When we think of the apostle Paul, most would think of a great man of faith. He was someone who put God first in his life and tried his best to live the life he called on others to live, a life worthy of the calling we have in Jesus. But as he begins his first letter to Timothy we get a different view of Paul, one which is his view of himself. Continue reading “Mercy and grace”
Likewise you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you (1 Peter 5:5, 6 ESV).
Pride and selfishness are the besetting sins of mankind. Always lurking nearby, ready with an enticing word that plays to our vanity and to our self-importance. Many have fallen victim to the siren song of self. Few find the strength to resist.
The answer to these sins is pure love exhibited in humility. Augustine is reported to have said, “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues, hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist, there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” Continue reading “Humility now, exaltation later”
We were dead. What a statement to make about anyone! But before Jesus entered our lives, we were dead. Notice what Paul wrote about this:
“And although you were dead in your offenses and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the domain of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest” (Ephesians 2:1-3 NET)
Without Jesus, people are going the wrong way. Without Jesus we can’t end up having eternity with God. We can’t get there if we are going the wrong way. Continue reading “We are alive in Jesus”
If you give freely and generously of your time and money, what can you expect to receive in return? Should you expect anything at all?
One of the popular doctrines shared widely on television teaches that if you sow a gift (i.e., give money to a “ministry”) you will reap far more more money in return. Is that our hope?
Jesus does teach that if we give ourselves to him that the basic needs in life will be met (Matthew 6:25-34). But what of comfort and riches? If we give money to God should we expect more in return? The real story of giving and receiving is far richer, far deeper, and far more meaningful.
Sin. It doesn’t matter who we are or where we are from. All humans struggle with sin. It doesn’t even matter when we are living (although most seem to always think that it is worse now than it has ever been). David wrote about this in Psalm 14 and Paul quoted it in his letter to the Christians in Rome.
“There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
Although we might not like this applied to us, deep down we know that too often we wander after sin and do not seek God. If the truth be told, we often seek sin and ignore God. When it comes to wanting what we desire, most choose sin. As David went on to say, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). Continue reading “The problem of sin”
I remember an occasion when a person quoted, “there should be no division in the body” (1 Corinthians 12:25) as evidence that small groups are unbiblical. We recognize, however, that with these words Paul affirmed the need for spiritual cohesiveness, not geographical unity. Accordingly, we rightfully reject the misappropriation of this verse to condemn the practice of groups meeting in various locations.
This realization should also cause us to recognize a general interpretation principle. It is a principle we need to remember when considering what it means for Christians to be saved by grace, as well as what it means to live under grace. Continue reading “Gravity of Grace: concluding suggestions”
Previously, Paul had announced he was not ashamed of the gospel because it is God’s power to save all those who believe, whether Jew or Greek. Furthermore, he asserted that this gospel reveals God’s righteousness. Subsequently, Paul proceeded to demonstrate God is righteous whether it be in judging people or how God justifies people “from faith to faith.” Chapter 8 ended with a crescendo emphasizing the security and confidence those in Christ possess.
Ironically, Paul begins to address the ramifications of this gospel that had elevated God’s fairness in making “no distinction” (Rom. 3:22,29; 4:16). If the Law cannot provide life or if ethnic Israel is not coextensive with God’s people, has God’s word failed? It is toward hard questions such as these that Paul now turns. Continue reading “Gravity of grace (5): Overview of Romans 9-11”
Nicole should have a bumper sticker that reads, “I brake for interesting vegetation.” Well, so many of my friends need that phrase emblazoned on their vehicles! Many of us carry digging tools in our cars for “emergencies” such as finding an unusual plant in a neglected area, sometimes about to be bulldozed over.
It should be stated here as a disclaimer that neither Nicole nor I would knowingly dig a protected species of flower just so we could cultivate it in our own gardens, but there is such a thing as a bona fide “plant rescue.” Then there are the times when we couldn’t resist a wonderful roadside “weed” that was in large supply.
That was the case when we came upon a beautiful stand of what we tentatively identified as Rudbeckia Laciniata, or Cutleaf Coneflower. I was hoping that it was what many people used to call “The Outhouse Flower.” That version is actually Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia, with a doubled flower, which blooms most of the summer. Continue reading “The Outhouse Flower”
Within Romans, Paul addressed an ancient human urge that can be captured by the expression, “I want to have.” In chapter 1 such desires erupted as idolatrous rebellion against God. For Paul, sin is not merely an activity that a person might step into and then out of, rather he treats it as an enslaved spiritual identity.
Grace figures predominantly in how God righteously saves us. An illustration can help us review while also preparing us to survey the next few chapters. Continue reading “The gravity of grace (4): Overview of Romans 6-8”
Luther quipped that he hated the commonly accepted idea of “the righteousness of God” within Romans. Accordingly, he discovered a new definition that created a whole new way to interpret Romans.
We need to be aware that what we do not want to be true as well as what we value can exert powerful influences on how we interpret. I call this the hermeneutic of desire.
My goal in summarizing Romans below is neither to conform to nor reject popular understanding. I neither seek to stand in Luther’s shadow nor run from it. Using your Bible, you will have to decide to what extent the following represents Paul’s thoughts.
Whatever message we understand embedded within Romans will greatly influence how we interpret grace. This in turn will shape our Christian behaviors, values and teachings. Continue reading “The gravity of grace (3): Overview of Romans 1-5”