Thursday, 18 August 2011

THE BOOK OF ROMANS [Part 3]

This week I have been blessed as I have considered this old fashioned word, "Justification." Someone once said that this word means, "Just-as-if-i-ed never sinned." Not only are we forgiven but God declares us righteous. Christ is our righteousness!

THE BOOK OF ROMANS [Part 3]

JUSTIFICATION [Part 1] [Romans 3:21-5:21]

We begin this section by an important definition – the word “Justification.”

A DEFINITION – Justification is the act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous in Christ on the basis of the finished work of Christ on the cross

Each part of this definition is important, so we must consider it carefully:

It is an act not a process. There are no degrees of justification; each believer has the same right standing before God. Justification should not be confused with Sanctification. Sanctification is a process whereby God makes the believer more and more like Christ.
It is an act of God. Justification is something God does. No sinner can justify himself before God.
God declares us righteous. God does not make us righteous but declares us righteous.
Justification is a legal matter. God puts the righteousness of Christ on our record in place of our sinfulness.
The sinner is justified by FAITH. When the sinner trusts Christ, God declares him righteous. God looks on us, and deals with us as though we had never sinned at all.

The question then is, How can the holy God declare sinners righteous?
Paul answers this in three ways – Firstly, he explains it [3:21-31]. Secondly, he illustrates it [4:1-25]. Thirdly, he applies it as a practical and personal experience [5:1-21].

JUSTIFICATION EXPLAINED  [3:21-31]

It is Apart from the Law  [3:21]
Obedience to the the Law could not make a person righteous before God. Not even Abraham was justified by works – but by faith!

"The Law bore witness to this Gospel righteousness even though it could not provide it. Beginning at Genesis 3:15, and continuing through the entire Old Testament, witness is given to salvation by faith in Christ. The Old Testament sacrifices, the prophecies, the types, and the great "Gospel Scriptures" [eg. Isaiah 53] all bore witness to this truth. The Law could only witness to God's righteousness, but it could not provide it for sinful man. Only Jesus Christ could do that [see Galatians 2:21]." [Warren Wiersbe] 

It is Available as a gift of Christ by His Grace
Two aspects of God’s love shown to us are grace and mercy.
‘mercy’ = God does not give us what we deserve, and ‘grace’God gives us what we do not deserve.

Justification is a GIFT - we can pay nothing towards it!
"freely" [3:24] - is translated in John 15:25 as "without reason." We are justified without a reason except that God loves us!!

There is no cause in us that would merit salvation of God!

It is Accepted by Faith
This is stated [3:26-30] and illustrated in the life of Abraham [4:1-3]
It is personal, individual faith in Jesus Christ that saves and justifies the lost sinner. The word faith means ‘to trust in’ ‘to commit to’ ‘to rely upon.’ It is active, not passive!

It is for both Jews and Gentiles – “There is no difference” [3:22-23].

Just as all have sinned....so all can be justified - but in only one way! [3:30] - It eliminates all human pride and boasting [3:27]

It satisfies God’s Justice
Note the word “justice” [3:25,26]. Because God is holy sin must be punished.  When Jesus died, it was not only to forgive us, but a demonstration of God’s justice. The death of Jesus satisfies God’s holy Law, meeting its just demands, thus allowing God to freely forgive all who come to Christ.

JUSTIFICATION ILLUSTRATED  [4:1-25]

Paul uses the illustration of the faith of Abraham.

THE KEY VERSE: Romans 4:3
THE KEY WORD:  credited[4:3] - a Greek word that means “to put to one’s account.” It is a banking term. This same word is used eleven times in this chapter [Romans 4:3,4,5,6,8,9,10,11, 22,23, 24]. The word is sometimes translated as “counted” or “reckoned” and elsewhere “imputed”

“When a man works he earns a salary and this money is put to his account. But Abraham did not work for his salvation; he simply trusted God’s Word. It was Jesus who did the work on the cross, and His righteousness was put on Abraham’s account.”  [Warren Wiersbe]

Abraham was justified by faith – not by works [4:1-8]
God told Abraham to look at the stars and promised, “So shall thy seed [descendants] be!” God promised; and Abraham believed God’s promise. The Hebrew word translated believed means to say "Amen."
The example of David [4:6-8] – Paul quotes David’s confession after his sin with Bathsheba [4:6-8 cp. Psalm 32:1-2]. David made two amazing statements:
God forgives sins and imputes righteousness apart from works and
God does not count our sins against us
God does keep a record of our works, so that He might reward us when Jesus comes; but He is not keeping a record of our sins.

Some key principles in Paul’s argument:
The Jews gloried in circumcision and the Law but what He required was inward obedience [Roms. 2:12-29]
God’s blessings are not for the Jew [circumcised] only. Abraham was justified before he was circumcised [4:9b-10] He is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised as well as those who are circumcised!
Circumcision was only a sign of faith and a seal [4:11]. Today we are sealed by the Holy Spirit [Eph. 1:13-14] and experience a ‘circumcision of the heart’ 
[Colossians 2:10-12]
Abraham did not receive the promise through the Law but by faith [4:13-15]
The promise is by faith – for both Jew and Gentile [4:16]

THREE PRINCIPLES OF FAITH BASED ON THE LIFE OF ABRAHAM
[see Romans 4:18-22]
[1] Faith is based upon God's Word - "The promise of God" [4:20] "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" [Romans 10:17]
[2] Faith does not depend upon circumstances - "as good as dead" [4:19]. Why did God wait until Abraham was so old? So that it had to be of God - Abraham could not do it himself!
[3] Faith is the assurance of things hoped for - "being fully assured..." [4:20-21]. God says it...I believe it... that settles it!

PAUL’S CONCLSION ON THE MATTER OF JUSTIFICATION [4:23-25]
He personalises all that he has said – applying it to us! [4:23-24a]
He returns to the source and basis of justification – the death & resurrection of Jesus [4:24b-25].

Next week we will look at the wonderful results of Justification as we experience it in Christ as declared to us by Paul in Romans 5:1-21

Saturday, 6 August 2011

THE BOOK OF ROMANS [Part 2]

Today I have been looking at Paul's teaching about man's sinfulness. What it means, the effects of sin and the fact of all men have sinned, whether Jews or Gentiles. This is an important foundation. In the next study we will look at how God makes the sinner righteous, but first there must be a recognition of sin.

SINTHE PROBLEM STATED [Romans 1:18-3:20]

The Key Verse in this whole section is: “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.” [Romans 2:12]

The Gentiles are people apart from the law; = the Jews are the people under the law = the Jews. Both are sinners and the result of sin is JUDGEMENT and DESTRUCTION! [“Perish”]

THE GENTILES ARE UNDER SIN [1:18-32]

They knew God all about God [1:18-20]
God’s qualities, power and nature are clearly recognizable so that no one can claim ignorance of  God and God’s will for humanity [1:19]. People who reject God cannot use the excuse that they did not know!

They did not glorify Him as God [1:21-23]
They did not honour [glorify] Him…. were not thankful and became proud. This led to:
Crude Paganisman unblushing worship of graven images [1:23,25]
Cultured Paganisma worship by man of his own godless imagination!

They changed the truth of God [1:24-25]
The Truthall people are creatures of God’s creation and can find true fulfilment only in worshipping and obediently serving God!
The Lie any creature, whether angelic [see Isaiah 14:13-14; John 8:44] or human [Gen. 3:4-5] can exist independently of God, self-sufficient, self-directing, and self-fulfilling. Thus man made himself his god!

They rejected the knowledge of God [1:26-32]
Their Action - They did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God [1:28]
The Effect - “God gave them up…..” [1:24,26,28]
God allows stubborn human beings to pursue their folly to the point of experiencing the full consequences of their actions!
“God gave them the desires of their heart, but sent leanness to their souls.” [Psalm 106:15]
The Result
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness” [1:29]
God gave them over to their sinful desires [1:24]
God gave them over to shameful lusts [1:26-27]
Specifically mentioned are unnatural sexual sins
“The due penalty” [1:27] – What is meant, whether addiction, acquired behavourial traits, disease or other results is not clear. The bottom line is that there are serious consequences because of sin!
God gave them over to a depraved mind [1:28-32]
This is the longest list of the sins of the flesh written by Paul
The words, “continue to do” [1:32] show that this evil lifestyle becomes habitual – it is very hard to break the pattern.  Note the phrase: “such things….” [1:32] These things - Deserve death [1:32]; and deserve God’s judgement [1:18; 2:2]

THE JEWS ARE UNDER SIN [2:1-3:8]
Paul now shows that the Jews are equally condemned sinners before God! To the Gentiles he said, “You are without excuse.” [1:20]. He says the same thing to the Jews [2:1].
As the Jew would read Paul’s indictment of the Gentiles, he would have smiled and said, “Serve them right!” [see Luke 18:9-14]. Jewish pride can be felt in the phrase, “…you judge another.”[2:1]

In Romans Chapter 2 Paul explains 3 vital principles of God’s judgment 

Judgement is according to truth [2:1-5 esp.v2]
God does not judge according to men’s opinions! His judgement is a righteous judgement [Isaiah 11:1-5]
Israel was guilty of judging others whilst themselves committing the very same sins they judged others for [2:1,3]. The Jews sinned in hardening their hearts against God…showing contempt for His grace…refusing to come to repentance! [2:4-5] [see Psalm 78]

Judgement is according to deeds [2:6-11]
God judges each person according to they have done [2:6]
Here is a fundamental truth – especially for the Jews:  It is not the hearing of the law, but rather obeying the law that makes a person righteous [2:13]
“those who by persistence [v7-8] This is not occasional actions, but more about persistency and making a ‘life-choice’
God is no respecter of persons in judgement. Note the words, “each person” [v6]; “every human being” [v9]; “everyone” [v10] – “God does not show favouritism” [v11 NIV]

Judgement is according to the light received [2:12-17]
The Jews had the Law and rejected God [v12]. The Gentiles were without the Law, but the
requirements of the Law were written on their hearts and they rejected God [v14-15]. Both had knowledge of God and rejected Him. There is no excuse! Their deeds would be judged accordingly.

In Romans 2:17 we see a day of judgement….we see what is judged….we see the Judge…and the judgement is according to the gospel!

Paul looks here at the heart attitude of the Jews and it is not a pretty sight [2:17-24]
They have a sense of superiority [2:17-18]….They regard themselves as instructors to the blind, darkened, childish Gentiles [2:19-20]….Here is hypocrisy and a failure to practice what they preach [2:21-23]….They become a stumbling block to the Gentiles [2:24].
“blasphemy” [2:24] is a lifestyle rather than words spoken!
Their religious ceremony is worthless without righteousness [2:25-27]
It is of little wonder that Paul then explains what a true Jew is! [2:28-29] The true Jew has nothing to do with outward religious before but is a matter of the heart:
“A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is the circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by a written code.  Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”  [Romans 2:28-29]              
                 
What is required is a change of heart – for either Jew or Gentile!  Only the Gospel can do this – it is “the power of God for salvation, for both the Jew and the Gentile” [1:16]

THE WHOLE WORLD IS UNDER SIN [3:1-20]
Paul’s anticipates questions which might come from his readers [Note: verses 1,3,5,7,8,9, all contain questions]. Paul then proceeds to answer each question. This form of rhetoric, developed in Greek philosophical debate, was called “diatribe.”

Paul’s four questions are:
Is the any advantage in being a Jew? [3:1-2]; Has Israel’s unbelief cancelled God’s Word [3:3-4]; Why not sin and glorify God the more? [3:5-8]; Is the Jew any better than the Gentile [3:9-20]

Paul’s conclusion: The Jew is no better than the Gentile! [3:9]…. No one is righteous in God’s sight by obeying the Law [3:20]…The Law cannot make a person righteous – it can only reveal sin [3:21].  Paul makes clear the total depravity of man [Rom. 3:10-18]

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

THE BOOK OF ROMANS [Part 1]

I have been thinking and praying about the direction I should take as I write the Spirit Food blog. The burden has come to me that it should be a weekly study from a book of the Bible. I can think of no better place to begin than with the Book of Romans, and so will work through this amazing Epistle of Paul over the next few weeks.  Let’s begin with the first part of Romans chapter one. 

Romans 1:1-17

The SIMPLICITY of the gospel [1:1-6]

When Paul writes about the Gospel he always keeps it simple, and deals with basic fundamentals - The Gospel is the good news about God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

In the first six verses of Romans Paul makes three clear foundational statements about the gospel

It was God’s plan to send His Son [1:2]
Jesus is the Lamb of God, slain before the foundation of the world.
His coming was made known to Abraham [Gal. 3:8]
There were many prophesies about the coming of Jesus [eg. Isaiah 9:6; 53:1-12; Micah 5:2]
Remember the conversation between Jesus and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road [Luke 24:27]
The Gospel is not a new idea or thought – it is the eternal Gospel! God has no after-thoughts and no contingency plans!

God sent His Son in human flesh [1:3]
Jesus was descended from David. This was a pre-requisite for Messiahship [see Isaiah 11:1-10]
This is an important key in testing whether a person is really a Christian [see 1 John 4:2-3].

That Jesus was the Son of God – His deity [1:4]
“….who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.” [NASV]

Two facts here that point to the deity of Jesus:

His Resurrection - The resurrection declared Jesus to be the Son of God. It validated His claims to deity and His prediction that He would rise from the dead [see John 2:18-22; Matt. 16:21]
The expression “by the resurrection from the dead” suggests victory over the penalty of sin.

His Holiness - The “Spirit of Holiness” describes the character of Jesus. The holiness of Jesus validated His claims to deity. The expression “by the Spirit of holiness” suggests victory over the the power of sin.

THE SERVANT OF THE GOSPEL [1:1,5-16]

A willing slave [1:1] See also 2 Corinthians 4:5
Here is a picture of the Old Testament servant who chooses to have his ear pierced [Exodus 21:5-6]. He loves his master and wants to stay with him even though he could go free! A willing slave has only one desire – to please the master [see Psalm 123:2]
Paul willingly submits to the Lordship of Jesus as His bondservant!

A called apostle [1:1]
For Paul’s call see Galatians 1:15-16 and Acts 9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18
“Apostle” = one sent on a special mission. “Called” = “appointed.”  Paul was literally appointed, anointed and sent!
Every Christian needs that sense of call from God to do what they are doing with their life.
It is the sense of call that keeps you in the tough  times. Consider the tough times that Paul went through and how he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision [see 2 Cor. 11:23ff]

A separated vessel [1:1]
See Galatians 1:15  Note: The NIV says “set apart” – different!
“Separated” = “cut off” – all bridges burned behind them – no way back!
The Greek word used here contains the thought of the horizon. Paul’s whole horizon was dominated by Christ.
    
A prayer warrior [1:8-10]
Paul had a real burden to pray for the church in Rome, even though he had never been there.
    
He offers thanksgiving for them [1:8]
For similar Pauline thanksgivings see 1 Cor.1:4-9; 2 Cor.1:3-7; Phil.1:3-11; 1 Thess.2:10; Philem 4:7;
By comparison these verses lack the usual specific references to the life of the congregation because Paul had not yet visited Rome [see 1:10  & 15:22]

He offers petitions for them [1:9-10]
“With my spirit” = wholeheartedly; Paul has invested his entire being in the work of the Gospel.
We can feel something of Paul’s prayer life in : Phil.1:3-5; 1 Thes. 1:2, Philem. 4-5; Col. 1:3; Eph. 1:16; 2 Thes. 1:3

A motivated minister [1:11-15]
We know why Paul wanted to go to Rome [see 1:11-13]
Paul also had a sense of obligation – “I am a debtor” [1:14-15]. Compare this with 1 Cor. 9:16-17 – there is a sense of obligation because of what God has done in Paul.

THE SUMMARY OF THE GOSPEL [1:16-17]

The Gospel is Powerful
“dunamis” = power [dunamis is the root word of the English words dynamite, dynamic, dynamo]
Salvation” = ‘sozo’ =to rescue or bring to safety; to deliver and to make whole 
 The Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost [Luke 19:10]

The Gospel is for Everyone
“First for the Jew, and then for the Gentiles.” = in the sense of order in which the Gospel was proclaimed!
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved [Acts 4:12]

The Gospel is based on faith, not works
“Faith” – in Paul’s understanding, Christian believing is to understand that we are recipients of God’s grace and, in obedience [see 1:5], living daily in accordance with that understanding. It is all faith [1:17 – “by faith from first to last”]

The Gospel reveals the righteousness of God
The righteousness of God = The way God places people in a right relationship with him. This is the theme of Romans, addressed specifically in 3:21-31. The Greek word for “righteousness” is also the  word for “justice” [2:5] and “justification” [5:21], and its verb is translated “justify” [3:24, 26, 28].

God can make sinners righteous and still uphold His own holy law
God’s law, holiness and justice had to be upheld!
Because there was sin, someone had to be punished! Jesus bore our sin and took its penalty in order that we could be free!
               
A KEY Message of Romans is: “The just shall live by faith”  [Romans 1:17]. This truth is also stated in Habakkuk. 2:4; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38]