Category Archives: Romans

Romans 1:1-7 – Paul the Apostle

Romans 1:1–7 (ESV) — 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

I love Paul’s introductions.

  • It is very difficult for him not to get straight to the point.
  • He somehow always manages to interlace the niceties of his introduction with some subtle (or not so subtle) hints of the recipients’ need for a serious Gospel schooling.
  • The “schooling”, by the way, will be about “the coming together of Jews and Gentiles” in Christ – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Verses 1-7:

Paul begins his letter to Rome with a defense of his apostleship.

  • This makes sense – he didn’t plant the church at Rome.
  • He says he is “a servant of Christ Jesus” (vs. 1).
    • When Paul uses the word “Christ”, he is not using it as a proper name.
    • He is using it as a title – The Messiah – N.T. Wright and Tom Schreiner.
  • He notes that he was “called to be an apostle” (vs. 1).
    • “one among that unique group appointed by Christ himself to have the salvation-historical role as the ‘foundation’ of the church” – Douglas Moo.
  • He claims that he was “set apart for the gospel of God” (vs. 1).
    • Similar to – Galatians 1:15 (ESV) — 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,

 

How was Paul set apart and called to be an apostle?

  • Acts 9:15 (ESV) — 15 But the Lord said to him [Ananias in Damascus], “Go, for he [Paul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
  • Paul witnessed the risen Jesus and was presumably taught by Him through the Spirit.
  • “Any reading of this great theological treatise that ignores this claim to authority will fail to come to grips with the ultimate purpose of its writing” – Douglas Moo.
  • I know a few that have.

 

Right away this should make us aware of something rather significant.

  • Paul will be addressing important Gospel related issues within the church at Rome.
  • It is crucial that Rome (and us) understand he has been given the authority from the risen Lord Himself.
  • He was “called to be an apostle”.
  • Unlike others, perhaps, who may have been muddying the waters at the Roman Church.

 

After his apostolic defense, Paul highlights some aspects of this “gospel of God”.

  • The “gospel of God” was “promised beforehand” (vs. 2)
  • A promise revealed “through his prophets” (vs. 2).
  • A promise contained in the Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament.
    • Something Paul calls “holy Scriptures” (vs. 2).

 

This OT promise – the “gospel of God” – is about God’s Son – Jesus Christ

  • Israel’s king who necessarily was (as declared by the prophets) “descended from David” (vs. 3).
  • 2 Samuel 7:12 (ESV) — 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.
  • Who, because of his “resurrection from the dead” (vs. 4), can rightly be declared “the Son of God” (vs. 4).

 

When Paul refers to Jesus as the “Son of God” (vs. 4), we need to embrace fully what he is conveying.

  • It is important for where Paul is going in Romans.
  • When he uses this language, “Paul now assigns to Jesus the designation for Israel as God’s son” – Tom Schreiner.

 

In other words, Israel had the designation of God’s Son.

  • Exodus 4:22–23 (ESV) — 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’ ”
  • Jeremiah 31:9 (ESV) — 9 With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
  • Hosea 11:1 (ESV) — 1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

 

Now Paul is radically redefining this Sonship around Jesus.

  • It is Jesus who is the Son of God!
  • This, then, “designates Jesus as the true Israel” – Tom Schreiner.

 

It is no wonder that the first thing Paul taught about Jesus in Acts 9 was…

  • Acts 9:20 (ESV) — 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

 

This is incredibly important for one reason.

  • “If Jesus is God’s true Son, then membership in the people of God depends on being rightly related to Jesus” – Tom Schreiner.

“God’s saving promises for Israel and the Gentiles have become a reality in him” – Tom Schreiner.

 

We must note here too:

The “gospel of his Son” (vs. 9) “…is primarily good news about something that has happened, events through which the world is now a different place. It is about what God has done in Jesus, the Messiah, Israel’s true king, the world’s true Lord” – N.T. Wright.

  • The indicatives!

 

BTW – Why would a declaration that Jesus is “the Son of God” be an incredibly provocative claim to make – especially in Rome?

 

Paul goes on to highlight an interesting contrast in his introduction.

  • according to the flesh” vs. “according to the Spirit” (vss. 3 or 4).

 

Douglas Moo explains:

“The contrast of ‘flesh’ and ‘Spirit’ is part of Paul’s larger salvation-historical framework, in which two ‘aeons’ or eras are set over against one another: the old era, dominated by sin, death, and the flesh, and the new era, characterized by righteousness, life, and the eschatological gift of the Holy Spirit” – Douglas Moo.

  • In other words, this is Kingdom language.

 

And note that Paul can’t speak of the Gospel without citing its special meaning for him.

  • Through “Jesus Christ our Lord…we have received grace and apostleship” (vs. 5).
  • Some suggest that “grace and apostleship” in the Greek really means “gracious apostleship” – Tom Schreiner.
  • In other words, Paul says that he received from Jesus a “gracious apostleship”.

 

BTW – “The word ‘gospel’ doesn’t occur very often in the letter, but it lies underneath everything Paul says” – N.T. Wright.

 

Paul then begins to address the responsibilities of one “called to be an apostle” (vs. 1) – those who have “received grace and apostleship” (vs. 5).

  • Paul says he is called to “bring about the obedience of faith” (vs. 5).
  • And he is to do so “among all the nations” – or “among the Gentiles”.
  • Including those in the church at Rome – those “called to belong to Jesus Christ” (vs. 6) and “called to be saints” (vs. 7).

 

Interestingly, Paul says the main reason he is obedient to his “gracious apostleship” is not for the salvation of people.

  • But, “for the sake of his name” (vs. 5).

“The ultimate reason for a mission to the Gentiles was not the salvation of the Gentiles but the proclamation of the name of Jesus Christ. What was fundamental for Paul was the glory and praise of Jesus Christ” – Tom Schreiner.

  • The Gospel is not us, nor is it about us!

 

Does this have any implications for what we are trying to do when speaking the Gospel?

 

So, Paul is preparing the church at Rome to receive the truth he is about to speak.

  • He is a called apostle.
  • As such, he has certain God given responsibilities that center on who Jesus is and what He has done.
  • In his letter to Rome, he is about to exercise his responsibilities.

 

 

Question Time:

(1) When Paul says Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God…by his resurrection from the dead” (vs. 4), what is he saying about the relationship between Jesus’ Sonship and his resurrection?

  • How are the two related?
  • In other words, how do we know that Paul is not teaching that the human Jesus did not become the divine Son of God by his resurrection – an exaltation to deity?

 

The answer is in the context.

  • As we know, throughout the Gospels Jesus’ divinity was declared before His resurrection.
  • And here the context involves Jesus’ installation as the Davidic King and Lord – not His divinity.
  • Jesus “descended from David…and was declared to be the Son of God…by his resurrection” (vs. 4).

 

For Paul, Jesus as Son of God is always Jesus as Davidic Messiah and King.

  • So, “the appointment of Jesus being described here is his appointment as the messianic king” – Tom Schreiner.
  • It is not an appointment or declaration of divinity.

 

Douglas Moo sums this up well:

  • “We must remember that the Son is the subject of the entire statement in vv. 3–4: It is the Son who is ‘appointed’ Son. The tautologous nature of this statement reveals that being appointed Son has to do not with a change in essence—as if a person or human messiah becomes Son of God for the first time—but with a change in status or function” – Douglas Moo.

“The transition from v. 3 to v. 4, then, is not a transition from a human messiah to a divine Son of God (adoptionism) but from the Son as Messiah to the Son as both Messiah and powerful, reigning Lord” – Douglas Moo.

 

(2) Who is the “we” in verse 5?

  • At the very least, the “we” are those who have received “grace and apostleship” (vs. 5).
  • Or as we said earlier, his “gracious apostleship”.
  • So the “we” does not include the Romans – his audience.

 

In fact, some take this exclusive use of “we” even further.

  • What apostle was called to bring the Gospel to “all the nations/Gentiles” (vs. 5)?
  • Who is writing the letter?
  • Answer – Paul.
  • Therefore “we” is what is called the first person plural.
  • Similar to when my Dad would say, “We are going to work in the yard today”.
  • He meant me.

 

(3) What is “the obedience of faith” from verse 5?

  • As we hinted in Part 4 of “The Grace in Which We Stand” lesson…
  • Obedience and belief are often synonymous – inward conformity.

 

To that end, Tom Schreiner says of “obedience of faith” (vs. 5)…

  • It is “the missionary thrust of Paul’s call to the Gentiles” – Tom Schreiner.
  • And this thrust – the “obedience of faith” (vs. 5)…
  • Is “to bring Gentiles to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” – Tom Schreiner.
  • The obedience that is faith” (last weeks inward conformity) – Tom Schreiner.

 

 

Conclusion:

“It is appropriate to summarize the theological implications of the opening. Paul implicitly redraws the lines of what constitutes the true people of God. Israel as Yahweh’s elect was God’s son through whom he had promised to bless the world…[therefore] Paul contends that Jesus is the true Son of God. He is the true Israel. The OT promises regarding the vindication of Israel have been fulfilled through him” – Tom Schreiner.

  • This bears directly on our opening, “the coming together of Jews and Gentiles” in Christ – N.T. Wright.

 

How are Gentiles “grafted in” to Jewish Israel’s inheritance of God’s promises?

  • The answer depends on who Israel is now.
  • And for Paul, if the answer to this question doesn’t center on Jesus as Israel, then serious problems arise.

 

 

Romans 1:8-15 – Rome is Calling

Review of 1-7:

Last week we saw that Paul gave a brief take on:

  • His apostleship – he was called and set apart by the risen Jesus Christ.
  • The Gospel – it was promised beforehand, related to David’s kingly line, and was grounded in Jesus’ resurrection.

 

And importantly, we hit on a very important aspect of Pauline theology.

  • Paul said Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God”.

 

This is incredibly important.

  • This means, in some way, that Jesus has replaced Israel as the Son of God.
  • Paul “designates Jesus as the true Israel” – Tom Schreiner
  • “If Jesus is God’s true Son, then membership in the people of God depends on being rightly related to Jesus” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Tom Schreiner hits on all these together…

“The resurrection of Jesus indicates…that God has begun to fulfill his promises to Israel. The saving promises made to the nation have become a reality in and through the true Israel, Jesus the Messiah” – Tom Schreiner.

 

 

Romans 1:8–15 (ESV) — 8 First [Let me begin (NEB)], I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

 

 

Verses 8-15:

Paul moves on from his introduction and gives thanks for the faith of the Roman church.

  • He no doubt hyperbolizes this faith – in a complimentary way – by saying it is “proclaimed in all the world” (vs. 8).
  • But note that he rightly gives thanks to “my God through Jesus Christ” (vs. 8) for their faith.

 

N.T. Wright fleshes out the “thanks” of Paul.

Paul is “thanking the maker of heaven and earth that there is a community in Rome, under Caesar’s nose, who give allegiance to Jesus as Lord, who have been grasped by the vision of a different kingdom, a different hope, and who share a different faith” – N.T. Wright.

 

Wright’s visual here reminds me of something Jesus said.

  • The church in Rome – perhaps only a 100, scholars say – demonstrates beautifully Jesus’ words about the “already” or “now” Kingdom of God.
  • Matthew 13:31–32 (ESV) — 31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field [the now kingdom]. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree [the not yet kingdom], so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
  • The church at Rome was one of the mustard seeds – right underneath the emperor’s nose.

 

Back to their faith in verse 8:

  • The idea here might be that their faith is evidence of the “gospel of his Son” (vs.9) at work.
  • “The faith of the saints is the evidence of God’s grace and the first reaction must therefore be thanksgiving to God” – John Murray.
  • In other words, the Roman church testifies to what Paul is about to speak on – the Gospel as “the power of God for salvation” (vs. 16).
  • In light of the fact that we don’t know who planted the church at Rome, it certainly highlights the true source of faith of the Roman church.

 

In fact, Paul’s testimony to the Jerusalem church about Gentile conversions agrees:

  • Acts 14:27 (ESV) — 27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

 

BTW – How did Paul know what was going on in Rome?

  • That there was something to be thankful for?
  • He knew a great many people there.
  • From Romans 16 we see that he knew…
  • Prisca, Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junia, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Appelles, family of Aristobulus, Herodion, family of Narcissus, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus, and many more.

 

What does Paul mean when he uses the word “faith” in the context of verse 8?

  • It is important to know this for later in our lesson.
  • Paul is referring to their “firm commitment” and “genuine devotion” to Jesus Christ – BDAG.
  • Remember, this “firm commitment” is held at great risk!
  • The Roman Gentile is affirming Jesus’ Lordship over Caesar’s.
  • The Jew is affirming Jesus (not Israel) as the “Son of God” and the Lordship of Jesus.

 

Paul goes on to declare, as “God is my witness” (vs. 9), that he prayers for them “without ceasing” (vs. 9).

  • Specifically, his prayer is that he may “succeed in coming to you” (vs. 10).
  • For he longs to see them (vs. 11).
  • More about this prayer at the end.

 

It is very important to Paul that they know his desire to be with them.

  • He also says, “I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you” (vs. 13).

 

Why was Paul so eager to visit Rome?

  • There are a number of reasons.

 

It will be helpful here to revisit Acts for a bit to see one of them.

  • Acts 23:11 (ESV) — 11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”
  • So reason one – It was Jesus’ will for him.

 

Paul must have known this even before Jesus’ words in Acts 23.

  • Acts 19:21 (ESV) — 21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

 

Did Paul finally make it to Rome?

 

What is remarkable is how he finally got there.

  • Acts 25:8–12 (ESV) — 8 Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” 9 But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” 10 But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. 11 If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” 12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”

 

Many scholars suggest that Paul could have legally maneuvered to be free at this point.

  • And yet he purposely chose to take his case to Rome.

 

This was certainly not how he initially expected to go to Rome.

  • Romans 15:24 (ESV) — 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

In our text today, Paul gives us a couple of more specific reasons why he wanted to go to Rome.

  • (1) “that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you” (vs. 11).
  • (2) “that I may reap some harvest among you” (vs. 13).
  • We need to talk about these for a moment.

 

Paul says he wants to strengthen the Roman church.

  • Something he will do, as he puts it, by imparting “some spiritual gift” (vs. 11).
  • What does Paul mean when he says, “that I may impart…some spiritual gift”?

 

He gives us the answer in verse 12.

  • that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (vs. 12).
  • This is a huge endorsement for the fellowship of believers – church.
  • Learning, teaching, doubting, questioning, sharing and suffering together brings comfort and encouragement.
  • It strengthens our faith.

 

Tom Schreiner puts it as follows:

“What inspires and fortifies other believers is when they perceive faith in other Christians. Seeing other believers trust God in the course of everyday life reminds us that God is indeed faithful and encourages us to trust him as well” – Tom Schreiner.

  • Who hasn’t known a dying believer whose “firm commitment” to Jesus brings encouragement to loved ones?

 

Paul speaks of this same concept elsewhere:

  • 1 Thessalonians 3:7–8 (ESV) — 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.

 

And notice here, like in our text, there is a link between the idea of “firm commitment”/“standing fast in the Lord” and giving strength, comfort and encouragement.

  • This is why I mentioned it earlier – faith as “firm commitment” to Christ.
  • A demonstrated firm commitment to Christ encourages other believers.
  • And all this takes place in context of “each other” (vs. 12) – the Church.

 

Paul then says he wants to “reap some harvest” (vs. 13) in the Roman church.

  • What does he mean by this?

 

It means at least three things, and certainly many more.

  • One is simply that he was called by Jesus to speak the Gospel to the Gentiles.
  • As we saw last week, his obligation as an apostle was to the Gentiles.
  • And he says this again in our text today.
  • I am under obligation both to Greeks and barbarians” (vs. 14).
  • Therefore he is “eager to preach the gospel”.

 

BTW – Why would he want to preach the Gospel to a church?

  • Remember, he is after the obedience of faith and…
  • “Paul’s intention in Rome was not merely to win converts but to strengthen and edify those who were already believers in Rome” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Evangelism and Strengthening.

 

The second reason is that when Paul speaks the Gospel, he knows two things are in play.

  • (1) He knows that God has called out some to respond.
  • Acts 18:9–10 (ESV) — 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
  • (2) And he knows that when Jesus’ “people” hear the Gospel they will respond, for as he says later, “the gospel…is the power of God for salvation” (vs. 16).

 

Did Paul preach the Gospel simply hoping for belief or also knowing belief would occur?

 

The third reason is that Paul knows he is participating in something very special OT fulfillments.

  • (1) “Fulfilling the promises made to Abraham” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Genesis 12:3 (ESV) — 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • (2) And the reversal of the Babel curse where the nations were scattered.
  • The Gospel is uniting the nations together in Christ!
  • Pentecost, btw, is an even clearer picture of this reversal.

 

 

Conclusion:

So let’s look back to Paul’s prayers.

  • As we said, he prayed for them “without ceasing” (vs. 9).
  • Specifically, his prayer is that he may “succeed in coming to you” (vs. 10).

 

What does this tell us about things to pray for?

  • I think we can see that the content of his prayers wasn’t simply a “be with the people of Rome” prayer.
  • His prayer centered on a deep desire to preach the Gospel to them and grow their faith.
  • His prayer for them was fueled by his desire to preach the gospel to them!
  • Do we pray like that?

 

 

Romans 1:16-17 – Righteousness of God

Romans 1:16–17 (ESV) — 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

 

 

Significant Verses:

Concerning these verses, N.T. Wright says…

  • They are “a short summary of some of the most important truths ever heard by human ears.”
  • Douglas Moo calls them “theologically dense”.

 

And because of their importance Tom Schreiner points out…

  • “Virtually all scholars acknowledge that these verses are decisive for the interpretation of Romans.”
  • We will see why soon enough.

 

 

The Text:

So with these two verses, Paul begins to segue into the meat of his letter.

  • He does so with an acknowledgement of the awesome power of the Gospel – “the power of God” (vs. 16).
  • Something he has seen first hand.

 

Acts bears witness to this fact.

  • Acts 13:42–43 (ESV) — 42 As they went out [the synagogue at Antioch], the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.
  • Acts 16:14–15 (ESV) — 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
  • Acts 17:2–4 (ESV) — 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.

 

N.T. Wright sums up the power Paul is talking about.

“Paul has discovered, through years of actually doing it, that when you announce Jesus as the crucified and risen Lord of the world something happens: the new world which was born when Jesus died and rose again comes to fresh life in the hearts, minds and lifestyles of the listeners, or at least some of them. This isn’t magic, though it must sometimes have felt like that. It is God’s power at work, through the faithful announcement of his son” – N.T. Wright.

  • “The proclamation of the gospel is so powerful that it effects salvation in those who believe” – Tom Schreiner.

 

BTW – When Paul speaks of salvation he is referring to the fulfillment of the “the saving promises made to Israel in the OT” – Tom Schreiner.

  • Fulfillment taking place in Christ!

 

Paul goes on to say that he is “not ashamed of the gospel” (vs. 16).

  • The reason – “it is the power of God for salvation” (vs. 16).

 

We need to consider that “ashamed” here is not primarily the psychological experience of shame.

  • It is that Paul is “prepared to confess the gospel publicly and bear witness to its saving power” – Tom Schreiner.
  • He is faithful to speak it without thought for himself.

 

This meshes with Wright’s speculation as to why Paul would find it necessary to say that he is “not ashamed by the gospel” (vs. 16)?

Paul may have had in mind a passage like Psalm 119:46: ‘I will speak of your decrees before kings, and I shall not be ashamed.’ That was what he intended to do. ‘At the name of Jesus,’ he wrote in another letter, ‘every knee shall bow’ (Philippians 2:10). That included Caesar” – N.T. Wright.

 

And remarkably this power that saves extends to Jew and Greek alike – “everyone who believes” (vs. 16).

  • T. Wright points out…
  • “One of the most explosive things about Paul’s gospel, rooted as it was in the Jewish scriptures and traditions, is that it broke through the barrier between Jew and Greek and declared that the saving love and power of the one God was available equally to all. That is central to this little passage, and it remains central throughout the letter” – N.T. Wright.

 

Then Paul, in one profound sentence, reveals a powerful connection that flows out of the Gospel.

The Gospel unites “the righteousness of God” with the believer through faith.

  • This is the “important truth” Wright spoke of.
  • This is the bit that Schreiner says is so “decisive” for understanding Romans.

 

Paul spells it out like this – something we have to unpack.

  • He says that, in the Gospel, “the righteousness of God” is “revealed from faith for faith” (vs. 17).
  • And then claims that the OT, through Habakkuk, has said as much.
  • Habakkuk 2:4 – “the righteous shall live by faith” (vs. 17).

 

 

Diving Deep:

What exactly does Paul mean in verse 17?

  • It is no wonder that Peter said…
  • 2 Peter 3:16b (ESV) — 16b There are some things in them that are hard to understand…

 

In order to understand Paul we need to understand at least a couple of things.

  • What does Paul mean when he speaks of “the righteousness of God” is revealed (vs. 17).
  • What does Paul mean when he says “from faith to faith” (vs. 17).

 

 

Righteousness of God:

What is the righteousness of God?

  • Guess what…“Defining the righteousness of God is crucial and intensely controversial” – Tom Schreiner.
  • But just about all agree that, “God is the one who has revealed his righteousness—the righteousness in question is his” – Tom Schreiner.
  • It is not ours – it is alien to us.

 

In answering the question we will oversimplify two main views.

  • I am including N.T. Wright’s view as a subset of the second view.

 

(1) Divine Gift or Forensic View

  • Forensic refers to something admissible in a court of law – in this case God’s law court.
  • On this view, “the ‘righteousness of God’ refers to the believer’s status before God” in His law court – Tom Schreiner.
  • This status consists of God’s righteousness, which has been given to us.

 

In other words, God as judge can legally declare that we are not guilty but are righteous.

  • The righteousness we have – our new status – is not our own; it is alien to us.
  • It is a free gift from God – the “righteousness of God” given (imputed) to believers.
  • This is justification – the most common view among evangelicals.

 

With respect to our text…

  • “On this view, Paul is asserting that the gospel reveals ‘the righteous status that is from God’” – Douglas Moo.

 

Importantly, this view holds that the “righteousness of Godis just “a matter of judicial standing, or status, and not of internal renewal or moral transformation” – Douglas Moo.

  • In other words, it is very narrow and reductionist.
  • Which leads us to the second view.

 

BTW – The forensic view came into it’s own with Luther and the reformation – why?

 

 

(2) Divine Activity View

  • “God’s righteousness is revealed in history as a divine activity in which God vindicates his people” – Tom Schreiner.
  • This activity is in the “the dynamic sense of ‘establishing right’” – Douglas Moo.

 

This view accepts that the individual has a new status, but says that is not enough – Schreiner.

  • It says that God’s righteousness is the active transforming of all His creation.

 

In other words, God is actively “righteousing” creation.

  • God is inaugurating a new reality – D.A. Carson.
    • A Kingdom of God reality.
  • This is why the Gospel has power to transform.

God’s righteousness then, is all of God’s saving work and activity – calling, regeneration, promise fulfilling, covenant faithfulness, status giving, etc.

 

N.T. Wright might help us here.

  • He calls the righteousness of God “God’s covenant justice”.
  • And frames it around God’s covenant faithfulness – a divine activity.

 

Wright says…

“God’s covenant with Abraham was always intended as the means by which the creator God would rescue the whole world from evil, corruption and death. God intends to keep to this purpose and this promise, so that he can bring his restorative justice to the whole world. That is, in the end, what ‘God’s righteousness’ or ‘God’s justice’ means. I have translated the word as ‘God’s covenant justice’ here in order to hold all these ideas together. As it’s one of the central themes in the letter, it’s vital that we get it straight” – N.T. Wright.

 

He then applies this idea to our text.

“When the gospel of Jesus is announced, then, Paul declares that through it we can see at last how God’s ‘justice’, his ‘covenant faithfulness’, or in older language his ‘righteousness’, have been unveiled. This is how God has put the world to rights, declares the gospel message about Jesus, and this is how God will put you to rights as well!” – N.T. Wright.

 

Summing up this view with respect to our text…

  • Paul is asserting that the gospel reveals the saving, transforming activity of God through the fulfillment of His OT promises in Christ.
  • Something far more than just the giving of a new status.

 

This makes even more sense given the parallel in verse 18.

  • Paul says, “the wrath of God is revealed…
  • The wrath of God is clearly not a gift, but a divine activity of God involving judgment, etc.
  • Likewise, God’s righteousness is a divine activity breaking into the world and setting it right.

 

 

Which One:

The forensic view, as we said, seems overly reductionist.

  • It constrains the “righteousness of God” to be only that which revolves around humans and their individual salvation.
  • It confines it to the concept of justification.
  • And it doesn’t appear to account for the OT’s use of God’s righteousness.

 

The transformative view seems to better accommodate the entire scope of the “righteousness of God“.

  • Douglas Moo puts it like this…

The transformative view, i.e., “God’s saving activity—receives strongest support [from the OT]. When ‘righteousness’ is attributed to God, it has this meaning more than any other; and it is God’s ‘righteousness’ in this sense—a saving, vindicating intervention of God—that the prophets say will characterize the eschatological deliverance of God’s people” – Doug Moo.

  • He goes on to say, “we would expect this notion of saving activity to be included when he announces the revelation of ‘the righteousness of God’” – Doug Moo.

 

And yet, Moo and Schreiner, at the end of the day, say both.

“Could we not take ‘righteousness of God’ here to include both God’s activity of ‘making right’—saving, vindicating—and the status of those who are so made right, in a relational sense that bridges the divine and the human?” – Douglas Moo.

  • Answer – Yes!

 

So what is the relationship of the “righteousness of God” to faith/faithfulness?

 

 

Revealed From Faith For Faith (vs. 17):

The Greek in verse 17 is “ek pisteos eis pistis”.

  • It literally means “out of” or “from” faith “into” or “unto” faith.

 

There is a lot of debate over the meaning of this text.

  • This is why there are some interesting differences between translations.
  • The NET says “revealed in the gospel from faith to faith”.
  • The NIV says “is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last”.
  • The NLT says “is accomplished from start to finish by faith”.

 

Both Schreiner and Moo discount most attempts to understand this text.

  • Some examples of what they see as failed attempts are…
  • “From the faith of the OT to the faith of the NT; from the faith of the law to the faith of the gospel; from the faith of the preachers to the faith of the hearers; from the faith of the present to the faith of the future; from the faith of words we hear now to the faith that we will possess what the words promise; from the faithfulness of God to the faith of human beings; from the faithfulness of Christ to the faith of human beings; from smaller to greater faith; from faith as the ground to faith as the goal” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Because of all the diversity Schreiner advises caution.

  • “The radical diversity of interpretations in a phrase containing ambiguity should give us pause” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Schreiner and Moo opt for what they see as the simplest interpretation.

  • “The [phrase] is rhetorical and is intended to emphasize that faith and ‘nothing but faith’ [as opposed to works] can put us into right relationship with God” – Douglas Moo.
  • The phrase simply declares that “the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel by means of human faith” – Schreiner.

 

This “simpler” view, then, emphasizes human faith.

  • The NIV picks up on this view.
  • Romans 1:17 (NIV) — 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith [whose faith? – our faith] from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

 

However, there was one view sandwiched within Schreiner’s list that is advocated by N.T. Wright.

  • The view – that the phrase means “from the faithfulness of God to the faith of human beings”.
  • This view emphasizes God’s faithfulness and the necessity that we be part of it.

 

The following question highlights the value of this view.

When one is dependent upon the righteousness of God to be put right – both His divine activity and His giving status – upon whose faith do we count on to consummate the whole deal – God’s or ours?

 

BTW – This reminds me of Jesus’s statement in John 2 to unbelievers.

  • He said He did not entrust Himself to them.
  • If you are not the part of God’s faithfulness expressed in Christ you are doomed.

 

N.T. Wright spell is out for us.

  • Paul is telling us “to have faith in [God’s] faithfulness” – God’s divine activity.
  • Something God Himself advocated throughout the OT every time He reminded Israel that He brought them out of Egypt.

 

For Wright, the phrase plays out like this.

  • The “from faith” is God’s “faithfulness [revealed] in Jesus to the promises he made long ago” – N.T. Wright.
  • The “to faith” is the faith and trust we have in God and His divine activity – His righteousness; His faithfulness; His Son.

 

The two go together like this:

“God has been faithful to his purposes and promises; if you want to benefit from this, you must have an answering faithfulness, that ‘believing obedience’ he spoke of in verse 5” – N.T. Wright.

 

Paul’s use of Habakkuk, Wright suggests, bears this out.

  • “Habakkuk…was faced with a great catastrophe coming on Israel and had to learn to hold on and trust God, to have faith in his faithfulness” – N.T. Wright.

 

D.A. Carson’s view of Habakkuk seems to back up Wright’s take:

“Paul sees the call of the Lord upon the prophet to ‘live’ by the Lord’s faithfulness in the face of the Babylonian invasion as a pattern of the Lord’s saving work (or type) that has come to fulfillment in the gospel, which imparts faith in the face of the eschatological wrath of God, which is already present in the world” – D.A. Carson.

 

Carson fleshes this out further.

“The ‘faithfulness’ of which Habakkuk writes is the faithfulness of the Lord to fulfill the promise of salvation given in the ‘vision’ [vision from Habakkuk 2:2]” – D.A. Carson.

  • Carson even translates the Habakkuk text…
  • “But the righteous one shall live by the faithfulness of the vision/Yahweh” – D.A. Carson.

 

Carson sums it up like this:

  • The believer “participates in the Gospel” by faith – Carson.

 

In other words, we participate in God’s faithfulness (His activity) by our faith!

  • The focus, then, is on God’s faith/faithfulness!
  • Carson and Wright don’t agree on much, but they seem to agree on this.

 

 

Conclusion:

Paul, setting up the rest of Romans, has thus far declared in his letter…

 

Jesus is the Son of God.

  • This means that the standing before God of both Jew and Gentile depend on being joined to God’s Son.
  • And, to what God is doing in history through His Son.
  • For only in Him do we find the ultimate expression of both Israel’s faithfulness to God and God’s faithfulness to Israel.

 

Moreover, it has always been (see OT) that God’s divine activity – His righteousness…

  • Consists of both God’s faithfulness and promise keeping.
  • And that we can count on the promises of God through Christ because of God’s faithfulness.
    • A faithfulness we are joined to/participate in by our faith.
  • So that those who receive the revealed righteousness of God – His divine activity – by faith are given a free gift of alien righteousness – a righteousness that is not ours.
  • So in God’s law court they are justified; they are found not guilty – an act that is itself evidence of God’s faithfulness.
  • So the Gospel is primarily about God and His faithfulness – not about us, ours and going to heaven.

 

 

Romans 1:18 – Wrath of God

Romans 1:18 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

 

The remainder of Romans 1 deals with how God’s wrath is revealed against the unrighteousness of man.

  • “Verse 18 changes the tone of [Paul’s] argument, for Paul shifts from speaking of the revelation of God’s saving righteousness to the revelation of God’s wrath” – Schreiner.

 

This means, right away, we have a huge matzo ball hanging out there.

  • What is the wrath of God?
  • We need to know before we can dig into the remaining verses.

 

 

1) THE STAKES:

What are the stakes?

  • Before we grapple with the wrath of God, I want us to consider the stakes.
  • Factions of modern, western Christianity (especially) have huge problems with both how God’s wrath is revealed (something Paul is about to get into in detail) and even wrath’s existence (they simply redefine it altogether).

 

 

Intellectual Honesty Moment – Atonement:

There does exist debate, usually based on textual and linguistic grounds, on the relationship between Christ and God’s wrath on the Cross.

  • The debate centers on the Greek word “hilasterion” and its cognates.

 

The Greek word most famously appears in the following:

  • Romans 3:25 (ESV) — 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
  • 1 John 4:10 (ESV) — 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

 

“Biblical scholars debate whether the Greek terms deriving from hilaskomai should be translated as propitiation or expiation” – PDTT.

  • What’s the difference?

 

Propitiation – Denotes “the turning away of divine wrath” – PDTT.

  • “Christ’s death appeased divine wrath called forth by sin” – DPL.
  • “If those who receive the righteousness of God through faith in Christ are saved from the wrath of God, it must be because Christ has appeased that wrath through his death for them” – DPL.
  • This is the idea that Christ bore the wrath of God in our stead while on the cross, thereby paying the penalty for our sins.

 

Expiation – This is “the belief that sin is canceled out by being covered over” – PDTT.

  • On this view, “Christ did not die to satisfy God’s wrath as the precondition for reconciliation. Rather, Christ’s atoning death itself accomplished reconciliation: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:18)’” – DPL.
  • Expiation sees the cross as “God’s own gracious initiative in love toward the ungodly as well as God’s judgment against sin” – DPL.
    • Not as an outpouring of God’s wrath upon Jesus.

 

 

Way Beyond That:

But many modern scholars/pastors go way beyond this exegetical debate.

 

The logic usually goes as follows:

  • Jesus is God.
  • In Jesus we come to truly know who God is and who God is not.
  • Therefore, if it can’t be said about the Jesus of the Gospels, it can’t be said about God.

 

Tony Jones, author of “Did God Kill Jesus” plays this out…

  • “If Jesus tells us anything about God, it’s that God is love—not wrath or anger or vengeance, but pure love” – Tony Jones.

 

Adam Ericksen, in agreement with Jones, sums up Jones’ view:

“On the cross, Jesus reveals that God has nothing to do with wrath. A wrathful god is a mere projection of our own wrath. The true God is the God who leads us to forgive and to love our enemies as we love ourselves” – Adam Ericksen.

 

 

Needed Correction:

As just demonstrated, the wrath of God has been toned down or dismissed all together.

  • The reason, says Douglas Moo, is likely that, “the idea that God would inflict wrath on people has been rejected as incompatible with an enlightened understanding of the deity” – Douglas Moo.
  • In other words, we should be too smart and too enlightened to embrace the antiquated notion of a wrathful god.

 

We need to cast off any baggage that makes the wrath of God seem something foreign to God.

  • We need to stop treating “the biblical doctrine of the wrath of God…as the Victorians treated sex. It is there, but it must never be alluded to because it is in an undefined way shameful” – R.P.C. Hanson.

 

 

2) GOD’S WRATH:

So what is God’s wrath?

  • Why is it so important?

 

 

Wrath Defined:

John Murray spells it out well:

“Wrath is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness. The reality of God’s wrath in this specific character is shown by the fact that it is ‘revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men’” – John Murray.

  • Wrath is the “punitive righteousness of God by which He maintains His moral order, which demands justice and retribution for injustice” – HIBD.
  • Wrath is “The free, subjective and holy response of God to sin and to the evil and wickedness exhibited by creatures in opposition to God” – PDTT.

 

We must understand that God’s love and His wrath are not mutually exclusive.

  • In fact, “God’s wrath must be understood in relation to his love. Wrath is not a permanent attribute of God. For whereas love and holiness are part of his essential nature, wrath is contingent upon human sin: if there were no sin there would be no wrath” – AYBD.

 

And more than that:

  • “Divine wrath is never divorced from God’s essential righteousness” – TDNT.
  • Something we will see next week when we dig into Paul’s text.

 

What of the intention of God’s wrath?

“The aim of divine wrath is the establishment of the divine rule of holiness” – TDNT.

 

So, like God’s righteousness, wrath is a divine activity.

  • In seeking to establish the age to come – a divine rule of holiness – God acts righteously, as in the case of the Gospel, or God acts in wrath.

 

And, like God’s righteousness, His wrath has a past, present and future expression.

“Paul speaks of wrath as a present reality under which people outside Christ stand, and often, following the OT prophets, predicts the outpouring of God’s wrath on the future day of judgment” – Douglas Moo.

 

For example, Paul’s words in Romans 1 speak of the present unveiling of God’s wrath.

  • But Revelation 6 speaks of a future advent of God’s wrath.
  • Revelation 6:15–17 (ESV) — 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

 

God’s Wrath is Necessary:

Shockingly, God’s wrath is also necessary.

“God’s wrath is necessary to the biblical conception of God: ‘As long as God is God, He cannot behold with indifference that His creation is destroyed and His holy will trodden underfoot. Therefore He meets sin with His mighty and annihilating reaction’” – Douglas Moo (quoting Nygren).

 

There are at least 4 reasons why God’s wrath might be necessary.

 

Reason 1:

“The whole burden of human life after the fall is in itself an expression of divine wrath (cf. Gen. 3; 4; 6–8; 11). As Job 14:1ff. vividly puts it (cf. Ps. 90:7), all human life stands under the constant operation of the wrath of God” – TDNT.

  • In other words, the Bible teaches that the wrath of God is the default experience of God by the fallen world.
  • This is not to say that God’s grace and love are not manifested in many ways to a fallen world.
  • But that without action by God to mitigate His wrath, His wrath is the norm.

 

The Gospel of John puts it so clearly:

  • John 3:36 (ESV) — 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
  • It doesn’t come upon “him” but “remains on him”.

 

Reason 2:

The NT is clear that God’s wrath is a current and real divine activity of God.

  • It was not replaced or displaced by God’s love.

 

Some NT examples:

  • Romans 1:18 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
  • Romans 5:9 (ESV) — 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (ESV) — 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:16 (ESV) — 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (ESV) — 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

Reason 3:

Jesus has been appointed to be an instrument of wrath to the unrighteous.

  • This is Jesus’ part in inaugurating the “divine role of holiness” or the age to come.
  • Revelation 6:15–17 (ESV) — 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

 

Reason 4:

Tim Keller argues that God without wrath is a less loving God.

“If you get rid of a God who has wrath and Hell, you’ve got a god who loves us in general, but that’s not as loving as the God of the Bible, the God of Jesus Christ, who loves us with a costlylove” – Tim Keller.

  • In other words, if you dilute & diminish God’s wrath, you dilute & diminish His love.
  • Both must be fiercely advocated.
  • They are examples of G.K. Chesterton called “furious opposites”.

 

In fact, as Keller says, the more fierce God’s wrath is, the more incredible is Jesus’ love for us.

  • The thing that shields us from the fierceness of God’s wrath – and it is fierce –
  • Is the equally fierce costliness of God’s love – His brutal death on the cross.

 

Christ doesn’t replace God’s ho-hum OT wrath with a “groovy kind of love”.

  • It is better than that.
  • His fierce love provides salvation from His fierce wrath.

 

 

3) WRATH – A CASE STUDY FROM JOSHUA 7:

In the beginning of Joshua 7 we learn that Achan disobeyed God by stealing from Jericho after its destruction.

  • As a result of this, all of Israel was found guilty of “breaking faith”.
  • Verse 10 says, “Israel has sinned” and “they have transgressed my covenant”.
  • As a result, Israel was “devoted for destruction” by God – just as Jericho was.
  • The Israelite army was defeated at the battle of Ai.

 

The solution to their being devoted to destruction was to “destroy the devoted things from among you”.

  • The principal for this is found in Leviticus 16.
  • There we found the principal of the sacrificial goat and the separation goat.
  • The separation goat was symbolically sent outside the sacred area of Israel’s camp into the wilderness.
  • And for Achan, this separation principal would cost him his life.

 

Importantly, this separation and condemnation of Achan are expressions of God’s wrath.

 

 

Separation Ordered:

Joshua 7:13–15 (ESV) — 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’ ”

 

The time has come to deal with Achan’s sin and Israel’s guilt.

  • The reason for this is clear – “You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things form among you” (vs. 13).
  • “When Achan sinned, the blessing of God stopped for the people corporately; when judgment was applied, blessing returned and victory followed” – James Boice.

 

BTW – This edict by Yahweh is consistent with His words to Joshua in Joshua 1.

  • There He made it clear that their inheritance of the Promised Land was conditional.
  • Joshua 1:7 (ESV) — 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.

 

The solution to the problem is severe – an expression of God’s wrath.

  • Like Jericho and its inhabitants, Achan will be devoted to destruction.
  • Because he has transgressed the covenant” and “done an outrageous thing” he “shall be burned with fire” (vs. 15).
  • “He in effect had become a Canaanite by his actions” – David Howard.

 

The stark contrast between Rahab the Canaanite and Achan the Israelite is significant.

  • Rahab, by her confession, had been ushered into the elect of Israel.
  • Achan, by his covenant sin, had been devoted to destruction as a Canaanite.
  • What lessons can be learned from this contrast?

 

We need to take notice of two things in these verses about God’s wrath.

 

(1) It Can Be Patient

  • Yahweh does not immediately do what He has a right to do – devote all the Israelites to destruction.
  • (A) In fact, He identifies the problem for Joshua.
    • Act of covenant faithfulness and grace?
  • (B) And He also identifies the solution to the problem.
    • The separation and destruction of the responsible party.

 

In other words, by identifying these two things God provides opportunity for restoration.

  • “Behind such unwelcome disclosure shines the clear desire of God to restore his people to his favour” – Dale Davis.

 

(2) It Is Not Flippant

  • God expressing His wrath is not like a man throwing a rage-filled, angry tantrum.
  • It flows from His holiness.
  • It flows from His moral law.
  • It flows from His covenant faithfulness.

 

 

Confession Made:

Joshua 7:19–21 (ESV) — 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

 

Remarkably, Achan confesses all he has done.

  • This confession of his transgression praises and glorifies God – according to Joshua.
  • The fact that Achan confessed makes what happens next all the more startling.

 

 

Wrath Expressed:

Joshua 7:22–26 (ESV) — 22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.

 

Are you serious?

  • They “took Achan”, the treasure ANDhis sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep” (vs. 24).
  • And then “burned them with fire and stoned the with stones” (vs. 25)

 

In spite of Achan’s confession, God orders his death.

  • But as strange as this may seem, God also orders the death of his entire family.
  • This almost seems blood thirsty and over reaching.
  • This was the destruction of Achan and his entire family line.
  • He and his family would not longer be part of God’s call to Israel to be fruitful and multiply.

 

What are we to make of this?

  • We can say at least two things.

 

(1) We know that God spoke over and over of the consequences of covenant sin.

  • Deuteronomy 17:2–5 (ESV) — 2 “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4 and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones.

 

(2) We know that Israel was a theocracy.

  • Meaning, among other things, that God was the judicial system, the Supreme Court.
  • Justice was meted out through Him.
  • His holiness was the standard of innocence.
  • If He condemned He was justified to do so.

 

But we are still left emotionally traumatized.

  • Especially with the death sentence on his children.

 

Was it that his children, perhaps knowing about the hidden treasure, were also seen as responsible for the profaning of Israel’s camp?

  • That seems a stretch.
  • We just don’t know.
    • Some argue that they weren’t killed.
  • The bottom line is that our modern sensibilities will not find satisfactory resolution to this question.

 

Note of Hope – There is an interesting note on the Valley of Achor (trouble).

  • We can’t forget that God is in the transformation business.
  • A business that involves not only His wrath but also His grace.
  • Hosea 2:14–15 (ESV) — 14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

 

 

Conclusion – Our Need for Christ:

Here are some final words from Jonathan Edwards.

“The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood” – Jonathan Edwards.

 

 

Romans 1:18-23 – “Revealing” Suppression

Romans 1:18–23 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

 

 

In verse 17, Paul declared that God’s righteousness was revealed.

  • We saw that the idea was that God’s divine activity – promise fulfillment, covenant faithfulness, status giving, etc. – was unveiled in history through the indicatives of Jesus Christ.
  • And by faith it is possible to be connected to and participate in this activity – to participate in the Gospel.

 

And, importantly, the faith that first secures the outcome is God’s faithfulness to mankind.

  • Man’s faith doesn’t save him, but connects him to the work that flows from God’s faithfulness as unveiled and revealed in the Gospel.

 

In verse 18, Paul changes gears.

  • For the next couple of chapters, Paul explains that God’s divine activity of “saving righteousness” (Tom Schreiner) unveils another activity of God…
  • God’s wrath – his “judging righteousness” (Tom Schreiner).

 

Why?

  • “Wrath is the inevitable result, or consequence, of human sin in a moral universe” – DPL.

 

N.T. Wright goes so far as to say:

  • The Gospel itself is “the unveiling of God’s justice [wrath] and salvation”.

 

Therefore, both God’s “saving righteousness” and His “judging righteousness” are revealed as He acts to redeem creation and inaugurate His kingdom.

  • Or to put another way…

“The revelation of God’s saving righteousness exposes the full wickedness of human sin and the depth of God’s wrath against it [His judging righteousness]” – Tom Schreiner.

 

This is why, as we said last week, that God’s wrath can be seen as part of “the establishment of the divine rule of holiness” – TDNT.

  • God is acting to put the world to rights (N.T. Wright), and his wrath is part of the process.

 

 

Having seen last week exactly what God’s wrath is, we can now contend with verses 18-23.

 

 

Revealing:

Paul not only tells us that God’s wrath is revealed, but…

  • He also reveals against whom is God’s wrath revealed.

 

Paul says that the object of God’s wrath is…

  • all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (vs. 18).
  • This “men” is everybody without exception.
  • Paul “lays out a charge against the human race in general” – N.T. Wright.
  • “Paul first indicts the Gentiles (1:18–32) and then the Jews (2:1–3:8)” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Paul then makes a huge contrast over against the “revealing” of God.

  • Whereas God has revealed His righteousness.
  • And God has revealed His wrath.
  • Men, because of their unrighteousness, “suppress the truth” (vs. 18).
  • God reveals and men suppress!

 

That this revealing/suppression contrast occurs on a grand scale is evident in the ministry of Jesus.

  • Jesus’ ministry was a revealing of the breaking in of the Kingdom of God.
  • Both His teaching and miracles were done at the authority of the Father for this purpose.
  • In the course of this revealing, thousands met Jesus, were taught by Jesus, were fed by Jesus and were healed by Jesus.

 

And yet – in spite of this revealing – by the end of John 6 we see merely a handful standing by Him.

  • John 6:60–66 (ESV) — 60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

 

 

Suppression:

So what does Paul mean when he says men suppress the truth?

 

To suppress is simply to stifle, restrain or hold down the things they know to be true about God.

  • It is a willful act for which men are fully responsible.
  • And because of it, Paul says men are “without excuse” (vs. 20).

 

BTW – It is important to point out – in context – that Paul is saying something else in verse 20.

  • Even if you – Gentiles – didn’t have the law like your Jewish brothers and sisters…
  • You are still “without excuse” (vs. 20).

 

Logically, then, to suppress something “that thing” has to be present.

  • Men, in their unrighteousness, aren’t suppressing “nothing”.
  • They are suppressing the revealed truth of God.

 

Paul makes it fairly plain.

  • There is a truth that “can be known about God” (vs. 19).
  • This truth is “plain to them” (vs. 19).
  • And, in fact, it is plain to them because God Himself has “shown it to them” (vs. 19).
  • God is a God who reveals.

 

He starts by explaining exactly what they know that God has plainly shown them.

  • The stuff he is talking about, what God has shown them, is “in the things that have been made” (vs. 20).

 

Paul is operating under a presupposition that many today would object to.

  • Creation requires a Creator.
  • We are here yet we aren’t responsible for being here.
  • For him, this is a brute fact.

 

He describes what creation plainly shows about God.

  • his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature” (vs. 20).
  • This is the truth men are suppressing.

 

What is this truth?

  • Robert Jewett says simply that “eternal power” and “divine nature” are a Greek and Jewish way of referring to “the true status of God” – His status as the preeminent one.

“The truth that people have unrighteously suppressed and rejected is that the one true God should be honored and worshiped and esteemed as God” – Tom Schreiner.

 

So, as with Genesis 3, men – in their unrighteousness – knowingly disregard the creature/Creator distinction.

  • Men usurp God’s rightful place – something that is “plain to them” – and install idols or themselves in His place.
  • They “refuse to give God his proper sovereignty in one’s life” – Tom Schreiner.
  • This is what Paul means when he says men are unrighteous (Tom Schreiner).

 

He even reiterates his “plain to them” (vs. 19) language…

  • He says God’s preeminence has “been clearly perceived” (vs. 20).
  • For how long? – “since the creation of the world” (vs. 20).

 

Again, his point here is not to make an argument for God.

  • He is telling us why all men are without excuse”.
  • Why “all people, without exception, are under the dominion of sin” – Schreiner.
  • And ultimately, in context, why they therefore are under God’s wrath.

 

He then goes on to explain what happens when one suppresses the truth of God.

  • They don’t “honor him as God” (vs. 21).
  • They don’t “give thanks to him” (vs. 21).

 

In fact they do quite the opposite.

  • They become “futile in their thinking” (vs. 21)
  • Their “foolish hearts become darkened” (vs. 21)
  • Instead of wise “they became fools” (vs. 22)
  • Implied in Paul’s words is that men honor and give thanks to themselves.

 

Douglas Moo puts it this way:

“It is in the ‘reasonings’ of people that this futility has taken place, showing that, whatever their initial knowledge of God might be, their natural capacity to reason accurately about God is quickly and permanently harmed” – Douglas Moo.

 

Finally, they become idolaters – exchanging the “glory of the immortal God for images” (vs. 23)

  • Man, birds, animals, creeping things.
  • The things of Genesis 1 – creatures.

 

They spurn the “glory of the immortal God” (vs. 23) for something other.

  • They deny God His rightful place, His preeminence.

 

And, coming back to where Paul started in verse 18 – where God’s wrath is revealed…

He is saying that the futility, foolishness and darkened hearts show that “the wrath of God is already manifest” in men – Robert Jewett.

  • These things are evidence of it.

 

Robert Jewett expands on this idea:

“In their competition for honor, they claim a status due only to God and end up in shameful distortion. The present preaching of the gospel ‘reveals’ this hidden reality” – Robert Jewett.

 

Tom Schreiner says this:

“God’s eschatological wrath is also being disclosed in the present age…The coming of the gospel reveals that the moral deterioration of human society is a result of God’s judgment” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Conclusion:

Something very important should be repeated.

  • We are not unrighteousness because we break God’s law…
  • For Paul, unrighteousness is our “rejection of God as God, a failure to give Him honor and glory” – Tom Schreiner.
  • “Failing to glorify God is the root sin” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Therefore something very important should be obvious.

  • We all are unrighteous and “suppress the truth” (vs. 18) – deny God His preeminence.
  • As Paul will conclude in 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

 

Therefore, without God’s revealed righteousness (1:17), we are in trouble.

  • Only God’s righteousness – His faithfulness, His divine activity – responded to in faith can bring us to a place where we honor God as God.
  • Only this Gospel can remove us from God’s wrath – the law can’t do this!

 

Moo puts it this way:

“At the very center of every person, where the knowledge of God, if it is to have any positive effects, must be embraced, there has settled a darkness—a darkness that only the light of the gospel can penetrate” – Douglas Moo.

 

And we will conclude with N.T. Wright:

“Human beings were made to know, worship, love and serve the creator God. That always was and always will be the way to healthy and fruitful human living. It demands, of course, a certain kind of humility: a willingness to let God be God, to celebrate and honour him as such, and acknowledge his power in and over the world” – N.T. Wright.

 

Romans 1:24-32 – God Gave Them Up

Intro:

Last week Paul stated that God’s wrath – His judging righteousness – is revealed.

  • It is revealed against the “unrighteousness of men”.
  • We saw that this unrighteousness is their rejection of God’s preeminent status as Creator.
  • And in a life lived in rejection of God’s preeminence, the natural outcome is the suppression of God’s truth.
  • And for this, men are “without excuse”.

 

Our text today shows that God’s judging righteousness – His wrath – is not an impersonal theological concept.

  • It is in fact a present reality of divine personal activity in the life of the unbeliever.
  • Just as God’s saving righteousness is for the believer.

 

Some think that “the handing over to sin as evidence that God is not personally angry but merely allows sinners to experience the full consequences of sin” – Tom Schreiner.

But in fact, “The consequences that are inflicted because of sin are the result of God’s personal decision. The wrath of God, then, is to be understood in personal terms” – Tom Schreiner.

 

 

Our Text:

Romans 1:24–32 (ESV) — 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

 

The gist of our text today is simple enough.

  • “The emphasis of the text has shifted since now Paul details the consequences of failing to worship and honor God” – Tom Schreiner.
  • The consequences are seen as both God’s action and the “without excuse” action of men.

 

Verse 24:

Romans 1:24 (ESV) — 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,

  • Right away Paul speaks of what God is doing.
  • He says, “God gave them up”.

 

This is a phrase Paul uses three times in our text.

  • And it speaks about God’s judging righteousness – His wrath.
  • God is personally active in this way toward unrighteousness men.

 

However, is Paul saying that God is causing them to sin?

  • “Clearly he cannot be saying that God impelled people to sin…this would contradict the biblical depiction of God” – Douglas Moo.

 

So how does it play out?

  • “Paul’s purpose in this verse is to highlight the divine side of the cycle of sin; but it must be balanced with the human side, presented in Eph. 4:19, where Paul says that Gentiles ‘gave themselves up’ to licentiousness, leading to all kinds of ‘uncleanness’” – Douglas Moo.

 

Douglas Moo describes the “divine side of the cycle of sin” this way:

  • “Like a judge who hands over a prisoner to the punishment his crime has earned, God hands over the sinner to the terrible cycle of ever-increasing sin” – Douglas Moo.
  • God is active – not passive.

 

In other words:

  • God’s side of the equation is far more than just a “withdrawal of divine influence” – Moo and Schreiner.

“The meaning of ‘hand over’ demands that we give God a more active role as the initiator of the process” – Douglas Moo.

  • “God does not simply let the boat go—he gives it a push downstream” – Douglas Moo.

 

The result of the ensuing choices made by men under after God has “pushed the boat” aren’t good.

  • “What happens…is that human thinking, not just human behaviour, begin to deconstruct altogether” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Verse 25:

Romans 1:25 (ESV) — 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

  • Paul repeats why men are under God’s wrath and the reason He “gave them up” (vs. 24).
  • They “served the creature rather than the Creator” (vs. 25).
  • They made the great exchange – creature above Creator.
  • In other words, they became idolaters.

 

 

Verse 26-27:

Romans 1:26–27 (ESV) — 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

 

Notice that, once again, Paul first cites God’s activity – the “divine side of the cycle of sin” (Moo).

  • God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (vs. 26)

 

And right on the heels of one perversion – idolatry – Paul goes right to another – homosexuality.

  • women exchanged natural relations” (vs. 26)
  • men gave up natural relations” (vs. 27)
  • They both “turn the created order upside down” – Schreiner.

 

What does he mean by natural relations?

  • It is clear that Paul is making “an argument from the created order” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Paul is appealing to God’s “created order” – Douglas Moo.
  • In other words, Paul takes his view of “natural relations” from Genesis 1-3.

 

As Paul speaks on homosexuality, “he has in mind one particular biblical passage, namely Genesis 1–3” – N.T. Wright.

  • “He wants to trace the way in which humans have violated, not simply a ‘law’ given at some point in human history, but the very structure of the created order itself” – N.T. Wright.

“Paul’s point, then, is not simply ‘we Jews don’t approve of this’, or, ‘relationships like this are always unequal and exploitative’. His point is, ‘this is not what males and females were made for’” – N.T. Wright.

 

Schreiner details this even further.

  • “First, Paul selected the unusual words θῆλυς (thēlys, female) and ἄρσην (arsēn, male) rather than γύνη (gynē, woman) and ἀνήρ (anēr, man), respectively. In doing so he drew on the creation account of Genesis, which uses the same words (Gen. 1:27 LXX; cf. Matt. 19:4; Mark 10:6). These words emphasize the sexual distinctiveness of male and female (Moo 1991: 109), suggesting that sexual relations with the same sex violate the distinctions that God intended in the creation of man and woman” – Tom Schreiner.
  • “Second, the phrase ‘contrary to nature’ (παρὰ φύσιν) is rooted in Stoic and Hellenistic Jewish traditions that saw homosexual relations as violations of the created order. The latter point is borne out by verse 27, which specifies in three ways what constitutes the unnatural activity for men: (1) in forsaking sexual relations with women (ἀφέντες τὴν φυσικὴν χρῆσιν τῆς θηλείας); (2) in burning in desire for other men (ἐξεκαύθησαν ἐν τῇ ὀρέξει αὐτῶν εἰς ἀλλήλους, exekauthēsan en tē orexei autōn eis allēlous); and (3) in doing that which was shameful with other men (ἄρσενες ἐν ἄρσεσιν τὴν ἀσχημοσύνην κατεργαζόμενοι, arsenes en arsesin tēn aschēmosynēn katergazomenoi)” – Tom Schreiner.

 

 

Can there be any reason to doubt what Paul means here?

  • Current controversy seeks to reinterpret Paul’s words in at least four ways.
  • (1) Paul is only referring to the Greek practice of pederasty – homosexual relations with children.
  • (2) Paul is condemning “only homosexual acts practiced by people who are ‘naturally’ heterosexual” – Tom Schreiner.
    • Homosexuality practiced by heterosexuals.
  • (3) Paul is not referring to loving same sex relationships between equal partners, but of coerced or forced same sex relationships.
  • (4) Paul is merely a victim of his own cultural hang-ups.

 

The answer to the question is…

  • No.
  • Among other things, modern reinterpretations read into Paul’s words modern views of psychology, and dismiss Paul’s allusions to Genesis 1-3.
  • See Moo, Schreiner and others for an extensive handling of this issue.

 

Why does Paul bring up homosexuality?

  • Schreiner has a good take.

 

It basically plays out as follows:

  • Just as idolatry is an obvious corruption of right worship in the spiritual sphere…
  • Homosexuality is an obvious corruption of what is “unnatural in the sexual sphere” – Schreiner.

 

In other words:

“Just as idolatry is a violation and perversion of what God intended, so too homosexual relations are contrary to what God planned when he created man and woman” – Tom Schreiner.

 

N.T. Wright sums up Paul’s words on homosexuality this way:

  • “He [Paul] sees the practice of same-sex relations as a sign that the human world in general is out of joint” – N.T. Wright.
  • Men have “…lost their grip on God’s truth and, like Adam and Eve in the garden, listened to the voice of the creature rather than the voice of God” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Verses 28-32:

Romans 1:28–32 (ESV) — 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

 

Again Paul starts with “God gave them up”.

  • (1) The first time (vs. 24) Paul spoke of the spiritual/worship corruption that occurs with idolatry.
  • (2) The second time (vs. 26) Paul spoke of the physical/created order corruption of homosexuality.
  • (3) This time (vs. 28) Paul speaks of the relational corruption between image bearers.

 

BTW – please note that for Paul, as we saw in vss. 21-23, all of the above – worship, homosexuality and broken relationship – are all traced to the “same root sin of idolatry” – Douglas Moo.

 

Paul shows that because of their debased minds – rejecting what they know to be true about God – we get:

  • All manner of unrighteousness” (vs. 29)
  • Evil, Covetousness, Malice, Envy, Murder, Strife, Deceit, Maliciousness, Gossips, Slanderers, Haters of God, Insolent, Haughty, Boastful, Inventors of Evil, Disobedient to Parents, Foolish, Faithless, Heartless, and Ruthless.

 

And he ends by saying that unrighteous men:

  • Know the consequences of these actions – death.
  • Yet, they “not only do them” (vs. 32).
  • But they also “give approval to those who practice them” (vs. 32).

 

BTW – Notice that Paul does not say homosexuality is in some way worse than all the other sin he has mentioned.

  • In fact, if he were to pick the worst sin, it appears he might pick idolatry.

“The fundamental sin that informs all others is a refusal to delight in or submit to God’s lordship. God’s wrath is rightly inflicted on those who not only practice evil but find their greatest delight in it” – Tom Schreiner.

  • Homosexuality is simply one of the many ways that give evidence to God’s judging righteousness and man’s unrighteousness.

 

 

Vexing Question:

If God is real and has revealed His saving righteousness in His divine activity…

  • And has shown Himself plainly to all…
  • Why do so many act in rebellion to God’s saving righteousness?
  • Does God’s divine activity somehow lack the power to persuade?

 

Answer:

“Paul stresses that people who have turned from God are fundamentally unable to think and decide correctly about God and his will. This tragic incapacity is the explanation for the apparently inexplicable failure of people to comprehend, let alone practice, biblical ethical principles. Only the work of the Spirit in ‘renewing the mind [nous]’ (Rom. 12:2) can overcome this deep-seated blindness and perversity” – Douglas Moo.

  • God gave them up – only God can restore them.

 

Importantly, this means:

  • The unbeliever’s sin is not an indication that God’s saving righteousness is a farce.
  • The severity of the condition of the unbeliever, for Paul, actually demonstrates that God is active in their lives.
  • The activity is God’s wrath – His judging righteousness.
  • This means that even the unbeliever is not outside of God’s divine activity.

 

 

Conclusion:

N.T. Wright’s words are helpful as we conclude Romans 1.

“What we see in Romans 1 is the chilling sight of future death casting its dark shadow forwards into the present. If we recognize even part of the picture, we ought to be all the more eager to see what kind of a solution Paul is going to propose as the letter moves forwards” – N.T. Wright.

 

In this context – of God’s holiness and wrath and men’s unrighteousness – God’s unmerited grace truly becomes extravagant.

  • God loves all of us.
  • But His wrath shows us that His love is holy.
  • And so He can’t leave us as we are!
  • We are to be conformed to the image of Christ.
  • And to do that, we must agree with God about what that conforming looks like.

 

Romans 2:1-5 – Judgment of God

Romans 2:1–5 (ESV) — 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

 

 

Review:

We saw last week three things that happen with the unrighteous truth suppressors who are without excuse:

  • (1) Spiritual Corruption – they become idolaters.
    • Possibly the root problem of all sin for Paul.
  • (2) Physical (created order) Corruption – homosexuality.
  • (3) Fellowship Corruption – covetousness, envy, murder, disobedience to parents, etc.

 

With these, Paul was giving further reason why all are under God’s wrath.

  • In other words…
  • Why the unrighteous are and will be under God’s judging righteousness.
  • The unrighteous being those that “refuse to give God his proper sovereignty in one’s life” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Wrath/judging righteousness being the “establishment of a divine rule of holiness” – TDNT.

 

 

Our Text:

Romans 2:1a (ESV) — 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.

 

Suddenly, Paul has switched from the third person plural – them and they – to the second person singular – you.

  • It seems he has now switched his attention to the Roman church – you guys in Rome.
  • The readers of Paul’s letter.

 

And yet, our commentators all reject this on textual grounds.

  • They do so for at least two reasons.
  • (1) Paul would have switched to the second person plural to address the Roman church – Douglas Moo.
    • Not “you” but “you all”.
    • But in our text the Greek words are in second person singular.
  • (2) Paul is using literary technique called diatribe.
    • Diatribe is “an imaginary dialogue with a student or opponent” – Moo.
    • Schreiner adds, “in which one anticipates possible objections to one’s argument”.
    • In this case the imaginary opponents are those who judge.

 

Another interesting question involves the religious identity of Paul’s imaginary opponent.

  • The natural reading would seem to suggest we are still dealing with Gentiles.
  • And yet the majority of our commentators – Murray, Moo, Schreiner, Mohrlang, Heiser, ESV Study Bible – all suggest that we are now dealing with Jews.

 

 

N.T. Wright’s Take:

However, N.T. Wright argues that we are still dealing with Gentiles.

  • He suggests that, reflecting on verses 18-32, Paul starts Romans 2 with a question in mind.
  • “How could it be that you might know what was the right thing to do and yet fail to do it?” – N.T. Wright.
  • Then with respect to 2:1 says the answer is found in, “The present passage”.
  • Where Paul exposes the “elevated pagan moralist” and his problem – N.T. Wright.
  • Their problem is that they have become judge in place of God.

 

We know this because Paul says he is answering this question in 1a – “Therefore [or here is the answer] you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges”.

  • An allusion to 1:20, “So therefore they are without excuse”.

 

Who are both the “they” from 1:20 and the “O man, every one of you who judges” from our text?

  • The unrighteous truth suppressors that reject the Creator’s rightful status – the “pagan moralist”.

 

I am inclined to agree with N.T. Wright.

  • Go door-to-door for one afternoon and you will see our text played out in spades.

 

 

Verses 1-3:

Romans 2:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

 

It doesn’t take much imagination to see that the two main themes of these 3 verses are…

  • (1) Judgment
  • (2) “Practice”

 

 

1) Judgment

  • you who judges” (vs. 1)
  • passing judgment” (vs. 1)
  • judgment of God” (vs. 2)
  • you who judge” (vs. 3)
  • escape the judgment of God?” (vs. 3)

 

How are we to understand all this “judging” language?

  • We have to establish immediately that there are two kinds going on here.
  • The judging of the unrighteous.
  • The judging of God.

 

(A) The judging of the unrighteous seems to be simply this:

  • A judging that seeks to judge in the place of God’s judgment.
  • “Not in the sense of evaluating objectively, but in the sense of condemning” – Roger Mohrlong.

 

Paul makes this connection implicitly in verse 1.

  • in passing judgment…you condemn yourself”.
  • In other words, in trying to condemn others, you condemn yourself.

 

The picture here, again, is the person who is unrighteous – on the throne that is God’s.

  • From this context they compare themselves with others.
  • Ultimately deciding that others must be worse – and thus worthy of condemnation.

 

But, in fact, by assuming the place of authority required to condemn, they do the very same things!

  • “You have no excuse—because, even while you sit in judgment on these poor benighted souls you so despise, you are secretly doing the same things yourself!” – N.T. Wright.
  • They reject God and suppress the truth, yet act as God and as if they know a truth.
  • Again, this is why they are without excuse.

 

So the judgment contained in the idea of to “evaluate objectively” is not the problem.

  • Indeed, Paul’s very words here are this very form of judgment.
  • As Tom Schreiner says, “Judging itself is not condemned, for Paul expects Jews to agree that Gentiles who engage in such behavior are deserving of wrath” – Schreiner.

 

(B) Facing the judgment of God is part of what it means to be under God’s wrath.

  • It is the divine activity of God against the unrighteousness of men.
  • As we have said before, this is God’s judging righteousness.
  • It comes against those who assume the authority of God.
  • Something that is demonstrated by their “practice” of “such things”.

 

 

2) Practice:

  • practice the very same things” (vs. 1)
  • who practice such things” (vs. 2)
  • who practice such things” (vs. 3)
  • And lets not for get last weeks text.
  • those who practice such things” (1:32)
  • those who practice them” (1:32)

 

How are we to understand this “practice” language?

  • The Greek word means “to bring about or accomplish something through activity” – BDAG.

 

The activity is last weeks lesson.

  • The spiritual corruption.
  • The physical corruption.
  • The fellowship corruption.
  • It must also be unrighteousness and truth suppression.

 

What is the thing brought about and accomplished?

  • Paul seems to be implying that the thing brought about or accomplished by this activity is…
  • The judgment of God – His wrath – His judging righteousness.
  • This is why he asks, do you think, “You will escape the judgment of God?” (vs. 3).

 

There is an important implication here for the sin of the believer.

  • We too engage in spiritual, physical and fellowship corruption.

 

But the question is what is brought about or accomplished by our activity of sin?

  • Do we incur the judging righteousness of God?
  • Or because of our Union with Christ, do we incur the saving righteousness of God?
  • This is really worth exploring further, but not now.

 

 

Verses 4-5:

Romans 2:4–5 (ESV) — 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

 

God has every right to pour out his future, eschatological wrath right now.

  • And yet He is actively withholding it.
  • This is an “expression of God’s goodness in his patient withholding of the judgment that is rightfully due the sinner” – Douglas Moo.

 

Why is He witholding?

  • “God is patient. Again and again he gives people the chance to get it together, to turn to him in repentance and trust, and to find their lives coming back into shape” – N.T. Wright.
  • In context, this repentance for Paul is a self-dethroning ceremony.
  • It is a restoration of the Creator-creature distinction.
  • It is a submission to God and His preeminence and all that goes with this.

 

But God’s patience will come to an end.

  • storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (vs. 5)
  • This is future wrath.
  • Like our resurrection and new creation, even God’s future wrath is stored up.
  • Presumably, stored up in Heaven with Christ.

 

N.T. Wright sums up for us.

“But if people insist on rejecting God’s love—and part of the logic of love is that it can always be rejected—there is nothing else for it. God is committed, precisely as the good and loving creator, to putting the world to rights. That includes human beings. Those who live in the dehumanizing ways described in the previous passages are courting disaster. Those who persist in wickedness, despite having every chance to turn back, are positively asking for it. There is no other alternative” – N.T. Wright.

 

Romans 2:6-11 – Judgment of Works

Review:

Last week we dealt with Paul’s diatribe language and his handling of God’s judgment.

  • We saw that judgment refers specifically to God’s condemnation – an activity exclusive to God.
  • Paul wasn’t referring to an objective judgment of propositions and actions as right or wrong.
    • The very thing he was doing in his letter.
  • We also saw that to be judged and condemned by God is to come under His wrath – His judging righteousness.

 

We then tried to understand what it meant to “practice” the things that bring about God’s judgment.

  • The meaning of “practice” in context was “to bring about or accomplish something through activity” – BDAG.

 

The activity in question was described in Romans 1:

  • Spiritual corruption.
  • Physical corruption.
  • Fellowship corruption.

 

We also saw that the thing brought about or accomplished by this activity was…

  • The judgment of God – His wrath – His judging righteousness.

 

Let’s pickup where Paul left off…

 

 

Today’s Text:

Romans 2:6–11 (ESV) — 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

 

 

Verse 6:

“He will render to each one according to his works”

 

Paul switches gears a little be here and lays out a good news bad news scenario.

  • Paul talks about the “apodidomi” of God.
  • “Apodidomi” appears as “render”, “reward”, “repay”, and “give” in various translations.

 

Paul says God is going to “apodidomi” everybody – the Jew and the Greek.

  • No one will not receive the “apodidomi” of God.

 

The exact kind of rendering, reward or repayment depends on the person – the “each one” (vs. 6).

  • Paul puts it clearly, God’s “apodidomi” will be “to each one according to works” (vs. 6).

 

This fits well with a typical Jewish OT understanding.

  • Psalm 62:12 (ESV) — 12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.

 

It seems like Paul is saying that eternal life is according to one’s works.

  • A concept that appears to contradict justification by faith.
  • “Paul asserts that works are necessary for salvation and also that one cannot be justified by works of the law…” – Tom Schreiner.
  • More on this seemingly problematic statement by Paul in a moment.

 

Paul states that the reward will take one of only two forms.

  • Paul explains…

 

 

Verse 7-11:

7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

 

Paul contrasts the one whose works seek “glory and honor and immortality” (vs. 7) with the one whose works are “self-seeking” and do “not obey the truth” (vs. 8).

  • The one who “does good” (vs. 10) with the one who “does evil” (vs. 9).
  • Good works vs. Evil works.

 

The two different works lead to a difference in what “will be” rewarded – in what the “apodidomi” will be.

  • The first will be given “eternal life” (vs. 7) – life in the age to come – resurrection life!
  • For the latter, there “will be wrath and fury” (vs. 8).
  • Paul is talking about the consummation of the Kingdom of God and what it looks like for each “worker”.

 

In light of Romans thus far, what are the rewards?

  • Reward 1 – God’s saving righteousness in the form of our future eternal salvation.
  • Reward 2 – Gods judging righteousness in the form of a future eschatological wrath.

 

 

Race is Not the Basis:

Notice that Paul is making it clear that the difference is not found in being Jew or Greek.

  • The distinction between Jew and Greek is meaningless.
  • the Jew first and also the Greek” (vs. 9 and 10).
  • God shows no partiality” (vs. 11).

“There is a God who, as creator, is responsible for the world, and he will put it to rights. And when he does so, he will act with complete impartiality, as accords with strict justice” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

But – Are Works Really the Basis?

What is the ground level difference between the “those” of verse 7 and the “those” of 8-9?

  • We have already seen the difference is not Jew or Greek.

 

Are their “works” really the difference?

  • Or are the “works” indicative of the difference?
  • If the latter, what are the works indicative of?
  • Answer is coming…

 

What Paul is not saying!

  • “Did Paul believe that some could obtain eternal life by doing good works?” – Tom Schreiner.
  • It is incredibly important that we resist hearing our text today with works baggage weighing us down.
  • As we saw some time ago, the believer lives in “this grace in which stand” (Romans 5:2).
  • Our works, therefore, never merit us any righteousness before God.

 

As we saw from Romans 1, God’s righteousness is His activity – it is from Him and it is His.

  • We are connected to it through faith – not through works.

 

So what is Paul getting at?

  • We have to remember our context – what Paul has been teaching.
  • God’s divine activity takes two forms.
  • His saving righteousness and His judging righteousness.

 

So we do not create our own righteousness.

  • We act within God’s.
  • And the kind of act or “work” we practice depends upon the righteousness in which we walk.

 

So to answer our earlier question…

  • The Christian’s works are indicative of living within the divine activity of God’s saving righteousness.
  • They are possible because, and flow from, this fact.

 

So what exactly is a good work for Paul?

 

 

Good Works:

A closer examination of verse 7 will help us understand what is behind a good work.

  • Here is the good work – “those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality”
  • Or as verse 10 puts it – he who “does good”.

 

To get at this, we need to understand “hypomone”.

  • The ESV translates this as “patience”.
  • It appears this is a bit of a misfire.
  • Other translations use “perseverance” or “persistence”.

 

The latter are more accurate.

  • In context, the BDAG says “hypomone” means “steadfast endurance of sufferings”.
  • Whereas “patience” conveys the idea of “passive waiting for divine intervention” – Robert Jewett.

 

Peter can help us here:

  • 1 Peter 3:14–15 (ESV) — 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

 

We will suffer because of Christ – “for righteousness’ sake”.

  • This is the Christian life.
  • As we do, we are to actively honor Him.
  • In fact, we are to actively give “reason for the hope” we have in Him – the reasons why we do honor Him in the midst of suffering.

 

Given all this, a paraphrase of Romans 1:7 will help us put it all together:

  • The real vs. 7 says a good work is “by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality”.
  • The paraphrase would be that a good work is to steadfastly and actively endure in the faith – especially in the midst of sufferings – seeking for glory and honor and immortality.

 

In fact we can shed even more light on what this good work is.

  • Because “hypomone” even has military overtones.
  • “It includes active and energetic resistance to hostile power” – Robert Jewett.
  • Such as “…maintaining ones place in a line of battle” – Robert Jewett.

 

So a good work is a deliberate and energetic working on our part to actively endure in the faith in the face of suffering and so honor Christ.

 

And Paul says this active, energetic action on our part is not a one-off thing.

  • He couples it with the idea of seeking – “seek for glory” (vs. 7).
  • And by that he means, “a sustained and deliberate” activity over time – Robert Jewett.
  • So add “over time” to our previous definitions of a good work.

 

Who are those that will “work” in such a manner – actively honoring Christ in our suffering in a sustained fashion?

  • Those who suppress the truth?
  • No…Those in God’s saving righteousness.
  • Those who in their “hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15).

 

Importantly, then, we are not patiently waiting for God to intervene.

  • As we have seen, He has already acted and is daily acting on us with His saving righteousness.

 

How does this impact how we view obedience and works?

  • We have to be careful to exclude our works baggage that skews us toward self-righteousness.
  • Something Paul is not talking about.

 

This means that good works are our striving, out of profound gratitude, to do what God wants of us.

  • So we “seek for glory and honor and immortality” in and through Christ (vs. 7)
  • We “do good” (vs. 10).

 

This is the “obedience of faith” Paul speaks of in Romans 1.

  • Romans 1:5 (ESV) — 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
  • And it occurs among “all the nations” – not just Israel.

 

But our striving and doing “good” do count for something – just not our righteousness.

  • Paul teaches that “…good works are essential for participation in the coming age” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Now what this something is a subject of a lot of debate!

 

Just know that ultimately, our works count for something only because of the context in which we live as believers – God’s saving righteousness as opposed to His judging righteousness.

  • “The works of the Christian that are valid in the judgment are the ‘fruit’ of union with Christ and manifestations of God’s grace” – Douglas Moo.
  • “The justification by faith [God’s saving righteousness] granted the believer in this life is the sufficient cause of those works that God takes into account at the time of the judgment” – Douglas Moo.
  • Our works don’t secure our future; they demonstrate it is already secure in Christ and God’s saving righteousness.

 

 

Romans 2:12-13 – Doers Are Justified

Romans 2:12–13 (ESV) — 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

 

Look at that again!

  • “the doers of the law who will be justified” (vs. 13).
  • This is Paul’s first use in Romans of justify.
  • And he uses it in context of works.

 

 

Paul and Justification:

We know Paul teaches justification comes by faith and not by works.

  • Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
  • In Romans, justification is huge theme for Paul.

 

What is justification by faith?

  • If you remember, justification by faith is how God’s righteousness (another of Paul’s major themes) is made ours.
  • By faith in Christ we are imputed with a righteousness alien to us.
    • The righteousness of Christ.
  • A righteousness by which we are given a new status in God’s law court.
  • N.T. Wright says simply justification is how we are “declared to be in the right”.

 

Yet, in spite of teaching justification by faith, Paul keeps busting out this apparent justification by works language.

  • He seems determined to appeal to the legalist and moralist in us all.

 

Last week Paul said God will reward eternal life to those who do good works.

  • He will render to each one according to his works” – Romans 2:6.

 

Today he says that the “doers of the law” are justified and righteous.

  • But that is not all!

 

Later in Romans he will say:

  • Romans 14:10–12 (ESV) — 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

 

And look at what he says in other letters:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV) — 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
  • Ephesians 6:8 (ESV) — 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
  • 2 Timothy 4:1 (ESV) — 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:

 

Then how about this text:

  • Revelation 20:12–13 (ESV) — 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.

 

So what’s the deal?

  • Is Paul contradicting himself?
  • Are we missing something?
  • Are there different kinds of justification?

 

We are going to look at two views on what Paul means with his justification by works language.

 

View 1:

Many suggest that what Paul must being doing is stating a theoretical/theological possibility.

  • Paul is stating in the abstract that perfect “doers of the law” will be justified.

 

But, he knows full well that this type of obedience is impossible.

“Paul would not have thought for a moment that such people could actually live the kind of sinless, holy life which a total keeping of the law would produce” – N.T. Wright.

  • In other words, he believes it to be true, but knows that it is not possible.

 

The inability to perfectly obey is not new to Paul.

  • Psalm 143:2 (ESV) — 2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

 

So why would he say something he knows can’t happen anyway?

  • The reason Paul puts forward this theoretical possibility of being justified by works is…
  • To setup the need for his Gospel of Jesus Christ for both Jew and Gentile.
  • We need to obey the law, but we can’t, so we need someone who can in our stead.

 

After all, the logic goes, Paul will say in Romans 3:

  • Romans 3:23–24 (ESV) — 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

 

And in Romans 4:

  • Romans 4:2–5 (ESV) — 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

 

Both of these texts point to Jesus.

  • Justification only comes through being united to Christ by faith.

 

N.T. Wright sums up this view:

Some “have suggested that maybe he is setting it up as a theoretical possibility which he will then show to be, in fact, impossible. They envisage him saying, in effect, ‘In theory, God would like to be able to judge people according to how they behave, but since in fact nobody would pass that test he has introduced a different scheme’” – N.T. Wright.

  • The different scheme is of course, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

This approach makes sense.

  • The idea that Paul is using justification through works language to point to our need for Christ seems to work.

 

 

View 2:

However, there are those that say this approach flattens out Paul’s teaching.

  • How so?

 

Some think Paul’s view of justification is larger than just justification by faith.

  • In fact, attempts to frame his justification by works language as view 1 does is to miss out on some important distinctions Paul is making in justification.
  • There is more than one kind of justification.

 

N.T. Wright will help us here.

“The contrast between judgment according to works and justification by faith is not between a system God might have liked to operate and a system he has chosen to operate instead. It is the contrast between the future judgment, which will indeed be in accordance with works, and the present anticipation of that verdict, which is simply…on the basis of faith” – N.T. Wright.

 

Did you catch that?

  • The idea behind this view is that Paul is teaching two kinds of justification.
  • Present justification – justification by faith.
  • Future justification – the future judgment according to works.

 

Present justification is justification by faith.

  • “Those who believe in Jesus as the risen Lord of the world are declared already, on the basis of that faith, to belong to God’s people. They are already marked out as the people whose sins are forgiven” – N.T. Wright.
  • Just as Paul teaches in many places, we have been imputed with Jesus’ alien righteousness and have a new status – right now.

 

But, in our text today, the context is future judgment.

  • God’s eschatological wrath to come.
  • on that day…God judges” (vs. 16).

 

Therefore Paul is speaking of a different kind of justification – future justification.

  • And “the future judgment will take place on the basis of the entire life a person has led” – N.T. Wright.
  • It is a judgment based on our works.

 

Even Douglas Moo says:

“Paul might then be thinking here not of the entry into salvation [present] but of the ultimate vindication at the last judgment [future]” – Douglas Moo.

 

Wright describes Paul’s future justification in terms of a final courtroom scene:

“Within the lawcourt setting, ‘justify’ is what the judge does at the end of the trial [final judgment]: he declares that one party in the lawsuit is ‘in the right’. The case [their life lived] has gone their way. The judge has found in their favour” – N.T. Wright.

 

Wright says that Paul’s future justification has three parts:

  • (1) Judicial – Though Paul clearly speaks of a now justification in Christ, he and the Bible also speak of a final courtroom scene of judgment on the last day of not guilty for those in Christ.
    • The scene we just described.
  • (2) Covenantal – This courtroom scene “is also the declaration that they are part of the [covenant] family promised to Abraham” – N.T. Wright.
  • (3) Event – “God’s people will be resurrected and will share the promised inheritance, the renewed creation” through their bodily resurrection.

 

View 2 seems to make sense of the verses we mentioned earlier.

  • They all link our works with final judgment.

 

Let’s look at them again.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV) — 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
  • Ephesians 6:8 (ESV) — 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
  • 2 Timothy 4:1 (ESV) — 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
  • Revelation 20:12–13 (ESV) — 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.

 

And it also seems to make sense of even Jesus’ own words to the Pharisees:

  • Matthew 12:35–37 (ESV) — 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 

And view 2 seems to make sense of the fact that there even is a future judgment described in the Bible.

  • Since we are justified and declared righteous right now by our faith in Christ…
  • Why do these verses even exist if there is also not a future justification?
  • In other words, if present justification by faith is all there is, then what are these verses all about?
  • For what are we being judged?

 

 

View 1 or View 2:

So which one?

  • My question is this.
  • And it goes back to the idea from View 1 that Paul actually believed works could justify.

 

First off, it doesn’t seem he actually really believed that works could justify.

  • Romans 3:20 (ESV) — 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

 

Moreover, Paul teaches in Romans 5:12 that we are dead in Adam.

  • This is why a historical Adam is so important – Paul’s theology rests on it.
  • This is why our default state is under God’s wrath, condemned.
  • It is what we are.
  • This fact obtains whether we obey the law perfectly or not.

 

We can also use the language from our Genesis lesson on Romans 5:12 of Garden Exile.

  • All of us are in Garden Exile.
  • Because of Adam, all are born outside of the Garden and the life it contained.
  • So excluded from the tree of life, all of us will die – and death is part of the problem.
  • Even if we were to obey the law perfectly, we would still be in this exile and thus still die.

 

Paul obviously knew this truth – he taught it.

  • So…why would he think that perfect obedience could save – something needed for view 1 – knowing the Romans 5:12/Genesis connection he himself taught?

 

Obedience to the law does not overcome death and Garden Exile.

  • To say that Paul would think so seems to raise some problems.
  • However, if his works justification/future justification is a separate thing from present justification, then the Romans 5:12 problem goes away.

 

 

My Take:

As I understand it, View 2 plays out as follows:

  • At our future judgment, God can look at our good works and rightly declare that our Union with Christ was real and efficacious – it bore fruit.
    • Our striving, out of profound gratitude, to do what God wants of us.
  • In other words, those justified by faith in Christ lived as those justified by faith in Christ.

 

Wright says it helps to think about it like we think of marriage.

  • In effect, at our future judgment, God declares that those pronounced “married” lived as “married”.
  • To live a life faithful to one’s spouse, one has to be married.
    • A pronouncement and change in status – justification by faith.
  • And to faithfully live a married life one has to “do/not do” things.
    • The things that flow out of the change in status – justification by works.

 

This makes sense.

  • We are born again, in Union with Christ, and participate in the fellowship of the Trinity.
  • Our life lived will inevitably flow out of this thick foundation of the Gospel.

 

In a way, this view glorifies Christ all the more.

  • We could never be “doers of the law” if not for the reality of our Union with Christ…
  • In other words, if we weren’t justified by faith – present justification – we would be incapable of good works.
  • So if future justification is legit, it doesn’t seem to locate the basis for justified status in us at all.
  • It seems to assume our present justification.

 

There is much more to be said on this.

  • Certainly there are critics and supporters of both views.
  • I will keep an open mind to both.

 

 

Romans 2:12-16 – By Nature Law

Review:

Last week we tackled what appeared to be clear references to a justification by works taught by Paul.

  • In 2:6 Paul told us that God will “apodidomi” “to each one according to works”.
  • In 2:13 Paul told us that it is “the doers of the law who will be justified”.

 

We saw that there are 2 basic views on how to deal with these texts.

  • (1) Paul teaches and believes in only one kind of justification – justification by faith.
    • Therefore he doesn’t mean what it sounds like he means.
  • (2) Paul teaches and believes in at least two kinds of justification – a present justification by faith and a future justification by works.
    • Therefore he does mean what it sounds like it means.
    • And how it plays out is the rub.

 

An easy way to think of these two views and any hybrid between them is this:

  • View 1 – One Justification with One Basis
    • We are justified solely on the basis of Union with Christ by faith.
  • View 2 – Two Justifications with Two Basis’
    • We are presently justified on the basis of Union with Christ by faith.
    • We are “future justified” on the basis of our works – the life lived.
  • Hybrid View – Two Justifications with One Basis
    • We are presently justified on the basis of Union with Christ by faith.
    • Our good works – possible only through our Union with Christ – “future justify” us because they vindicate Christ’s work as the basis for any justification we might have.

 

Justification, how we are made right with God, is an incredibly important aspect of Paul’s theology.

  • So it is worth your time to read over lasts weeks lesson.

 

 

Intro:

In our text today, Paul shows how the impartiality of God he has been discussing plays out.

  • Specifically, how God can be impartial in judgment given the differences between Jews and Gentiles.
  • Romans 2:11 – “For God shows no partiality”.

 

To do this, it is inevitable that he contend with the law – Sinai – the Mosaic covenant.

  • The law is seen as the thing that sets apart the Jew as God’s favored and privileged people.
  • In other words, the events at Sinai set apart the Jews from all other nations as God’s chosen.
  • At Sinai, the Jew was given the inside track to favor and righteousness.

 

Paul begins his bit on the law with a few generalizations about the law.

  • He then pokes at the bees nest of Jewish privilege.
  • He does this by suggesting that the Gentiles, in fact, do have a law.
  • A law that equally joins them in accountability to God.

 

 

Romans 2:12–16 (ESV) — 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

 

 

Verses 12-13:

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

 

Paul contrasts a couple of different scenarios concerning the law.

  • (1) He speaks about those who are “without the law” (vs. 12) and those who are “under the law” (vs. 12).
  • (2) He speaks about the “hearers of the law” (vs. 13) and the “doers of the law” (vs. 13).

 

We need to know something about this “law”.

  • “When Paul talks about ‘the law’ he means the Jewish law, the Torah, the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai as the way of life for the people redeemed at the Exodus” – N.T. Wright.
  • “The ‘law’ in question is the law of Moses, the body of commandments given by God through Moses to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai” – Douglas Moo.

 

 

First Contrast:

In the first contrast – without/under – Paul is careful to show one important thread that runs through both.

  • The existence of sin.
  • All who have sinned without the law” (vs. 12)
  • All who have sinned under the law” (vs. 12)

 

Whether one is under the law or not (Jewish or Gentile), sin is present.

  • Paul is, to the dismay of the Jew, showing that in spite of their differences with the Gentile, they are the same – both are in sin.

 

Paul also makes clear that in either circumstance – sin w/o law or sin under law – the consequence is the same.

  • Those who sin without the law will perish (vs. 12).
  • Those who sin “under the law” will be judged by the law (vs. 12).

 

To be judged by the law is actually not an advantage.

  • It is to be found wanting.
  • Romans 3:20 (ESV) — 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

 

So the end result of sin lived out in either circumstance is to come under…

  • The three things Paul has been discussing for sometime now.
  • God’s wrath
  • God’s judging righteousness
  • God’s condemnation

 

Now, if being “under the law” doesn’t insulate one from the effects of sin…

  • The obvious question is, “what keeps one from the eternal consequences of sin?
  • Paul’s second contrast answers this question.

 

 

Second Contrast:

In the second contrast – hearers/doers – Paul teaches that what keeps one from the consequences of sin is to be “doers of the law” (vs. 13).

  • To merely be “hearers of the law” (vs. 13) does not make anyone “righteous” (vs. 13).
  • Hearers of the law” are not under God’s saving righteousness.
  • It is only “doers of the law” that are “justified” or righteous (vs. 13).

 

In saying this, Paul blows to pieces the Jewish idea of who is in and who is out.

  • Here is how.

 

The “hearers of the law” are the Jews – those who received God’s law at Sinai.

  • Though this fact accords them some privileges (Paul will speak of them later), it offers no privilege when it comes to achieving righteousness.

 

Why would this be such a shock to the Jew?

“Outside Israel, the sphere of the law, there is no salvation. The Jews who live within the domain of law…often considered themselves virtually assured of salvation” – Douglas Moo.

  • Paul is contradicting this commonly held view.

 

Merely being part of the God’s chosen people – “hearers of the law” – does not a righteous man make.

  • What makes a man justified and righteous is to be “doers of the law” (vs. 13).
  • We dealt with how doing justifies last week.

 

The question a Jew might have at this point would simply be:

  • How can a Gentile be a doer of the law?
  • They aren’t even “hearers of the law”.
  • They weren’t the recipients of the law at Sinai.

 

 

Verses 14-16:

14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

 

Paul says that “by nature” (vs. 14) Gentiles can be in effect “doers of the law”.

  • Whatever this “by nature” (vs. 14) stuff is, Paul sees it as “a law to themselves”.
  • Even though they never received the law at Sinai – they are not “hearers of the law”.
  • In other words, Gentiles do have a law so they can be a “doer of the law”.

 

Then expecting a question about this “by nature” stuff, Paul expands on it.

  • He speaks of “the work of the law” (vs. 15).
    • Moo calls this knowledge of the demands of God.
  • He speaks of it being “written on their hearts” (vs. 15).
    • Possible reference to Jeremiah 31.
  • He says that with this “their conscience also bears witness” (vs. 15).
  • And layered in with all of this, “their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (vs. 15).
    • This is accountability to their knowledge of the demands of God.

 

What is Paul talking about with respect to the by nature law of the Gentiles?

  • And is Paul suggesting here that justification is possible outside of the special revelation of Christ?

 

Roger Mohrlang says that Paul is simply trying to say:

  • “[Gentiles] have an intuitive sense of the distinction between right and wrong; in other words, they have a conscience” – Roger Mohrlang.
  • And though it isn’t the law at Sinai, it will often lead them to the same prohibitions.

As Douglas Moo says, Gentiles are without the law but not without law.

 

This means God can fairly and impartially judge them.

  • It does not mean that perfect obedience to their conscience can deliver them from being in Adam.
  • Conscience or no, they are still in Garden Exile and need Christ to lead them out of it.

 

All of these things (vss. 14-15) give insight into how the Gentiles have a “law” by which they are judged.

  • They explain how a Gentile – though not part of Sinai – is not disadvantaged “on that day” of God’s future judgment.
  • Or, for that matter, why the Jew is not at an advantage – not privileged.

 

Wright helpfully frames verses 14-15 as follows:

  • “Surely God’s own people, the Jews, have a head start? Hasn’t God given them his law? Doesn’t that mean they have a far better chance of doing what he wants? Isn’t that unfair on everybody else?” – N.T. Wright.
  • “His answer is No: God will judge everyone according to where they are [the “law” they have], not according to where they are not [Sinai]” – N.T. Wright.

 

And all of these things explain how God’s judgment is impartial.

  • In other words, it is not the differences between Jew and Gentile that make the difference.
  • It is, in fact, what they in have in common that brings it all home.

 

John Piper explains:

“God’s impartiality means that he judges not on the assumption that we all have access to the same amount of truth, but that we all have the truth we need to be held accountable, and that we will be judged by our response to what we do have, not what we don’t have” – John Piper.

 

So all – Jew and Gentile – have all they need to be accountable.

  • And all – Jew and Gentile – will be judged based on what they do have not what they don’t have.
  • The people of Sinai law and the people of the “by nature” law are in the same boat.

 

Importantly, this also means…

  • “Not hearing the Law of Moses will not condemn anyone” because “all human beings have the moral law of God stamped on their hearts” – John Piper.
  • One more reason why all are “without excuse”.

 

 

Addendum:

Are the Gentiles in our text Christians or unbelievers?

 

In other words are they (from Douglas Moo)…

  • (1) “Gentiles who do some part of the law but who are not saved.”
  • (2) “Gentile Christians who fulfill the law by virtue of their relationship to Christ.”

 

I don’t have a clue.

  • Schreiner and Moo favor the first option.
  • However, each recognizes the strengths textually of the second option.

 

N.T. Wright says he goes back and forth between the two, but appears to favor the second option.

Paul may be speaking of “…a new category of Gentiles…being created by the gospel itself, a category of Gentiles who have God’s law written on their hearts by the Holy Spirit, and who are thus coming to know in a new way what the law requires” – N.T. Wright.

  • Or, “Gentile Christians who manifest the new life of the Spirit by their obedience to the law” – Schreiner.

 

My question is one of context.

  • Paul’s context appears to be future judgment and justification.

 

Why?

  • Paul has already said, “doers of the law who will be justified” (vs. 13).
  • And in verse 16 he tells us he is talking about “on that day when…God judges” (vs. 16).

 

We saw last week that justification and future judgment are Paul’s future justification.

  • And, as we saw, future justification assumes present justification.
    • If there is not present justification, there can be no future one.
  • Therefore it makes since that these Gentiles are Christians – they have presently be justified by faith in Christ.
  • You can’t have a future justification of a non-believer.

 

Whatever the case…

“The main point of the passage, though, is not in doubt, and it is one of great ultimate comfort. The world is not in the hands of blind chance, or of a capricious God who will play favourites and leave everyone feeling the way people do after an unsatisfactory court hearing. True justice—the sort that people long for, plead for, thirst for around the world to this day—true justice will be done, and will be seen and known to be done. God will judge all human secrets through the Messiah, Jesus. That is good news for a world in which true justice is still hard to find” – N.T. Wright.

 

Romans 2:17-23 – “Boast in” the Law

Review:

To demonstrate God’s impartiality in judgment, Paul has to deal with law as it relates to Gentiles and Jews.

  • Last week, he showed that the Gentiles, in fact, do have a law by which they will be judged.
  • They may not have the law, but they have a law written on their hearts – their conscience.

 

In our text today, Paul contends with the Jewish side of the equation.

  • “Paul takes up those two things that, more than any others, pointed to the Jews’ special status: the law and circumcision” – Douglas Moo.

 

Helpful Observation before we proceed:

  • “Paul’s target [diatribe against the “Jew”] is ostensibly far from his audience. They are invited to join Paul’s indictment of an insufferably arrogant bigot, not realizing that similar pretensions will later be exposed in their own behavior toward one another” – Robert Jewett.
  • This seems to me very helpful in trying to understand to whom Paul is writing in both today’s text and the previous verses as well.

 

 

Verses 17-23:

Romans 2:17–23 (ESV) — 17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.

 

Paul quickly dispatches the idea that Sinai has given the Jews an advantage.

  • He does this by showing at least two things.

 

1) First, Paul highlights the relationship Jews have with the law.

  • Rely on the law” – verse 17.
  • Instructed from the law” – verse 18.
  • Having in the law” – verse 20.

 

And in our text, Paul points out real benefits of the having, relying and being instructed from the law.

  • Know his will” – verse 18.
  • Approve what is excellent” – verse 18.
  • Guide to the blind” – verse 19.
  • Light to those in the darkness” – verse 19.
  • Instruct the “foolish” – verse 20.
  • Teach “children” – verse 20.
  • The embodiment of knowledge and truth” – verse 20.

 

There is no question that Paul affirms the value of the law.

  • Paul is not anti-law.
  • He is anti-misuse of the law!
  • In 3:19, for example, he shows that the law shuts the mouth of self-righteousness – “every mouth may be stopped”.
  • In 3:21, he says that the law bears witness to the righteousness of God.
  • And in Romans 7:12 (ESV) — 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

 

Paul has to “rethink the role of Israel” around Jesus the Messiah – to be sure – N.T. Wright.

  • But, for Paul the law didn’t fail, “National Israel failed in its vocation” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

2) Second, Paul then shows why the problem is with the Jew and not the law.

  • To this end he uses the phrase in verse 19, “if you are sure that you yourself are a guide…”.
  • Some translations have “convinced” instead of “sure”.
  • The idea here is that the “you” in question is full of arrogance and cocksuredness – Robert Jewett.

 

Paul then rhetorically asks this arrogant, self-righteous Jew…

  • Haven’t you taught yourself what the law teaches?
  • Do you not teach yourself” – verse 21.
  • Jewett points out that at this point the audience in Rome is most certainly with Paul in his disdain for this arrogant “you”.
  • But as we pointed out at the beginning, this is part of Paul’s tactic to slowly bring his sites onto them as well.

 

He then answers the question by making some serious accusations.

  • You rightly preach against stealing, but you steal (vs. 21).
  • You rightly teach against adultery, but you commit adultery (vs. 22).
  • You rightly abhor idols, but you…? (vs. 22).

 

You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” – vs. 22.

  • This particular verse deserves further comment.
  • It appears the idea here is a charge of hypocrisy for financial gain.
  • “They claim to detest idolatry and spurn any association with idols, yet they are willing to be defiled by profiting from the very idols that they detest” – Tom Schreiner.

 

And about these sins, we need to consider Moo’s point.

“It is not, then, that all Jews commit these sins, but that these sins are representative of the contradiction between claim and conduct that does pervade Judaism” – Douglas Moo.

 

And then comes the “law-bomb”:

  • Romans 2:23 (ESV) — 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.
  • The Jews claim special access to God’s saving righteousness because of the law.
  • But in fact, what they really have is an inside track on dishonoring God.
  • And this is simply because though they have the law, they break it.

 

We need to consider an interesting parallel here with Paul’s Romans 1 words to the Gentiles.

  • Romans 1:24–25 (ESV) — 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

“Just as the Gentiles failed to bring him glory by repudiating the revelation available from the created order, the Jews failed to honor him by practicing the law that was vouchsafed to them” – Tom Schreiner.

 

And then Paul heaps it on even more!

  • Romans 2:24 (ESV) — 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

 

Many think Paul has in mind Ezekiel 36:23.

  • We will see in verses 24-29 how the broader context of Ezekiel 36:23 ff. also fits very well with where Paul is headed in our text.
  • Ezekiel 36:23 (ESV) — 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

 

Wow!

  • Instead of being an advantage, by misuse of the law Jews have blighted the name of God.
  • And in pointing this out, Paul reveals that one reason this is a concern for God…
  • Other than the “holiness of my great name”…
  • Is that God’s name has been sullied before the Gentiles.

 

It wasn’t supposed to be this way – Jewish misuse of and reliance on the law.

“Many, including Paul himself, would have celebrated the fact that God had chosen Israel and given them his law in order to make them a beacon of virtue to the rest of the world. Before his conversion, Paul would have seen this calling of the nation of Israel as the rock on which he could stand firm” – N.T. Wright.

  • After all Isaiah 42:6 says the Jews were to be “a light for the nations”.
  • But now, as we pointed out earlier, Paul has to rethink everything around “Jesus is Lord” – including purpose of the law.

 

Finally, with respect to last week’s lesson:

  • Paul’s line of reasoning in verses 17-23 also does two more things.
  • (1) It provides further evidence of God’s impartiality from verse 11.
    • Jews are not advantaged because of the law.
  • (2) It provides further evidence that that “hearers of the law” are not justified “doers of the law”.
    • Quite the opposite, Jews are law breakers!

 

I mentioned earlier that Paul’s allusion to Ezekiel 36 fits well with his current line of thought.

  • Verses 25-29 will show us why as Paul dispatches the idea that the outward sign of circumcision shields one from God’s condemnation.
  • We will contend with this next week.

 

Romans 2:25-29 – “Circumcision” Law

In our text today, Paul continues in his diatribe against Jewish privilege and misuse of law.

  • Thus far he has argued for a “by nature” law of the Gentiles.
  • He has shown how the “boast in” law of the Jews dishonors Gods and reveals hypocrisy.
  • And today he drops the ultimate law bomb on the Jews’ “circumcision law”.
    • In line with Paul’s handling of “by nature” law and “boast in” law, I am calling this section “circumcision” law.

 

 

Our Text:

Romans 2:25–29 (ESV) — 25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly [in public], nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

 

 

Necessary Background:

We have to remember, as N.T. Wright points out, that Romans is showing us how Paul is redefining previously understood Jewish concepts of what it means to be the covenant people of God.

  • In our text today, Paul addresses how this redefinition relates to circumcision.
  • Specifically, “The issue in this section is whether circumcision provides a status for Jews that Gentiles however righteous, simply lack” – Robert Jewett.

 

Why was it necessary for Paul to address “circumcision law”?

 

1) Abrahamic Covenant

  • To begin with, God gave circumcision to His people as a sign of the Abrahamic covenant.
  • Genesis 17:11 (ESV) — 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.
  • Genesis 17:13 even says, “So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant”.

 

And remember Joshua 5.

  • Joshua 5:2 (ESV) — 2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.”
  • Taking a break from his Promise Land conquest, Joshua circumcises those born in the wilderness that had not yet been circumcised.

 

2) Historical Identity

  • During 2nd Temple Judaism, it appears that circumcision was elevated above just being a “sign” of the Abrahamic covenant.
  • We know this from texts like Jubilee 15:26.
  • It taught that, “Anyone…who’s own flesh is not circumcised on the eighth day is not from the sons of the covenant which the Lord made for Abraham since he is from the children of destruction” – Robert Jewett.

 

3) Historical Pride

  • In the 160’s BC, Antiochus Epiphanes was a Greek king who occupied Palestine.
  • Under his reign, “Jews…practiced circumcision at the risk of losing their lives (1 Macc 1:60–61; cf. 2 Macc 6–7)” – DHPL.
  • This elevated the practice of circumcision to one of patriotic proportions.
  • “Thus any diminution of the rite would naturally inflame both the cultural and religious passions of Jews” – DHPL.

 

What parallels are there to this and American Christianity?

 

4) Judaizer Movement

  • All of the previous elements contributed to the Judaizer problem that Paul faced.
  • “Paul’s insistence that circumcision not be imposed on Gentile converts led to one of the most serious and fundamental controversies in the early church” – DPHL.
  • Acts 15:1 (ESV) — 1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
  • Acts 15 goes on to describe the convening of the Jerusalem Council to deal with this problem.

 

5) Life in Christ

  • Moreover, the new covenant in Christ had to be properly understood.
  • This whole thing was a huge issue for Paul!
  • Galatians 5:2–6 (ESV) — 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

 

With this background, we can now proceed into our text.

 

 

Verses 25-27:

Romans 2:25–27 (ESV) — 25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law.

 

Paul is making a significant contrast in this text.

  • Paul is contrasting circumcision with uncircumcision.
  • And importantly, he is situating this contrast within his previously stated idea of obedience and justification.

 

What is “uncircumcision”?

  • “To label someone as uncircumcized means to designate somebody as not being a Jew and, therefore, outside of the promises” of God – Strongs.
  • In other words, the uncircumcised were not part of the covenant people of God.
  • Paul, however, turns this view on its head!

 

Verse 25:

He begins by attacking the “value” of circumcision as understood by too many Jews.

  • He says it is only of “value” if it is accompanied by obedience.
  • The “value”, in context here, is “membership in the Jewish covenant” – Robert Jewett.
  • So for “C” to be of advantage to the Jew, it must be accompanied by a life of obedience.

 

And then Paul drops a huge “but” into the conversation.

  • But if you break the law” you have no membership in the Jewish covenant.
  • You are not a member of the covenant people of God.

 

In fact, you – the Jew who prides yourself on “C” – actually become “uncircumcision”.

  • Paul has just declared that circumcision carries no value in and of itself.
  • With that he is also arguing that one can be circumcised and yet excluded – being no better off than the Gentile.
  • This is a massive reversal!
  • A reversal that would have been outrageously to the Torah Jew.

 

Moreover, some scholars believe Paul may have also had in mind the Jewish practice of “epipasmos” with his use of “uncircumcision”.

  • “The surgical restoration of the foreskin practiced by Jews who wished to assimilate into Gentile culture” – Jewett.
  • Again, what an outrageous notion for a Torah Jew.

 

Verse 26:

Then Paul heaps it on even more.

  • As he had done in Romans 2:13 when he stated that Gentiles could be justified “doers of the law”, Paul says that Gentiles can in effect be uncircumcised circumcised.
  • His “uncircumcision” can “be regarded as circumcision”.

 

In other words…

  • The Gentiles’ obedience is a sign (as circumcision was meant to be – a sign) of something much bigger.
  • That “something” is actually the thing that included them in God’s covenant people.

 

Therefore, the circumcised Jew’s disobedience was also a sign of “something” that excluded them from being part of the people of God.

  • Paul is about to get to this “something”.
  • But first Paul has even more heaping on to do.

 

Verse 27:

Then Paul drops another huge reversal on top of the circumcised law-breaker.

  • Whereas it was always understood that at the inauguration of the “age to come” the righteous/circumcised Jew would stand in condemnation of the Gentile…
  • Paul says quite the opposite.
  • The obedient uncircumcised will stand in condemnation of the disobedient circumcised!

 

This shocking event is spoken of in a couple of other places.

  • Matthew 12:41 (ESV) — 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
  • Hebrews 11:7 (ESV) — 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
  • In each of the above, the uncircumcised demonstrated righteousness and could stand with God in judgment of the unrighteous.

 

BTW – One might ask, is Paul rejecting God’s command about circumcision?

“Paul’s purpose in this section is not to indicate how circumcision is of value with respect to the covenant but to remove circumcision from the list of those things that the Jew might think would afford him an automatic pardon from the wrath of God” – Douglas Moo.

  • There certainly is, however, a new covenant implication for the disuse of circumcision.

 

 

Verses 28-29:

Romans 2:28–29 (ESV) — 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly [in public], nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

 

Finally, Paul finishes up this part of his diatribe with the biggest “circumcision” law bomb yet.

  • He begins to redefine – in anticipation of his coming thoughts on Christ – what it means even to be a Jew.
  • Or to put another way, Paul lays out who are actually the people of God.

 

Verse 28:

In order to redefine whom the people of God are, Paul makes an interesting statement.

  • He says “a Jew” (a people of God Jew) is not someone who is “merely one outwardly”.

 

The Greek word here actually means “in public” or “in the open” – BDAG.

  • In other words, inclusion in the people of God is not secured with a conformity done for public consumption.
  • Apparently, outward acts – including circumcision – were mainly done for “status acquisition” – Jewett.

 

In fact, Paul says, real circumcision is not a physical act – not an outward pubic act.

  • Nor is circumcision outward and physical”.

 

How much of our “obedience” is for “status acquisition”?

  • This is why even our obedience is tainted.
  • Praise God for the grace in which we stand!

 

Like Paul, Jesus was not a fan of this “outward” Judaism either.

  • Matthew 6:5–6 (ESV) — 5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

Verse 29:

Paul then lays out the “something” that the sign of circumcision was supposed to point to – an inward reality.

  • If real circumcision is not “outward and physical” what is it?

 

Real circumcision is…

  • a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter”.
  • And unlike the Jew Jesus criticized in the Matt. 6 text, the inward reality circumcision seeks praise from God and not from man!
    • Why do we do what we do in church – for God or man?

 

In Galatians Paul speaks of this inward reality this way:

  • Galatians 6:15 (ESV) — 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
  • And in 2 Corinthians 3:6 he says, “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”.

 

What is this circumcision of the heart about which Paul speaks?

  • It is regeneration; it is new birth.
  • And from this authentic inner circumcision, obedience comes from “a transformed heart, without regard to reputation” – Jewett.

 

OT Gospel:

We must understand something here.

  • Paul is not teaching something new.
  • He is, however, stripping away centuries of cultural baggage that have obscured the truths he is teaching.
  • Truths, he will reveal, that find their grounding in Christ.

 

Jesus Himself understood that righteousness is a “matter of the heart”.

  • Matthew 5:27–28 (ESV) — 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

 

But, amazingly, the OT is ripe with the very truth Paul is teaching.

  • In fact, it is the following various OT texts to which Paul is alluding.

 

For starters, we have to go to Ezekiel.

  • Ezekiel 36:25–27 (ESV) — 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

 

And for that matter, we need to throw in a little Moses.

  • Deuteronomy 10:16 (ESV) — 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.
  • Deuteronomy 30:6 (ESV) — 6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

 

And let’s not forget Jeremiah.

  • Jeremiah 4:4 (ESV) — 4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
  • Jeremiah 9:25 (ESV) — 25 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh—
  • Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) — 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

 

So there did exist in Judaism (the Judaism expressed by Jesus in Matt 6):

  • “The expectation that God would one day circumcise the hearts of his people through the work of the Spirit” – Douglas Moo.
  • This expectation finds its fulfillment in Christ and the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost.

 

I love how George Ladd puts it.

“Like physical circumcision, spiritual circumcision is an event, a result of the death and resurrection of Christ, not a subjective experience or objective performance” – LBD.

 

So, the Gospel is in the OT!

  • The scarlet thread of Christ and the Gospel are woven throughout the OT.
  • The idea that the law does not provide righteousness is throughout the OT.
  • Righteousness has always been about the inward things – the heart!

 

The Finish:

I want to finish with one last observation.

  • The “by the letter” and “by the Spirit” contrast is unique to Paul (Moo, Jewett, etc.).
  • It is a contrast between a man-centered activity to secure righteousness and…
  • The divine activity that Paul introduced earlier in Romans – God’s “righteousing” of creation.

 

The circumcision of the heart is God at work – as Ladd said above – in a real, objective way.

  • It is an expression of his covenant faithfulness and righteousness.
  • To be the object of that work is to be a “Jew”.
  • Something Paul comes back to in Romans 9 when he deals with election.

 

At this point in Romans, Paul is exiting off the highway of the law so that he might enter the city that is Jesus Christ.

  • He is moving from “plight to solution” – Douglas Moo.
  • But before he does, he needs to acknowledge two things.
  • (1) Jews were set apart.
  • (2) Unrighteousness is the default position of humanity – we are all in Garden Exile.
  • We will get into these over the next few weeks.

 

 

Addendum:

Paul’s attack on circumcision was also a subversion of the patriarchal underpinnings of Judaism.

“The patriarchal family was the existing reality in the NT world, and what you discover when you compare what is in the NT and what is outside the NT, is that Paul and others are working hard to change the existing structures in a more Christian direction” – Ben Witherington III.

 

How did Paul’s view of circumcision subvert patriarchal underpinnings?

 

Circumcision was clearly a male-centered activity – to the exclusion of females.

  • How were women, then, to demonstrate an outward sign of the Abrahamic covenant?
  • For Paul, the truth of the circumcision of the heart solved this apparent inequality.
  • Galatians 3:28 (ESV) — 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

In Christ – circumcision of the heart – there is “no male and female”!

  • This undercuts both Jewish privilege and male privilege (not to mention “free” privilege over slave).
  • Women were now on equal ground both in their internal reality and their outward expression (the sign) of this reality.

 

 

Romans 3:1-8 – God Is Faithful

Romans 3:1–8 (ESV) — 1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” 5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

 

The last few weeks Paul dismantled any hope of finding privilege/righteousness in the Law.

  • The “Boast in” Law – 2:17-23
  • The “Circumcision” Law – 2:24-29

 

In today’s text, Paul asks a fair question that any Jew would have at this point.

  • What “advantage has the Jew” and his circumcision (vs. 1)?

 

 

Verses 1-2:

1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.

 

What does he mean by advantage?

  • T. Wright says Paul is simply asking what then is the “point of being Jewish”.
  • Tom Schreiner says it means “saving advantage”, so Paul is asking does the Jew really lack a “saving advantage”.
  • Paul will go into much more detail about this in Romans 9; we will deal with it then.

 

To his advantage question, Paul’s answer is “much” (vs. 2).

  • He then spells out what he means by the “much”.
  • He says, “to begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (vs. 2).

 

What are the oracles of God?

  • This is the only time in all his letters Paul uses the word for “oracles”.
  • It’s pretty clear that Paul is referring to the OT Scriptures and the truth and message they contain – Tom Schreiner.
  • But many ask why did he use this word.

 

N.T. Wright takes a stab at a reason:

“…perhaps to recognize the fact that, whereas the Gentiles were not expecting anything like the Jewish law, they were often eager for ‘oracles’ from some divinity or other” – N.T. Wright.

  • In other words, he used it as a way to relate to Gentile sensibilities.

 

And crucial to the understanding our text, Paul says the “much” is not just the “oracles”…

  • It is also the fact that Israel was “entrusted” with the “oracles”.

 

What does it mean to be entrusted with the “oracles”?

  • Again, the meaning here is crucial for our text!

“The point about being ‘entrusted’ is that the thing that’s been given to you isn’t actually for you; it’s for the person to whom you are supposed to deliver it” – N.T. Wright.

  • This is a massive point to get!

 

God’s work in redemptive history (Creation, Scripture, Spirit, etc.) was channeled through Israel.

  • It was given to them so that they might care for it and pass it on; spread it.
  • This means that the “entrustee”, Israel, isn’t the most important part.
  • The thing entrusted – God’s Work – is the important part.
  • It is the message that is the thing, not the messenger – Israel.

 

BTW – it is interesting that though Paul seems to begin a list in verse 2 of the advantages…

  • He says, “to begin with”…
  • He never gets to the second thing on his list.
  • Its as if he was distracted.

 

Most think, however, that the rest of Paul’s thought can be found in Romans 9.

  • Romans 9:4–5 (ESV) — 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

 

 

Verses 3-4:

3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

 

Paul cuts off his thought about the “much” with a rhetorical question concerning two facts.

  • (1) God chose Israel from among all the nations and gave them “much” (vs. 2).
  • (2) Yet, the Israelites were failures with the “much” – Paul calls it “their faithlessness” (vs. 3).

 

Given these two things, Paul raises a question.

  • Does Israel’s unfaithfulness “nullify the faithfulness of God?” (vs. 3)

 

First we need to understand, in context, what Paul is saying.

  • We saw earlier that Israel was entrusted with the oracles of God.
  • It is here that the importance of the entrusting comes in to play.
  • For now Paul is making it clear that in their capacity as “entrustees” they have failed.
  • They became “entrustee” focused instead of message focused.

 

They failed to properly care for and deliver to the world the “oracles” of God.

  • Remember, in 2:24, Paul stated that the name of God was “blasphemed among the Gentiles” because of Israel’s unfaithfulness.
  • This is a description of this failure.

 

Paul continues his train of thought with his answer to the nullification of God’s faithfulness question…

  • By no means!” is God’s faithfulness nullified (vs. 4).

 

Israel’s failure does not mean God failed.

  • Paul says God is “true” even if “every one were a liar” (vs. 4).
  • Meaning, God will fulfill all of His promises made through Israel in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness!
  • God is covenant faithful!
  • God is righteous!

 

Paul then quotes Psalm 51:4 (LXX) to show that history will bear out God’s faithfulness.

  • You may be justified in your words” and you will “prevail when you are judged” (vs. 4).

 

Paul is citing a Psalm of David.

  • “Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, in order that you might be justified in your words and triumph when you judge” – Tom Schreiner.
  • In other words, King David is saying that God’s faithfulness isn’t in jeopardy because of David’s failure.
  • In fact, God is justified and triumphs in King David’s failure.

 

So what is Paul saying here?

  • How is God justified and how does He triumph when Israel is unfaithful?
  • How does this show that God’s faithfulness isn’t nullified?
  • Paul unpacks this in verses 5-6.

 

 

Verses 5-6:

5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world?

 

Paul alludes again to King David’s words from Psalm 51 (LXX).

  • …our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God” (vs. 5).
  • Israel’s failure, like David’s, magnifies God’s righteousness!
  • And then Paul goes on to answer all the questions we just raised.

 

How?

  • Paul rhetorically says that God is certainly not unrighteous to “inflict wrath on us” (vs. 5).
  • If God were unrighteous, “how could God judge the world?” (vs. 6)
  • The implication here is that God’s judgment is righteous and no Jew would deny that God will judge the world.
  • God is creator and He rightly judges His creatures.

 

To dig into the “how” more, we need to remember what Paul has been teaching thus far in his letter about God’s righteousness.

  • As we learned some weeks ago, God’s righteousness is expressed as both a saving righteousness and a judging righteousness.

 

Therefore God’s covenant faithfulness – His righteous divine activity – can take two forms.

  • (1) Redemption in His saving righteousness.
  • (2) Condemnation, judgment and wrath in His judging righteousness.

 

So therefore for the unfaithful Jew to come under God’s judging righteousness is an expression of God’s faithfulness and righteousness.

  • Faithfulness both to His promises (which included judgment) and Himself – His holiness.
  • In the words of King David, God’s judging righteousness justifies God and shows that He prevails.

 

Paul affirms this in verse 6.

  • He asks rhetorically – does God’s judging righteousness on the unfaithful Jew with his “boast in” and “circumcision” law make God out to be unrighteous?
  • His answer, “by no means!” (vs. 6) for the reasons we have just seen.

 

So, God shows His faithfulness both in His wrath (judging righteousness) and in his promise and covenant fulfillment (saving righteousness) in the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

  • In fact, “The only explanation for any Jews being included in the covenant is God remaining true to his promises despite the sin that plagues the Jews” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Paul can affirm “that Israel is still guilty for its sin, while affirming that the promises of their salvation will still be fulfilled” – Schreiner.

 

Importantly, Paul speaks from personal experience.

  • He was an unfaithful Jew.
  • And now he is a faithful “entrustee” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the new covenant.
  • Paul is participating in God’s promise and covenant fulfillment.
  • Paul is extolling the name of God to the world!

 

 

Verses 7-8:

7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

 

Paul then tells us that all of this – Israel’s failure and God’s condemnation of it – also means that “God’s truth abounds to his glory” (vs. 7).

  • Again, in agreement with King David’s take on God’s judging righteousness.

 

Paul then indicates that some have apparently sought to twist this truth to justify their unfaithfulness.

  • The twisters of truth ask, if God is shown to be faithful then why condemn us “as a sinner” (vs. 7)?
  • In fact, “why not do evil that good may come?” (vs. 8)
  • Wright paraphrases it this way, “why not simply do what is wrong, so that God, in putting it right, can be seen to be all the greater?” – N.T. Wright.

 

Paul tells us this is not the truth he has been teaching; it is slander.

  • And those that have twisted the truth this way deserve judgment – “Their condemnation is just” (vs. 8).

 

This is directly related to the grace in which we stand from Romans 5:2 and the freedom it gives us.

  • Does grace mean obedience is nullified?
  • Absolutely not!

 

 

Conclusion:

As we read Romans, we need to understand that Paul has layering important truths upon one another.

  • I love how Wright puts it:

“Romans is like a great symphony. The present passage is a little flash of music which looks ahead to a much fuller statement for which the themes that come in between will have prepared the way” – N.T. Wright.

 

Finally, we also need to understand what Paul is not doing as he plays us his great symphony.

  • Paul is not throwing Judaism under the bus!

“The whole point, as we shall see later on in this chapter, is that in the Messiah, Jesus, God has found the way to be true to his original promises. Jesus, as Israel’s representative, has offered the faithful obedience which Israel should have offered but did not. The Messiah is the messenger who finally delivers the message” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Romans 3:9-20 – None Righteous

Romans 3:9–20 (ESV) — 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

 

In our text today, Paul brings to a close the arguments he began in 1:16.

  • It might do us good to outline Paul’s points up until now.
  • Reference Outline.

 

Outline:

1:16-17 – Saving Righteousness of God

  • Divine Activity – Covenant Faithfulness

 

1:18-32 – Judging Righteousness of God on Gentiles

  • 18-23 – Reason
    • Failing to Glorify God
  • 24-32 – Results
    • Spiritual Corruption
    • Physical Corruption
    • Fellowship Corruption

 

2:1-5 – Judging Others Incurs God’s Judging Righteousness

  • Why?
    • Hypocrisy – “Practice” What is Judged
    • Tread on God’s Patience

 

2:6-11 – “Apodidimi” (Reward) of God is Impartial

  • Judging Righteousness Given to Unrighteous
  • Saving Righteousness Given to Glory Seekers

 

2:12-13 – Future Justification (?)

 

2:12-3:8 – Judging Righteousness of God on Jews & Undercutting of Jewish Privilege

  • 12-16 – Gentiles Have Law – “By Nature” Law
    • “doers of the law” vs. “hearers of the law”
  • 2:17-23 – “Boast in” Law but Lawbreakers
    • Dishonors God
  • 2:24-29 – “Circumcision” Law
    • Circumcision of Flesh (man-centered)
    • Circumcision of Heart (God-centered)
  • 3:1-8 – Jews as Unfaithful “Entrustees”
    • Given Much & Entrusted But Failed
    • But…God is Faithful

 

 

Armed with this summary…

  • We can now better understand Paul’s closing arguments.

 

 

Verse 9:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,

 

“Already Charged”:

Paul has clearly been teaching that…

  • Gentiles fall under God’s judging righteousness.
  • Jews fall under God’s judging righteousness.
  • So to say that he has “already charged” is an understatement.
  • He has pounded home this point over and over.

 

“Better Off”:

What is less clear is what Paul means with the first part of this verse.

  • What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all.

 

The reason this should cause us pause and demand our attention is this…

  • In verses 1-2, Paul says this, “…what advantage has the Jew…Much in every way”.

 

This seems to be a contradiction.

  • Are Jews Better Off/Advantaged?
  • No, not at all” vs. “Much in every way”.

 

What is the solution to this apparent problem?

 

We need only look at our outline to make the necessary distinction.

  • Paul is talking about two different things.
  • Jews were privileged as God’s elect – in that they were given much.
  • However, this made them no “better off” – i.e. righteous and justified.
    • God’s judgment is impartial toward Jew and Gentile.

 

Douglas Moo sums it up well:

“Whatever historical privileges the Jews may have, these do not place Jews in a superior position in God’s judgment” – Doug Moo.

 

BTW – Robert Jewett provides another option here.

  • He says given Greek grammar options vs. 9 can rightly be translated with a negative connotation.
  • In other words, instead of Jews “better off” – its Jews “not better off”.
  • Supporting his case is the literal meaning of the Greek word translated “better off”.
  • It literally means “to be outdone”, “bettered” or “excelled” by something or someone (BDAG & Jewett).
  • In our context, the something else would be the Gentiles.

 

This option plays out as follows:

  • Paul is revealing that his diatribe “opponent” (the judge from 2:1) has begun to come around.
  • He has understood that the Jew is not better off than the Gentile.
  • And this, coupled with the fact that they have blasphemed the name of God and so failed as “entrustees”, leads the opponent to ask – are Jews “outdone” or “excelled” by Gentiles.
  • Paul’s answer, No!
  • Jews and Gentiles are in the same boat – all are “under sin” (vs. 9), “none is righteous” (vs. 10).

 

“Under Sin”:

In the NT, “under sin” is uniquely Pauline.

  • He uses it twice in Romans and once in Galatians.
  • Remember, Paul has to redefine Judaism in light of Jesus Christ.
  • This Greek phrase could be evidence of this endeavor.

 

So what does Paul mean that Jews and Greeks are “under sin”?

  • Most are in agreement that it means at least two things.
  • (1) Paul is speaking of the sin as an act – disobedience.
  • (2) Paul is speaking of sin ontologically as a thing with power!

 

It is the second meaning that is unique to Paul.

“Paul’s understanding that all people, Jews as well as Gentiles, were not just sinners but helpless pawns under sin’s power, distinguished him sharply from his Jewish contemporaries” – Douglas Moo.

 

The implication of this truth – that all are under the power of sin – is profound.

  • Anyone who has “not experienced the righteousness of God by faith is ‘under sin’” – Douglas Moo.
  • There is nothing a person can do to remove him or herself from its power.
  • There is no escape from sins power without “intervention” – Robert Jewett.

 

Remember, Paul is heaping this truth upon all that he has taught thus far.

  • The law doesn’t put right.
  • Circumcision doesn’t put right.
  • Obedience doesn’t put right.
  • Why – because all are under sin!
  • We are all in “Union with Sin” and its power and dominion – including death.

 

 

Verses 10-18:

10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

 

Paul then goes on to quote from six OT passages to show the evidence that all our “under sin”.

  • Importantly he begins this litany of despair with a concept he has mentioned before.
  • The righteousness of mankind.

 

Paul has had much to say about God’s righteousness – both the saving and judging varieties.

  • But what is the righteousness of man?

 

One might be tempted to say that the righteousness of man is the opposite of verses 11-18.

  • So perhaps the righteousness of man is:
    • Understanding and Seeking God.
    • Turning to God.
    • Good Works.
    • Speaking Holy Things.
    • Doing Holy Things.
    • Fearing God.

 

There are a couple of obvious problems with this, however.

  • This would imply that the righteousness of man comes from things man can do.
  • And Paul has already said that, “None is righteous, no, not one” (vs. 10).
  • We simply don’t do righteous things.

 

The other problem with this approach is that Paul has just declared that all are “under sin”.

  • In Romans 6 he will expand on this.
  • He will say that we are slaves to sin’s power and dominion.
  • So, the righteousness of man is not something that those “under sin” can have!

 

It’s almost as if Paul is talking about something that doesn’t actually exist.

  • And yet, it is something we need to avoid God’s judging righteousness.

 

At this point, we should be feeling very troubled and almost without hope.

  • How do we “get righteousness” or get “in the right” with God? (N.T. Wright)
  • Clearly, to get the righteousness that we don’t have, we need someone else’s.

 

And how does that happen?

  • We need the “intervention” that we mentioned earlier.
  • We need to be justified!
  • We need to be removed from the power of sin and imputed with God’s alien righteousness
  • Praise God for Romans 3:21 and following!

 

 

Verses 19-20:

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

 

Paul changes it up a bit in these last two verses.

  • He has something very important to say about the law.
  • And he couches his comments in law court language.

 

The courtroom scene plays at as follows:

  • Those “under the law” – the Gentiles and their “by nature” law and the Jews and their “boast in” law – are in the dock (N.T. Wright).
  • The dock is where the accused sits in a trial.

 

Shockingly, the law stands in as a witness against those who are under it.

  • The law actually “speaks” (vs. 19) or testifies against them – Gentile and Jew.
  • And “whatever the law says” (vs. 19) it demonstrates irrefutably the guilt of those in the dock.

 

So if anyone is going to rely on the law to be declared right before God, there is a serious problem.

  • “If ‘the Jew’ [for example] appeals to the covenant status which is marked out by possession of the law, the law itself replies, ‘You have broken me’” – N.T. Wright.

 

Paul goes on to say that because of the law’s testimony…

  • every mouth may be stopped” (vs. 19).

 

“Every Mouth May Be Stopped”:

It is important here to fully appreciate “every mouth may be stopped” (vs. 19).

“In Paul’s world, if you were on trial and had nothing more to say in your defence, you put a hand over your mouth as a sign. Sometimes court officials would strike the prisoner on the mouth to indicate that their mouths ‘should be stopped’, in other words, that they were obviously guilty and should not be attempting to defend themselves (this happened to Jesus in John 18:22, and to Paul in Acts 23:2). So when Paul says ‘that every mouth may be stopped’ he is imagining not only that the Jews have joined the Gentiles in the dock but that all of them together are left without any defence.” – N.T. Wright.

 

We actually see this elsewhere in the N.T.

  • John 18:22 (ESV) — 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
  • Acts 23:1–2 (ESV) — 1 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.

 

The point here is that when the law speaks our guilt becomes plainly evident and there is no recourse!

  • As a result, we are all “held accountable to God” (vs. 19).
  • The righteousness of man is shown to be a manmade illusion!
  • Galatians 3:21b (ESV) — 21b For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

 

Having lost our case in the law court – undone by the very thing we thought would save us…

  • Paul declares our final fate.
  • Because of the testimony of the law, none “will be justified in his sight” (vs. 20).
  • We have no righteousness; we sin and we are under sin’s dominion.
  • Obedience, “works of the law” (vs. 20), as a basis for justification is non-existent.
  • Our only fate is God’s judging righteousness, wrath and condemnation.

 

BTW – How do we reconcile the following statements?

  • …by works of the law no human being will be justified” (vs. 20) / “…but the doers of the law who will be justified” (2:13).

 

There seem to be only two viable answers.

  • (1) 2:13 is referring to future justification and 3:20 is referring to present justification (N.T. Wright).
  • (2) 2:13 is a theoretical; Paul doesn’t mean it.
    • We need to insert an unstated assumption of Paul between the two, “no one can do the law” – Douglas Moo.

 

 

Conclusion:

Where do we go from here?

  • What is the remedy for this hopeless situation?
  • We will end with Paul’s own words.
  • Romans 1:16–17 (ESV) — 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

 

 

Romans 3:21-25 – “But Now” Righteousness of God

Last week we saw the hopelessness of the unrighteous.

  • “Something has happened. The court was in session; all were standing guilty in the dock; what more could be done? But something had to be done” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Romans 3:21–25a (ESV) — 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25a whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith

 

 

Verses 21-22a:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

 

God’s righteousness has a new manifestation.

  • Paul calls it the “but now” manifestation of God’s righteousness.
  • A righteousness “apart” from “the law” (for the Gentiles sake), but not severed from it – “the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it” (vs. 21).
    • Exodus from Egypt
    • Blood Sacrifice

 

What is this “but now” manifestation?

  • It is “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (vs. 22).

 

This is a remarkable statement!

  • The OT has been pointing forward to this ultimate promise fulfillment since Genesis.
  • “The OT itself promises again and again that God will fulfill his saving promises and looks forward to the day when they will become a reality” – Tom Schreiner.

 

And now Paul is reshaping the righteousness of God and its fulfillment around Jesus Christ.

  • Israel, as Paul taught, failed as “entrustees” of God’s righteousness.
  • There had to be a “but now” for God to be faithful!
  • The significance of this can’t be overstated.

 

In this context, how are we to understand this “but now” righteousness of God?

  • To get at the answer…
  • We need to remember what we have learned thus far about God’s righteousness.

 

God’s Righteousness:

We saw some weeks ago that God’s righteousness consists of…

  • God’s “…divine activity in which God vindicates his people” – Tom Schreiner.
  • This activity transforms and establishes right within all of creation – N.T. Wright.

“From God’s side, this includes his eschatological intervention to vindicate and deliver his people, in fulfillment of his promises. From the human side, it includes the status of acquittal acquired by the person so declared just” – Douglas Moo.

 

We found that this idea could be fleshed out as follows:

  • God’s righteousness is all of God’s saving work and activity in and for all of creation – promise fulfilling, covenant faithfulness, etc. – His saving righteousness.
  • This also included God’s wrath – His judging righteousness.
    • God’s holy wrath upon evil is part of putting things right.

 

Given all this we can see how Christ embodies the “but now” righteousness of God.

 

Jesus is the promise, and the promise fulfilled.

  • Jesus is now the inaugurator of the new covenant from Jeremiah 31.
  • Jesus’ death, resurrection and return are how all of creation will be put right.
  • Jesus’ work, righteousness and obedience (His faithfulness) are how God’s people will be vindicated.
  • Jesus’ work is how all of creation will be returned from Garden Exile.
  • Jesus’ return and subsequent judgment will fully and finally defeat death and evil.
  • And all of this “but now” righteousness of Christ connects directly to all that was anticipated in the OT.
  • To sum up… God is now “righteousing” creation through the risen Jesus Christ (and the Spirit).

 

I love how N.T. Wright sums this up:

“The faithful death of the Messiah unveils, before an unready and shocked world, the way in which the one true God has been true to the covenant [with Israel] and has thereby provided the answer to a world gone wrong, and to humans lost in sin and guilt” – N.T. Wright.

 

Through Faith:

God’s people are connected to this “but now” righteousness only “through faith in Jesus Christ” (vs. 22).

  • When we are joined to Christ “through faith” we are then “righteoused” by this “but now” righteousness of God.
  • It is not the law, circumcision, our conscience, culture, obedience, abstaining from alcohol, reaching out to the orphans and widows, or anything else that will “righteous” us.
  • We are only “righteoused” “through faith in Jesus Christ”.
  • And as Paul has made clear, we all need “righteousing” because none are righteous.

 

Rabbit Trail:

Given all this, what is the Gospel?

  • Is the Gospel “how we get to heaven”?
  • NO!

 

The Gospel is the good news that God is actively “righteousing” creation through the done work of Christ and the Spirit in fulfillment of OT expectations.

  • All the works of Christ – signs and wonders, teachings, the cross, the resurrection, His exaltation and Lordship – are ways God is “righteousing” creation.
  • All the works of the Spirit – drawing, regeneration, comforting – are ways God is “righteousing” creation.

 

These things are the Gospel!

  • And from them flow things like justification, sanctification, glorification and the ever popular “how we get to heaven”.

 

News Flash…this means that we are not the Gospel!

  • We can never forget that we are mere creatures in need of “righteousing”.
  • We, who are in Garden Exile, can never be the Gospel.

 

So if the Gospel is the “righteousing” work of God on creation through Christ and the Spirit…

  • How do we share it with our neighbor?
  • BTW – the answer to this is why I prefer to say, “speak” instead of “share” the Gospel.

 

 

Verses 22b-25a:

For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

 

As Paul unleashes the effects of this “but now” righteousness of God for the people of God, he alludes back to some previous themes.

  • there is no distinction” (vs. 22) alludes to God’s impartiality.
  • Jew and Gentile are in the same boat.
  • Everyone is in need of the “but now” righteousness of God.

 

Why?

  • all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vs. 23).
  • Remember, all are “under sin” (vs. 19) – under sin’s power.
  • So it’s not just that we “have sinned”, but that under sin’s dominion (in Garden Exile) we can only “fall short of the glory of God”.

 

What does “fall short of the glory of God” mean?

  • Failed as image-bearers.
  • Failed as “entrustees”.

 

But just as “all have sinned” – Jew and Greek…

  • Also, all “are justified by his grace as a gift” (vs. 24) – both Jew and Greek.
  • So God’s impartiality extends to both judgment and justification.

 

Paul then expands on the “but now” righteousness of God that is Jesus Christ.

  • He does so by unleashing a bunch of “righteousing” words.
  • justified by his grace” (vs. 24)
  • redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (vs. 24)
  • propitiation by his blood” (vs. 25)

 

All of these are expressions of God’s righteousness in Jesus Christ!

  • his grace
  • in Christ Jesus
  • his blood

 

And even more incredible is that all of these demonstrate that…

  • Jesus Christ is God’s righteousness personified!
  • I suspect a mind blowing idea for the Jew.

 

So what do these “righteousing” words tell us?

 

Propitiation refers to the turning away of God’s wrath – His judging righteousness.

  • This is the idea that Christ bore the wrath of God in our stead while on the cross, thereby paying the penalty for our sins.
  • BTW – “The presence of propitiation does not exclude the concept of expiation. Both are present in 3:25. The death of Jesus removed sin and satisfied God’s holy anger” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Justification is a at least two things.

  • (1) It is how we are “declared to be in the right” before God – N.T. Wright.
  • We are declared “in the right” in God’s law court because Christ’s alien righteousness is imputed to us.
  • (2) But, importantly, justification also entails that our unrighteousness is put on Christ.

 

I do want us to notice something Paul adds to the idea of justification.

  • He says that we are justified “by his grace” (vs. 24).
  • Why doesn’t he say we are justified by being declared righteous in God’s law court?
  • Or we are justified by the imputation of Christ’s alien righteousness?

 

What Paul is doing here is showing that grace itself is part of God’s saving righteousness.

  • What motivated God’s saving righteousness toward creation to begin with?
    • Certainly, the answer is Love.
  • What has directed His saving righteousness towards you in particular?
    • Why are you “righteoused” by God and thus justified?
    • Certainly, the answer involves Grace.

 

So what is redemption?

  • Redemption is language that alludes to slavery or being captive.
  • Paul has told us that all are “under sin” (vs. 19).
  • We are all enslaved to sin and its power and dominion (6:6).
  • All of us are its captives and we need a new Exodus.

 

But the “but now” righteousness of God in Jesus Christ has redeemed us from this captivity and dominion.

  • Wright tells us that Paul means to tell us that Christ is our new Exodus.
  • God in Christ has paid the ransom on our behalf with His own life.
  • To be redeemed “in Christ Jesus” (vs. 24) is to have the chains of sin’s dominion over us smashed once for all.
  • But more than that, it is to be placed into the dominion of God’s “but now” righteousness.

 

So all of these words – justification, propitiation, redemption – are results of God’s divine activity of saving righteousness that is Jesus Christ.

  • They are all ways creation and we are “righteoused” by God.

 

It seems to me it would be more fitting to say, “I was righteoused by God” instead of, “I was saved by God”.

  • “Saved” just doesn’t seem to do justice to the enormity of God’s righteousness.

 

 

Romans 3:25b-31 – Judgment & Vindication Righteousness

Romans 3:25b–31 (ESV) — This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

 

Last week, we saw that Christ is the “but now” righteousness of God.

  • Yahweh’s righteousness as revealed in the OT now finds its center in Christ.
  • Therefore, the way to be put right or “righteoused” by God is to be joined to Christ through faith.
  • Christ is the only thing that brings the “none righteous” into righteousness.

 

In today’s text, Paul wants us to know something else about the “but now” righteousness of God.

  • We will highlight at least two things, one from verse 25b and one from verse 26.

 

 

Verse 25b:

25b This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

 

(1) God Hasn’t Winked at Sin:

Paul has been describing in detail the severity of humanity’s unrighteousness.

  • A number of weeks ago we saw how mankind is plagued with idolatry.
  • We saw a couple of weeks ago that there are “none righteous”.
  • And last week we saw that all have fallen short of God’s glory.

 

Naturally, a question arises concerning God’s character and His apparent wink at all this unrighteousness.

  • If it is so bad, why hasn’t He done what every Jew expected He would do – judge and vindicate?
  • Or more to the point, how does a crucified Messiah demonstrate God’s “divine faithfulness to covenant partners” – Robert Jewett.

 

Douglas Moo puts it like this:

  • Given the fact that there hasn’t been any judgment and vindication, “some aspect of God’s character” is “called into question” – Douglas Moo.
  • It appears that God has “treated sins in the past with less than full severity” – Douglas Moo.

 

But, Paul says that all of this “righteousing” through Christ “was to show” (vs. 25b) God has acted righteously both now (in Christ) and in the past.

  • God has not winked at sin.

 

First, God has acted righteously against sin.

  • He has done so by His “righteousing” of creation through Jesus.
  • Specifically, the justification, redemption, and propitiation Paul just spoke about in verses 24-25a.
  • Jesus’ work on the cross is how God has dealt with sin.

 

Secondly, given that in Christ sin has been dealt with, God’s actions prior to that weren’t negligent.

  • Paul says what God was doing was expressing “his divine forbearance” (vs. 25b) because he “passed over former sins” (vs. 25).
  • Divine forbearance” is “a holding back” or “temporary cessation” – BDAG.
  • Passed over” is “letting go unpunished” “former sins” – BDAG.

 

In other words, Paul concedes that before His “but now” righteousness, God did withhold judgment and vindication.

  • But this withholding was not a lack of divine activity.
  • It was, in fact, an intentional divine act on God’s part – it was righteousness and grace.

 

This echoes what Paul has already taught.

  • Romans 2:3–4 (ESV) — 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
  • God’s apparent inaction had a Gospel purpose.

 

Therefore, since Christ was always Plan A, God’s actions with “former sins” didn’t compromise God’s character.

“In the death of Jesus, God has shown himself (1) to be in the right in dealing properly and impartially with sin; (2) to be faithful to the covenant; (3) to have dealt properly with sin; and (4) to be committed to saving those who call out in helpless faith” – N.T. Wright.

  • “God’s righteous verdict against sinners has been meted out against the faithful Israelite, Israel’s representative: the Messiah, Jesus” – N.T. Wright.

 

Now on to the second thing Paul wants us to know about the importance of the “but now” righteousness of God.

 

 

Verse 26:

26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

 

(2) Future Judgment & Vindication Brought Into the Present:

But there is still a problem.

  • Through Christ’s work on the cross vindication and judgment did take place.
  • And even beyond that, through God’s divine activity on the cross, He has shown how He “can mercifully save people without compromising his justice” – Tom Schreiner.
  • Because in Christ, “the saving and judging righteousness of God meet” – Tom Schreiner.

 

However, there is still a sense in which vindication and judgment have not yet been completed.

  • The Jews were awaiting a day of judgment when Torah followers/Israel would be vindicated and the nations would be judged.
  • This was also the day from Daniel 12 when the righteous dead would be resurrected.
  • On this day, all of creation would be put right.

 

So how can Paul speak of the righteousness of a crucified Christ accomplishing anything, if this final vindication and judgment has not happened?

 

Paul’s answer is verse 26.

  • The “but now” righteousness of God was to show that this vindication and judgment (God’s righteousness/divine activity) has begun to happen “at the present time” (vs. 26).

 

Just like Jesus split resurrection history in two with His resurrection coming before the final resurrection.

  • As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, Jesus’ resurrection is the “first fruits” pointing to the believers resurrection.

 

So too has Jesus’ work on the cross split vindication and judgment history in two.

  • In the work of Christ, “The final judgment day has been brought forward into the middle of history” – N.T. Wright.
  • So that “those who put their own faith in God’s act in Jesus are marked out thereby as God’s people in the present” – N.T. Wright.
  • The result of this is that, “The promises made in the OT about the vindication of Israel have been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ” – Tom Schreiner.

So vindication and judgment “is both present and future, for the future declaration seals the present reality” – Tom Schreiner.

 

This is why Paul can say God can be seen through Christ as…

  • just” and “justifier” of those in Christ.
  • In Christ there is both a present reality in effect and the certainty of a future reality.
  • In the future – the age to come – all things will be put right.
  • God will be shown as having been “just” and “justifier” both in Christ and in the “age to come”.
  • This includes a complete and final judgment and vindication.
  • Vindication of those in Christ.
  • Judgment of those under God’s wrath.

 

 

Vs. 27-31:

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

 

Having shown us two very important implications of God’s “but now” righteousness, Paul turns his attention back to the inadequacy of the law and the impartiality of God.

 

Because of everything that the “but now” righteousness of Jesus is…

  • All boasting “is excluded” (vs. 27).
  • One’s entry into the house of the vindicated has nothing to do with one’s own efforts.
  • Remember, Paul has already said the works of the law stop the mouth.
  • They testify against us all.

 

Paul makes this clear when he says the exclusion of boasting is based on…

  • the law of faith” not “a law of works”.
  • It is faith in the “but now” righteousness that justifies not “works of the law” (vs. 28).
  • The “law of faith” is the deathblow to the “law of works”.

 

And importantly, it is this reason that vindication is open to Jew and Gentile.

  • As God’s covenant with Abraham indicated – God is not just the God of the Jews but the Gentiles.
  • God will “justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (vs. 30).

 

Does all this mean we then overthrow the law by this faith?”

  • Paul says, “By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”
  • The law is not throne under the bus!

 

How can this be?

  • I love how N.T. Wright puts it.
  • He suggests that the law was taken by Israel and put to the wrong tune – the tune of works.
  • The law, he says, “was always designed to be sung to the tune called ‘faith’.” – N.T. Wright.
  • Sung to the right tune – faith – the law becomes a beautiful song of worship and gratitude.

 

Moreover, the law still is the thing that shows us what the straight line of God’s objective morality looks like.

  • “Righteousness apart from the law’s commands does not mean that believers can dispense with the moral norms of the law” – Schreiner.

 

Romans 4:1-12 – Justification and the People of God

Last week, Paul stated…

  • Romans 3:28 (ESV) — 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

 

To get at the gravity of this statement, we need to couch it in a way Jewish ears would have heard it.

  • There are at least two things being said.

 

(1) The badge or identity marker “marking out the people of God” is not circumcision or the law – N.T. Wright.

  • The badge of inclusion into the people of God, the thing that joins them to His righteousness, is faith in God.

 

(2) The thing that puts people right with God (justified) is not circumcision or the law – even if it is in the context of God’s grace, as some Jews understood it.

  • The thing that puts us right with God, being joined to God’s righteousness, is faith in God.

 

BTW – We tend to focus on the second one only.

  • Paul’s Jesus – God’s “but now” righteousness – is way bigger than that!

 

These teachings of Paul were at odds with most of the Judaism in Paul’s day.

  • So much so that historically, in fact, many have taken Paul’s teaching here to be anti-Jewish.

 

Paul understood that…

“God was somehow redefining Israel, redrawing boundaries, bringing in a covenant renewal in which nothing could be taken for granted” – N.T. Wright.

 

Paul, being sensitive to how radically different this “redrawing” looked, makes an appeal to the Jewish Scriptures to sure up his case.

  • Specifically, and importantly, he appeals to the Torah.
  • And even more importantly, he appeals to Abraham.

 

It is crucial that Paul does this.

“Both Paul’s insistence that justification is by faith alone and his concern for the full inclusion of the Gentiles in the people of God make it necessary for him to integrate Abraham theologically into his scheme” – Douglas Moo.

 

 

Background – Introduction:

It will be helpful here to see what Paul is up against.

 

2nd Temple Judaism’s view of Abraham was at odds with what Paul was teaching (Douglas Moo).

  • Abraham’s righteousness was “linked to…obedience” – Moo.
  • It was thought that Abraham “obeyed the law perfectly before it had been given” – Moo.

 

Sirach 44:19-21 captures this line of thinking.

  • “Abraham was the great father of a multitude of nations, and no one has been found like him in glory; he kept the law of the Most High and was taken into covenant with him; he established the covenant in his flesh, and when he was tested he was found faithful.”

 

Jewish thinking saw any faith Abraham had as a work – a response of obedience to God.

  • He therefore merited righteousness from God.

 

But Paul, using the OT, is about to blow this thinking out of the water.

  • “Paul’s interpretation stands squarely against this tradition and is also a more faithful interpretation of the original” – Douglas Moo.

 

Paul appeals to Abraham to show the validity of both things mentioned above.

  • “What is the nature of Abraham’s family” – or – what is badge of inclusion into God’s covenant people?
  • What is justification – or – how are we made right with God?

 

 

Verses 1-3:

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

 

So Paul begins by asking (in the subtext):

  • (1) How is it that Abraham was justified – “gained by Abraham” (vs. 1)?
  • (2) And, with that, what was the badge of inclusion into God’s covenant and righteousness?
    • Or to put another way, how is Abraham “our forefather according to the flesh” (vs. 1) – N.T. Wright.
  • As we have seen, these are the two things he has been addressing for some time.

 

He first warns that if Abraham was “justified by works” (vs. 2) then boasting is in order.

  • But he has already established that there can be no boasting “before God” (vs. 2) and 3:27.

 

He then goes to Genesis 15:6 to answer his questions.

  • “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

 

This OT text demonstrates a number of things.

  • It was belief in Yahweh that joined Abraham to God’s righteousness – that justified him.
  • It was belief in Yahweh that demonstrated he was marked out as the people of God.
  • Abraham’s faith was “calculated in his favour, indicating that he was in the right” – N.T. Wright.
  • And, “All Abraham did was to trust the God who declares the ungodly to be in the right” – Wright.

 

This means, in answer to his questions, that:

  • (1) Abraham was made right with God – justified – through his faith.
  • (2) Abraham was the “people of God” through his faith.

 

BTW – Paul is also implying (and will say later) that the object of Abraham’s faith has now been revealed as Jesus Christ.

  • It is now a “faith that finds its focus on Jesus and his resurrection as the great, covenant-renewing act of the one true God” – Wright

 

Paul unpacks all this in verses 4-8.

 

 

Verses 4-8:

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

 

Paul now explains how Genesis 15:6 makes the points he says it does.

  • He contrasts gifts and wages.

 

If Abraham was “one who works” (vs. 4) for his justification, then he would get only what his works obligated his employer to pay.

  • He calls this “his due” (vs. 4).

 

The problem with this is something that Paul explained earlier in his letter.

  • Our “due” (vs. 4) from the works of the law is God’s judging righteousness.
  • The law actually testifies against us.
  • So there would be no payment of saving righteousness to Abraham.

 

However, if one “believes in him who justifies the ungodly” (vs. 5) then one is in position to be given a “gift” (vs. 4).

  • The “gift” God gives is that one’s “faith is counted as righteousness” (vs. 5).
  • When connected to God’s righteousness through faith, you don’t get what you deserve but what the object of your faith “gifts” to you.

 

Douglas Moo sums up Paul’s point:

“Work means the reward is given by obligation, the reward of righteousness must not be dependent on work—for God is never obliged by his creatures; justification is a gift, freely bestowed, not a wage, justly earned”.

 

Psalm 32:

Paul then appeals to Psalm 32 to show that this truth is also confirmed there as well.

  • The Psalmist speaks of the enormous blessing freely given to the “one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works” (vs. 6).

 

Psalm 32 describes these blessings, aka, free gifts.

  • lawless deeds are forgiven” (vs. 7)
  • sins are covered” (vs. 7)
  • the Lord will not count his sin” (vs. 8) against him.

 

So to be one of the justified ungodly (vs. 5) people of God…

  • To be in place where God will not count your sin…
  • To be in a place where your sins are forgiven and covered…
  • You must be a son of Abraham…
  • You must be part of the people of God…
  • You must be a “faither”.

 

Tom Schreiner sums up this aspect of Paul’s argument.

  • “Covenantal grace does not depend on circumcision. Faith alone is the path to blessing” – Tom Schreiner.

 

 

Verses 9-12:

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

 

Paul then has to contend with an objection.

  • So Paul, if this is all true, why did God give Abraham circumcision?

 

Paul first points out that God’s covenant and promise to Abraham was always inclusive of the Gentiles.

  • for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised?” (vs. 9)

 

Then Paul engages in the affirming the negative approach.

  • We know that circumcision was not to justify or serve as the badge of inclusion because…
  • When was righteousness “counted to him?” (vs. 10)
  • Was it before or after he had been circumcised?” (vs. 10)
  • It was “before he was circumcised.” (vs. 10)
  • So circumcision didn’t merit or include Abraham anything at all!

 

Paul then addresses the question head on – so why circumcision?

  • He gives three reasons.

 

Why Circumcision:

(1) It was “a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised” (vs. 11)

  • What is a “seal of the righteousness”?
  • It is something that “confirms, documents, ratifies, and authenticates the right standing by faith that Abraham already had” – Schreiner.

 

Wright likes to speak of a wedding ring here.

  • Look at your wedding ring – what is its significance?

 

(2) Father of Gentiles

  • The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well” (vs. 11)
  • Abraham is the patriarch of the Gentiles!

 

(3) Father of Jews

  • “and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised” (vs. 12)
  • Abraham is patriarch of the Jews.
  • But…
  • “The interpretation proposed above says that Jews are the children of Abraham only if they have faith” – Schreiner.
  • This is scandalous stuff!

 

N.T. Wright sums up Paul’s point this way:

“Paul has redefined the family of Abraham in two ways. First, he has opened it up so it contains Gentiles as well as Jews—specifically, Gentiles who believe in the gospel. Second, however, he has narrowed it down, so it no longer includes all Jews automatically” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Summary:

As we stated at the beginning, Paul’s “but now” righteousness (Jesus) is way bigger than justification by faith.

  • To be connected to Jesus through faith is to be connected to Father Abraham.

 

This is crucial because…

  • This is how God has demonstrated that He has been faithful to His covenant and promises to Abraham.
    • For it was through Abraham that God promised to put things right.
  • This is how we receive the blessings due only to the covenant people of God.
  • This is how we are marked out as the people of God.
  • This is how we become one of the justified ungodly (vs. 5).
  • This is how the righteous divine activity in Jesus is connected to God’s “righteousing” in the past.

 

As Paul has said, Jesus’ is not a new righteousness of God…

  • He is the “but now” manifestation of God’s OT “righteousing”.
  • He had to be this or the Gospel falls to pieces.

 

 

Romans 4:13-25 – Through Faith

Last week we saw how Paul used Abraham’s faith to…

  • Show that to be the people of God – to be Abraham’s sons and daughters – is to share Abraham’s faith in God.
  • And show that the people of God are justified through this same faith.

 

In our text today, given the importance that faith is to this whole process, he unpacks it a bit more.

 

 

Heirs to Promise Through Faith:

Romans 4:13–15a (ESV) — 13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath,

 

So Paul says we are heirs of the promise through “the righteousness of faith” (vs. 13).

  • What is the promise?

 

We know from our Genesis study that God’s covenant with Abraham involved:

  • People
  • Nation
  • Land

 

This was often viewed through a great deal of Jewish baggage to mean:

  • Jews
  • Israel
  • Palestine

 

However, look at what Paul says:

  • be heir of the world” (vs. 13)

 

Now this is yet another huge blow to most Jewish thought, and yet another way Paul had to reimagine his Judaism around Jesus Christ.

 

N.T. Wright nails what is going on here better than anybody.

  • “The promise to Abraham and his family, Paul says, was that he would inherit—the world!” – N.T. Wright.
  • This means that, “For Paul…and indeed for the whole New Testament, the idea of a holy land, in terms of one strip of territory over against all others, has simply vanished.” – N.T. Wright.
  • “The Holy Land was, it seems, a kind of advance metaphor for that larger aim and promise.” – N.T. Wright.
  • Remember – the promise was to put all of creation right not just the Jews and not just Palestine!

 

So how was this promise to come?

  • Paul says it comes through the “righteousness of faith” (vs. 13).

 

 

In other words, it comes through the saving activity of God.

  • His saving righteousness.
  • A righteousness that we enter into through faith.

 

Or to put more simply – the “righteoused” by God have faith in God.

  • And it is they who participate in the promise.

 

Why did the promise have to come this way?

  • Paul says if it came through the law “faith is null and the promise is void” (vs. 14).

 

In other words, to have faith that you will be joined to the promise by the law does two things:

  • It makes faith useless – it “is null”.
  • And because of this the “promise is void” – it does not find fulfillment.

 

How so?

  • Because as Paul said earlier, the law testifies against us in God’s law court.
  • One may have faith that the law can deliver the goods…but not if it is unfulfilled.
  • And its testimony is that no one fulfilled it.

 

So what is the result of this misplaced faith in the law?

  • It will be that “the law brings wrath” (vs. 15) – not the promise.

 

 

Promise Depends on Faith:

Romans 4:15b–17 (ESV) — 15b but where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

 

So this is why this promise fulfillment business “depends on faith” (vs. 16).

  • Because it has to “rest on grace” (vs. 16).

 

Rest on Grace:

It has to “rest on grace” (vs. 16) for a number of reasons.

 

(1) Because “where there is no law there is no transgression.” (vs. 15)

  • In other words, if our trust is in the law, we would have transgressions of the law that count against us.
  • But out trust isn’t in the law, so the transgressions don’t count against us.

 

To flip this around we can say this…

  • We can trust in Faith as the basis of being joined to God’s righteousness because it does not testify against us.

 

Again, I love Wright’s take here:

  • “If there is to be a renewed people of God, there must be (in that sense) a law-free zone for them to live and flourish within.” – N.T. Wright.
  • That zone is faith.

In other words, faith doesn’t testify against us because it springs from the grace of God – not us.

  • Remember, Paul is about to emphasize in Romans 5 the importance of the grace in which we stand.
  • What Wright just called the “law-free” zone.

 

It’s like this:

  • (1) We can be saved through faith in the law.
  • OR
  • (2) We can be saved through faith in God.

 

God, by His grace, has decreed that it will be the latter.

  • If He had not, all of us – Jew and Gentile – would have no hope.

 

This is exactly what Paul says in Ephesians.

  • Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
  • For by grace” is giving thanks that God decreed option 2 – “saved through faith”!
  • And this works in our favor because, it “is not your own doing, it is the gift of God”.

 

 

(2) The second reason it has to “rest on faith” is so that the promise…

  • Can “be guaranteed to all his offspring” (vs. 16).

 

If it rested on trusting in the law, the Gentiles would be excluded.

  • They weren’t given the law.

 

So because it rests on faith, Paul says…

  • The promise is available “not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham” (vs. 16).
  • Jew or Gentile.
  • After all, Abraham was told that he would be “father of many nations” (vs. 17).

 

And just in case you have any doubts about the surety of this promise:

  • The God that is the object of this faith is…
  • The God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” ( 17).

 

In other words, the God who resurrects the dead…

  • And the God who “calls into existence” (vs. 17) both the offspring and nations from a barren Sarah, or faith in the unrighteous.

 

 

Abraham’s Faith Example:

Romans 4:18–22 (ESV) — 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

 

Paul just bet the house on Abraham’s faith and the call for us to have the same.

  • It therefore becomes “imperative to define the nature of [Abraham’s] faith” – Schreiner.

 

Paul first concedes that for Abraham to trust that “he should become the father of many nations” (vs. 18) was to believe “against hope” (vs. 18).

  • After all, Paul says…
  • His body was “as good as dead” (vs. 19) – “since he was about 100 years old” (vs. 19).
  • And “Sarah’s womb” was barren (vs. 19).

 

But in spite of any reasons to believe “against hope” (vs. 18)…

  • He did not weaken in faith” (vs. 19).
  • He had no “unbelief” (vs. 20) and he didn’t “waver concerning the promise of God” (vs. 20).

 

In fact, Paul says, Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (vs. 20).

  • He was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (vs. 21).

 

How did Paul know Abraham didn’t waver, or grew in his faith, or was fully convinced in God?

  • Because Abraham was willing to sacrifice the promise – Isaac.
  • And after the whole traumatic Isaac event…
  • Genesis 22:14 (ESV) — 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

 

And so, Paul says…

  • These are the reasons Abraham’s “faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness’” (vs. 22).
  • And the reasons God could fulfill his promise to Abraham.

 

For as Genesis 22 says:

  • Genesis 22:15–18 (ESV) — 15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

 

Rabbit Trail:

Something Paul does here is remarkable to me!

  • Paul concedes that Abraham had reason not to believe.
  • And yet he had no “unbelief” and he didn’t “waver”.

 

The application here is huge.

  • In fact, it is an entire lesson.
  • One I will get to next time.

 

 

Our Faith:

Romans 4:23–25 (ESV) — 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

 

As expected, Paul brings the whole faith talk in chapter 4 to a close with Jesus.

  • The “against hope” faith we are to have is to be in Jesus Christ.

 

Because, if we trust in “him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord” (vs. 24)…

  • It will be counted to us” as righteousness – just like it was with Abraham.

 

Why?

  • Because Jesus will “righteous” us by His being…
  • delivered up for our trespasses” (vs. 25)
  • raised for our justification” (vs. 25)

 

 

What is Faith – Part 1

In Romans 4, Paul declared that all of the saving activity of God as demonstrated in Jesus…

  • Is only effective for those who are joined to Christ through faith.
  • To be the people of God and justified requires faith.
  • Without faith, no one is righteoused by Jesus.

 

Because of this, we need to grasp exactly what faith is.

  • However, we first need to really understand just how opposed humanity is to the faith Paul is describing.
  • As we discussed some weeks ago, we are all by default under sin.
  • And this has a peculiar effect on our faith capacity.

 

Paul described this effect in Romans 1.

  • Romans 1:18–21 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

 

I want to take this text in a direction a little different than we did some weeks ago.

  • In a minute, we will use it to show us how Paul answers this question…
  • Why does a fallen humanity, who can perceive God’s “eternal power” and “divine nature” in their hearts and minds, fail “to acknowledge God” in their hearts and minds?

 

 

1) DIVINE PERSPECTIVE OF REJECTION

 

First lets quickly look at the divine perspective to this question.

 

John 6:43–44 (ESV) — 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

 

John 6:63–65 (ESV) — 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

 

John 8:47 (ESV) — 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

 

In all of the above, we have Jesus Himself explaining why unbelief exists.

  • Remarkably, the unbelief He is explaining is that which exists in spite of His very presence.
  • The fact that one could be confronted with the very presence of God and still not believe in Him is startling.
  • Jesus’ divine perspective of the reasons for the persistence of this unbelief, even in His presence, is certainly sufficient.
  • However, in another sense, to leave it here would suggest that God is responsible for our unbelief.
  • Fortunately, Paul gives us the human perspective and makes clear that we are responsible and are without excuse.

 

 

2) HUMAN PERSPECTIVE OF REJECTION

 

Romans 1:18–21 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

 

 

Paul’s words address at least (2) things I want to explore:

  • (1) Humanity’s clear perception and knowledge of God.
  • (2) Humanity’s unbelief in spite of this clear perception and knowledge.

 

What is so interesting is that Paul explicitly puts the “perceiving” of “what can be known about God” in one’s “thinking” and “heart“.

  • In other words, a fallen humanity can perceive God’s “eternal power” and “divine nature” within their hearts and minds from “the things that have been made“.
  • A reason they are without excuse“.
  • And yet, Paul also reveals that the heart and mind are also a barrier to “clearly perceiving” because they operate in “futile” and “foolish” ways.

 

So, from a human perspective…

  • Why does a fallen humanity, who can still perceive God’s “eternal power” and “divine nature” in their hearts and minds, fail “to acknowledge God” in their hearts and minds?

 

There are a number of answers to this question we all might be familiar with:

  • The noetic effects of sin.
  • Lacking a regeneration of the heart by the Holy Spirit.
  • Our depravity.

 

But Paul, in Romans 1, specifically deals with the defective way the unbeliever thinks.

  • I want to flesh this out.

 

We have to realize that at its heart, the problem Paul is describing is a moral problem.

  • The futile thinking results in a failure to honor God and give Him thanks!
  • This is a moral failure.

 

So, again, how can we clearly perceive and yet be “futile” in our thinking – acting with “foolish hearts”?

  • How can we clearly perceive and yet fail morally to honor God?

 

Deep Conscience and Surface Conscience:

Enter J. Budziszewski’s book What We Can’t Not Know. In Part II and Chapter 4, “Explaining the Lost World – The First and Second Witnesses”, he introduces a useful way to view the conscience, the location of moral knowledge.

  • He states that the “older natural law thinkers” differentiated between the “deep conscience” and the “surface conscience“.

 

What we are going to see is that these two notions of our conscience provide an answer for how…

  • We can clearly perceive…
  • And yet be futile in our thinking.

 

Deep Conscience:

This is one way that all mankind can “clearly perceive” God from “the things that have been made”.

  • This is one reason why we are all without excuse.

 

Now, deep conscience “is the interior witness to the foundational principles of moral law“.

  • In it resides “the knowledge of basic goods, of formal norms, and of everyday moral rules.”
  • It is not a feeling but an innate knowledge of morality.
  • It is objective.

 

In fact, it was “designed as a witness to moral truth” by God.

  • Therefore, it “cannot be erased, cannot be mistaken, and is the same in every human being.”
  • And knowledge of moral truth obligates us with duties to self, neighbor and God.

 

Here’s the thing…

  • God is the source of this knowledge!
  • Paul is saying that this knowledge should point us to God.
  • To acknowledge God as its source is a way to honor and give thanks to Him.

 

However, the unregenerate heart and mind fail to do this.

  • Because the unregenerate are “futile in their thinking” and thus foolish…
  • They mistakenly believe that their own reason and experience is the source for this knowledge instead of God.
  • And they do so in conflict with what they “clearly perceived”.

 

How can they do this?

  • This is where the surface conscience comes in.

 

Surface Conscience:

Surface conscience, on the other hand, is more subjective.

  • Budziszewski says that surface conscience “presents greater possibilities for going wrong. It can be erased, it can be mistaken, and it can vary from person to person.”
  • In relation to our discussion thus far, if deep conscience is where clear perception of God’s nature occurs, it seems possible that it is at the level of the surface conscience that “futile thinking” and “the foolish heart” corrupt the testimony of moral truth that the deep conscience provides.
  • This corruption then warps our desire to fulfill, in the way God ordains, duties to self, neighbor and God and results in a personal, subjective and relative moral framework.

 

By way of example, Budziszewski cites (9) ways that the surface conscience can go wrong.

  • And because it is here, the surface conscience, that we find a possible answer to our question asked above, I think it is worth quoting Budziszewski at length.

 

Surface conscience “can blur and err in at least nine different ways:

  • (1) one way is insufficient experience, where I don’t know enough to reach sound conclusions
  • (2) another is insufficient skill, where I have never learned the art of reasoning well.
  • Then come (3) sloth, where I am too lazy to reason,
  • and (4) corrupt custom, where it has never occurred to me to do so.
  • Next come (5) passion, where I am distracted by strong feeling from reasoning carefully,
  • and (6) fear, where I am afraid to reason because I might find out that I am wrong.
  • Bringing up the rear are (7) wishful thinking, where I include in my reasoning only what I am willing to notice;
  • (8) depraved ideology, where I interpret known principles crookedly;
  • and (9) malice, where I refuse to reason because I am determined to do what I want.”

 

These provide, it seems to me, a fairly articulate description of how the depravity of humanity finds expression on a day-to-day basis.

  • And as suggested, provide an answer to the question we asked earlier.

 

One can easily see, for example, someone who abides within a naturalistic framework invoke #8 and claim that moral knowledge is only a subjective, cultural convention.

  • Or an atheist invoke #9 because they refuse to admit that they have any moral accountability before a holy God.
  • Or someone invoke #1 or #3 simply because in a world where “to each his own” is a guiding principal, who cares about moral knowledge.
  • And finally, the person who lives under the illusion that feelings, and not a divinely informed moral knowledge, are the grounding for morality, would surely invoke #5.

 

Each is an act of a corrupt and depraved will in rebellion to the deep conscience convictions that Paul argues we all have in our Romans 1 text.

  • But of our own choosing, we follow the desires of our heart and corrupt the revelation of God by one or all of the examples given.
  • And because this corruption is an act of our fallen will, we “are without excuse” before God.

 

At the end of the day, humanity’s “futile thinking” and “foolishness of heart” with respect to God’s moral knowledge, is, as Paul suggests, a dishonoring of God as God and an exaltation of man as god.

  • Budziszewski puts it this way, “we don’t want the freedom of the creature but the freedom of the Creator – not freedom to be good but freedom to determine the good.

 

Greg Bahnsen puts it like this:

“[The unbeliever] is a fool because he has forsaken the source of true wisdom in God in order to rely on his own (allegedly), self-sufficient, intellectual powers” – Greg Bahnsen.

 

Proverbs hammers this home constantly.

  • Proverbs 1:7 (ESV) — 7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
  • Proverbs 28:26 (ESV) — 26 Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

 

The result of this foolish “futile” thinking is devastating.

  • Proverbs 10:8 (ESV) — 8 The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
  • Proverbs 26:11 (ESV) — 11 Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.
  • Proverbs 18:2 (ESV) — 2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

 

Is the solution to this problem to try and convince the unbeliever to change their thinking with good evidence?

  • Probably not.

 

The futile and foolish thinking are merely symptoms of the problem – not the problem.

  • We are merely describing how the unregenerate fail in their thinking even though they clearly perceive.
  • The unregenerate heart makes the unbeliever foolish!

 

Proverbs gives us a helpful suggestion:

  • Proverbs 26:4–5 (ESV) — 4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

 

Don’t try and “answer” the fool in the realm of his folly – futile thinking.

  • This is the surface conscience stuff.

 

Bahnsen puts it like this:

“The unbeliever should not be answered in terms of his own misguided presuppositions; [We] should defend [our] faith by working within [our] own presuppositions. If [we] surrender to the assumptions of the unbeliever, the believer will never effectively set forth a reason for the hope that is in him. [We] will have lost the battle from the outset, constantly being trapped behind enemy lines. Hence Christianity’s intellectual strength and challenge will not be set forth” – Greg Bahnsen.

  • The presupposition of the unbeliever is that he knows things autonomously – God is not needed to know stuff.
  • He reasons and knows without proper justification.

 

But, “answer” the fool where his “folly” really lies – his refusal to honor God as the source of all of his knowledge.

  • This is the deep conscience stuff.

 

Much, much more can be said of all this…

  • But hopefully we have answered our question – clearly perceive yet be futile in our thinking.

 

I hope that all of this highlights even more the barriers that, by default, all of humanity has towards faith.

  • And not just in the realm of morality but of knowledge as well.
  • Next week we will deal specifically with what faith is and where it comes from.

 

 

What Is Faith – Part 2

Last week looked back at Romans 1:18-21.

  • We unpacked the paradox that…
  • It is with the mind and heart that men clearly perceive God’s divine nature and eternal power.
  • And yet, the very same mind and heart also reject their clear perceptions with futile thinking and a darkened and foolish heart.

 

BTW – We can’t forget that humanity is also “under sin” – owned by sin.

 

All of this is the default position of humanity.

  • And because of this, the obstacles to faith seem insurmountable.

 

And yet it is within this paradox and our slavery to sin that, somehow, faith arises.

  • The faith that joins us to the saving activity of Jesus.
  • The faith that marks us out as children of Abraham – the people of God.
  • The faith that justifies us.

 

So today, in part 2, we will try to understand…

  • What is faith?

 

In the coming weeks, we will deal with the questions…

  • Where does faith come from?
  • How does it work?
  • Is faith rational?
  • Is faith warranted?

 

 

What is faith?

As we have noted before, in Romans, Paul stakes our being joined to Christ’s righteousness on faith.

  • He tells us in Romans 4:5 that Abraham’s “faith is counted as righteousness”.
  • In 3:28 he tells us that we are “justified by faith” not the “works of the law”.
  • In 3:25 he tells us that we receive redemption and propitiation by faith.

 

It seems clear that if we don’t have faith, we are outside of the “righteousing” activity of Jesus.

  • So because of its importance, we need to know what faith is.

 

One quick warning:

  • It is likely that we will oversimplify faith – I apologize up front.
  • As well, we must not turn faith “into a checklist of beliefs” – LBD.
  • Faith, as we will see, certainly involves propositions, but faith isn’t the propositions.

 

The Basics:

The Greek word is “pistis”.

  • The BDAG lexicon defines the word this way…
  • Faith is the “state of believing [or trusting] on the basis of the reliability of the one trusted”.

 

This textbook definition, importantly, identifies a couple of things.

  • Faith is meaningful because…
  • It has an object – in our case, God – “the one trusted”.
  • It has a basis – “the reliability” of God, “the one trusted”.

 

Michael Bird picks up on this take when he says…

  • “I define ‘faith’ as the act of entrusting oneself to the faithfulness of God” – Michael Bird.

 

In fact, he says Genesis 15-22 – the story of Abraham that is so important to Paul – can be called…

  • “The Faithfulness of Yahweh Elicits the Faith of a Pagan Man” – Michael Bird.

 

And no doubt the Bible continually preaches the importance of God’s faithfulness.

  • Much of Paul’s discourse in Romans 1-4, as we have seen, hangs on God’s covenant faithfulness.
  • A topic crucial to Biblical theology (as we have seen in Joshua and Romans).

 

And it doesn’t take much searching to find texts like this…

  • Deuteronomy 32:4 (ESV) — 4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
  • This is a God in whom we can trust.

 

So we can say that faith is to trust in God because of His faithfulness.

  • But this really doesn’t tell us what it is – only what it does.
  • We have to dig a little deeper.

 

It might help us to parse faith into 3 parts.

  • (1) Faith as Knowledge – The Mind
  • (2) Faith as Affection – The Heart
  • (3) Faith as Hope – The Future

 

Faith as Knowledge:

Faith is believing certain propositions.

“The propositional object of faith is the whole magnificent scheme of salvation God has arranged. To have faith is to know that and how God has made it possible for us human beings to escape the ravages of sin and be restored to a right relationship with him; it is therefore a knowledge of the main lines of the Christian gospel” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

Paul touches on this in Romans 10.

  • Romans 10:9 (ESV) — 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
  • See also John 3:16.

 

So faith is a believing in all the Gospel propositions.

  • These propositions can be seen generally in at least three categories.
  • (1) The reliability and authority of the Bible.
  • (2) The nature of God.
  • (3) The nature of humanity.

 

Faith, for example, believes that:

  • The Bible truthfully testifies to its own reliability and authority through its self-attestation and self-authentication.
  • Who God is and what He has done and what He is going to do.
  • Who humanity is and our position before God in a fallen world – in Garden Exile.

 

Paul spells some of this out for us…

 

Concerning the Bible:

  • 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) — 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
  • Romans 15:4 (ESV) — 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

 

Concerning God – Who He is, and what He has done:

  • Romans 3:21 (ESV) — 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
  • Romans 15:8–9b (ESV) — 8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 (ESV) — 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

 

Concerning Humanity:

  • Romans 3:9 (ESV) — 9b For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
  • Romans 3:10 (ESV) — 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
  • Romans 3:23 (ESV) — 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

 

Importantly, all of this knowledge is something we used to suppress and reject outright.

  • It is a function of our faith that we now believe in these propositions.
  • In other words, our faith rests on, and is powered by something that changes our mind.
  • More on this when we see where faith comes from and how it works.

 

Faith as Affection:

Faith is knowledge to be sure, but as we all know…

  • Even the devil shares some of our knowledge of God.
  • So, “The difference between believer and devil, therefore, lies at least partly in the area of affections: of love and hate, attraction and revulsion, desire and detestation” – Alvin Plantinga.

“Chief among these right affections” Plantinga says, “is love of God — desire for God, desire to know him, to have a personal relationship with him, desire to achieve a certain kind of unity with him, as well as to delight in him, relishing his beauty, greatness, holiness, and the like” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

So faith not only has the right knowledge “but also the right affections” – Plantinga.

  • Outside of faith, our affections are corrupt.
  • We love, are attracted to, approve and worship the wrong things.
  • Romans 1:22–23 (ESV) — 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

 

 

But faith redirects our affections away from ourselves and creation…

  • Towards God, our Creator.

 

And importantly, these affections aren’t subjective choices – like one’s favorite ice cream.

  • They flow from the facts of the Gospel in which we believe to be true.

“Holy affections are not heat without light; but evermore arise from some information of the understanding, some spiritual instruction that the mind receives, some light or actual knowledge” – Jonathan Edwards.

 

The Psalms, in particular, is full of examples of the affections that accompany faith.

  • Psalm 84:2 (ESV) — 2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
  • Psalm 63:1 (ESV) — 1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
  • Psalm 42:1–2 (ESV) — 1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
  • Psalm 119:131 (ESV) — 131 I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.

 

As Thomas Aquinas says (Plantinga):

  • Faith “makes us lovers of God”.
  • It “causes a man to delight in the thoughts of God, and to delight in the presence of God and to desire conformity to God, and the enjoyment of God” – Jonathan Edwards via Plantinga.

 

Importantly, just like our knowledge, all of these affections are something we used to reject.

  • It is a function of our faith that we now have these affections.
  • As with the change in our knowledge, what changed our affections and how?
  • More on this when we see how where faith comes from and how it works.

 

I love how Alvin Plantinga sums up what we have learned about faith thus far:

“Faith is a matter of sure and certain knowledge, both revealed to our minds and sealed to our hearts. This sealing…consists in having the right sorts of affections; in essence, it consists in loving God above all and one’s neighbor as oneself. There is an intimate relation between revealing and sealing, knowledge and affection, intellect and will; they cooperate in a deep and complex and intimate way in the person of faith” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

Faith as Christian Hope:

Faith, with its new knowledge and affections, grounds us deeply in the past and present work of God and the Gospel realities of our new creation and union with Christ.

  • But it also involves a not yet reality – our eschatological future hope of the consummation of the Kingdom of God.

 

The writer of Hebrews puts it well.

  • Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) — 1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 

And what are these things that faith hopes for?

  • Christ’s return!
  • Resurrection!
  • New heaven and new earth!

 

Paul hits on some these in 1 Corinthians 15.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:54–55 (ESV) — 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

 

A longing and hope for all of these things is a feature of saving faith.

 

Importantly, just like our knowledge and affections, this hope is something we used to reject.

  • It is a function of our faith that we now have this hope.
  • As with the change in our knowledge, and our new affections, what gave us this new hope and how?
  • More on this when we see how where faith comes from and how it works.

 

Conclusion:

One helpful feature of knowing what faith is, is this…

  • We now have a way to obtain an assurance of your faith.

 

How so?

  • Begin by asking yourself these questions.

 

What do you know to be true about reality that differs from unbelievers?

  • What do you believe to be true about God?
  • What do you believe to be true about humanity?
  • What do you believe to be true about the world?
  • Your answers can serve to set you apart as one with saving faith.

 

What are the affections and desires of your heart?

  • Do you desire to please God, love Him more, and get to know Him better?
  • Do find pleasure in contemplating all that God has done for you?
  • Do you find that your affections are being directed to things other than self?
  • When you are alone or in times of rest, are you drawn to ponder on the things of God?
  • Again, your answers can serve to set you apart as one with saving faith.

 

In what do you hope?

  • Do you contemplate Christ’s return and the completion of His Kingdom?
  • In periods of pain and suffering, do you anticipate resurrection and new creation?
  • Once again, your answers can serve to set you apart as one with saving faith.

 

What Is Faith – Part 3

Last week we saw that faith was a trust in God and His faithfulness – His covenant faithfulness.

  • So to have faith is, in this sense, something we do.
  • We trust in God and His promise keeping – the objects of our faith.

 

In addition to faith as trusting, we saw that faith is propositional.

  • God’s promise keeping and character are revealed in certain facts – certain truths.
  • In other words, faith contains content that informs and shapes it.

 

The content of faith is:

  • New knowledge
  • New affections
  • New hopes

 

Faith in God – our trust in Him – is inseparable from this “Gospel content”.

  • You can’t have saving faith without this “Gospel content”.

 

So faith is not blind.

  • It is both objectively focused on God, and has propositional content.
  • Without anyone of these – and their truth – there can be no saving faith.

 

Now today, I want us to deal with two questions:

  • Where does this faith come from?
  • How does it work or play out in the life of an unbeliever?

 

 

Source of Faith:

So when I ask where faith comes from, I mean this:

  • Given the suppressed, futile thinking and darkened heart that is the default position of humanity, how is it that we come to recognize and trust in God’s faithfulness and “live out of” faith’s content – new knowledge, affections and hopes?

 

The Problem:

In part one, we explored the obstacles to faith.

  • We saw them to be seemingly insurmountable.

 

We needn’t look far in Scripture to acquaint ourselves with the obstacles to faith.

  • Genesis 6:5 (ESV) — 5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
  • Psalm 53:1 (ESV) — 1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.
  • Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) — 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
  • Romans 1:21 (ESV) — 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
  • Romans 8:7 (ESV) — 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
  • Ephesians 4:18 (ESV) — 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) — 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

 

So humanity, by default, rejects God and rebels against His authority.

  • Humanity is man-centered.
  • Fallen humanity begins and ends with man on the throne.
  • Humans are the final arbiters of knowledge.

 

By contrast, faith “begins with the Lord and submits wholeheartedly to His wisdom; [and] is set over against reliance on one’s own understanding or reasoning” – Greg Bahnsen.

  • Proverbs 3:5 (ESV) — 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

 

So the barriers to faith are huge!

  • Clearly, something supernatural is needed to overcome them.

 

As Arminian Roger Olson puts it:

“Calvinists and Arminians agree…that the sinner’s will is so depraved and bound to sin that it cannot respond positively to the gospel call without supernatural grace” – Roger Olson.

 

By the Spirit:

Fortunately, Paul gives us insight into this “supernatural grace” in a text we covered a few weeks ago.

  • Romans 2:29 (ESV) — 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

 

Paul argues that to be a member of the chosen people of God – a child of Abraham – is purely a “matter of the heart”.

  • It has nothing to do with works, culture or ethnicity.
  • And more than that, in good covenant language, it is a circumcision of the heart.
  • And this circumcision is performed not by man, but “by the Spirit”.

 

This Gospel reality of the need for heart circumcision can be found in Genesis and Ezekiel.

  • Deuteronomy 10:16 (ESV) — 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.
  • Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

 

The idea for Paul is that there can be no faith and no obedience of faith without this heart circumcision.

  • Man must be made remade from a “natural person” into a spiritual person.
  • It is the Holy Spirit of God that does this remaking.
  • Stone to flesh as Ezekiel puts it.

 

This is regeneration.

  • This is being born again.

 

It is God, through the Spirit, that transforms and moves upon the heart of the unbeliever to bring about a heart capable of faith.

“Because of our fallen condition…we need a change of heart. This is provided by the internal instigation of the Holy Spirit; he both enables us to see the truth of the great things of the gospel and turns our affections in the right direction” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit:

  • Remakes our minds to accept Gospel knowledge as true.
  • Remakes our hearts to respond to this truth with submissive Gospel affections.
  • And as a result, brings us to have Gospel hope.

 

The Bible speaks of this as follows:

  • John 3:5–7 (ESV) — 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
  • Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (ESV) — 13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
  • 1 Peter 1:3 (ESV) — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

 

Another way to think about these things is this:

  • Who gets credit for depraved man being capable of accepting and submitting to Jesus as Lord and living out of new Gospel knowledge, affections and hope?
  • God or man?

 

Now on to our second question:

  • How does faith work or play out in the life of an unbeliever?

 

 

How Faith Works:

So in Romans 3 and 4, Paul makes clear that we are saved by faith.

  • We are joined to the righteous activity of Jesus Christ by faith.
  • We are part of the elect – the people of God – by faith.

 

We have seen what this faith is.

  • And we have seen that it is only possible through the regenerating activity of the Holy Spirit.
  • What we haven’t seen is how all of this plays out in the heart of an unbeliever…how faith works.

 

Ordo Salutis”:

To see how faith plays out in the life of an unbeliever, we need a quick primer on the “ordo salutis”.

  • Otherwise know as the order of salvation.

 

So, the order of salvation is almost always listed out in a certain order…

  • With the understanding that some of events occur at the same time – at one moment.

 

Typically the ordo salutis contains:

  • Election
  • Call
  • Regeneration
  • Conversion
  • Justification
  • Sanctification
  • Glorification

 

It is the idea of conversion that we will want to unpack.

  • It is here that we will see how faith works – how it plays out.
  • I will define conversion in a moment.

 

Caution:

It must be stated that there is disagreement about whether regeneration comes before conversion or after.

  • And related to this, if faith is a cause of regeneration or an effect of regeneration.
  • There is also disagreement about how the elect are defined.
    • Not the existence of the elect – Scripture is clear on their existence.
  • These disagreements are a rabbit trail I will chase when we get to Romans 9.

 

Quickly, however, scholars like Roger Olson, argue for what is called “partial regeneration”.

  • This can be understood as a partial remaking of a depraved heart by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • God, in an act of what is called “prevenient grace”, gives every depraved person a moral capacity to accept or decline the Gospel call.
  • And if the offer is accepted by faith, then full regeneration by the Spirit occurs.

 

I humbly take the opposing view that full regeneration is the only regeneration.

  • And that it comes before conversion.
  • And that this regeneration always brings about saving faith.

 

Now we can move on to conversion and how faith plays out.

 

Conversion:

What is conversion?

  • Alvin Plantinga describes it this way:

“Conversion…is fundamentally a turning of the will, a healing of the disorder of affection that afflicts us. It is a turning away from love of self, from thinking of oneself as the chief being of the universe, to love of God” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

Conversion, then, consists of faith and an added element of faith we have not mentioned as of yet…

 

To play this out, lets begin with a conversion example from Acts:

  • Acts 16:13–14 (ESV) — 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

 

Gospel Call:

So Lydia was part of the elect – before the foundation of the world.

  • As such, she was going to come to saving faith.
  • And, importantly, her coming to saving faith fundamentally included the proclamation of the Gospel.
  • The Gospel is how God calls His elect.

 

Paul puts it like this:

  • Romans 10:14–15 (ESV) — 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

 

God has decided that He will use us – His creatures – to call the elect to saving faith by our faithful proclaiming of the Gospel.

  • What a huge privilege and responsibility!

 

This truth was something Paul witnessed over and over!

  • “Faith is elicited by the gospel” – Michael Bird.

 

No doubt, as Jesus talks about in John…

  • God also draws the elect to Him in a variety of other ways.
  • But this drawing must always find completion in the proclamation of the Gospel.

 

Now, back to Lydia’s conversion.

  • We are told that something happened to Lydia.
  • She heard the Gospel and…
  • Luke says, “the Lord opened her heart” to what was being said.

 

Response to Gospel Call:

So what is happening here?

  • How is Lydia’s coming to saving faith played out?
  • The text goes silent here.
  • But we can engage in some holy speculation based on the teaching of Scripture generally about salvation.

 

In keeping with God’s new covenant promise, the Holy Spirit turned her heart of stone into one of flesh.

  • She was given ears to hear.
  • From this new heart of “flesh” some things became clear to Lydia.

 

She found herself in agreement with the Gospel proclamation.

  • All believers had to “…come to see ourselves as sinful and also…recognize that God has provided for our forgiveness through what Christ’s death has done for us” – Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.
  • We had to recognize the “impossibility of our achieving our salvation with the acceptance of the truth that God has done all that is necessary” – Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.

 

This means that Lydia was given eyes to see some important facts.

  • She came to see her unbelieving knowledge, affections and hopes were disfigured and skewed.
  • She came to see that a new set of Gospel knowledge, affections and hopes are right and true.

 

So sensing (sensus divinitatus) the “rightness” of these Spirit given perceptions, she responded with trust and repentance.

  • She had saving faith.

 

Repentance:

Now, repentance is a feature of saving faith we left out of the discussion until now.

Repentance is “the complete change of heart and mind that the New Testament calls metanoia. It signifies the complete about-face of heart, mind, thought and life…” – Os Guinness.

 

So it “signifies” that we have saving faith.

  • It “signifies” that we have a trust in God and have new knowledge, affections and hopes.

 

In other words, it is the living out of this trust.

  • It is a fruit of this trust.
  • It is a spiritually natural response to what God has done with our heart.
  • So it is fundamentally an internal thing – a heart thing.
  • And thus it is far more than just an outward change of direction.

 

So repentance is not a work!

  • It would be a shame to have a Gospel of grace and then a repentance of works.

 

 

Conclusion:

We can now see how faith works.

  • God uses the Gospel proclamation to call His elect.
  • At a time determined by God, their heart is born again – regenerated.
  • From this new heart they experience conversion – saving faith.

 

And this faith is…

  • “…the sure and unfailing sign that the gospel has transformed the heart of the person concerned, so that they now truly belong to the new covenant” – NT. Wright.

 

Next week we will explore the rationality of faith.

  • Does it have warrant?
  • Is it a justifiable belief?
  • Or are we simply victims of a meaningless expression of wish fulfillment?

 

What Is Faith – Part 4

Last week we saw where faith came from and how it works.

  • Faith comes from the “internal instigation” of the Holy Spirit.
  • What Jesus called a new birth.
  • What we also call regeneration of the heart.

 

Faith plays out through a series of events – some virtually simultaneous in occurrence.

  • Call – through a drawing of the Holy Spirit and the speaking of the Gospel.
  • Regeneration – the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • Conversion – a combination of faith and repentance.

 

Today, I want us to finish up with an apologetic of faith.

  • I want to deal with the following question.
  • Is faith rational?

 

 

Christian Epistemology:

To get started, we have to see what Christian epistemology looks like.

  • Epistemology is the study of how we come to know what we know.
  • What is knowledge, and what is its source, and why is it reliable.

 

Alvin Plantinga describes Christian epistemology this way:

  • All humans have a “sensus divinitatis” – sense of divinity.
  • This is “a kind of faculty (like sight or hearing)”.
  • It is a “belief-producing faculty…designed and created by God”.

 

“The purpose of the [sense of divinity] is to enable us to have true beliefs about God”.

  • “Under the right conditions” our sense of divinity comes to true beliefs about God, the Gospel and reliability of Scripture.
  • The right conditions are the internal instigation of the Holy Spirit.

 

Christian beliefs are triggered by and arise out of circumstances.

  • These circumstances would be the “ordo salutis” stuff we spoke of last week.
  • All the stuff God is doing in us through the Holy Spirit.

 

So given the call and regeneration stuff, we just find ourselves believing in God.

  • It seems right to do so.
  • In fact, outside of the Holy Spirit’s work we would not choose these beliefs.

 

This is crucial for the rationality of Christian epistemology.

  • We believe because of the actions of an outside agent.
  • Our belief does not originate in our “stuff”.

 

Plantinga puts it this way:

“These beliefs do not come to the Christian just by way of memory, perception, reason, testimony, the sensus divinitatis, or any other of the cognitive faculties or processes with which we human beings were originally created; they come instead by way of the work of the Holy Spirit, who gets us to accept, causes us to see the truth of these great truths of the gospel. These beliefs don’t come just by way of the normal operation of our natural faculties; they are a supernatural gift” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

So, then, we have seen what a Christian epistemology looks like.

  • And no doubt, there are clearly some presuppositions in play here.
  • A couple of them are that God exists and that He has revealed Himself in Scripture.
  • More on these later*.

 

 

Anatomy of Irrational Belief:

Now we need to see what an irrational belief might look like.

 

Philosophers suggest that a belief is irrational if (Alvin Plantinga):

  • (1) It is produced by cognitive faculties that malfunction.
  • (2) It is produced by a cognitive process aimed at producing something other than true beliefs.

 

I would have to add a third supposed criteria often used by the lazy or unsophisticated.

  • (3) A belief is irrational because it is emotionally troubling or distasteful.
  • This is a rhetorical appeal to emotions to portray a belief as absurd or even hateful.

 

An example of the first:

  • This would be a cognitive faculty that has been physically or chemically damaged.
  • It also could be one that is “blinded by ambition” or “blinded by loyalty” – Plantinga.
  • “You can also be blinded by covetousness, love, fear, lust, anger, pride, grief, social pressure, and a thousand other things” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

An example of the second:

  • This would be a cognitive process that forms beliefs whose aim isn’t truth but to…
  • Contribute to survival.
    • Plantinga is well known for lodging this argument against Evolutionary Naturalism.
  • Provide peace of mind.
  • Provide some psychological well-being.

 

An example of the third:

  • Belief “A” is irrational because it is unfair, intolerant, or objectionable.

 

Implication:

All of this means that for one to criticize a belief producing system as irrational it must be shown:

  • That the cognitive faculties used to produce it are malfunctioning.
  • That the cognitive process used to produce it isn’t aimed at producing true beliefs.

 

We have already seen that in Christian epistemology:

  • There is a cognitive faculty called the “divine sense” that when acted upon by the Holy Spirit produces belief in the Christian God.
  • And that this “divine sense” is designed by God to produce true beliefs about Himself.
  • So, on its face, Christian epistemology is not irrational.

 

 

Presuppositions:

Now lets go back to the presuppositions behind a Christian epistemology.

  • At a minimum they are that God exists and that He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

 

So, here is the thing!

  • Anyone who makes knowledge claims does so having already assumed the truth of certain presuppositions.

 

The most obvious of these is an appeal to the past or experience as indicators of:

  • The reliability of our reason.
  • And the uniformity of the laws of nature.

 

For example:

  • I know it to be factually true right now that Norfolk is east of Suffolk.
  • Why – because I was in Norfolk on Friday and to get there, I drove east.
  • I know it to be factually true that when I strike a golf ball with my putter, the ball will stop.
  • Why – because I just saw this repeatedly happen yesterday.
  • I know it to be factually true that I have a Prius.
  • Why – because I remember driving it this morning.

 

In all of these examples, things are assumed without being accounted for or explained.

  • Specifically, everyone believes the world will act uniformly today because it did so in the past.

 

In other words, that which was true yesterday is true today.

  • What “east” was yesterday will be what it is tomorrow.
  • Friction and energy depletion will work tomorrow the same way they did yesterday.

 

About these presuppositions, Alvin Plantinga says:

“And what about the very idea of past occasions, or more generally what about the very idea of a past? I certainly believe that indeed there has been a past; but where can I find a good argument for the conclusion that there really has been a past? The whole development of modern philosophy from Descartes to Hume really shows that there is no good argument from what is self-evident [the assumption of a past] to propositions of this sort [that there really has been a past]” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

In other words, the past, and thus our experience, cannot be shown to be objectively real.

  • Yet, even though they are unaccounted for, they are a starting point for trusting our reason.

 

Circular Reason:

These types of unaccounted for assumptions lead to circular reasoning.

“All chains of argumentation, especially over matters of ultimate personal importance, trace back to and depend upon starting points which are taken to be self-evidencing; thus circularity in debate will be unavoidable” – Greg Bahnsen.

 

For example, as we have just seen:

  • We use reason informed by past experience – a past that is assumed as self-evident – to conclude that reason is reliable.
  • So we are using our reason to argue for the reliability of our reason.

 

Atheist David Hume concedes:

  • “When it is asked, What is the nature of all our reasonings concerning matter of fact? the proper answer seems to be, that they are founded on the relation of cause and effect. When again it is asked, What is the foundation of all our reasonings and conclusions concerning that relation? it may be replied in one word, Experience. But if we still carry on our sifting humour, and ask, What is the foundation of all conclusions from experience? this implies a new question, which may be of more difficult solution and explication” – David Hume.
  • He understands the problem of using reason to assume reason.

 

As we said earlier, a Christian epistemology has the same problem.

  • We assume the existence of God, and that He has revealed Himself in the Bible.
  • We use the Christian Bible to argue our Christian epistemology.
  • See note at bottom for more on circular reasoning*.

 

At this point, Greg Bahnsen says we must do the following.

“At this level of conflict with the unbeliever the Christian must ask, what actually is the unquestionable and self-evidencing presupposition? Between believer and unbeliever, who actually has the most certain starting point for reasoning and experience? What is that presuppositional starting point? Here the Christian apologist, defending his ultimate presuppositions, must be prepared to argue the impossibility of the contrary—that is, to argue that the philosophic perspective of the unbeliever destroys meaning, intelligence, and the very possibility of knowledge, while the Christian faith provides the only framework and conditions for intelligible experience and rational certainty. The apologist must contend that the true starting point of thought cannot be other than God and His revealed word, for no reasoning is possible apart from that ultimate authority. Here and only here does one find the genuinely unquestionable starting point” – Greg Bahnsen.

 

In other words, the only way to account for the reliability of reason is if Christian epistemology is true.

  • Without a transcendent, objective source of knowledge all reasoning is irrational.
  • This is because there is no way to account for it objectively.

 

 

Irrational Faith:

Understanding all of this, we can now look at some common objections to the rationality of Christian beliefs.

  • As we do, we will see if we can identify the problem with each approach.

 

(1) God of the Gaps

  • Christian faith may have been rational before the advent of modern science – but no longer.
  • Science has demonstrated that it can provide empirical evidence for why things are the way they are.
  • Locusts don’t swarm due to the judgment of God, but because of a “build-up of serotonin”.
  • Crops don’t flourish because God has shown favor, but because the right combination of water and nutrients were introduced.

 

Is this using objection 1, objection 2, objection 3 or a combination of them all?

  • Is it successful?
  • What unproven presuppositions lie behind this accusation?

 

(2) Religious Pluralism

  • The numbers of religious traditions that claim to know the truth are enormous.
  • It seems unlikely that one is any better than the others.
  • Nor does it make sense that a cognitive process aimed at supposedly producing true beliefs would produce so many beliefs at odds with each other.

 

Is this using objection 1, objection 2, objection 3 or a combination of them all?

  • Is it successful?
  • What unproven presuppositions lie behind this accusation?

 

(3) Intellectually Arrogant

  • It is arrogant, narrow-minded and intolerant to think that you have stumbled upon the truth.
  • Not to mention, this implies that those who disagree with you are somehow intellectually inferior.
  • “William Cantwell Smith: ‘except at the cost of insensitivity or delinquency, it is morally not possible actually to go out into the world and say to devout, intelligent, fellow human beings: ‘. . . we believe that we know God and we are right; you believe that you know God and you are totally wrong’” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

Is this using objection 1, objection 2, objection 3 or a combination of them all?

  • Is it successful?
  • What unproven presuppositions lie behind this accusation?

 

(4) Evidence Deficient

  • There simply isn’t any good empirical evidence that Christian truth claims are tenable.
  • Supernatural truth claims can’t be tested.
  • Even if they are true – there is no way to know them to be so.

 

Is this using objection 1, objection 2, objection 3 or a combination of them all?

  • Is it successful?
  • What unproven presuppositions lie behind this accusation?

 

(5) Wish-Fulfillment

  • “These [religious beliefs], which are given out as teachings, are not precipitates of experience or end-results of thinking: they are illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind. The secret of their strength lies in the strength of those wishes. As we already know, the terrifying impressions of helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection — for protection through love — which was provided by the father; and the recognition that this helplessness lasts throughout life made it necessary to cling to the existence of a father, but this time a more powerful one. Thus the benevolent rule of a divine Providence allays our fear of the dangers of life; the establishment of a moral world-order ensures the fulfillment of the demands of justice, which have so often remained unfulfilled in human civilization; and the prolongation of earthly existence in a future life provides the local and temporal framework in which these wish-fulfillments shall take place” – Alvin Plantinga (quoting Sigmund Freud).

 

Is this using objection 1, objection 2, objection 3 or a combination of them all?

  • Is it successful?
  • What unproven presuppositions lie behind this accusation?

 

Plantinga sees wish-fulfillment as the most persuasive argument against the rationality of Christian beliefs.

  • Even so, he dispatches it quite easily.

 

He does so as follows:

  • The claim, he says, is that “there is a failure of rational faculties to work as they should”.
  • The malfunction is wish-fulfillment.
  • The false belief is God.

 

But, Christian epistemology “stands Freud and Marx on their heads” – Plantinga.

  • “It is really the unbeliever who displays epistemic malfunction; failing to believe in God is a result of some kind of dysfunction of the sensus divinitatis” – Alvin Plantinga.

 

He goes on to say:

  • “According to St. Paul, it is unbelief that is a result of dysfunction, or brokenness, failure to function properly, or impedance of rational faculties. Unbelief, he says, is a result of sin; it originates in an effort, as Romans 1 puts it, to ‘suppress the truth in unrighteousness.’”

 

And even more fun is this:

  • “Indeed, unbelief can also be seen as resulting from wish-fulfillment — a result of the desire to live in a world without God, a world in which there is no one to whom I owe worship and obedience” – Plantinga.

 

But wait…there is more!

  • It might be that wish-fulfillment does produce many false beliefs.
  • But, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t produce the one true belief it is aimed at producing – belief in God.

 

 

Conclusion:

Christian beliefs are not irrational any more than it is to believe in the past.

  • We could theoretically be wrong, but we are not irrational.

 

The only legitimate objection to Christian belief would be to show that our presuppositions are wrong.

  • Specifically, that the Christian God doesn’t exist and/or that He did not reveal Himself in Scripture.

 

The problem here, of course, is that there are just as many logically sound arguments for belief in the personal God of the Bible as there are against such a belief.

  • So ultimately, we always end up back at our presuppositions.

 

And as Greg Bahnsen said earlier, we argue for the “impossibility of the contrary”.

  • Without God as the source of an objective, transcendent knowledge, and without Him providing adequate reasoning apparatus to “know” this knowledge, there is no meaningful reasoning about knowledge.

 

For as Scripture says:

  • Colossians 2:2–3 (ESV) — 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
  • Proverbs 2:6 (ESV) — 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
  • Job 38:36 (ESV) — 36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?
  • Isaiah 55:9 (ESV) — 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
  • Colossians 1:15–17 (ESV) — 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

 

 

*A further word about circular reasoning:

“Indeed, it is the case, as many will be quick to point out, that this presuppositional method of apologetics assumes the truth of Scripture in order to argue for the truth of Scripture. Such is unavoidable when ultimate truths are being debated. However, such is not damaging, for it is not a flat circle in which one reasons (i.e., “the Bible is true because the Bible is true”). Rather, the Christian apologist simply recognizes that the ultimate truth—that which is more pervasive, fundamental, and necessary—is such that it cannot be argued independently of the preconditions inherent in it. One must presuppose the truth of God’s revelation in order to reason at all—even when reasoning about God’s revelation. The fact that the apologist presupposes the word of God in order to carry on a discussion or debate about the veracity of that word does not nullify his argument, but rather illustrates it” – Greg Bahnsen.

 

 

Romans 5:1-2 – Hope in Peace and Glory

Romans 5:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

 

 

Introduction:

Over the past few weeks, we explored the saving faith that connects us to the righteousness of God.

  • Of the many things we uncovered, one was that this faith consisted of new knowledge, new affections and new hopes.

 

As Paul transitions from chapter 4 to 5, he spells out the content of our new hope.

  • Specifically, he fleshes out the now and not yet aspects of our new hope.

 

N.T. Wright says there is a good reason for Paul to speak of the content – the facts – of our hope.

“We mustn’t imagine that our feeling of being close to God is a true index of the reality. Emotions often deceive. Paul is summoning us to understand the reality, the solid rock beneath the shifting sands of feeling” – N.T. Wright.

 

If our faith is not blind, the hope of that faith is not blind either!

  • This is especially important to know during times of suffering.
  • We will see this next week.

 

 

Therefore – Peace:

Romans 5:1 (ESV) — 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

So in 3:21, Paul transitioned from God’s judging righteousness into His saving righteousness as found in Jesus Christ with “but now”.

  • Here he transitions into the new reality of the “righteoused” with a “therefore”.
  • This new reality is why our future hope has real, actual content.

 

A first new reality for the “righteoused” that gives content to our hope is…

  • We have peace with God” (vs. 1).

 

Now what this means for the “righteoused” is powerful.

  • The idea here pertains to the nature of our relationship with God – Moo.
  • Instead of being at enmity with God, we are now reconciled to Him – something Paul will talk about a lot in the coming verses.
  • Paul uses “peace” to describe this reconciled relationship.

 

This relationship of peace is an objective fact.

  • It was made possible by the historical work of Christ.
  • And it becomes ours through faith.
  • This reality can and should bring feelings of peace.
  • But it does not find its reality in feelings.
  • It finds reality in the facts of the Gospel – the new knowledge of saving faith.

 

To flesh out the meaning of this peace we have we can look to the OT.

  • Tom Schreiner points out that…
  • “In the OT peace is the gift of the end time when God fulfills his covenantal promises to his people” – Tom Schreiner.

 

In other words, peace is covenant language with both a present reality and a future hope.

  • The reality of our present peace with God points to the complete consummation of peace with God.

 

These OT passages will help us here:

  • Zechariah 8:12 (ESV) — 12 For there shall be a sowing of peace. The vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its produce, and the heavens shall give their dew. And I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.
  • Ezekiel 37:26 (ESV) — 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.
  • We have peace with God now, but more is coming.
  • Namely the heaven on earth stuff.

 

BTW – If only the “righteoused” are at peace with God, what are we to say of the “none righteoused”?

 

 

 

Therefore – Grace:

Romans 5:2a (ESV) 2a Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand,

 

A second reality that gives content to our new hopes is grace.

  • The “righteoused” are ushered into a new realm or domain of grace.
  • And, “It is the realm in which ‘grace reigns’ (5:21), a realm that is set in contrast to the realm or domain of the law” – Doug Moo.

 

We explored this domain of grace some weeks ago as an introduction to Romans.

  • So I will not cover it here.
  • Needless to say, however, that the implications of this new domain are huge!

 

 

Therefore – Hope in Glory:

Romans 5:2b (ESV) 2b and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God

 

A third reality that gives content to our new hope is the idea of glorification.

  • Paul says we have a “hope of the glory of God”.

 

What we need to understand right away is that…

  • Paul is talking about a glory of God that will be restored in us.
  • The “righteoused” of God will actually be changed – ontologically (our being).

 

And this coming change of our being is something about which we are to rejoice.

  • This literally means that we are “to take pride in something, boast” – BDAG.
  • We are to boast about this coming transformation.

 

Glorification:

What is this coming change; what is this glorification?

  • What is “hope of the glory of God”?

 

It is both incredible and bizarre sounding at the same time.

  • “‘The glory of God’ is that state of ‘God-like-ness’ which has been lost because of sin, and which will be restored in the last day to every Christian” – Douglas Moo.
  • This is not just a spiritual and ethical state, but a physical state as well.
  • It is also known as theosis or deification.

 

Paul speaks of this in a variety of ways.

  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) — 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:14–16 (ESV) — 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:42–44 (ESV) — 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:49 (ESV) — 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

 

Peter speaks of this:

  • 2 Peter 1:4 (ESV) — 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

 

John tells us Jesus’ hope concerning His glory.

  • John 17:24 (ESV) — 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

 

And he later tells us what this means for us!

  • 1 John 3:2 (ESV) — 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

 

Take It Up a Notch:

Greek theologian Panayiotis Nellas calls all of this our “Christification”:

  • He says that Paul doesn’t speak of this glorification “for reasons of external piety and sentiment; he speaks ontologically. He is not advocating an external imitation or a simple ethical improvement but a real Christification” – Panayiotis Nellas.
  • And as we just saw in 1 Corinthians 15, our resurrection will complete our “Christification”.

 

A similar concept is present in the OT.

  • Scholars see it present in the radiant “star” language describing the heavenly host who live in the presence of God.

 

Here are examples of referring to members of the heavenly host as celestial beings.

  • Psalm 148:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! 2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! 3 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! 4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
  • Job 38:7 (ESV) — 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

 

Then Daniel uses this language to describe the elect.

  • Daniel 12:3 (ESV) — 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

 

But with Paul, glorification (shining/ruling like the heavenly host), like just about everything else, has been redefined entirely around Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

  • Yahweh’s intent to glorify the people of God is accomplished in and through Jesus.
  • In a sense, through Christ, we become the heavenly host – God’s rulers (Michael Heiser).
  • Revelation 3:21 (ESV) — 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

 

This is why Paul can say (Michael Heiser):

  • 1 Corinthians 6:3a (ESV) — 3a Do you not know that we are to judge angels?
  • Colossians 1:12 (ESV) — 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light [holy ones – heavenly host].

 

Glorification Wrap-Up:

So much more can be said of the NT’s concept of glorification and its connection to various OT ideas.

  • Needless to say, this is a topic neglected in the modern western church.

 

Michael Heiser quotes Robert Rakestraw to make this point:

“The idea of deification, of redeemed human nature somehow participating in the very life of God, is found to a surprising extent throughout Christian history, although it is practically unknown to the majority of Christians (and even many theologians) in the west” – Robert Rakestraw.

 

Indeed, I found that from Augustine to Calvin, this concept was taught and understood.

  • Some considering it “the greatest possible blessing” – Carl Mosser.
  • For example, Calvin says about 2 Peter 1:4…
  • “We should notice that it is the purpose of the Gospel to make us sooner or later like God; indeed it is, so to speak, a kind of deification” – John Calvin.

 

BTW – “The Mormon concept of deification (‘eternal progression’ or ‘exaltation’ in LDS parlance) is very different from anything in the orthodox Christian tradition” – Carl Mosser.

 

 

Romans 5:3-5 – Honor and Hope in Suffering

Romans 5:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

 

Introduction:

Beginning with Romans 5:1, we have been looking at the content of the hope of saving faith.

  • Last week we dealt with the peace and glory that comes with our righteousness in Christ and the hope they produce.
  • Today, Paul deals with a life that boasts in suffering and its relationship to hope.
  • We need to figure out why Paul makes such a bold claim.

 

We are going into the trees, as usual, but N.T. Wright wants us not to lose sight of the forest.

“What [Paul] is doing, throughout the section…is establishing those who belong to Jesus as the true covenant family, those in whom all the promises (and all the commands) given to Israel have come true” – N.T. Wright.

  • Why – because only the people of God are at peace with God, hope in His glory and can objectively boast in the midst of suffering.

 

 

Therefore – Hope Through Suffering:

Romans 5:3–4 (ESV) — 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

  • In this text, Paul gives us a fourth reality that gives content to our new hope…
  • The redemption of our suffering.
  • We saw the other three last week.

 

Now last week we also saw that though the ESV uses “rejoice”, the meaning here is “to boast”.

  • In order to get at what Paul is teaching here, we need to dig into this idea a bit more.

 

 

Boasting:

In the honor/shame culture of Paul’s time, suffering was not seen as honorable, but as shameful.

  • Honor – considered a virtue – was not to be found in suffering.

 

Robert Jewett puts it like this:

“In the extreme version of an honor/shame environment present in Rome, where triumphs over enemies were celebrated on every side, to boast in a groups adversities…is counter-cultural” – Robert Jewett.

 

This means that once again Paul, in recognition of the new reality in which the believer walks…

  • Is taking yet another feature of human existence and redefining it around Jesus Christ.
  • And in suggesting the believer can boast in sufferings, he is turning cultural norms on their head.

 

And as N.T. Wright alluded to in his big picture statement…

  • This redefinition of one’s attitude toward suffering around Christ is a fulfillment of O.T. hopes.
  • Psalm 21:5 (Brenton LXX En) — 5 They cried to thee, and were saved: they hoped in thee, and were not ashamed.
  • Psalm 24:20 (Brenton LXX En) — 20 Keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I have hoped in thee.

 

Paul, by the way, is well aware of the perceived absurdity of much of what he is teaching.

  • 1 Corinthians 1:27–30 (ESV) — 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

 

Boasting in Sufferings:

So what are the sufferings?

  • The idea here is “trouble that inflicts distress, oppression, affliction, tribulation” – BDAG.
  • Specifically, Tom Schreiner says Paul is referring to “the pressures and troubles that afflict believers in this present evil age” – Schreiner.
  • It is within the context of these realities that we are to boast.

 

Importantly, we are not being asked to boast of the affliction itself.

  • “Note, he doesn’t say that we celebrate our sufferings (in the same way that we celebrate our hope, in verse 2). We celebrate, he says, in our sufferings” – Tom Wright.

 

The Christian does not celebrate evil and affliction.

  • In fact, to arrive at the hope Paul speaks of, we must recognize that suffering is at odds with God’s ultimate purpose for creation.
  • Therefore, it is something He will redeem and put right.

 

We need to be especially sensitive to this when ministering to each other.

  • Recognize the evil; don’t downplay it.
  • And then, at the right time, boast in the hope of redemption.

 

So why are we to boast “in our sufferings”?

  • 1 Peter 3:14–15 (ESV) — 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
  • Peter says we are to have an answer to this question.

 

And given the apparent disparity between the new reality Paul says we have in Christ…

  • And the circumstances as they really seem to present…
  • Paul himself knows an answer is required.

 

BTW – This is a parallel to our Moses’ Message lesson from Genesis 1-3.

  • Under Moses, the people of God were in slavery and under oppression by Egypt and her elohim.
  • Yet Moses was bringing a message of the preeminence of Yahweh and His covenant faithfulness.
  • Under Paul, the people of God were suffering and seemingly not living in the reality Paul was describing.
  • Yet Paul was bringing the “but now” and “therefore” message of a new reality in Christ.
  • A reality that supposedly demonstrated the covenant faithfulness of God.
  • If faith in Yahweh is rational, there must be an explanation of the apparent disconnect!

 

So Paul says the answer to the question of why we are to boast in our sufferings is:

  • We can rejoice because, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope”.

 

In Christ, suffering doesn’t produce shame but hope…wow!

  • How?

 

Paul spells out a sequence of things whereby suffering leads to hope.

  • Suffering – Endurance – Character – Hope.
  • I think we can get the gist of what Paul is saying with some definitions.

 

Endurance is…

  • “The capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty” – BDAG.
  • Robert Jewett calls it fortitude.
  • So suffering produces (cultivates) something in us – ostensibly something from God – that we didn’t have before.
  • Namely, a capacity to “hold out” or show fortitude in the midst of suffering.
  • This holding out is for a purpose…character.

 

Character is…

  • “The experience of going through a test with special reference to the result” – BDAG.
  • So the capacity to “hold out” in the midst of suffering produces a God ordained and sourced result.
  • Which is what, exactly?
  • A tested and authenticated faith – Jewett.
  • Character here is authenticity.
  • The realization of authenticity (and its source – more on this later) brings hope.

 

Hope is…

  • The anticipation of the glory of God we talked about last week – theosis, deification, Christification.
  • The point is that a tested and authenticated faith is a saving faith that is shown to contain this sort of hope.

 

As we saw a few weeks ago…

  • Faith consists of new knowledge, new affections and a new hope.
  • Now we see that faith is authentic if it contains this tested and authenticated hope.
  • “Hope, like a muscle, will not be strong if it goes unused” – Douglas Moo.

 

It might help us to paraphrase Paul given what we now know.

  • The believers’ sufferings cultivate the capacity to hold out in their midst.
  • And, in fact, result in a person of character – one who has been tested and authenticated as having a saving faith.
  • Why? Because the person responds to suffering with hope of the glory of God.

 

BTW – as we said earlier, none of this means that we are happy in or with our sufferings!

 

 

Therefore – Honor Through Hope:

Romans 5:5 (ESV) — 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

But wait…there is more.

  • The additional idea Paul wants us to see is that the only way suffering can bring about these things is if one has been righteoused by God in Christ through faith.

 

The boasting is in what God has done in us!

  • God creates these things out of our suffering.
  • In other words, none of this happens because of our efforts.

 

Paul gets at this in verse 5.

  • Our hope doesn’t bring us shame, but contrary to the world’s view, it brings us honor – “does not put us to shame”.

 

How can this be?

  • What is the thing that makes hope and not shame out of our suffering?
  • Or as we saw earlier, how does the “but now” (3:21) bring about the Psalmist’s cry…
  • Psalm 24:20 (Brenton LXX En) — 20 Keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I have hoped in thee.

 

Paul says beautifully:

  • because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

The fuel behind this entire feature of Christian life that Paul is describing is – the love of God!

  • A love “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”.
  • A Holy Spirit given to us by God.

 

Robert Jewett wants us to know something about Paul’s words here.

  • Poured out”, he says, is language used to describe the pouring out of blood.
  • Matthew 26:28 (ESV) — 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
  • So, no doubt, Christ’s work on the cross is in view here as an act of love.
  • This “poured out” love is part of the “but now” that leads to Paul’s “therefore” in Romans 5.

 

BTW – In Revelation, “poured out” is used many times of God pouring out his wrath.

  • Remember – saving righteousness and judging righteousness.

 

And this love of God, His sacrificial love, is “poured into our hearts” through the Spirit “who has been given to us”.

  • We need to point out two things here.

 

The first is that this alludes to the truth Jesus taught in John.

  • John 16:7 (ESV) — 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
  • For the reality Paul is describing to be a true and present reality…
  • Christ had to send us the Spirit of God.

 

The second thing is that Paul says this love through the Spirit is “poured into our hearts”.

  • There is no way we can know what this means without knowing what is meant by the heart.

 

So what is the “heart”?

  • It is a “Judaic conception of the human person” as “the seat of understanding, knowledge, and will” – Jewett.

 

This is remarkable stuff!

  • The heart, in this sense, is the place of faith – our knowledge, affections and hope.
  • In this place the Spirit enables and sustains our saving faith – our hope in the midst of suffering.

 

So this is why it is God, and not ourselves, about whom we boast.

  • The Spirit poured out in love into our hearts displaces the shame of suffering with a hope from
  • “Divine love addresses shame at its deepest level…” – Robert Jewett.

 

Finally, to hope in our suffering is not an irrational delusion for the Christian.

  • It points to the very real presence of God’s “poured out” love through the Holy Spirit.
  • It points to the very real fact that we have been “righteoused” by God.

 

 

Romans 5:6-11 – Love of God

Introduction:

Beginning in Romans 5, Paul details the benefits of being connected to God’s saving righteousness through faith.

  • Peace
  • Grace
  • Hope for the glory of God
  • Redemption of our sufferings
  • Hope in our sufferings

 

In our text today, Paul expands on verse 5.

  • God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
  • Specifically, Paul has more to say about the love of God.

 

Romans 5:6–11 (ESV) — 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

 

 

Verses 6-8:

Romans 5:6–8 (ESV) — 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

A quick observation before we unpack these verses.

  • Speaking of love, I love how Paul speaks of and understands God’s love…
  • In context of God’s actions on behalf of His creatures…
  • And not some flimsy sentimentalism or emotion.

 

 

God’s Love is Incomparable:

Paul wants us to see that God’s demonstration of His love in Christ is unique and incomparable.

  • Paul shows this in at least one significant way.
  • (1) God’s love was shown to us while we were “weak…still sinners” (vs. 6 and 8).

 

So to fully appreciate what Paul is doing we need to understand “asthenes” – translated as “weak”.

  • The word generally has physical health connotations.
  • It can often refer to having a debilitating illness – BDAG.
  • This is an illness from which the sufferer is powerless to recover.

 

But, Paul is using the word in a different context than physical health.

  • The context is our spiritual/ethical condition before God.
  • We know this because he speaks of us as the “ungodly” (vs. 6) and “sinners” (vs. 8).

 

So, when Paul says we are “athenes”…

  • He is describing the hopelessness of our spiritual condition as the “ungodly”.
  • A spiritual condition from which we all suffer by default.

 

A condition that renders us spiritually debilitated.

  • Powerless to remedy our illness.
  • We can’t save or justify themselves.

 

Some translations try to capture this sense of “asthenes”:

  • powerless” – NIV.
  • helpless” – NET.
  • utterly helpless” – NLT.

 

Paul wants us to know it is these people – us – to whom God showed His love.

  • A godless, utterly helpless, spiritually/ethically debilitated people under God’s wrath (vs. 9).
  • As such, a people that did not deserve love from a holy God.

 

Tom Schreiner helps us here:

“Christ did not die for sinners because he detected in them an inclination toward God” – Tom Schreiner.

  • Fantastically, it was quite the opposite.
  • He died for us because we had none!
  • This is the love of God!

 

Paul drives the point home further by saying…

  • “Look, the world simply does not love this way”.
  • “This love of God I am talking about is alien to the human existence”.
  • For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die” – vs. 7.
  • But Christ died for the “ungodly”!

 

 

Trinitarian Rabbit Trail:

I want to look closer at verse 8 before we move on to verses 9-11.

  • But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Paul says “God” the Father shows His love for us – “theos” is God the Father.

  • And the Father does so by the death of “Christ” (the Son).

 

Why not simply say…

  • “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, he died for us”?

 

How does it make sense for person “A” to show his personal love to person “C” by sending person “B” to die for person “C”?

  • Maybe “A” loves “C”, but he certainly doesn’t love “B”.

 

N.T. Wright, fortunately, makes the same observation.

  • “What Paul says here makes no sense unless…”
  • “…Jesus, in his life and death, was the very incarnation…of the living, loving God”.

 

He spells it out even more:

“If the death of the Messiah demonstrates how much God loves us, that can only be because the Messiah is the fully human being in whom the living God is fully present” – N.T. Wright.

 

John Murray helpfully points out…

  • That grammatically, Paul is not talking about a mere expression of God’s love.
  • Paul is talking about the actual love “of [God] Himself”.

 

In other words, for Christ to love is for God to love.

  • God shows his love…” – Romans 5:8
  • Christ loved us and gave himself up for us – Eph 5:2
  • The same love.

 

If all of this isn’t so, then the Trinity has problems.

  • But there is one other thing that makes sense of this for us.
  • One other thing that drives home the reality of the Trinity.

 

Why does Christ revealing the love of God to us by His death mean He Himself is God?

 

First, we need to understand that Paul taught that God’s love (the Father’s love) is “in Christ”.

  • Romans 8:39 (ESV) — 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • The language here is important – God’s love is “in Christ”.

 

Second, we need to understand that this parallels the idea of God’s “name” being in Christ.

  • John 17:6 (ESV) — 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
  • So in Jesus we find not just the love of God, but God’s name.

 

Paul speaks of the name as well:

  • Romans 10:9 & 13 (ESV) — 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
  • Confessing that “Jesus is Lord” saves.
  • Calling on “the name of the Lord” that Paul just identified as Jesus, saves.
  • Jesus is the “name of the Lord”.

 

So God’s love and God’s name are in Christ.

  • Christ reveals and manifests each to us.
  • Jesus is the name of the Lord.
  • So what?

 

To bring it all together, we need to know that in the OT God’s “name” is a reference to Yahweh Himself.

  • This is relevant because Romans 9:13 is actually a quote from the OT.
  • Joel 2:32a (ESV) — 32a And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
  • Lord” here is Yahweh.

 

So what Paul has done is this:

  • Jesus is the Lord ” and He is the “name of the Lord
  • In Joel, the name of the Lord is literally the name of Yahweh.

 

So in identifying Jesus with Joel’s the “the name of the Lord”…

  • He has identified Jesus as Yahweh.

 

We will close this rabbit trail with Michael Heiser.

“The Name and Yahweh were interchanged in Israelite theology, so that trusting in ‘the Name of Yahweh’ meant trusting in Yahweh. Likewise, trusting in the name of the Lord, who is Yahweh in the Old Testament quotation, is the same as confessing Jesus as Lord” – Michael Heiser.

 

So because Yahweh’s love and Yahweh’s name are in Jesus, He is Yahweh.

  • And so Paul can sensibly say, “God shows his love…Christ died”.

 

BTW – A quick comment about “at the right time” from verse 6.

  • Mark 1:15 (ESV) — 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
  • Galatians 4:4 (ESV) — 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,

 

 

Verses 9-11:

Romans 5:9–11 (ESV) — 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

 

Because of God’s incomparable expression of love in Christ…

  • We have now been justified by his blood” (vs. 9).
  • Those connected to this saving activity of Christ are made right with God.

 

The result is that we are “saved by him”.

  • Though salvation consists of a “saved to” and “saved for” dimension…
    • Eternal life, new heavens/new earth, resurrection, glorification, etc.
  • Paul here is speaking of its “saved from” dimension.
  • The thing we are saved from is “the wrath of God” (vs. 9).

 

Paul then reflects back on verse 6 and reminds the “ungodly” that:

  • we were enemies” (vs. 10) of God.

 

And then he lays out a chain of logic…

  • If, out of love, God reconciled the ungodly – his enemies – to Himself by “the death of his Son” (vs. 10)…
  • How much more – now that we are reconciled – “shall we be saved by his life” (vs. 10).

 

The God whose love reconciles Himself to His enemies…

  • Is a God whose love surely doesn’t stop there.
  • God’s love is a how much more love!

 

So Jesus died to reconcile.

  • But He was also raised to life!
  • Because of this we are “saved by his life” (vs. 10).

 

 

Interesting Point:

A cool thing about verse 10 is how Paul plays two powerful themes off of each other.

  • Reconciled by His death
  • Saved by His life

 

What this drives home is that Christ’s death wasn’t just a means to an end – namely His resurrection.

  • It was an end work of God in itself.

 

The EDNT puts it this way:

  • “The subject of reconciliation for Paul is therefore exclusively God; it proceeds entirely from him, and it is entirely his work”.
  • And the basis of reconciliation, it says, is “the atoning death of Jesus”.

 

The NT speaks of this elsewhere:

  • Colossians 1:21-22 (ESV) — 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
  • Hebrews 2:14 (ESV) — 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

 

Importantly, the fact that we are “reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (vs. 10)…

  • Requires that we concede – as we saw earlier in Romans…
  • That reconciliation is not possible if Jesus didn’t take upon Himself the wrath of God.
  • Romans 1:18 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

 

Peace with God does not come from life…it comes from death.

  • Peace with God does not come from the withholding of God’s wrath…it comes from God’s wrath finding satisfaction upon Jesus.

 

All of this is why God’s love is so remarkable.

  • Jesus shielded His enemies from the wrath of God.
  • And the “enemies” connected to Jesus by faith are reconciled to God as a result.

 

Is it any wonder that Paul finishes up this section with this:

  • More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11).

 

What an understatement!

  • We are to rejoice or boast in God for what he has done.
  • This is why Paul was so adamant about the following:
  • Romans 3:27a (ESV) — 27a Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.

 

 

Conclusion:

Throughout this text, Paul has held in tension two things.

  • (1) God’s love – “God shows his love” (vs. 8).
  • (2) God’s wrath – “wrath of God” (vs. 9).

 

Paul makes clear that by default humanity is under God’s wrath because we are…

  • the ungodly” (vs. 6).
  • sinners” (vs. 8).
  • enemies” (vs. 10).

 

But the love of God brings resolution to those connected to Christ by faith because we are:

  • reconciled” (vs. 10).
  • saved” (vs. 10).
  • Amen!!

Romans 5:12-14 – Sin and Death

Introduction:

Last week we took a look at the idea of Original Sin vs. Garden Exile and Original Death.

  • The issue we wrestled with was how we are condemned for the actions of Adam and Eve.
  • Essentially, we rehashed a lesson from our Genesis series on Romans 5:12.
  • Today I want to expand Paul’s thought a bit by dealing with verses 12-14.

 

To set up this lesson I want to point out that…

  • We too often think today that our main problem before God is our sin.

 

We teach that the solution to our sin problem is to repent.

  • Which we define as stopping our sin and walking in obedience.

 

This is not the Gospel that Paul teaches.

  • Paul has already said something about this in Romans 3.
  • And he expands on it in our text today.

 

 

Romans 5:12–14 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

 

Paul breaks off from finishing his point in 5:12.

  • The dash at the end of verse 12 in the ESV signifies this break in Paul’s train of thought.
  • It appears that he picks back up on his train of thought in verse 14b and following (Moo).

 

But why does he get momentarily of course?

  • To answer this, we need to see what he says.

 

 

Verse 13 and 14:

Sin, of some sort, was present before Sinai.

  • sin indeed was in the world before the law was given” – vs. 13.

 

But it was a sin that was “not counted” or reckoned because it was before Sinai.

  • not counted where there is no law” – vs. 13
  • Not counted” here refers to a legal stance of not being worthy of death – Douglas Moo.

 

That is a bit strange!

  • There is a sin that is not worthy of death?
  • What in the world is this weirdness?

 

Paul seems to be aware of the oddity of this statement.

  • He goes on to say, as if he is surprised to be in disagreement with himself…
  • Yet, death reigned from Adam to Moses” – vs. 14.
  • Death referring here to both its spiritual and physical aspects (Moo & Schreiner).

 

So, Paul concedes that those whose sin was “not counted” did and do experience death.

  • “Those” here being those that lived between Adam and Moses.
  • This is seemingly a contradiction of his previous statement.
  • Those whose sin is “not counted” in fact died.

 

He then expands on the idea of a “not counted” sin with a “not like” sin.

  • He says death reigned “even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam” – vs. 14.
  • Very similar to his, Romans 4:15 (ESV) — 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

 

In other words, death not only came to those whose sin was “not counted”.

  • The “not counted’s” sin was “not like the transgression of Adam”.
    • Transgression meaning “violating an express command of God” – Douglas Moo.
  • Yet, in spite of both these things – “not counted” and “not like” – death still reigned for thee folks.
  • Apparently this is not something we would expect.

 

All of this brings us back to ask why did Paul take this detour in verses 13 and 14.

  • What point was he trying to make?
  • And how is he not contradicting himself?

 

 

Death and Sin:

There is some disagreement about this.

 

I think…

  • The point Paul is making is that dominion/ownership are fundamental (not the law) to whether death and sin obtain.
    • death reigned” – vs. 14
    • death reigned” – vs. 17

 

 

What we know:

We already know that Paul teaches that the law is not needed to have some kind of sin.

  • Romans 2:12 (ESV) — 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.

 

Yet it is clear that Paul sees a difference between “law sin” and “law-less sin”.

  • Or as Tom Schreiner puts it…
  • Paul believes that “apart from the Mosaic law sin is not equivalent to transgression”.

 

But what is common to all is the reign of death – “death reigned” (vss. 14 & 17).

  • Whether one has “law sin” or “law-less” sin, all live under the reign of death.
  • Paul refers to this reign of death elsewhere as being “in Adam” or “under sin

 

So Paul’s point is to demonstrate the priority of dominion over law.

  • If law were our problem, Paul would be contradicting himself as we pointed our earlier.

 

In other words, “sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned…

  • Would be problematic if it was the law breaking that was fundamentally responsible for the reign of death.

 

But our problem is far more problematic than acts of sin or law breaking – even as serious as these are.

  • Let’s unpack this idea of dominion to tease this point out.

 

 

Dominion of Sin – In Adam and Under Sin:

In Romans 3, we saw that Paul teaches that all are “under sin”.

  • Romans 3:9 (ESV) — 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,

 

Every human being is born under the dominion, ownership and power of sin.

  • This is true whether one has the law or not!!
  • And Paul says this is “because of one man’s trespass” – Romans 5:17.

 

And Paul established – rather easily – that because of this all people die.

  • death spread to all men” – Romans 5:12.

 

And, again, this is the case whether one has the law or not.

  • As Schreiner says, “the power of death is so great that it exercises its dominion over people even if no law exists” – Tom Schreiner.

 

So, all of this means that, fundamentally, the problem of death is not law-breaking.

  • Something, according to Douglas Moo, that some Jews thought.

 

Or to put it another way:

  • Our connection to Adam is not law breaking and acts of sin.

 

The problem is that we, because of Adam, were born in Garden Exile.

  • In this place we are alienated from God.
  • In this place we live under the dominion of sin.
  • In this place death – spiritual and physical – reigns.

 

The parallel to this is faith and Abraham.

  • Our connection to Abraham is not obedience – he didn’t have the law.
  • Our connection is faith.

 

We will see in the coming weeks that understanding this will help us understand what Christ as done.

  • It will help us understand how Paul can say Adam was a type for Christ.
  • a type of the one who was to come.” – verse 14.
  • In fact, it will be at this foundational level that Paul will connect Adam and Christ.

 

Right now, it should help us to see that a focus on behavior is a distraction from dominion.

  • We are all in Garden Exile where death reigns and sin happens.
  • Death reigns, Paul says, not law breaking.

 

Repentance as commonly defined – a stopping of sin – will get you nowhere if done in the reign of death and the dominion of sin.

  • If fact, Paul will show in Romans 7 that the law was designed to show us this.
  • Romans 7:10 (ESV) — 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.

 

If our problem is behavior, the solution needed is not all that drastic.

  • But if our problem is dominion – the reign of death – then we are in need of some drastic measures.
  • Measures that we ourselves are powerless to actualize.

 

We need something much more than new behaviors.

  • Just as one man led us into Garden Exile.
  • We need somebody to lead us out of Garden Exile.
  • We need a new Moses and a new Joshua.
  • We need a new High Priest to usher us into a restored Sacred Space.

 

 

Romans 5:15-21 – Adam and Jesus – Reign Makers

Last week we saw the significance of understanding humanity’s fundamental problem.

  • For if our fundamental problem is behavior – acts of sin – then the remedy is simply behavior modification.
  • But, if our fundamental problem is one of dominion – of who owns us – then the remedy is all together different.

 

Today Paul deals with the connection between Adam and Jesus.

  • The very thing he started in Romans 5:12.
  • Specifically, he “explains the typological relationship between Adam and Christ” – Douglas Moo.
  • And, like our fundamental problem, the connection between Adam and Christ has significant implications for understanding our condition and its remedy.

 

 

Romans 5:15–21 (ESV) — 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

 

Verse 15:

Romans 5:15 (ESV) — 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

 

Paul sets up the Adam and Jesus connection for us with a contrast.

  • He distinguishes between the “free gift” of Christ and “the trespass” of Adam.
  • He says they are “not like” each other.

 

He then tells us why.

  • many died through one man’s trespass”.
  • Yet, “abounded for many” was “the free gift” and “grace of God” by the “one man Jesus Christ”.

In other words:

  • Adam – death to humanity through trespass.
  • Jesus – free gift to humanity through grace.

 

 

Verse 16:

Romans 5:16 (ESV) — 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.

 

Paul then contrasts the “the result” that followed Adam’s sin with the “free gift” of Jesus that followed many sins.

  • The result” of Adam’s action is “not like” Jesus’ “free gift”.

 

Paul says of the “one man’s sin” – Adam’s sin:

  • It resulted in “condemnation”.
  • Why? Because God judged it.

 

One sin, I repeat, one sin of Adam brought condemnation to all of us.

  • Every human being was sentenced to Garden Exile because of Adam’s one sin.

 

He then says of the “many trespasses” – humanity’s sin:

  • They resulted in “justification”.
  • Why? Because this sin was followed by Jesus’ “free gift” and not judgment.

 

So after many, many, many sins the grace of God in Jesus Christ reversed the judgment on Adam.

  • Paul wants us to see that Adam put the hurt on us with one
  • But Jesus Christ’s “free gift” could overcome a legion of sins!

 

 

Verse 17:

Romans 5:17 (ESV) — 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

 

Paul then explains how the “free gift” could have such enormous power.

  • And again, he does so by way of contrast.

 

Adam’s “trespass” put all of humanity under the reign of death.

  • death reigned through that one man”.
  • Again, this is Garden Exile.

 

But, and this is huge, Paul says “much more”…

  • Paul, as he did with the contrast in verse 16, wants us to see that…
  • Though Adam might be a type for Christ…
  • There is not a one-to-one correlation.
  • Jesus is of a completely different kind.

 

Tom Schreiner captures this well:

  • “It is one thing to blemish what is beautiful, but it is much harder to set straight what is already crooked” – Tom Schreiner.

 

And Douglas Moo points out:

  • “The work of Christ, being a manifestation of grace, is greater in every way than that of Adam”.

 

So, “much more”…“through the one man Jesus Christ” comes:

  • The “abundance of graceAND the “free gift of righteousness in life”.
  • But…this is for “those who receive”.

 

In other words:

  • In Adam, we live under the reign of death.
  • In Christ, we live under the reign of life – “free gift of righteousness” and “abundance of grace”.

 

Notice there that Paul defines the “free gift”.

  • It is righteousness – saving activity.

 

So the “free gift” – Jesus’ saving activity/righteousness – has such enormous power…

  • Because it brings us into a new dominion – into new ownership.
  • A dominion of Grace and Life!

 

 

Verse 18:

Romans 5:18 (ESV) — 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

 

After the mother lode of truth in verse 17, Paul can now repeat himself for added emphasis.

  • Adam’s “one trespass led to condemnation for all men”.
  • But, Jesus’ “one act of righteousness (the free gift) leads to justification and life for all men”.

 

BTW – Paul says “justification and life for all men”.

  • Does this text support the Universalist’s case?

 

 

Verse 19:

Romans 5:19 (ESV) — 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

 

Again, Paul continues to reiterate the significance of Jesus’ “free gift”.

  • Adam’s “disobedience” ensured that all of us would sin.
  • But, Jesus’ “obedience” ensures that “many will be made righteous”.

 

As he did earlier, Paul is going out of his way to make sure that we notice a substantial difference between the man Adam and the “man” Jesus.

  • Why – because one must ask how does Jesus’ obedience reverse Adam’s disobedience?

 

I would argue that Jesus’ obedience has such power; his free gift has such power, because He is God and man.

  • It seems to me that only a God-man could bring about a new dominion for the dead and condemned.
  • An obedient human can’t lead us, it seems to me, out of Garden Exile.
  • After all, God is in the way (Gen 3).
  • Perhaps, a human could assist with behavior modification, but behavior isn’t our fundamental problem.

 

 

Verses 20-21:

Romans 5:20–21 (ESV) — 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

In these verses, Paul changes it up on us just a bit.

  • As if to bring verses 13 and 14 back into the equation, he brings us back to the law.

 

Remember, we saw last week that it was dominion and not trespass that was our fundamental problem.

  • But, for the Jew, this leaves the law in an awkward place.

 

So Paul, understanding this says:

  • The “law came to increase” the sin and trespass – kind of weird.
  • As N.T. Wright puts it the law is “a disturbing note” that has “intensified the problem”.

 

Wright goes on to say:

“Sin, in the sense of ordinary human wrongdoing, is by itself like a small colour slide, a photograph or piece of film which by itself you can barely see with the naked eye. What the law does is to put this tiny thing into a projector with a bright light behind it and a big screen in front of it. The law draws attention to sin, but by itself is powerless to do anything about stopping it.” – N.T. Wright.

 

Why is this a good thing?

 

Well, Paul already said, “the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (vs. 15).

  • Now, he is telling us that after the law, this grace “abounded all the more” (vs. 20).

 

In other words, the law shows us our problem of dominion.

  • It’s not that we sin, it’s that we are powerless under sin.
  • We are powerless to not sin.
  • The law makes this obvious.

 

The only solution to this is to be joined to the abounding grace of Christ.

  • This “grace in which we now stand” (5:1).

As Paul says in verse 21:

  • as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

This is so important because:

  • This grace is an entirely new dominion – an entirely new realm.
  • Jesus’ free gift moves us out of the reign of death into the reign of grace!
  • We have a new address in Christ!

 

 

Conclusion:

So what is the fundamental way that Adam is a type for Jesus?

“Adam functions as a figure who corresponds to Jesus Christ in terms of the effect of his actions upon the rest of humanity” – Tom Schreiner.

 

I like to put it this way.

  • Adam and Jesus are both “reign makers”.

 

Through Adam, we are all under the reign of sin and death.

  • But through Christ, we are all under the reign of grace through His “free gift” of righteousness.

 

 

Romans 6:1-5 – Reign Making 101 – Paul’s First Off

Romans 6:1–5 (ESV) — 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

 

 

Grace:

Paul told us in Romans 5 a number of important things about grace:

  • We have “obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” – 5:2
  • Through Jesus we “receive the abundance of grace” – 5:17
  • Where sin increased, grace increased abounded all the more” – 5:20

 

In other words:

  • The believer resides in a new domain and under a new power – grace.
  • The believer swims in an abundance of grace because of the work of Christ.
  • The believer’s sin – because of his new domain and the work of Christ – actually “activates” and magnifies this grace.

 

So the believer’s sin causes God’s grace to abound…

  • Something Paul apparently was unashamed to teach.

 

Paul’s critics were apparently suspicious of this teaching:

  • Romans 3:8 (ESV) — 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

 

 

Paul’s Answer:

Paul’s answer to this charge begins our text.

  • Romans 6:1–2a (ESV) — 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means!
  • BTW – Robert Jewett says this is Paul humorously saying, “are we to help God administer grace by helpfully sinning”.

 

Paul emphatically shoots down the idea that grace is permission to sin.

  • Should we sin because grace abounds – “by no means!” (vs. 2).
  • Free grace does not undercut morality – Douglas Moo.

“Grace, far from encouraging sin, is the only means by which sin can truly be defeated” – Douglas Moo.

 

Paul never throws grace under the bus because of a possibility of abuse.

  • In fact, going forward, we will see Paul doesn’t run from grace at all.
  • He actually makes it more robust – he links it to the work of Christ.

 

Paul’s Question:

In answering his critics, Paul then poses his own question.

  • How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (vs. 2b).

 

We have already seen that “died to sin” language involves a change of dominion.

  • It is to be separated “from the ‘rule’ or ‘realm’ of sin” – Douglas Moo.
  • “The dominion of sin has been broken in the life of the believer” – Tom Schreiner.
  • We are no longer under the power of sin.

 

In our language, it is to be moved out of Garden Exile and into the realm or dominion of grace.

  • A place where the reign of sin and death is now and not yet defeated.

 

And I agree completely with the following:

“When Paul says we have died to sin, he is not exhorting believers to cease from sin (a command in the imperative mood); he is proclaiming to them the good news that they have died to sin (a statement of fact in the indicative mood)” – Tom Schreiner.

  • As we said, Paul does not exchange grace for moralism.

 

But what does Paul mean that we no longer live in sin?

  • This sounds peculiar.
  • Mainly because we still sin.
  • We need to look at verses 3-11 to begin to unpack this.

 

And going forward, we need to remember this:

  • Verses 3-5, this weeks text, are sort of Paul’s “first off” we need to know this.
  • Verses 6-11 are his “second off” this is true.
  • His full answer to the rhetorical question posed to his critics from verse 1 is in 12-14.
  • But his answer is built upon verses 3-11.

 

 

Paul’s “First Off”:

Grace makes it impossible to “continue in sin”.

  • Why?

 

First off, Paul says, we need to realize…

  • Romans 6:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

 

So Paul’s “first off” is that we no longer “live in it” (vs. 2) or “continue in sin” (vs. 1) because:

  • We are “baptized into Christ Jesus” (vs. 3).
  • We are “baptized into his death” (vs. 3).
  • We are “buried…with him by baptism into death” (vs. 4).
  • We are “as Christraised from the dead” into a “newness of life” (vs. 5).
  • We are “united with him” in “a death like his” (vs. 5).
  • We are “united with him in a resurrection like his” (vs. 5).

 

What in the world are we to make of all this?

  • Probably one of the richest, deepest lists you will ever see.

 

What is this baptism into Christ, His death and His burial?

  • What is this raising from death into a “newness of life”?
  • What are this “death union” and “resurrection union”?

 

Before we move forward, I need to declare a presupposition I am bringing to the text.

  • Some scholars argue that Paul is referring to water baptism here – as we understand it.
  • But, there are others (Martin Lloyd-Jones; Jewett) that argue that Paul is referring to the baptism of the Spirit or speaking metaphorically.
  • I agree with the baptism of the Spirit angle.

 

The BDAG allows for such an interpretation of the word “baptizo” when it says:

  • The word can mean “to cause someone to have an extraordinary experience…of the Holy Spirit”.
  • More on this at the end.

 

In light of this take, I think we can see Paul’s teaching here as explaining something profound.

  • Paul’s “first off” list – loaded with layers of meaning – is at the very least…
  • A description of how it is that we are led out of Garden Exile – the domain of sin and death.

 

Or to put another way, how it is that Christ brings us into the dominion and power of grace.

  • THE reason why we no longer live in sin – “live in it” (vs. 2).

 

 

Reign Makers:

Remember, we saw in Romans 5…

  • Adam was a type for Jesus – they were both “reign makers”.
  • Adam brought the reign of sin and death.
  • Jesus brings the reign of grace and life.

 

So it makes sense that in our text today:

  • We see how God’s saving righteousness in Jesus brings us under the reign of grace.
  • Something directly related to why we no longer live in sin – an answer to his critics.

 

 

Paul’s “First-off” – Reign Change:

And how does God bring a reign change?

  • We no longer live in sin (Garden Exile) because by the work of the Holy Spirit (baptism of the Spirit) we are now united to Christ.

 

There is some mystery here!

  • Paul says that all of us who have been “baptized into Christ” (vs. 3)…
  • Were also “baptized into his death” (vs. 3).
  • Descriptions of our domain change experience.

 

Somehow, someway, the only way out of Garden Exile was and is through death.

  • But not just any death – the death of the god-man Jesus Christ.
  • Somehow, the Holy Spirit has joined us to the death of the second Adam – Jesus Christ.
  • I honestly don’t think we can really grasp how this happens – at least not yet.

 

And more than that, Paul declares that something else is needed to bring us into the dominion of Grace.

  • As a result of our Union with Christ and participation in His burial and death…
  • We also have to be joined to Jesus’ resurrection.
  • Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (vs 4).
  • A further description of our domain change experience.

 

We, in a now and not yet way, have participated in the fruits and power of Jesus’ resurrection.

  • Again, I am not sure we can really grasp this on this side of eternity.

 

But, as a result of this done work of God through Christ and the Spirit, we are brought into the dominion of grace.

  • We are led out of Garden Exile.
  • We are led into a place where we “walk in newness of life”.
  • Again, all this is part of his answer to his critics and his own question.

 

BTW – It is with this phrase, “walk in newness of life”, that Paul introduces the idea of behavior and not just dominion.

  • We “are to live in a certain way as a result of dying and being buried with Christ” – Schreiner.

 

This “walk” that occurs in the dominion of grace is why Paul said in verse 1 “are we to continue in sin…by no means”.

  • More on this when we get to verse 12.
  • Suffice it to say, as we said earlier, this is not a call to moralism.

 

Paul then reiterates this union with Christ’s resurrection in verse 5.

  • Romans 6:5 (ESV) — 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

 

Resurrection is the lynchpin of Paul’s argument – his “first-off”.

  • If there is no resurrection, then there is no domain transfer.
  • If there is no domain transfer, we are still under sin’s domain and power.
  • Meaning that we aren’t dead to sin and so we would still live in it.

 

This is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:17–21 (ESV) — 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

 

Douglas Moos sums up Paul’s “first off” for us:

  • “Our dying, being buried, and being resurrected with Christ are experiences that transfer us from the old age to the new. But the transition from old age to new, while applied to individuals at their conversion, has been accomplished through the redemptive work of Christ on Good Friday and Easter” – Douglas Moo.
  • We will deal with Paul’s “second off” next time.

 

 

Further Word on Baptism:

Water baptism certainly symbolizes all that has happened to bring about our removal from Garden Exile.

  • It is an awesome picture of how we were led out of the dominion of sin and death.
  • However, it is the baptism of the Spirit that makes it a reality.
    • A reality appropriated by faith (Romans 4).
  • It is baptism of the Spirit – regeneration – that joins us to the indicatives of Christ – His death, burial and resurrection.
  • It is for this reason that I think Paul is speaking of the baptism of the Spirit in our text today.
  • To take away from this text a lesson on water baptism is, I think, to ignore the context of Romans 5 and 6.

 

Romans 6:6-11 – Reign Making 101 – Paul’s Second Off

Introduction:

In our last lesson, Paul raised a few rhetorical questions:

  • What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” – Romans 6:1-2.

 

The reason for the questions was due to his radical teaching on grace.

  • A taste of this is in 5:21 – “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”.

 

We saw that the way he answered his questions involved a couple of important rabbit trails on reign making.

  • Verses 1-5 were his “first off”.
  • Today we deal with his “second off”.

 

Paul’s “first off” consisted of the following:

  • A description of how it is that we are led out of Garden Exile – the domain of sin and death – and into the domain of grace and life.
  • In other words, how Jesus makes it reign.

 

The “how” of Christ’s reign making is, for Paul, grounded in our union with Him.

  • We are “baptized into Christ Jesus” (vs. 3).
  • We are “baptized into his death” (vs. 3).
  • We are “buried…with him by baptism into death” (vs. 4).
  • We are “as Christraised from the dead” into a “newness of life” (vs. 5).
  • We are “united with him” in “a death like his” (vs. 5).
  • We are “united with him in a resurrection like his” (vs. 5).

 

These things are difficult to understand.

  • But we know they can’t be just metaphor.
  • We are not “righteoused” by metaphor.
  • This is where Paul’s “second off” comes in.

 

Paul’s Second Off:

Paul’s “second off” gives us more insight into our reign change.

  • Romans 6:6–11 (ESV) — 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

In these verses, Paul gives more insight on how our Union with Christ puts us in the reign of grace.

  • Like his “first off”, it revolves around our participation in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
  • But specifically, this text details some of the specific manifestations this Union has in our lives.
  • And, importantly, what our response should be.

 

 

Manifestations of Union and Reign:

So Paul says, “we know” some things about our Union with Christ and its reign power.

  • He says that in Christ, “our old self was crucified with him” (vs. 6).

 

And as a result of this…

  • Our “body of sin” is “brought to nothing” (vs. 6).
  • So that we would not longer be enslaved to sin” (vs. 6).

 

Paul kind of encapsulates these truths under the heading as having “died” (vs. 7).

  • And because we have “died” to sin we are “set free from sin” (vs. 7).

 

But wait…there is more.

  • Christ didn’t just die.
  • He also rose from the dead!
  • So “we will also live with him” (vs. 8).

 

In fact, Paul says, because of Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor. 15) He will “never die again” (vs. 9).

  • And so, critically, the dominion of death has been smashed.
  • Death no longer has dominion over him” (vs. 9).
  • The dominion of death and sin isn’t just displaced but defeated!

 

We need to know, N.T. Wright says, something profound about Christ’s resurrection.

  • Christ didn’t experience death and come back to life like, for example, Lazarus or Jairus’ daughter.
  • He actually went into death and came out the other side “into a new bodily life” (Wright).
  • Lazarus would die again – Jesus will never die again!

 

Paul drives this point home in verse 10.

  • For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God” (vs. 10).
  • In Christ’s death, sin was put to death.
  • In death, sin not only doesn’t have dominion, it can’t!

 

Likewise, in Christ’s resurrection…

  • Life lives – it reigns.
  • To put it strangely, the dominion of grace was put to life – resurrection life in Christ.

 

 

Reality Check:

Do these truths help us understand the “how” of reign change?

  • Douglas Moo thinks so.

 

Focusing on verse 6, where our “old self was crucified” with Christ…

  • Moo says Paul is speaking of an actual fact – a “real” reality.
  • Specifically, he says, “Paul’s language throughout is forensic, or positional; by God’s act, we have been placed in a new position” – Douglas Moo.

“What is meant is not the believer’s duty to put away sin, but the act of God whereby, in response to our faith, he considers us to have died the same death Christ died” – Douglas Moo.

 

In other words, by our Union with Christ, God literally put us into a place where we receive all the benefits of Christ’s reign changing, redemptive work.

  • This is something that would be easy to downplay as some sort of creative fiction.
  • But that would be a devastating mistake.
  • Our Creator – the maker of all reality – has declared this to be the actual reality of the believer.

 

Put another way, it isn’t fiction because it isn’t just something God arbitrarily says.

  • It is something He creates through the baptism of the Spirit! (6:3)
  • It is something He creates through the work of Christ!

 

I love what N.T. Wright says of this new reality – this new reign.

“Paul insists that we are now ‘in the Messiah’, so that what is true of him is true of us, however unlikely it sounds and however much it doesn’t yet feel true” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Our Response – “Must Consider”:

In light of all this reign changing reality, Paul says this:

  • So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (vs. 11).

 

This is where Paul finally works his way through his “first off” and “second off” of reign making and puts on his pastoral hat.

  • With verse 11, he creates the perfect segue in to our text next week – “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body” (vs. 12).

 

So what is this “must consider” business?

  • Or, as the NIV puts it, “count yourselves”.

 

The word is worth exploring.

  • The Greek word here is “logizomai”.

 

The general idea behind the word is to “give careful thought to” or “let one’s mind dwell on” – BDAG.

  • This sense of the word demands philosophical considerations from us – EDNT.
  • The actual reality that accompanies Christ’s reign making work is worth careful thought.
  • It directly effects who we are as persons and our identity.

 

But “must consider” does more work than that!

 

So, we must look at another meaning of the word – a meaning that involves numbers.

  • And in this sense “logizomai” means, “to reckon or calculate” – BDAG.

 

This is the sense in which Paul uses the word in Romans 4:8 and 22.

  • Romans 4:8 (ESV) — 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
  • Romans 4:22 (ESV) — 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

 

When taken in this sense, Paul wants us to do the math with this new reality.

  • Just as 1+1=2…
  • Paul’s “first off” plus his “second off” equal…
  • We really are “dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ” (vs. 11).

 

N.T. Wright speaks of this beautifully:

“And here is the point. It is often hard to believe the result of the calculation. But faith at this point consists, not of shutting one’s eyes and trying to believe the impossible, but opening one’s eyes to the reality of Jesus and his representative death and resurrection—and to the reality of one’s own standing as a baptized and believing member of Jesus’ people, those who are ‘in the Messiah’. That is the challenge of verse 11. We need to remember who we really are, so that we can act accordingly” – N.T. Wright.

 

The implication of this “calculating” is this:

“Resisting temptation isn’t a matter of pretending you wouldn’t find it easier to give in. It’s a matter of learning to think straight, and to act on what you know to be true” – N.T. Wright.

 

God really has created a new place for us through the Holy Spirit, and the saving righteousness work of Jesus Christ.

  • A place – the grace in which we now stand – in which He really does place us.
  • A place that, as part of its construction, didn’t just contend with death, but soundly defeated it and came through the other side never to return to it.
  • A place for those formerly in Garden Exile who have faith in Christ.

 

In Christ, and removed from Garden Exile, we are a new creation.

  • Which is to say we really have been moved from one dominion to another.

 

But alas, “What we were ‘in Adam’ is no more; but, until heaven, the temptation to live in Adam always remains” – Douglas Moo.

  • Which is why Paul has more to say to us.
  • Continued next week.

Romans 6:12-14 – Keep on Sinning? Paul’s Answer

For some time now, and especially in Romans 6, Paul has made it abundantly clear that we are no longer “under sin”.

  • We have been placed into the dominion of grace and life.
  • A dominion that Paul grounded in our union with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

“To judge that one is dead to sin and alive to God is not an example of mind over matter; instead, the judgment is based on what is true by virtue of being incorporated into Christ” – Tom Schreiner.

 

This is a powerful reality for the believer.

  • It should transform how we see ourselves and how we live.

 

But here is the problem:

  • Until the Kingdom of God is fully consummated, “the temptation to live in Adam always remains” – Douglas Moo.
  • Or to put another way, though believers are in a new dominion, it “does not mean that believers are unable to sin” – Tom Schreiner.

 

And this leads us to Paul’s admonition in our text today:

  • Where Paul moves “from thought to action” – Douglas Moo.
  • Romans 6:12–14 (ESV) — 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

 

So the power and dominion of sin are over in the life of the believer.

  • But how is this to play out on a practical level?

 

Paul seems abandon his indicatives in favor of the imperative – of commands.

  • Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (vs. 12).

 

What exactly is Paul telling us here?

  • Is he throwing all his dominion talk under the bus?
  • Does it all just boil down to, “Hey you, stop sinning”?
  • There are good answers to these questions.

 

 

Still Dominion Language:

First, we have to see that Paul is still using dominion language here.

  • In fact, verse 12 is essentially what we should conclude after we have “considered” or “reckoned” the powerful reality of our new dominion.
  • As Paul told us to do in verse 11.

 

I love how Douglas Moo paraphrases Paul’s words in verse 12.

  • “Do not let sin’s reign—which leads to obedience to the body’s sinful passions [acts of sin]—occupy your lives” – Douglas Moo.

 

So this is still primarily dominion language.

  • We are no longer powerless to sin – we are in a new domain.
  • But to fail to “consider” and “reckon” our new domain makes us vulnerable.
  • Vulnerable to our old master – the power of sin.

 

And how are we, who have been led out of Garden Exile by Christ, vulnerable to the power of sin?

  • The short answer from Paul is our “passions” or desires.

 

So what are these passions?

  • Passions here, are “desires that are in conflict with the will of God” – Douglas Moo.
  • We still have these and the power of sin seeks to harness them for its purposes.

 

James speaks of our passions in this way:

  • James 4:1–3 (ESV) — 1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

 

Paul elsewhere says:

  • Colossians 3:5 (ESV) — 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

 

So, Paul says our “mortal body”, the whole person (Douglas Moo), is vulnerable because of our passions.

  • Although our whole person, “has been severed from its servitude to sin…”
  • We “…still participate in the weakness, suffering, and dissolution of this age” – Douglas Moo.
  • Why? – Because we live in the “not yet” – we aren’t in our glorified resurrection bodies.

 

So at the point of this weak link…

  • Paul says our old master tries to make us “obey its passions” (vs. 12).

 

This is why it is so important that we “consider” as we discussed last week.

  • We need to think deeply on our new dominion and how Christ put us there.
  • We need to calculate what our participation in Christ does for us.

 

As usual, though, Paul takes it up a notch.

 

 

Spiritual Warfare Language:

Having properly considered our union with Christ and our domain transfer…

  • Paul, then, asks that we make a choice about how we “present” our “instruments”.

 

Paul fleshes this out as follows:

  • Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (vs. 13).

 

This is spiritual warfare language!

  • The gist here is that citizens of a new domain are to no longer fight for their old master.
  • How do we know this?
  • Two words: “present” and “instruments”.

 

What is “present”?

  • The idea with “present” is simply to put a thing at something or someone else’s disposal – BDAG.
  • In other words, how a thing is used in relationship to another – EDNT.

 

What is “instruments”?

  • The Greek word here literally means “weapons”.

 

It is the same word Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 6:7.

  • Paul spells out how we are to commend ourselves as servants of God.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:7 (ESV) — 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;

 

It is the same word used by John of Judas:

  • John 18:3 (ESV) — 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

 

The point with Paul in our text, then…

  • Is that our person, our life, our actions are weapons.
  • Of either sin or righteousness.

 

So when Paul says, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness” (vs. 13):

  • This is his way of telling us what the outcome of our “consider” from verse 11 should be.

 

We are to not fight on the side of sin.

  • Our life is NOT to be a weapon in service of our old master.
  • As citizens of grace, we are NOT to let our works be put at the disposal of sin to be used as a weapon for its cause.

 

The dominion of sin is at work against God’s kingdom.

  • Paul says don’t be its henchman.

 

And we don’t have to be!

 

Paul says those who “have been brought form death to life” (vs. 13)…

  • Those who have been brought out of Garden Exile – out of the domain of sin and death…
  • Are to be about a different business.

 

Our weapons are to be at the disposal of God and His kingdom building.

  • But present yourselves to God…and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (vs. 13).

 

We are in battle!

  • We who “were previously at the disposal of impurity” are to be about the business of righteousness – EDNT.

“The ‘members’ that were once used as ‘weapons’ in the service of sin and for unrighteous purposes are now to be used as weapons in God’s service, for righteous purposes” – Douglas Moo.

 

Paul puts it this way to Timothy:

  • 2 Timothy 2:22 (ESV) — 22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

 

This is Paul’s imperative.

  • It is a dominion imperative first and foremost.
  • New dominion is new power.
  • We are to know and embrace this.

 

But, Paul’s “present” language also clearly entails our works – our actions.

  • “Paul stresses that we must actualize in daily experience the freedom from sin’s lordship that is ours ‘in Christ Jesus’” – Douglas Moo.

 

We are to fight sin!

  • But, not because to do so saves us, or makes our salvation more secure.
  • But, because to fight sin is to fight for our new master!
  • It is to acknowledge our new Lord!
  • And importantly, it is to fight against our old master – the dominion of sin.

 

Can we have success in our battle?

  • Yes!

 

Paul tells us why in our final verse:

  • Romans 6:14 (ESV) — 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

 

Just in case we are tempted to get all “works” headed.

  • Paul brings everything right back to dominion talk and back to the indicatives of the Gospel.
  • The things that have already been done for us.
  • Namely, our transfer from being “under law” to “under grace”.
  • More on “under law” next week.

 

The implication of this reminder from Paul is significant.

  • Paul is not asking of us something we are powerless to do!
  • “The responsibility to obey is a serious one (vv. 12–13) and it cannot be shirked, but even this obedience is a gift of God’s grace and power” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Sin, he says, has “no dominion” over us (vs. 14).

  • We are “under grace” (vs. 14)!
  • In Christ, our fight is not only made possible but will ultimately be made perfect.

 

 

Romans 6:14 – Under Law as Power Not Domain

Romans 6:14 (ESV) — 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

 

We saw last week that he situated the answer to his sin/grace question within two contexts:

  • A dominion context.
  • A spiritual warfare context.

 

Douglas Moo sums up last week’s text beautifully:

“To put a stop to the reign of sin—to stop engaging in those sins that have too often become so habitual that we cannot imagine not doing them—is a daunting responsibility. We feel that we must fail. But Paul then reminds us of just what we have become in Jesus Christ: ‘dead to sin, alive to God.’ There has already taken place in the life of the believer a ‘change of lordship’, and it is in the assurance of the continuance of this new state that the believer can go forth boldly and confidently to wage war against sin” – Douglas Moo.

 

Something we didn’t discuss last week was how Paul came back to the law in his Romans 6 sin/grace dominion discussion.

  • You are not under law but under grace” (vs. 14).
  • Today we are going to unpack this a bit.

 

Why would Paul do this?

  • Is “under law” a domain?
  • Is “under law” to be understood as a synonym for “under sin”?
  • If it is none of these things, why did he bring it up?
  • And wouldn’t any discussion about “under law” be irrelevant to the Gentiles in his audience?
    • We will deal with this in Romans 7

 

 

Under Law:

(1) The first thing we need to know is what Paul means by the law.

  • Most scholars think Paul is referring to the Mosaic Law (Moo, Schreiner).
  • This would be the whole of the Sinai covenant, not just the 10 commandments.

 

What this means of course, is that Paul is now adding in a new wrinkle into his domain discussion…

  • The wrinkle is the how the Sinai Covenant fits into the domain discussion.

 

Specifically, Douglas Moo says Paul is…

  • Contrasting “salvational-historical” powers in God’s redemptive history.
  • The law is one “salvational-historical power” contrasted with another “salvational-historical power” – grace.

 

We need to keep in mind here that there are other “powers” relevant to God’s redemptive history.

  • Paul has mentioned a few – sin, death and the flesh (mortal members).
  • And now, along with these three, and grace, he has brought in the law.
  • Not all powers are domains – some only operate within domains.

 

So the law is the Mosaic covenant and it is a power operating in God’s redemptive history.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:56 (ESV) — 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

 

 

(2) The second thing we need to know is what Paul has said of the law thus far.

  • Primarily he has pointed out “the negative effects of the law in salvation history” – Douglas Moo.
  • “Negative” being the law’s inability to bring domain change.

 

We can see this in a few examples.

  • Romans 3:20 (ESV) — 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
  • Romans 3:28 (ESV) — 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
  • Romans 4:13–15 (ESV) — 13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
  • Romans 5:20 (ESV) — 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more

 

A quick glance at these verses bears out that Paul didn’t see the law as a reign changing power.

  • Works of the law” don’t justify (3:20).
  • The “law” brings knowledge of sin (3:20).
  • Justification comes “apart from works” (3:28).
  • The “promise to Abraham…did not come through the law” (4:13).
  • The law brings wrath” (4:15).
  • The law came in to increase trespass” (5:20).

 

So to sum up thus far:

  • Under law” is a power that Paul contrasted with the domain of “under grace”.
  • It is a power that doesn’t bring domain change.
  • More specifically, it is a power operating negatively as “the power of sin”.

 

As we will see in Romans 7, none of this means that Paul is throwing the law under the bus.

 

But, then, is “under law” the same as “under sin”?

  • In other words, when Paul contrasts law and grace, is he equating “under law” with “under sin”?

 

 

Under Law Does Not Equal Under Sin:

The answer to this question is, “no”.

  • “Under law” is not the same as being “under sin” – Moo.
  • As we have seen, the law, unlike grace, is not a domain.
  • It operates within domains.
  • The question is how do we know this?

 

We need to understand how sin and the law relate to each other.

  • As we have seen, to be “under sin” is to be in Garden Exile and all that entails.
  • It is the domain that contrasts directly with the domain of grace.
  • It is the domain give to us by Adam – unlike the law given to us by God.
  • And sin as a power and domain offers nothing positive.

 

But, as we will sin in Romans 7, the law as a power does make a positive contribution in redemptive history.

  • Romans 7:7 (ESV) — 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

 

So this plays out as follows:

  • When we are “under sin” and in Garden Exile the law is a death sentence.
  • We saw earlier that Paul made this clear.
  • The law brings the wrath of God (4:15).
  • The law does not save.

 

But the law is not really the problem:

  • We just saw that Paul said that without it he would not have known sin (7:7).
  • Galatians 3:24 (ESV) — 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
  • Romans 7:12 (ESV) — 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

 

The real problem is the domain in which the law operates.

  • “The defect lies in sin, which uses the law for its own ends (7:7–13) and produces more sin under the law” – Tom Schreiner.
  • In other words, in the domain of sin – Garden Exile – the law produces more sin.
  • This is what Paul said in Romans 5:20 – “the law came to increase trespass”.
  • All this law bringing more sin, under the domain of sin, brings God’s judging righteousness.

 

 

Grace and Law:

But, here is some more great news of domain change – sin to grace.

  • It changes our relationship to the law.

 

Under grace, we are released from the penalty that the law heaps upon us as a power of sin.

  • Under grace, the domain of sin has lost its power to use the law for its own ends.
  • This is because we are united to the Christ who fulfilled it!
  • Romans 8:3–4 (ESV) — 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

So for Paul, “liberation from sin” is liberation from being under the penalty and negatives of the law – Tom Schreiner.

  • To be freed from Garden Exile is to be freed from the negatives of the law.

 

As a result, we actually are in a position to reap the benefits of the law that come with being in Christ.

  • “Now that believers are under the power of grace they are enabled to keep the moral norms of the law by the power of the Holy Spirit” – Tom Schreiner.

 

 

But Its Complicated:

But it is more complicated than this…

  • Something we will dig into more in the weeks and months to come.

 

As Tom Schreiner puts it:

  • Paul’s teaching about liberation from the negatives of the law through Christ…
  • “…does not mean that there was no grace in the Mosaic era, nor does it imply that all Israelites lived under the power of sin. Paul was well aware of the OT remnant that included prophets and godly people such as Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, and Daniel” – Tom Schreiner.
  • As Paul said himself in Romans 4:16 about being an heir to Abraham’s promise, “it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring”.

 

This means, as Douglas Moo points out, that…

  • “People before the coming of Christ, while still ‘bound’ to the law, could nevertheless escape its condemning power (e.g., Abraham, David—chap. 4)” – Douglas Moo.
  • They could experience reign change.

 

Likewise, “people after the coming of Christ can still be subject to [law’s] rule” – Douglas Moo.

  • So “a neat transfer into straightforward temporal categories is impossible” with Paul’s domain talk – Douglas Moo.

Romans 6:15-16 – Everyone Has a Master

Romans 6:15–18 (ESV) — 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

 

 

So having established last week with Romans 6:14 that “under law” is:

  • Not a domain maker.
  • Is a power in at work in salvation history.
  • Is a positive power in the domain of grace.
  • Is a negative power in the domain of sin.

 

Paul, in Romans 6:15, raises yet another domain-based question that he knows is on people’s minds.

  • Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?
  • This is similar to the one he raised in 6:1 – “continue in sin that grace may abound?
  • But this time he frames it within the believer’s relationship to the law.

 

To paraphrase these two questions, might be helpful here.

  • The first question demonstrates the extravagant nature of God’s grace this way…
  • It is the domain in which the believer has been placed by Jesus’ Reign Making.
  • In this domain, one way that grace abounds is by redeeming our sin.
  • So, why not keep sinning?

 

The second question demonstrates the extravagant nature of God’s grace this way…

  • It provides freedom from the negative effects of the law – disobedience and death.
  • We are no longer killed by the law nor convicted as lawbreakers in God’s law court.
  • We are “under grace” and “in Christ”.
  • So, why not keep sinning?

Paul’s answer to both questions…

  • By no means!

 

The rest of our text is the reason why we are to “not keep sinning” even though we are not “under law”.

  • His answer consists of two realities.
  • The first is that all persons everywhere are metaphorically speaking, slaves.
  • The second reality is that those in the church at Rome are a particular kind of slave.

 

 

Universal Slavery:

Romans 6:16 – 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

 

This is really pretty simple.

  • All people are “slaves of the one whom you obey”.
  • And there are two choices – “either of sin”…“or of obedience”.

 

And depending on your slavery…

  • It either “leads to death
  • Or it “leads to righteousness”.

 

 

Word on Freedom:

As we have seen elsewhere Paul’s theology is straightforward…

  • There is no place of autonomy where a person can reside.
  • You can act within the domain in which you reside…
  • But nobody stands outside of either domain and makes a choice.
  • One is never free from a “master” – Douglas Moo.

 

I love how Moo puts it here:

  • “Paul makes clear, there is no such thing as human ‘autonomy,’ a freedom from all outside powers and influences. Either people are under the power of sin, or they are under the power of God. The question is not, then, whether one will have a master, but which master one will serve” – Douglas Moo.

 

Because of Adam, we are all by default born into Garden Exile.

  • And our master is satan and sin.

 

 

Word on Obedience:

So we know what Paul means by slave to sin here.

  • We have been talking about the domain of sin and being under sin since Romans 3.
  • The question here is what is Paul doing with his slave to “obedience” language?

 

His choice of “obedience” essentially has Paul saying everybody is…

  • An “obedient slave” to sin as master…or
  • An “obedient slave” to obedience as master
    • This doesn’t seem right.

 

Wouldn’t “God” make more since here than “obedience”?

  • Obedience as master seems a bit odd.

 

How are we to understand this?

 

Some suggest that what we have here is an allusion to Paul’s “obedience of faith” language.

  • Romans 1:5 (ESV) — 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

 

The idea here about obedience is that:

  • It is a submission and trust.
  • And it comes through Jesus Christ (1:4).
    • In other words, it is God powered.

 

Moreover, obedience is a feature of our new domain.

  • received grace…to bring about the obedience of faith” (1:5).

 

So putting all this together, the concept of obedience here contains all of these features:

  • Sourced through Jesus Christ.
  • Submission (acts of obedience) and Trust.
  • A feature of the domain of grace.

 

If so, then what Paul might be doing with his “obedient slave to obedience” language is simply this:

  • Asking us to consider all of the above in opposition to sin.

 

We know, however, that Paul is not saying obedience is our master.

  • For Paul, God is our master!

 

 

Word on Righteousness:

One thing is certain…

  • Whatever Paul means by being an obedient slave to obedience…
  • It “leads to righteousness” (vs. 16).

 

And this is yet another reason we know Paul is not saying obedience is our master.

  • He does not teach that obedience makes you righteous.
  • Righteousness comes from being “righteoused” by Jesus – Romans 3:21 ff.
  • So whatever “obedience” is, it certainly involves Jesus – as we just saw.
    • Why? – because it leads to righteousness.

 

But what about righteousness here?

  • Remember the idea of covenant faithfulness and covenant justice and God putting things right?
  • “Its underlying stress is on the good purposes of the creator to bring the world back from chaos into proper order, and to bring human beings into the right shape and the right relation to himself” – N.T. Wright.

 

In other words, being a slave to obedience leads to two things:

  • Being put right.
  • Participation in the putting right.

 

So by our acts of obedience we participate in God’s “righteousing”.

  • Obedience is our positive contribution to God’s work of putting the world right.

 

And interestingly, this touches on the freedom discussion we just had:

“Paul’s concept of freedom is not that of autonomous self-direction but of deliverance from those enslaving powers that would prevent the human being from becoming what God intended” – Douglas Moo.

 

So as slaves to obedience (and all it entails) we can finally do what God intended!

  • This also relates to the “instruments” talk a few weeks ago and spiritual warfare.
  • So we aren’t talking to do lists – but obedience as contribution to kingdom building and spiritual warfare.

 

Romans 6:17 – A New Master – Scripture?

Last week, we saw Paul teach us that everyone has a master:

  • Sin or “Obedience”.
  • There is no other option!

 

We need to remember that these ideas of sin and obedience as masters are contain ideas that Paul has been referring to repeatedly throughout Romans…specifically:

  • The dominion of sin…
    • and the features of this domain.
  • The dominion of grace…
    • and the features of this domain.

 

Dominion of sin:

  • Romans 3:9–10 (ESV) — 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
  • Romans 5:12 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned
  • Romans 5:17a (ESV) — 17a …because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man,

 

Dominion of grace:

  • Romans 5:2 (ESV) — 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
  • Romans 5:15b (ESV) — 15b For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.
  • Romans 5:17b (ESV) — …those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus

 

Moving into Romans 6:17-18 we see:

  • (1) Paul gives thanks that those in the Roman church have been brought out of their slavery to sin…
  • (2) And in the remainder of just one sentence, he unveils two significant features of their new slavery.

 

The text:

  • Romans 6:17–18 (ESV) — 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

 

 

Paul’s Thanks:

As we have seen repeatedly throughout Romans…

  • The only way for anybody to be lifted out of slavery to sin and the dominion of sin…
  • Is to be rescued from it by God through the work of Jesus Christ.

 

For as Paul says in Romans 3:

  • Romans 3:23–25a (ESV) — 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

 

So, is it any wonder that Paul says…

  • But thanks be to God” (vs. 17).
  • There is no one else to thank.
  • Romans 3:27 (ESV) — 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

 

Then Paul immediately describes for us two reasons he is thankful for what God has done.

  • Both reasons are, as we have said, features of the slavery of those in Christ and in His grace.
  • (1) “…that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (vs. 17b).
  • (2) “and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (vs. 18).

 

We will contend with the first one today.

 

Obedient From the Heart:

So Paul gives thanks that we “have become obedient from the heart”.

  • Both Schreiner and Moo suggest that Paul is referring here to:
  • Belief and trust in Christ from a new heart given by God – in other words, conversion.

 

This is regeneration and born again heart stuff – John 3, Jer. 31:33 and Ezekiel 36:26.

  • Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) — 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

 

Importantly…

  • While “obedience” conveys the moment of belief and trust…when one becomes a Christian.
  • The heart” signifies the “depth of that experience” – Schreiner.

 

In other words, this isn’t a superficial and fading “obedience from the mind” or “obedience from will power”.

  • This is a “God enabled and powered” obedience from a regenerated heart!

 

So what we have here is Paul thanking God for His work that made “obedience from the heart” possible.

  • “Indeed, God must be the one who causes obedience to rise in human hearts because all human beings are ‘slaves of sin.’ To be a slave of sin means that one is under its lordship and dominion, and unable to extricate oneself from its tyranny. God in his grace broke the shackles of sin, so that glad-hearted obedience became a reality for the Roman Christians” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Remember, Christ is the “reign maker” not us!

  • You deserve no credit for being joined to Christ.

 

Paul then goes on to elaborate on one of the objects of our “obedience from the heart” (vs. 17).

  • Without question, Christ is the primary object of our faith and obedience.
  • But Paul tells us that Christ isn’t alone.
  • He says our obedience is “to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (vs. 17).

 

What in the world does this mean?

 

Before we dive in, we need to remember we are “under grace” and not “under law”.

  • We don’t work to obtain or maintain our salvation.
  • The negative power of the law on our lives is over with respect to our salvation.
  • So this “…isn’t a matter of new commandments being hurled at us and of our somehow having to try to obey them” – N.T. Wright.

 

But, our new master wants us to bear fruit in line with our new hearts.

  • And to aid us in our loving pursuit of holiness in appreciation for what God has done for us…
  • Paul says there is a “standard of teaching to which you were committed” (vs. 17).

 

 

Standard of Teaching:

Standard of teaching” here is “Christian teaching [that] molds and forms” – Douglas Moo.

  • It is “the early Christian teaching or tradition” – Douglas Moo.

 

It is what Paul speaks of in texts like:

  • 1 Corinthians 11:2 (ESV) — 2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23 (ESV) — 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3 (ESV) — 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
  • 2 Timothy 1:13 (ESV) — 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
  • 2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV) — 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
  • Titus 1:9 (ESV) — 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
  • Titus 2:1 (ESV) — 1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

 

And what Paul says here about this teaching is jarring.

  • This is for two reasons.

 

(1) To begin with, the ESV’s “to which you were committed” doesn’t fully capture the spirit of Paul’s language.

  • The NKJV and HCSB come closer.
  • They say respectively, “to which you were delivered” and “you were transferred to”.

 

The idea here is transfer of ownership.

  • The EDNT describes it as “the act whereby something or someone is transferred into the possession of another”.
  • The BDAG describes it as forensic language (law court) that means to “hand over” or “turn over” a person into the custody of another – BDAG.

 

This is why Schreiner says – “It denotes being delivered over to another power, as a slave is handed over from one master to another”.

  • In effect, the “teaching” that Paul is speaking of is our “co-master”.

 

(2) The second thing that is jarring is this…

  • Who or what does Paul say is handed over to who or what?
  • It is we who are handed over to the teaching, not the other way around!

 

This means that as slaves in this context…

  • “The teaching ‘molds,’ ‘shapes,’ and ‘transforms’ [us] who are delivered over to it” – Schreiner.
  • It doesn’t serve us – we serve it!
  • It shapes us – we don’t shape it!
  • It transforms us – we don’t transform it!

 

The implications this has for our relationship to Scripture and thus God our massive.

 

We are to submit to God’s teaching – His sound doctrine – from our new God powered hearts.

  • And we are to do so as slaves.
  • For this to happen, we have to know God’s word, and put ourselves under its authority.

 

Our slavery to God’s teachings is not part time slavery.

  • So we have to consistently subordinate to it.

 

In fact, a fruit of our God given obedient and grateful hearts should be such a relationship with Scripture.

 

A neglect of the teaching to which we have been handed over makes for serious problems.

  • Isaiah 56:9–10 (ESV) — 9 All you beasts of the field, come to devour— all you beasts in the forest. 10 His watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge; they are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.

 

Are you slumbering before the knowledge of God’s word?

  • Do you shirk off serving and submitting to God’s word – His teaching?

 

The “beasts of the field” and the “beasts in the forest” sure hope so.

  • Because aspects of your life are vulnerable to their attacks.

 

Let’s be more specific.

  • Are you giving yourself over to Romans as you should?
  • Do you really expect to understand and be transformed by Romans without submitting to it throughout the week?

 

We will deal with the second feature of our new slavery next week:

  • slaves to righteousness

 

 

The Incarnation and Paul’s Dominion Theology

Over the past weeks, we have seen how deeply immersed Romans is in Paul’s dominion theology.

  • Today, in light of Christmas, I want to explore how this theology helps us understand the incarnation.
  • We need to flesh out Paul’s dominion theology just a bit before we can see what it tells us about the Incarnation.

 

 

Under Sin:

In Romans 3:9, Paul first introduces the idea that all are “under sin”.

  • We saw that this phrase refers to the idea of a realm or dominion – a place – in which sin reigns.

 

In this place…

  • People are subject to the power of sin.
  • They serve its purposes.
  • Sin is their ruler.
  • And this place of sin’s dominion is their home address.

 

Sprinkled throughout Romans 3-6 are descriptions of both the people and address of “under sin”.

  • None is righteous” – 3:11
  • No one seeks God” – 3:11
  • No one does good” – 3:12
  • There is no fear of God” – 3:18
  • All…fall short of the glory of God” – 3:23
  • All our “sinners” – 5:8
  • Under “the wrath of God” – 5:9
  • In Adam – 5:12
  • Under condemnation – 5:16
  • Subject to the reign of death – 5:17
  • Subject to the reign of sin – 6:12
  • Under law” – 6:15
  • Slaves to sin – 6:16

 

Sadly and horribly, this is the default position of humanity.

  • Why?
  • Adam.

 

Adam was the “under sin” architect or reign-maker.

  • Because of his disobedience…
  • He was expelled from God’s garden presence and life and exiled into the wilderness.
  • We have called this Garden Exile – born “under sin”, estranged from God’s Garden life and presence.

 

As a result, all of humanity, since Adam, has been born “under sin” in Garden Exile – estranged from God’s life and presence.

  • So the dominion of “under sin” is the address of all those born after Adam.
  • And as a result of this new address – all sin, and all die (Romans 5:12).

 

 

Under Grace:

In Romans 5:2, Paul first introduces the idea that those in Christ have “obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand”.

  • And just as with “under sin”, this refers to the idea of a realm or dominion – a place.
  • Except in this place it is grace that reigns.

 

In this place…

  • People are subject to the saving and redeeming power of God’s grace.
  • Grace is the context of their life, not sin.
  • And this place of grace’s dominion is their home address.

 

Sprinkled throughout Romans 5-6 are descriptions of both the people and the address of “this grace”.

  • We are justified – made right with God – 5:1
  • We have the “hope of the glory of God” – 5:2
  • We rejoice in our sufferings – 5:3
  • We have God’s love “poured into our hearts” – 5:5
  • We have the Holy Spirit “given to us” – 5:5
  • Saved from “the wrath of God” – 5:9
  • Reconciled to God” – 5:10
  • Rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” – 5:11
  • Free gift of righteousness” – 5:17
  • In Christ – 5:17
  • Made righteous” – 5:19
  • Eternal life through Jesus Christ” – 5:21
  • Baptized, dead, buried and risen with Christ – 6:1-11
  • No longer…enslaved to sin” – 6:6
  • Death no longer has dominion” – 6:9
  • Not under law but under grace” – 6:14

 

As Adam was the reign-maker of the dominion of sin…

  • Only Jesus is the reign-maker of the dominion of grace.

 

All are born into the dominion of sin because of Adam.

  • And only those born again, and connected to the work of Christ by faith can enter into the dominion of grace.
  • Romans 5:18 (ESV) — 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

 

 

Transition:

So the picture painted by Paul’s dominion theology makes it clear…

  • Our problem, fundamentally, is NOT
  • Our behavior…
  • But our address.

 

This means the solution to our problem is NOT a change in behavior.

  • We need a change of address.
  • We need a transfer from the dominion of sin to grace.

 

Therefore, whoever is going to give us a change of address…

  • Has to accomplish some very specific things.

 

In fact, there are at minimum two things that need to be accomplished.

  • (1) We require someone who can create a new dominion – the dominion of grace.
  • (2) We require someone who can then bring us out of the dominion of sin and place us in the dominion of grace.
  • There are clearly more – cover our sin, turn away God’s wrath, etc. – but the first two will get us where we need to go today.

 

 

The Incarnation:

So this is where Paul’s dominion theology can inform our understanding of the incarnation.

  • Who could possibly accomplish all of this?
  • The answer to this question is found only in the incarnation.

 

F.F. Bruce frames this beautifully.

“If there is, among the distinctive articles of the Christian faith, one which is basic to all others, it is this: that our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man for our salvation” – F.F. Bruce.

  • Matthew 1:21 (ESV) — 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

 

First, what is the Incarnation?

The second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, who John calls the eternal Logos, became fully man without ceasing to be divine.

  • This means that in the one person of the Son of God (Jesus) there exist two natures – one fully divine and one fully human.

 

It is important we get this right!

  • “The person involved in the incarnation is not derived by adding above and below, but comes down from above and takes to himself what is below” – Fred Sanders.

“His humanity is not a distinct person, but instead a set of properties that the Logos possesses after the incarnation, so that the Logos himself can personally live as a man. Thus one can say unequivocally that God the Logos was born, the Logos suffered, the Logos died on the cross and was raised” – Donald Fairbairn.

 

The Bible speaks of the incarnation in a number of passages:

  • John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Word [Logos] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • Romans 8:3 (ESV) — 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
  • 1 John 4:2 (ESV) — 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,
  • 1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) — 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

 

Christmas day, then, is the celebration of this incarnation.

  • Jesus Christ – the divine and eternal Son of God and Logos – “has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2).

 

So when Paul says, “He was manifested in the flesh”…

  • He does not mean, “He [the second person of the Trinity] was manifested in the flesh [Jesus]”.
  • He means that, “He [the divine person of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity] was manifested in the flesh [became a human being].

 

All this means that…

  • The Logos, the Son of God, didn’t become Jesus the person.
  • He has eternally been this person in the second person of the Trinity.
  • But with the incarnation, the eternal Son of God, Jesus, put on human flesh and a human nature.
    • A body the Father had prepared for Him.
  • Hebrews 10:5 (ESV) — 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;

 

 

Need for Incarnation:

So now we are equipped to see why looking at the incarnation through Paul’s dominion theology can inform our understanding of the incarnation.

 

I love how Douglas Fairbairn sets it up:

  • “What does God have to be like in order to give us the kind of salvation that we Christians know we have?” – Douglas Fairbairn
  • A salvation that involves the establishment of a dominion of grace and the believer’s change of address into this grace.

 

 

(1) The first thing Paul’s dominion theology can show us about the incarnation is…

  • Jesus’ address – the dominion he was born into.

 

If all men are born “under sin” and in Garden Exile because of Adam…

  • Then all men are powerless to provide a way out.
  • This is the classic blind leading the blind scenario.

 

So, if Jesus were merely a man, He too would have been born “under sin” into Adam’s Garden Exile.

  • And so, like Moses, Joshua, David or Elijah, He could only point the way.
  • He could not establish or move us into the dominion of grace.

 

But, was Jesus born “under sin” into Garden Exile estranged from God’s life and presence?

  • No!

 

The incarnation shows us that though Jesus shared our human nature – He didn’t share our address.

  • Jesus as the second person of the Trinity IS God’s Garden life and presence.
  • So, He is not disqualified from being able to establish or move us into grace.
  • He didn’t live under the power and dominion of sin.

 

 

(2) The second thing Paul’s dominion theology can show us about the incarnation is…

  • Jesus’ ability to establish the dominion of grace – a new Garden.

 

The establishment of the dominion of grace is a work of the Trinity – God in three persons.

  • The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all work in concert to establish the dominion of grace.

 

The Father loved and sent His Son.

  • The Son became flesh and did all the Gospels say He did for us.
  • The Spirit regenerates the hearts of the elect to receive and apply the work of the Son.

 

What all this means then is this:

  • If Jesus were only a man and thus “under sin”, the work of the triune God to save us collapses.
  • Jesus would be working under and for the power of sin.

 

His work would therefore be unable to establish anything other than a moral example.

“If the one who suffered and died on the cross were not the second person of the Trinity, then Christ’s death would have had no power to accomplish our salvation. It had to be God’s own blood that was shed on the cross for us to be redeemed” – Donald Fairbairn.

 

But because Jesus is the second person of the Trinity…

  • His Gospel work actually did establish a dominion of grace!
  • “Trinity makes possible incarnation, which makes possible atonement” – Fred Sanders.
  • After all, it is “impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).
  • And as we have seen, impossible for just a man “under sin” to take them away as well.

 

 

(3) The third thing Paul’s dominion theology can show us about the incarnation is…

  • Jesus’ ability to change our address from “under sin” to “under grace”.

 

In His divinity, Jesus established the dominion of grace.

  • But by taking on flesh, he could provide a bridge to lead us into it.

 

The writer of Hebrews captures this well.

  • Hebrews 2:14–15 (ESV) — 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

 

John Piper, says of this text:

“The incarnation was God’s locking Himself into death row” – John Piper.

  • And the death of the Son of God was the bridge to the dominion of grace.

 

Paul puts it this way:

  • Colossians 1:21–22 (ESV) — 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
  • See also Romans 6:3-5.

 

So because Jesus, the Son of God, put on flesh…

  • He could die that he might bring those connected to Him by faith into the dominion of grace.

 

I love how Mark Jones puts it:

“After all, if Jesus were in all things only a man, he would be at an infinite distance from God just as we are. In the same way, if Jesus were in all things only God, he would be at an infinite distance from us. As the Mediator, however, he bridges the gap between the infinite God and finite man” – Mark Jones.

 

 

Conclusion:

So, Jesus didn’t just point to the way to a new dominion.

  • He didn’t just speak of it or hope for it.
  • Jesus in concert with the Father and Spirit, made it and brought us into it.

 

Going back to Paul’s dominion theology:

  • “The logic of the gospel compels us to say that to be the Savior, Jesus must be God and man” – Fred Sanders.
  • So, only the divine Son of God in the flesh could both establish and move us into the domain of grace.
  • The two things that Paul’s dominion theology tells us are necessary.

 

So Paul’s dominion theology makes clear…

  • The incarnation was necessary to save us.
  • So, Merry Christmas!

 

Romans 6:18 – Freedom in Slavery

Romans 6:18 (ESV) — 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

 

 

In verse 18, Paul brings his dominion theology to a crescendo with a startling take on freedom.

  • There are a number of things I find remarkable with verse 18.
  • (1) A Jesus and Paul connection and (2) how freedom is found in a new kind of slavery.

 

 

Jesus and Paul Connection:

Though we covered verse 17 a few weeks ago, I bring it up today for a particular reason.

  • There is a beautiful parallel in Romans 6:17-18 with the teaching of Jesus in John 8.

 

First the texts:

  • Romans 6:17–18 (ESV) — 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
  • John 8:31 & 36 (ESV) — 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
  • There are at least two ways the texts parallel each other.

 

 

(1) Each illuminates the non-negotiable necessity of the believers’ relationship to God’s word.

 

In Romans 6:17, the idea with “you were committed” is that believers were handed over to Scripture.

  • In effect, “the standard of teaching” becomes the believers’ master.

 

In John 8:31, Jesus speaks of the idea of abiding in His word – “if you abide in my word”.

  • The BDAG say of Jesus’ use of this word that the idea is being “transferred” permanently into “a certain realm or sphere” so as to “remain” or “continue” in it.
  • The EDNT agrees – Jesus is speaking of a continual “abiding…in a realm or a sphere”.
  • So a sign of the freedom Jesus is about to mention is a remaining in the realm of God’s word.

 

So both Jesus and Paul speak of a dominion or realm that entails a specific relationship to God’s word.

  • Paul uses language that means being handed over to it.
  • Jesus uses language that means being transferred into it so as to remain in it.

 

(2) Each speaks of a freedom in opposition to slavery to sin.

 

In Romans 6:18, Paul contrasts being “set free from sin” with being “slaves of righteousness”.

  • The implications of which will be explored shortly.

 

In John 8:36, Jesus speaks of a freedom that comes only from the Son.

  • So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” – John 8:36.

 

And just like Paul, Jesus contrasts this freedom He offers with slavery to sin.

  • Jesus says in John 8:34 – “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin”.
  • So, 8:36 tells us that deliverance from this slavery is through the Son.

 

Paul, no doubt agrees about the source of the freedom of which Jesus speaks.

  • His dominion theology teaches that a change of address from under sin to under grace is grounded in a Union with the Son.
  • We must be connected to Christ and His work through faith.

 

Nerd Alert – there is another reason this connection between Jesus and Paul is so cool.

 

Some scholars argue that Jesus and Paul teach a different, competing Gospels.

  • Jesus was all about the kingdom of heaven not justification, and Paul was all about justification not the kingdom of heaven.
  • Paul was all about grace; Jesus was all about repentance.
  • And Paul very, very rarely quoted any of Jesus sayings.
  • This article by Scot McKnight is a good introduction to this subject – http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/december/9.25.html

 

However, the parallels between Jesus and Paul in our texts demonstrate that Paul and Jesus were indeed on the same page.

  • It seems clear that the source of Paul’s theology was Jesus Christ.
  • Their different areas of emphasis are not in opposition at the dominion level.
  • Kingdom talk is dominion talk, after all.

 

So, the Jesus/Paul connection is a remarkable feature of verses 17 and 18.

  • The second thing remarkable about Paul’s words in verse 18 is his use of slavery.

 

 

Slavery as Freedom:

Romans 6:18 (ESV) — 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

  • Oddly, Paul says we “have been set free from sin” to become what?
  • Slaves”.
  • Specifically, “slaves of righteousness”.

Douglas Moo sets the tone for us:

  • “Paul follows through on his ‘transfer’ language and makes clear that freedom from the power of sin means servitude to a new power” – Douglas Moo.

 

This seems counter intuitive!

  • Our new address – Paul’s “under grace” and Jesus’ “Son sets you free” freedom – is itself a new kind of slavery!
  • We will see, I hope, that this is yet another massive dose of grace in the life of a believer.

 

So what is being enslaved to righteousness and why is it a huge dose of grace?

  • The answer to this is where the indicatives of the Gospel give power to the imperatives of the Gospel.
  • Let me explain.

 

God in Christ has provided and transferred us to a new address of grace.

  • He did so through His death, burial, resurrection and exaltation, etc.
  • These are the indicatives of the Gospel.
  • Colossians 1:13–14 (ESV) — 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

But we are called to imitate Christ, to fight sin, and be obedient to our new master.

  • These are the imperatives of the Gospel.

 

Here is the thing!

  • Our slavery to righteousness…
  • A slavery made possible by the indicatives of the Gospel…
  • Is the reason why the imperatives of the Gospel that call us to be holy…
  • Are not a call to legalism and not a call to certain failure…
  • But is a recognition of the new desires that the believer possesses – new desires that come from our regenerated heart and our new address.

 

The imperatives of the Gospel are God giving us what we now desire – to imitate Christ!

 

Douglas Moo unpacks it beautifully.

“Paul sees in God’s grace not only a liberating power but a constraining one as well [Paul’s slavery to righteousness]: the constraint of a willing obedience that comes from a renewed heart and mind and, ultimately, the impulse and leading of God’s Spirit” – Douglas Moo.

 

It is incredibly important that we get this and tease it out.

  • We will do so with Tom Schreiner’s help.
  • This is really cool stuff…so hang on!

 

We need to understand something about the “under sin” dominion that Paul teaches us about.

  • Those who live in this realm are not operating against their will.
  • They are not serving sin and its power against their will.
  • They are free to do what their heart’s desire.

 

Schreiner puts it this way:

“Unbelievers are totally subservient to sin as a power that exerts authority over their lives, but the slavery envisioned is not coercion. People do not submit to sin against their will. Rather, they ‘freely’ and spontaneously choose to sin. In other words, unbelievers are slaves to sin in that they always desire to carry out the dictates of their master” – Tom Schreiner.

  • Their master, of course, is sin!

 

So here is the grace and the good news.

  • The same principle applies to the believer and his or her desires.
  • As a slave to righteousness, the believer now desires to “carry out the dictates of their master”.
  • And for Paul, this new master is a beautiful compilation of Christ, grace, obedience, Christian teaching and righteousness.

 

And our service to this new master is not one of coercion!

  • It is the free response of a regenerated heart.

 

Under grace we freely – not under coercion since there is nothing to be earned – seek to imitate Christ.

 

So because of the indicatives of the Gospel the believer…

  • Has been delivered from freely serving sin…
  • To freely fighting sin and imitating and serving Christ.

 

Again, Tom Schreiner is helpful here:

“The indicative of God’s work does not rule out human activity or suggest that human decisions are unnecessary. Instead, the indicative is the basis and ground for the [free] choice to submit to righteousness” – Tom Schreiner.

 

This is where Ezekiel 36, Jeremiah 31 and Psalm 37 are so helpful.

  • Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
  • Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV) — 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • Psalm 37:4 (ESV) — 4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  • A slave to righteousness operates from a new God-given heart that has new desires.

 

It might help to look at the significance of our slavery to righteousness this way…

 

So why do we even care about God stuff?

  • Why do we struggle with trying to obey?
  • Because we have, as part as our new address, new desires.
  • We aren’t forced or coerced to care; we freely care from a new heart.
  • We struggle against sin because we want to.

 

What does our obedience accomplish?

  • Nothing with respect to our position in Christ and before God.
  • Nothing with respect to our address.

 

So what does our obedience do?

  • It glorifies our new master.
  • It is our contribution to God’s intent to put creation right.
  • It is how we participate in spiritual warfare.
    • Using our members as “instruments for righteousness” (Rom. 6:13).
  • It is our freely given, grateful service to our new master.

 

I want to end with this.

  • “Paul’s concept of freedom is not that of autonomous self-direction but of deliverance from those enslaving powers that would prevent the human being from becoming what God intended” – Douglas Moo.
  • Slavery to righteousness is being the human being that “God intended” us to be.
  • A slavery made possible only by the indicatives of the Gospel.

 

As slaves to righteousness, we have been set free from our allegiance to sin and have been graciously enslaved to freely serve God!

 

Romans 6:19-23 – Slaves to God

Romans 6:19–23 (ESV) — 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

In verse 18, we discovered a profound freedom that comes from our slavery to righteousness.

  • This freedom is found in both…
  • The gift of a new heart that has new desires – something that comes from the indicatives of the Gospel.
  • And the fact that the gift of our heart’s new desires now aligns with God’s imperatives.
    • Under sin our desires were at odds with God’s imperatives.
  • But under grace, “The ‘imperative’ grows out of, and reflects, the ‘indicative.’” – Douglas Moo.

 

Before this slavery to righteousness, our slavery to sin consisted of the exact opposite…

  • A heart of stone that freely desired to serve sin.

 

But our transfer into grace through Christ set us free.

  • Slavery to righteousness is freedom.
  • It is humanity as God intended.

 

In the remainder of Romans 6…

  • Paul teases out some of the implications of our new slavery.

 

 

Romans 6:19:

Romans 6:19 (ESV) — 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

 

Paul starts off with an odd admission.

  • The slavery analogy he uses to explain his dominion theology is an accommodation.
  • It is speaking in “human terms”.

 

Paul tells us that humanity has “natural limitations” when trying to understand God and His revelation.

  • “…human nature produces a weakness in understanding that can be overcome in this life only by the use of (imperfect) analogies” – Douglas Moo.

 

Why is this important to remember in our discussions about God?

  • We need to continually remember this.

 

In the remainder of verse 19, Paul then goes on to give us an imperative.

 

Again, as we saw last week, we need to think of the imperatives as God giving us what we now desire:

  • (1) A road map to imitate Christ.
  • (2) A way to participate in bringing about His kingdom.
  • (3) A way to participate in spiritual warfare.

 

Paul’s imperative here is very similar to verse 13.

  • Romans 6:13 (ESV) — 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

 

What we need to pay attention to is the before and after picture Paul’s dominion theology contains.

  • Paul says, you “once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness”.
    • Once” meaning you used to have a life “characterized by sin and transgression” but you no longer do so (Tom Schreiner).
  • So now present your members as slaves to righteousness”.
    • Act upon the new desires of your new heart.

 

Given the meaning of “present” – to be in the service of or the disposal of someone:

  • Paul is simply telling you to freely serve your new master.

 

Paul is not telling you to do that – Christ did that for us; it is done.

  • He is saying you now desire to do this – to be a slave to righteousness.
  • So at the risk of sounding like Oprah – “be what you have become”.

 

And here is the beauty of our new slavery:

  • Whereas the “presenting” of the old self to sin led to “more lawlessness”.
  • The “presenting” of the new self to God leads “to sanctification”.
  • Sanctification meaning to become Christ-like and being set aside for God’s use (Schreiner).

 

GRACE ALERT:

  • Sanctification occurs even when we fail!
  • God’s grace even redeems and uses our failures to shape us into Christ!
  • Remember Romans 5:20 – “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”.
  • This is freedom!

 

 

Romans 6:20-21:

Romans 6:20–21 (ESV) — 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

 

Paul demonstrates the futility of service to – of presenting to – the master of sin.

  • There was no desire or concern for righteousness in the heart.

 

Douglas Moo says this:

People under sin, “are ‘free’ from the power and influence of the conduct that pleases God; they are deaf to God’s righteous demands and incapable of responding to them even were they to hear and respect them” – Douglas Moo.

 

The NLT translation puts it perfectly.

  • Romans 6:20 (NLT) — 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right.

 

But, here is the problem!

  • Freedom from doing right is slavery to sin (Schreiner).

 

And even worse, the fruit of this service – this “freedom” – is “death”.

  • Paul says, “the end of those things is death”.

 

Paul also points out something in passing.

  • In referring to the service of the old master – sin…
  • He speaks of “the things of which you are now ashamed”.

 

The word “ashamed” here means:

  • “Feeling or sense of loss of status because of some particular event or activity” – BDAG.
  • This view towards the past can be crippling to many people.

 

GRACE ALERT:

  • Notice that it is a “feeling or sense of loss of status”.
  • It is not this in reality – we are in Christ now!
  • We can never lose our status – Why?

 

BTW – Interestingly, the Greek word used here “plays a special role in the confessional language of primitive Christianity” – EDNT.

  • In certain formulas, it means a confession of allegiance to Jesus and His Gospel.
  • Romans 1:16 (ESV) — 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

 

 

Romans 6:22-23:

Romans 6:22–23 (ESV) — 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Paul has portrayed the master of the dominion of grace in a number of ways.

  • Grace itself – “under grace
  • Obedience
  • Pattern of teaching
  • Righteousness

 

Today he adds another master to the mix – God.

  • In verse 22 he says we are “slaves of God”.

 

Douglas Moo fleshes this out.

  • At the end of Romans 6, “Paul confronts us with the ultimate ‘powers’ that dominate the two respective ‘ages’ of salvation history: sin and God” – Douglas Moo.

 

And as if Paul already hasn’t given enough motivation to serve our new master – God…

  • He tells us that our domain transfer brings with it new fruit – “the fruit you get”.

 

And this new fruit is, “sanctification and its end, eternal life”.

  • We’ve covered at length – over the past few years – both of these topics.
  • And we just saw what sanctification is – being conformed to Christ and being set apart for use by God.

 

What about eternal life?

  • Eternal life is not heaven.
  • It is life in the age to come.
  • This, for Paul, is resurrection life.
  • Paul’s greatest hope.

 

 

Verse 23:

Verse 23 is one of the great summation verses of Paul.

  • For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 

Martin Lloyd-Jones says this verse contains 3 important contrasts (from Douglas Moo).

  • “The master that is served—sin versus God”
  • “The outcome of that service—death versus eternal life”
  • “The means by which this outcome is attained—a ‘wage’ earned versus a gift received” – Douglas Moo.

 

What this, of course, means is that:

  • Freedom from doing right (vs. 20) by serving master sin brings death.
  • This death – which entails the judging righteousness of God – is the wage paid.

 

But, our transfer (the indicatives of the Gospel) to grace and its master – God…

  • Brings the “free gift” – life in the age to come.

 

 

Verse 23 – One Other Thing:

Most of us recognize Romans 6:23 as part of the Roman Road.

  • But to whom is this verse addressed in context – believers or unbelievers?

 

Why do I point this out?

  • Are we doing the Gospel and Paul’s teaching a disservice when we entice the unbeliever with a cost/benefit analysis?
  • The Gospel is not a benefit plan is it?
  • I think Paul’s dominion theology makes clear that it isn’t.

 

We know from Paul that all are “under sin” and freely serve its demands.

  • We know from Paul that saving faith – which comes from God – is what connects us to Christ and His work, and transfers us out of “under sin” and into the dominion of grace.

 

So it is Christ and His Work that are the Gospel.

  • Christ is the center, the foundation, the sides, the top and the bottom of the Gospel.
  • The benefits and the fruit are not the Gospel.

 

Another way to look at is with this question.

  • What should be the object of our saving faith – Christ or gospel fruit?

 

This is why John Piper says this:

  • “Faith is being satisfied in all that God is for us in Jesus”.
  • As opposed to what heaven or eternal life are for us, for example.

 

He then goes on to say:

  • “I believe that if we do not see and savor Jesus as the supreme satisfaction of our souls, we don’t believe in Jesus in a saving way” – John Piper.
  • In other words, is Jesus first and foremost the means to an end, or is He the end?

 

The point is this:

  • We can sell the fruits of the Gospel and think we are offering Christ.
  • The risk with this approach is that the fruits of the Gospel become someone’s “supreme satisfaction”.

 

So…

  • How do we present the Gospel so that…
  • Instead of offering its fruits – eternal life and our “best life now” – as the satisfaction…
  • We offer up Christ as the highest satisfaction and treasure?
  • I think Paul’s dominion theology is part of the answer.

 

Piper brings this point home:

“…if you say that a person can be a Christian – born again, justified, heaven-bound, enjoying eternal life Christian – and have a higher treasure than Jesus, I do not know what Bible you are reading. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, ‘Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me’…Where Jesus is not treasured above all things, he is not trusted with saving faith” – John Piper.

 

And to address a question we might all have at this point:

“Now of course I am deeply aware both from the Bible and from John Piper’s own experience that the trusting and the treasuring of Jesus rise and fall in intensity from day to day. Anyone who has read my books, especially the book When I Don’t Desire God, knows I don’t have a perfectionist bone in my theological body, because I would be a goner. I am a sinner in need of grace everyday, including the grace for my imperfect faith and my imperfect treasuring of Jesus as part of that faith” – John Piper.

 

Romans 7:1-6 – God Fruit and Law Fruit

Romans 7:1–6 (ESV) — 1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

 

 

Romans 7 has as its main topic “the Mosaic law” – Douglas Moo.

  • So before we dig in, we need to take a quick look back into Romans 6 to get our footing.

 

In Romans 6:14, Paul said this:

  • Romans 6:14 (ESV) — 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
  • Out of nowhere, seemingly, Paul brought up the idea of “under law” to contrast with his “under grace” dominion theology.
  • At the time, we called it Paul’s new wrinkle – how the law fits into his dominion theology scheme?

 

We learned then:

  • Under law” is a power working within dominions – sin or grace.
  • And in the context of “under sin”, the law operates negatively as “the power of sin”.
  • It is “a power of the old age” – Douglas Moo.

 

This meant that the law, in itself, is not negative.

  • “The defect lies in sin, which uses the law for its own ends (7:7–13) and produces more sin under the law” – Tom Schreiner.
  • We will need to remember this later!

 

So this brings us to Romans 7.

  • In Romans 7, Paul elaborates on the law and his dominion theology.
  • Paul brought up “under law” in Romans 6:14, “…almost in passing, and it cries out for elaboration—which he now gives” in Romans 7 – Douglas Moo.

 

 

Do You Not Know:

We begin with the principal Paul teaches in verses 1-3.

  • Romans 7:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

 

BTW – We have to be careful of drawing a direct parallel with verses 4-6 (Moo and Schreiner).

  • They simply don’t match up in that way (Moo and Schreiner).

 

So what is Paul saying?

  • There is some way in which death frees one from the demands of the law.
  • “The main point, then, is that one’s relationship to the law is changed when death occurs” – Tom Schreiner.

Douglas Moo points out that an old Rabbi maxim captures Paul’s point.

  • “If a person is dead, he is free from the Torah and the fulfilling of the commandments” – Douglas Moo.

 

So with this principal in hand, we can forge ahead into the points Paul is making in the remaining verses.

 

 

Likewise, My Brothers:

Romans 7:4–6 (ESV) — 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

 

So having shown that death brings freedom from the demands of the law…

  • The obvious thing one would want to know is how one can die “to the law”.
  • How are we freed from the law like the wife?

 

Paul can’t be anymore straightfoward!

  • Paul directly answers this question – “Likewise, my brothers you also have died to the law…

 

Say what!

  • How did we do that?
  • Paul says, “through the body of Christ” (vs. 4).
  • Or as the NLT says, “when you died with Christ”.

 

This “died with Christ” stuff is more of the awesome “reign making” stuff from Romans 6.

  • Romans 6:7–9 (ESV) — 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

 

So because we are connected to Christ through faith…

  • We have participated – somehow – in His death and resurrection.
  • This is the “when you died with Christ” (NLT) from our verse 4.

 

And, interestingly, whereas in Romans 6…

  • Paul says this is how we were “free from sin”…
  • How Jesus transferred us into grace.

 

In Romans 7…

  • Paul says this is also how we have “died to the law”.

 

And remember, this means…

  • That we have died to the negative power of the law as it operated “under sin”.

 

And why is this such a big deal?

  • Paul says because we are now united with the one, “who has been raised from the dead” (vs. 4).

 

Which, for the purposes of his current discussion has a very important implication.

  • …in order that we may bear fruit for God” (vs. 4).

 

How do we know what to do to bear fruit for God?

  • The imperatives.

 

So we can sum verse 4 up like this…

  • We, like the wife, have been freed from the demands of the law.
  • This happened because we died to the law.
  • We died to the law by virtue of our participation in the death of Christ.
  • And, importantly, to be united to Christ in His death is to be united to the life of His resurrection.
  • And so because we have gone through this death-resurrection-life process, we can now “bear fruit for God”.

 

This is all great news – this is the Gospel – this is Paul’s dominion theology.

  • And this again shows us how the imperatives relate to the indicatives.
  • Our obedience is the fulfillment of our new desires to “bear fruit for God”.

 

But we said Romans 7 was about the law.

  • Isn’t Paul going to shed more light on the law?
  • Hold on to your seats!

 

 

Law Diving Deeper:

Romans 7:5–6 (ESV) — 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

 

Remarkably, Paul goes on to say something startling about the law.

  • He says what the law did “while we were living in the flesh” was to arouse our “sinful passions”.
  • And not only that, but that the “sinful passions” bore the most heinous kind of fruit.
  • They bore fruit not “for God” but “for death”.

 

In other words, Paul is making this remarkable claim.

  • God gave the law and it did not lead to righteousness.
  • In fact, it didn’t even bear fruit “for God”.
  • It lead to the bearing of fruit for the master of the dominion of sin – what Paul calls here “death”.

 

Or to put in the language of Romans 6:13:

  • God’s law produced “work in our members” (7:5) that served as weapons or “instruments” for the master of the dominion of sin.

 

Or to put in the language of Romans 5’s Adam and Christ:

  • “Paul is making the striking and controversial claim that the law, when given to Israel, formed a bond between Israel and … not God, as one might have supposed, but rather Adam” – N.T. Wright.

 

God gave the law and it produced ammunition for His opposition!

  • Wow!

 

Even though the law is from God, “…it has nevertheless become the unwitting tool of sin, being used to confirm and imprison in death…” – Douglas Moo.

  • Master Sin must have loved the giving of the law.
  • More on this in the coming weeks.

 

 

Good News:

Paul then goes on to give some good news – again!

  • And what’s cool is that he introduces the good news just like he does in Romans 3:21…
  • But now…
  • But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (vs. 6).

 

Here, Paul repeats himself, but adds a new twist.

  • We now “serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code”.

 

This is the good news that…

  • Because of the indicatives of God…
  • Our efforts at obedience now serve – by the power of the Spirit – the purposes of God.
  • They no longer serve “the old way” which was sin and death.

 

Did you get that?

  • Our obedience and service is now powered by the Spirit!
  • This, once again, sheds an important light on our relationship to the imperatives.
  • What is it?

 

 

Tom Schreiner’s summary of Romans 7:1-6:

“Jewish opponents of Paul’s gospel contended that freedom from the law opened the door for sin. Paul turns the tables on them by insisting that it is those who are under the law who are in bondage to sin. The Jews never found freedom under the law, and the promises of salvation have not been fulfilled. Only those who have died with Christ to the law and possess the Holy Spirit have the ability to bear fruit for God. Those who are under the law cannot yield good fruit and will have the penalty of death pronounced over them” – Tom Schreiner.

Romans Law – Obedience or Badges

When we dealt with Romans 7:1-4 we learned the following:

  • We have been freed from the demands of the law.
  • This happened because we died to the law.
  • We died to the law by virtue of our participation in the death of Christ.
  • But, importantly, we are also united to His life and resurrection.
  • And so because we have gone through this death-resurrection-life process, we can now “bear fruit for God”.

 

Simple enough.

  • But then we saw that Paul made a rather startling claim about the law, in verse 5.
  • Romans 7:5 (ESV) — 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

Paul is saying that though God gave the law to the Jews it did not lead to righteousness.

  • In fact, it didn’t even bear fruit “for God”.
  • It lead to the bearing of fruit for the master of the dominion of sin – what Paul calls here “death”.

 

Or to put in the language of Romans 5’s Adam and Christ:

“Paul is making the striking and controversial claim that the law, when given to Israel, formed a bond between Israel and … not God, as one might have supposed, but rather Adam” – N.T. Wright.

 

The rest of Romans 7 follows on the heels of this controversial claim.

  • But today I want to back up a bit.
  • We need a bigger picture of what is going on in Paul’s ministry.

 

 

Paul’s Law Context:

We can piece together the story with the Bible’s help.

  • Paul is on his way to Jerusalem to deliver aid to Jewish Christians.
  • Acts 19:21 (ESV) — 21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

 

Apparently, there was a severe grain shortage in Jerusalem brought on by failed crops in Egypt.

  • This shortage brought on a huge increase in the price of grain.

 

Ben Witherington III says this:

  • “There is considerable evidence that poverty and food shortages were ongoing problems the early church in Jerusalem had to cope with…”
  • The grain shortage made things worse.

 

Paul tells us the same thing.

  • Romans 15:25–26 (ESV) — 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.

 

Paul goes on to say:

  • It is right that Gentiles, who have been privileged to share in the Jew’s spiritual blessings, are right to share their physical blessings with those in need in Jerusalem.

 

But, Paul has a concern about the reception he and his Gentile aid will get in Jerusalem.

  • Romans 15:30–31 (ESV) — 30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,

 

So Paul has two concerns:

  • (1) Unbelieving Jews who “see him as a traitor, a blasphemer, someone who has led Jewish people astray and destroyed the grip of the law of Moses on their lives” – N.T. Wright.
  • (2) Believing Jews who “may well find it difficult to accept money raised from non-Jewish sources” – N.T. Wright.

Upon Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem, Luke gives us more detail – he also blurs the lines between the two distinctions above.

  • Acts 21:17–22 (ESV) — 17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.

 

So what?

  • Most believe that the Jewish Christians at Rome were part of the “zealous for the law” crowd.
  • So Paul, especially in Romans 7, is addressing their concerns.
  • Namely, that he is teaching that Jews should “forsake Moses”.
  • Interestingly, it is possible that in addressing the Jews’ concerns in Romans 7, Paul is fleshing out his response to his critics in Jerusalem.

 

BTW – The issues raised here are HUGE!

  • It involves the clash between the “New Perspectives on Paul” crowd with the “Traditional Martin Luther Reformation” crowd.
  • I will be greatly over simplifying…sorry.

 

 

Jews and the Law:

So to get behind what Paul is teaching about the law in Romans 7 we need to know more about the law.

  • What does it mean to be “zealous for the law”?

 

On paper, “zealous for the law” is easy enough to understand.

  • It means to be a loyal adherent to the law – BDAG.
  • And to forsake this would mean Paul is an apostate – he is a heretic.

 

But, attempts to understand this get complicated real fast.

  • What Luke means to say depends entirely on how the law related to salvation.
  • We can simplify two approaches that unpack this.

 

Ethical Obedience and Law:

It is quite possible that the traditional take on Jews’ “law talk” is correct.

  • That is to say, Paul’s law-talk (“works of the law”) referred to obedience as the way “in” to salvation.
  • Obedience to the law was the way to obtain right standing (righteousness) before God.

 

And since the law was given to the Jews, it was easy to lay on top of this a sense of ethnic superiority.

  • Jews were the gatekeepers to any access one had to be right with God.
  • To get to the law you had to go through Judaism.

 

Ethnic Badges and Law:

But there is a second idea of how all this “law talk” played out.

  • Essentially, to speak of the law was to speak of, not obedience…
  • But of the badges of membership in the people of God.
  • The badges of membership were circumcision, Sabbath keeping, ritual observance (like food laws), etc.

 

The badges, not obedience, made you right with God.

  • Why? Because they demonstrated whom the members of the Abrahamic covenant were.
  • And to be saved was to be a member of the covenant.
  • “Salvation came not through achieving a certain number of meritorious works but through belonging to the covenant people of God” – DPL (EP Sanders).

 

On this view…

  • Obedience did not secure salvation.
  • Obedience was the natural offshoot of “belonging to the covenant people of God”.

 

Ben Witherington III sums this view up well:

“The obedience one reads about in the OT and early Jewish religion was not obedience in order to obtain right-standing with God, but obedience in response to the divine initiative which was prior”.

 

This view, even more than the first, was susceptible to ethnic superiority.

  • After all, the badges of membership were all Jewish.

 

Implications:

So when Luke speaks of the law in Acts 21 and Paul speaks of the law in Romans 7…

  • To which versions of the law are they referring?

 

If the first…

  • Then Paul is only fending off a works based salvation.

 

If the second…

  • His polemic, “is not directed against gaining salvation by doing good works but against believing that salvation was, at least in part, contingent upon belonging to national Israel and observing the Law as a badge of that status” – DPL (Dunn).

 

 

Common Sense Time:

Why should we restrict the range of Paul’s beliefs as a Jew (before Christ)?

  • Like all of us, his views surely evolved, changed, slide around, changed emphasis, etc., as he grew and learned.
  • To think that Paul or any other Jew believed the same thing and only the same thing throughout their life is a bit unrealistic.

 

In fact, a huge critique of Paul is that he seems to be inconsistent when speaking about the law.

  • If he were speaking always and only on one view of the law, this is a fair charge.
  • But I don’t think he is.

 

Which view – obedience or badges – of “works of the law” is this verse attacking?

  • Romans 2:28–29 (ESV) — 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
  • Doesn’t this verse attack the ethnic dimensions of Judaism – the badges?

 

And this one:

  • Romans 2:21–23 (ESV) — 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.
  • Obedience?

 

How about this one – which view works here?

  • Galatians 2:16 (ESV) — 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law [obedience or badges?] but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
  • Don’t both views work here?

 

And this one?

  • Romans 2:25 (ESV) — 25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.

 

What about our text from Acts?

  • you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs” – Acts 21:21.
  • Badges?

 

 

Big Picture:

The main point for Paul in all of his law-talk is this…“But now, the righteousness of God…

  • However Jews thought, including himself, Paul is redefining the whole story around Christ.
  • In Christ, we can say so much for ethnic (badges) or ethical (obedience) roads to God!
  • Only in Christ is the righteousness of God to be found and appropriated.

 

Romans 7:7-12 – Reclaiming the Law

Introduction:

Last week we learned some important background info concerning Paul’s law-talk in Romans.

  • Jew’s, and so Jewish Christians, had a variety of views on the “works of the law”.

 

Apparently, the two most prevalent views were:

  • Ethical/Works View – Law was the way to salvation.
  • Ethnic/Badge View – Law, like circumcision and Sabbath keeping, was one of the badges that designated membership of the people of God – a people God already saved.

 

Jewish Christians of either view had problems with the implications of the Gospel for the law.

  • In their eyes, Paul was throwing the law under the bus.
  • They charged Paul (Acts 21) with rebelling against Moses and Jewish customs like circumcision.
  • Romans 7:7 and following is Paul’s hashing out a response to these charges.

 

To get us started we need to review what Paul has said about the law thus far:

  • Romans 2:13 (ESV) — 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous [ethnic Jews] before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
    • Attack on Ethnic/Badge View
  • Romans 3:20 (ESV) — 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
    • Attack on both views?
  • Romans 3:28 (ESV) — 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
    • Attack on both views?
  • Galatians 3:21 (ESV) — 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.
    • Attack on both views?

 

If these attacks weren’t bad enough, Paul also taught the following about the law:

  • the law brings wrath” (4:15)
  • law came to increase the trespass” (5:20)
  • sinful passions, aroused by the law…bear fruit for death” (7:5)

 

Paul, acutely aware of how he was being heard, addresses his critics in our text.

  • That Paul addresses the charges shows us a couple of things…
  • Paul listened to and understood the charges of his critics.
  • Paul provided a reasoned response to their objections.
  • Paul knew the Gospel, if true, could/would withstand its critics.

 

 

Our Text:

Romans 7:7–12 (ESV) — 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

 

The way Paul deals with his critics is to explain that he hasn’t thrown the law under the bus.

  • What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means!

 

Everything revolves around Paul’s Gospel view of the law — “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me” (vs. 10).

  • Paul fleshes out his defense of this proposition with a contrast between sin and its power with…
  • The law and the 10th commandment specifically – “You shall not covet”.

 

What is fascinating about Paul’s argument is how it can be understood visually.

  • If one parses out the law and its commandment (green) and sin (red) and what each does (bold verbs), it becomes really clear what Paul is doing.

 

Romans 7 7-12 Pic

 

Paul does not ascribe any evil to the law/commandment.

  • He is not questioning the wisdom of God’s giving the law.
  • The law is not the problem.

 

As evident by the visual picture of the text, Paul shows that the law was neutral.

  • The law “came” and the law “said”.
  • It made known the will of God.
  • It was an expression of the wisdom of God.

 

By contrast, sin is not neutral at all.

  • What does Paul mean by sin here?
  • This is the “under sin” dominion he has been referring to since Romans 3.

“A force, which is essentially opposed to God’s creation. It is bent on spoiling the world God made, the humans who reflect his image, and the chosen people called to be the agents of redemption” – N.T. Wright.

 

Paul says sin has an agenda and it takes advantage of the law/commandment to achieve its aims.

  • Seizing” the commandment.
  • Produced” the very thing the commandment condemned – coveting.
  • Sin “came alive” in the presence of the law.
  • Paul’s words do not mean that before the law, sin was non-existent.
  • Romans 5 obviously makes clear that it was – “in Adam”.
  • Paul means that “it was not as ‘active’ or ‘powerful’ before the law as after” – Douglas Moo.
  • Deceived” God’s people.
  • Killed” God’s people.

 

Sin’s action is why his main point is, The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me” (vs. 10).

  • This is the thing the Jew’s found so offensive.

 

After all, Moses said the complete opposite.

  • Leviticus 18:5 (ESV) — 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.

 

But the reason, Paul says, the law doesn’t accomplish “life” is because the context in which the law was given.

  • The law was given to a people in Garden Exile because of Adam’s sin.
  • A people born into the dominion and power of sin.
  • And, “human beings are not freed from sin’s dominion while living under the domain of the law” – Tom Schreiner.

 

And under the dominion of sin…

  • “The power of sin made it impossible for any human being to fulfill the law and so attain the promised life” – Douglas Moo.

 

So, the law doesn’t grant life!

  • The law is “the occasion or operating base that sin has used to accomplish its evil and deadly purpose” – Douglas Moo.

 

This means that, “Those who believe that the answer to human evil is to teach the Torah are deeply mistaken, according to Paul” – Schreiner.

  • The law is not “the antidote to human evil” – Schreiner.

 

Whether by the “law” we mean the ethical/works view or the ethnic/badge view…

  • It does nothing to bring about dominion transfer – from “under sin” to “under grace”.

 

So Paul is not throwing Moses and Sinai under the bus.

  • He is revealing just how severe the problem of being “under sin” actually is.

 

This is why Romans 3:21-22 continues to be the most important verses in Romans.

  • Romans 3:21–22 (ESV) — 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

 

 

Purpose of Law:

So if the law didn’t/doesn’t bring life, what was its purpose?

  • Paul says the law served to teach Jews about sin – the act and the power of sin.
  • He says the commandment brought sin to life and made it know – intellectually and experientially.
  • The law made sin evident.

 

Douglas Moo puts it this way:

  • The law helped the Jew “to understand the real ‘sinfulness’ of sin” – Douglas Moo.
  • This itself is an act of grace!

 

This is the reason that Paul can finish out our text today with:

  • Romans 7:12 (ESV) — 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

 

Paul’s Gospel View of the law highlights the question:

  • If the law doesn’t give life and domain transfer, what does?
  • His answer is, of course, Jesus – not any ethnic/ethical relationship to the law.

 

Given this view of the law – Paul’s Gospel View – how should David be read in Psalm 19?

  • Psalm 19:7–10 (ESV) — 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

 

David’s words about the law seem only to make sense in light of Jesus Christ and Paul’s Gospel View of the law.

  • If David sees the law here as his means to salvation, he is deluded isn’t he?

 

 

Application:

The power and appetite of sin is something even the believer must remember.

  • “When we, too, are faced with sin, whether in our own lives or in the wider world, we should not underestimate it. Evil is real and powerful. It is opposed to God, his world, his human creatures, and not least those who are called to follow his son. We dare not trifle with it. It is deceitful. It is deadly” – N.T. Wright.
  • “The experience of Israel with the law should also remind Christians never to return to the law—whether the Mosaic or any other list of “rules”—as a source of spiritual vigor and growth” – Douglas Moo.

 

 

Romans 7:13-25 – Who Is The I?

Review:

In our last lesson, we saw why Paul was spending so much time on the law.

  • He was addressing this issue because he knew Jewish Christians had problems with his views.
  • We saw, for example, that even Luke recorded this opposition.
  • Acts 21:21 (ESV) — 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.

 

In verses 7-12, Paul made clear that the Gospel he was preaching wasn’t throwing the law under the bus.

  • The reason, Paul said, that the law produced more sin (disobedience) and bore fruit for death (7:5) was because…
  • The power and dominion of sin was using the law as an opportunity to…
  • Seize, Produce, Deceive and Kill.

 

 

Verse 13:

In fact, the first verse in our text today is essentially a summary of verses 7-12.

  • Romans 7:13 (ESV) — 13 Did that [the law] which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

 

Paul repeats his view of the law.

  • The law is “good”; it doesn’t bring death itself.
  • It is the power of sin that is “producing death” through the law.

 

But notice that 7:13 also answers a crucial question.

  • Why would God give the law knowing the power of sin would use it to produce death?

 

Paul’s answer:

  • in order that sin might be shown to be sin”.
  • What does that mean?

 

The law, even though it was misused by the power of sin, still served God’s good purpose.

  • Remember, Paul has said…
  • the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” – vs. 12.
  • How could this be if the law was impotent before the power of sin?

 

N.T. Wright puts the question this way:

“What was God up to, giving the law not simply knowing that it would give sin the chance to grow to its full height, but actually in order that it might do so?”

 

Wright’s answer:

“God wanted sin to be brought to its full height in order that he might then deal with it, condemn it, punish it once and for all. But where was sin to grow to full height? Paradoxically, in Israel, the very people God had called to be the light of the world. Why? In order that in the person of Israel’s representative, the Messiah, sin might be drawn onto one spot and condemned once and for all. What looks at first sight like a tortured and rambling account of personal moral incapacity prepares the way for a statement of the achievement of the cross which is as powerful as anything Paul ever wrote” – N.T. Wright.

 

The law, in effect, was bait for the power of sin.

  • As soon as the power of sin seized the law to devour it…
  • Sin showed itself as the beast and oppressor it really was.
  • “The law, by making sin even worse than before, reveals sin in its true colors” – Douglas Moo.

 

And the importance of this revelation was twofold.

  • (1) It showed that the law (works or badges) could not be the victor over the power of sin.
  • (2) So it showed that something else was needed to bring victory.
    • Romans 7:24-25.

 

So having reviewed and dealt with verse 13 at the same time, we can begin to address verses 14-25.

 

 

Introduction:

In verses 14-25, Paul elaborates on the answer to his own question from verse 13.

  • Did that which is good, then, bring death to me?

 

His elaboration introduces something new to the discussion.

  • Thus far, he has been dealing with two things…
  • (1) Sin – as in the power and dominion of sin.
  • (2) Law – as in the commandments given at Sinai – specifically coveting.

 

But, in our verses today, Paul introduces another character into the discussion…

  • (3) The “I”

 

In verses 14-20 Paul says things like:

  • I am…”, “I do not…”, “I do…”, “I agree…”, “I know…”, “I have…”, etc.
  • Paul introduces the “I” to make a further point about the law.

 

The million dollar question:

  • Who is the “I”?

 

Douglas Moo wants us to remember that the central focus here for Paul is still the law not the “I”.

  • He says folks tend to get bogged down with Paul’s “I”.

 

But he goes on to say:

“Having said this, however, the identification of the ‘I’ in this passage is not an insignificant matter. It affects, to some extent, the way we understand Paul’s presentation of the law, but, even more, the way we understand the Christian life. And certainly the identification of this ‘I’ affects dramatically the interpretation of individual verses” – Douglas Moo.

 

Exactly!

  • It “affects dramatically the interpretation of individual verses”.
  • So, before we dig into the individual verses, we need to deal with the identity of the “I”.

 

 

The Identity Of The “I”:

There are at least two choices:

  • The “I” is Paul after Christ – Regenerate Paul.
  • The “I” is Paul (and Israel) before Christ – Unregenerate Paul.

 

 

Regenerate View (Moo):

(1) “I” means “I” and Present Tense

  • Why not take the plain meaning of the word “ego”?
  • Paul is referring to himself in the first person.
  • And because verses 7-13 are the past tense and verses 14-25 are present tense, Paul must be speaking about himself in his present condition.

 

(2) Law Love

  • Aren’t the only ones that “delight in the law of God” and seek to “serve the law” the regenerate?
  • Paul seems pretty clear that unbelievers could care less about God’s law.
  • Romans 3:11 (ESV) — 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
  • Romans 8:7 (ESV) — 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

 

(3) Mind Love

  • Similarly to number 2, the “I” in our text is portrayed as having a mind seeking to align with God’s law.
  • This is not characteristic of an unbeliever.
  • Ephesians 4:17 (ESV) — 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.
  • 2 Timothy 3:8 (ESV) — 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.

 

(4) Inner Being

  • Based on Paul’s other letters, only the Christian “possesses the ‘inner person’” – Douglas Moo.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV) — 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
  • Ephesians 3:16 (ESV) — 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

 

(5) Victory

  • Concerning Verses 24-25, “the division and struggle of the egō that Paul depicts in these verses is that of the person already saved by God in Christ” – Douglas Moo.
  • In other words, Christ brings resolution to this Christian experience.

 

 

Unregenerate View (Moo):

(1) The Flesh

  • The “I” is seen as under the power of the flesh.
  • This is an unregenerate condition.
  • Romans 7:5 (ESV) — 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

 

(2) Under Sin

  • The “I” is seen under the power of sin.
  • We know that regenerated believers are not under sin.
  • Romans 6:6 (ESV) — 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

 

(3) Under Sin Prisoner

  • The “I” is not only still under sin, but also its prisoner.
  • This is not a condition of the unregenerate.
  • Romans 8:2 (ESV) — 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

 

(4) Defeat vs. Struggle

  • We know that Christians struggle with sin.
  • Galatians 5:16–18 (ESV) — 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
  • But our text shows not a struggle but a defeat – No Ability.
  • “This is a more negative view of the Christian life than can be accommodated within Paul’s theology” – Douglas Moo.

 

(5) No Grace

  • The “I” struggles “with the need to obey the Mosaic law” as if something significant was at stake – Moo.
  • But Paul has already said this is not a feature of the Christian life.
  • Romans 6:14 (ESV) — 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
  • Romans 7:4 (ESV) — 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
  • The Christian has be released “from the dictates of the law” – Douglas Moo.

 

 

Summary:

The two approaches above leave us with this:

  • Is Paul describing “an important aspect of ‘normal’ Christian experience: the continuing battle with sin that will never be won as long as the believer, through his or her body, is related to this age?” (Moo)
  • Or is Paul describing “the struggle of the person outside Christ to do ‘what is good,’ a struggle that is doomed to failure because it is fought without the power of God that alone is able to break the power of sin?” (Moo).

 

Next week we will dig into the text from one of these perspectives.

  • Which one do you think best fits with what we have been learning from Paul concerning the law and sin?

 

 

Romans 7:14 – Features Of The Human Condition

Romans 7:14 (ESV) — 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

 

Let’s be clear that there are at least three things going on in our text and through verse 25.

  • We need to keep these in mind going forward.
  • The big picture, the detailed picture and the Gospel picture.

 

The big picture is Paul’s effort to vindicate the law.

  • The very thing he has been doing since Romans 7:1.

 

The detailed picture is his effort to show why the law is not to blame for…

  • Arousing “sinful passions” that yielded “fruit for death” (7:5) and “producing death in me” (7:13).

 

The Gospel picture is that all the human conditions he describes point to the remedy found in Christ.

  • Romans 7:25a (ESV) — 25a Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 

 

Verse 14a:

For we know that the law is spiritual

  • Paul, adding to his previous statements on the law says, “the law is spiritual”.
  • What does he mean when he calls the law “spiritual”?

 

The Greek word here is pneumatikos.

  • It literally means, “pertaining to wind or breath”.

 

Obviously the idea here is that the law comes from the “breath” of God.

  • And in NT speak – the breath of God is the Holy Spirit.

 

This is why Douglas Moo says Paul is “asserting [the laws] divine origin”.

  • And Murray says it “refers to its divine origin and character” – John Murray.
  • And, better yet, Robert Jewett says, “that Paul intends to imply that the Torah was created, activated and authorized by the Spirit” – Robert Jewett.

 

This is important to get because, it is…

  • Yet another reason he is not throwing the law under the bus.
  • Yet another reason Paul can say in verse 13, “By no means!” did the law bring death.
  • He fully recognizes the source, and so the innocence of the law.

 

BTW – According to scholar Michael Heiser…

  • There was a stream of Judaism that believed the law tablets literally came down from heaven.
  • And then, at the time of the Babylonian invasion, went back up to heaven.
  • So the source of the law was serious business.

 

 

Verse 14b:

For we know that the law is spiritual, but…

  • Then Paul drops a “marker of contrast” (BDAG) on us…otherwise known as a “but”.
    • Some might call this a “MOC Bomb”.
  • And with the “but” Paul introduces a contrast between…
  • The law and the “I”.

 

Verse 14c:

but I am of the flesh, sold under sin

  • Paul says the law is from God.
  • But…the “I” is quite different.

 

The “I”, Paul says, is:

  • of the flesh
  • sold under sin

 

Of The Flesh:

What is “of the flesh” (literally, “fleshy” – Greek “sarkinos”)?

  • How are we to understand this contrast with the “spiritual” law?

 

It could be just a generic contrast.

  • The law is of the heavenly realm – The “I” is of the “physical realm” (BDAG).

 

The problem with this view is that it does not present a negative view of the “I”.

  • Jews weren’t Platonists (creation was not bad and only spirit good).

 

So given our context, it is unlikely that this is what Paul is saying.

  • Because “…the contrast with ‘spiritual’ points to a more negative meaning” – Douglas Moo.

 

This leads us to a second possible contrast.

  • The law expresses the “moralness” of God – The “I” expresses the “moralness” of the flesh.

 

Tom Schreiner puts the contrast this way:

  • “The law is God’s good and holy will…human beings are fleshy and under the control of sin”.

 

Which is to say that the law expresses what is good and holy about God…

  • But the “I” expresses sinful humanity.

 

So Paul’s fleshy “I” is both:

  • A sinner and controlled by sin.

 

Robert Jewett teases out Paul’s use of “fleshly” from Paul’s personal perspective:

It refers to “…opposition against God, for it was precisely in his own zealous advocacy of the law that Paul found himself in such opposition. In his striving to demonstrate his righteousness under the law, he found himself caught in the throes of sin”.

 

This fact of Paul’s “fleshly” life led to this beautiful scene:

  • Acts 9:1–5 (ESV) — 1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

 

If the fleshy “I” does mean one who is a sinner, controlled by sin and in opposition to God…

  • Then this characterization of the “I” is also an allusion back to the “men” in Romans 5.
  • Romans 5:12 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

 

This would mean the fleshy “I” is also the “in Adam” “I”.

  • Which is to say…spiritually dead.

 

In other words, we are talking about this person:

  • Romans 7:5 (ESV) — 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

 

 

Sold Under Sin:

but I am of the flesh, sold under sin

  • We have just seen what “of the flesh” means.
  • What does “sold under sin” mean?

 

Literally, the Greek text says, “sold under the sin”.

  • This is what Paul just referred to in verse 13.

 

Paul said it was, literally, “the sin” that used the law to produce death.

  • And God let this happen so that “sin might be shown to be [the] sin”.

 

The Sin” is Paul’s power and dominion of sin language.

  • The Sin” is the default address of all humanity.
  • A place where sin is the master.

 

I love how Tom Schreiner puts it.

  • Paul’s “sold under sin” is the human condition in which sin is “an alien power that brings human beings into subjection”.

 

I love how Robert Jewett puts it.

  • “Sin functions in Paul’s expression as the alien power that enslaves its helpless victims…”

 

This “the sin” power is the power Paul refers to in Romans 3 and Romans 6.

  • Where those under it are “none righteous” and “enslaved to sin” and “slaves of sin”.

 

As we saw last week Douglas Moo says this description of the “I”…

  • “…clinches the argument for a description of a non-Christian”.

 

Why?

  • Because Paul has clearly taught that the Christian does not live under sin’s power and dominion.
  • Romans 6:17–18 (ESV) — 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

 

So now that we have parsed out verse 14…

  • We need to put it all back together again.

 

Verse 14:

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin

 

So in defense of the law (and the Gospel of Jesus Christ for that matter)…

  • Paul begins an argument that includes 3 important features of the human condition (FHCs).
  • (1) The law
  • (2) The “I
  • (3) The power and dominion of sin

 

Question – which group of people contain all three of these FHCs?

 

BTW – Please note that it can be argued that Gentiles are not exempt from all that Paul is teaching here.

  • For, it can be said that even the Gentile has the “law”.
  • Romans 2:14 (ESV) — 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.

 

In verse 14, Paul shows how these FHCs relate to each other.

  • In a manner of speaking, he gives us the “lay of the land”.

 

FHC 1 – The law.

  • It’s origin is unmistakable and never in question.
  • It is from God.
  • And as such, the law is holy, good, right and without flaw.

 

FHC 2 – The “I”.

  • The “I” who received the law of God had some problems.
  • The “I” was a sinner, in opposition to God, in Adam, and subject to death.
  • The “I” was a slave to the power and dominion of sin.

 

FHC 3 – The Power and Dominion of Sin

  • The power and dominion of sin owned the “I”.
  • It was the “I’s” master.
  • Crucially, this meant that the “I’s” relationship with the law was controlled by the power and dominion of “the sin”.

 

And, hugely important!!!!…

  • This also means that the dominion and power of “the sin” was the context in which the holy, good, and perfect law was given.

 

Why is this so important to recognize?

  • Because, crucial to the Gospel…
  • Only when we have been transferred into the power and dominion of grace,
  • Does the law no longer function to kill us but to bring us life!

 

How did/does this transfer come?

  • Colossians 1:13 (ESV) — 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

 

So from verse 14, we have the power and dominion of sin, the person sold under this power, and the law given to the person sold under this power.

  • What does this lead to?
  • We will see that next week.

 

 

Romans 7:15 – The Blind I

Verse 14 Review:

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin

 

In verse 14, Paul gave us 3 FHCs – features of the human condition.

  • The Law
  • “The Sin” (literally)
  • The “I’s” slavery to “The Sin”

 

We saw of the law:

  • It is from God – specifically through His Spirit.
  • And as such, the law is holy, good, right and without flaw.

 

We saw of “The Sin”

  • It represented the power and dominion of sin.
  • It was the context in which the law was given.
  • And from verse 13, we saw that it was the thing that the law was designed to “rat out”.
  • in order that sin might be shown to be [the] sin

 

We saw of the “I”:

  • The “I” was fleshy – it acted in opposition to God, was in Adam, and subject to death.
  • The “I” was the recipient of the law (Paul and Israel).
  • The “I” was a slave to the power and dominion of “the sin”.

 

So, in verses 15 and following, Paul begins to show us exactly how these three interact.

  • How they are experienced.
  • They, “describe the actual situation (as opposed to the felt experience) of Israel living under the law. What happens when Israel, having been given the law, does its best to live under it?” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Our Text:

Romans 7:14–15 (ESV) — 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

 

To get at verse 15, we have to parse out three things.

  • What it means to “not understand my own actions”.
  • What it means to “not do what I want”.
  • What it means to “do the very thing I hate”.

 

Once we figure these out, we can put them all back together again…

  • And then see them in light of verse 14.

 

 

Verse 15a:

“For I (do) not understand my own actions

 

What is this “not understand” business?

  • Is Paul making excuses for his actions?
  • Is Paul trying to tell us he isn’t that bright?

 

The idea behind what Paul is saying is this…

  • He is claiming ignorance about a certain experience (his “own actions”) with the law.

 

The Greek word he is using is “ginosko”:

  • It means one has “come to the knowledge of” something – BDAG.

 

So Paul is telling us that in the life he lived within the 3 FHCs from verse 14…

  • He literally had never “come to the knowledge of” the reason for his experience.

 

What experience?

  • Doing what he didn’t want to do and not doing what he wanted to do.

 

It doesn’t mean that he is “unconscious of or unaware of” his actions – Tom Schreiner.

  • He was just clueless of an explanation for them.
  • He was blind to the reason.

 

This is a remarkable admission!

  • We know Paul’s pedigree.
  • Philippians 3:6 (ESV) — 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

 

And now, because of his current understanding of the FHC’s from verse 14…

  • Paul (the righteous one) is admitting he never understood why the demands of the law:
  • Were so slippery.
  • Were so elusive.
  • Were so out of reach.

 

Trapped in this ignorance, he was blind to the consequences the law had in store for him.

  • “Paul was completely unaware of the contradiction between his actions and their consequences…” – Jewett.
  • After all, Paul said he was “blameless” before the law.
  • Not a chance!

 

The lesson here is scary.

  • What this means, “…is that one cannot fully comprehend the depth of sin in oneself” – Tom Schreiner.
  • The effect of the FHCs is brutal.
  • “The sin” blinds you to the depth of your sin.
  • This is total depravity!

 

What thoughts or responses do you have when confronted with the severity of your condition before you came to Christ?

 

And isn’t it ironic that the only way for Paul to come to understand his blindness was to be…struck blind.

  • Acts 9:8 (ESV) — 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.

 

But in fact, in his blindness, he NOW SAW EVERYTHING!

  • Because he was in Christ and removed from the power of “the sin”.
  • He was removed from the blindness and ignorance it gave him.
  • And he saw the depths of his sin…
  • His “blamelessness” evaporated.

 

 

Verse 15b:

“For I (do) not do what I want”

 

So this is the first action Paul didn’t understand because of the FHCs of verse 14.

  • He didn’t do what he wanted to do.

 

So this little phrase is very interesting because of one little word – “do”.

  • Do” here (prasso) means:
  • “To bring about something through activity” – BDAG.

 

And in its context, it requires that we ask two simple questions.

  • What activity was he doing to bring something about?
  • What was the something Paul trying to bring about?

 

 

The Activity:

The activity is fairly obvious.

  • Paul wanted to be obedient to the law.
  • Whatever the reasons Paul had in mind for this obedience – and there are many possibilities…
  • He no doubt wanted to obey.

 

After all Paul’s Bible made this very clear:

  • Deuteronomy 26:16 (ESV) — 16 “This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.

 

 

The Something:

But, what was the something he was trying to bring about?

  • As we said, many different things could be in view here.
  • Things like salvation, honoring God, setting himself apart, etc.

 

Yet one very interesting possibility to throw into the list of choices involved eschatology – Israel’s Future.

  • Exodus 19:5–6 (ESV) — 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of ”
  • Jeremiah 7:22–23 (ESV) — 22 For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you [Israel].’
  • Deuteronomy 28:2 (ESV) — 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God… Deuteronomy 28:10 (ESV) — 10 And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you.

 

So, no doubt, the age to come (eschaton) was a “something” he wanted to bring about.

  • When Israel would be vindicated.
  • When Israel would be a kingdom of priests.
  • When the Messiah would come.
  • “The messianic reign of righteousness and peace” – Robert Jewett.

 

Once again, this presents us with a massive irony between Paul’s two lives.

  • Robert Jewett refers us back to Acts 9, and points out the irony for us.
  • Acts 9:1–2 (ESV) — 1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
  • Acts 9:4 (ESV) — 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

 

Are you kidding me?!

  • By doing the very thing he thought he needed to do, he “achieved…the opposite – the direct thwarting of God’s Messiah”.

 

Can you imagine the weight of this revelation on Paul?

  • The extent of his blindness and his cluelessness must have been overwhelming.
  • It is only by the grace of the Messiah he unwittingly sought to defeat that he wasn’t crushed by this revelation.

 

Is it any wonder he was enamored with God’s grace?

  • Romans 5:2 (ESV) — 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
  • Can we now see the depths of his rejoicing?

 

Is it any wonder he was so grateful for God’s patience?

  • Romans 2:4 (ESV) — 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

 

 

Verse 15c:

but I do [poieo] the very thing I hate”

 

Verse 15c, the second action arising from the FHCs of verse 14, confirms the point we just made.

  • By trying to bring about these good things through obedience to the law…
  • Paul in fact accomplished (poieo) the complete opposite – the things he hated.

 

I love how Robert Jewett puts it:

  • “It is not that Paul proved unable to obey the law, but that his very obedience achieved the opposite of its intended effect” – Jewett.

 

How does he know this?

  • We just saw evidence of it with Paul’s persecution of Christians.
  • Something Jesus said was persecution of Him.

 

Under the guise of obedience to the law…

  • The “fleshy I” was revealed.
  • The “I” that acted in opposition to Jesus, was in Adam, and subject to death.

 

This is an amazing admission from Paul!

  • In the context of the FHCs…
  • “Right desires become carnal action…” – TDNT.
  • “However much God’s people struggled to obey God’s law, they ended up like the rest of the world, in a state of moral incapability” – N.T. Wright.

 

How this odd state of affairs occurs will unfold in coming verses.

 

But we have already seen why it unfolded.

  • in order that sin might be shown to be [the] sin

 

N.T. Wright says this:

“But where was sin to grow to full height? Paradoxically, in Israel, the very people God had called to be the light of the world. Why? In order that in the person of Israel’s representative, the Messiah, sin might be drawn onto one spot and condemned once and for all”.

 

 

Verse 15:

So we need to put verse 15 back together again.

  • And see it in light of verse 14.

 

Romans 7:14–15 (ESV) — 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

 

Thus far, here is the deal:

  • The law is good.
  • The “I” is fleshy – in opposition to God.
  • “The sin” enslaves the “I”.

 

But more than that – we “know” (vs. 14) these things to be so.

  • Why?

 

Because of the experience Paul describes in verse 15.

  • In trying to be obedient…
  • To bring salvation, gratitude, glory, blessing, and the age to come…
  • The things any good Jew would want…
  • An opposite state of affairs was accomplished…
  • Opposition to the very One who could bring all these good things about.

 

A helpful paraphrase:

  • “I don’t know why, but my use of the law doesn’t bring about the things it should, but accomplishes the wrong things”.

 

So who or what is to blame for this mess?

  • We will see that next week.

 

Wrap-Up:

So as we saw last week, there are at least three “pictures” in view in 13-25.

  • (1) Big Picture – vindicate the law
  • (2) Detailed Picture – actually show why law is vindicated from producing death (7:5, 13, etc.)
  • (3) Gospel Picture – only remedy for this “law=death” scenario is Jesus Christ

 

We have seen today that:

  • (1) Paul continues to seek to vindicate the law…
  • (2) By giving the details of his experience under the law.
  • (3) All the while he is heightening the need for some sort of Gospel solution to his experience.

 

 

Romans 7:16-17 – Culprit of Corruption

Review:

So verse 14 contains 3 FHCs – features of the human condition.

  • The Sin – the power and dominion of sin.
  • The Law – given in context of “the sin”.
  • The I – the “fleshy I” who received the law in context of “the sin”.

 

In verse 15, Paul begins to explore his/Israel’s experience under these three FHCs.

  • “I didn’t know why, but my use of the law didn’t bring about the things it should, but accomplished the wrong things”.

 

We saw that the things Paul was probably seeking to bring about included:

  • Blessing
  • Salvation
  • Honoring God
  • The Age to Come

 

And we saw that his failure to accomplish these things was best demonstrated by:

  • Both his persecution of Christians, and opposition to Jesus Christ.
    • The very one who was bringing about the age to come.
  • Fortunately, for all of us, Paul’s “blindness” was remedied by, ironically, being blinded by the light.

 

 

Verse 16:

“Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.”

 

So, to “do what I do not want” is a rephrase of “I do the very thing I hate” from verse 15.

  • Paul, through an attempted right relationship with the law…
  • Accomplishes the wrong things
  • Lives in opposition to God
  • Opposes the Messiah

 

After this rephrasing, Paul makes an interesting observation.

  • Accomplishing the stuff he doesn’t want through his relationship with the law…
  • Actually shows that he agrees, “with the law, that it is good”.
  • This seems a bit strange.

 

The question is how on earth does Paul come to this conclusion?

  • One would think, as his detractors accused him of teaching, that Paul would have to say that the law is flawed.

 

I think we can figure out the answer to our question this way…

  • Paul knew what God demanded of His people.
  • Paul knew that the things demanded by God were good things.

 

So, what was it that showed Paul the good things that God demanded?

  • Not the “fleshy I”.
  • Not “the sin”.
  • But, the law!

 

So, the only reason Paul understood that he was trapped in a struggle of the will was…

  • The law.

 

This is why Paul could conclude the law is good…because without the law:

  • He would have been profoundly clueless about his predicament.

 

In fact, the law actually served to illuminate two crucial things.

  • (1) The presence of God’s will.
  • (2) The perversion of God’s will.

 

And importantly, this simultaneous presence of God’s law and perversion of it…

  • “Point[ed] to a deeper problem…” – Jewett.

 

In other words, the situation was incredibly dire.

  • A Jew, who wanted to accomplish the right things through the law, could not do so.
  • Their attempts to accomplish the good things of God through the law were doomed.
  • The law and the “fleshy I” were powerless “to do anything but aggravate sin” – Jewett.

 

So who is to blame for the perversion of God’s will?

  • How does Paul explain this “awful contradiction” (Jewett)?
  • For once again, he vindicated the law from any responsibility.

 

 

Verse 17a – First Answer:

So now it is no longer I who do it”

  • Paul’s first answer to this question is unexpected.

 

Paul comes to a rather surprising conclusion about where blame lies for the perversion of the law.

  • It does not lie with the “fleshy I”!

 

Paul says, “it is no longer I who do it”.

  • Or as some translate this…
  • “Now [or therefore], surely it is not I who do it” – Jewett.
  • In other words, Paul has come to the logical conclusion that the “I” is not to blame.

 

Say what?

  • Is Paul really saying the “I” is not the one perverting the law of God?

 

So, from here I want to look at two things.

  • Confirm this is really what Paul is saying.
  • And unpack his logic.

 

 

Really?

Let’s take a look at what the scholars say:

  • John Murray says that Paul really does “dissociate his own self from the sin committed.”
  • Tom Schreiner says, “Paul affirms that [the] ‘I’ [is] not performing the evil”.
  • Douglas Moo says that, “What is no longer true…is that [Paul] can be considered the one who is ‘doing’ these actions that he deplores” – Douglas Moo.
  • “[Paul] has exonerated the law from blame in the catastrophe that has overtaken Israel. He has even exonerated the ‘I’” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Paul’s Logic:

So how can this be?

  • What is the logic of Paul’s argument?

 

I think we can tease it out in a syllogism.

  • My intent is to accomplish the right things of the law.
  • I end up accomplishing the wrong things.
  • Therefore, “it is no longer Iwho accomplishes the wrong things.
  • Therefore, it must be something else accomplishing the wrong things.

 

So, Paul is affirming here that:

  • “…there was nothing wrong with being Israel, nothing wrong with wanting to keep God’s law” – N.T. Wright.
  • Remember Psalm 19:7ff – “The law of the Lord is perfect…

 

But, he is also affirming that:

  • There must be “something besides himself involved in the situation” – Douglas Moo.
  • “Since the ‘I’ is not doing what it desires, then evil work must derive not from the ‘I’ but from” something else – Tom Schreiner.
  • “Paul reasons, there must be another ‘actor’ in the drama, another factor that interferes with his performance of what he wants to do” – Douglas Moo.

 

And this brings us to Paul’s second answer – the “something else” that is to blame.

 

 

Verse 17b – Second Answer:

“but sin that dwells within me.”

  • Paul says the “other factor”…
  • The thing that is the culprit of corruption
  • Is…“the sin”

 

It is the power and dominion of sin that wreaks havoc on Paul’s/Israel’s relationship with the law.

  • “Sin causes a…contradiction between [the] willing and achieving the good” – Jewett.

 

And the most explosive part of this revelation from Paul is the location of “the sin”.

  • He says it, “dwells within me”.
  • “Sin is not a power that operates ‘outside’ the person, making him do its bidding; sin is something resident in the very being, ‘dwelling’ within the person, ruling over him or her like a master over a slave” – Douglas Moo.

 

The implications for this are huge.

  • The law does not dwell within a person!
  • God introduces it from the outside.
  • And it is unable to overcome the power of the resident alien that rules the person from within – “the sin” – the culprit of corruption.
  • Again, as we saw last week, this is total depravity.

 

Understanding that “the sin” dwells within the “I”…

  • And the law dwells outside of the “I”…
  • Really opens up some important Bible texts.

 

For example, it illuminates why Jeremiah looks forward to this:

  • Jeremiah 31:31–33 (ESV) — 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

 

We can now see that what Jeremiah is describing here is:

  • A time when “the sin” will be evicted from within…
  • And the law will replace it; a law put “within them”.

 

Only then will…

  • The disconnect between the willing and the achieving be remedied.

 

This truth also illuminates Paul’s words in Philippians:

  • Philippians 2:13 (ESV) — 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
  • In Christ, it is no longer “the sin” working “in you”.

 

This is a huge freedom!

  • Sin has been displaced from within the “I”.
  • And now God dwells there.
  • This distinction will be important to understand when we deal with the struggles of the Christian.

 

 

Gospel Application Rabbit Trail:

Here is how this cashes out for the unbeliever today.

  • They know the difference generally between right and wrong (Romans 1 & 2).
  • And they generally try and do the right thing.

 

So when we speak the Gospel…

  • We can affirm with them the goodness of this desire to do what is right.
  • We can consider with them the source of this desire.
    • God the law-giver?
  • We can also affirm with them there are times of failure to do what is right.
  • We can describe Paul’s very same struggle.
  • We can ask them to consider why one might seek to do right and fail.
  • We can surprise them with Paul’s truth that the “I” is not the reason for the failure.
  • We can, in agreement with Paul, show them how the reason for failure is that the power of sin has enslaved and entangled the “I”.
  • We can finally show them that sin’s power over them is demonstrated by the fact that they reject Christ.

 

 

Back to the Text:

An obvious question with Paul’s vindication of the “I” is…

  • Isn’t Paul basically saying the devil made me do it?

 

Douglas Moo puts it in stark terms:

  • Paul would appear to be saying something unlikely and, indeed, dangerous: that he is not responsible for his actions”.

 

And yet, scholars don’t hesitate to say:

  • “Paul does not absolve the ἐγώ of personal responsibility for sin” – Tom Schreiner.

 

So how can Paul vindicate the “I” and not absolve it of responsibility at the same time?

 

Paul’s own words help us here.

  • He says this “the sin” dwells “within me”.
  • Paul concedes here that “sin and the self are inextricably tangled” – Jewett.
  • His will might be a slave to sin, but it is still his will.
  • For as Jesus pointed out…
    • Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4b).
    • Jesus didn’t say why is “the sin” persecuting me through you.

 

How is it that this horrible condition came to exist?

  • Adam’s disobedience led to the Garden Exile of us all.

 

I love how Moo sums up this predicament and our text:

“Because of our involvement in the sin of Adam, ‘sin’ has become resident in all people; and those outside Christ—such as the Jew under the law, as Paul once was—cannot ultimately resist sin’s power. Thus they are unable to do the good that God requires of them” – Douglas Moo.

 

 

Romans 7:18-25 – Split Into Two

Review:

We have seen Paul describe 3 FHCs – features of the human condition.

  • The Sin – the power and dominion of sin.
  • The Law – given in context of “the sin”.
  • The I – the “fleshy I” who received the law in context of “the sin”.

 

We have seen Paul describe his experience of these three FHCs.

  • He fails to do what he wants to – the law – but accomplishes what he doesn’t want.

 

We have seen Paul vindicate the law and the “fleshy I” for this experience.

  • And find fault with the “the sin”.

 

Now, as we finish out Romans 7:

  • We will see that Paul rehashes these truths…
  • And adds a new twist.

 

 

Verse 18-21:

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

 

He begins by saying, “nothing good dwells in me…

  • This is another acknowledgement that “the sin” is what dwells in him.
  • A repeat of verse 17 – “[the] sin that dwells within me” (vs. 17).
  • As we have seen previously, “the sin” is the power and dominion of sin.

 

Yet, he elaborates a bit with a peculiar sounding phrase.

  • that is, in my flesh

 

Paul here is simply – in step with the rest of our verses – summing up what he has already said.

  • So he is alluding back to verse 14 – “I am of the flesh” – or literally, the “fleshy I”.

 

So “in my flesh” is an elaboration of who the “me” is.

  • Paul is saying, “Nothing good dwells in ‘me’, and who is the “me”, the ‘fleshy I’”.

 

He then reiterates the disconnect between the “I” and the law in verses 18-19.

  • have the desire to do what is right” vs. “not the ability to carry it out” (vs. 18).
  • do not do the good I want” vs. “evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (vs. 19).

 

Then in verse 20 he, once again, vindicates the “I”.

  • If I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it” (vs. 20).
  • This is an exact repeat of verse 17.

 

And, like he also did in verse 17, he proceeds to indict “the sin”.

  • but [the] sin that dwells within me” is who does it (vs. 20).
  • This is also an exact repeat of verse 17.
  • And it serves as a nice bookend with the “nothing good dwells in me” from verse 18.

 

Finally, in verse 21, he restates the contradiction between what he wants and what he achieves.

  • I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

 

In other words, Paul found the law of God to be a law that proved to be elusive.

  • As he sought to “do right” through the law…
  • Evil (opposition to the good things of the law) was always “close at hand” (vs. 21).

 

Why was evil always “close at hand”?

  • As we have seen, the law was given to the “fleshy I” in context of “the sin”.
  • In this place, that the pursuit of the law would lead to evil is the whole point for Paul.
  • It is part of the logic Paul has been employing since verse 14.
  • Good intentions can’t remedy this predicament.

 

 

Ability:

Question…when Paul says he does not have “the ability to carry it out” (vs. 18), what kind of ability is he talking about?

  • Let’s make this question easier.
  • If we distinguish two kinds of abilities – moral and natural – to which is Paul referring?

 

Paul certainly has the natural or physical capacity to do what is right.

  • His problem is that his moral ability has been compromised by the power of sin in him.
  • Unwittingly, in his zealous pursuit of the law, he acted in service of the power of sin – like his persecution of Jesus.
  • Thus he, as he said in Romans 6, was a slave to sin.

 

Which “ability” leads unbelievers to reject Christ?

 

 

Verses 22-23 and 25b:

Romans 7:22–23 (ESV) — 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 25b So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

 

In verses 22-23 and 25b, Paul reflects further on why:

  • Evil is always “close at hand” for…
  • The person (Paul/Jew) living under the power of “the sin” and pursuing the good things of the law.

 

He does this with warfare imagery.

  • But, before we can go through the warfare Paul is describing…
  • We need to grasp the contrast Paul uses to setup the war.

 

 

Paul’s Contrast:

The contrast is the way, as N.T. Wright says, Paul portrays the law as being “split into two” between:

  • (1) Paul’s Good Intentions with the law.
  • (2) Evil’s Grasp of the law.

 

(1) Paul’s Good Intentions with the law.

“Imagine Paul as a young man praying Psalm 19 or Psalm 119, studying Torah prayerfully day and night, longing to wrap it around him like a cloak, to make it his way of life, his every breath. Not only is there nothing wrong with that; it is exactly what Israel was meant to do” – N.T. Wright.

  • This reflects the zeal Paul had for the law as a good Jew.

(2) Evil’s Grasp of the law.

“But the closer you hug the law to yourself, if you are still ‘in Adam’, the more the law is bound to say ‘But you’re a sinner!’ Worse: it will not only accuse, it will tempt…[and bring death]. It looks as though the law has developed a shadowy copy of itself, a negative identity which seems to be fighting on the side of sin against what the ‘I’ longs to do” – N.T. Wright.

 

So these are the two forces at war with each other – Paul’s good intentions and evil’s grasp.

  • And any good war needs soldiers.

 

The Soldiers:

Interestingly the soldiers Paul introduces to us are all part of his person:

  • Paul pits his “inner being” and “mind”…
  • Against his “flesh” and “members”.

 

Paul introduced us to the “flesh” and “members” earlier:

  • Romans 7:5 (ESV) — 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

 

Essentially the “flesh” and “members” in our text represent:

  • “The physical body in which the power of sin exerts its power” – Schreiner.
  • Or more crudely, the “human limbs required for action” – Robert Jewett.

 

Think of it this way:

  • The “flesh” and “members” are the conduits through which Paul’s “do what I do not want” takes place.

 

The “inner being” and “mind” represent:

  • Something like, “the inner moral monitor that responds to, and appropriates, God’s law” – Douglas Moo.
  • And “the reasoning side of a person” – Douglas Moo.

 

Think of it this way:

  • The “inner being” and “mind” are where Paul’s “desire to do what is right” (vs. 18) takes place.

 

This is the capacity Paul speaks of in Romans 2 – all unbelievers have it.

  • Romans 2:14 (ESV) — 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
  • This is why no one is without excuse.

 

 

Caution:

We need to be careful in over estimating Paul’s estimation of the mind.

“All that Paul is saying is that the [mind or inner being] of the non-Christian is capable of approving the demands of God in his law” – Douglas Moo.

 

He is not suggesting that a person’s reasoning skills are somehow unaffected by the power of sin.

  • Paul clearly teaches that the unbeliever’s mind is “is perverted and darkened [Eph. 4:18], preventing them from thinking correctly about God and the world” – Douglas Moo.
  • After all, in Romans 1:28 he calls the mind “debased”.

 

We also need to be careful not to under estimate Paul’s view of the flesh in a general sense.

  • Paul obviously saw the flesh as “part of the person which is particularly susceptible to sin” – Moo.
  • But, he was a Jew – not a Platonist.
  • This means he did not view creation/material stuff as inherently opposed to, or inferior to, spiritual reality.

 

This is important to get right because of one word:

  • Resurrection!
  • Unlike all of Paul’s Hellenistic neighbors, he looked forward to eternal life as bodily resurrection.

 

So to review:

  • We have Paul’s “inner being” and “mind” (reason or conscience) – fighting on the side of his good intentions with the law.
  • Versus…
  • Paul’s “flesh” and “members” (physical body) – fighting on the side of evil’s grasp of the law.

 

 

Text Redux:

Now we can go back to the text:

  • Romans 7:22–23 (ESV) — 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 25b So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

 

Given what we have just learned we can easily figure out what Paul is telling us.

  • His “inner being” and “mind” delight in God’s law (again, think Psalm 19).
  • Psalm 19:7 (ESV) — 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

 

Back to the text.

 

And his “flesh” and “members” are “waging war” against Paul’s good intentions with the law.

  • If fact, they are part of the reason evil has the law in its grasp.

 

And the outcome of the war is that the “inner being” and “mind” lose the fight.

  • This loss speaks both to the power of “the sin” and the fact that, as we saw in our caution, the mind is impaired by sin.

 

The result of the loss is devastating!

  • Paul’s mind and reason – his good intentions – are taken “captive to the law of [the] sin”.
  • More on this captivity in a second.

 

He ends in verse 25b with what sounds like a hopeful note.

  • He serves the “law of God with my mind”.

 

But, we have just seen that this comes to nothing.

  • This service ends in captivity.
  • It ends with slavery to sin.

 

So this is not a statement of triumph, but despair.

  • For he quickly reminds us of the very bad news…
  • but with my flesh I serve the law of sin”.

 

 

Captivity:

So Paul says he was a “captive to the law of [the] sin”.

  • We need to unpack this a bit more.

 

The idea with Paul’s captivity language is brutal.

  • Paul is telling us that all his good intentions with God’s law were futile.
  • His mind and its intentions were captive “to the tyranny” of sin’s power – Tom Schreiner.

 

Robert Jewett has a really good insight into the significance of Paul’s captivity language.

  • He says that this language would have had a “profound meaning for its hearers”.

 

I will quote him at length.

“In the Roman Empire, defeat [in a war] implied subsequent slavery, death in an imperial theater, or if a prisoner was particularly important or attractive, he would be executed in honor of Jupiter at the end of a victory parade. For example, at the end of the Jewish-Roman war, Josephus reports that, of the ninety-seven thousand [prisoners], those who had borne arms should be executed immediately after their capture, that the ‘tallest and most handsome of the youth’ were reserved for the triumphal parade in Rome [after which they would be executed], while the rest were either enslaved or ‘presented by Titus to the provinces, to be destroyed in the theaters by the sword or by wild beasts’…since the majority of the members of the early house and tenement churches in Rome were either slaves or former slaves…this formulation would have a particularly powerful resonance” – Robert Jewett.

 

What this means is that the captivity Paul speaks of is not a Geneva Convention captivity.

  • One in which the war will end and the captive will be set free.
  • It is, rather, a brutal and fruitless struggle against certain death.

 

And this leads us to our final bit of text from Romans 7.

 

 

Verses 24-25a:

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 

Here Paul expresses the hopeless state of his pre-Christ condition as a captive – wretched – and…

  • Of his incredible gratitude for the person and work of Jesus Christ.

 

It is only because of Christ that Paul can look back on his hopeless and fruitful struggle…

  • And give such huge thanks that he has been delivered from its certain death.
  • Something Paul uses Romans 8 to fully express!

 

We can now fully appreciate Paul’s words in Romans 7:4.

  • Romans 7:4 (ESV) — 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

 

 

Romans 7:18-25 – The Christian Struggle Under Grace

Our handling of Romans 7:14-25 was from the perspective of Paul’s life before Christ.

  • And the more we dove into the text the more convinced I became this was correct.

 

No doubt, the text still seemed to describe something the Christian experiences.

  • “Christians can find in this description of nagging failure to do what is good an all-too-accurate reflection of their own experience” – Douglas Moo.

 

But, as we saw, the context of the text (the unbeliever’s address) is something far different from that of the believer.

“The believer, while he or she may, and will, struggle with sin, commit sins, and even be continually overcome by a particular, individual sin, has been freed from sin’s power (chap. 6; 8:2) and could therefore hardly be said to be…” – Douglas Moo.

 

Said to be:

  • sold under sin” (vs. 14).
  • the sin that dwells within me” (vs. 17).
  • nothing good dwells in me” (vs. 18)
  • not the ability to carry it out” (vs. 18).
  • captive to the law of sin” (vs 23).

 

In direct contrast to these things, Paul says of the Christian:

  • sin will have no dominion over you” (6:14).
  • You are…under grace” (6:14).
  • obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching” (6:17 and Jer. 31).
  • the Spirit of God dwells in you” (8:9).
  • have become slaves of righteousness” (6:18).

 

And yet:

“While ‘transferred’ into the new realm, ruled by Christ and righteousness, believers are still prone to obey those past masters, sin and the flesh” – Douglas Moo.

 

So, the question for today is at least twofold.

  • Does Paul speak about a Christian struggle with sin that resembles our Romans 7 text?
  • Why does the Christian – with all the changes they experience in Christ – struggle so mightily with sin?

 

 

Does Paul Speak of a Christian Struggle?

Galatians 5:16–18 (ESV) — 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

 

Here Paul aptly describes the struggle of the Christian.

  • A struggle that pits the “desires of the flesh” against the “desires of the Spirit” (vs. 17).
  • A struggle that keeps you from “doing the things you want to do” (vs. 17).

 

And, importantly, a recognition that the Christian struggle is in a different “address” or context than the Romans 7 struggle:

  • We are now “led by the Spirit” (vs. 18).
  • We are no longer “under the law” (vs. 18).

 

The contrast of these two contexts or “addresses” of living – Spirit vs. Law…

  • Fits beautifully with his dominion theology of Romans.

 

The Law:

under the law” is Paul’s description of those pursuing the law in the context of sin’s dominion and power.

  • Romans 6:14 (ESV) — 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
  • This “under the law” is also the law from last weeks lesson – “another law” (vs. 23) and “law of sin that dwells in my members” (vs. 24).

 

Paul even speaks of it in Galatians:

  • Galatians 3:23 (ESV) — 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

 

So this is “address” of the unbeliever’s struggle.

 

The Spirit:

And contrasted with “under the law” is a life “led by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:18):

  • This is the life of the believer with a regenerated heart…
  • United to Christ by faith…
  • And lived out “under grace”.
  • Where “sin will have no dominion over you” (Romans 6:14).

 

So, this is the address of the believer’s struggle.

 

So, “Yes”…

  • Paul absolutely speaks of Christian struggle and failure.

 

A struggle that occurs at a new address…

  • under grace” (Romans 6:14).
  • Where we are “led by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:18).
  • Where sin no longer has “dominion over you” (Romans 6:14).

 

A struggle in which…

  • The believer can fail to do “the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17).

 

So do not despair – the Christian struggles and fails.

  • And Paul says as much.

 

BTW – When we dive into Romans 8 we will explore further this new life in the Spirit!

  • In Romans 8, Paul builds upon his foundation of “life in Christ” with “life in the Spirit”.
  • Romans 8:9 (ESV) — 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

 

On to our next question.

 

 

Why Does the Struggle Exist?

The importance of this question is brought to bear when faced with Paul’s list of the things “of the flesh”.

  • Galatians 5:19–21a (ESV) — 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.

 

These are the things we do that we do not want to do.

  • And this list is by no means exhaustive.
  • And Paul acknowledges as much with, “and things like these”.

 

Let’s face it.

  • The things “of the flesh” that Paul lists here are the opposite of Christ-likeness.
  • And yet, we – those in Christ and in the Spirit – do them.
  • Why?

 

 

Why? – Our 2nd Question Answered:

Douglas Moo sets up the answer to our 2nd question.

“Until Christ’s return, the old age, which is resistant to God, coexists with the new; the Spirit that marks the new age is at war with the ‘flesh’ that marks the old…” – Douglas Moo.

 

Steve Runge agrees:

  • “The problem of sin for believers stems from the struggle between the new inner spirit and our old sinful flesh” – Steve Runge.
  • This struggle is often characterized as the “now and ‘not yet’” tension of the Christian life.

 

In our new “address” as believers, all this works out as follows:

 

Desires of the Spirit” demonstrate that we are now in Christ.

  • That we have been transferred by Christ into grace.
  • That we have been born again – given a new heart (one of flesh instead of stone – Ezk 36).
  • That we have been sealed by the Spirit.

 

Desires of the Flesh” demonstrate that the fleshy desires of the “I” have come along for the ride.

  • That we still have the same physical body as we did before Christ.
  • That it still exerts influence in our lives.

 

The Christian struggle is the clash of these two – Flesh and Spirit.

  • the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit” (vs. 17).
  • The Christian life “…goes on in the midst of an old, dying world wherein weakness and corruption, sin and death, still assault the believer” – DPL.

 

So, we have just seen that it makes sense that the Christian struggle exists.

  • But it raises another question.

 

 

Another Question:

Why is it that one who is in Christ and in the Spirit loses the struggle all too often?

  • Our sin, our succumbing to the “desires of the flesh”, seems to reveal that something isn’t working like it should – either the Holy Spirit or the faith that connects us to Christ.

 

After all, in our text today, Paul seems to say we should be sinless.

  • Galatians 5:24–25 (ESV) — 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

 

And even more troubling, he seems to warn that those who do sin demonstrate that they are counterfeits.

  • Galatians 5:21b (ESV) — 21b I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
  • More on this when we get to Romans 8.
  • Romans 8:13 (ESV) — 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

 

Speaking of verses 24-25, surely one who has…

  • Crucified the flesh” and…
  • Keeps “in step with the Spirit”…
  • Would stop sinning…right?
  • WRONG!

 

Tom Schreiner helps us here:

“When believers contemplate their own capacities, it is clear that they do not have the resources to do what God demands. In encountering God’s demands, we are still conscious of our wretchedness and inherent inability” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Why?

  • There is only one explanation!

“In the sovereign will of God, the Christian life is supposed to be this way. God is capable, when he pleases and for his own purposes, of giving me the grace to stand and resist temptation. But often he chooses instead, for his own good purposes, to show me grace through my falls, humbling me and teaching me my desperate need of him” – Barbara Duguid.

 

A Scriptural example:

  • Luke 22:31–32a (ESV) — 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32a but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.

 

It is incredibly interesting here that…

  • Jesus didn’t prevent this encounter, He prayed for it – why?

 

Peter had a pride problem.

  • When confronted with Jesus’ warning, Peter was full of himself.
  • Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33).
  • Yet, this declaration fell flat as soon as the servant girl at the gate questioned him (with John at his side).
  • John 18:17 (ESV) — 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.

 

Jesus had a use for Peter that apparently required that he be humbled and broken by his sin.

  • Jesus says as much at the end of verse 32.
  • Luke 22:32b (ESV) — 32b And when you have turned again [because Peter’s faith didn’t fail him], strengthen your brothers.”
  • The path to Peter’s usefulness was through sin and the recognition of his weakness and Jesus’ strength.

 

The point here is simple enough.

  • God could shield us from every temptation and from every fall into sin.
  • But that would leave us with only a superficial, outward conformity.

 

This would be like a dude ripped due to plastic surgery but not due to exercise.

  • A horrible counterfeit!

 

God has done something much better than that.

 

 

Under Grace:

He has transferred us into a new address of grace!

  • A place where our sin doesn’t kill us because we are united to the perfect obedience of Christ.
  • “God is not captivated by our attempts to please him; he is riveted by the obedience of his Son and delighted by the goodness of Jesus Christ” – Barbara Duguid.

 

We need to realize something:

Because, “…all my sins are already known to God and paid for by Christ, I am free to move forward trusting that God has planned which sins I will wrestle with. He already knows how he will walk through them with me and how he will use them to teach and strengthen me. I am freed from a relentless counting of wrongs to move into whatever God has decided is next for me, confident that his grace is always greater than all my sin” – Barbara Duguid.

 

And finally, this…

“If you are in Christ you are cherished, you are washed, you are clean, and you are wrapped up tightly in the perfect robes of his goodness. Wherever you have sinned and continue to sin, he has obeyed in your place. That means that you are free to struggle and fail; you are free to grow slowly; you are free at times not to grow at all; you are free to cast yourself on the mercy of God for a lifetime. Repeated failure does not mean that you are unsaved or that God is tired of you and disappointed. It does mean that he has called you to a difficult struggle and that he will hold on to you in all of your standing and falling and bring you safely home” – Barbara Duguid.

 

 

Romans 8:1 – No Condemnation

 

Romans 8:1–4 (ESV) — 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

 

 

Given the “something” that Paul has taught thus far, he says…

  • There is therefore now no condemnation…”

 

We need to answer a couple of questions to begin to unpack our text.

  • (1) What does Paul mean by condemnation?
  • (2) What is the “therefore” – the something – that Paul is referring to?

 

(1) The answer to the first question is crucial in realizing the awesomeness of Paul’s words.

“No condemnation! This assurance can of course only carry its full force for someone who has pondered carefully the seriousness of sin and the reality of God’s judgment” – N.T. Wright.

 

The non-believer simply does not have the worldview to apprehend the enormity of Paul’s words.

  • And quite honestly, perhaps the average Christian doesn’t properly apprehend the enormity of Paul’s words.
  • Hopefully, having made it this far into Romans…this doesn’t apply to us!

 

In a nutshell, condemnation is a status or state of a person living “under sin”.

  • This includes being “in Adam” and all that goes with it.

 

It entails both death, and an “estrangement from God” – Doug Moo.

  • In other words, it is the result of being excluded from God’s Garden presence, blessing and life.

 

And some refer to it simply as suffering the curse and punishment of sin.

  • Something that is both now and not yet.

 

Condemnation, then, is not something that fundamentally results from bad behavior!

  • It is not something unfair that befalls a good person by a mean God.

 

(2) The answer to the second question is multi-faceted.

  • Romans 7:24 seems to be forecasting it.
  • Romans 7:24–25 (ESV) — 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

 

And Doug Moo says Paul also has in mind Romans 5 – where he began his discussion on condemnation.

  • Romans 5:16–21 (ESV) — 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Now we need to tie this text back in to Romans 8:1.

  • But I want to do so in a peculiar way…so bear with me.

 

So…is Paul’s “therefore” referring to history or theology?

 

What is the history?

  • “one man” – Adam
  • “death”
  • “one man” – Jesus
  • “one act” – the cross

 

We have to notice something here.

  • What does the history tell us?
  • How is it that the history has any force?

 

If you engage yourself or another in conversation with merely:

  • “Adam died.”
  • “Jesus died on the cross.”
  • What meaning is conveyed?

 

So here is what we have to notice:

  • The real meaning…the real application…is the theology!

 

The historical facts of Adam and Christ have to be applied to humanity.

  • And they must be applied correctly.
  • It is the inspired theology of the Bible writers that does this work!

 

In fact, the theology attaches to the history.

  • And as a result, the theology actually becomes historical.

 

So let’s look at the theology of Paul’s “therefore” found in Romans 5:

  • “free gift”
  • “sin”
  • “judgment”
  • “through that one man”
  • “trespass”
  • “condemnation”
  • “justification”
  • “death reigned”
  • “grace”
  • “righteousness”
  • “through the one man”
  • “Christ”

 

The history is that one man, Adam, died.

  • The theology that fills this out and applies it is the “sin”, “judgment”, “through that one man”, “trespass”, “condemnation”, and the “death reigned”.

 

The history is that one man Christ died on the cross (and rose).

  • The theology that fills this out and applies it is the “free gift”, “justification”, “grace”, “righteousness”, “through the one man”, and the “Christ”.

 

These are the theological truths that…

  • Make sense of the death of the one man Adam…
  • And the one act of the one man Jesus.
  • And give them their “so what?”

 

Now we can see what Paul is doing in 8:1.

  • Because of the theology attached to the events in history concerning Adam and Jesus…
  • We see why we were under condemnation…
  • And why we are delivered from condemnation.

 

The theology is the meat on the bones of the history!

 

But how are we joined to this Gospel history and theology?

  • Paul says it is for “those who are in Christ Jesus”.

 

Here we go again!

  • Those” is the history.
  • who are in Christ Jesus” is the theology.

 

Who are the “those”?

  • They are the people who profess Christ – Christians.

 

But, again, we need the theology to apply this and fill out its power and meaning.

  • We need the “in Christ Jesus”!

 

Why?

  • Because, all kinds of people profess all kinds of people.
  • Muslims profess Allah.
  • Buddhists profess Buddha.

 

So we need the theology attached to “in Christ Jesus”…

  • Because it is the theological content that sets this apart from any competing claim.

 

So what does it mean…Tom Schreiner says:

  • “‘In Christ Jesus’ refers to those who died with Christ Jesus and will be raised with him, harking back to 6:1–11” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Well, lets look back at Romans 6:3-11.

  • Romans 6:3–11 (ESV) — 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

So to be “in Christ Jesus” means:

  • He died…we died!
  • He was raised…we “were” raised, will be raised, and “live with him”.

 

As a result:

  • We have newness of life.
  • We are “no longer enslaved to sin”, “dead to sin”, and “alive to God in Christ Jesus”.

 

Think of it this way:

  • To be united to Christ is to be…
  • Joined to both Christ’s history…
    • Who He was and what He did historically
  • And the theology (the meaning) that resides in Christ and His history.

 

How does being “in Christ Jesus” do this?

  • We will answer that next week.

 

Romans 8:2-4 – According to the Spirit and Trinitarian Gospel

Romans 8:2–4 (ESV) — 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

 

Last week we looked at the “therefore” in verse 1.

  • We saw it contained history – the man Adam, and the man Jesus with His one act.
  • We saw that it also contained theology – the application of the history; the meat on the bones of history; the thing that gave the history meaning.
  • We also briefly explored union with Christ.

 

 

In our verses today, Paul gives us more theology.

  • Specifically, the “what” that the history, the theology and union with Christ do for the believer.
  • In effect, Paul describes some of the results of our union with Christ.

 

 

Verse 2:

He sets it up in verse 2.

  • For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

 

For those “in Christ Jesus”…

  • the law of the Spirit of life”…
  • Has set the believer free from “the law of sin and death”.

 

So what are these two “laws”?

 

I am with Douglas Moo on this one.

  • Paul isn’t talking about the Mosaic law in verse 2.
  • He is referring to law as a “binding authority” or “power”.

 

We have seen him do this before.

  • Romans 3:27 (ESV) — 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
  • Romans 7:23 (ESV) — 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

 

So the two laws are:

  • The power and authority of the Spirit of life…
  • The power and authority of sin and death.

 

This means what we have in Romans 8:2 is this:

  • The authority and power of the Spirit – found in Christ…
  • Has set the believer free from the authority and power of sin and death.

 

What does the power of sin and death bring?

  • Why would one want to be set free from it?

 

BTW – to tie this back to Paul’s dominion theology:

  • Where does the power and authority of the Spirit of life operate?
    • The domain of grace – “under grace”.
  • Where does the power and authority of sin and death operate?
    • The domain of sin – “under sin”.

 

 

Holy Spirit:

We have to take special notice of something hugely significant in verse 2.

  • Paul establishes the necessity of the work of the Spirit.

 

Doug Moo says Paul’s citation of the Spirit…

Introduces, “the Spirit as a key agent of liberation from the old realm of sin and death” – Doug Moo.

 

And importantly Paul also establishes cooperation between the person and work of Christ…

  • The “therefore” from 8:1…
  • And the liberating work of the Spirit…

 

“The Spirit’s liberating work takes place only within the situation created by Christ” – Doug Moo.

  • As Paul says, the power and authority of the Spirit sets us free in Christ.
  • The Spirit plays a role in the believer’s address change.

 

BTW – This should remind us of what we learned in 1 Corinthians 8:6.

  • There we saw how the Father and Son were coworkers in creation.
  • Here, Christ and the Spirit both work to provide freedom.

 

So, by virtue of union with Christ…

  • The power and authority of the Spirit has set us free from sin and death.

 

 

Verses 3-4:

In verses 3-4, Paul then tells us how it is the Spirit sets us free in Christ.

  • It is basically a play-by-play description of exactly how the history and theology set the believer free.
  • For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

Before we unpack Paul’s play-by-play…

  • I want us to notice two things.

 

First, notice that it is all God!

  • God has done
  • Sending his own Son…He condemned sin
  • According to the Spirit

 

Second, notice that Paul’s play-by-play…

  • Highlights the work of all three persons of the Trinity in securing the believer’s freedom.
  • God, Son and Spirit.
  • So we see the Trinitarian Gospel.

 

Now, let’s unpack the details of how Father, Son and Spirit set the believer free.

  • Let’s unpack the Trinitarian Gospel.

 

 

The Father:

(1) “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh [“this-worldly orientation”], could not do.

  • As we have seen in previous lessons on the law (here the Mosaic law)…
  • It is “incapable of rescuing people from the domain of sin and death” – Doug Moo.

 

In fact, in the domain of “under sin” where all are “in Adam”…

  • The law actually “strengthens the power of sin” – Doug Moo.

 

Tom Schreiner puts it this way:

  • “Without the Spirit the law only produces death. But for those who have the Spirit the law plays a positive role” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Remember – the law was never the problem.

  • Paul never threw the law under the bus.
  • One’s address – under sin – and the power of sin and death is the problem.

 

BTW – this means that one of the many things the Gospel does is…

  • Provide the proper address, or context, for God’s law to work as intended.

 

So God, obviously knowing the problem that the law presents in the domain of sin…

  • Sends His Son.
  • John 3:16 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 

 

The Son:

(2) “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”

 

When Paul says God condemned sin in Jesus’ flesh, three verses really help us get at the meaning.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) — 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • Galatians 3:13 (ESV) — 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
  • Romans 3:25 (ESV) — 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

 

These three verses hit on various dimensions of Paul’s words.

  • The sinless Son of God took our sin upon Himself.
  • As our substitute, He became a curse “for us”.
  • The Father could then condemn and bring His judging righteousness upon our sin without killing us.
    • Because, the history and theology of the Son’s and Spirit’s work separated us from our sin.

 

Tom Wright puts it this way:

  • In Christ, our sin was executed – Tom Wright.
  • Sin was condemned, not Jesus – Wright.

 

How was it that Jesus could do this for us?

 

If He were a mere human being – a divinely appointed human agent – there would be some problems.

  • He would be “in Adam”, born in Garden Exile (outside of God’s Garden blessing, presence and life) and be under sin and death.
  • He would be powerless before the authority of sin and death.
  • He would be a sinner Himself…in need of a remedy.

 

But wouldn’t the Virgin Birth have remedied this?

  • Perhaps, if one thought, as Augustine, that the sin nature was transmitted through the “seed”.
  • But as we know, this view of the Fall is virtually non-existent now.

 

So, how is it that Jesus could be a human but not be in Garden Exile – subject to the domain of sin?

  • He somehow had to be share in the divine nature of the Father…
  • While at the same time taking on humanity.
  • The God-Man who came in the “likeness of sinful flesh”.

 

What does this phrase mean?

  • “Total identity” with – Tom Schreiner.
  • “Mere similarity” with – Tom Schreiner.

 

Both Schreiner, Moo, and just about all of Christendom opt for the first.

  • So Paul intends us to know that Christ did not come in “superficial or outward similarity, but inward and real participation” in our sinful flesh.

 

What does it mean that Christ fully participated in our sinful flesh?

 

I really like how Tom Schreiner answers this question.

  • It means that Jesus’ “body was not immune to the powers of the old age: sickness and death”.
  • “His body was subject to the disease, death, and weakness of the old order, yet the Son himself was not sinful, nor did he ever sin” – Tom Schreiner.
    • As Paul affirms in 2 Cor. 5:21.

 

But isn’t being “subject to…death” an indication of being in Adam and in Garden Exile?

“Paul is walking a fine line here. On the one hand, he wants to insist that Christ fully entered into the human condition, became ‘in-fleshed’ (in-carnis), and, as such, exposed himself to the power of sin (cf. 6:8–10). On the other hand, he must avoid suggesting that Christ so participated in this realm that he became imprisoned ‘in the flesh’ (cf. the negative use of this phrase in 7:5 and 8:8, 9) and became, thus, so subject to sin that he could be personally guilty of it” – Doug Moo.

  • Bottom line – we don’t have all the answers.

 

One more very important thing to notice about this “likeness of sinful flesh” language:

  • Paul certainly understands Jesus to be a man…
  • But maintains a very strong distinction between Jesus’ humanity and everyone else’s humanity.

 

Jesus came from the Father – as in existed with and was sent from there to us.

  • And Jesus’ flesh was “in the likeness” of ours.

 

If Jesus were only human, why say this?

  • It would be very awkward indeed, for example…
  • To describe Moses, a divinely appointed human agent of God, as being “the likeness of sinful flesh”.

 

Couple this with the association that Paul makes…

  • Between the Father and the Son in 1 Corinthians 8:6…
  • And we see yet another piece of the Trinity puzzle.

 

So God sent…

  • And in Christ, the believer’s sin was condemned.
  • So what about the Spirit?

 

 

The Spirit:

(3) “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

In the interplay between God’s judging righteousness and His holiness…

  • There exists a righteous requirement…
  • One that must be met in order to enter back into His life, presence and blessing.
  • Specifically, the requirement is perfect love, obedience and righteousness – Moo.

 

This requirement is met in the believer – fulfilled in us – by Christ’s work on the cross.

  • And Paul links this fulfillment to the Holy Spirit.
  • This requirement is met in the context of walking not “according to the flesh”…
    • e., in rebellion to God.
  • But those who walk “according to the Spirit”.
    • Life in our new domain.

 

The transfer out of sin and into grace…

  • Is achieved by the work of Christ…
  • And applied by the Holy Spirit.

 

So why does the theology and history of the “therefore” from verse 1 bring no condemnation?

  • God’s sending…
  • And Jesus’ work on the cross…
  • Freed the sinner from the law of sin…
  • And put us under the life of the Spirit

 

We will dig deeper into the life of the Spirit next time.

 

Romans 8:5-8 – We “Mind” What We Are

Romans 8:5–8 (ESV) — 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 

 

For Starters:

We need to be aware up front…

  • This is not a command, an imperative, to be “of the Spirit”.
  • He is declaring an accomplished fact.
  • Those in Christ areof the Spirit”.

 

Specifically…when Paul says “those who live”…

  • The word for “live” – eimi – means to already be and exist according to a specific reality.
  • In our text, this reality would be either “the flesh” or “the Spirit”.

 

Tom Schreiner says it this way:

“…those who ‘walk’ by the flesh or the Spirit do so because they ‘are’ of the flesh or the Spirit. In other words, [Paul’s] argument is that behavior stems from the being or nature of a person” – Schreiner.

 

This is hugely significant!

  • I will unpack why this is later.
  • First we need to unpack some phrases to understand our verses.

 

 

Flesh and Spirit Stuff:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” – Verse 5.

 

(1) What does Paul mean by “flesh” and “Spirit”?

 

Flesh” here does not refer to anything physical specifically, such as the body.

  • In keeping with Paul’s usage in previous passages…
  • Flesh” refers to humanity’s rebellious human nature.

 

Spirit” here is the Holy Spirit.

  • Paul’s use of the Spirit here signifies that the believer is no longer alienated from God.
  • And participates in the life of the Spirit.

 

 

(2) So what is “live according to” the flesh or Spirit?

  • This is more dominion or address language from Paul.

 

To “live according to the flesh” is…

  • To exist under the dominion or address of sin.
  • This is to be slaves to sin and under the sway of the rebellious human nature.

 

To “live according to the Spirit” is…

  • The believer’s life giving experience of the Holy Spirit…
  • Under the dominion of grace, freed from the condemnation of the law.

 

 

(3) What is the “set their minds on” the flesh or the Spirit?

 

First, it is important we get something here.

  • This phrase is simply one word, the verb “phroneō.
  • And as we saw with the word “eimi/live”, this is not a command.
  • It is an indicative – a done deal.

 

This means it is a description of how the person’s mind already operates…

  • By virtue of being of the flesh or Spirit.
  • It is not a method of thinking a person can “will”.

 

Given this, what does “phroneō” mean?

  • It relates to our desires, intentions and will as shaped by our address/dominion.

 

The DPL says, “phroneō denotes an attitude of mind which finds expression in the will” – DPL.

  • The BDAG says, it means, “to be intent on” – BDAG.
  • The EDNT says, it means, “single-minded commitment to something and the conditions for such commitment” – EDNT.

 

So to “phroneō” in the flesh…

  • Is to, by default, desire, intend or will the things that are sourced by the power and dominion of sin.
  • Those who “live according to the flesh” don’t try to “phroneo” this way…they just do.

 

Paul gives a list of some of the “things of the flesh” in Galatians.

  • Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV) — 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21a envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.

 

So to “phroneō” in the Spirit…

  • Is to, by default, desire, intend or will the things that are sourced by the Spirit – the dominion of grace address.
  • Those who “live according to the Spirit” don’t try to “phroneo” this way…they just do.

 

Paul also gives a list of some of the “things of the Spirit” in Galatians.

  • Galatians 5:22–23 (ESV) — 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

 

So let’s look at verse 5 again, and parse it out.

  • For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Given what we have just learned we can paraphrase it this way:

  • Those who live under the power and dominion of sin…
  • Dominated by the rebellious human nature…
  • Persist in a “will,” desire and intention towards its things.

 

Those who live under grace…

  • Dominated by the Spirit…
  • Persist in a “will,” desire and intention towards its things.

 

We can also put it this way:

  • To exist in the dominion of sin is to be orientated or inclined in its direction.
  • To exist in the dominion of the Spirit is to be orientated or inclined in its direction.

 

BTW – This doesn’t mean those in the Spirit can’t or don’t do the things of the flesh.

  • In fact, it doesn’t mean that we don’t continually struggle with the same sin.
  • But this means that our sinning doesn’t condemn us.

 

The persisting in sin that leads to condemnation, for Paul…

  • those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” – Gal. 5:21b.
  • Is to continually sin from the address that is “situated in” (resides in) the flesh – EDNT.

 

 

Paul’s Implications:

Paul doesn’t leave it there.

  • He tells us what the “phroneo-ing” in verse 5 means in verses 6-8.
  • For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

 

If you live according to, and thus “phroneo” the flesh…

  • You die the death of condemnation and alienation from God – eschatological death.
  • You live life hostile to God.
  • God’s law condemns you for your rebellion.
  • And you “cannot please God”.

 

BTW – What does it mean that a “flesher” cannot please God?

  • Does this mean they can do no good works?
  • Can a “flesher” persist in good works?

 

But if you live according to, and thus “phroneo” the Spirit…

  • You have life and peace.
  • You are free from “the law of sin and death” – Doug Moo.
  • You are no longer alienated from God.
  • And you do not suffer eschatological death of condemnation and alienation from God.
  • There is therefore now no condemnation.

 

Importantly, this life and peace aren’t something we do.

  • They aren’t feelings.
  • In other words, they are “an objective reality not a subjective state of mind” – Doug Moo.

 

 

Back to the Hugely Significant:

Earlier we saw that:

  • “…those who ‘walk’ by the flesh or the Spirit do so because they ‘are’ of the flesh or the Spirit….[and that] behavior stems from the being or nature of a person” – Schreiner.
  • In other words, it’s “being” before behavior – Robert Jewett.
  • Inside to outside.

 

I said that this was hugely significant!

  • Now I want to unpack why this is so.

 

The reason this is hugely significant is because…

  • This truth speaks volumes on how we mature as believers under grace.

 

What is the typical way we are taught to be better Christians – to be more Christ-like?

  • Usually we are given “to do” lists – imperatives.
  • Pray more, give more, love more, learn more, sin less, etc.

 

And, of course, our actions do matter.

  • So, we should strive to “do”.
  • Commonly known as “applying” God’s word.
    • Making God’s word about us by translating it into actions we can do.

 

But we sometimes operate under the illusion…

  • That spiritual growth and transformation…
  • Comes only from this type of application of God’s word.

 

In other words…we find value in God’s word…

  • Mostly when we can take home a “to do” list…
  • That we can add to the routines of our life.

 

 

The Problem:

Knowing God’s word for its own sake and on its own merits…

  • Gets short shrift.
  • It is characterized as just an intellectual exercise.

 

A false narrative is created that pits…

  • The heart against the mind.

 

So this is what we desperately need to realize.

  • If our behavior “stems from” what we are in Christ and the Spirit…
  • If we act because we are…a process that flows inside to out…
  • And not the other way around…
  • What should we spend more time understanding and comprehending…
  • What we are to do or what we are?

 

The answer is:

  • Valuing, Knowing, and Understanding…
  • For its own sake and on its own merits…
  • What we are in Christ and the Spirit…
  • And how God has secured what we are.

 

And how does this valuing, knowing, and understanding of what we are happen?

  • With a to do list?

 

Answer – by consuming the living and active word of God!

 

Here’s the thing:

  • What do you think happens when a person that “phroneo’s” in the Spirit…
    • That is to say, desires, intends or wills the things that are sourced by the Spirit…
  • Consumes God’s living and active word?

 

I can testify from years of doing so…

  • That it actually changes you!
  • No to do list required!

 

To say that knowing God’s word is a mere intellectual exercise?

  • Is to devalue and downplay both…
  • God’s word, your Union with Christ…
  • And the very thing Paul is teaching us today…the power and life of the Holy Spirit…from which we “phroneo”.

 

It is time for us to see that…

  • Consuming, Valuing, Knowing, and Understanding God’s word…
  • Is of utmost importance.
  • And it brings lasting application that to do lists and will power can’t.

 

 

Close with This:

Jeremiah and Ezekiel understand how powerful it is to consume God’s word:

  • Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.” – Jeremiah 15:16
  • And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.” – Ezekiel 3:3

 

We need to know that there is no Hebrew word for “mind” or “brain”.

  • They thought that the heart and mind stuff happened together in the bowels.
    • Which could be the heart, the stomach, etc.
  • So they did not pit the heart and mind against each other like we do.
  • It was all the same stuff.

 

So these texts mean exactly what we have been saying.

  • To eat God’s word and find it to be a joy, delight and taste of honey includes…
  • The valuing, knowing and understanding of God’s word for its own sake and own its own merits.
  • If there is something we need to “do” – it is this!

 

 

Romans 8:9-11 – We Are Sacred Space – Garden and Mountain

Romans 8:9–11 (ESV) — 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

 

 

The “Spirit of God dwells in you”.

  • This has to be one of the most profound statements in the Bible.

 

As with virtually everything in Romans…

  • The implications are huge.

 

Paul says that the one in whom the Spirit of God dwells is:

  • (1) “Not in the flesh” – vs. 9.
  • (2) Belongs to God (by implication).
    • Because those who don’t have the Spirit do “not belong to him” – vs. 9.
  • (3) Have a body that “is dead
  • (4) Yet, in spite of this “the Spirit is life because of righteousness” for the believer – vs. 10.
  • (5) Will be given “life to your mortal bodies” – vs. 11.

 

We saw what the first two of these meant last week.

  • The second three are some exciting ways Paul applies the presence of the Spirit to the life of the believer.

 

Specifically:

  • The third one tells us that the believers “body is dead”.

Meaning, “…their physical bodies remain subject to death because of sin. The corruption and mortality introduced by Adam’s sin have not as yet been fully eradicated. The eschatological tension of the ‘not yet’ remains as the tragic cycle of birth, life, and death continues for the time being” – Michael Bird.

 

Yet, Paul’s fourth point tells us that even in the midst of this death…

  • The believer has the “no condemnation” (vs. 1) life in the Spirit – the life and peace of verse 6.

 

The reason the believer has this life is because the presence of the Holy Spirit demonstrates that…

  • We are in Christ and have been declared righteous – “because of righteousness”.

 

The fifth is the “not yet” blessing of having the Spirit of God.

  • The declaration of our righteousness in God’s law court…
  • Also means that in the future, our righteousness will be fully fleshed out…literally…in our glorified resurrected bodies!

 

Certainly, more can be said of these.

  • And there are also the normal “Christianeze” descriptions of this indwelling:
  • Indwelling as the power that “empowers them to live a life pleasing to God” – DPL.
  • Indwelling as the “power to make the saving events of Jesus’ life-death-resurrection present in an effective way for the believer” – DPL.

 

But what I want to dive deeper into Paul’s revelation that…

  • …the Spirit of God dwells in” the believer.

 

We’re going to do so in a little different way.

  • Specifically, we are going to tease out some Old Testament concepts.

 

We will see that the indwelling of the Spirit in the NT fulfills two expectations of the OT.

  • Lasting Submission
  • Lasting Sacred Space

 

 

Lasting Submission:

A constant theme in the OT is that of a heart/mind in rebellion to God.

  • Moses speaks to this as well as anybody in Deuteronomy.
  • Deuteronomy 9:24 (ESV) — 24 You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you.

 

An idea repeated even in the N.T.

  • Acts 7:51 (ESV) — 51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

 

But along with the recognition of the problem…

  • There is an understanding of the nature of the solution.

 

Moses speaks of the solution this way…

  • Deuteronomy 10:16 (ESV) — 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

 

This solution is a transformation of the heart/mind.

  • But how exactly is this to be accomplished?
  • How are those with believing loyalty in God to have a lasting (in a now and not yet since) submission to God from a circumcised heart/mind?

 

Ezekiel and Isaiah shed some light on how this would happen.

  • Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV) — 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
  • Isaiah 44:3 (ESV) — 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

 

The thirsty land and the dry ground of the stubborn heart and mind…

  • Need to be permanently (or at least “now and not yet” permanently) broken up and softened.
  • The occasional softening by natural rain, and will power, doesn’t last.
  • These don’t bring lasting submission.

 

Lasting submission to God comes from a new heart and renewed mind.

  • It comes from the “phroneo” of the things of the Spirit that Paul speaks of in Romans 8.

 

And this only happens when the believer is made new by the Spirit of God.

  • “The Spirit is the power of new creation…” – DPL.

 

So the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the regeneration – being born again – language of the NT.

  • And it is the fulfillment of the hope for a lasting submission as expressed by Moses and others.

 

So when the Spirit dwells in us – regenerating our hearts/minds…

  • We enter into lasting submission to God.
  • The stubborn heart/mind is “now and not yet” vanquished forever!

 

There is one more cool aspect to what Paul has in mind with being dwelled by the Spirit.

  • Along with lasting submission, it brings lasting sacred space.

 

 

Lasting Sacred Space:

I’ll let Paul get us started.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 (ESV) — 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own

 

This revelation of Paul is awesome.

  • We are indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
  • And thus, this means we are “a temple”.
  • “We are the place where God dwells— the same presence that filled the temple in the Old Testament” – Michael Heiser.

 

Wow!

  • What are we to make of this?

 

To begin to fathom the implications of this aspect of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit…

  • We need to unpack exactly what this temple imagery represented to a first century Jew.

 

We are going to look at two examples.

  • Both of which deal with the idea of Sacred Space (or Cosmic Geography).
  • (1) Temple as the Sacred Space of the Garden of Eden
  • (2) Temple as the Sacred Space of a Cosmic (seen and unseen realms) Mountain

 

 

Sacred Space – Garden of Eden:

In the OT, the Temple was seen as analogous to the Garden of Eden.

  • “As the divine abode, the tabernacle/temple was also analogous to Eden” – Michael Heiser.

 

G.K. Beale gives a number of reasons to make this point – here are 5.

  • (1) The Garden, like the Temple, was “the place of God’s special presence where he made himself known and felt to Israel”.
  • (2) The Garden, like the Temple, had a priest (Adam) to guard and keep the sacred space.
  • (3) “The tree of life served as a model for the lampstand, which was clearly shaped as a tree, in the Temple”.
  • (4) The Garden was known as “the holy mountain of God” (Ezk. 28), just like Mount Zion – the location of the Temple in Jerusalem.

 

We might also recall from our lessons on Genesis 1-3…

  • That the Garden implied God’s Garden presence, blessing and life.

 

But Adam, the High Priest of the Garden Temple, was thrown out.

  • God’s Garden presence, blessing and life didn’t last.

 

And every person born since then has been born in Garden Exile.

  • Born outside of God’s Garden presence, blessing and life.
  • The Sacred Space of Eden didn’t last!

 

How can the Sacred Space of Eden be restored?

  • By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

 

To be a “temple of the Holy Spirit” is to be, (in some sense), a new Garden.

  • The Spirit’s indwelling means (in some sense) we have returned to Eden.

 

 

Sacred Space – Cosmic Mountain:

We saw that the Garden in Eden and the Temple in Jerusalem were God’s Holy Mountains.

  • Simple enough.

 

But we need to know that…

  • In an ancient Jewish context, God’s Holy Mountain was the place where His divine council (1 Kings 22:19-21) met.
  • Zechariah 8:3 (ESV) — 3 Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain.

 

This means that the Holy Mountain was also the place from which God battled the powers of darkness.

  • The Psalmist speaks of this.
  • Psalm 48:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, 2 beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north [Zaphon], the city of the great King.
  • (Also think of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel).

 

We need to notice:

  • In Ugarit, “Zaphon” is the mountain from which Baal ruled – Heiser.
  • The HALOT actually uses the phrase “mountain of the gods”.

 

In fact, the Canaanites referred to “Zaphon” as:

  • “Baal’s ‘beautiful hill,’ his ‘inheritance,’ his ‘holy mountain,’ and a ‘lovely, mighty mountain’” – NIVZSB.

 

All of this means the mountain, “Zaphon”, would be where Baal held his divine council.

  • A council operating in opposition to Yahweh.

 

And interestingly it is “Zaphon”, Baal’s mountain…

  • That was the mountain in “the far north”.
  • But the Psalmist identifies Mount Zion, which is south, with the northern mountain “Zaphon”.

 

So what is going on in this text?

  • Why associate Mount Zion with a Northern mountain?
  • How does it reflect a battle against the powers of darkness?

 

By associating Mount Zion with “Zaphon”, the Psalmist is describing a Cosmic Mountain turf war.

  • One in which the winner is YHWH (Heiser).

 

It is YHWH who is:

  • The “great king” – not Baal.
  • And it His Mountain, Zion, that is “the joy of all the earth” – not “Zaphon”.

 

So what we have is:

  • “The psalmist is stealing glory from Baal, restoring it to the One to whom it rightfully belongs— Yahweh” – Michael Heiser.
  • And he does so by rightly subsuming and collapsing Baal’s mountain and council into Yahweh’s.
  • So Psalm 48, “deliberately argues that Yahweh is greater than Baal and that his dwelling place is greater than Baal’s” – NIVZSB.

 

In other words, this is a polemic turf war against Baal, his mountain and divine council.

  • Just like the ones we saw in our Joshua study.
  • Such as when God controlled the chaos of Baal’s river (the Jordan) and enabled the Israelites to pass through.

 

BTW – Michael Heiser makes this observation about the OT turf war:

“The New Testament portrays the Christian life— even the very Christian existence— as prompting a spiritual turf war. But we often don’t pick up on the messaging. Sacred space and realm distinction are not just Old Testament concepts” – Michael Heiser.

  • He goes on to say – “wherever believers are and gather, the spiritual ground they occupy is sanctified amid the powers of darkness” – Michael Heiser.

 

But, like the Garden, the Cosmic Mountain’s reign was temporary.

  • The throne room of Mount Zion’s Temple was repeatedly destroyed.
  • It didn’t last.

 

So how can the Sacred Space of God’s Holy Mountain be restored?

  • How about through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  • Like “Zaphon”, we have been claimed as God’s turf – His Holy Mountain – His Sacred Space.

 

Isaiah knew this “lasting” Sacred Space would come:

  • Isaiah 33:20 (ESV) — 20 Behold Zion, the city of our appointed feasts! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken.

 

Isaiah’s words express the hope for a lasting Mount Zion and Temple/tabernacle.

  • One to be fulfilled by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that Paul teaches.

 

And yet – even as awesome as all this is…

  • There is still a “not yet” aspect to it to be fulfilled.
  • A fulfillment that punctuates the “Lasting Sacred Space” idea.
  • Revelation 3:12 (ESV) — 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

 

Romans 8:12-17 – In Debt, Adopted and Heirs

Romans 8:12–17 (ESV) — 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

 

 

Debtors – Vss. 12-13:

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

 

Paul sums up his previous statements about flesh and death, and Spirit and life with a new twist – “opheiletes”.

  • He essentially says – though he cuts himself off…
  • That we are “opheiletes” “not to the flesh”…
  • But “opheiletes” to the Spirit.

 

The ESV translates “opheiletes” as “debtors”.

  • Whereas the NET, NIV and HCSB versions translate it as “under obligation”.
  • The latter does a much better job of conveying the meaning of Paul’s thoughts.

 

Why?

  • The idea is that those in the Spirit are…
  • “under obligation to” do the things of the Spirit.

 

We are no longer “under obligation to” do the things of the flesh (“power of the old age” – Moo).

  • Only those in the flesh are “under obligation to” “live according to the flesh”.

 

What does it look like to live “under obligation to” the Spirit?

  • …you put to death the deeds of the body…”.

 

Importantly, “…you put to death” is in the indicative.

  • Paul is speaking of what you already do in the Spirit.
  • It is done.
  • This is not a command.
  • “Paul refers to a fact that is true of believers, not a quality of life to which they are exhorted to attain” – Tom Schreiner.

 

This runs parallel to “phroneo” – setting our minds on the Spirit.

  • Those empowered by the Spirit both…
    • Already have a mindset for things of the Spirit…
    • And already live “under obligation to” the Spirit.
  • Both of these things are a work of God!

 

These speak to the awesome freedom for those in Christ and in the Spirit!

  • We have been freed from “phroneo-ing” in the flesh.
  • We have been freed from our slavery to – our obligation to – the flesh.

 

 

But – Sin Killing:

Paul makes clear in our text and in prior verses…

  • That our new orientation to sin is owes itself to our new address…
  • To being in Christ…
  • To being in the Spirit…
  • All of which is a done deal – an indicative.

 

But this does not mean that there is no imperative to be sin killers.

  • There most certainly is.
  • Colossians 3:5a (ESV) — 5a Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…

 

Because we “phroneo” in the Spirit and are “under obligation to” the Spirit…

  • We are “are empowered to resist the flesh” – Bird.

 

So we are called to act in ways to kill sin.

  • And we will desire to kill sin.
  • Though we will often fail.

 

And it is the Spirit that gives us a footing from which to kill sin.

  • “It is by the agency of the Spirit that the believer [kills] the deeds of the body and attempts to erect a barricade against fleshly intrusion” – Michael Bird.

 

Doug Moo nails the interplay between the Gospel indicatives and imperatives:

“Neither the ‘indicative’—what God has done for us in Christ—nor the ‘imperative’—what we are commanded to do—can be eliminated. Nor can they be severed from one another; they are inextricably connected. The point of that connection in this passage is the Spirit. The same Spirit that ‘set us free from the law of sin and death’ has taken up residence within us, producing in us that ‘mind-set’ which tends toward the doing of God’s will and resists the ways of the flesh” – Doug Moo.

 

 

Gospel Application – Vss. 14-17:

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17a and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…

 

In line with Paul’s strategy in previous verses…

  • Here he once again applies the facts of the Gospel to the life of the believer.
  • And, as before, he does so with theology.

 

I want to focus on two of his applications.

  • (1) His positional application.
  • (2) His assurance application.

 

 

(1) Positional Application:

Paul uses a series of phrases to heap on some more good news for those indwelled by the Spirit.

  • Sons of God” (vs. 14).
  • Adoption as sons” (vs. 15).
  • Children of God” (vs. 16).
  • Heirs of God” (vs. 17).

 

The central of these (we are told) is the idea of adoption.

  • The rest flow from it.

 

What’s cool here is that…

  • Paul is the first person to use the Greek word for adoption “in a theological context” – DPP.
  • So in order to make his point, he repurposes a Greek word.

 

The question is what did he mean by it?

  • And the language that flows from it – “children” and “heirs”?

 

A simple way to understand the language is that by it Paul is giving us…

  • Both a now and not yet position with God.

 

 

The “Now” of Our Position:

So by virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit acting on behalf of the Father, through the Son…

  • The Spirit bestows and confirms adoption upon us – right now (Doug Moo).
  • At this very moment, we are “made/declared/constituted” as God’s children (Bird).
  • We are adopted as sons/children of God.

 

The idea behind this son/children language is thoroughly Old Testament.

  • In the OT, Israel is known as God’s son.
  • Exodus 4:22 (ESV) — 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son,
  • Jeremiah 31:9 (ESV) — 9 With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

 

Paul also mentions this in Romans 9.

  • Romans 9:4 (ESV) — 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.

 

But what about the Gentiles?

  • If God promised to bless the nations through Israel…
  • How are the nations (Gentiles) to be made sons?
  • To be included in the blessing that comes with sonship?

 

The answer is by adoption.

 

I like what Moo points out about this:

  • “Paul has taken a term that depicts Israel’s unique status as God’s people and ‘transferred’ it to Christians” – Doug Moo.

 

By adoption, we are now God’s people.

  • We are God’s sons and daughters.
  • We are God’s chosen, covenant people.
  • We, like Christ, can now called the Father, “Abba”.

 

And it is certainly true that…

  • Even the Jew requires adoption into the New Covenant.

 

BTW – Most believe the slavery-adoption-son language pictures the Exodus.

“When Paul talks of believers being ‘led,’ being adopted as ‘sons,’ and escaping ‘slavery’…it is difficult not to be reminded of a cohort of texts about the exodus tradition. Remember that the exodus was the event where Israel was brought out of the land of slavery and made a ‘son of God’” – Michael Bird.

 

Moving on.

 

 

Our Now and God’s Turf:

Paul also speaks of adoption and son-ship in Galatians too – but with a twist:

  • Galatians 3:29–4:5 (ESV) — 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. 1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

 

Notice in this passage the curious phrase in 4:2:

  • were enslaved to the elementary principles [stoicheion] of the world”.
  • This word “stoicheion” refers to the powers of darkness – the rebellious elohim, demons, Satan, etc.

 

Paul sees our adoption and son-ship as relating to the cosmic turf war against such powers (like we discussed last week).

  • This is another feature of Paul’s adoption language that is shared with the Exodus event.
  • Egypt’s god’s vs. Yahweh.

 

As God’s adopted children we are, obviously, His turf.

  • This means we are no longer under the authority of the powers of darkness.
  • We are no longer property of “the elementary principles of the world”.
  • We are sacred space – like Eden, the Holy Mountain and the Temple.

 

John’s Gospel has a related text that speaks of the alternative to being God’s adopted children.

  • John 8:44 (ESV) — 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

 

 

The “Not Yet” of Our Position:

So we have just seen that, right now, we are adopted children – sons and daughters – of God.

  • But, Paul also uses language that speaks of a future aspect of being children of the Father.

 

In verse 17, he says we are “heirs of God”.

  • This is the benefit of being God’s child that is “not yet” come.
  • It is an inheritance that we will receive as heirs.
  • We, “must look to the future for the full enjoyment of ‘sonship’” – Doug Moo.

 

What is the future benefit and enjoyment of an heir of God?

  • It is God Himself.
  • And it is all the promises – OT and NT – that God has made to his sons and daughters.
  • This involves everything from the people, nation and land promise to Abraham…
  • To resurrection life in the age to come.
  • As heirs, all of these are our inheritance.

 

 

(2) Assurance Application:

Paul says in Romans 8:16:

  • The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”.
  • This is a beautiful text that speaks of the assurance we have has God’s sons and daughters.
  • But what does it mean?

 

We first need to understand what this text is literally saying.

  • It is not speaking of a one-way flow of bearing witness from the Holy Spirit to us.

 

But rather, it is saying that the bearing witness happens on two fronts (Tom Schreiner).

  • The Holy Spirit bears witness that “we are children of God”.
  • And “our spirit” bears witness that “we are children of God”.
  • There are two witnesses!

 

How does “our spirit” bear witness that “we are children of God”?

  • The short answer is found in the previous verse.
  • we cry, Abba Father!” (vs. 15).

 

This is an intimate, emotional cry.

  • One that comes only from a child of God.
  • One that comes from the heart.

 

Doug Moo describes it this way:

“In crying out ‘Abba, Father,’ the believer not only gives voice to his or her consciousness of belonging to God as his child but also to having a status comparable to that of Jesus himself” – Doug Moo.

 

Martin Luther describes it this way:

  • “Although I be oppressed with anguish and terror on every side, and seem to be forsaken and utterly cast away from thy presence, yet am I thy child, and thou art my Father for Christ’s sake: I am beloved because of the Beloved” – Martin Luther.

 

What are ways we cry out, “Abba, Father”?

 

How does the Holy Spirit bear witness that “we are children of God”?

  • On one level, the answer is the same – “we cry, Abba Father!
  • This can only be done by those indwelled by the Holy Spirit.

 

On another level, the Holy Spirit testifies…

  • By confirming for us the truth of the indicatives of the Gospel that Paul as been talking about.
  • The Spirit applies them to our hearts/minds.

 

The subject of assurance is admittedly difficult.

  • And it manifests in different ways for different people.

 

Some look to feelings.

  • And some look to the Gospel propositions found in the Bible.
  • I think an overemphasis on emotions can be dangerous.

 

And I don’t see how the propositional truths of the Gospel…

  • Can ever be overemphasized.
  • In fact, they should be foundational to an assurance that comes from our emotions.
  • The fuel for our “Abba, Father” cries.
  • If the propositions aren’t true, it makes no difference how profound our emotions are.

 

There is no assurance if:

  • God is not who He says He is…
  • And hasn’t done, isn’t doing and going to do what He says He will.
  • All of these are Gospel propositions.

 

 

Provided We Suffer – Verse 17b:

“…provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

 

Our inheritance as heirs is conditional.

  • “…we will be ‘glorified with’ Christ (only) if we ‘suffer’ with him” – Doug Moo.

 

The point here is not that we have to try and suffer…

  • Or perform a “work” of suffering.

 

The point has to do with the “body is dead” idea from verse 10.

  • We will suffer; we will get sick; we will die – our body is dead.
  • But this must happen “with him” – in union with Christ, indwelled by the Spirit.

 

Paul explains all this in 2 Corinthians.

  • 2 Corinthians 4:7–10 (ESV) — 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

 

And he continues:

  • 2 Corinthians 4:16–17 (ESV) — 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

 

 

Romans 8:18-23 – Groans and Laments – The “Now” Stuff

Romans 8:18–23 (ESV) — 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

 

 

Introduction:

Paul uses verse 18 to outline and frame his thoughts in verses 29-21.

  • He does so by presenting yet another now and not yet motif.
  • He speaks of the “sufferings of this present time” – the now.
  • He speaks of the “the glory that is to be revealed to us” – the not yet.

 

In verses 19-23, he fills out what he started.

 

The Now:

  • Sufferings of this present time” – vs. 18.
  • Creation…subjected to futility” – vs. 20.
  • Creation is in a “bondage to corruption” – vs. 21.
  • Romans 8:22 (ESV) — 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
  • We, “groan inwardly” – vs. 23.

 

The Not Yet:

  • Glory that is to be revealed in us” – vs. 18.
  • Revealing of the sons of God” – vs. 19.
  • Romans 8:21 (ESV) — 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
  • We, “wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” – vs. 23.

 

Observing these two distinctions is significant enough.

  • The future for those in Christ is going to be pretty awesome.

 

But Paul didn’t speak of them just to be observed.

  • He wants them to be tasted and savored.
  • So we need to dive deep into a few of the ideas Paul has raised.

 

 

The “Now” Stuff – Suffering, Corruption, Groaning:

Paul makes quite a few allusions to The Fall.

  • Three highlights of The Fall ground much of what Paul is saying in Romans 8.
  • Genesis 3:17b (ESV) — 17b …cursed is the ground because of you…
  • Genesis 3:19b (ESV) — 19b …for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
  • Genesis 3:23–24b (ESV) — 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24b He drove out the man…

 

These three excerpts capture the “now” that Paul is contending with in Romans 8.

  • (1) Creation has been corrupted and warped due to sin.
  • (2) God’s image bearers will die.
  • (3) God’s image bearers have been expelled from the presence, blessing and life of God and have corrupted creation.

 

He spoke of these things previously in Romans 5.

  • Romans 5:12 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

 

Adam sinned; Adam was exiled from the Garden; Adam died.

  • We, therefore, were born in exile, so we sin and we die.

 

The fact of our death is why Paul laments in Romans 7 and in Romans 8:

  • Romans 7:24 (ESV) — 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
  • Romans 8:10 (ESV) — 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

 

So, lets deal with two questions that pop out.

  • To dive deep in God’s word – you have to question it!
  • Don’t worry, it can take it; its not going to break.

 

 

Question 1:

What does it mean that “creation has been groaning” and that we “groan inwardly”?

 

The BDAG gives us a couple of ideas:

  • “to groan together with, lament, groan”
  • “to express oneself involuntarily in the face of an undesirable circumstance, sigh, groan”

 

The EDNT puts it this way:

  • Groaning is “a powerful metaphor for the dejection and powerless yearning of believers in their present suffering”.

 

Simple enough, but these lead to more questions.

 

How does creation groan?

  • It seems the idea is that its current “cursed” condition is the expression of its groaning.
  • And such language points to the cosmic size of The Fall.
  • Which would mean the solution has to be cosmic in scope.

 

Why do we groan “inwardly”?

  • Given the fact that inwardly we are indwelled by the Spirit…
  • Wouldn’t make more sense to say we groan outwardly, in our bodies?
  • This would seem to fit the way that creation groans – outwardly, as a result of The Fall.

 

Paul helps us out in some other texts (X-Refs).

  • 2 Corinthians 5:2 (ESV) — 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,
  • 2 Corinthians 5:4 (ESV) — 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

 

So it appears that our inward groaning is…

  • Our Spirit filled heart and mind expressing a lament of the “now” because we know there is a glorious “not yet”.

 

Before we move on to our next question…

  • I want to take a short, but important, rabbit trail.

 

 

Jesus Rabbit Trail:

When we do a Logos inline search on the Greek word for groan, we find an interesting use of the word.

  • Mark 7:33–35 (ESV) — 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
  • Sadly, there was only one interpretation I could find that translated it with the more accurate “groaned” – the NAB.

 

This is actually a beautiful picture of the “now” and “not yet” of which Paul speaks.

  • A “now” and a “not yet” that are both wrapped up in Jesus!

 

Who is it that is also groaning inwardly with us?

  • Answer – Jesus.
  • The 2nd person of the Trinity.

 

Over what is Jesus groaning?

  • The “now” of creation that Paul has been speaking about.
  • A corrupted, cursed, futile creation and a “body of death”.
  • In this case has manifested in a deaf and mute man.

 

What is Jesus’ solution to the corruption of creation found in this man?

  • Jesus groans!
  • Jesus heals!

 

This is awesome stuff!

  • The incarnation is God groaning with His creation and us!
  • The incarnation is God giving us glimpses of new creation.
  • A new creation in which all is put right.

 

So this means that Jesus’ healing miracles are the future breaking into the present (N.T. Wright).

  • They demonstrate that Jesus has the power to reverse the effects of The Fall!

 

 

Question 2:

Earlier in Romans 8, Paul has been speaking of some splendid things such as…

  • Our life in the Spirit.
  • The indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  • The believer as sacred space.

 

Why does Paul turn into such a buzz killer with all this groaning stuff?

  • What might be the reason he brings all this bad news up after having pumped us up?

 

It appears he might be doing a couple of things.

 

(1) Explaining why those who are in Christ and indwelled by the Spirit still have a “body of death”.

  • Michael Bird puts it this way:
  • “…if believers have been freed from the ‘law of sin and death,’ why does death still engulf them? If believers have a share in the glory of Christ, where is this glory now?”

 

Paul certainly has experienced immense physical hardship since he put his believing loyalty in Christ.

  • And we certainly know that believers fill our hospitals; they die of cancer; they are murdered; they starve to death, etc.

 

So how might his description of the “now” address all this?

 

(2) And he also wants to bring our attention to the fact that God isn’t done.

  • Creation groaning and the “body of death” indicate things aren’t right.

 

But the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ have secured a resurrection future for us.

  • A future in which God will redeem all the suffering and groaning of the believer.

 

The Christian, then, is awaiting God’s action to put creation right – something that began with Christ.

  • And, for Paul, this is understood only against the backdrop of the “now”.
  • “…the fact of suffering [is] the dark backdrop against which the glorious future promised to the Christian shines with bright intensity” – Doug Moo.

 

In other words, to be glorified like Christ, we must suffer like Christ.

  • “Paul makes clear that this suffering is the condition for the inheritance; we will be ‘glorified with’ Christ (only) if we ‘suffer with him’’’ – Doug Moo.

 

So given all this Paul says:

  • 2 Corinthians 4:17 (ESV) — 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
  • We will deal with this “not yet” future next week.

 

 

Romans 8:18-23 – New Nature and New Status – The “Not Yet” Stuff

There are four main “not yet” events described in our passage.

  • (1) “the glory that is to be revealed to us” (vs. 18)
    • Schreiner translates verse 18 as “the glory that shall be ours”.
    • The NIV translates verse 18 as “glory that is to be revealed in us”.
  • (2) “the revealing of the sons of God” (vs. 19)
  • (3) “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (vs. 21)
  • (4) “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23)

 

Obviously, we need to unpack these to plumb the depths of Paul’s words concerning our future.

  • In determining where to start, there is something we need to notice.

 

These four “not yets” are part of the same event…

  • What Doug Moo calls the yearned for “culminating transformation” of believers.

 

What Tom Schreiner calls:

  • “…the eschatological inheritance of believers” – Schreiner.

 

What us common folk call:

  • Our Glorification.

 

So the “glory that shall be ours” – the “glory that is to revealed in us” (vs. 18)…

  • Is the same event as “the revealing of the sons of God” (vs. 19)…
  • And “the glory of the children of God” (vs. 21).
  • And the “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23).

 

All of them are part of our:

  • Groaned for “culminating transformation”…
  • Our “eschatological inheritance”.
  • Our glorification.

 

But, to be fair, each of these four touch on many different aspects of our…

  • Transformation/Inheritance/Glorification.
  • So there are a lot of directions we could go.

 

I want to get at the significance of our transformation/inheritance/glorification…

  • By answering two questions.
  • (1) What is the glory that is ours, to be revealed in us, demonstrating that we are the “sons/children of God”?
  • (2) What is the “firstfruits of the Spirit” that secures our future adoption and redemption of our bodies?

 

We are going to answer the second question first.

 

 

Glorification as New Nature of Existence:

What is the “firstfruits of the Spirit” that secures our future adoption and redemption of our bodies?

  • The answer to this question has profound implications for the very nature of our existence.

 

When Paul talks about having the “firstfruits” that lead to the “adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (vs. 23)

  • He is speaking of a change to our nature – of what we actually are.
  • This is awesome stuff!
  • So lets dive into this a little bit.

 

To begin with, what is “the firstfruits of the Spirit”?

  • It refers to a deposit, guarantee or pledge (MCEDONTW).
  • So it is something we have now, but that will cash out later.

 

Moo clarifies this idea:

“The Spirit, in this sense, is both the ‘first installment’ of salvation and the ‘down payment’ or ‘pledge’ that guarantees the remaining stages of that salvation” – Doug Moo.

 

Paul can help us too.

  • 2 Corinthians 1:22 (ESV) — 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:5 (ESV) — 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

 

So Paul wants us to have assurance that this future change in us is secure.

  • The Holy Spirit has sealed it, guaranteed it and it is a done deal.

 

This alone should be a huge comfort to the believer

  • For we know, and Paul has made clear, that we live in a body of death.

 

But what is assured, sealed and guaranteed?

  • What is the change to our nature that is coming?
  • What is the change in nature that should give us hope and assurance?

 

Again, Paul can help us here:

  • Colossians 3:4 (ESV) — 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:42–44 (ESV) — 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

 

The answer to our question – RESURRECTION!

  • And Resurrection means we are literally changed in our nature.

 

To be physically resurrected is to be…

  • Glorified like Jesus.
  • Raised in Power.
  • Raised in a spiritual body.
  • (To name a few)

 

Michael Bird puts it this way:

These changes are “what we might call Christification or even Christosis. The meaning is that humanity will recover the glory lost in Adam by sharing in the glory arrayed in Christ” – Michael Bird.

 

The EDNT calls this:

  • Our “participation in God’s glorious nature”.

 

The apostle John puts it like this:

  • 1 John 3:2 (ESV) — 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

 

All these things are part of what it means to be:

  • Glorified
  • Transformed
  • And to receive our inheritance.

 

Now, let’s deal with our first question.

 

 

Glorification as New Status:

(1) What is the glory that is ours, to be revealed in us, demonstrating that we are the “sons/children of God”?

  • There are a variety of ways to answer this question.
  • I’m going explore the one that involves our receiving a new cosmic status.
  • Hang on because this is a trip!

 

N.T. Wright can get us started:

“The point of ‘glory’ is that it means glorious, sovereign rule, sharing the Messiah’s saving rule over the whole world. And that is what the whole creation is waiting for. It is waiting for us, for you and me, for all God’s children, to be revealed. Then, at last, creation will see its true rulers…” – N.T. Wright.

 

We are the rulers!

  • This position as rulers of creation is the new status that awaits us.
  • And it is the one of the things that creation yearns for.

 

And our participation in this rule with Christ…

  • Will demonstrate that we are the “sons/children of God”.

 

I can’t leave it at this surface level, however.

  • This change of status is spoken of in some profound ways in the Bible.
  • And this is worth exploring.

 

New Status – Revealing of the Sons of God and Called to Be Saints:

Let’s take a look at a few verses.

  • Romans 8:19 (ESV) — 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God [“huios theos”].
  • 1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV) — 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints [“hagios”] together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

 

These two phrases are used by Paul to describe a “not yet” feature of our glorification (Romans 8 stuff).

  • And both relate to our coming status as rulers of creation.

 

The problem is that what Paul means with these phrases…

  • Is a far cry from what we think of when we see them.

 

We see “saints” and “sons of God”…

  • And we think dedicated old folks in our church and adoption into God’s family.
  • Both true, of course.

 

Paul sees “hagios” and “huios theos”…

  • And he thinks “holy ones” and “heavenly beings”.

 

Wha’ choo talkin’ ‘bout Willis?

 

As we know, Paul’s (and Jesus’) favorite Bible was apparently the LXX – the Greek OT.

  • So when Paul uses peculiar Greek phrases in his letters, we need to understand that he often draws from his Bible.
  • His Bible is what provides the background to their meaning.
  • “Hagios” and “huios theos” are two such phrases.

 

Mike Heiser puts it like this:

These connections between he OT and NT, “create the context from which New Testament writers will talk about the kingdom and the glorification of believers” – Mike Heiser.

 

The same principal is in operation today.

  • If I say something like, “now we are engaged in a great civil war”.
  • This certainly has meaning given current events.
  • But it is actually freighted with even more meaning.
  • The reason is simply because these words are from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

 

Understanding this, let’s look at Paul’s connections to the Old Testament.

 

We have seen that Paul uses two phrases to describe our future status:

  • hagios
  • huios theos

 

These two phrases have a very specific meaning in the LXX.

  • Psalm 89 gives us a great example.
  • Psalm 89:5–7 (ESV) — 5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! 6 For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, 7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?

 

This verse is describing a scene in the Divine Council.

  • YHWH is unique and incomparable.
  • No one can compare – not the “heavenly beings” of the council (vs. 6).
  • And not the “council of the holy ones” (vs. 7).
  • YHWH is “awesome above all” (vs. 7).

 

When we look at the LXX it gets pretty cool.

  • “holy ones” is “hagios”.
  • “heavenly beings” is “huios theos”.

 

The implication, of course, is that (as we said earlier)…

  • Paul sees our future status as that of the “hagios” and “huios theos” – the “holy ones” and “heavenly beings”.
  • In other words, rulers with YHWH.
  • But these phrases set this rule in context of the Divine Council!

 

Knowing this brings clarity to a verse like this:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:2–3 (ESV) — 2 Or do you not know that the saints [hagios] will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you [Christians at Corinth], are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we [hagios] are to judge angels [according to Heiser – “angels” came to be the NT stand in for “elohim”]? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

 

This is casting the saints as future rulers on the God’s Divine Council.

  • We, the saints (hagios), will be the “holy ones”.

 

Mike Heiser puts it this way:

  • “Believers are God’s once and future family, once and future council, once and future rulers with Jesus over all the nations” – Mike Heiser.

 

The apostle John puts it this way:

  • Revelation 3:21 (ESV) — 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

 

And the implications of our glorification upon our status as rulers also help us with this weird text.

  • 1 Corinthians 2:7–8 (ESV) — 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
  • Ephesians 3:10 (ESV) — 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

 

Given what we have just learned about our how our glorification impacts our status:

  • Why does Paul say the “rulers of this age” would not have crucified Jesus had they known what was in store for us (the “hagios” and “huios theos”) as a result of Jesus’ being glorified on the cross?

 

The answer is found in Psalm 82:

  • Psalm 82:1–7 (ESV) — 1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”

 

Paul’s words reveal that our new status is at the expense of the status of the unjust members of the Divine Council.

  • They will be judged (apparently we will participate in this judgment – 1 Cor. 6:2-3).
  • And they shall die like men.
  • This truth fuels much of the fire raging in spiritual warfare.

 

So just like the change to our nature, all this status business is part of what it means to be:

  • Glorified
  • Transformed
  • And to receive our inheritance.

 

Isaiah wasn’t playing around when he said:

  • Isaiah 65:17 (ESV) — 17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.

 

 

Romans 8:24-25 – Hope Now and Not Yet

Paul stands firmly upon hope.

  • In his letters, he speaks of it in one form or another 55 times.

 

To unpack Paul’s hope, it will help to survey his use in Romans thus far.

  • Romans 4:18 (ESV) — 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”
  • Romans 5:2–5 (ESV) — 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

And then our text today:

  • Romans 8:24–25 (ESV) — 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 

 

What is Hope?

But what is the hope about which he speaks?

 

A modern dictionary definition of hope is:

  • “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen” (Oxford)
  • “to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true” (Merriam-Webster)

 

These definitions express what we might call:

  • Hope as Wishful Thinking.
  • Hope as Weighing the Possibilities.

 

Do these capture Paul’s view of hope?

  • That would be a big fat, “NO”!

 

 

Paul’s Hope:

When we unpack Paul’s use of hope in these verses we find the following:

  • Hope is something had by those who posses saving faith – 4:18 (Abraham).
  • Hope is grounded in God’s promises – 4:18 (“as he had been told”).
  • Hope happens in the now – as in hoping, the “verbing” of hope – 4:18 (“in hope he believed”).
  • Hope is connected to the future – 4:18 (“he should become the father of many”).
  • Hope’s “now” context is our new address, the realm of grace, which is accessed by faith – 5:2 (“obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope”).
  • Hope arises out of suffering for the believer – 5:4 (“produces hope”).
  • Hope is evidence of the love of God expressed in us through the Holy Spirit – 5:5 (“hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”).
  • Hope is all the cool indicatives of the Gospel – the person and work of Christ – 4:24 (“For in this hope we were saved”).
  • Hope is all the cool future stuff we are groaning/lamenting for – new nature and new status, e.g. – 4:24 (“For in this hope we were saved”).
  • Hope is not seen – 4:24 (“hope that is seen is not hope; we hope for what we do not see” ).
  • Hope, therefore, requires patience – 4:24 (“we wait for it with patience”).

 

It seems fairly clear from these that Paul’s hope…

  • Is not wishful thinking or weighing the possibilities.

 

But even with these observations…

  • We have only scratched the surface of Paul’s hope.
  • So I want to go a little deeper into a few of elements of hope we have identified.

 

 

Hope and Faith:

We saw that there is a particular relationship between hope and faith.

  • The indicatives of our hope are “recognized, accepted and appropriated through the act or attitude of faith” – John Paul Heil.

 

It’s like this:

  • Faith secures our entry into grace.
  • This then gives us a stance from which Christian hope is produced.
    • This is the idea behind Paul’s words that suffering produces hope.
    • Faith-suffering produces faith-hope.
  • All of this is something the unbeliever simply doesn’t have.

 

 

Hope Is Not Blind:

We saw that a couple elements of Paul’s hope are:

  • God’s promises.
  • And the indicatives of the Gospel.

 

One scholar puts it this way:

  • Hope begins with, “What God has promised and/or already accomplished on our behalf” – John Paul Heil.

 

This means that hope is not blind!

  • Hope is grounded in who God is, what He has done, what He is doing.
  • These things form the foundation upon which hope is built.

 

For Paul this includes things like:

  • The reality of the person of Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus as the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to Abraham.
  • The work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • The exaltation of Jesus Christ.
  • The indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

 

These things definitively rule out hope as wishful thinking or weighing the possibilities.

  • In fact, for Paul, without these things there is no such thing as hope.
  • Christian hope only exists because of these things – these indicatives.

 

 

Hope Is Not Seen:

We also saw that Paul said:

  • “hope that is seen is not hope
  • we hope for what we do not see

 

How do these mesh with the idea that hope is not blind?

 

It parses out like this:

  • We hope – as in the verb – because of the indicatives of the Gospel.
  • They supply the reason for our current hoping – they fuel it.
  • Again, our hope is not blind.

 

But the things of hope itself (the nouns of hope) – resurrection and new status, e.g. – are in the future.

  • In other words, they will become reality at Christ’s return – a future event.
  • They are “God’s future salvific activity” – John Paul Heil.

 

So obviously our resurrection; our new status; Christ’s return – are not seen.

  • This is simply because they are in the future.
  • Which means, of course, that they are not in the present.

 

So this is why hope (the noun) “is not seen”.

  • It is in the future.
  • One doesn’t hope (the verb) for what one already has – the now.
  • One hopes (the verb) for specific future events (hope the noun) – the not yet.

 

Douglas Moo puts it this way:

“That ‘glory to be revealed,’ which is the focus of our hope, is not visible; and the frustrations and difficulties of life can sometimes all but erase the image of that glory for us. But hope would not be what it is if we could see it, for “who hopes for what one sees?” – Douglas Moo.

 

How might all this inform our understanding of this verse?

  • Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) — 1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 

 

Hope is a Verb:

We saw that hope is a verb.

  • Or to put another way, hoping is the “verbing” of hope.

 

I love how John Paul Heil puts it:

  • Hoping is the believers’ “act or the attitude of confident expectation” about the contents of our future hope – John Paul Heil.

 

This is a huge deal.

  • Why?

 

So, although Paul’s “nows” consist of:

  • sufferings of this present time
  • a “creation subjected to futility
  • a “bondage to corruption
  • Creation groaning
  • The inward groaning of the believer.

 

Paul’s now also consists of:

  • Christian Hope

 

This is such a big deal because:

  • Christian hope connects our Christian “nows” to our Christian “not yets”.

 

I look at it like this:

  • Christian hope actually extends forward through time.
  • It exists both now and goes forward into the future.

 

So, for example, Christian hope:

  • Is attached to Christ’s resurrection…
  • And goes forward into time and is attached to our resurrection.

 

And we travel along this hope everyday of our life.

  • This is a huge reason why the Christian life has purpose at every moment.
  • As we move through time, we move along Christian hope.

 

Think of it like this:

  • The hope that exists “now” and goes forward into time to our “not yets”…
  • Is like the path through the Red Sea.

 

This path was attached to the Israelites “now” of slavery…

  • And also connected them to…
  • And, thus was attached to,…
  • Their “not yet” of freedom and promised land.

 

Why is this Christian hope so important?

  • “The Scriptures describe all too well the despair of hopelessness. Job lamented in his pain: “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end without hope” (Job 7:6). King David said in his final address to the Israelites before he passed away that even the covenant people feel like “our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope” (1 Chr 29:15). The apostle Paul wrote that Gentile Christians were once a people “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). There is perhaps no place more despairing than one in which a person does not know hope for the future” – Michael Bird.

Romans 8:26-27 – Holy Spirit Groaning

Romans 8:26–27 (ESV) — 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

 

Verse 26:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

 

Likewise and Weakness:

Paul transitions from the hope we have in both the “now” and “not yet”…

  • Into another positive feature of the Christian life (as opposed to our sufferings and groanings).
  • …the Spirit…

 

In fact, the “likewise” here is connected directly to the hope of verses 24 and 25.

  • “…in the same way [as this hope sustains us] (Doug Moo)”, Paul says, “the Spirit helps us…

 

So, if the hope we have in the “now” wasn’t cool enough…

  • Paul tells us the indwelling Spirit is present with us as part of this hope.

 

And the best part is what the Spirit is doing on our behalf.

  • Paul says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness”.

 

What is “our weakness”?

 

The things that come along with:

  • body of death” (7:24)
  • the sufferings of our present time” (8:18)
  • groan inwardly” (8:23)

 

The word literally refers to a physical debilitating sickness or disease – BDAG.

  • So Paul’s use here is metaphorical.
  • And he is referring to our “lack of spiritual insight” or “moral deficiency” – BDAG.

 

So our weakness is this:

  • Because of our “lack of spiritual insight”…
  • Because of our “moral deficiency”…
  • We don’t pray “as we ought”.

 

What does Paul mean that we don’t pray “as we ought”?

  • Moo says Paul is referring to content not style.
  • Schreiner agrees.

 

In other words…

  • The problem here is not that we aren’t articulate enough…
  • Or don’t use enough Christianese…
  • Or don’t pray in a British accent.

 

The problem is that the things we actually pray for…

  • Are apparently, more often than not, outside of God’s will.

 

So the question is what are the right things to pray for – what is the right content?

  • Generally speaking, the things that God wills.
  • “What Paul apparently has in mind is that inability to discern clearly God’s will in the many things for which we pray…” – Doug Moo.
  • Paul says as much in verse 27 – “according to the will of God”.
    • More on the 26 and 27 connection in a bit.

 

 

Spirit Intercession:

This sounds like a serious problem.

  • But this is not where Paul is headed.
  • This is not a beat down passage.

 

Paul has some good news.

  • Because we are in Christ and indwelled by the Spirit…
  • Paul gives us some good news that mitigates our “weakness”.

 

Paul says that…

  • The Spirit “intercedes” on our behalf.

 

In other words, due to our “weakness” and the inability it brings…

  • The Spirit intervenes for our sake.
  • The interceding or intervening of the Spirit is the “help” the Spirit brings us in our weakness.

 

Parsing all this out:

  • We simply have a difficult time discerning the will of God.
  • We do our best and offer up our prayer and petitions in this light.
  • However, our “weakness” means we fail to discern the will of God on a regular basis.
  • But, the Spirit does know the will of God and intercedes on our behalf.

 

Before we move on, we have to ask one more question.

  • Didn’t Jesus teach us how to pray?

 

Jesus said the following:

  • Matthew 6:9–15 (ESV) — 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

How do we square what Jesus teaches here with what Paul teaches?

 

 

Inexpressible Groanings:

What exactly is the nature of the Spirit’s help and interceding?

  • groaning too deep for words” – “stenagmos alaletos

 

Or as other translations put it:

  • “sighs to deep for words” – NRSV
  • “groans that words cannot express” – NIV
  • “inexpressible groanings” – NET
  • “unspoken groanings” – HCSB

 

To begin with this is not the same kind of inward groaning believers express.

  • As we observed last time, the Spirit is not a creature and not in Garden Exile.
  • Doug Moo agrees: “…the groaning of the Spirit is very different in its nature and purpose from [our] ‘groanings’” – Doug Moo.

 

The BDAG makes a subtle distinction between the Spirit’s groaning and our groaning that might help us here.

  • Whereas, we groan due to our circumstances – our weakness.
  • The Spirit groans out of concern for our circumstance – “expression of great concern” (BDAG).

 

This distinction is helpful.

  • But it doesn’t tell us what the “inexpressible groanings” of the Spirit literally are.

 

Tom Schreiner thinks they are perhaps our groanings which the Holy Spirit modifies or translates.

“God searches the hearts of believers and finds unutterable longings to conform their lives to the will of God. The Holy Spirit takes these groanings and presents them before God in an articulate form…the Holy Spirit translates these groanings and conforms them to God’s will” – Tom Schreiner.

 

 

Implications for Us:

This revelation from Paul about our “weakness” should serve to humble us.

Believers, “do not have an adequate grasp of what God’s will is when they pray. Because of our finiteness and fallibility we cannot perceive fully what God would desire” – Tom Schreiner.

 

The implication of this is simple:

  • “…we cannot presume to identify our petitions with the will of God” – Doug Moo.

 

So even in our prayer life…

  • We must depend upon the Holy Spirit.
  • In the midst of our weakness, we find the Spirit’s strength and intercession!
  • And this is good news!

 

 

Verse 27:

And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

 

Heart Searcher:

Paul says God the Father continually searches the hearts of believers.

  • T. Wright says of Paul’s word choice for “searches”:

“The word ‘searcher’ comes from a root which suggests someone lighting a torch and going slowly round a large, dark room full of all sorts of things, looking for something in particular” – N.T. Wright.

 

Wright says this is both “disturbing and exciting”.

  • I think so too!

 

Why would the idea of God the Father doing a room-to-room search of our hearts be disturbing?

  • Short answer: He is going to find the stuff of weak creatures – sin, etc.
  • And this stuff will come under judgment.
  • Romans 2:16 (ESV) — 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

 

Why would the idea of God the Father doing a room-to-room search of our hearts be exciting?

  • Because, for the believer, He will also find the stuff of those in Christ and indwelled by the Spirit.
  • And our text tells us that part of that stuff is the groanings of the Spirit.

 

N.T. Wright puts it like this:

“But the thing he is wanting to find above all else, and which according to Paul he ought to find in all Christians, is the sound of the spirit’s groaning” – N.T. Wright.

 

This is more good news for the believer!

  • God the Father, the searcher, confirms our union with Christ through the presence of an interceding Spirit groaning on our behalf.

 

It’s hard to find a better Trinitarian description of the Gospel than this.

“This hints at something deeper than merely prayer in the way that God wants or approves; God’s own life, love and energy are involved in the process. The Christian, precisely at the point of weakness and uncertainty, of inability and struggle, becomes the place at which the triune God is revealed in person” – N.T. Wright.

 

 

Spirit Mindset:

Paul goes on to tell us that the Father knows the “phronema” or “mindset” of the Spirit.

  • the mind of the Spirit”.

 

So what is the “mindset” of the Spirit?

  • the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God

 

The “mindset” of the Spirit…

  • Is to intercede, mediate and translate our prayers and our groanings to the Father.
  • And to do so “according to the will of God”.

 

In other words, the “mindset” of the Spirit is CONCERN:

  • Concern for the weakness of the believer.
  • Concern for the will of God the Father.

 

This is how verse 26 and verse 27 are connected and fill each other out.

  • We are weak – so the Spirit groans (show of concern) on our behalf.
  • God the Father has a will – so the Spirit intercedes for us (show of concern) according to the Father’s will.

 

This work of the Spirit should bring us huge comfort!

  • Why?

“We discover that God himself does not stand apart from the pain both of the world and of the church, but comes to dwell in the middle of it in the person and power of the spirit” – N.T. Wright.

 

And with respect to our lives:

“Believers should take tremendous encouragement that the will of God is being fulfilled in their lives despite their weakness and inability to know what to pray for. God’s will is not being frustrated because of the weakness of believers” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Romans 8:28 – Stop Getting It Wrong

Let’s dig into verse 28.

  • And, hopefully, discover what it is Paul wants to convey.
  • Which, it seems, centers on assurance and Jesus Christ.

 

 

Verse 28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

There is a lot of cool stuff in this verse.

  • (1) The fact that the believer can definitively know what Paul is about to reveal – “we know”.
  • (2) The fact that “all things work together for good” – whatever this might mean.
  • (3) The fact that there are those “called” according to a “purpose” – whatever this might mean.

 

BTW – The ESV says it is “all things” that “work together for good”.

  • Is it really “all things” that “work”?
  • The NIV has a better word choice.
  • …in all things God works for the good…

 

 

(1) We Know:

Paul says that “those who love God” (believers/the church) know.

  • There are two aspects of this knowledge.
  • The thing we know.
  • Why we know it.

 

The thing we know will become clear soon enough.

  • This is the very thing we are trying to understand.

 

Why we know this “thing” goes back to the indicatives of the Gospel.

  • We will rehash this a bit at the end of verse 29.

 

 

(2) All Things and Good:

all things work together for good

  • This text is ripped out of context as much as any other in the New Testament.

 

Most often it is used as a form of encouragement to a suffering believer.

  • The sentiment behind it is usually, “Don’t worry, God will make it all better”.

 

In other words, it is used to teach that God will take this event – this unfortunate/unwanted circumstance…

  • And turn it into a good/wanted circumstance.

 

It is important we get this right.

 

If this is the meaning of the text…

  • Then, if a person really is a Christian,…
  • Every bad event or circumstance in his or her life…
  • Should be followed by an event or circumstance that puts right the bad circumstance.

 

As Doug Moo points out:

  • “Certainly Paul does not mean that the evil experienced by believers in this life will always be reversed, turned into ‘good’” – Doug Moo.

 

If all this were so, it would mean that this text can be used to authenticate true belief.

  • And by extension support the theology of the prosperity Gospel.

 

But this is not what Paul is doing.

  • As Tom Schreiner points out:
  • “The intention in using this phrase is not to distinguish true from false believers” – Tom Schreiner.

 

Now, God can do this, no doubt.

  • Bring a good circumstance out of a bad one.

 

But, is this really what Paul is teaching here?

  • We need to dig in and find out.

 

What are the “all things”?

 

Given the context of Romans 7-8, the “all things” are:

  • This “body of death” (7:24).
  • The “sufferings of this present time” (vs. 17).
  • And the “we ourselves…groan inwardly” (vs. 23).

 

In other words:

  • The “all things” is the “now” of the Christian life.

 

Or in Paul’s own words:

  • 2 Corinthians 11:25–28 (ESV) — 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

 

What is the “good”?

 

Good “Nots”:

The “good” is not a negation of the “sufferings of this present time”.

  • In fact, the presence of suffering in the Christian life is why Romans 8 is so powerful.

 

For, as Paul has already taught, suffering is a necessary part of being “in Christ”.

  • N.T. Wright puts it this way:
  • Our “suffering [is] according to the pattern of the Messiah”.

 

The “good” is not referring to a set of better life circumstances that will replace bad life circumstances.

  • Doug Moo captures this well:

“The idea that this verse promises the believer material wealth or physical well-being, for instance, betrays a typically Western perversion of ‘good’ into an exclusively material interpretation” – Doug Moo.

 

Good “Is’s”:

The “goodis something that will happen…

  • Even though the “now” of the Christian life consists of the “all things” just discussed.
  • Even though, just like unbelievers, the Christian life is one of groaning.

 

So this “good” doesn’t displace the “all things” of our life “now”.

  • Paul would never say that!
  • The “good” is something that will happen in spite of the “all things” of the Christian life.

 

So what is the “good”?

  • It is all the “not yets” of the Christian life.
  • Our future glorification – our new nature and new status, etc.
  • Scholars call it “eschatological glory” (Doug Moo).
  • Or, our future full conformity to the image of Christ (Doug Moo).

 

 

(3) Called and Purpose:

for those who are called according to his purpose”

  • The “called” here are obviously the “those who love God” from the beginning of the verse.
  • But why restate with this word choice?

 

Craig Keener makes this observation:

  • “Paul’s own audience would think of Israel as the people God had chosen…”

 

But Paul has already, and is here, turning that on its head.

Keener says the church at Rome would, “…recognize that Paul’s argument was designed to show that God was so sovereign that he was not bound to choose (with regard to salvation) based on Jewish ethnicity” – Craig Keener.

 

In other words, Paul is talking about the future of all God’s people.

  • And inclusion as God’s people is not based on ethnicity or badges of membership – circumcision, etc.
  • Inclusion as the “called” is to be “those who love God” – whether Jew or Gentile.
  • It is to be those who participate in God’s purpose.
  • (We will have more to say about “called” when we deal with verse 30).

 

What is this purpose?

 

It is helpful here to know what Paul may have been trying to counter in Rome.

  • A place that, culturally, was deeply Hellenized.

 

In such a culture, Craig Keener points out…

  • The idea of fate was seen as a predominate power in determining people and their future.
  • But, Keener says, “Paul goes beyond this, not resigned to impersonal fate but trusting the benevolent design of God” – Craig Keener.

 

In other words, and this is huge…

  • The called’s “not yet” life is not tied to fate or current circumstances (suffering or ethnicity)!
  • It is tied to God’s purposes – as revealed in Jesus Christ!
  • Verse 29 will give us more detail about this.

 

Let’s end with a paraphrase of verse 28:

  • “We know that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers.”

 

Romans 8:29 – Future Assurance

We ended last week with a paraphrase of verse 28:

  • “We know that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers.”

 

So this is what we know.

  • The question now is “why do we know this will happen?”
  • What is our assurance of this truth?

 

As we deal with verse 29, these are the right questions.

  • These are the questions Paul is contending with.

 

I agree with Bird:

“…we must refrain from reading into the text debates about divine sovereignty, the basis of election, and human free will. While the text no doubt raises the question for readers, even so, answering it is not Paul’s main concern” – Michael Bird.

 

So using our paraphrase, we can frame our question for exploring verses 29:

  • Why is it that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers?

 

Paul’s answer:

  • Romans 8:29–30 (ESV) — 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

Today we will deal with verse 29.

 

 

Verse 29:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

 

The first and main thing he does to answer the question we raised is…

  • Connect us to Jesus Christ!

 

In other words:

  • Those who love God” (vs. 28).
  • Those who are called” (vs 28).

 

It is these that have full assurance of future hope/glorification because…

  • From the very beginning, the Father connected them to their future by way of Jesus Christ!

 

This is the idea behind being “conformed to the image of his Son” (vs. 29).

  • It is all about Jesus!

 

But what exactly did Paul mean with “he foreknew he also predestined”?

  • What was foreknown and predestined?

 

 

Foreknew:

Paul says “those” God “foreknew” (vs. 29) – who are those?

  • Those”, of course, are “those who love God” (vs. 28).
  • And they are “those who are called” (vs. 28).

 

What does it mean that he “foreknew” (proginosko) them?

 

Commonly, the word simply means, “know beforehand or in advance” – BDAG.

  • Simple enough.

 

There are some, however, that suggest that “proginosko” in verse 29 means more specifically:

  • choose someone beforehand” – BDAG.
  • In other words, “predetermine”.

 

Others critique this understanding of the word as being one read in light of:

  • “…later theological debates, such as…the debates of the Reformation era” – Craig Keener.

 

I think scholars like Doug Moo, Robert Jewett, and Michael Bird are right to pull back a bit from this specific meaning.

  • Moo says, “Paul does not intend to give a complete picture of his, still less of NT, soteriology” – Doug Moo.
  • (More on Moo’s view next week – he doesn’t pull back much).

 

This means the point of Paul’s use of “foreknew” in verse 29 is that:

  • God always knew…
  • He would, before the creation of the world…
  • Have a people for Himself.
  • A people who loved Him.

 

And, in keeping with Paul’s concerns, God knew:

  • This people would be “Gentiles as well as Jews” – Keener.

 

And God knew:

  • He would make both of them His people “through Christ” – Keener.

 

In other words, “foreknew” here is:

  • General language about the assurance of God’s mission to create a people for Himself.
  • This is not language about a system of salvation – like T.U.L.I.P.

 

 

Predestined:

What about predestined?

  • Is Paul saying that the method God would use to create a people for Himself would be predestination?
  • In other words, is Paul’s point that God makes Himself a people by predetermining and choosing them beforehand?

 

Again, I think Bird and others have a better handle of this text.

  • “Predestination here is not an absolute decree to elect some and not others…” – Michael Bird.

 

So what is predestined if not the people?

  • The thing that is determined and predestined beforehand is this…
  • Believers will be “…conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

 

In other words, it is both that:

  • Christ is to whom believers will be conformed.
  • Christ is to be the firstborn.
  • Christ, Christ!

 

God will create His people by conforming them to the image of Jesus Christ.

  • And Christ will be the means.
  • These are the things predetermined in verse 29.

 

 

Foreknew and Predestined Wrap-Up:

So the whole point of all this language for Paul is that…

  • God always intended to, is and will “create a Christ-shaped family, a renewed humanity modeled on the Son” – Michael Bird.

 

And in our text, Paul:

  • “…concentrates on that which God planned and purposed for them” – N.T. Wright.
  • The creating them through Christ…not on a method of salvation.

 

As we said earlier:

  • From the very beginning, the Father knew He would have, and connect believers to their future, by way of Jesus Christ!

 

This is why:

  • Going back to our paraphrase of verse 28…
  • “We know that groanings and present sufferings do not negate or thwart God’s purpose of future glory for all believers.”

 

Our future glory doesn’t depend on us.

  • It is God who creates and conforms us to Christ.
  • And we inhabit what God has always known and planned.
  • We “who love God” aren’t left in a vacuum, or to fate and the winds of chance.

 

I love how Robert Jewett sums this verse up:

“Paul’s aim here is not to establish and abstract doctrine of predestination…or to invite ‘reflection on the classic problems of determinism and free will’, but to reassure the vulnerable, harried believers in Rome that their lives and work have significance in the grand plan of God for the restoration of the creation through the recovery of ‘sonship’ by conforming to the image of Christ” – Robert Jewett.

 

So let’s deal with this conforming business.

 

 

Conformed, Image of His Son, Firstborn:

…conformed to the image of his Son,