Archive for the ‘Romans’ Category

Romans Sixteen: Parting Thoughts

Posted: August 5, 2011 in Romans

            Paul’s letter to the saints in Rome (and to us) winds down and concludes with chapter sixteen, where Paul spends the majority of the letter saying “What up?” to many of his friends. We also note the interesting fact that Paul is dictating this letter through a fellow by the name of Tertius (though some would argue that this is, for some odd reason, another name for Paul). I have to wonder at his thoughts while listening to this letter being spoken by Paul. I would have spent too much time asking questions about the content to finish writing the letter!

            As Paul closes out this letter, he says that the fullness of the gospel, to include the parts kept secret for so long, have at last been disclosed through him. This is the same gospel that we are commanded, some 2000 years later, to share with the entire world. How well are we doing this?

            Paul also tells his readers to be on the lookout for heretics who are teaching contrary to what Paul taught, and to avoid them. I find it interesting that he doesn’t tell the saints to debate them- he simply warns them to avoid ‘em. Here’s the catch, though: to know what Paul taught (a necessity to recognize false teaching in the first place), you have to read his letters and understand them. So as Paul closes out this letter and I shift gears in this blog, I would encourage you to not simply complete Romans and move on. Spend some time with it, wrestle with the immensely deep theological content of it, own its theology. It’s well worth the effort- I promise.

            The past few days I have been struggling over the idea of doctrinal purity and the extent to which disagreeing believers should still maintain close fellowship with one another. I had made a comment last night in church that may have hit closer to home than I perhaps intended, but nonetheless it has got me thinking about this again, as does Paul’s continued admonition in Romans fifteen for the stronger believers in Rome to patiently bear with the weaker brothers.

            The comment that I made was in reference to going out of my way to help some students back in college to be able to attend a weekend church trip somewhere out of the area. The amusing part was that the students were Pentecostals (and thus doctrinally errant, of course, [haha]), but I said last night that I was “too godly to be bothered by it”. As an afterthought I mentioned that some in the room would understand that comment later on.

            As I write this I think of one of my closest friends in the ministry, and I already know that me and him have some serious disagreement theologically, over some issues that are pretty important to me- issues that I believe are pretty clear in Scripture…yet these issues never once have come between us, and to be honest he may not even know just how different we are in our theology. I have a brother the same way. When we’re not discussing our points of disagreement, our interactions are the most joyful that I have, but when we argue you see what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object, lol.

            My closest campus pastor in college was an Assemblies of God pastor, and I knew that we disagreed on theological points…yet they no longer mattered. I mean, they mattered, but they didn’t matter. They didn’t stop us from loving each other, praying for each other, and encouraging each other. We were friends, brothers in Christ, and we had some glaringly obvious differences of opinion.

            Now, though, it’s different. I have (gasp!) four degrees, and I’m way smarter than most people. My theology is perfect, and I have a solemn obligation to show you your every theological error. Don’t see it my way? Than you’re wrong!!  

            Sigh….I miss the days where I was so much like Christ that the non-essential doctrinal disputes simply weren’t something I had time to bicker over. So thank you, Paul, for the ever constant reminder that I tend to be an over-bearing tool bag.

Romans Fourteen: Harmonius Discord

Posted: August 3, 2011 in Romans

                In Romans thirteen, Paul tells us to love one another. In chapter fourteen, he tells us how: by not letting disagreements and differing opinions divide one another. This is superhard for me, because I tend to go blue in the face defending my opinions against someone else’s. However, if Scripture does not address such an issue, than I need to follow Paul’s advice. These are the steps to follow to maintain unity in a church despite disagreeing in some areas:

  1. Welcome the other person’s company, but not for the sake of arguing.
  2. Stop passing judgment on the other person who’s standards/positions/opinions differ from your own.
  3. Be fully convinced of your own position (odd that Paul tells both sides that they need to be fully convinced).
  4. Live in the reality that we will all stand before God and give an account for our own selves.
  5. Having been convinced that you are right, go out of your way to not be offensive to those disagreeing with you.

            Yeah…that last one is not so easy to do. Nonetheless, these are the Biblical precepts for occasions of disagreement. God had a unique church with a diversity of beliefs and convictions. Let’s not let squabbles over the little things grow big enough to destroy us.

                Paul gives some practical advice in Romans thirteen that include living in submission to the authorities that God Himself set into their positions, as well as how we should cast away the old desires of our sin nature and live in the reality of our salvation. But he tossed out something that caught my eye as I was reading today. He said, “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Now, this is no news flash to the New Testament church. Jesus Himself said that the entire Law hangs on two precepts- loving God, and loving others. But never before has the simplicity of Paul’s words struck such a resounding chord within me. “Hey guys- wanna live perfect like God designed us to? Love people.”

                Simple words, but not a simple idea. Here’s how it works. In everything we do, say, or think, it needs to be for the benefit of either God, others, or ourselves (that’s right- when Jesus said to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves, it indicated that we are also to treat ourselves in a way that’s best for us).

                So here’s your simple challenge for today, and hopefully in days to follow; periodically ask yourself this simple question: “Why am I doing what I am doing, and in what ways in this action showing true, Biblical love?”

Romans Twelve: Be Transformed

Posted: August 1, 2011 in Romans

                  Chapter twelve continues Paul’s thinking as he tells the saints that are in Rome that their proper response to God’s grace is full surrender to Him, an embracing of the reality that we are in Christ, who in turn is in and around us. Paul says, “Don’t act like you’re lost- act like you’re a child of God. Be different, be transformed!” But how does one accomplish that? By renewing the mind. By going, day after day after day, to the Gospel, the Good news that God saves sinners. Check this out if you want a better idea of the Gospel, as well as how to present it to others.

                I am always mildly amused at the reactions drawn by the mention of predestination and election, particularly from a monergistic perspective. Many people do not think it’s fair that God be the determiner of who receives salvation, and they don’t think it’s fair because they fail to grasp just how devastating the fall of humanity was in the fact that if God didn’t act among us, sovereignly saving whom He will, then no one would ever be saved because no one would want to be saved. It’s not like God kicks people into Hell that are begging for Him, and He didn’t force people into a relationship with Him against their will. Nonetheless, many who are loudest in opposition against a monergistic soteriology (doctrine of salvation) believe Romans 11:26 to be a reference to ethnic Israel, the historical and present-day Jews within the nation of Israel.

                Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am no scholar in things related to the end of time (known as the doctrine of eschatology), but I do know enough to know that the way in which one views the dynamic between Israel and the Church will influence their understanding of the last days, which is where Romans 11:26 comes into play. All talk of the millennium, or Church, or rapture aside, at some point in our human time-line, all of Israel at that time will be saved. And I believe, from what I’ve seen so far in Scripture, that this does indeed mean physical, ethnic Israel. While it is true that the Church is brought into “true Israel”, it is also true that Israel as a nation is only under a partial hardening, during which many Jews are perishing to Hell, and many Gentiles are being saved by God. But it’s a partial hardening which will end when all of God’s elect Gentiles are converted and “grafted” into the tree of salvation- namely, Christ.

                So when God’s work is completed within the Gentiles, all of Israel will too be saved. How? By Jesus coming to them, removing their ungodliness from them, and taking away their sins. Or it could be said this way- they will be saved when Jesus takes away their sins and gives them His righteousness. As salvation was, is, and will always be granted only through faith in Christ, we know that if Romans 11:26 is referring to all the physical Jews at the end of history, then we know that what Paul is talking about is a massive, world-wide, incredible, grace-filled, covenant-restoring, Jesus-exalting,  Spirit-honoring, God-glorifiying revival unlike all revivals, in which the nation of Israel will be supernaturally and graciously given repentance from their sins and faith in their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

                So…why Israel and not the rest of the world?

                See the irony? The same people who are against monergism on the grounds of it being “unfair” or “unloving of God” and “unbiblical” are willing to admit that God is going to sovereignly grant Israel a faith and repentance that He is (1) purposely withholding from them right now, so that they’re going to Hell and (2) not giving the rest of the world. The reality is that if God had His heart set on the salvation of the human race, then that’s exactly what would have happened. But He didn’t, and so it hasn’t. Who God saves is completely up to Him, and God will do whatever He wants with His creation. At some point we’re bound to realize that this simply isn’t about us. It’s about God and the glorification of His name.

Romans Ten: Why Bother Witnessing?

Posted: July 30, 2011 in Romans

                Given the unconditionality of God’s electing grace, the question is always asked: why bother witnessing? I mean, if God is the one who picks who is saved, then it doesn’t really matter what I do, right? Wrong. Regardless of one’s views on the sovereignty of God in election, the fact does not change that Jesus commands all of His followers to go throughout the entire world, proclaiming the Gospel of salvation for all who put their trust in Him. From a very cold point of view, we might say that evangelism should still be done, if only out of duty to Jesus.

                It goes a little deeper than this, though. The reality doesn’t change that people cannot be saved apart from hearing the Gospel, which should encourage us to do our part in sharing the good news. The sooner our friends hear, the sooner they can (1) be saved or (2) reject the message and continue in disbelief.  Also, since we do not know who God’s elect are, we could and should talk to all men as though they are elect, and thus each evangelistic effort can result in the salvation of those we talk to, which is pretty amazing, when you think about God using us as a means of reaching lost people. As Paul says here in Romans ten, “how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel!”

                Another reason to evangelize our friends is because the offer of salvation is a real offer. Though the atoning sacrifice of Christ is applied only to the account of those who receive it by faith, the atonement is sufficient to cover the sins of the entire human race. Something like that that Jesus did for us needs to be told world-wide. Sovereign election or not, it’s a sincere offer that our friends should be pleaded with to embrace.

                We should witness to our friends because based on sovereign election we know that evangelism works. God elected to save people out of every tongue, tribe, and nation, and the means by which He accomplishes that is through our sharing the Gospel. We can be bold in our proclamation of the Gospel because we don’t have to fear “turning someone off” of Jesus because we were too pushy, or too intolerant.

                 And lastly, we should be fervent in our evangelistic efforts because God may see these efforts on our part and reward them with the salvation of our friends. Though some of my monergistic friends are appalled at this idea, the reality is that God makes the choices, but He also makes them for a reason. I believe that one of the primary reasons is to glorify Himself, and what better way to do that than by saving the friends and family members that we pray for and share the gospel with?