Tag Archives: grace

Romans 11:1-6 – Grace and Hope for All Israel

Review:

For much of Romans 9 and 10, Paul has painted a very negative view of Israel.

  • Paul’s lament in Romans 9 foreshadows the extent to which Israel has gone astray.
  • Romans 9:2–3 (ESV) — 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

 

The problem?

 

Israel rejected God’s righteousness.

  • Romans 10:3 (ESV) — 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

 

Israel rejected the fulfillment of Moses Circumcision of the Heart Event in the Jesus Event.

  • Romans 10:8–9 (ESV) — 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 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.
  • There was no recognition of the relationship between Moses’ COH event and Jesus…
  • So no confession of Jesus as Lord.

 

Israel rejected the Gospel (which is the Jesus event).

  • Romans 10:16a (ESV) — 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

 

Israel, though they knew and understood, was flat out disobedient and contrary to Yahweh.

  • Romans 10:21 (ESV) — 21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

 

But…Paul didn’t give up on his “kinsmen according to the flesh” (9:3).

  • Romans 10:1 (ESV) — 1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

 

And this leads us into Romans 11.

  • Paul’s hope for Israel.

 

Today we will deal with verses 1-10.

 

Romans 11:1–6 (ESV) — 1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

 

 

Big Picture – Saving Paul From Incoherence:

Does the remnant solve the Israel rejection problem and vindicate God’s promise keeping?

 

Some argue that Paul teaches that the solution to the Israel problem is the remnant.

  • Yes, Israel has rejected Jesus, but God chose a faithful remnant.
  • They are now the true Israel.

 

Paul himself seems to say so:

  • Romans 9:27–28 (ESV) — 27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.”

 

But there is a problem with this view if we are to hold 9-11 together as a unified piece of writing.

  • The problem is that it makes Paul’s argument in Romans 11 incoherent.

 

Why is this so?

  • Romans 11:25–26 (ESV) — 25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel [NOT the remnant obviously], until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

 

I point this out now so that we will keep these two seemingly contradictory ideas in mind.

  • Especially give the fact that verses we just read (1-6)…
  • Seem to heighten the apparent tension highlighted above.
  • And seem to indicate that the remnant DOES solve the Israel rejection problem.

 

For now, however, know that the tension will be dissolved…

  • As I hinted at last week on our primer on grace,
  • By understanding Paul’s take on “the incongruity of the mercy [grace] of God” – John Barclay.
  • More on incongruent grace in a moment.

 

On to the text – verses 1-6.

 

 

Paul’s First Hope – The Remnant By Grace:

John Barclay can get us started.

  • “The first ground for hope for the future of Israel [all Israel] is Paul himself (11:1). Where 9:30-10-21 had spoken of Israel only in negative terms, at least here is one ‘Israelite’ who has submitted to the righteousness of God, and one who (by analogy with Elijah) finds himself in the company of others (11:2-4)…a remnant according to the selection of grace” – Barclay.

 

 

Verse 1:

Romans 11:1 (ESV) — 1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

 

In his usual fashion…

  • Paul asks a rhetorical question and gives his own answer.
  • …has God rejected his people?

 

Who are God’s people?

 

In Romans 9:4-5 Paul is very specific about who he is talking about.

  • 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.

 

And in 9:6, Paul even declares that…

  • All those descended from Abraham’s son Isaac (as opposed to Ishmael) are children of the promise.
  • Paul says, it is “they [who] are counted as offspring” of the patriarch Abraham (9:8).

 

This means, that Paul’s question has in view…

  • Not the remnant…
  • But all Israel.

 

BTW – it would be easier if it were the remnant he was talking about.

 

So, what’s Paul’s answer to his own question?

  • He emphatically denies that God has rejected the Israelites.
  • By no means!” has God rejected Israel.

 

God has not rejected the children of Abraham, the counted offspring.

  • Those for whom Paul laments (9:2-3) and those for whom he prays (10:1).

 

Why does Paul believe this?

 

The first reason he gives to support his conclusion is himself.

  • For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

 

Paul, an Israelite, has not rejected Jesus as Lord – the righteousness of God.

  • Paul’s entire ministry is evidence that God’s incongruent grace is effective.
  • (Remember – we saw last week that perfect grace/gift is one that achieves its intent – it is effective).
  • We’ll see more about incongruent grace in verse 6.

 

 

Verses 2-4:

Romans 11:2–4 (ESV) — 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

 

A second reason, Paul believes God has not rejected Israel is…

  • He sees evidence of God’s incongruent and effective grace at work in the history of Israel.

 

Even in the worst of times, when…

  • Israel was killing its prophets…
  • And demolishing God’s altars…
  • God “kept for” himself 7,000 men “who have not bowed the knee to Baal”.

 

I know what you are thinking.

  • God kept these men because of works – they were loyal.
  • Or, God kept these men because he “graced” them in a special way.
  • Probably not…to both.

 

Paul has already taught that no works or badges of membership secure one’s standing before God.

  • God’s choosing is “incongruent”.
  • It is in spite of one’s worthiness or actions.

 

And if he “graced” them that they then could be loyal…

  • This would, again, put works into the equation.
  • This is not a incongruent grace – an extravagant grace.

 

What Paul is saying here is that just like…

  • God choose Jacob and not Esau.
  • And God choose Isaac and not Ishmael.
  • God chose the 7,000.

 

In fact, the text from which Paul draws, 1 Kings 19:18 says in the MT text:

  • Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel…

 

Their loyalty to God had nothing to do with it.

  • It was all God.

 

If loyalty was the lynchpin to their remnant status…

  • We have another possible inconsistency with God or Paul.

 

Remember, Paul’s described his Israel as, having “a zeal for God” (10:2)…

  • Something that Elijah said of himself – “I have been very jealous for the Lord” (1 Kings 19:14)…

 

So if Elijah was right before God due to his zeal (jealous)…

  • Surely Israel’s zeal would have put them in God’s graces.

 

Why is it important to understand that Paul and the remnant were chosen, not on merit, but only due to God’s incongruent and effective grace?

  • The answer to this question is crucial, as we talked about last week, to how the apparent contradictions in Romans 9-11 are resolved.

 

As John Barclay’s answer:

  • “Paul makes sense of Scripture, of Israel, of the present crisis, of the Gentile mission, and of God’s purposes for the future by finding in all these interlinked phenomena the paradoxical operation of God’s incongruent grace” – John Barclay.
  • We’ll play this out over the coming weeks.

 

 

Verse 5:

Romans 11:5 (ESV) — 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

 

Paul then makes the obvious connection.

  • There was a grace-selected remnant in Elijah’s time.
  • And He and the Jews in the Roman church are evidence of a “present time” grace-selected remnant.
  • Elijah wasn’t alone; Paul is not alone.

 

His point:

  • God’s incongruent and effective grace is still at work in the “present time”.
  • This is important for Paul’s understanding of the fate of “all Israel”.
  • More on this in the coming weeks.

 

 

Verse 6:

Romans 11:6 (ESV) — 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

 

We’ve mentioned effective incongruent grace a number of times.

  • Here Paul confirms for us that it really is…
  • This kind of grace at work in Israel.

 

Why is this so?

 

It can be fleshed out as follows:

  • Paul says the remnant is by grace – “it is by grace”.

 

So the 7,000, Paul and all God’s remnant are a grace-selected remnant.

  • The remnant is “no longer on the basis of works”.

 

Paul then furthers his point with an important deduction.

  • He says, “grace would no longer be grace” if it were “on the basis of works”.
  • In other words, if it were a grace grounded in the worthiness or action of the recipient.

 

And what is a grace that is not “on the basis of works”?

  • It is an incongruent grace.
  • A grace given with no regard for the worthiness of the recipient.

 

All this is simple enough.

 

But there are two things that are curious about verse 6:

  • (1) “no longer
  • (2) “on the basis of

 

 

(1) Does “no longer” mean that God used to dispense grace “on the basis of works”?

  • In other words, on the basis of the worthiness of the recipient?
  • The answer – “No”.

 

Why?

 

We need to see that Paul’s words here are not about different “dispensations” of grace.

  • By that I mean an OT version of grace and a NT version of grace.

 

Schreiner confirms this for us:

  • “In saying that election is ‘no longer’ by works, there is no implication that salvation in the old covenant was by works, for the word οὐκέτι here is logical rather than temporal” – Tom Schreiner.

 

We can also put it like this – Paul is not saying:

  • There used to be a grace-selection based on worthiness (congruent grace)…
  • And now there is a new style of grace-selection that isn’t (incongruent grace).

 

 

The Significance of This:

What is going on here with Paul is…

  • A revolutionary rethinking of how God has always operated in the life of Israel (Barclay).

 

Given Paul’s encounter with Moses’ COH event in the person and work of Jesus…

  • He had to rethink everything…including the nature of God’s grace.

 

John Barclay puts it this way:

  • Paul’s new, post-Christ view of grace, “…is a conviction Paul has reached under the impact of Christ…and the Christ event” – Barclay.

 

Paul has completely up-ended the normal view of grace due to the Jesus event.

In other words…

  • God’s grace-selection has always been on the basis of his incongruent grace.
  • It is the Jew, including Paul, which mistakenly thought it was on the basis of the worthiness.

 

Here are a couple of examples of Paul’s new thinking in action.

 

Example 1:

  • Romans 4:2 (ESV) — 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

 

Abraham was not worthy to be declared righteous.

  • But obviously, Jews thought Abraham was somehow worthy to receive such a declaration.
  • Paul’s new take, “No. Abraham was not chosen because of worth”.

 

Example 2:

  • Romans 9:15–16 (ESV) — 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

 

The Jew thought Israel was somehow worthy.

  • But, none of Israel was worthy – including any remnant.

 

This is why Paul was so clear 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,

 

John Barclay sums up Paul’s revolutionary new view of God’s incongruent grace.

  • “…every practice [works of the law included] is equally insignificant as a criterion for the favor of God” – Barclay.
  • “…the election of God pays no regard to the worth of works: the favor of God that constitutes his people does not correspond to human worth, not even what worth might be identified in their practice” –

 

Doug Moo puts it this way:

  • “For grace demands that God be perfectly free to bestow his favor on whomever he chooses. But if God’s election were based on what human beings do, his freedom would be violated and he would no longer be acting in grace.” – Doug Moo.

 

 

(2) What is “on the basis of” supposed to mean exactly?

  • I ask this question, because this phrase is not in a number of translations.
  • And finding which translation is a better fit will help us better understand what Paul is trying to say.
  • (This is a bonus lesson on Bible translations.)

 

For starters, it is interesting to note that the Greek uses one word where the ESV uses 4.

on the basis of

 

This is why there are differences between the ESV and some other translations:

  • not by their good works” (NLT)
  • no longer by works” (NET, NIV)
  • not by works” (HCSB)

 

Instead of using “on the basis of”…

  • These translations go simply with “by”.

 

So which is better?

  • Which helps us understand Paul better – “on the basis of” or “by”?

 

To help us answer this, we can see from the screen shot that the Greek word is “ek”.

 

The BDAG tells us what “ek” usually means in this context:

  • marker denoting origin, cause, motive, reason” – BDAG.

 

Given this, we can paraphrase verse 6 and get at the meaning of “ek”:

  • The ‘chosen remnant’ did not originate or exist by reason of their works. They originated and exist by reason of God’s incongruent grace.

 

Ok…that’s helpful…so what about “by” and “basis”?

  • Given that “basis” means – “a relation that provides the foundation for something”.
  • And “by” means – “the means of achieving something”.
  • Which of the two translations best captures our paraphrase?

 

My vote:

  • The winner is “on the basis of”.

 

This translation doesn’t pit “grace” against “works”.

  • And so it is in line with what Paul teaches.

 

Paul understands the role and necessity of “works” – the “obedience of faith”.

  • He never throws either the law or Jewish badges of membership under the bus.
  • He understands that God’s people are obligated beneficiaries of God’s grace.

 

By” on the other hand seems to convey an either/or scenario.

  • Which, it seems to me, pits works against grace.

 

 

Conclusion:

Israel may have rejected God…

  • But God has not rejected Israel.

 

Paul can be sure of this because of a remnant:

  • He has confessed Christ.
  • And other “kinsmen of the flesh” have confessed Christ (in the Roman church, e.g.).

 

But even more importantly…

  • Paul has confidence that God’s effective incongruent grace…
  • Which has always been at work in Israel…
  • And which is not dependent upon works (or lack thereof)…
  • Will accomplish what God promised.

 

Next week we’ll see Paul’s second reason to have hope for “all Israel”.

  • And…
  • How the current condition of “all Israel” aligns with the perfect efficacy of God’s grace.

 

Romans 11 – Grace – A Necessary Foundation

An important background element of Romans 11 is Paul’s understanding of grace (Greek – charis).

  • “But wait?” you might ask.
  • It only shows up in two verses.
  • Romans 11:5–6 (ESV) — 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

 

So how can grace be so important to Romans 11?

  • As we move through the chapter…
  • We’ll see that grace is what informs Paul’s understanding of God’s action towards both the Jews and Gentiles.
  • And that grace is how Paul resolves some apparent problems with the current status of Israel.

 

John Barclay puts it like this:

  • For Paul, “…the unconditioned mercy of God to Israel [grace] is the root of his merciful righteousness to the whole world…it is only when [Gentiles] are grafted into this root of God’s incongruous mercy [grace] to Israel [Rom. 11:11-24] that non-Jews will encounter the faithfulness of God” – John Barclay.

 

But, before we can even see how this works out in Romans 11…

  • And what it means for Israel…
  • We need to lay a foundation of grace.

 

 

Grace Defined:

What exactly is grace?

  • (See word study screen)

 

Though helpful, we are going to go well beyond the normal preachers definition:

  • “God’s riches at Christ’s expense”.

 

There are at least (5) common uses of “grace” (Greek – charis) in the New Testament.

  • Especially by Paul.
  • There is overlap, but the distinctions are helpful.

 

(1) God’s “…beneficent disposition toward someone, favor…” – BDAG.

  • Both in the sense of an act of God…
  • And in the sense of the experience of this act of God.

 

Some examples:

  • Luke 2:40 (ESV) — 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
  • Romans 3:24 (ESV) — 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
  • Romans 5:15 (ESV) — 15 But the free gift [grace] 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.
  • Galatians 1:15 (ESV) — 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,
  • Titus 2:11 (ESV) — 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,

 

This is also the sense in which Paul uses grace in many of his letter greetings and endings.

  • Romans 1:7 (ESV) — 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.
  • Romans 16:20 (ESV) — 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

 

 

(2) God’s “…gracious deed/gift…” – BDAG.

  • Which can be described in two ways:
  • (A) The gift as given by God.
  • (B) The gift as possessed by the receiver.

 

Some examples:

  • 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.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:4 (ESV) — 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,

 

 

(3) The “…exceptional effect produced by generosity, favor…which go beyond those [normally] associated with…[one’s] status” – BDAG.

  • In other words, one has something they don’t deserve…
  • And this something enables them function in a community in which they are otherwise not qualified to participate.

 

Some examples:

  • Romans 12:3 (ESV) — 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 (ESV) — 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

 

 

(4) The response to God’s favor or gift – BDAG.

 

Some examples:

  • Romans 6:17 (ESV) — 17 But thanks [charis] 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,
  • Romans 7:25 (ESV) — 25 Thanks [charis] be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:57 (ESV) — 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:15 (ESV) — 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

 

 

(5) The kingdom or realm, which is infused with the effects of God’s favor into which the believer is transferred through Christ.

 

Some examples:

  • 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 6:14 (ESV) — 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
  • Colossians 1:13 (ESV) — 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

 

These definitions of grace help flesh out what is going on in Romans generally…

  • What Paul is trying to say in Romans 9-11 as a whole…
  • And what Paul is finally getting at in Romans 11 specifically.

 

We’ll unpack that in the coming weeks.

  • For now we need to make some “grace” corrections.

 

 

What We Get Wrong About Grace (John Barclay):

If we think of “grace” as “gift” (definition 2 above), what characterizes the best, perfect, or most excellent kind of gift?

 

(1) Typically, we think that the best kind of gift is…

  • A lavish, underserved gift…
  • One that has no expectation of return or obligation from the gift giver.
  • In other words, a gift with no strings attached.

 

This idea of the perfect gift is what Barclay calls non-circularity.

  • It is a gift given, as we just saw, “outside the circle of obligation” – Barclay.

 

The problem is that this is a thoroughly modern idea of the perfect “gift” or “grace” (Barclay).

  • This idea wasn’t common in antiquity (Barclay).

 

(2) A second answer we might give is what Barclay calls “singularity”.

  • This is a gift/grace that is all kindness and benevolence, and is not mitigated by judgment.
  • The idea here is that “God is a pure giver – he gives and only gives” – Barclay.
  • So He does not judge, or show wrath, only grace.

 

Both of these false ideas of the perfect grace/gift will distort “charis” as found in the Bible generally and Paul specifically.

 

So how do we correct these wrong views of Paul’s use of grace?

 

 

A Grace Correction (Barclay):

An often-overlooked aspect of grace/gift (charis) as understood in Paul…

  • Is that grace (charis) was freighted with meaning from the “Greco-Roman reciprocity system” – BDAG.

 

What does this mean – this idea of reciprocity?

  • Concerning Paul’s use of “grace”, the idea here is that God’s gift or favor…
  • Creates both a relationship and an obligation with the receiver/s (Barclay & BDAG).

 

In other words, God’s grace creates a community of obligated beneficiaries.

  • It is underserved, but it is not one way!
  • The gift is free, but only as in “underserved” not as in “without obligation”.

 

Paul speaks of this idea:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 (ESV) — 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

 

John Barclay puts it like this:

  • Grace in Paul’s cultural context has two aspects:
  • (1) God’ role – It “denotes the sphere of voluntary, personal relations, characterized by goodwill in the giving of benefit or favor…” by God.
  • (2) The believing community’s role – And then “elicits some form of reciprocal return that is both voluntary and necessary for the continuation of the relationship” – John Barclay.
  • (Tennis racket/ball analogy).

 

So this idea serves as a corrective to modern ideas that we import into the NT usage of grace…

  • Ideas that simply are not in the text.

 

And all five of our previous definitions of grace…

  • Reside somewhere in the two aspects of grace Barclay just described.

 

But the question arises:

  • What was the perfect “grace” or “gift” in Paul’s context?

 

 

Barclay’s Perfect Grace/Gift Taxonomy (Modified):

There are at least 4 features of “charis” that made it “perfect” within Paul’s writings.

 

(1) Superabundance

  • A gift/grace that is huge, lavish, or extravagant.
  • For example, this would be Christ.
  • And… 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.

 

(2) Priority

  • A gift/grace initiated before the receiver even has a conception that the gift/grace is possible.
  • Acts 9:15 (ESV) — 15 But the Lord said to him [Ananias], “Go, for he [Paul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

 

(3) Incongruity

  • A gift/grace that is utterly and completely underserved by the recipient.
  • Deuteronomy 7:6–7 (ESV) — 6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
  • 1 Timothy 1:13–15 (ESV) — 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy [act of grace] because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

 

(4) Efficacy

  • A gift/grace that achieves its purposes – it is fully effective.
  • For example, the gift of covenant and inheritance to Israel must accomplish what God said it would for Israel or else something has gone horribly wrong.
  • Romans 9-11 is Paul hashing this very thing out.

 

John Barclay has three fantastic quotes that touch on this (4th) perfection of grace/gift.

  • “If Paul cannot make sense of what is happening to Israel through the Christ-event, he cannot make sense of history, Scripture, or Christ at all” – John Barclay.
  • For Paul, “…without the salvation of Israel the history of the world would make no sense at all” – John Barclay.
  • “It is clear that Paul [makes] sense of his life only in context of God’s promises to Israel” – John Barclay.

 

And Paul has good reason to think like this:

  • Deuteronomy 7:8–9 (ESV) — 8b …the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

 

These ideas capture beautifully why we said at the beginning…

  • Paul’s ideas of grace are crucial to understanding what he’s saying and resolving in Romans 11.

 

 

Grace in Which We Stand – Part 4

Review:

Last week we answered two questions.

  • Why do Christians who stand in God’s grace still sin?
  • Is God sovereign over our sin? Is our sin outside of God’s purposes?
  • Our aim, ultimately, to continue exposing how our works baggage obscures the peace, joy and freedom God’s extravagant grace brings to the believer.

 

We located the answer to the first question in the nature of God’s Kingdom.

  • It is a now and not yet Kingdom.
  • “The kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet consummated” – Trevin Wax.

 

Quite simply, the inaugurated kingdom contains things the not yet consummated kingdom will not contain.

  • One of those things is the presence of sin in believers.
  • In the “now” kingdom, we will continue to sin.
  • We are free from sin’s dominion (the “now” kingdom), but not free from its presence (yet to come kingdom).

 

Tom Schreiner put it as follows:

“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. The struggle with sin continues for believers because we live in the tension between the already and the not yet” – Tom Schreiner.

 

We answered the second question as follows:

  • Though we are delivered from the power of sin, God leaves us “with a sinful nature that will wage war against our new nature for the remainder of our lives” – Barbara Duguid.

 

Why?

“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.

 

We then located the reason for this view in two Scriptural examples.

 

(1) Paul speaks of one such example:

  • Romans 5:20 (ESV) — 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

 

N.T. Wright teases Paul’s point out for us.

  • “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?” – N.T. Wright.
  • Answer – to deal with sin once for all in Jesus, Israel’s Messiah.

 

(2) Jesus speaks of another example of permitting sin for His glory.

  • 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.

 

Why did Jesus not protect Peter from the presence of sin, even allowing Satan to tempt Peter to sin?

 

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 won’t fail him], strengthen your brothers.”
  • The path to Peter’s usefulness was through sin and the recognition of his weakness and Jesus’ strength.

 

Today we answer the final question.

  • The one we have been aiming at the last few weeks.
  • How do we live in the Extravagant Grace in which we stand?

 

 

Letting God’s Extravagant Grace Run Wild:

Our aim over the last few weeks was to recognize that we stand in God’s Extravagant Grace – even in our sin.

  • Hopefully this alone has allowed the grace in which we stand to begin to run wild.

 

Why?

  • We have identified how our works baggage clouds our view of God’s grace.
  • We have seen that we can’t not sin in the now Kingdom.
  • We have seen that God is sovereign over our sin.
  • We have seen that, therefore, our sin is not outside of God’s purposes.
  • We have seen that He actually uses it to mature us, grow our dependence, and all to His glory.

 

But there is one more thing we need to address.

  • It might be that our view of obedience hinders God’s grace.

 

How does the freedom God’s Extravagant Grace provides relate to the call to obedience?

  • Doesn’t the idea of obedience lead us back to our works baggage and religion?
  • Isn’t obedience (or better yet – sin killing) a “work”?
  • The answers are found in a grace-filled view of obedience.

 

 

Called to Obey:

First, there can be no doubt that God calls us to obedience – to kill sin.

  • John 14:15 (ESV) — 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
  • 1 John 2:3 (ESV) — 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.

 

Our natural inclination is to respond to this call of obedience with lists and will power – works baggage.

  • We incorrectly see this call to obey as a responsibility dumped on us.
    • Maybe forgetting that it is “God who works in us…”.
  • The weight of the obedience dump leads to frustration and despair.
  • But we are to despair and hate sin – not obedience.

 

We need a grace filled view of obedience.

  • To that end, we need to take a look at something about the obedience that Jesus wants.

 

 

What is a Grace view of Obedience?

The Greek word “obey” (hypakouo) carries with it the idea of to “follow” or “be subject to” – BDAG.

  • In other words, to be obedient is to “follow” Christ and “be subject” to Him.

 

This certainly involves individual acts of obedience on our part (outward conformity).

  • But the “following” and “subjugation” is way more than a mere act of obedience on our part.
  • They come out of something altogether different.
  • To leave it there is to be stuck in our “works” baggage.

 

The “following” and “subjugation” are a result of the belief that comes with a regenerated heart (inward conformity).

  • Obedience, fundamentally, then is tied to our faith/belief – our inward conformity – something we have nothing to do with.
  • And by extension, tied to the place in which our faith/belief places us.
  • That place – Paul’s, “the grace in which we stand”.

 

Scriptural Examples of this Obedience:

(1) Hebrews 5:9 (ESV) — 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

  • Are we saved by our obedience?
  • Absolutely not!
  • We are saved by believing and being positionally in Christ.
  • We are saved by His obedience.

 

(2) 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.

  • John treats belief and obedience as synonyms here.
  • It is not the “obeyer” that has eternal life but the “believer” (inward conformity of the heart).
  • So, likewise, it is not the one whose acts are disobedient [I have plenty of that] that is under God’s wrath, but the unbeliever whose disobedience issues forth outside of Christ.

 

Obedience even has connotations of to “hear” and to “answer a knock at the door” – BDAG.

  • Revelation 3:20 (ESV) — 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
    • Who hears the voice of Jesus?
    • Those drawn by the Spirit with reborn hearts (inward conformity) or those who have obedient actions (outward conformity)?
  • Mark 4:23 (ESV) — 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
    • Who hears?
  • Romans 11:8 (ESV) — 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”
    • Who doesn’t hear?

 

And look at what Paul says about what he remarkably calls the “obedience of faith”.

  • Romans 1:5 (ESV) — 5 through whom [Jesus] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
  • Romans 16:26 (ESV) — 26 but has now been disclosed [the Gospel and preaching of Jesus Christ] and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith
  • Obedience of faith are his bookends to Romans.

 

It will also help us to know this:

  • “Obey” appears in the NT 33 times.
  • “Grace” appears 124 times.

 

So a grace filled, biblical view of obedience is, firstly, the inward conformity of the heart.

  • A heart that has been given ears to hear.
  • A heart that has been reborn by the Spirit.
  • A heart that, therefore, lives in subjugation to Christ and His authority – in His now Kingdom.
  • A heart that is justified by being in Christ and in His obedience.
  • A heart that lives in the “grace in which we stand” – a new realm, a new position, a new status.

 

 

The Point:

We have a man-centered, self-powered, “works” view of obedience.

  • As such, we think the Gospel somehow requires our obedience for it to work for us.
  • We think that, “…the willingness and strength to stand in obedience come from our own diligence and hard work as we walk through life” – Barbara Duguid.
    • Remember, it is God who works in us to will and to act – Phil. 2.
  • This is works – this is religion.

 

And this wrong view of obedience even skews the value of our obedience.

  • We brashly think that even our obedient acts (“outward conformity to his will”) are without sin.
  • This is a deadly, overly optimistic, man-centered view of obedience.

 

Why?

“Obedience is tricky business and can be confusing to us. We can be obedient outwardly while sinning wildly on the inside, as the example of the Pharisees makes clear” – Barbara Duguid.

  • In fact, “[Our] outward obedience can become the framework and context for [our] inward sin” – Duguid.
    • Discuss examples.

 

Even our good deeds are seasoned with sin and selfish motives!

  • Even our obedient acts are stained by sin.
  • “In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience” – Heidelberg Catechism 114.

 

 

So Even in Our Obedience We Need Grace:

Barbara Duguid puts it like this:

“Christians thus face a seriously disturbing predicament: when we are most successful in obeying God, we so often also hear that whisper of self-exaltation and superiority. We cannot escape it. If this is true of us even in our best moments, what hope is there for us in the race toward true holiness that changes us inside and out?” – Barbara Duguid.

  • And in the pursuit of obedience, “Our problem is extensive and hopeless, for we don’t just need a moderately clean record; we need a history of perfect goodness in order to meet the demands of God’s laws” – Barbara Duguid.

 

And speaking of the older son from the Prodigal Son parable:

“There is a sobering warning to the most earnest Christians here: you may actually sin more profoundly in all of your obedience than others do in their rebellion, and you may be the one who misses the party of grace because you don’t want to go in if those ‘sinners’ are there” – Barbara Duguid.

 

BUT…

  • Obedience is not just an individual act of conformity on our part – it is way bigger than that.
  • It is something we are placed into by our Union with Christ.
  • Our attempts at obedience don’t lead to grace – it is the other way around!
  • “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.
  • Through Christ’s obedience it is possible to, by grace, already be obedient in Christ and be free to act in obedience at the same time!

 

 

The Result – Living in God’s Extravagant Grace:

When we understand God’s grace…

  • Understand our sin is not outside God’s purposes…
  • Understand that even our obedience is full of sin…
  • We come to deeply understand our need for Christ and His perfect obedience.
  • And our hearts are stirred to desire outward conformity – to obey.
  • Knowing that even in our disobedience, in Christ, we are found obedient.

 

All of this should set us free to pursue obedience in the grace of God.

“This new understanding did not make me want to sin more. On the contrary, it stirred my heart to want to obey” – Barbara Duguid.

There is no sin killing by works and religion.

  • Sin killing is on God’s time and by His power.
  • Works are on our time and our power – useless.
  • Sin killing comes when we go deeper and deeper into God’s extravagant grace.
  • God’s grace and Spirit power our sin killing – not our works.

 

In fact, the world can change a person’s behavior through all sorts of counseling techniques.

  • But this is merely outward conformity.
  • It is religion.
  • It is works.

 

God wants to shape our hearts into the image of Christ.

  • God wants inward conformity.
  • This requires us being joined to Christ’s obedience.
  • This requires that we be placed in “the grace in which we stand”.

 

 

Conclusion:

Some of our deepest struggles with obedience and sin come from not properly grasping God’s grace.

“You don’t know who you are. You have a real status change. It’s really there. It’s not just in your mind. It’s not just symbolic. It really happened, and yet you don’t know who you are. That’s why it takes so long” to grow in obedience and sin killing – Tim Keller.

  • “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” – Wright.

 

But in your sin and failure to obey, know this…

“If you are united with Christ today, the number of sins you will commit in your lifetime is a finite number, and they were all paid for in full before you emerged howling from your mother’s womb” – Barbara Duguid.

 

And this…

“If 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

 

 

Grace in Which We Stand – Part 3

Review:

Over the past few weeks we have learned about God’s grace…

  • And how our works baggage obscures the peace, joy and freedom it can bring.

 

Specifically, we saw God’s grace as five things.

  • (1) Grace is God turning.
  • (2) Grace is God giving.
  • (3) Grace is God acting.
  • (4) Grace is God placing.
  • (5) Grace is God’s specific disposition toward those in Christ.

 

We noted that everything the believer does is within the context of this “grace in which we stand”, this extravagant grace – even our sin.

  • This fact has massive implications for the Christian life.

 

In an attempt to reveal the peace, joy and freedom…

  • As well as unearth the massive implications of living – and even sinning – within God’s grace…
  • We raised two questions concerning our sin and God’s grace.

 

(1) If the Spirit indwells us, and we are new creations being sanctified in Christ, why do we sin?

  • Is our sin outside God’s sovereignty and purposes?

 

(2) How can we grow in “the grace in which we stand” – to let it run wild – even in the midst of our sin?

 

Leaving question two for next week, we began to tackle question one.

  • We saw that question one revealed a couple of apparent disconnects between God and our sin.
  • Specifically, two disconnects that come with a “religious” view of sin.

 

The disconnects were:

(1) The presence of sin in the believer seems to be problematic in a similar way that the presence of evil in God’s good creation is problematic.

  • In other words, how does sin live in us if we are dead to sin and alive to Christ.
  • Paul says of us, “…we who died to sin” – Romans 6:2.
  • Something dead – in this case sin – has no life.
  • Yet we know full well that sin is alive in us.
    • How then is sin really dead in us?

 

(2) Moreover, if God is a good and holy, and resides in us through the Spirit, how does sin still reside in us?

  • So like the problem of evil, sin in the believer seems to discount the power and sovereignty of God.
  • We are indwelled and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
  • We are in Christ.
  • We participate in the fellowship of the Trinity.
  • So not only are we dead to sin, but we are new creatures with new hearts.
  • And yet, none of this seems powerful enough to rid us of the presence of sin.

 

To answer question one and address the disconnects…

  • We had to reveal and begin to cast off our works baggage.
  • Our natural inclination to be religious.
  • Our desire to “works” our way to God’s approval.
  • And to do this we had to understand Paul’s view of sin and take God’s grace as far as he does.

 

We bring misconceptions – religious/“works” based ones – to Paul and to our view of our sin.

  • Paul, in romans 6:1-11, speaks in the indicative vs. the imperative.
  • He is telling us what has been done for us, not what we are to do.
  • He is not giving us a grace contingent upon works.

 

The done work is that sin’s dominion is defeated for those in Christ.

  • We are now slaves to righteousness, not to sin.
  • Yet, sin’s presence in us is not yet vanquished – (see Romans 7).
  • We cannot not sin this side of glorification.

 

As Thomas Schreiner says:

“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.

 

Having exposed our works baggage…

  • Our natural inclinations to be religious…
  • Our resistance to let grace run wild…
  • And taken grace as far as Paul…

 

We can finally answer number 1 – why we still sin – and address the two disconnects – sin is dead but we still sin & God’s sovereignty over our sin.

 

 

Now and Not Yet Saints Who Sin:

So why do those in Christ still sin?

  • It has to do with the nature of God’s kingdom.

 

We live in a kingdom that is both now and not yet.

  • “The kingdom has come according to Matthew 12:28 and Luke 17:21; and the coming of the kingdom is still future according to Luke 19:11–12 and many other texts” – John Piper.
  • “The kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet consummated” – Trevin Wax.
  • “The Kingdom is a present reality (Matt. 12: 28), and yet it is a future blessing (I Cor. 15: 50)” – George Ladd.

 

Quite simply, the inaugurated kingdom contains things the not yet consummated kingdom will not contain.

  • One of those things is the presence of sin in believers.
  • In the “now” kingdom, we will continue to sin.

 

Romans scholars put it as follows:

“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. The struggle with sin continues for believers because we live in the tension between the already and the not yet” – Tom Schreiner.

  • “What we were ‘in Adam’ is no more; but, until heaven, the temptation to live in Adam always remains” – Doug Moo.
  • “Complete deliverance from sin is not available for Christians until the day of redemption. Christians, precisely because they have not yet experienced full liberation from sin, are conscious of the continuing presence of sin in their lives” – Tom Schreiner.
  • “Since believers have not yet experienced the consummation of their redemption, they are keenly aware of their inherent inability to keep God’s law” – Thomas Schreiner.

 

This is why Paul says we will struggle against the temptation to “gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5).

  • This is why Paul says the following:
  • Romans 7:17–18 (ESV) — 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 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.
  • And John says, 1 John 2:1 (ESV) — 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

 

And Jesus spoke of a future delivery from the presence of sin.

  • Matthew 13:41 (ESV) — 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers,

 

This explains why we still sin even though we live in a new realm of Grace, in Union with Christ, and have a new nature.

  • We are free from sin’s dominion (the “now” kingdom), but not free from its presence (yet to come kingdom).

 

George Ladd sums it up beautifully:

“The old age is going on, yet men may already enjoy the powers of The Age to Come. The kingdom of Satan still stands, but the Kingdom of God has invaded the kingdom of Satan. Men and women may now be delivered from this power, delivered from this bondage, delivered from the mastery of sin and death [Paul’s indicatives of Romans 6]. This deliverance is accomplished because the power of the future Kingdom of glory [Paul’s indicatives of Romans 6] has come among men in a secret, quiet form to work in their midst” – George Ladd.

 

We will give Paul the last word:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:4 (ESV) — 4 For while we are still in this tent [non-resurrection body], we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed [resurrection body], so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
  • Sin and death will be swallowed up forever in the age to come!

 

 

God’s Sovereignty – Our Sin:

Now, having understood the reasons why believers still sin…

  • We can address the issue of God’s sovereignty over our sin.
  • Does God lack the ability to purge us from the presence of sin in the “now” Kingdom of God?
  • Is our sin outside of God’s purposes?
  • Certainly not.

 

It is here, therefore, that the scandal of the Gospel and the extravagance of God’s grace are glaring.

  • God’s sovereignty demands that we admit that He allows the presence of sin to remain in us.
  • Yet, understand that He gives us the grace to kill specific sin as He sees fit.
    • More on this next week.

 

Barbara Duguid explains:

Though we are delivered from the power of sin, God leaves us “with a sinful nature that will wage war against our new nature for the remainder of our lives” – Barbara Duguid.

 

And here is the kicker:

“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.

 

That God chooses to permit sin to accomplish His purposes can be seen in at least two examples.

 

(1) Paul speaks of one such example:

  • Romans 5:20 (ESV) — 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

 

N.T. Wright teases Paul’s point out for us.

“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?” – N.T. Wright.

 

Wright says:

  • “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” – N.T. Wright.

 

Why would God do this?

  • “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” – N.T. Wright.
  • 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,
  • Galatians 3:22 (ESV) — 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

 

God allowed sin so He could kill its power in Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection.

  • And shower “those who believe” with the promise of faith in Jesus Christ!
  • This is grace – God acting!

 

The result:

  • 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.
  • We now live in God’s extravagant grace – even when we sin.

 

(2) Jesus speaks of another example of permitting sin for His glory.

  • 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.

 

Jesus has made it clear that, at the request of Satan, Peter will be tempted and fall into sin.

  • Incredibly, Satan’s request was to whom?
  • God allowed this to happen.

 

And notice something remarkable.

“Notice too that when Jesus prayed for Peter, he did not pray that he wouldn’t sin. Instead Jesus prayed that after Peter had sinned, his faith would not fail him…” – Barbara Duguid.

 

There is something significant going on here.

  • Why would Jesus allow this to happen?
  • Why wouldn’t he protect Peter from the presence of sin?

 

Peter had a pride and humility problem.

  • Problems that had to be addressed that Peter might be able to accomplish what God had in store for him.

 

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.

  • 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.
  • It was certainly a terrible sin for Peter to lie and abandon the precious Lamb of God in his hour of greatest suffering, yet God would once again use something that he hated to accomplish something that he loved” – Barbara Duguid.

 

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 won’t fail him], strengthen your brothers.”

 

Barbara Duguid spells it our for us:

“God had big plans to use Peter in a dramatic way to build his church, but Peter wasn’t yet ready. He was too proud, too rash, too sure of himself, and far too abrasive and arrogant to minister gently and lovingly to weak and sinful sheep. He thought he was better than the rest of the disciples, declaring, “Lord, even if everyone else leaves you, I will never leave you!” (see Matt. 26:33). Peter needed to know his own sinfulness and need before he could care for God’s flock with gentleness and humility” – Barbara Duguid.

 

BTW – Importantly, there was one other incredibly important thing Peter needed to learn.

  • And it was this…
  • Though Peter denied Christ and sinned, Christ never rejected him in his sin!
  • This truth (along with the Holy Spirit) empowers the Christian walk beyond measure.

 

How do we know Peter grasped this important truth?

  • 1 Peter 1:3–7 (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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith [even when we deny Christ in a courtyard] for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials [including being turned over to Satan], 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

 

 

Summary:

So believers still sin and God is sovereign over our sin.

  • These two truths are inseparable.
  • In fact God’s sovereignty over our sin demonstrates that the question “why do we sin” is the wrong question to ask.
  • The better question may be, “what is the purpose of our God ordained sin?”.
  • The story of Jesus and Peter has given us a clue.

 

Barbara Duguid sets up the answer and next week’s lesson.

“If you believe that God is completely sovereign over your sin and is always using it for your own good to teach you more about yourself and more of his grace, then you are free to hate your sin but love what God is doing through it” – Barbara Duguid.

 

Next week we should finish up and will deal with…

  • How we live in and embrace “the grace in which we stand”.
  • How we let God’s extravagant grace run wild…
  • Especially in the midst of our sin.

 

 

Grace in Which We Stand – Part 2

We have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand – Romans 5:2.

  • We saw last week what this grace is.

 

 

Review:

(1) Grace is God turning.

  • Grace “is always God’s turning to those who not only do not deserve this favour, but have deserved the very opposite” – Karl Barth.
  • 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.
  • The wrath is what we deserve.

 

(2) Grace is God giving.

  • And it is God giving “nothing less than himself” – Michael Horton.
  • 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.

 

(3) Grace is God acting.

  • It is “Jesus Christ in redeeming action” – Michael Horton.
  • Matthew 26:38–39 (ESV) — 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
  • It is the “unconstrained manner in which God acts toward his creatures” – Douglas Moo.
  • Drinking the cup of wrath is a “redeeming action” of Jesus Christ.
  • As well as just about everything from His incarnation, to His crucifixion, to His Resurrection.

 

(4) Grace is God placing.

  • It is God placing us in “the realm in which grace reigns” – Douglas Moo.
  • This realm has eschatological implications.
  • Acts 20:32 (ESV) — 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

 

(5) Grace is God’s disposition.

  • It is God’s beneficent disposition to the elect – BDAG.
  • Beneficent – “conferring benefits” upon.
  • 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.

 

We noted that everything the believer does is within the context of this “grace in which we stand”, this extravagant grace – even our sin.

  • But we obscure much of the joy, hope and freedom this grace brings.
  • The obscuring coming from things like bad “legalistic-too-much-law” teaching, and personal or cultural baggage – like performance equals approval.

 

This baggage has unfortunate consequences in the believer’s life.

  • We pull back on the reins of God’s extravagant grace, as if afraid to let it run wild in our lives.

 

Barbara Duguid describes the consequences this way:

“Everywhere I go I meet Christians who are depressed, anxious, and discouraged because they still sin…Every now and then they attend a retreat or hear a sermon, and with renewed energy and determination, they make a plan to beat this sin once and for all. They pray and fast, they memorize Scripture and attend accountability groups, they write in journals [will-power sin fighting]. For a while, it seems to work and things get better. But before long, their old sin creeps back in and once again wins the day. Only now it is even worse than before. Now discouragement wells up like a tsunami of shame as hope of real change is shattered once again” – Barbara Duguid.

 

This picture of the Christian life is not the one Paul describes in Romans and elsewhere.

  • When God’s grace runs wild – even in our sin – the joy, hope and freedom it brings is ours for the taking.
  • We never sin outside of God’s extravagant grace!
  • Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” – 2 Cor. 3:17.

 

All of this raises two important questions.

 

(1) If the Spirit indwells us, and we are new creations being sanctified in Christ, why do we sin?

  • Is our sin outside God’s sovereignty and purposes?
  • Jesus tells the women at the well to “go and sin no more”.
  • And Paul says things like, “the old self was crucified” that we might be “no longer enslaved to sin”.
  • And that we “have become slaves of righteousness” and are not longer slaves to sin.

 

(2) How can we grow in “the grace in which we stand” – to let it run wild – even in the midst of our sin?

  • For as we saw, even our sin is within the context of God’s extravagant grace.
  • “Perhaps our greatest problem is not the reality of our sin, but our unbiblical expectations of what Christian growth should look like [the baggage]. What if growing in grace is more about humility, dependence, and exalting Christ than it is about defeating sin?” – Barbara Duguid.

 

Today I want to provide the background to answer question number one.

 

 

Framing Question One:

It is hard to let God’s grace run wild when we misunderstand our sin and God’s grace.

  • We need to Biblically understand our relationship to sin.
  • We need to cast off some “works” baggage.
  • We need to dispel any notion that we can stop sinning (before our glorification).
    • In contrast to holiness denominations like Nazarenes.
  • We need to take grace as far as Paul does – where he asks, “are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
    • This is the grace that runs wild!

 

So question one…If the Spirit indwells us, and we are new creations being sanctified in Christ, why do we sin? Is our sin outside God’s sovereignty?

  • These questions highlight an apparent disconnect between who we are and what we do.
  • They do so in at least two ways.

 

(1) The presence of sin in the believer seems to be problematic in a similar way that the presence of evil in God’s good creation is problematic.

  • In other words, how does sin live in us if we are dead to sin and alive to Christ.
  • Paul says of us, “…we who died to sin” – Romans 6:2.
  • Something dead – in this case sin – has no life.
  • Yet we know full well that sin is alive in us.
    • How then is sin really dead in us?

 

(2) Moreover, if God is a good and holy, and resides in us through the Spirit, how does sin still reside in us?

  • So like the problem of evil, sin in the believer seems to discount the power and sovereignty of God.
  • We are indwelled and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
  • We are in Christ.
  • We participate in the fellowship of the Trinity.
  • So not only are we dead to sin, but we are new creatures with new hearts.
  • And yet, none of this seems powerful enough to rid us of the presence of sin.

 

So to answer our question, we need to address both of these problems.

  • The way to answer our question and address both of these problems is to…
  • Understand Paul in Romans 5-7 through the lens of God’s extravagant grace
  • And thereby cast off the works/performance baggage that obscures it.

 

 

Indicative vs. Imperative – Casting off Works Baggage:

Let’s expose our “works” baggage.

  • Romans 6:1–2 (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?
  • Romans 6:6–7 (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.

 

How do we typically apply the above verses?

  • What do they appear to teach?
  • Especially in light of what Jesus said to the women at the well – “go and sin no more”.
  • It looks like he is saying grace calls us to works – to not sin.

 

Paul goes on to apply his verses for us:

  • Romans 6:12–15 (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.

 

What do we make of his application?

  • What does he seem to be saying?
  • Is he agreeing with our “works” baggage or overturning it?
  • Again, it looks like he is saying that those standing in grace are called to works – to not sin.

 

In order to make sure we don’t misinterpret these verses…

  • We need to consider a distinction Paul makes throughout Romans.

 

Paul is teaching the outworking and implications of the Gospel for believers.

  • He is telling us what has been “done” – the indicative – by Christ’s work (death, burial, resurrection).
  • And he is telling us what this “done” work of Christ means for us.
  • He is not giving us a Christian version of the law to follow!
  • He is not giving us a to do list.

 

We need to unpack this just a bit.

 

N.T. Wright frames it this way:

  • He says Paul is taking the story of the Exodus from the bondage of Egypt…
  • Israel’s receiving of the law at Sinai in the Mosaic covenant…
  • Their passing through the waters of the Red Sea and Jordan to the Promised Land.
  • And is retelling the story around the new Moses – Jesus Christ!

 

He says the new story is this:

“Romans 6 describes how Christians come through the water of baptism [the Red Sea and Jordan River] and thus leave behind the land of slavery and enter upon a new freedom (like leaving Egypt and setting off for the promised land)” – N.T. Wright.

 

This is the grace in which we now walk.

  • It is a total change in the realm in which we live!
  • In Christ we have left the wilderness and come back into the Garden – back into the Promised Land.
  • We are there and remain there whether we sin or not.
  • It is not a conditional covenant!

 

So Romans 6 is not about Paul giving us marching orders; it is about the new realm of grace in which we stand.

  • Romans 5:2 (ESV) — 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand [Eden and the Promised Land in Christ], and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
  • 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.
  • For sin will have no dominion over you [the wilderness], since you are not under law but under grace” – Romans 6:14.

 

Romans scholars put it like this:

“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.

  • “…In becoming a Christian you move from one type of humanity to the other [law/wilderness to grace/promised land], and you should never think of yourself in the original mode again” – N.T. Wright.
  • “Grace does not simply involve forgiveness of sins; it also involves a transfer of lordship, so that believers are no longer under the tyranny of sin [the law and the wilderness]” – Tom Schreiner.
  • “What has been shattered is not the presence of sin but the mastery of sin over believers” – Tom Schreiner.

 

We have been planted in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and have a new status in Christ so we are no longer growing in religion, the law, sin and works but in Christ – N.T. Wright.

  • And importantly, “It is impossible to go back to Egypt” – N.T. Wright.
  • Even in our sin!

 

So sin is really dead in us.

  • Because we are not in ourselves anymore, but in Christ, in the new realm, in the Promised Land, in God’s extravagant grace.
  • In this place, sin’s dominion is dead.
  • With respect to sin we, “are free from its power, tyranny, mastery, and dominion” – Tom Schreiner.

 

This is why salvation is not by works.

  • This is why the Gospel is good news!
  • This is why the Gospel is so scandalous.

 

This is why when the Gospel is rightly taught people think we are casting off moral restraint and that we are antinomian (against the law).

“This is, once more, a charge he must have met quite often, not least from Jews and Jewish Christians who, on hearing that he regarded Christians as free from the law [works/Sinai/wilderness], worried quite naturally that they would cast off all moral restraint” – N.T. Wright.

 

As James Boice points out, this fear is “the argument of religious people”.

  • It is the argument brought by those who are carrying works/law baggage.
  • It is not the argument of from those basking in God’s extravagant grace.

 

Next week we will answer the two questions we raised and address the disconnects we observed.