a more excellent altar. We offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Now this "house" is daily built up, every part improving, and the whole increased in every age, or generation, by the addition of new members. Paul speaks in Ephesians of how all good Christians are a holy priesthood, of how we are all select persons, sacred to God, serviceable to others, well endowed with heavenly gifts and graces, and well employed. The spiritual sacrifices that we are to offer up to God are our bodies, souls, affections, prayers, praises, alms, and other similar duties. These must be offered up through Jesus Christ and none other.
The Word of God is the only rule that God has given to us. It is a perfect and sufficient rule. The accounts that God has given to us in scripture concerning His Son Jesus Christ are what require our utmost attention. "Behold, I lay in Zion" in I Peter 2:6, demands like concentration from us. The establishment of Christ Jesus as Head of the church of God is an important work of God. The setting up of the pope for the head of the church is a human work and an arrogant presumption; Christ only is the foundation and the head of the church of God. No other can be either. The apostle Peter is not being spoken of in I Peter 2 when it is said that He was made the head of the corner. Peter didn't call anyone out of darkness into his marvelous light; God did the calling and Peter did what he was told to do by the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the corner-stone for the support and salvation of none but such as are His people: none but Zion and such as are of Zion; not for Babylon and those who are of Babylon.
True faith in Christ is the only way to prevent our utter confusion. Three things put us into great confusion, and faith prevents them all: disappointment, sin, and judgment. Faith in Christ is the remedy for each. Disobedient people have no true faith. Understand that I mean those that are unpersuadable, incredulous, and impenitent. They may very well have some right ideas, but they have no solid faith. Those that ought to be builders of the church of Christ are too frequently the worst enemies that Jesus has in the entire world. In the Old Testament the false prophets did the most damage; and in the New Testament the greatest opposition and cruelty that He met with were from the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducess, chief priests, and those who pretended to build and take care of the church. Even so, the structure of Rome is the worst enemy in the world to Jesus and His interests. And yet, God will carry on His own work despite what mankind will connive to frustrate His purposes.
In this passage of scripture is also reference to Christ being "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." The Jews stumbled and hurt themselves over Christ. In addition He fell upon them and punished them with destruction just as a mighty rock would. Matthew 12:44 speaks of how on the flip side of this illustration those who fall upon this stone shall be broken, which alludes to Jesus saying how one must lose themselves in order to find themselves. Another point is that all those that are disobedient take offense at the Word of God. They are offended with Christ Himself, with His doctrine, and the purity of His precepts; but the Jews really stumbled at the proposal of trusting only to Him for their justification before God. They could not bring themselves to seek justification by faith, but rather, by the works of their hands. Blessed Jesus, who is the author of my salvation, is to others the source of their destruction through their lack of faith in Him.
I now wish to direct this study's focus to Matthew 16:17-19,
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven.
And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Now we come to the inevitable endpoint of such a study as this one. Did Jesus Christ bequeath the top position within His Holy church to Peter Barjona? Could Jesus Christ actually do so and remain true to His character? If He did do so, would He have violated scriptural prophecy? These questions must be considered and hopefully answered next time. Read this passage again while keeping in mind the scriptures in I Peter 2 and elsewhere that speak to us about who the church of God was to be founded upon. I grant you that it is fascinating historically how the Catholic Church has rationalized its position, but it is not sufficient to warrent anyone to go running after them. Until next time, beloved, be sober, be diligent, be good stewards of God's Word. Grace and peace be yours.
Mon, Jul 28th - 7:52PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been His counselor?
Or who has first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto Him again?(11:34-35)
The questions are simple enough to ask, but are the answers? Well, no one knows the mind of God. Paul desired to know Him. In Philippians 3:10 Paul states this ambition which of course ought to become our own ambition.
Who has been an advisor to God? Many a church board may feel like they could give God some solid advice on how to run His church but He does not need their advice. While here in the flesh on this earth Jesus Christ never asked anyone for advice, did He? He was the dispenser of advice to everyone else. Several times His disciples gave Him advice about what to do but Christ never took any of their advice for it was faulty.
Have you, or I, ever given anything to God which put Him in the position of actually owing you, or I, something? What do you have that God doesn't already own or hasn't already given to you? Perhaps we are so poor simply because we do not give back to Him enough of what He has already given to us. Every time that you give God something He turns around and gives you more. It is an endless circle.
For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen(11:36).
"Out of Him" means God is the all-sufficient cause and source of everything.
"Through Him" means God is the mighty sustainer and worker, just as Jesus said in John 5:17.
"Unto Him" means God must call every creature to account to Him.
"To whom be glory" the glory belongs to Christ in all ages. We must be sure to not rob God of His glory by taking credit for things we have no business to claim as our own work.
That ends chapter 11 and now we blaze onward into chapter 12 of Romans. This is going to be the final division in this book of the bible. We are going to learn about out relationship to God; to gifts of the Spirit; to other believers, and our relationship to unbelievers. The emphasis in this last section of the book is duty. Here is the practical application of these theological arguments that Paul has been putting before us so far. As one of my pastors used to say, "Here is where the rubber meets the road!"
Early chapters displayed the helmet of salvation and the shield of faith. But now we are to discover our feet need to be covered with the preparation of the gospel of peace. We are in a battle, we are to stand in the battle, we are to walk in our life; we are to run in the race as to win it.
When we spoke about sanctification we were dealing with Christian character; now we are going to be dealing with Christian conduct. Before we spoke of the inner man, now we are speaking of the outward man. Before it was the condition of the Christian; here it will be the consecration of the Christian. Again, before it was who the Christian is; now it will be what he does. In essence, we are to look at the precepts of grace.
We have not been rescued from the Mosaic Law just to be placed under another legal system of do's and don'ts. Some separated Christians say that they are separated because they don't do this and that. They don't dance, and they don't go to the movies. That is fine and dandy. What they really need to notice is that the child of God does not have a bunch of rules and regulations. We do have some great principles that guide us. The Holy Spirit within us gives us a road map of life. He identifies the curves, He points out the motels and diners which He recommends, all without demanding that we do so. Detours around obstacles are clearly marked, and warnings are given to avoid them.
We have been coming down the mountain top of Romans 8-11; we leave the apex of Romans 11:33-36, and now we are about to plunge down to the plane of duty. This is the real world, this is where we all live 24/7, this where we move and have our very being.
We shall take that plunge next time, beloved! We will see how we are to relate to God and what our relationship to the gifts of the Spirit is. Until then, may the grace and peace of our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, be with you.
Mon, Jul 28th - 1:30PM
A STUDY IN "THE CALLED."
Let's look at I Peter 5:6-10, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He might exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." I want to focus more upon verse 10 than the others for this study's purposes. I will point out however that we ought to cast all of our cares upon His shoulders to bear for us. Also, that we must be watchful and on our guard to spot when Satan is near, for he seeks to destroy us and our testimony. Okay, that being said, we see that in verse 10 the God of all grace shall make us perfect, established, strengthened, and settled after we have suffered afflictions for awhile. Is He the holder of only some grace? No, He holds ALL grace. Where has He called us to? The local strip club? No, He has called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus. We are called by no other name under heaven. See, saints are not merely separated from the world. We are drawn to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.
Over in I John 3:1 we read, "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew Him not." Part of our being called to His eternal glory involves our becoming children of God. God calls us children of His. We become members of His family of saints. We have equal footing with the apostles, the mighty prophets of the Old Testament, Moses, Joshua, etc., etc..
Finally, turn to Revelation 19:9, "And he said to me, Write, Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he said to me, These are the true sayings of God." Hallelujah! I am blessed because I am called to attend the marriage feast of the Lamb! There is our invitation, we need only RSVP by trusting in Christ. I don't know about you, but I have always enjoyed a good feast. I eagerly look forward to sitting down at the banquet table in heaven one day, how about you?
Now let's search in the Old Testament and see if there is supporting scripture there as well. In Deuteronomy7:6 we read, "For you are an holy people unto the Lord your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth." Here we begin to see the associated side effect of being called by God. We become "chosen." We also see here that God chose the Jewish people to be special to Him from out of all of the various people living upon earth. No elitism was intended, rather, God wished to use the Jewish people as examples to the rest of the world. Just as God intends to use each of His saints today to be examples to the rest of the world. Verse 7 erases anyones' belief that they were chosen because they merited it. God chooses whom He does because He loves us and it suits His eternal purposes.
In Deuteronomy 18:5 we see this, For the Lord you God has chosen him out of all your tribes, to stand to minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons forever." God assigned to the tribe of Levi all of the responsibilities of serving and ministering to God in the Tabernacle and then later within the Temple. Notice that the Levites had no say in the matter. They did not get to sit down and vote whether or not they would accept. God decreed by His choice who would minister within His meeting place with nation Israel. I am sure there are many today whose noses would be twisted out of joint by such high-handed actions. Further along in Deuteronomy 21:5 we can read how the Levites were to try every controversy among the people of Israel. David in I Chronicles 15:2 said that the Levites alone were to carry the Ark of the Covenant for God had chosen them to do so. We could go on through the ensuing books and find numerous occasions where Israelites were "chosen" by God to do certain things for Him.
This brings us back to the New Testament as we look for more instances of this "chosenness." In Luke 23:35 we read, "And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided Him, saying, He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He be Christ, the chosen of God." So even Jesus Christ was a "chosen" of God the Father. Another clear picture of how we ought to emulate Jesus, as He was chosen by God so to we are to be chosen by God.
In Acts 10:41, "Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead." "Chosen before of God" speaks of the Father's omniscience and that He did choose each of us to salvation from before the creation of the universe. As incomprehensible as that sounds, yet it is true and factual.
In Acts 22:14, "And he said, The God of our fathers has chosen you, that you should know His will, and see that Just One, and should hear the voice of His mouth." This ought to speak directly to our hearts as we read the verse. God has chosen you. That you should know His will for your life, and be able to see the Just One, Jesus Christ, and hear His voice speaking to you. I have personalized it as much as possible for you, beloved. You must take it the rest of the way and embrace these words within your heart and soul.
Leaping to II Thessalonians 2:13, "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." "Chosen you to salvation." What wonderful words to hear! God chose me and you for salvation from the very beginning of time as we now know it. An eternal God chose us. He chose us through sanctification of His Holy Spirit and belief of the truth. The truth is that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God and He came to die in payment for our sins, thus obtaining for us redemption and reconciliation. Hallelujah! We ought to give thanks to God for each and every saint who comes forward to claim their rightful place in God's family. Each is beloved of the Lord and hence should be beloved of us.
The decree of election here therefore connects the end and the means, and these two must not be separated. We are not the elected of God because we were holy, but that we might become holy. Being chosen of God, we must not live as we wish; but, if we are chosen to salvation as the end, we must be prepared for it by sanctification as the necessary means to obtain that end. That sanctification is by the work of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us by faith on our part. Faith and holiness must be joined together, as well as holiness and happiness; hence our Saviour prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail(Luke 22:32), and for His disciples(which includes us)(John 17:17), "Sanctify them by Your truth; Your word is truth."
There is also the gospel call, II Thessalonians 2:14. As we are chosen to salvation, so we are called by the gospel. The ever outward call of God is by the gospel; and this becomes effective by the inward work of His Spirit. Wherever the gospel comes it calls and invites men and women to obtain the glory of Christ. It is a call to honor and happiness, even the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ which He purchased for each of us. Those who believe in Him and obey His gospel; such shall be with Christ to behold His glory, and they shall be glorified with Christ and join in His glory.
In I Peter 2:4 we see Jesus Christ likened unto a stone, a living stone. Christ was chosen by God the Father, and considered to be precious. This leads us on to consider how we as "living stones" fit into this overall illustration. In James 1:4-12 we receive a description of Christ as a living stone; and this picture presented to the Jews, who placed much of their religion in their marvelous Temple and understood the prophetical style which calls the Messiah a stone(Isaiah8:14; 28:16), it would appear appear very elegant and proper.
Why illustrate Jesus Christ as a stone? To denote His invincible strength and everlasting duration, and to teach His servants that He is our protector and security, the foundation on which we are built, and a rock of offence to all of our enemies. He is a living stone, having eternal life in Himself, and being Prince of Life to all of His people. Jesus is disallowed of men, rejected by His own countrymen the Jews; but chosen of God, separated and fore-ordained to be the foundation of the church, and precious. It is to this Person we are obliged to come by faith. He is the foundation-stone of all of our hopes and dreams, our happiness. He communicates to us the true knowledge of God(Matthew 11:27); by Him we have access to the Father(John 14:6), and through Him we are partakers of all spiritual blessings(Ephesians 1:3).
I will stop there, beloved. A bit longer than I originally intended, but okay. Read these verses over some more and make sure that I have quoted them correctly. Do not blindly accept what I am posting, verify it! We will continue along this path and lay down our foundation for better understanding of the conclusions that must come at the end of our trail through these scriptures. Until then, peace of God be with you this day.
Sun, Jul 27th - 9:36PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?(11:24).
The illustration/picture of the olive tree continues to be used by Paul. The olive tree is Israel with Abraham as the root. Some of the branches were cut off. Those are the parts of the nation that were rejected by God. God then grafted in Gentiles, the wild olive tree branches, but they did not become Jewish converts. God cut off Israel and grafted in the new church which now included both Gentiles and Jews. All by faith in Jesus Christ. It is reasonable to conclude that since God did this that He could later on take the natural branches and graft them back in.
For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in(11:25).
"The fulness of the Gentiles" began with the calling out of the church saints. This will continue until the Tribulation Period. Blindness and hardening of heart of Israel apparantly shall continue as long as the church is present in this world.
The word "mystery" interestingly contrasts with the mystery religions of Paul's day. In scripture this word is used to refer to that which had been concealed but is now revealed. The mystery spoken of here is the identification of the fulness of the Gentiles, which was not a subject of revelation in the Old Testament.
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins(11:26-27).
Is this scripture saying that every Israelite shall be saved? Where is this vese being quoted from? If we look in Isaiah 59:20 it says, "And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, says the Lord." So the message to the individual is that he or she must turn away from sinning and turn to the Lord. It is the nation that Paul has had before us in this chapter and this passage points towards the remnant of believers from each generation from within Israel. This becomes the nation Israel in the future age.
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance(11:28-29).
Paul sums up the preceding discussion. There have been two lines of thought which seemingly are in conflict, although both are true. In the first place, Israel is regarded as an enemy for the sake of the Gentiles, that is, so the gospel can go to the Gentiles. On the other hand, they are beloved for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore, a Christian cannot indulge in any form of anti-Semitism.
"The gifts" are not natural gifts, but the word has to do with grace. The "calling" is not an invitation, but it is the effectual calling of God. God does not require even repentance from an unsaved person. The "calling of God" does not require any human movement. Some people think that they must shed some tears in order to be saved. For sure, the shedding of some tears could be the genuine by-product of an emotional person who turns to Christ, but the tears have nothing to do with your salvation. I shed plenty of tears the night leading up to my accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior. But those tears had to do with frustration and then with resignation to the sorry state of people in general. I had seen with my own eyes the pit that an awful lot of people either live in or visit often. But my salvation did not come from the tears that I shed that night. It is your faith in Christ that saves you. Your faith enables you to lay hold of a meritorious Christ.
For as you in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy(11:30-31).
Paul is writing to the Gentiles in Rome who comprised the body of the church of Rome at that time. He was laying out for them the history of them and Israel. In times past the Gentiles did not believe in God, but the Israelites did. But now a remnant of Gentiles do believe, having obtained mercy. At the same time, nation Israel which used to believe now does not believe in God. God saves both by mercy.
For God has concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all(11:32).
Both Jew and Gentile are in a state of rebellion and aggravated unbelief. Because of this, by grace are we saved, through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any of us should boast(Ephesians 2:8-9).
So, you may ask, what is the reason for restoring the nation Israel? That is locked in the riches of the wisdom of God. Hah! My friends, we ought to rest on the simple fact that what God is doing is wise, it is right, and it is the best that can be done. As soon as we begin to question God we are seeing our old nature rear its ugly head. We are right back to square one in the Garden of Eden with that old serpant.
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!(11:33).
Here is the place of recognizing the wisdom and glory of all that characterizes God. Paul is not arguing at this point but is simply praising God. If we cannot wrap our mortal minds around the why of God's dealing with us, it is not because there is not a good and sufficient reason. The difficulty is with our inability to comprehend the mind of God whose thoughts are not our thoughts. Read Isaiah 55:8-9 again to see this point. We are not even in the same ballpark with God when it comes to intellect, despite what some people may think.
That is all for tonight, beloved. We shall coninue exploring this exciting book of Romans and see what else Paul, and the Holy Spirit, have hidden away for us. Until then, grace and peace of God, our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Sun, Jul 27th - 8:22AM
STUDY IN "THE CALLED"
Yesterday we were exploring in I Corinthians and today we pick up in that same book. Let's look at verse 24-26,
"But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called."
In these verses we are shown that both Jews and non-Jews are called to become Christians. We also are told that God's thoughts are beyond ours, His strength is unimaginable for us. Importantly, we are told here that God does not esteem one person above another. Those who have much wealth, much physical prowess, much human wisdom do not usually get called by God. Or perhaps I should say, they do not usually "hear" God calling, and thus they fail to become "the chosen ones." Remember at the very beginning of this study I pointed out that aspect? Here is where I think it is emphasized by God that being too immersed in the humanism of this world forfeits your becoming "chosen." You simply cannot "hear" God's call to your heart for you are busy doing the world's work and amusement.
In chapter 15, verse 9 of this book of Corinthians we read, "For I am the least of the apostles, that am meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." Paul is being quite modest. He is being remorseful. He knew exactly what he had done to Christ's saints in the past. He was present at Stephen's stoning to death. He remembers actively seeking out Christians so that he could persecute them to the fullest extent possible. But he was called by Christ to a ministry in God's church. God desired for him to deliver a powerful message to the Gentiles and the Jews. Paul was a recipient of the grace of God that enabled him to accomplish all that he did for God's kingdom. That is the exact same grace that will enable each of us to accomplish what God desires from us today, beloved. Will each of us do mighty deeds such as Paul, Peter, and John? Maybe, maybe not. That is not the motivation for us to trust in Christ. We accomplish a mightier deed in simply trusting in Christ whom we have never seen than any of the apostles for they lived with Christ and saw Him.
In Colossians 3:15 we are given another aspect of this being "called," And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also you are called in one body; and be thankful." In the verse prior to this is charity which means "love." So we are given two fruits of the Holy Spirit: love and peace. If I do not have peace in my heart, well, something is definitely wrong. This verse tells me that peace must rule my heart once I am called by God. I will include this next verse, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord"(Colossians 3:16). This is something that is missing from almost all of our church gatherings on Sundays and even on Saturdays. Admonishing each other through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. How can that possibly happen during our current worship service structure? Teaching one another via the same methods? During a service? Yet that is what is being told to us all in this verse. This verse indicates that we ought to be taking song requests every time that we gather together to worship God. Not this strictly structured guide that does not allow the Holy Spirit to teach or admonish anyone as ought to be allowed. Are we on safe "ice" when we prevent someone from singing a song in acapella? Are we being judgmental in such a case if we will not permit such departure from our "comfort zone" of accompanied singing? We must allow the Holy Spirit free reign in our services otherwise we run the risk of grieving the Spirit of God. It goes without saying, however, in no way am I advocating chaos and absolutely no sort of order during gatherings of saints. I am merely suggesting that we risk suffocating the Will of God in these matters by overly structuring our meetings.
That is all on this study for today, my friends. I hope that you will study it some more, ponder what has been put before you for your consideration. How could we implement changes to our services in order to allow more liberty to individuals in our congregations to step forward and sing more songs? And not from the front of the room! First of all, it means everyone is responsible to learn some songs that they feel speak to them from God. Perhaps they know of someone within the group who could benefit from the lyrics of a certain song. Or the group as a whole could stand to listen and learn from the lyrics of a particular hymn. Each of us are able to prophesy according to God. When are we allowed to do so in the current structure of things? I think we are choking it out. That is my personal observation. What is yours? I welcome all comments on this topic. Until next time, grace, and the peace of God, our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Sat, Jul 26th - 4:34PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
Boast not against the branches. But if you boast, you bear not the root, but the root bears you.
You will say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in(11:18-19).
The "olive tree" is a picture of the nation Israel and the "wild olive" is the church of Christ. All that you and I have today is rooted in the fact that God called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that out of the nation of Israel He brought Jesus Christ, our Saviour and our Lord.
Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Be not highminded, but fear(11:20).
They were set aside because of their unbelief. We stand today by our faith and not by any deeds that we have figured out how to do. Our church affiliation and our good life have not helped us stand before God in righteousness. We stand on one basis alone: our faith in Jesus Christ.
For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not you(11:21).
Paul issues a warning to all believers. When Israel became an apostate people God did not spare them and that is the same relationship God has with His church today, beloved. In the book of Revelation we see that Christ stands amidst His church and judges their actions. Those that have settled into a set routine for worship services are at severe risk of ignoring the lead of the Holy Spirit. Man is setting the schedule of events and where is the leadership of Christ in all of that? He might very well be involved in it, or He may not even be consulted or thought of while the order of worship is laid out on paper. Relying too heavily upon ritual leads us down the path to the church of Laodicea in Revelation.
I believe that we need to revisit the early church in the book of Acts. We need to carefully search through the New Testament Epistles and find where church meetings take place and are described to us. That is the country that we need to get to in order to allow the Holy Spirit to become intimately involved in our praise and worship services. Perhaps we need to get totally away from calling it "church services." Perhaps we need to begin referring to worship services as "worship meetings." Or even as "gatherings." I think that we ought to stop calling it "going to church." I can not go to church for church is a gathering of people separated by God to do His will here on earth as in heaven. I can go to a gathering of the saints though.
Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, everity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness: otherwise you also shall be cut off(11:22).
These are not warm, fuzzy, words being spoken by Paul here. Two examples are placed before all of us: Rejected Israel reveals the severity of God but to the Gentiles the benevolent goodness of God is revealed. These two facets of God need to be revealed to people today and understood in truth: the judgment of God against the rejection of Christ and against sin, and the grace of God to those that will trust in Christ.
My friends, let's not make fun of the grace of God. Let's not downplay its importance. It is grace that has brought each of us into the family of God and granted us redemption from our sins. The truth of the matter is this: after over 1900 years the gentile church is as much a failure, if not more so, than Israel.
And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again(11:23).
If God has accepted Gentiles who have absolutely no merit, then surely He can, and will, restore Israelites who likewise have no merit either. If they do not remain in unbelief they can be saved and grafted back into the church of God. According to scriptures in Jeremiah 23:3-8 and in Zechariah 12:10 there is to be a Day of Atonement for Israel and her people. They shall turn to God in repentance and God will save them by His mercy and grace.
That is all for this day, beloved. Next we shall continue to read of this analogy of the olive tree and its branches. Also, we shall see that Christ is the source of all things in this universe. It is He that ultimately holds all natural systems together. Christ is the reason why things work the way that they do. We simply live in a Christ-centered universe. Until next time, I wish the mercy, grace, and peace of God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, be yours.
Sat, Jul 26th - 11:56AM
A STUDY IN "THE CALLED"
Today I wish to continue by looking at two more verses in Romans. First, verse 6 of chapter one, "Among whom are you also the called of Jesus Christ." Paul is called, those to whom he wrote this letter are called, and those who trust in Christ today are called. Again, who are the called? Those who have heard Christ's voice in their hearts and have acted upon it. In John 10:27 Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." It is implicit that one does some sort of action upon hearing His voice calling to you. You can't follow someone else or something else either. There is only One whom you can choose to follow and make it to heaven. The second verse to look at again is Romans 1:7, To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to ou and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." Here we see the identification of who are saints. The called of God are the saints. A saint is not someone determined by the Pope, or bishops, or cardinals, or any other man. God decides who is a saint by calling them out of this corrupt world to serve Him.
Now let's review some more references. In I Corinthians 1:1-2 we see, "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of god, and Sosthenes our brother." In this salutation from Paul and Sosthenes can be seen the identical point being made that one must be called by God. In this case it is stressed that it is "through the will of God," and that no one can exert their will to become "called of God." God decides. You and I need to always remember that we are where we are at today because of the will of God. He is the one in control of our lives, not us. "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." Notice that it is "the church of God which is at Corinth." It is not a denominational name, it is not the Catholic Church, it is simply what it is: the church of God. We do not build His church, He does. We help by preaching His gospel to those who have not heard. This particular church was at Corinth, but it was in Christ. We believers are sanctified in Christ Jesus and thus are saints. It does not go up for a vote before any group of people, no man or woman decides if you are good enough or performed enough good deeds to qualify. God has mandated this to be done His way and no other. A final note: in the text the phrase, "to be" is added by the translators for better understanding. In the original language it is not there. "To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints." It is a statement of fact. A done deal, my friends.
In the same chapter, verse 9 says, God is faithful, by whom you were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord." We are told here that God is faithful, trustworthy. He does what He says He will do. It also tells us another thing that we were called to, the fellowship of Christ Jesus. Do not think that a Christian can remain aloof from Christ, it is impossible to do. The word "fellowship" comes from the Greek, koinonia, and is used repeatedly by Paul in his writings. It has several meanings. It can mean to have fellowship, to make a contribution, a communion. It can also mean a partnership, which could very well be what is meant here in this verse 9. It implies an intimate relationship. Marriages are partnerships. What does this really mean? In my business everything that I own belongs also to God. My car, my house, my BBQ grill, all of it belongs to God also.
The marriage partnership means different things. Not all are to be discussed at this time. It means having mutual interests. Jesus is interested in me and I am interested in Him. We also have a mutual devotion. His resources are mine and mine are His. I have presented my body to Him. That directs me to where I can go and what I can do. There is also a mutual service. Read Isaiah 63:9 to get a better idea of how this mutuality works.
That is all for today on this study, beloved. I must prepare myself to enter into the "dunking booth" at a local benefit for our first responders to emergencies. Until next time, grace and peace of God and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Fri, Jul 25th - 6:07PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentile, I magnify mine office:
If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them(11:13-14).
Paul desired to use whatever means became available to save some of his fellow Israelites. The curious word used here is "emulation." From our dictionary we get this definition; to strive to equal or excel, ambition or endeavor to equal or excel others (as in achievement). Strong's gives us the Greek word for emulation, parazeloo, which means to excite to rivalry. So both sources give us a similar meaning for the term.
Paul rejoiced in the fact that he was the apostle to the Gentiles, he did not hang his head in shame or dishonor. But his sincere desire was that his preaching to the Gentiles would cause some of the Jews to emulate the Gentiles and come to accept Christ. We can see further evidence of Paul's thoughts on this over in I Corinthians 9:20, "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law."
This is the reason that Paul went to Jerusalem with his head shaven and under an oath---he was trying to win his people to Christ. People criticize him for doing this. They say he was under grace and should not have acted in this fashion. The truth of the matter was that under grace meant that he could do it if he wanted to. He was obeying Christ for he then says in I Corinthians 9:22, "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." First of all he fulfilled his office as apostle to the Gentiles. In doing this he was also trying to move his Jewish brethren to turn to Christ. This is a great mission that we all should emulate ourselves today. "That I might by all means save some." And there is another reason why I am posting messages on this blog site, beloved. I wish to save some by any means at my disposal.
God has a place for each of us in His plan. He may want you to get busy and teach a Sunday school class, do personal work, or reach people through a business enterprise. Or, He just might want you to support another who is really getting out the Word of God. Whatever it is, you will experience great satisfaction and joy in doing what you are confident God has called you to do.
For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?(11:15).
Isn't it wonderful to anticipate the future? What sort of days are ahead of us? From many men the message is that the future is dark. Our world is in a dire mess. I can imagine that many a businessman is chowing down antacid tablets these days over the rising price of fuel and the collapsing mortgage industry. Many thinking people are quite pessimistic about the future of our civilization. But friends, my God is on the throne, and He is going to straighten it all out. The greatest days are yet in the future. What a glorious future a child of God has! I am not a dignified preacher and so I will say Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches(11:16).
Back in the book of Numbers, God said, "Of the first of your dough you shall give to the Lord an heave offering in your generations"(Numbers 15:21). A part of the dough was always offered to God as a token that all of it was acceptable when they made bread.
The "firstfruit" seemingly refers to the origin of the nation: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. "Holy" here has no reference to any moral quality, but is speaking to the fact that it was set apart for God's use. If the firstfruit or the first dough was set apart for God, what about the whole harvest? Since Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were set apart for God, what about the entire nation? It all belongs to God, He is not through with the nation Israel.
And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, was grafted in among them, and with them partakes of the root and fatness of the olive tree(11:17).
You and I directly benefit because of the nation Israel. Because some of them have not accepted Christ we receive the grace of God also. This is a basic husbandry concept. It is displayed for us in fruit trees. We graft a shoot of something we desire to grow onto the rootstock of something else that is not as desireable. Then we allow the grafted part to dominate in growth through the sustenance provided by the roots. Jesus Christ is grafted into us and He grows and becomes the dominant stock in our life. I could never be anti-Semitic since I owe them too much.
That is all for today, beloved. Until next time when we will continue exploring these analogies I would ask you to dedicate yourself to Christ. Fling yourself at His feet and allow Him to do whatever He desires in your life. It will not be to your detriment but to your everlasting joy! Peace and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be yours today!
Fri, Jul 25th - 1:03PM
A STUDY OF "THE CALLED."
I am beginning a new study today. Who are the "called" of God? Perhaps it leans more towards who are the "chosen?" It seems that there is always some controversy over who are Christians and who aren't. Why is this even remotely important? It becomes important in that to correctly identify what is the "church" and to correctly identify who the church is founded upon we must first correctly identify the true members of the "church." So, are there some verses that even point out this concept of the "called?"
We can look first of all in the book of Matthew in chapter 20, verse 16: "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen." This verse comes at the very end of Jesus' discussion with His disciples about who can be saved and His answer to Peter's question about what the disciples would end up having. Jesus ended that explanation with a mild warning to them that many would be called to Him, but few would ultimately be chosen. We are in effect being told today that that rule still applies. Many are called and show up in church meetings and worship services but few truly follow through on that call and end up being chosen to follow a more intimate relationship with God. I can sense the call of God in my heart, I can move to find out more, and then I can reject the need to become extremely close to Christ. So I end up being called, but not chosen. Over in chapter 22, verse 14 of this same book we find: "For many are called, but few are chosen." Again, we find this verse at the very end of Christ's parable of the king and the marriage of his son. Jesus wished to impress upon everyone within hearing that simply being called to follow Him was not enough. Something more had to happen within each individual.
And straightway He called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after Him(Mark 1:20).
Here we can see what the process must be upon being called by Christ. You hear, you then respond by leaving behind what you are doing presently and follow after Him. I must become active, I have to do something when Christ calls to me to come and follow Him. I can not ignore the call and still claim that I am a Christian. If I do not heed His call, how am I to learn from Him? I can't.
And He called them unto Him, and said to them in parables,(Mark 3:23)
You see, Jesus called them to Him, they obviously responded since he spoke to them in parables. He was teaching them truth. That requires an intimacy, for no teacher can impart knowledge if the student is far away emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
And He called unto Him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two's; and gave them power over unclean spirits;(Mark 6:7)
Here we see once more how Christ called people to Himself. Once they came they were empowered to do those things that God desired them to do. That is important, beloved. If we never come into an intimate relationship with Christ we shall not be empowered to do wonderful things for Him. Are we all to have power today over unclean spirits? I do not think that the scriptures ever teach that concept. The Holy Spirit is in charge of handing out spiritual gifts and we are to be content with what we receive from Him.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God(Romans 1:1).
One of the greatest apostles did not feel that it was a slap in the face to considered a servant of Christ. He acknowledges here that he did not decide to become an apostle, God called him to become one. God called and Saul responded. He moved to follow Christ. "And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shone around him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? And he said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you persecute: it is hard for you to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what would you have me to do? And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told to you what you must do"(Acts 9:3-6). Saul did what Christ told him to do. See, it requires trusting in Christ and then becoming active in doing what Christ says to do. Saul obtained faith due to hearing the Word of God personally. Faith through hearing, hearing through the Word of God.
That is all for today, my friends. I will be toggling back and forth between the two studies until Romans is completed and then this will become the main study focus. I will be posting the study in Romans later tonight for those interested. Peace and grace be yours.
Thu, Jul 24th - 5:43PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
(According as it is written, God has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day(11:8).
This verse is a continuation of verse 7 which was covered yesterday. Nation Israel, outside of the remnant that believed in Christ, were blinded by God and so in verse 8 is seen how God dealt with them. They have received eyes that can not see the truth and ears that can not hear the truth anymore. This was true back in Paul's day and it is still true in ours today.
And David said, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompense unto them(11:9).
This comes from Psalm 69:22 where it says, "Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap." The table is symbolic, or representative, of material prosperity for it has reference to feasting. The children of Israel had great feasts at which they were actually the guests of God. The Passover was a notable example of this. The thought here seems to be one of conceited confidence of the feastgoers. The Israelites were deceived as to their true spiritual ruin. They trusted in what they ate more than they trusted in God. And isn't this the condition of the general church population today? We trust in what we shove into our mouths more than we trust in God. It is sad but true. Too many come to the Lord's Supper/Communion without a spiritual understanding of what they are doing.
Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their back always(11:10).
God has always given light so that men might be able to see, but if they refuse to see what is plainly before them then God says that He shall blind them. He will darken their eyes. His light remains true, and it reveals the multitudes of people who are suffering from spiritual blindness. This last part of the verse would seem to indicate that those who are spiritually blind shall labor hard continually. Perhaps to rationalize their position that God does not exist? That mankind arose from chance mutations within animals? That a chance collision of a heavenly body with the "young" earth kickstarted evolution and helped create our moon? All of those concepts require some hard labor intellectually to try and make them work. It is sad to find so many intelligent people who do not seem to understand what the Bible is all about.
I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy(11:11).
The nation Israel was set aside for the salvation of the Gentiles. That is pretty clear here. Salvation came to the Gentiles in order to make the Jewish people envious, jealous. God, through Paul, opens with the same engaging question that He used back in verse 1. We see that rejection is only partial and temporary. The question implies whether or not the Jew will rise again in the future? The answer is that yes, they will rise again. God, as He does with all of us, works all things for the good of the elect. The fall of the Jew enabled God through His providence to open the gates of salvation wide to the Gentiles. The Jew will see the reality of salvation of the Gentiles, that they are experiencing the blessings of God which the Jew thought could only come to him. People who go to Israel find that their guides usually are puzzled that there is so much interest in things that are Jewish. They just do not understand the unequaled interest in their land. Some of them do want to know why their land is so important to other people though.
Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?(11:12).
God has not been dealing with Israel as a nation for some centuries now. When He does begin dealing with them again they will not have any problem with the Arabs nor the Muslims. Micah 4:4 tells us that there will be peace and tranquility.
Well, what happens to the grace of God towards the Gentiles when He resumes dealing with Israel? Look at Acts 15:16-17, "After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My name is called, says the Lord, who does all of these things." James made it clear that the grace of God towards the Gentiles will be multiplied. This verse also makes it clear that the Israelites will be brought back into the fold.
That is all for today, beloved. The above quote of Acts 15 points out that God will rebuild His tabernacle, which seemingly indicates that the Temple will arise again before the end of time. So we have seen that the Jewish people have not been abandoned by God, simply set aside while He deals with all of us Gentiles. He has used the Jewish peoples' rejection of His Son as an opportunity to bring salvation to all of the Gentiles in the world. Ultimately He is using this evangelistic effort to drive Jewish people to search out why the Gentile is receiving the blessings that the Jew thought only he could obtain. Next time we will continue to cover this discussion of Israel being pruned out and when will they be able to be grafted back in? Until then, peace and grace of Christ be yours today.
Wed, Jul 23rd - 7:46PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
In chapter 11 we are going to see that God has a future purpose with Israel. In chapter 9 we read about God's past dealings with the nation, in chapter 10 we read about His dealings with the nation during the present time; a remnant of the nation is finding salvation, the Messianic Jews if you will. There are perhaps around 15-20 million Jewish people in the world and the percentage of those who are true believers is most likely higher than that of the Gentile world with its population of greater than 4 billion.
We already have read that the nation rejected Christ and the "by faith" righteousness of God in Christ which was first offered to them. They have been temporarily rejected during these times of the Gentiles. Two questions naturally arise: Has God permanently rejected them as a holy nation? And are all the promises of the Old Testament nullified by the rejection of Israel? God had promised that they would be the head of the nations (see Deuteronomy 28:13). Will all of the promises made in the Old Testament be literally fulfilled? Let us see if Paul makes any of this clear.
I say then, Has God cast away His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin(11:1).
What people is spoken of here? Israel. Paul is quite specific. Paul is the present proof. He is a true Israelite of genuine stock. He could trace his bloodline. He was a member of one of the tribes of Israel. Benjamin was one of the two tribes that never seceded from the nation. There could be no question as to Paul's heritage.
Paul answers his first question with a strong negative. God has not cast away Israel as a nation.
God has not cast away His people which He foreknew. Know you not what the scripture said of Elias? how he made intercession to God against Israel, saying,
Lord, they have killed your prophets, and dug down you altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life(11:2-3).
Paul uses Elijah here as a picture. Elijah stood for God, and he stood alone. He stood alone against 450 prophets of Baal. Elijah went before the Lord and sought to intercede against Israel because he felt they had not stood by his side to confront the prophets of Baal. But was Elijah ever alone in that confrontation?
But what was the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal(11:4).
Unknown to Elijah God had called to Himself a remnant of seven thousand men who had remained faithful to God. In those times that was a healthy percentage of the total population.
Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace(11:5).
God always had a remnant of faithful believers in Israel. That remnant today is composed of Jews who have come to Christ. This is why Paul will say later on that all Israel is not Israel.
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work(11:6).
Grace and works represent two mutually incompatible systems. They are diametrically opposed to one another. The remnant at this time is composed of those who are not saved by works or by merit; they are saved by the grace of God. The future purpose of God concerns those who will accept Christ from within nation Israel.
But what of those who do not accept Christ? We need to remember that the remainder of Israel is hardened. They were hardened because they failed; they did not fail because they were hardened. We need to be careful to not put the horse before the cart, or even put the horse inside of the cart!
What then? Israel had not obtained that which he sought for; but the election had obtained it, and the rest were blinded(11:7).
Did they fail to accept Christ because they had already been blinded? No. They had been exposed to the gospel as no other people have ever been exposed to it. God had been patient with them. Now they have been blinded because they would not accept the light He came to give to them.
I will stop there for today, beloved. Next time we will read about the consequences of their rejection of their Messiah. We will also read about the reason for setting them aside. We will also read about why no believer in Christ can be Anti-Semitic, it is impossible for them to feel that way. Until then, love your brothers and sisters in Christ as Christ loves you. Be longsuffering towards them, and help them to grow spriritually.
Tue, Jul 22nd - 8:59PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved(10:13).
This is drawn from Joel 2:32 in the Old Testament. Paul uses this to enforce his argument that salvation is by faith. It is a statement of individual inclusiveness. No one is shut out, unless you choose to not believe and do not call on the name of God. I will point out that the strong word "shall" is used rather than the more lenient "may." It indicates that if you call upon the name of the Lord then you are guarenteed to be saved. Again, it shows how both Jew and Gentile are to call on the Lord. It means to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!(10:14-15).
What was Paul's position? As the apostle Paul he was hated by his own people, the Jews. As Saul, the Pharisee, he had been applauded by the Jews. They rejected Paul's right, and that of all of the apostles, to proclaim a gospel that omitted the Mosaic system which had degenerated into Pharisaism.
Paul shows us that there must be messengers of the gospel who have their credentials from God. Back in chapter one Paul began this letter by stating that he was called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. We see here a logical progression laid out for us. Preachers must be sent in order for people to hear that they might believe, for they would not know how to call upon God. All of this is hinged upon believing which therefore makes it a necessity for preaching of the Word of God.
Paul again draws a quotation from the Old Testament, Isaiah 52:7 to clinch this logic: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace; that brings good tidings of good, that publishes salvation; that says unto Zion, Your God reigns!" That particular quote precedes chapter 53 of Isaiah in which is the prophecy of Christ's death and resurrection.
What a blessing to be told that the feet of them who bear good tidings are beautiful! Each time that you and I share the gospel with others we are bearing good tidings. Our feet are beautiful to God for having done so. I share the gospel through this blog as I post messages concerning God's Word, and I intend to do so for as long as I am able. Through this medium of the internet I am able to travel vast distances that I normally could not financially afford to do physically. An yone who has a computer accessing the internet or has access to a computer that is enabled to do so is within reach of my blog. It took me awhile to reach that epiphany.
But they have not all obeyed the gospel, For Esaias said, Lord, who has believed our report?(10:16).
As many people as might decide to accept Christ as their Saviour due to stumbling upon my blog, it is a minute number compared to all of those who refuse to believe. Who has believed my report?
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God(10:17).
Here is my justification for blogging on this site. If no one hears the Word of God then they have no chance of hearing and then believing. It is just that simple. Faith only comes from the preaching of the Word of God in some form or other. Until you hear the Word of God, you cannot be saved, my friends.
But I say, Have they not heard? Yes truly, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world(10:18).
Of course he is speaking about his world at that time, but today we are reaching the entire world through satellite TV and radio broadcasts.
But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses said, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you(10:19).
This is being quoted from Deuteronomy 32:21. This has come true. Israel was provoked by the believers in Christ as were the rulers of the Roman Empire. Today Christians provoke the unbelievers with their very presence. The foolish nation is the called out ones, the believers, the saints of God.
But Esaias is very bold, and said, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me(10:20).
Paul quotes here from Isaiah 65:1. Even back then, Isaiah predicted Gentile salvation. He might not have totally understood all of the ramifications but he believed God. The Gentiles in darkness were finding Christ. So what excuse could Israel offer? They had the Old Testament scriptures, they had the Ark, the Covenant, the Tabernacle and the Temple. No, they are totally without any excuse.
But to Israel He said, All day long I have stretched forth My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people(10:21).
Have any of you gone through that with one of your children? If so, isn't it tiring to do so? God has been doing that with all of us for a very long time now. I do not know about other nations, but here in America we are a disobedient and gainsaying people when it comes to God.
Stephen's final word to Israel is extremely revealing: "You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it"(Acts 7:51-53). This was spoken to Israel, but it could apply to the entire world in each generation. The Just One. That is Jesus Christ. I have been saved by the Just One, the Living God. Are you?
That is all for chapter 10 beloved. Next time we shall begin chapter 11 in which will be seen more disclosures about nation Israel. Election of grace will be seen again, and we will read about how the Jewish people were to be set aside for a time while the gospel went out to the Gentile nations around the world. It is another important chapter that every believe ought to know well, just like all of the other chapters in Romans. Until then, may God's peace and grace abound in your life today!
Tue, Jul 22nd - 1:31PM
PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON: WHICH SON IS THE CHRISTIAN?
This parable is in Luke 15 and is preached quite frequently from the pulpit. But I have not heard it presented this way.
To start with, we must begin looking at this parable from verse one of chapter 15. There we discover that Jesus was speaking to Pharisees and the scribes. So, all of the parables that follow are being directed at them. First He presented to them a parable about lost sheep. Jesus intended this parable to demonstrate to them the care that God takes in preserving His saints(the sheep). He also wished them to know the pleasure that God takes in the conversion of sinners. In verses 8-10 is the parable of the woman and her ten pieces of silver. This parable shows the value God places upon each lost soul.
Each of the first two parables point to the third, in verses 11-32, of the prodigal son. The youngest son requested his inheritance from his father much earlier than expected. The youngest son wasted no time in leaving upon a journey to a distant land. Once arriving there he wasted all of his inheritance in "riotous living." Do we really need to define what type of living he engaged in? Party hardy, drinks on the house for my friends, drugs, sex, rock and roll all would appear to fit the mood here. Perhaps all would have ended fairly well if an ill-timed famine had not occured. You know, who would have ever conceived that such a thing could happen now? So we have this young son who is broke, starting to get quite hungry. He got rather desparate and hired himself out to a local person who raised pigs. The young man got paid to feed this man's pigs. This famine obviously was rather severe since the young man wished he could fill his stomach with the husks that he was feeding to the pigs! Oh yeah, man I wish I could stuff myself with cornhusks! Not! This man is starving to death and no one is giving him sustenance. Finally the light bulb snaps on and he recalls that all of his father's servants had bread enough to eat AND more. He finally realizes that he has erred bigtime and that he needs to go back home and apologize to his father and ask him to hire him on as a servant. That tells us that he is at the end of his rope.
The young man sets off for home. While still a great distance from his home his father sees him. What does his dad do? Get into a furious rage that his no-good son has come back to ask for more money to waste? Get the cops to go and arrest him for vagrancy? No. The father runs to his younger son and embraces him and kisses him with compassion. The young man asks his dad for forgiveness, and is ready to yield any relation ship with him just for the chance to work for him as a servant so that he can eat. What does his dad then do? His father calls for the best robe to be brought and put on his son. Go get a ring and shoes for him. My son has come home! Go get that fatted calf and cook it up, it is party time! My son was good as dead, and now he is alive again: he was utterly lost and now he has been found! Everyone catches the enthusiasm of the Father.
This is the usual track of sermons on this parable. God is always overjoyed when a lost person comes "home." When a sinner realizes they are lost, and need God's forgiveness of their sins and they then return to face God and ask Him to forgive them. He does not condemn but accepts them with open arms and joy. He will throw a huge party in heaven for all believers, it is called the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.
This next part of the parable usually follows as a snapshot of how some longtime believers, perhaps believing since early childhood, can get quite upset over all of the hulabaloo with this younger son's return from immorality. And I am not saying that it is wrong to apply it that way. But I am just pointing out that verses 25-32 were directed at the Pharisees and the scribes. These verses applied to nation Israel. Just as that elder son grew angered at seeing his relative being the object of a celebration after wasting their father's money, so to the Pharisees and scribes were angry at Jesus for claiming to be able to forgive their kinsmen for their sins and welcome them into heaven. The elder son obviously had a prepared list of grievances that came out verbally and he reflects how the majority of nation Israel felt. They had served God the Father faithfully, for centuries, and He had never thrown a party for any of them! He had not offered any of them salvation! He had not forgiven their sins(if they had any!). See them in verse 29, "neither transgressed I at any time any of your commandments." That is legalism in a nutshell. Back in those days it would have been an exception and not a rule for a father to run and embrace his son who had shamed the family as this boy had done. It would be treated as a loss of respect in the community. Jesus wished the legalists to see that God is more than willing to break out of the box and express His immense joy at a returning sinner to the fold.
What was the father's reply in the parable? "Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was proper that we should celebrate and be joyful: for your younger brother was dead, and is alive again: and he was utterly lost, and now he is found." The younger son is the new believer, no longer a lost sinner but a sinner saved by grace. The older son is the Pharisee, those who feel that they are owed something from God because they keep all of the rules each and every day of their lives. They think that they should be given a celebration for their "works" within the church, not seeing that all the while they have had the complete package of goods from God within their grasp and have not done anything worthwhile with it. They never saw their boat coming in and thus they missed it when it left again for heaven.
Here is another overview of this passage of scripture: We see a sinner going on in sinful living. He is as a lost sheep, gone astray. He is lost to God's service; lost to the "flock" of believers, having no communion with him; lost to himself, not knowing where he is, exposed to danger, finally desiring to go home. We see the care of God for poor, wandering sinners being highlighted. There is a world of holy angels who are as the 99 sheep in the first parable of chapter 15 who were already in the sheepfold and were safe. But God sent out His Son to "seek and to save that which was lost"(Luke 19:10). Jesus goes out and finds and saves that one lost sheep. He returns that lost sheep to the fold where there is safety from harm. Isn't that a wonderful message, beloved? God is willing to go out and find us wherever we are in this turbulent world and save us and then bring us home to Him. When we get to heaven it will be party time my friends.
If there is any further doubt in your mind about whether or not Jesus was directing these parables towards the Pharisees, just continue on into chapter 16. First He gives a parable to the disciples that helps to explain the importance of faithfulness and of being a good steward of what God has given to each of us. Then He speaks to the Pharisees once again by giving them another parable about Lazarus and the rich man who both die. That parable is for another time. I will just point out that He ended that parable by saying that the Pharisees would not be persuaded by a dead man rising from the grave since they had not believed the words of Moses and all of the prophets of the Old Testament. Jesus used these parables to deliver many different bits of wisdom and knowledge to all of us but we must not forget that He primarily was delivering a scathing message to legalists of His day and of future generations: keeping laws will not get you saved, only faith in Christ will. Either believe all of the Words of God or consider yourself to be an unbeliever, not willing to trust completely in God.
Please notice that the heading of this post is not in blue! It is not a part of the ongoing study in Romans which I will post a new message on later tonight. Peace and grace be with you today!
Mon, Jul 21st - 8:14PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes(10:4).
Jesus is the goal. Jesus never said that He had come to repair dirty garments, did He? In Matthew 9:16 He told all of us that He came to give us new garments, robes of His righteousness. The Mosaic Law was simply given to lead mankind to Christ; it was not given to save anybody. So the Law came to an end in Christ. Jesus Christ's righteousness is for everybody that believes, which suggests both the freeness and universality of salvation. "Every one" is universal. "Believes" is freeness.
for Moses described the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which does those things shall live by them(10:5).
I grant that you could obtain a righteousness in the law, it would just be your own righteousness, not the righteousness of Christ. You would still fall short of the glory of God.
But the righteousness which is of faith speaks on this wise, Say not in your heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
Or, Who shall descend into the depths? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead)(10:6-7).
Paul is talking about trying to go up into heaven to drag Jesus back down to earth or going into hades to drag Him back from the dead. There is no need to go on any journey to obtain this righteousness of Christ's, it is available now!
But what does it say? The word is nigh to you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach(10:8).
The righteousness of God isn't only at some altar in some sanctuary on Sunday. Salvation is available to each of us right where we are, right now.
That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.
For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation(10:9-10).
Some say that a person must make public confession of faith in order to be saved. That is not what Paul is writing here. He is simply saying that if you confess with your mouth. Nothing here about it having to be in a public meeting of other believers. Many people come forward every year in churches around the world and confess. Not all of them are saved however. You see, that second part is what trips them all up. "Shall believe in your heart" is what many cannot bring themselves to do.
Paul is telling all of us that a person must bring into agreement their confession and their life. The mouth and the heart must become one. Your heart involves your entire being. Many give lip service to God and their hearts are far, far, from God. If there is confession without faith, it is due to either self-deception or hypocrisy. If there is faith without confession, it may be cowardice. Paul and James are on the same page here, "...faith without works is dead"(James 2:20). I guess if you are going to work your mouth, you sure had better have faith in your heart!
For the scripture says, Whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed(10:11).
This is being quoted from Isaiah 28:16: "Therefore thus says the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believes shall not make haste." The same word translates as either "make haste" or "ashamed." Paul is reinforcing his previous statement that "by faith righteousness" is taught elsewhere in scripture. He also reinforces the universal nature of salvation through the use of the word "whosoever."
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him(10:12).
My friend, do you get that? No distinctions are made, all have come up short of the glory of God. All, if they are to be saved, must come the same way to Christ. In John 14:6 Jesus said that none come to the Father except through Him. None can come to God the Father through the Mosaic Law, the Old Testament, or ritual. Salvation is offered to all people on the same basis of mercy---by faith. It becomes a simple matter of hear and believe the gospel.
That is all for today, beloved. The book of Romans is a book that challenges the reader to become saved today, to not wait. It continually informs the reader that there is only one way to salvation and that there are ways to tell if a person has genuinely been born again. Next time it shall be seen how we come by our faith. Perhaps for some of you it will also explain why I am posting these messages on this blog. We will finish up chapter 10 and get ready to move on into the next chapter. I can hardly wait! How about you?
Until then, be courageous, be confident, and be fearless for God is with you; who can stand against you? Christ will defend you forever, never letting Satan take your soul. You may be persecuted, you may be the victim of evil transgressions but God will enable you to come through all of those things and be a stronger Christian for enduring them. Remember that we are all in a marathon. It is a long race that we run before we ever catch a glimpse of the finish line and our reward for finishing the race. Let's run so that we are not ashamed of our performance. Peace and grace be yours.
Sun, Jul 20th - 5:34PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
We have read about the present state of Israel; they are lost. That is their condition today, just as it has been since Jesus' time. They are lost just as we Gentiles are lost. The reason is that Christ is the end of the law of righteousness. So now Paul shifts from the sovereignty of God to the responsibility of man. We were shifted in this direction in the final verse of chapter 9.
Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved(10:1).
That last verse in chapter 9 informed us that everybody is responsible for their own spiritual choices, "whosoever believeth." Israel tried to find their way to salvation by their works through obeying the Law. That was their condition in Paul's time and it is still, by and large, their condition today. God says that today the reason why they are in such a state of siege by the Arab nations is because they did not recognize their time of visitation by the Messiah. Considering what we have learned up to this point we can see three features that are being applied:
1) Israel, with all they possessed of religion, were not saved. They missed the "boat." I will observe here that in all probability around 75% of church members are not truly saved, they have missed the "boat." Just as Israel did not see Christ for whom He really was, neither do the majority of avowed Christians today see Him for who He really is. They are simply members of a religious club like any other club around. In essence, they are still in rebellion against God for they refuse to accept the righteousness God is offering to us in Christ. Israel was religious and lost, and we can be exactly the same today, beloved. As Paul desired for Israel to be saved, so too, I desire that America would be saved. America is lost, it has lost it's moral compass and is meandering about in the darkness searching for a way home.
2) Israel was savable. If they were not Paul would not have wasted time saying that his desire and prayer was for them to be saved. America is savable also. The pagan Gentiles of Paul's day were savable and that is where he went to spread the good news. Today, my friends, we are able to spread God's Word everywhere to those who are savable.
3) They are on the same level before God today as Gentiles and should be evangelized as any other people without Christ. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"(3:23). There is no difference among people today. There are no superior or inferior races, all have fallen short of God's glory. Without Christ you are a hell-doomed sinner without any hope. If you are not appreciating what has just been typed, well, it is not my thoughts but God's being put down on this board. God is putting it up in neon lights here because He does not want you to miss the opportunity to be saved.
Any who argue that the gospel ought to be going to the Jews first have really missed the earlier writings of the New Testament. The first several years of the apostles' mission work was done within Israel and strictly Jewish synagogues. No Gentiles were saved during that time. Once their opportunity of "first exposure" to the Gospel passed it became the Gentiles' turn. It does not mean that we are not to witness to Jewish people today at all, rather, we witness to all.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge(10:2).
There are some churches today that have something going on each and every night of the week. They have a "zeal of God" in that they like to do it all in the name of Jesus. But perhaps all that they actually have is religion. We must have Christ. I will go to heaven one day because Jesus took my place on that rugged cross AND I have accepted that particular truth in my heart. The average church today my friends is as dead as the proverbial dodo bird. Sad, but true. Each of us is responsible to find, and attend, a congregation of believers that is actually preaching and teaching Christ. Are they living Christ? Isn't it wonderful to have an intimate relationship with Him? How important it is to have a personal relationship to Christ.
For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God(10:3).
It was true of Israel back then and it is true of the average church member today. I have personally watched men do all sorts of things at church and not grow spiritually at all over the span of a couple of years. They are doers, but not hearers and doers of the Word. I have also watched people grow by leaps and bounds and go from having frowns on their faces during bible studies to smiles and excitement filling their voices during bible study times. Some people do not grow, they have no discernment whatsoever. Too many church people have no real discernment of what it really means to be saved, to be born again.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time we shall continue on into this chapter. Until then, do not be ignorant of salvation. Do not suffer from a lack of discernment of right and wrong, truth and falsehood. Do not waste time attempting to create your own righteousness, thinking that it is a way to make it into heaven. There are not many ways to enter into heaven, there is only one, Jesus Christ. As the old crusader in the Indiana Jones movie once said, "Choose wisely."
Sat, Jul 19th - 8:26PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
Esaias also cried concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
For He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth(9:27-28).
This quotation is from Isaiah 10:22-23. During the Great Tribulation Period only a remnant of Israelites will be saved. We can calculate the percentage today although it will continue to change in coming years. We can find out in the book of Revelation that 144,000 Jews will be sealed. That is the remnant that will preach His gospel message to the world during the end days of history. How many people will turn from their sins during this end time, and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior? No one can know for sure. Some most certainly will trust in Christ and be saved, the vast majority however will refuse to hear the truth being spoken to them. God will finish His work that He has started and nothing we do shall change it one iota.
And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha(9:29).
Pauls quotes from Isaiah 1:9. Even the elect nation of Israel would have been just like Sodom and Gomorrah in immorality and rebellion to God if God had not intervened with mercy and recovered a remnant through His Son, Jesus Christ. What an indictment of proud Pharisaism then, and proud church membership today! Only God's mercy keeps any of us from going to hell, beloved.
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith(9:30).
Praise the Lord! What can be said? We, the Gentiles, have obtained righteousness in Christ Jesus, because God worked and God willed it to be so. It was prophecied within the Old Testament scriptures centuries ago.
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness(9:31).
So, Israel, pursuing after a law which should give righteousness, did not arrive at such a law. The Israelites tried to produce a righteousness of their own through the Mosaic Law and its associated ordinances. They failed to attain their goal, just look at their nation today. Religious people are the most difficult people to reach with the gospel message--- church members, who think they are good enough to be saved.
You and I can never reconcile the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of mankind. But Paul makes it very clear here that if you and I are going to be saved it is our responsibility. In Mark 8:34 it is "whosoever will may come" and in John 6:37, "... him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out." If you want to be saved, you are the elect. If you don't, you're not the elect. That is all that I know about it. God knows exactly what He is doing, God is going to do it exactly the way He wants to do it, and God is going to do it when He has decided to do it. Either I accept that fact and have peace, or I can reject that fact and spend my life struggling against God. Men make mistakes all of the time, God never makes any mistakes. Men in government make errors all of the time and we still believe what they tell us. My friends, why don't we just believe in God?
Wherefore? because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offense: and whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed(9:32-33).
This is a quotation from both Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16. The Jews focused so much upon the "doing" of the law that they completely forgot the "why" of doing it in the first place. They stumbled over what they had been expectantly waiting for for centuries. Their Messiah indeed came just as prophecy declared He would come, and yet they were blind to that fact. To the Gentiles the Roman cross was foolishness. How could an Almighty God die upon a cross made from out of wood? How could He not prevent a crucifixion? God was weak. You see, foolishness. A stumblingstone for people to fall over in their unbelief. The one who believes, either Jew or Gentile, will be saved and will not be ashamed. The natural man will continue to try and produce salvation by some natural process, perhaps even believing that evolution will take him there in time. He will forever be blind to the simple fact that belief in Christ will be all that it takes to reconcile him with God.
That my friends finishes chapter 9 of the book of Romans. We discovered many deep things within this chapter. We also found out that there are things about God that we cannot reconcile with one another for our minds cannot fathom the ways of God. How can we reconcile the fact that all things in our universe are sustained by Christ? I know that I cannot do it, I must simply accept it as fact and pray that one day I will come to know how it can be. That day possibly will be when I make it to heaven. Why waste valuable time and energy?
We also discoverd that the only thing that matters is whether or not we believe Christ died to pay for our sins and we accept Him as our Lord. Circumcision is of no importance with salvation, how good our works are is of no importance with salvation. How much money we tithe each week to our local church is of no importance with regards to salvation. All of that is vanity unless we have trusted through faith in Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that anyone reading this post who has not accepted Christ into their hearts would stop and take the time right now to ask Jesus to come and live within their heart. Simply acknowledge that you are a lost sinner, unable to pay the debt that you owe God, and that you deeply desire to turn from sinning. He will hear your prayer, He will come into your heart and save you. He will give you a brand new beginning in which to learn how to live your life for Him. You will know in your heart that you will be going to heaven one day. His Spirit will dwell within you the rest of your days and guide you into all understanding of His Word.
Until next time when we shall begin studying chapter 10 may peace and grace be with you all. God willing....
Fri, Jul 18th - 9:43PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
In the next few verses Paul utilizes the illustration/picture of the potter and the clay. It was a common trade in his day, something that everyone could visualize. God is the potter and we are the clay upon His wheel. Just as clay comes from out of the earth so too does man. God didn't create man from out of a monkey---man has made a monkey out of himself. We forget that from dust we came and to dust we return. Abraham knew where he had come from for he said, "...Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes"(Genesis 18:27).
Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?(9:21).
God reaches into the same lump of humanity and takes out and fashions a Moses. Again, God reaches in and then forms a Pharaoh. We all start out as a "lump" of clay to be molded by God into who He wishes us to be.
What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory,
Even us, whom He has called, not of Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?(9:22-24).
Having already established the fact that God is free to act in the mystery and majesty of His sovereignty, now Paul shows that God deals in patience and mercy even with the vessels of wrath. God did not fit them for destruction; the rebellion and sin of the clay made them ripe for judgment. God could have exercised immediate judgment,but He dealt with these vessels as creatures with a free will. He gave them ample opportunity to reveal any inclination of obeying God. Although God hates sin and must judge it in a most final manner, His mercy is continually going out to the creatures involved.
God suggests that the "vessels of wrath" are the nation Israel which was destroyed in A.D. 70. Jesus announced this destruction but also wept over the city. When final judgment finally came, God saved a remnant, these were "vessels of mercy." When God issues His final judgment upon this entire earth there will again be "vessels of mercy." There will be a remnant of faithful believers who obey and trust God.
We come now to the last division of this chapter of Romans. I pray that you all have continued to follow along and have not decided that this is getting too deep. Previously, Paul has made it very, very, clear that the nation Israel was chosen by the sovereign will of God, not due to any merit of their own. God not only chose a nation and not only saved those from within that nation who turned to Him---but among the Gentiles He is calling out a people today to His name.
As He says also in Osee, I will call them My people, which were not My people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, You are not My people; there shall they be called the children of the living God(9:25-26).
Osee" is the Greek name of the prophet Hosea. First time I read this passage I was confused with that name. The quotation comes from Hosea 2:23, and it refers to the nation Israel. Peter referred to this same prophecy in I Peter 2:9-10, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy."
The second prophecy(verse 26) is from Hosea 1:10 and refers to Gentiles anyplace on the earth who turn to Christ now and in the future. James spoke of this also in Acts 15:17.
So God eventually reached into Europe. He did not send the gospel there because the people were particularly superior. Some elements of the white race seem to think that they are superior people. They are not. If anyone back at that time was superior it would have to be the Chinese. God did not carry the gospel to anyone whom He thought were superior, or good. He came to save that which was lost and broken. Thank you Lord for coming and saving me, who was lost and broken! Now I know that I can be made whole again!
That is all for tonight, beloved. I do not know about you, but I am extremely grateful to God for coming and finding me in order to offer me salvation. I am very grateful to Christ for being obedient to death on that cross to give me redemption from my sins. Hallelujah! Next time we shall see that the Jews tried to produce a righteousness through the Mosaic Law and its system of sacrifices. They stumbled over Jesus Christ, their Messiah, instead of embracing Him and celebrating His coming. They became entrapped in a belief that good works through obeying the Law would save them from their sins. That is self-delusion and is the work of Satan who embellishes sin within us. Until then, peace and grace be yours in Christ Jesus.
Thu, Jul 17th - 1:25PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid(9:14).
Is there injustice with God? Let it not be! Perish the thought! Natural man rebels against the sovereignty of God. Why does man comclude that there is injustice with God?
There are people who applaud some of the Presidents that we had during the 1960's and 1970's. Perhaps there were some bad judgements made during their terms in office, and as a result thousands of our men and boys have died. Yet one of those men received more votes than any man who has run for president. Remarkably we often do not question the judgments of men, but we sure do question the judgments of God.
Although we can not intrude into the dealings of God, we can trust Him to act in justice. We cannot avoid the doctrine of election, nor can we reconcile God's soveriegn election with man's free will. Both are true, both are facts. This is God's universe, I am small and He is all powerful. How can I surmise that it is permissible for me to stand and question what He has done, and what He is doing? Has He not provided me with a nice world on which to live? Yeah. To question what God does is rebellion. Perhaps, if you do not like what He does, you ought to move out of His universe and create one of your own liking? Oh, you are incapable of doing this? Then I guess you need to play according to His rules while you live in His universe.
For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion(9:15).
Moses wanted to see the glory of God. God told him effectively that He would show it to him but not because you are Moses. Moses was a very important person, and chosen by God to His work. But Moses still could not bend God's will or purpose to satisfy his wishes. Why did God save me? It was not because I am Eric Rajaniemi but because He is God. God saw something before time began that influenced Him to choose me for salvation. He made the choice then, and I bow down before Him today.
So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy(9:16).
God's mercy is not extended to us as a recognition of our will, nor is it a reward of our hard work. None of these are motivating factors of God's actions. Erroneously man thinks that his decision and his effort cause God to look with favor upon him. To will and to run may indicate the possession of grace, but they are not the root cause. God always extends mercy because He is God.
For the scripture says to Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth.
Therefore He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens(9:17-18).
God used Pharoah. God gave him alot of opportunities. Pharoah is a picture of us today. Whether or not we do what God asks of us, His power and His name will be declared throughout all of the earth. God forces each of us to make choices that are already in our heart. He will force each of us to do the thing/s that we wanted to do. Pharaoh had chances to make different choices and so do we today. Are we making better choices than Pharaoh did? I hope so, my friends. I hope so.
You will say then unto Me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?(9:19).
Here is the reasoning of natural man: If God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, then how can He find fault with the man? The man obviously was accomplishing God's will.
Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why have you made me this way?(9:20).
Human reasoning can not find the answer to the problem. Evolutionary theory will never find the answer to the problem. The answer is found in the mystery and majesty of God's sovereignty. Faith leaves it there and accepts it in humble obedience. Our unbelief is what rebels against it and continues on under the very wrath and judgment of the God it questions.
Our position is accurately reflected by Sherman A. Nagel, Sr.
"You cannot put one little star in motion; You cannot shape one single forest leaf, Nor fling a mountain up, nor sink an ocean, Presumtuous pigmy, large with unbelief!
You cannot bring one down of regal splendor, Nor bid the day to shadowy twilight fall, Nor send the pale moon forth with radiance tender; And dare you doubt the One who has done it all?"
That is all for today, beloved. We need to realize that nothing that we do affects what God is going to do. We cannot coerce Him into doing anything that is outside of His purpose and will. He has appointed the time of our birth and death and He appointed who our mother and father would be. It is time to stop struggling against God and begin working with Him. Next time we will cover verses 21-24 which are rather well known and have inspired some very moving Christian songs. We will also begin looking at the choice of the Gentiles in the prophecies. This will begin the final division of this chapter. Until then, all glory, honor, and praise be to God Almighty!
Wed, Jul 16th - 1:03PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
Let's identify Israelites of Paul's day and of ours:
Not as though the word of God has taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel(9:6).
Are we dealing with some doublespeak here? I don't think so, beloved. Paul is saying simply that not all of the offspring, the biological children of Israel, are the real Israel. He is preparing to make a distinction between the biological offspring of Jacob and the spiritual offspring. Gentiles are not being included in this discussion, this is completely within the nation Israel. The failure of the Jewish people to wholeheartedly accept Christ was not the fault of God, it was their fault alone. God's promises were unconditional.
Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called(9:7).
Here in this one verse is a tremendous, devastating blow delivered to the argument of those Jews who disagreed with Paul. If the "seed" were defined as natural birth alone, then the Ishmaelites, Midianites, and Edomites would have to be included. These all were/are physical offspring of Abraham. Being a biological descendant of Abraham was no guarentee that you were a child of promise.
Recall what the Jews said to Jesus on one occasion: "...Abraham is our father. Jesus said unto them, If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham." Then he said later, "You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it"(John 8:39, 44). That is a scathing rebuke of their claims to descent through Abraham.
That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed(9:8).
A clear distinction is made here between "children of the flesh" and "children of God/children of the promise." The children of the flesh are not to be counted as the "seed." Thousands of Jews turned to Christ after His death and resurrection. They were the elect, and Paul always called them "Israel." In essence, those Jews who continued to rely upon the synagogue to worship God were engaging in idolatry and were worshipping Satan. Paul wishes to clearly define step by step how the Jews were wrong in their thinking, to clearly identify the point/s at which they had erred. So what is this promise spoken of?
For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son(9:9).
The children of the promise are not those who believed something here, Isaac did not believe before he was born! Isaac was the promised seed. God promised, and God made good on it.
And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac(9:10).
Isaac and Rebecca are also given as an illustration/picture of this principle of the divine election.
(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calls;)(9:11)
This verse's truth is of utmost importance. Some explanation can be drawn up for God's rejection of Ishamel, but that is impossible to do with Isaac and Rebecca's twin sons. Jacob had done no good and Esau had done no evil and yet God rejected the line of primogeniture, that is, of the first born, and chose instead the younger son. This picture was given to the Jews, and to us, to demonstrate that election does not rest upon birth---for these were twins---and does not rest upon character or works. Election rests entirely upon the purpose of God according to His calling. Yet, in this verse the calling is not to salvation.
It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger(9:12).
This a quote of Genesis 25:23 which was given before the two boys were born. Rebecca was told that two nations were in her womb, two manner of people.
As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated(9:13).
This is a quote from Malachi 1:2-3. It was not made until both boys had lived their lives and two nations had come from their descendants. It might be easier to understand why God hated Esau rather than why God ever loved Jacob. Esau was a rascal, a godless man, filled with pride and the nation that arose from him wanted to live without God. All we know is that the Bible tells us that He made His choice of Jacob according to His sovereign will.
Let's stop right there for today, beloved. Some of you may be mumbling, "But these verses apply to us today also." That is true in one sense. But these words were spoken, and written, to the Roman Jews. Paul spoke these words to a specific people in his day who must hear the truth. What we today must also realize is that God is not done with His dealings with Israel. They are of utmost importance to His purpose in the End Times. If they weren't still His People then none would have emerged alive from out of World War II. They all would have been exterminated.
I personally believe that God's choices always are based in the fact that He knows all of history, and has known all of history even before He initiated its start. Next time we, as mere creatures, shall see what the nature of our relationship to God is. It is a humbling picture of reality. Our perceptions of being able to influence God's decisions and actions evaporate in the face of the truth. Until then, love each other as Christ loves you, esteeming others better than yourself. Peace and grace be with you today.
Tue, Jul 15th - 12:59PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
Who are Israelites; to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen(9:4-5).
Paul raises the question of just who are Israelites? Let's look at eight things that identify Israelites:
(1) The adoption. This was national and related to the national identity, not to separate individuals. The only nation that God has ever called His "son" is Israel: "And thou shalt say unto Pharoah, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn"(Exodus 4:22). And in Deuteronomy 7:6 it is seen the same setting apart of Israel to be special to God. Now either God meant this or He did not mean it. And if He did not mean this promise then why should we trust in John 3:16, for both promises are in the same Book. God said, "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt"(Hosea 11:1). So we easily see that God speaks of Israel as His son and thus the adoption here belongs to them.
(2) The glory. This refers to the physical presence of God that was with them as it was manifested in the tabernacle and later in the temple. Exodus 40:35 reveals to us, "And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." The Israelites are the only people who have ever had the visible presence of God amongst them for extended periods of time. There is no visible presence of God today.
(3) The covenants. God over the centuries has made certain covenants with nation Israel that He intends to fulfill. Many of them He has already carried out to completion. He said that He would make them a blessing to all people; He told David that Christ would come from his line. Those have come true. Others remain for the future to be fulfilled also.
(4) The Law. The Mosaic Law was given to the nation Israel, not to us. In Exodus 19:5 is given the covenant particulars. It is a typical covenant with the "If...then" language. Then in Exodus 31:13 God gives Israel a "sign" so that they shall know that God is the One who sanctifies them. This is given to nation Israel, not to us. I do not keep the Sabbath and when asked as to why, I simply say that even though God has not changed the Sabbath Day He sure has changed me. I am in Christ and that is a new relationship, a new covenant.
(5) The service of God. This had to do with the worship inside of the tabernacle and the temple. Exodus 19:6 speaks of how they shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The nation failed God, but God did not give up His purpose that they should be priests. God took the tribe of Levi and gave to them the responsibility of serving and caring for the tabernacle and later on the temple. In the future, the nation Israel will again be God's priests upon this earth, just read the book of Revelation.
(6) The promises. God told Joshua, "Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel"(Joshua 1:2). Israel was to possess the land of Canaan. I can go visit Israel today but it is not my land. God has not given that land to me, He gave it to the Israelites. I will live one day in the New Jerusalem, but that bright City comes from God in heaven and not from anywhere upon this earth.
(7) The fathers. This refers primarily to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
(8) Christ the Messiah. He came according to the flesh. He was a Jew(see John 4:9). Paul carefully says that we no longer know Him after the flesh (see II Corinthians 5:16). John 1:14 tells us that the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us and we could see His glory, full of grace and truth. I believe that Samaritan woman was in a much better position to properly identify Jesus than some scholar today sitting behind their smartly polished desk. Should this last identification be set apart from all of the others since it is greater than all of the others? Perhaps. "For truly He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham"(Hebrews 2:16).
There we have it. Identification of Israel of another time period other than our own. But what of today? Do all of these eight points still hold true? That, my friends, we shall find out next time. Until then, live each day faithfully, not being deceived by what you see, hear, or read. Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ and not on other people. He can lead you home, others will only help you to become more lost than you already are. Peace and grace be with all.
Mon, Jul 14th - 12:37PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
As we ready ourselves to study chapter 9, we need to remain aware that in a sense chapters 8 and 12 can be joined together as two boxcars on a train. Yet, Romans is not a freight train but a flowing stream. Chapters 9-11 can no more be removed than one can take out the middle section of the Mississippi River without creating chaos. God intended those chapters to be exactly where they are for a good reason.
We will see several factors which shall help reveal the significance of this section of scripture. The psychological factor has to do with the personal experience of the apostle Paul. The heart of Paul is laid bare in the opening of chapter 9 and beyond. We are to see a tremendous gap between where we were at the end of chapter 8 and how we open chapter 9.
The historical factor takes into account the unique position and problem in Paul's day. Modern interpretations can tend to focus heavily upon the "Gentile" aspects and forget about the Jewish background for many theologians today assume that the Old Testament promises are merged into the church. They assume that the church is heir to the prophecies of the Old Testament and that God is completely through with Nation Israel. But are these assumptions true?
We shall see later in the book of Romans that these assumptions are false ones. But that is for later in this study. James in Acts 15 pointed out to his brethren the historical factor that must continue to be fulfilled. So the historical factor cannot be ignored today.
The doctrinal factor concerns the right dispensational interpretation and the all-powerful purposes of God. Paul, with the help of the Holy Spirit, traced in the first eight chapters of this book the great subjects of sin, salvation, and sanctification. From grace to glory. During this age of ours legalism, nationality, ritual, and ceremonies have no weight before God. Faith is the only thing which God accepts from mankind. Any person can find mercy. This initially seems to level out the distinctions made in the Old Testament. But let's wait and see if that too, remains true. We must remember how Paul began this letter.
Chapter nine has to do with God's past dealings with Israel:
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost(9:1).
Since Paul at this time was accused of being an enemy of his own people he begins very formally. In Acts 23:12 we read about what he had to live with each day of his life. But he wishes to begin by stating that he is not lying.
That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart(9:2).
How can any of us today appreciate what this man was experiencing? Have any of us gone through such persecution in our lifetimes? I know that I have not. Paul knew full well how they felt about Christ and toward Christianity, for he himself had once felt that way. He had been a good Pharisee, a leader, he now wanted them all to come to Christ just as he had.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh(9:3).
This can be a difficult verse to understand. I finally have reached the position that I feel he is wishing that it were possible for him to take the curse of his kinsmen upon himself so that they could all be saved instead of himself. It is not that he is being insincere here, he is speaking from his broken heartedness over their refusal to believe. This is a similar thought as is found back in Exodus 32 where Moses speaks to God.
I will end right here before this post becomes immensely long. Next time we will consider who were Israelites. There are eight things that identify them. Then we will consider how to identify Israelites in our day. Will all of that be accomplished next time? Perhaps not, since it may become quite lengthy to post all at one time. But we shall see, beloved, we shall see. God willing, we will continue this study tomorrow. Until then, peace and grace be with you all.
Sun, Jul 13th - 10:19AM
STUDY IN ROMANS
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies.
Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us(8:33-34).
Here we see, beloved, that God's elect are justified sinners. God has placed His throne behind them. Who can condemn them? Nobody. Why? "It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again."
Jesus Christ has removed all condemnation, and every true believer is secure because of the fourfold work of Christ: (1) Christ died for us---He was delivered for our offenses; (2) Christ was raised from the dead, raised for our justification; (3) He is on the right hand of God. He is up there right now, my friends, in a position of power and authority. He is the living Christ for we do not serve a dead god like others do. Do you need Him? Why don't you appeal to Him right now, today? (4) Christ makes intercession for us. Did you pray for yourself this morning? You should have. But even if you missed praying, He did not. He prayed for you. And that is the absolutely wonderful part of all this; Christ prays for us each and every day whether or not we remember to do so ourselves. These four works of Jesus Christ are the reason no one can condemn, or "lay anything to the charge" of God's elect. Are you still living your life by the rule that others are able to justify what you do, or don't do? God justifies the believer and removes the effectiveness of anyone else's accusations against him/her.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?(8:35).
Paul has mentioned everything imaginable here. He covers anyone with the "Who" at the very beginning of this verse. Is it possible that any sort of calamity can separate us? No, for God will not allow it. During times of distress or anguish we may begin to think that God has left us high and dry, but He has not. Persecution means not only being hounded by others, but it entails legal persecution also. It means that there are those who will carry on an ongoing campaign against you, and other believers. Is that happening today in America? I believe so, beloved. But none of this will ever separate you or me from the love of Christ. In essence, this is a biography of Pauls's own life. He knew from personal experience that none of these things can separate one from God's love. We are to know the same truth by reading these words.
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter(8:36).
Here is the quotation from Psalm 44:22. Isn't this a frightful picture of the saints in this day of grace? Without a doubt this is the attitude of the satanic system worldwide toward each child of God today. Beloved, if you stand for Christ today, it will most surely cost you something.
Dr. J. Vernon McGee as a fifteen year old youth worked his first job in an abatoir, or a slaughterhouse. He said that he worked next to the man who took a sharp knife and cut the sheep's throat. He said that to see animals slaughtered by the hundreds was a frightful spectacle. He got so sick that he had to go outside and sit in the fresh air to recover.
Beloved, it is sickening to see what is happening to some of the saints of God in our world today. But, even this will not separate any of us from the love of Christ.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us(8:37).
How can a sheep for the slaughter be more than a conqueror? It is definitely a paradox. What does it mean? It means to have assisstance from One who gets the victory for us, who never lets us be defeated. The victory belongs to Christ; not to us. The victorious life is not our life. It is Christ's life which He lives through us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord(8:38-39).
Paul begins these two verses by stating what he knows. "Death" can't separate us, in fact, it will take us into His presence. Many of the early Christian martyrs when being killed looked to heaven and thanked their murderers for sending them home. You can't threaten and hurt people like that. One can influence the persecuter' future by saying such things in their presence for they will be faced with having to consider the words.
"Life"---it is often more difficult to face life rather than death. But all of the temptations, failures, disappointments, uncertainties, and sufferings will not separate us from the love of God that will not let us go.
"Angels"---here I believe he is referring to fallen angels, those who are aligned with Satan against everything God stands for. Look at Ephesians 6:12 to see whether or not this means spiritual enemies of the believer. Satan and his cohorts can make themselves to appear as "angels of light" for brief times. This is how they deceive so many in our world. It is also why we must walk by faith and not by our sight. How can so many claim to have seen, or spoken to, a vision of Mary? I truly believe that it was Satan or one of his cohorts that briefly appeared to them to mislead them. And it sure has worked well over the centuries! "Principalities and powers" are a reference to non-earthly realms. These are spiritual things, related to Satan.
"Things present"---No present circumstances can separate us from Christ.
"Things to come"---Refers to anything in the future that may happen.
"Nor height, nor depth" refers to wherever we may physically end up. Whether we are stranded, exhiled, to the highest mountains or losest valleys, we shall not be separated from Christ. We could be sentenced to exhile at the bottom of the ocean in some tiny capsule, yet we would not be apart from Christ for He is there too.
"Any other creature"---This includes any other living thing that you want to mention, even those creatures found in the book of Revelation. Absolutely nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ our Savior.
My friends, salvation is a love story. We love Him because He first loved us. Nothing can separate us from that truth. We entered this chapter of Romans with no condemnation; we now conclude it with no separation; and meanwhile, everything in between works together for our good. Perfection being worked out each and every day.
That finishes chapter 8 of this awesome letter. Next time we shall come to the second major division of Romans. Academically we can say that the first eight chapters are doctrinal, chapters 9-11 will be seen as dispensational, and chapters 12-16 as duty. Chapters 1-8 empahsized faith. Chapters 9-11 will emphasize hope, and 12-16 will emphasize love. Romans could also be considered this way: the first section deals with salvation; the second section with segregation; and the third section with service to God. Some people have tried in the past to minimize chapters 9-11 as being not important for it appears to be something akin to a parenthesis, or they claim it is an appendix. But it quite pertinent, and it is vital to the logic and overall doctrine of the entire letter to the Romans. That is what we shall begin to study next time, beloved. Until then, be not discouraged by the refusal of those around you to listen to the message of salvation that you have in your heart. Be steadfast in your faith. Be of good cheer. Do not try to run away from the task that God may have placed before you, did it work for Jonah? No. Rather, be like the man who accepted God's will and willingly offered up his son for sacrifice to God. Know that God works all things together for your good, the good of your family, and the good of your congregation of believers.
Sat, Jul 12th - 5:22PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
My friends, I sincerely hope that none of you were offended by anything in my post of yesterday. I reread it today and thought to myself, "I could have worded that much better, and it wouldn't give the impression that I am trying to steamroll anyone into accepting God's existence." So, to anyone who felt that I was treading in that direction, I do apologize.
For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified(8:29-30).
I just love these two verses! "For" refers us back to verse 28 to remind us that He is not talking about anybody being elected to be lost, but he is speaking of "the called," the predestined ones. Predestination never has any reference to the lost of the world. You can't find it used in connection with them.
Many folk ask, "Just what in the world is this predestination thing?" It simply means that, when God saves you, He is going to see you through to the end. Whom He foreknew, He predestinated, and whom He predestinated, He called, and whom He called, He justified, and whom He justified, He glorified. God in all of His Omniscience, in His ability to know everything before it ever happens, knows who will accept His calling to be saved. In this he predestinates them to ensure that they will do so. Once they are saved through accepting Christ His Son, He then justifies them. He does not stop at this point, my friends, but continues on to glorify each of the children of God. What we are seeing is sanctification of the believer. But Paul does not mention the term. Why? Perhaps due to the fact that sanctification is the work of God in the heart and life of the believer. This is God's eternal purpose. It simply means this: God, the Great Shepherd, starts out with a hundred sheep and He is going to come home with one hundred sheep; He will not lose even one of them. Think back to the parable that Jesus gave about just this scenario, it is in Luke 15. Making this a little bit more personal, let's say Jesus Christ is at the fold of heaven counting His "sheep" as they enter into heaven. There He is counting them, "One, two, three, ...ninety-eight, ninety-nine,---hey, where is Eric Rajaniemi? Well, it looks like he didn't make it after all. I guess we'll let him go because alot of people didn't think he was going to make it anyway." Is that how it will go? No, my friends. Thank God He won't let me just go. That Shepherd is going after me and make sure that I enter in also. The doctrine of election means that Christ will enter heaven with every last sheep that He began with, none shall be lost. This is a reassuring doctrine that each believer needs to etch into their memories.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?(8:31-32).
The question brings us to the point of asking ourselves, "Why be concerned about what is going on in the world around us? Christ is with us always, He works all things to the good of us. I need have no fear in my life." Have some fear factors in your life today? Come on, jettison them, give them up to God to carry that burden. He almost begs us to allow Him to shoulder the load, so why procrastinate? Not sure He meant what He said in these scriptures? Trust in Him, my friends. Trust in Him. I was cutting my lawn this morning and while riding along a song came into mind. It is one that sings all about remembering what God has done. The chorus goes, " We will remember, we will remember. We will remember, the work of Your hands. We will stop, and give You praise, for great is Your faithfulness." The last verse I changed into this: "I remember, the night You saved me. It was so hot, so dark, and I was alone. But You came to me, and You saved me, and now I am forever changed!" You see, I still remember the night that He came into my heart and changed me forever. I went from considering how the impact with the asphalt from three stories up would feel, to feeling free. The tears of despair had turned into tears of joy. I had turned from facing the darkness of the western sky to face the east; my night had broken, a new dawn was fast approaching! I was changed! I could feel it! My fears, my anger, my sorrow, were no longer there to overwhelm me with their emotions. I had a new perspective on life, on people, and on what was going on around me. I did not know everything, but I knew something had changed and that I needed to find out more about Christ and what I should do. Another beautiful song that brings tears to my eyes whenever I hear it is by Mr. Gaither. "He Touched Me" touches this same point. Once Christ touches your heart something changes inside of you and you will never be the same ever again
Now on to verse 32. How wonderful this is! God the Father did not spare His Son. He spared Abraham's son, but not His own begotten Son. One of you may say, "But I may not be able to hold out." He is going to do that for you---He will hold you. His sheep are safe and it is not because they are so smart, I assure you! Sheep farmers will tell you that sheep are stupid, defenseless, and they can't run fast enough to evade predators. But they are safe with a conscientious shepherd. Beloved, we need to remember how Great is our Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He shall not allow us to falter. He will carry us home to heaven one day.
We also must remember that since God gave His precious Son to die for you and me He is also going to give us freely everything that is necessary in this life and in the life that is yet to come.
That is all for today, beloved. I hope some of this made sense to you. Tomorrow I will try to finish up chapter 8. We will be reminded in these remaining verses that Christ has removed all condemnation from the believer. Can we potentially be separated from Christ? What if I have mistakened the scriptures and I end up having to live through the Great Tribularion? Will that mean I have been separated from God? We will see a quotation from Psalm 44; this may, indeed, point toward having to survive the Great Tribulation. When we finally arrive at the final two verses of this great chapter we will be given the conclusion of the entire matter of whether or not we can be separated from our God. Until then, peace and grace be yours this day.
Fri, Jul 11th - 1:48PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
And He that searcheth the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God(8:27).
How wonderful this is, beloved! Christ knows what the mind of the Spirit is for it is His Spirit! And logically progressing from there we can see that since Christ's Spirit searches the hearts of man and makes intercession for man before God/Christ there is absolutely no confusion over what is being done. The unity of the Godhead is perfect.
Now, I could go to God in prayer and say, "Look, Lord, I really want You to do things this way," and I may not get the results that I prayed for. For it depends upon whether or not my prayer request is according to God's will in the particular matter. The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf according to the Father's will in all matters. How else could God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven? It couldn't be. And so we come before God as His child of grace and humbly ask for what we want from Him and end it with an, "Not my will be done, but Your will be done, Lord."
Now we come to the new purpose of God. You may be saying, "What new purpose?" Here in verse 28 is the beginning of an ascending process of salvation. God's purpose guarentees the salvation of sinners.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose(8:28).
This verse serves as a "soft pillow" for us to rest our weary heads upon in the times of trouble during our lives. We know that the entire creation groans but we also know that all things are working together for good, even the groanings. "We know" is used five times in Romans, and "know" is used thirteen times. It is pointing out to us that which is common knowledge of any Christian, that is, that which the Holy Spirit makes real. "Knowlege puffs up, but love edifies"(I Corinthians 8:1), and this is the knowledge that only the Spirit of God can make real within our hearts. Charles Spurgeon used to say, "I do not need anyone to tell me how honey tastes; I know." And I ought to say that I know God loves me. I do not need to argue that point; I know.
"To them that love God" is a badge of honor to be worn proudly by every believer. Love is the mark that identifies each believer. The apostle John said it best in I John 4:10-16: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation(mercy seat) for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him." That is an excellent salvation passage! "Whosoever" is another of those key words that signifies to all mankind that there are no limitations on how many can be saved and go to heaven. If you genuinely confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God then God dwells in you and you in Him. You will be saved my friend.
"All things" encompasses good and bad; bright and dark; sweet and bitter; easy and hard; happy and sad; prosperity and poverty; health and sickness; calm and storm; comfort and suffering; life and death. God uses all of these "things" to shape us, purify us, mold us into the type of people that He desires to see for eternity. We are not to fight against these things, we are to recognize them for what they truly are: shapers of what we are to become.
"Are working together for good" is causative and present tense meaning that God is working all things, there are no accidents. Memorize that last part: there are no accidents in this life. Joseph could say to his brothers: "...you thought evil against me; but God meant it to be good..."(Gensis 50:20). Job could say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him..."(Job 13:15). That is exactly the kind of faith in God we need today, beloved. We know that He is going to make things work out for good because He's the One who is motivating it. He is the One who is energizing events all around us.
However, we frequently cry out, as Jeremiah did in the Old Testament. Earthquakes, hurricanes and typhoons all leave in their wakes scenes of destruction, debris, and personal loss. How can we smile at times like those? By rejoicing that we have a God who can shake the world! How wonderful it is to be able to face life and death unafraid. To know that He is with us always, that He is in control of everything.
Are all things working together for good for everyone? I don't think so since the scripture points out specifically it is for those "who are called" ones, and it is "according to His purpose." Here is where liberal Christians and conservative Christians kind of part ways. The liberals tend towards thinking that that includes everyone. The conservatives tend towards thinking that it means a certain group of individuals. "The called" uses a Greek word, kletos, which means called, invited, divinely selected and appointed. This indicates that one must have received an invitation(everyone), and that one must have accepted it(believers). Elsewhere Paul describes three groups of people, and they still exist today: (1) Those who trust in religion, rite, and ritual; (2) those who trust in philosophy and human wisdom; and (3) "the called" who were chosen not because of their religion or wisdom. God called them. To them the cross was the dynamite of God unto salvation. They heard the call and responded in kind.
What if we were to go down to a swamp and found ten turtles? We ask them all if they would like to learn how to fly. Nine of them say, "We're not interested. We like it just fine down here; we feel quite comfortable in this here environment." One turtle says, "Yes, I would like to fly." That turtle is one who is called, and that is the one who is taught to fly. My friends, the lost are lost because they want it that way. There is not a single person on this planet that is being forced to be lost. They are lost because they have chosen to be lost.
This does not disturb the fact that anyone may come and believe in Christ. All is according to His purpose. "Purpose" comes to us from the Greek word, prothesis, meaning a purpose; a setting forth of a thing, placing it in view. This world is round and not square or conic shaped because God's will is for it to be round. His purpose is going to be carried out no matter what you and I do or don't do. Do not think that you can alter His divine will and purpose. Whatever God does is right. He has the right to do it. He is just and He is loving, and anything that God does must be right.
Some people call this the doctrine of election. You can if you so desire. All that I know for sure is that this scripture puts the axe to the root of pride, presumption, and despair. This is God's work, His wisdom, and His purpose that is being carried out. The will of God comes from out of eternity past like a steamroller. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that you can stop it. Rather, you had better jump on and enjoy the ride!
Well, that is all for today, beloved. We will continue next time with another two or three verses and investigate this tiered salvation concept further. Until then, remember that your body is the temple of God's Holy Spirit and that it should be treated well. Love all of the believers wherever they may be found around the earth. Pray for all of them as they are part of the "church." Peace and grace to all.
Thu, Jul 10th - 1:02PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.
And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body(8:22-23).
God is in His heaven, but all is not right with the world. In Joel 1:18 we are shown that the Word of God is much more realistic: "How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yes, the flocks of sheep are made desolate."
Someone once said that the wind blowing through the trees and the breaking of the surf on lonely shores both emit the same doleful sound. The startled cries of animals and birds pierces both day and night and chills the blood. Surely nature bears audible testimony to the accuracy of the Scriptures. Yes, we can know that all of nature anticipates the return of Christ and the absolute renewal of the entire creation.
Not only does nature groan, but the believers are in harmony with nature. This verse puts to bed the theory that the mark of a good Christian is a perennially smiling face. Smile your troubles away is good for Rotary, but it is not the Christian method.
We groan within these bodies of ours. I recall my father's mom staying with us when I was just a little tyke. She would groan every morning after waking up and walking out to the kitchen. I thought that it was strange for someone to make such sounds each and every day. Now, I smile at those recurring thoughts. I also, groan some mornings on my way out to the kitchen. And now I know that it is scriptural to groan! LOL Paul says, "For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven"(II Corinthians 5:2). Our Lord Jesus Christ did some weeping also. Although He was a joyful person, as are we to be, I know that there were times when He openly wept. In these bodies we groan.
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for it?(8:24).
This verse speaks of the work of Christ for us on the cross and our faith in Him. This is common sense stuff. If I can see, smell, touch, hear, or taste something then I do not hope for anything for I know it is there. I can only hope for those things of which I can not see. I can hope for love when I cannot see love anywhere around me. I can hope that a warm, soft, bed will await me at the end of my cross-Atlantic flight for I cannot see that from where I am at. Faith can never be in that which I can discern with my senses. I cannot discern God with my senses, it requires faith, hope, a belief, that He is there, that He is able to do what He has said He will do. This is why we are cautioned to walk by faith and not by sight; our senses can be deceived, they are not infallible.
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it(8:25).
Granted this is a bit convoluted, but it is very accurate to real life. The mom who waits with hope that her missing child will be found and returned to her, unharmed. The girlfriend who waits hoping that her boyfriend will return from overseas safe and sound. The father who after teaching his children all that he knows about God, waits patiently, hoping for the day when they "see" for themselves the truth. Hope is always in that which we cannot see now. Faith, hope, and love are the vital parts of every believer's life. There would be absolutely no hope if all were realized. Someday both faith and hope will pass away in the glory which shall be revealed in us. Only love abides forever.
Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmites: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered(8:26).
Have any of you attended a service where while the pastor preached someone in the audience kept interrupting with loud amens and groans? Well, Scripture says that the Spirit is the one who groans while interceding for us before the throne of heaven. Perhaps we ought to temper our comments sometimes, but not all of the time. At those times when we are absolutely lost as to what to pray for, about, or even how, the Holy Spirit will make intercession with groans that can not be uttered by us. Sometimes we are going to have to pray quite silently, allowing God's Spirit to speak for us, from our hearts and souls.
That is enough for today, my friends. Next time we shall study the new purpose of God. This enters a section of scripture that has caused many debates over whether or not man has freewill or not. Do I choose to be saved, or does God? Am I ever truly free to choose how to live? If God predestinates, am I already locked into decisions that aren't my own? On and on it goes. But this is all for next time. Until then, practice faith, hope, and love. Try to live peaceably with everyone, if at all possible. Obey the laws wherever you might live, all authority is handed out by God. Live honestly, joyfully, abundantly.
Wed, Jul 9th - 1:07PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together(8:16-17).
Here is seen confirmation for us of our identification as God's children once we trust in Christ. And we are told here that we are not only adopted, but that we become heirs of God the Father, and joint-heirs with Christ. I won't even begin to say that I comprehend the totality of meaning held in being an heir of God. It is a concept that is beyond my simple mortal mind. I am aware that it is something incredibly immense. But I cannot imagine the width and breadth of what it encompasses. I must wait until I enter into His presence in heaven to discover the magnitude of this verse's promises.
"If so be" assures us of the fact that we shall suffer with Him. If we do not suffer with Christ, how can we possibly claim to be His? My dear friends, what are you enduring for Him today? Whatever it may be, Paul makes it clear that it is just a light burden that we are going through now. For you see, there is an "eternal weight of glory" that is coming one day. In eternity we will wish that we had suffered a little more for Him, because that is the means He uses to school and train us. "For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives"(Hebrews 12:6).
This now brings us to a new division that can be seen in this 8th chapter of Romans. Not only the bodies of believers are to be redeemed, but we are going to find out that this entire physical universe, including earth, is to be redeemed. That is the purpose of God. Earth will be replaced with a planet without any sin. No curse of sin will ever come upon it again. Some are willing to state that, "I believe that healing is in the Atonement." I say today, there is that healing with a new body, and there will be a new world in the atonement of Jesus Christ. Political parties and the United Nations have been attempting to bring in a new world order for many years, but it most certainly has not arrived as of yet. But Jesus Christ is going to usher in a new world order through His redemption when He returns again. When He does that, you and I are going to get new bodies, if we have trusted in Christ. I am looking forward to that day more and more. The body I have has served me quite well over the years but it is beginning to wear out quite noticeably. I look forward to healing, and comfort.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us(8:18).
We are to count upon, or rely upon, the fact that our current suffering/s are what everyone experiences during life. Inspite of this current generation, which enjoys more creature comforts than any other in history, frowning upon this statement of mine, but even present-day Christians cannot escape suffering. Inspite of our sufferings we are to focus upon the unalterable fact that God's glory will be revealed in us, and in that we are to glory.
For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God(8:19).
Creation is not waiting for the sunrise of evolution's pipe-dream. That dream shall never come true. Creation is waiting "for the manifestation of the sons of God." When the sons of God have removed the outward covering of this mortal flesh, creation also will be unveiled. And what a glorious day that will be!
For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who has subjected the same in hope(8:20).
Vanity here probably means more closely that of failure, decay, something that is perishable. God subjected the creature on the basis of hope. This picture of vanity comes through clearly in the book of Ecclesiastes. There is a weary sound of endless repetition found in that book. All of the world's rivers endlessly run back into the sea from which their headwaters originated. And yet the oceans never get completely filled. There is a certain amount of monotony about the natural world. Nature is patiently waiting for the promised manifestation, the unveiling.
The curse of sin came upon all mankind because of Adam's disobedience, but the physical world also came under the curse. Reread Genesis 3:18-19 to get a feel for how the Edenic world was to change.
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God(8:21).
Someone has said that, "The moment He gives us life, He begins to take it away from us." If we venture out into the forest we will quickly discover that amongst the beauty and grandeur there is death, corruption, rotting. If you wish to, you could find the stench of decaying animal bodies. But this verse reminds all of us that God intends to liberate all of creation; the plants, the animals, the microscopic organisms too. Man's body is a sack of death, and so it is with our natural world. It is all winding down to its appointed time set in place by Jehovah Himself.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time I shall write about how all of us struggle as if in the throes of childbirth. Paul writes to us about the Person of the Holy Spirit and what He does for us each and every day. Until then, peace and grace be yours bountifully.
Tue, Jul 8th - 1:50PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
For if ye live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live(8:11-13).
These bodies of ours are going to be put into a grave of some kind one day. Unless Jesus Christ returns before our appointed time to die. However, God's Spirit indwelling us is our guarentee, our "earnest," that our bodies will be raised from the dead (II Corinthians 5:1-4). It is straight forward in grammar, Jesus was raised from the dead and so if we trust in Him then we too shall be raised from the dead. Verse 12 gives us another of those "therefores" that draw conclusions from what has just been written. Here we see that we are then to not live according to our flesh. God created us as body, mind, and spirit. When Adam sinned, his spirit died to God. Remember God's warning, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die"(Genesis 2:17). Adam did not physically die immediately, he immediately died spiritually. Adam lived several hundred years, he just could not enter into God's presence anymore, the end of intimate fellowship with God. Sin entered into the creation and turned things upside down. Animals that previously only ate plants now hunted and ate other animals. Plants that had only been pleasant now bristled with thorns and prickers, yielding stings filled with pain and venom. How merciful to have regeneration, to be turned right side up and be born again!
My friends, we can be busy in Christian work, as busy as ants, bees, or termites, and yet Christ can be in outer space as far we are concerned. The natural man says he owes it to his flesh to satisfy it's cravings. He may rationalize his dishonesty by saying, "A man has to eat!" A movie star may say, "I live for sex, and I have to have my needs met." We hear this from every direction today. Satisfying our old nature is what has brought this nation of ours to the low that it is at today! Satisfying our old nature drags us into the grossest immorality imaginable! But God says that we as believers in Christ are not debtors to our flesh. Our flesh is a low down, dirty rascal and we do not owe it one thing.
Verse 13 tells us the consequences if we live after the flesh: death. If you are a child of God and have unconfessed sin in your life, do you really want to go to church? Do you want to read your Bible? Do you want to pray? Of course you don't. It makes you uncomfortable and you are separated from God.
"But" signals the flip-side of this point. If we mortify the deeds of our flesh we shall live. Let's be down right practical now. What is your problem today? Alcohol? Drugs? Sex? Food addiction? Work-aholic? Yeah, you might say, "I don't have any of those problems!" Then what about your thought-life? How about your tongue? Do you gossip? Do you tell the truth? Whatever your problem might be, why not confess it to God, then turn it over to the Holy Spirit? Beloved, if you deal with it in reality, you won't need to slink off to the psychiatrist's couch. He really won't help you. He can shift your guilt complex to another area, but he can not get rid of it for you. Only Christ can remove your guilt. The psychiatrist is just as bad off as you are, that is the cold reality of truth. Read Matthew 11:28 to get a feel for what Jesus can do for you.
Now we come to a new section of Romans dealing with the new nature of the believer.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God(8:14).
Whoops! I guess the Jehovah Witnesses have this verse erased from out of their Bibles. "For as many as are led" means that there is no set quota to the number of believers saved by trusting in Jesus Christ. We also see here the character of God. He leads men to Himself, He does not drive them to obey. He is the Great Shepherd, leading us home to heaven. See what is said in John 10:27 and the picture quickly forms of how God reaches out to those in need.
I realize that I have been preaching the Word of God for sometime on this blog of mine. There are those who are His sheep who will hear His voice within these words. There are others who don't understand what the words mean, and they are the people who are not yet His children for they do not recognize His voice. If any of you are angered by what I post, then I shall pray for you daily. You have not trusted Christ completely yet. Any negative posts that I may receive are tempered by the remembering of John 15:18. The truth gets spoken and people either accept it or reject it. That is how it has always been with God's Word.
Now we come to the legal point of this discussion today. This next verse contains a diamond in the rough for us about life in general and also contains our legal standing with God.
For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father(8:15).
Is there that spirit of fear within you, wondering about your spiritual condition, unhappy, despondent? There ought to be a feeling of joy filling your soul for you are His child, believer! We are to call God, Abba, Father! "Abba" is an untranslated Aramaic word. The translators of the first English Bible refused to translate it. This is a very personal word that could be translated as "My Daddy." People have tended to shy away from using this term of endearment with God because of fearing to become too familiar with Him. But we ought to think in that fashion for it expresses a heartcry, especially in times of dire trouble. God, Jesus, is my daddy, my Father. He loves me, cherishes me, watches over me, provides all things that are good for me. He causes all things that happen to turn to my good. The story about Joseph and his brothers comes to mind instantly. I am not to fear, for God my father is always with me! Fear binds us with chains of emotion and stress. Throw them off! Jesus set us free!
Now as far as having received the Spirit of adoption we only need check with our dictionaries of today. We skip to the root word, adopt, which means to take by choice into a relationship; to take voluntarily a child as one's own child. To adopt means to treat an unrelated child the same as one of your own children. The adopted child takes your last name, becomes your legal responsiblility. They will call you their "Daddy." Or "Mommy." The point here is that God voluntarily chooses to take us into a relationship of sonship with Him. God treats us as He treats His Son. His Son was raised from the dead, so too are we as adoptive children. God gave His Son a glorified body, so too shall we be as He is. See, it is a legal arrangement in many, many, ways. It knits together so many of the threads that wind throughout the scriptures. It goes even further: we are to become the bride of His Son! All of us! Betrothed to Jesus Christ, the Son of God! Hallelujah! What times of unutterable joy await us in heaven! I can't even imagine the magnitude of it all!
Well, that is all for today, beloved! Next we shall look into the new creation. Until then, peace, grace and liberty be yours today.
Mon, Jul 7th - 10:13AM
STUDY IN ROMANS
Now we are to see the truth about our carnal minds:
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God(8:7-8).
Enmity means positive, active, and typically mutual hatred or ill will. It kindles open hostility. That is the reality of our carnal mind in relation to God. The carnal mind is a spiritual antichrist. These two verses demolish any theory that there is a divine spark in man and that somehow he has a hidden, secret, yearning toward God. The plain truth is that man is the enemy of God. Man is not only dead in trespasses and sins but is also active in rebellion against God. Here is a hard fact: we will even become religious in order to stay away from the living and true God and the person of Jesus Christ. Man in his natural condition, if taken up to heaven, would start a rebellion, and he would have a protest meeting going on in no time! He would have a list of wrongs that he felt had to be addressed, and would go on strike if necessary. Jacob engaged in a wrestling match with God. Granted he did not seek it, but he sure did fight back when God wrestled with him. Jacob did not win until he decided to yield himself to God. The same holds true for us today, beloved. We will not win until we decide to yield ourselves to God. We must be willing to "lose" ourselves before we can find ourselves.
Nothing produced by the flesh is acceptable to God. All of the so-called good work, civilization, culture and man's vaunted progress are a stench in the nostrils of God. The religious works of church people done in the lukewarmness of the flesh make Christ sick to His stomach (see Revelation 3:15-16).
Can you see how easy it is for all of us to slip into the trap of thinking that we are doing something really, really good? This is a terrible picture of mankind but it is accurate. Perhaps this is another good reason to not build great, big, church congregations. They are impressive, but they also create too many opportunities for pride, boasting, and misdirection of our attention. Hallelujah there is deliverance in the Spirit of God! Are we willing to turn it over to the Holy Spirit and quit trusting in that weak, sinful nature that we have? Now, that is the question.
But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His(8:9).
This first "if" does not cast doubt upon a person's salvation for it really implies "since." Since the Spirit of God dwells within you then you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. The second "if" is the litmus test. The true mark of a born-again believer and a genuine Christian is that they are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. This is partly why Paul said to the carnal Corinthians: "What? Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?" (I Corinthians 6:19). When Paul went to Ephesus the first time, he missed something; he missed the distinguishing mark of the believer. So he asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They did not know what he was talking about so he asked them another question, "...Unto what then were you baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism"(Acts 19:3). Was John's baptism to faith in Christ? No it was not. It was a baptism unto repentance. So Paul preached Christ to them, they received Him, and they were baptized in Jesus' name(Acts 19:5). So, do you love Him? Do you desire to serve Him? Are these things uppermost in your mind and heart? Or, are you still in rebellion against God Almighty?
One more verse;
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness(8:10).
Paul is saying here that you and I are in Christ, and since we are in Him, when He died, we died too. And we are to rely on this as we have previously been told. We are also to yield, or present, our bodies to Him. Paul could say, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me"(Galatians 2:20). Amen!
If anyone is not conscious of the presence of the Holy Spirit in their life and they do not have a desire to serve God, then it would be well to do what Paul suggested in II Corinthians 13:5: "Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?" God wants us to know that we are in Christ. "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory"(Colossians 1:27).
Still unsure that Jesus Christ is in you? He extends this invitation to you: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me"(Revelation 3:20). Is your door open today? Has He come in to you? My dear friend, the body has been put in the place of death. This is something that the child of God should rely upon. And he should turn over his entire life to the Holy Spirit, saying very clearly, "I cannot do it, Lord, but You can do it through me."
That is all for today, beloved. I will examine next time how we change legally in the eyes of God. We shall see that fear is something that ought not to exist in our lives once we are born-again. It is a highlight of the apostles's lives once they received the Holy Spirit and it is there for us to learn from. Until then, consider all of these things and test to make sure that what I have written here is true to God's Word. May all peace, grace, and mercy be yours today.
Sun, Jul 6th - 9:25AM
STUDY IN ROMANS
Here is another fantastic principle:
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace(8:6).
This means that you and I are separated from fellowship with God and that flesh is death here and now. The Spirit who indwells the believer brings life and peace. When we sin, we are to come to Him in confession and let Him wash us clean. This restores us to fellowship.
The "life" God offers speaks of full, complete, satisfaction and the exercise of one's total abilities. To live life at its fullest and best! Many of us believe that we are really living today, but it is a pale substitute for the life God wants to provide us with.
"Peace" means the experience of tranquility and well-being regarding the present and the future. It is a peace generated out of the fact that you are reconciled with God. No longer are you at odds with the Creator. Your peace also comes from the fact that now you can begin to be at peace with those people all around you each and every day. Peace can now also begin to flow into all of the negative relationships that you have ever had and that continue to influence your life even today. Forgiveness can begin to flow out of you towards those who have misused, abused, and hated you in the past and currently. It is a wonderful place to finally arrive at, beloved!
There is one thing for certain: if you are living in the flesh, and you are a child of God, you are not having fellowship with God. You can't. Jesus said in the Upper Room to Simon Peter: "...If I wash you not, you have no part with me"(John 13:8). I do think that God meant every word that He said there. He will not fellowship with you or with me if we are committing sin and are continuing to live in the flesh. What should we do then? Do as Simon Peter did, stick out your feet and let Christ wash them and you. I John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins." Who is we? We Christians. "He is faithful and just..." when He does it, because it will take the blood of Christ my friends. You and I do not know how desparately wicked our old natures are. We need to go to God for cleansing on a daily basis.
The English poet, John Donne, using the mythological story of the labors of Hercules shows this point:
"Lord I confess that Thou alone are able
To purify this Augean stable.
Be the seas water, and all the land soa[
Yet if Thy blood not wash me-there's no hope."
In I John 1:7 it says that the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, keeps on cleansing us from all sin. God has no plan to redeem our old nature, instead He gives us a new nature. The idea today that you can somehow train your old nature, and still live in it, is false. It is an approach that leads to legalism and piousness.
Here are some comments from one Dr. Newell: "To hope to do better is to fail to see yourself in Christ only." We all need to see ourselves in Jesus today and realize that only the Spirit of God moving through us can accomplish this. "To be disappointed with yourself means you believed in yourself." You know no good thing is going to come out of the flesh,my friends. Stop believing in yourself, and believe that the Spirit of God today can, and will, enable you through the new nature to live for God. "To be discouraged is unbelief." Do you believe in God? Do you believe Him? God has a purpose and a plan, a blessing for you. And each of us needs to lay hold of it. "To be proud is to be blind." My friends, see yourself as God sees you, not as you think you are. "The lack of divine blessing comes from unbelief, not a failure of devotion." How many times did Jesus upbraid the disciples for their unbelief? Lack, or want, of divine blessing comes because we simply do not believe what God has already said. Devotion comes from the discovery that blessing has already been received from God while we were yet unworthy and undevoted to Him. It comes because of His amazing grace. Beloved, you do not need to devote yourself to Christ. What is needed is to believe Christ can do something and you can't do anything. You might be thinking, "Well, that is pretty strong language!" Yes, it is. Paul is the one who is bringing it to you, not me.
That is all for today, beloved. I trust you are having a safe and peaceful holiday weekend if you live in America. Next time I will show through Paul's statements how critically important it is to trust in Christ. We will begin to see in the next couple of days how useless it is to go to the psychiatrist. Until then, may you ask freely of God and witness the bounty of the Lord of all Creation.
Sat, Jul 5th - 1:26PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
As noted yesterday, this next verse introduces us to a new struggle. It is not for us to do the fighting, it is the Holy Spirit versus the flesh.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit(8:5).
Here we see that anyone, and everyone, who goes after the things of the flesh will obey those things in the flesh. Paul sounds like a good Southerner here, "they mind the things of the flesh." My friends, if you live habitually in the flesh and obey the things of the flesh, and the new nature does not rebuke you, you must not have a new nature. How can I say such a thing? Well, look at the second half of this verse. "But they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit." A believer who has a new nature will "mind" the things of the Holy Spirit. He will yield himself/herself to that new nature. Here we have the picture of the new man fighting against the old man, and only able to achieve victory through allowing the Holy Spirit to wage this battle for him. God does not intend to change our sinful flesh, rather, He intends to replace it one day with something immensely superior. Until that time arrives we are to allow someone else wage this battle for us.
It is no longer the believer striving for mastery over sin in their body; it is God's Holy Spirit striving against the old nature. I learned quite some time ago that I can't overcome my old nature. I have to turn that task over to Somebody who can. Jesus said that He was sending His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to all of us so that He could dwell within us and teach, and help us. I think that we ought to let Him do His work in us, don't you? We need to stop getting in His way.
Paul continues to paint this picture over in Ephesians 2:1-3: "And you has He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in tme past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." That, my friends, was the condition that we all were in before trusting in Christ.
Do not think that this "flesh" concept only involves your body. Oh no, it includes our minds as well. In Colossians 1:21 it states that our minds were at odds with God as well. Our total personality is included in this picture.
Wish to know what the diet of the natural man is? Check out Galatians 5:19-21 and Colossians 3:8-9 and finish it all off with a quick read of Matthew 15:19. All in all a very humbling statement of how we all are while alienated from God. And how hard for the child of God to cope with the knowledge that they still retain this old Adamic nature after salvation. No child of God can remain happy living for the things of the flesh. Like the prodigal son, we all may get into the pigpen, but we will never be content to stay there. We must reach a point where we say, "I will get up and go to my Father."
"They that are after the Spirit" are those who are born again, regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit of God. They love the things of Christ, they yearn to learn what the scriptures have to say to them. Colossians 3:1-2 tells us what we must set our affection on. And further on in Colossians 3:12 we see some of the things for which every true child of God longs for. These all are things that you and I cannot do by effort. As we allow the Spirit of God work in our lives these things will appear.
That is all for today, beloved, Next time we shall delve deeper into this chapter. Until then, spurn those things that feed our flesh, our old nature, and instead embrace those things that are noble, just, divine, spiritually pure.
Fri, Jul 4th - 11:02AM
STUDY IN ROMANS
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit(8:3-4).
Alright, we have the whole crux of the matter before us. Jesus Christ had to come in the flesh in order for Him to condemn sin, which dwells in our flesh. Thus, Christ in so doing enabled the justification of the Law in each of us who no longer walk in the flesh but according to the Holy Spirit.
The Law could not possibly produce righteousness in mankind. That is not the fault of the Law. The fault lay in mankind and the sin in his flesh. The Law could not produce any good thing in man either. My friends, that is Scripture, and that is accurate. You and I are totally depraved without the power and presence of God's Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit is now able to do the impossible. He can produce a holy life in weak and sinful flesh. Having difficulties understanding this concept? Perhaps this story will help. Suppose there is a housewife who puts a nice roast in her oven right after breakfast because she plans on serving it for the noon meal. Suddenly the telephone rings. It is Mrs. Smith on the phone. She begins with "Have you heard?" Well, the housewife hasn't heard, but she would like to; so she pulls up a chair. Mrs. Smith has alot to tell, and about two hours go by. Finally our good housewife says, "Oh, Mrs. Smith, you'll have to excuse me. I smell the roast---it's burning!" She quickly hangs up the telephone, rushes into the kitchen, and opens the oven. Amid billowing smoke from the open door she gets a fork and puts it down into the roast to lift it up, but it won't hold. She tries again, closer to the bone, but still it won't hold. So she pauses to think and then gets a spatula. She puts the spatula underneath the roast and lifts it out. You see, my friends, what the fork could not do , in that it was weak through the flesh, the spatula is able to do. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the fork, it is a perfectly fine fork. But it couldn't hold the flesh due to something being wrong with the flesh---it was over cooked. So the spatula was able to do what the fork could not.
The Law is like the fork in that it was weak through the flesh. It just will not lift us up; it can't lift us up. But a new principle is introduced: the Holy Spirit. What the Law could not do, the Holy Spirit is able to do. Therefore, you and I are to live the Christian life on this new principle. We are not to try and lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We will never make it that way, beloved. Making resolutions on New Year's Eve will never enable us to make it either.
God is able to do this impossible thing by sending His very own Son, His own nature in the likeness of sinful flesh. Jesus had the same kind of flesh that we have, except apart from sin. Read Hebrews 2:14, 16-17 to see how Christ came to this earth. Then read Hebrews 7:26 and 10:5 to get an idea of how God resolved this dilemna of sinfulness in mankind.
He condemned and executed sinful flesh up on the cross so that it had no more rights in human beings. Sin has been condemned in these bodies of ours, it just has not been removed yet. This is why Jesus Christ is coming back again, to redeem us from these corrupt bodies and to give us incorruptible ones in return. So many people think it would be wonderful if Christ would come and take us out of this world of sin. Believe me, I think that it would be wonderful too. But there is something even more wonderful that that. It is this: He enables you and me to live Christian life right where we are today in this world of sin. Didn't Jesus say in His high priestly prayer in John 17:15 : "I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil."? Down here is where true victory lies, my friends.
"That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled." It means that the Holy Spirit produces a life of obedience which the Law commanded but could not produce. The Holy Spirit furnishes the power; the decision is ours as always.
That is all for this wonderful Independence Day. Next time we will see a new struggle. It is something that causes all of us pain, agony, and loss of peace of mind. Until then, do not fight against the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life, for to do this is to fight against Jesus Christ. He and the Spirit are one. He and the Father are one. Just like in Geometry and math class, eh? May peace, grace, and mercy be yours today.
Thu, Jul 3rd - 10:25AM
STUDY IN ROMANS
The theme for chapter 8 is the new man; the new creation; the new body; and the new purpose of the new man.
This chapter presents to us three great subjects: sanctification, security, and no separation from God. We are going to see God's new provision for our sanctification. My friends, do not think that I feel capable of dealing with these great truths. All that I can possibly do is to simply stand as Moses did at the burning bush, not fully recognizing the glory and wonder of it all. I can only see partially what is intended by these great words.
One could easily say that we all enter this chapter of Romans with no condemnation, and we leave it with no separation and in between all things work together for good to those that love God. Beloved, how could you have it any better than that? As a child of God you and I have joy and peace in this life. We are to live for God in the vey presence of sin. Sin is not to dictate our life's program. We have already seen that there is nothing within us, as justified sinners, that can produce this ideal state. We have also seen that the new nature within us has no power and the old nature has no good. Then how are we to live for God? Who is going to enable me to live for God?
Chapter 7 ended with Paul saying that he was thankful to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. The next chapter is going to give us the means by which our victory is secured. We get introduced to the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification. He is mentioned 19 times in this chapter. In Romans we have already seen the work of the two other members of the Trinity: God the Father in creation (1:1-3:20) God the Son in salvation (3:21-7:25) and now we are to see God the Holy Spirit in sanctification (8:1-39).
A life pleasing to God must be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is the Holy Spirit working in the regenerated life of the believer, you and I, delivering us from the power of sin even in the very presence of sin. He also performs all God's will in our lives.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit(8:1).
Some people feel that the second half of this verse should not be here but belongs in verse 4. I do not venture onto such ground for it does not affect the overall meaning of the first half of the verse. This is a definite continuation of the discussion at the end of chapter 7 with the phrase "There is therefore." Inspite of the failure that Paul experienced, and described to us, he did not lose his salvation. Nor do we lose our salvation through such experiences today. Now Paul wasn't enjoying the Christian life for he felt that he was a failure and thus he was a wretched man. God wanted him, and us, to have joy in life. How is that going to be possible?
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death(8:2).
Aha! The little word "for" occurs 17 times in this chapter. It would seem to be the cement that holds everything together and so it requires real mental effort. We must follow the logic of the apostle.
"The law of the Spirit" means not only a principle of law, but also the authority which is exercised by the Spirit. "The Spirit of life" means the Holy Spirit who brings life. "In Christ Jesus" means that the Holy Spirit is in complete union with Christ Jesus. "The law of sin and death" is the authority that sin had over our old nature, ending in complete separation of fellowship with God. The new nature could not break the shackles at all. Only the coming of a higher authority power could accomplish this, namely the Spirit of God Himself. The Holy Spirit works with the new nature which is joined to the life of Christ. That "man" in chapter 7, who was joined to the body of the dead, is now joined to the living Christ also.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time we will continue on in this chapter. I pray that this has been enlightening for at least some who read this post. Until next time, peace, joy, and grace be with you all.
Wed, Jul 2nd - 1:18PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
If then I do that which I would not, I consent to the law that it is good.
Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me(7:16-17).
What he is is saying here is that whenever the old nature breaks the commandments, then the new nature agrees with the Law that the old nature's actions are wrong. We are not to fight the Law because we break it. We are to agree that the Law is good and that we are wrong.
Now some people try to rationalize away their sinful living by quoting verse 17. They are in grave error to try and do so. You see, it is no longer I (new nature) who is working out these actions, but sin (old nature) which still lives within me. Each time that I break God's Law, and believe you me I still break God's Law, it is my sin nature that is doing this. It is still a part of me for as long as I have this physical body and it will continue to rear its ugly head from time to time. Paul understood this very well for he struggled with it his entire life. And so he wishes here to share his experiences with all of us today so that we too can understand the nature of our daily struggle with sinfulness.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not(7:18).
Paul had learned two things during this struggle, and they are things that we need to learn. In me lives nothing good. Have you reached that conclusion? I hope so, beloved. We cannot please God by doing things in the flesh. Many of us still think that we can please Him this way. We become busy as bees but we end up not making any honey! We get onto committees, we become chairmen/women of boards, we try to run the church, and we really think that these things please God. But where is the connection to Christ? Is His life being lived out through us when we are doing these "things?" Or are we all falling victim to doing "things" in our own strength by the flesh?
Anything that Eric Rajaniemi does in the flesh, God hates. God won't have it; God can't use it. That is why Jesus said what He said in John 3:6 and John said in I John 3:9. Once I fully understand that my new nature can not sin I am able to see what does commit the sin in my life. It is my old, carnal nature that is tied up with this physical body of mine. My new nature will force me to repent of the new sin and make it right with God and man.
Now for the other thing we need to learn. My new nature wants, desires, to serve God, but the carnal man is at war against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be (see Romans 8:7). My new nature, in and of itself, has no power.
I remember shortly after I accepted Christ, I was on fire to read my bible. I read at night while at work on graveyard shifts when my work was done. And when I found out that Mary was Jesus's mom but not the Queen of Heaven like the Catholics believed, well, I just had to straighten that misconception of theirs out! The truth will set you free, right? I decided that I would set one of my coworkers free now! I bludgeoned the poor man one night while we worked together. I did not convince him that his beliefs were in error, I simply aggravated the man. You see, that was the flesh working, not God. Today I take a much different approach to trying to persuade Catholics to take a fresh look at their accepted beliefs. I think that it is more God at work than me these days.
Perhaps too many preachers get responses in meetings because they ask, "All of you that want to live for God, put up your hand. All of you today that want to come closer to God, put up your hand. Those of you who want to commit your life to God, come forward." I have to tell you, when I hear those words I am wanting to do just that. My new nature says, "I sure would like to live for God." But, my friends, there is no power in that new nature. And thousands upon thousands of believers fail to ever recognize that truth. They end up forever coming forward, never making any progress in their spiritual life.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not do, that I do.
Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me(7:19-21).
Ever experience this? It is the old nature that causes all of us trouble. When you and I are attempting to serve God in the Spirit, have you discovered that the old nature is right there to bring evil? Having a Men's Fellowship Meeting and find yourself getting angry with another brother over some topic of discussion? Old nature at work. Finally made it onto the Praise Team and decide to wear something really flashy and perhaps lowcut? Old nature at work. Discipling someone who just does not get the point made by you, so you lose your temper? Old nature at work. Decide to wake up earlier each day to read scripture and pray for 30 minutes but find that you can't drag yourself out of bed? Old nature at work. Decide to begin a website to spread the Good News but find out your schedule becomes too busy? Old nature at work. Every child of God must admit that in every act and in every moment evil is present with him/her. Failure to be aware of this fact will eventually lead to a shipwrecked life.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members(7:22-23).
The inward man here is the new nature spoken of before. We do not have our old nature erradicated upon salvation. It is still with us along with our new spiritual nature. Reaching this new awareness, we ought to humble ourselves before God just as Paul did. The law of my mind is in continuous conflict with the law of my flesh, or members. I recall someone once saying that what a person sees all of the time will become the thing that he ends up desiring to have as his own. This is the trap of watching pornography. It makes you a slave to it, and you end up addicted to what you see. You end up no longer in control of yourself, it controls you. God does not want this for any of us. To be free indeed. Here is what we all need to cry out to God:
Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?(7:24).
Paul was not unsaved at this point in his life. He was saved and realized that he was helpless under his own power. Paul is calling out for help, from anywhere outside of himself.
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin(7:25).
Deliverance from our bodies of death is through Jesus Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. God has provided the deliverance, not men. Both salvation and sanctification come through Christ. This introduces chapter 8 in which we shall see the deliverance given in some detail. The ensuing discussion carries on the thought from the very end of chapter 7 right on into chapter 8. I hope that this post has managed to help some of you to come to terms with the struggles that go on in your lives each day. God never promised upon salvation that we would become powerful and mighty in our own right. He saved us so that we could serve Him, grow in Him, and spread the Good News to those around us of His love for all of us. His mission: to save that which is lost and broken. He desires to carry that mission out through us each and every day of our lives. I hope that it becomes your desire and mission also, beloved. Keep me and my wife in your prayers as we ramp up our efforts to begin homeschooling our two grandsons who live with us full time. It will be challenging and exhilarating as we try to save that which was lost and broken. I praise God through Jesus Christ my Lord! Until next time, grace and peace be yours this day.
Tue, Jul 1st - 1:20PM
STUDY IN ROMANS
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good(7:12).
The big problem is a human problem. Man is the "x" in the equation of life. Man is the uncertain one, the one who cannot be trusted. This verse lays down the basis for us to determine where the blame originates from. The Law given to us by God is holy, just, and good since God Himself is all of these things. Whereas mankind is anything but holy, just, and good.
Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful(7:13).
A strange paradox? Is it a perversion of a good thing? The commandment was totally incapable of giving life. Mankind must have a source of help from the outside, because the commandment intensified, concentrated, the wickedness of sin.
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin(7:14).
The Law is spiritual in the sense that it was given by the Holy Spirit and is part of the Word of God. For example, the Rock is called spiritual in I Corinthians 10:4, for it was produced by the Holy Spirit. Israel in the wilderness had spiritual meat and spiritual drink for the Holy Spirit provided it.
"But I am carnal." This means acting in the flesh, coming from the Greek word sarkinos. It does not refer to the muscles or flesh on our bones. This refers to our crude bodily pleasures and appetites marked by sexuality, and these being governed more by the physical rather than by the intellectual parts of ourselves. Rationality sort of goes out the door here. Our physical bodies are neutral and can be used for that which is either good or bad. Carnality refers to the old human nature, mind, and spirit which occupies and uses our bodies. Over time, the flesh actually becomes contaminated with sin and its consequences. For example, look at the face of a new born baby and then look at the face fifty years later. Sin etches indelible lines upon the surface, as well as the inside of that body. Our frontal lobes are merely instruments for devising wickedness. Our hearts are desparately wicked also, who can know the depths thereof? Our carnal, sin nature devises evil and our flesh carries those evil designs out.
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do(7:15).
Here Paul lays out for us the conflict between our two natures once we trust in Christ. We have the "new nature" yearning to please God, do good works; and then we have the "old nature" which continues to devise evil things, give in to wickedness. What the new nature desires to do the old nature rebels against and refuses to do it. Without turning totally to Christ for strength, the believer is helpless against the old nature going right ahead and doing what it pleases.
Have you experienced this sort of struggle in your Christian life? Do you do things, think things, and then hate yourself because you have done or thought it? Do you then feel like you have failed God? I would think that every single child of God has, or has had, this experience. Paul is speaking about his own personal experience here. We could probably divide Paul's life up into three periods. First he was a proud Pharisee under the Mosaic system, bringing sacrifices and doing other things which he thought would make him right with God. Unknown to him, the Law was condemning him the entire time. The second period began when he met Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road. The proud Pharisee turned to Christ as his Savior, but he still felt he could live the Christian life. Obviously his new nature said, "I am now going to live for God!" But he failed for he lived in an arena of struggle and failure for a period of time. There came a day when there was a victory, Jesus won the battle for Paul. Paul learned that it was a matter of yielding, submitting, presenting himself and letting the Holy Spirit of God live that Christian life through him. That is something that each of us, even today, must learn individually. We have to give ourselves to the Holy Spirit and let Him live our Christian life through us. We must yield and enter into the holy life that is awaiting us. It requires becoming aware that God controls everything, we control nothing. Revenge is His, forgiveness is ours.
That is all for today, beloved. There is quite a bit to chew upon here. I hope that you will take the time to reread these verses and ponder them. My oldest daughter called me in Massachusetts from Roanoke, Virginia many years ago. She was in tears, you could hear them in her voice, and really wanted to know how come things go so horribly badly after one has worked so hard to make them go right. I wished that I could have embraced her and hugged her tight at that moment, but she was some 750 miles away. All that I could tell her that day was that no matter where we run to, we bring our past baggage along with us and the dirty clothes spill out at the worst time. We have to deal with what we have gone through in our past before we can begin building a new present and future. She didn't really want to hear that that day. Today she understands much more clearly what I was speaking about back then. But this illustrates these verses today. She tried to do what she knew to be right but could not because of her old nature which continued to do what it had always done. Her life fell apart and she was forced to rebuild from out of the ruins. And that is what all of us do to a lesser or greater degree. Until next time, be good to one another, pray for one another, sing songs of praise to one another, be there for each other. That is being a good Christian brother or sister.
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