“If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:18, ESV; compare Proverbs 11:31).
Traveling the mountain roads in Nepal has given me a new appreciation for the term “scraping by.” Frequently when two vehicles meet one must back up to a wider spot in order to allow the other to pass. Even in places where two can pass it is often by the narrowest of margins. I have frequently looked out my window and been unable to see any road beside our vehicle – and many times I found myself looking over a drop-off of hundreds or thousands of feet. Traffic can pass, but it is by no means easy. Continue reading “Difficult but not impossible”
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”
Some may think Jesus and his disciples wandered around Palestine for three years without any aim or purpose. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When the Lord and his disciples found a man born blind, Jesus said the man was blind so “that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). Then, the Master said, “We must work the works of Him who sent me” (John 9:4). Continue reading “See the light”
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”
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”
It all began last week in a Bible study at a retirement home. The focus was upon a familiar parable, The Good Samaritan. Suddenly, one of the seniors exclaimed, “All of our lives we have heard sermons that, ‘We are not saved by works.’ Yet Jesus’ parable is all about what we do!” She had just finished reading some texts highlighted on her study sheet, specifically Luke 10:25,28,37.
A teachable moment had arrived. Positive instruction could be shared about Jesus’ parable. The breadth of Paul’s usage of “works” could be underscored. Furthermore, the distinction between trying to be justified by works and doing something could be explained. Continue reading “The car illustration: works versus doing”
Jesus was in Capernaum, a city on the Sea of Galilee he called home.
When Jesus was in Capernaum the people usually acted as if he was nothing special. After all, wasn’t he the son of Joseph? Didn’t they know him (John 6:42)?
On this occasion, many of the people of Capernaum were waiting for Jesus (Luke 8:40) and they were excited to see him.
There are two others waiting for Jesus. Continue reading “Two examples of faith”
Grace presents us with one great demand.
I know it seems strange to see the words “demand” and “grace” in the same sentence. Usually we view grace as the means by which we gain acceptance by God without carrying out works of the law. After all, as Paul reminds us, by “works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
Many try to earn their salvation. Continue reading “Grace’s one great demand”
We know the message and it comforts our hearts. In his grace God pours out salvation upon us, the undeserving. We can be redeemed, made holy and adopted as God’s people because our salvation rests upon Christ, not our righteousness. Furthermore, the cleansing power of the Messiah’s blood is greater than any sin we might bring to him.
So, how compatible is grace with the command to make every effort to live up to God’s calling? If we feel like these are opposing ideas, we would not be alone. Continue reading “Grace & making effort: Are they compatible?”
Sadly, we argue and divide over the proper understanding of grace to the detriment of the Lord’s work. Instead, we should see it from God’s perspective, so we can move past our human frailties. Continue reading “Grace simplified from God’s perspective”