To God be the glory

“Now to him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith – to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27 NKJV).

Paul’s letter to Roman Christians is widely recognized as the most complete explanation of the nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ found in any single New Testament document. It begins with an assertion that there is one true God who is manifest through his creation (Romans 1:19-21). It ends with a beautiful doxology (an attribution of honor or glory to God) to “God, alone wise.” Continue reading “To God be the glory”

Joining obedience and faith

Some modern Bibles render part of Romans 1:5 as “believe and obey” thus making faith and obedience two separate entities. This would seem to reflect more of the editors’ theological outlook than Paul’s mindset. Yet, we should not be surprised. How many people separate faith from obedient actions?

Paul joined faith and obedience into one unified idea. Yet, do we expect this?

Continue reading “Joining obedience and faith”

What is peace with God?

Men have thought it possible to have what one politician called “peace in our time.” Many worked in vain to bring together two warring parties. But there is no end to human wars. One ends, only for another to begin. Since the Fall, conflict has always been a part of mankind, on every level — among nations, political parties, social groups, and families.

Conflict reveals the basic problem of sin and separation from God. It all started from our desire to be independent from God. From there, man has struggled against dependence upon anyone. The more useless the struggle reveals itself to be, the more strident and violent man becomes.

Then God stepped in. He sent his Son into the middle of the war. By engaging the enemy, he won the critical battle. Often, he had to confront even those he came to save. But he could not be deterred. He rescued and restored and reconciled all who desired to give up the farcical struggle for freedom. Continue reading “What is peace with God?”

Gravity of Grace: concluding suggestions

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”

Gravity of grace (5): Overview of Romans 9-11

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”

The gravity of grace (4): Overview of Romans 6-8

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”

The gravity of grace (3): Overview of Romans 1-5

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”

The encouragement of the scriptures

“For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope” (Romans 15:4 NET).

As we live as Christians we sometimes become discouraged. When we are “down” it can seem difficult to continue going on. But there is something we can “take” for that! Often when we are physically sick we are told to take a pill, to take medication which will help to pick us up again. The solution for when we are spiritually discouraged is God’s word. Continue reading “The encouragement of the scriptures”

We are the Israel of God

One of the images God used for his people, the nation of Israel, was that of an olive tree which he had planted.

“The LORD once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. The LORD of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.” (Jeremiah 11:16-17 ESV)

This image is taken from Psalm 52:8, where David describes himself as a green olive tree in the house of God. In Hosea 14:6 the nation of Israel after being restored to God following captivity is described as a beautiful olive tree with its shoots spread out. Continue reading “We are the Israel of God”

Set free to live

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2 NET).

No condemnation. Nothing against us. What more encouraging words could there be? As Paul was writing in Romans 7, things seemed hopeless. But that was a life without Jesus. For those who are in Christ, it is an entirely different picture. There is no condemnation. Our sins have been washed away (Paul wrote about this in Romans 6). We have been set free from serving sin and death.

This means we need to live differently. Continue reading “Set free to live”