Friday, August 29, 2008

Romans Chapter Nine

At the time Paul wrote this he was accused of being an enemy of his own people. We are told in Acts 23:12, “And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.” Now Paul uses an expression that is a favorite with him: “I tell the truth, I do not lie.” This poor man is full of anguish that Israel is rejecting Christ.

Verse 6 brings up an interesting point.

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel [Rom. 9:6].

This is a strange expression. In other words, not all the offspring, the natural offspring of Israel, are the real Israel. The Jew in Paul’s day raised the question as to why the Jew had not wholeheartedly accepted Christ since theirs was an elect nation. Is not this failure on God’s part? Paul partially dealt with this problem at the beginning of Romans 3.

Now Paul is going to make a distinction between the natural offspring of Jacob and the spiritual offspring. Always there has been a remnant, and that remnant, whether natural or not natural, has been a spiritual offspring. This is a distinction within the nation Israel, and he is not including Gentiles here at all. The failure was not God’s; but the people had failed. God’s promises were unconditional.

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid [Rom. 9:14].
What will we say to this? Is there injustice with God? Perish the thought! Let it not be. The answer is a resounding no! The natural man rebels against the sovereignty of God. If anything is left to God to make the choice, man immediately concludes that there is injustice. Why is that?

Although we cannot intrude into the mysterious dealings of God, we can trust Him to act in justice. We cannot avoid the doctrine of election, nor can we reconcile God’s sovereign election with man’s free will. Both are true. Let’s keep in mind that this is His universe. He is sovereign. We are but little creatures on earth, and He could take away the breath from us in the next moment.

Do I have the audacity to stand on my two feet, look Him in the face, and question what He does? That would be rebellion of the worst sort. I bow to my Creator and my Redeemer, knowing that whatever choice He makes is right. By the way, if you do not like what He does, perhaps you should move out of His universe and start one of your own so you can make your own rules. But as long as you live in God’s universe, you will have to play according to His rules. Little man needs to bow his stiff neck and stubborn knees before Almighty God and say, “There is no unrighteousness with Thee” (see John 7:18).

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith [Rom. 9:30].

This is a thrilling statement. Gentiles, without willing or working, found righteousness in Christ because God worked and God willed it. The Old Testament Scriptures had prophesied it. As we have seen, Isaiah had said that Gentiles were to be saved.

But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness [Rom. 9:31].

In other words, Israel, pursuing after a law which should give righteousness, did not arrive at such a law. This is a terrifying statement. The Jews tried to produce a righteousness of their own through the Mosaic system. They didn’t produce it—look at the nation today. Religious people are the most difficult people to reach with the gospel—church members, who think they are good enough to be saved.

You will never be able to reconcile the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. But Paul is making it very clear here that if you are going to be saved it is your responsibility!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Romans: Chapter Six

Chapter 6 of Romans tells us that we are dead to sin, but alive to God. Well all I can say is praise the Lord for that!

We see that Paul is being argumentative. He wasn't, you remember, when he was discussing sin. Rather, he was stating facts. He wasn't trying to prove anything. Bu tnow he's using this idiomatic question and being argumentative!

The very fact that Paul is asking this question makes it obvious that he understood justification to mean a declaration of righteousness; that it did not mean to make a person good, but to declare a person good. Justification means that the guilt or the penalty of sin is removed, not the power of sin in this life.

Now he is going to talk about removing the power of sin. If God has declared you to be righteous and has removed the guilt of your sin, then, my friend, you cannot continue in sin. The answer is, “God forbid!”

What did Paul mean by the word baptize in this third verse? I do not think he refers to water baptism primarily. Don’t misunderstand me; I believe in water baptism, and I believe that immersion best sets forth what is taught here. But actually he is talking about identification with Christ.

You see, the translators did not translate the Greek word baptizō, they merely transliterated it. That is, they just spelled the Greek word out in English, because baptizō has so many meanings. In my Greek lexicon there are about twenty meanings for this word.

Actually baptizō could refer to dyeing your hair. In fact, there was a group in Asia Minor who dyed their hair purple; and they belonged to a baptizō group. But here in Romans 6:3 Paul is speaking about identification with Jesus Christ. We were baptized or identified into His death. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul says, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body...” We are identified in the death of Christ, as Paul will explain in the next verse.

“We are buried with him by baptism [identification] into [His] death.” Frankly, I think that immersion is a more accurate type of this identification. I think the Spirit’s baptism is the real baptism. Water is the ritual baptism, but I do think that immersion sets forth the great spiritual truth that is here. This is the reason a child of God should be baptized in water in our day. It is a testimony that he is joined to the living Christ. That is all important.

When Paul says your “old man” is crucified with Him, he doesn’t mean your father; he means your old nature is crucified with Him. “That the body of sin might be destroyed”—the word destroyed is katargeo, meaning “to make of none effect, to be paralyzed or canceled or nullified”—“that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Paul is not saying that the old nature is eradicated. He is saying that since the old man was crucified, the body of sin has been put out of business, so that from now on we should not be in bondage to sin.

We have seen that sanctification is positional. That means we are to know something. We are to know God’s method of making a sinner the kind of person He wants him to be. While justification merely declared him righteous, removed the guilt of sin, it did not change him in his life. It gave him a new nature.

Now he is to know that he was buried with Christ and raised with Him. God wants him to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. The believer is joined to the living Christ. He is to reckon on that fact; he is to count on it. He is to consider it as true. You see, God saved us by faith, and we are to live by faith. Many of us have trusted Him for salvation, but are we trusting Him in our daily living? We are to live by faith.

And I'm going to leave you on that note...Trust Him in our daily living!