Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Romans 7:12 - The Law

Romans 7:12
So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

Still on the theme of the law from Romans 7, but here Paul defends the law. Previously, he has explained why the law cannot save - it only condemns. Here he explains that sin is not the law's fault, but it is our fault - we are born sinful, totally depraved and cannot help ourselves. The law is not at fault for causing us to sin more - we are at fault for sinning more.

First, a slight Clarification: The law and the commandment (I think) are the same thing. Probably repeated for emphasis on the point. It's possible that the commandment refers back to the single example of coveting used by Paul in v7-8, but that doesn't seem to fit. If people have a different opinion then feel free to comment, as I'm no expert.

The law is God's word, his standard. It is based on his character. The law is holy, righteous and good because God is holy, righteous and good - he defines those terms. To be holy means to be set apart by God. It involves being pure, and being different from the rest. Holiness is opposed to sinfulness which is hated by God. Righteousness is being right with God, being perfect in his eyes and not his enemies. Goodness is again defined by who God is - he is good. He is righteous, just, perfect, holy, pure, compassionate, loving, merciful, kind. He is good. He hates evil and will condemn it.

Where does that leave us? We are sinful, we are evil. We are not holy, since we break the law. We are not righteous, because righteousness is being right with God, and we are his enemies, deserving of his wrath. We are not good, we disobey the law. As we are, therefore, we are condemned by the law, and if nothing had changed, we would not be able to escape that condemnation - it is perfectly right and just for God to condemn us for our disobedience.

Thats the point of the gospel. We are sinful, but Jesus is perfect. He is God, he is therefore holy, righteous and good. He did not break the law, but obeyed completely. Therefore he alone did not deserve to die, but chose to do so, coming to earth as a man and taking the sin of his people and God's wrath in our place. Why? So that God can display his compassion, mercy and grace to us, so that God can be glorified not only in destroying sin, but in showing love and grace. What a wonderful saviour! What a glorious God! I know I often bring it back to Jesus, but what better thing is there to tie it back to then our utter hopelessness and God's abounding grace? Sure, there are other lessons to learn, but it all starts with turning to Christ.

1 Timothy 1:15-16
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life."

At salvation, we swap our sinfulness with jesus' righteousness. We become holy, righteous and good in God's eyes, forgiven by him and shown mercy. If someone has genuinely turned to Christ in repentance and faith, they are completely saved. We are united with him - we died to sin with him (Romans 6), and we have risen with him to have new life. Therefore, if we are viewed as these things in God's sight, conformed to Christ in principle, we should be aiming to live like it. If you are a christian, are you fighting sin? Are you fleeing from disobedience? We don't obey the law so that we will be saved - the law cannot save. But we obey it to honour our God and from of faith and love for him. Genuine salvation always results in a change of life.

Romans 7:11 - Sin's Strength

Romans 7:11
For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.

"The opportunity afforded by the commandment" refers to two things: First, the fact that the law creates boundaries, restricting us from certain activities, and since we are totally depraved, sinful by nature, we rebel and break it. This leads to the other opportunity from the law to sin: The law condemns disobedience to death. It is a just and deserved condemnation, but it is what gives sin the strength - without the condemnation of the law, sin would not be able to achieve anything, but since God is holy and just, perfectly pure, he must judge sin, he must condemn it. As a result, Satan, whose aim is to destroy us, has the opportunity to do so, by making us disobey God. We readily do this, since we are sinful by nature.

Does this in any way mean that the law is bad? That it should be completely disregarded, since it gives sin its power? No, it means the opposite (See v12). The law is from God, it is good - that is why it condemns sin. The law is good, it condemns evil. It is not God's fault that we are condemned, it is our own rebelliousness which condemns us.

Yet, God (though we do not in any way deserve it), secured a way for us to be washed clean, to be completely forgiven. He sent Jesus into the world. Jesus, his only son, who lived a perfect life. Jesus who alone did not deserve to die, since he alone did not sin. He died in our place, taking the sin of his people and God's wrath against it. He took it in full, and paid the price which we never could, since we have disobeyed God. As a result, everyone who turns to him is forgiven - he takes our sin, and we take his righteousness. He then rose again from the dead - he dealt with sin, and dealt with the consequences, rising again to prove that he had paid in full and there was now no condemnation by the law or by God. 

So, How do we turn to God? Repent and believe. Repentance is the actions of turning away from something. In this case: turning away from sin (disobedience) and turning to God (obedience). It is not the obedience which saves us, but good works/obedience to God's word result from being saved. Faith/belief is trust in God, that he has and will keep his promises, that Christ truly does save, that he truly did rise from the dead and prove that he conquered sin, and that he will bring us to eternal life with him instead of hell and eternal life like we deserve. Again, faith leads to actions (James 2:14 onwards). If you trust God, that he is right, that his way is better, you will obey him and live his way.

"Every sinner is not only exposed to death because he has sinned, and must, sooner or later, die; but he is miserable in both body and mind by the influence and the effects of sin. He lives a dying life, or a living death." - Clarke

Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

James 4:10

James 4:10
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. 

This verse has come up so many times this week. I love how God does that, he is definitely good. be humble! We have nothing to boast in. We are sinful and deserve his wrath, but in Jesus there is forgiveness, he came to earth, lived perfectly and died on the cross, so that anyone who turns to him can be forgiven - he takes our sins and we take his righteousness. We cannot help ourselves, we have nothing to be proud about. Jesus is the only way to be saved!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Romans 7:7. The law vs Grace

Romans 7:7
'What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”'

Previously Paul has explained that the law makes sin increase (v5), since it reveals what is sinful and condemns is, so that we are tempted more to rebel against it and to keep sinning. But even though the law reveals sin, it does not cause it - like light entering a room. It does not create the object in the room, but it reveals them. Paul's point here then, is that the law is not sinful, but it does reveal and therefore increase sin. In v12 he says that the law/commandment is "holy, righteous and good". But while the law is good, it still:
1. Condemns sin, since it requires perfect obedience.
2. Gives sin power, since now the just penalty for it is death.
3. Doesn't help the sinner or provide them with hope.
So, while the law is good and holy and righteous, it is limited. That's why Jesus came.
1. He obeyed the law completely, so he alone did not deserve to be condemned.
2. He died anyway, dealing with sin and with God's just and holy wrath against it so that...
3. He could provide help and hope for those stuck in sin. If they turn to him by repentance and faith, he takes their sin has dealt with it, and we take his righteousness and perfect obedience. The result: We are forgiven by God, though we don't deserve it. We are adopted as his children, when we rightfully are his enemies. We have the sure hope of everlasting life with him, though we deserve his everlasting wrath.

Jesus came to do what the law never could, since all have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God. (See Romans 1-3). The whole point of the Law is to reveal that we are sinful, that we deserve God's wrath and cannot help ourselves. Only then will we look to Jesus as the only saviour and give our lives to him. So: Are you under the law, or under grace? Have you turned to Jesus, or re you still rebelling against him? Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life. He is Saviour and Lord. Repent and believe, for the kingdom of God is at hand! (See Mark 1:15)

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Romans 7:5 - Sin vs The Law.

Image source
Romans 7:5 
For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death
"The sinful passions aroused by the law"
One key characteristic of sin is that it is rebellious. By definition it is disobedience to God. Therefore when the law says "Though shalt not..." sin is 'aroused' - we desire to do something more when we are specifically told not to do it. The law demands obedience, sin is disobedience. The law is good, sin is evil, the law is holy, sin is unholy. The law is from God, sin is direct rebellion against God.

Therefore sin brings death - that is the just and right punishment for it. Not just death physically, but spiritual death leading to God's wrath eternally in hell. By sinning we reject God, and therefore we will be rejected by him eternally.

Yet theres hope: Christ came to the world, he lived a perfect life. he did not sin - he is God. He came and died in our place, so that "whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). So, do you believe in him? Have you repented of your sin (Mark 1:15)? Repentance is turning away from sin and turning back to God. Faith/belief is trusting in God that he has saved through Jesus and that he will keep his promises. We are not saved by our works, but both of these (Repentance and faith), if genuine, result in works - How can one turn away from sin yet keep doing it? How can one fully trust God, yet disobey him continually?

Romans 7:4 - Dead to the Law

Romans 7:2-4
For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Focussing mainly on V4 (Paragraph 2)

"Died to the law" does not mean that we don't have to obey it. Paul is following on from Chapter 6 where he has clearly explained that when saved, we need to obey the law and serve God. So what does dead to the law mean? Well, (as far as I can tell) it means dead to the condemnation of the law. To be accepted by God through the law, one must be perfect. Yet "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We cannot please God through the law. Yet we (christians) are dead to the law - Christ lived perfectly, and took our sin and God's wrath against our sin (the condemnation) when he died on the cross. By turning to Christ, we are 'dead to the law' and belong to Christ. "Belong" can be translated "married", so it's linked to the analogy from v2-3. We are united to Christ, we belong to him, therefore we need to do what he says. One verse that comes to mind: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."
We don't belong to ourselves, we belong to God. When Paul mentions that Jesus was raised to life, I think he is referring back to Chapter 6, where he explains that we are alive with Christ, to live for God. We metaphorically died to the law and to sin when Christ died and we were converted and we metaphorically rose with him to new life, leading to obedience or 'bearing fruit'. Once genuinely saved, a Christian will act like it, we need to bear fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). So are you obeying God? Or are you trying to live for yourself? Christ is the only way to be saved from God's just wrath against our sinfulness! Repent and Believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand! (Mark 1:15)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Isaiah 5-9: General Thoughts

ust read Isaiah 5-10, heres some observations/thoughts. It's a bit lengthy, but hopefully helpful!

Isaiah 5
v1-7 is on the vineyard as a metaphor for Israel. Jesus used the same metaphor and basically repeats these verses in a number of parables (See Matt 21, Luke 13).

"Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter."
This is our society isn't it? We glorify getting drunk and sleeping around. Swearing isn't even noticed, tv shows only get good ratings if they offer betrayal, lust and other sins. The chapter goes on to describe God's wrath against such people. Repent and Believe! Reject God and he will reject you. Turn to him and he offers salvation through Jesus!

Isaiah 6:5
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

We are sinful and need to repent, we need to recognise our sins, and in Jesus there is forgiveness and mercy. Then we need to go and obey God where he sends us.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 8:14-15
He will be a holy place;
    for both Israel and Judah he will be
a stone that causes people to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people of Jerusalem he will be
    a trap and a snare.
Many of them will stumble;
    they will fall and be broken,
    they will be snared and captured.”

Jesus written all over these.

Isaiah 7:9b
'If you do not stand firm in your faith,
    you will not stand at all.’

We either serve and have faith in God, or we don't. Theres no middle ground, The devil owns the fence.

Isaiah 9:1-7
Again, all about Jesus

All about God's wrath. He is just and will put an end to sin. Repent and believe! Turn to him!

I've skipped over so much in this - if your stuck for something to read then take a look at Isaiah :)

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

1 Corinthians 1:18-25: Human 'wisdom' v The gospel.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25: 
"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

It isn't about how well we argue, it isn't about what words we use, it's about God, about sharing the gospel, an it involves humility to do so. To simply say what the bible says instead of trying to justify it with human wisdom. God can convict anyone by the Holy Spirit - it isn't our job to persuade. Just preach the gospel truthfully, completely and faithfully!

Quick thoughts: Romans 6:20-23

Romans 6:20-23
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Again, just a few quick thoughts:

- Slaves to sin means being free from righteousness, therefore now that we are slaves to righteousness/God, we should be free from sin. There is no excuse!
- There is no true benefit to sin, it brings a small amount of satisfaction here which does not last, and even if it does, it results in death physically and spiritually leading to God's eternal wrath in hell since he is just and must punish sin.
- Being Slaves of God (Christians) has benefit: forgiveness, no guilt, no fear of death or condemnation, God's mercy and grace eternally, eternal life with God, comfort and strength here, etc.
- Wages is what your paid for your actions. So sin results in death, it's the 'reward' for sinfulness. But eternal life (resulting from salvation/turning to Christ) is a gift - we don't deserve it in any way, and we have no reason to boast.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Romans 6:19 - Whose Slave are You?

Romans 6:19
I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.

Some quick thoughts. For Christians:
1. Theres no place for pride.
2. Theres no place for continually living in sin and serving sin.
3. We should remember/be reminded of our sins often and so be constantly repentant of them, thankful to God for Christ and forgiveness, Joyful that we are completely forgiven, remain humble and to cause us to work harder at serving God
4. Imagine if we put as much effort into our walk with God as we do to sin. Small example: Instead of swearing, imagine if we were instead sharing the gospel. We easily put effort into sin and fulfilling our own desires, yet we hardly put any effort into our faith, hardly read the bible, hardly tell people about Christ and hardly live as if we were saved from sin.

"it should be a source of lamentation and mourning with Christians that it is not so; that they have employed so mighty energies in the cause of Satan, and do so little in the service of God." - Barnes

Friday, 11 January 2013

Romans 6:17 "Wholehearted Obedience"

Romans 6:17
"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted."

Just a (hopefully) quick thought on this verse. As Christians, we need to "wholeheartedly" obey God, to completely and fully give ourselves to serving him, to give our entire lives to him, as slaves of righteousness (See v16).

Tying that more specifically to the next part of the verse: "the form of teaching to which you were entrusted." How do we obey God? We obey his teaching (the bible) which has been entrusted to us. Entrusted = given, but with trust involved. Like in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30), the tenants are entrusted with money. So, we have been given God's word, what do we do with it? We can either use it or waste it.

Using it would involve using it wholeheartedly, using it as much as possible, reading it, thinking about it, memorising it, talking about it, listening to people explain it (i.e. going to church), and the like.
Wasting it (obviously) would be to not read it, to not put time and effort into knowing God's word.

Now, lets compare it to ourselves. We have God's word readily available. We have churches - PLENTY of churches. We are not persecuted, and are hardly even mocked by others for our faith. We do not suffer for it. Yet, how often do we read it? Daily? Weekly? Not even that? Explain to me how that fits with "Wholeheartedly obeying". It just doesn't! We (I included) waste our time so much instead of using it to obey God.

So, what are we going to do about it?

A little bit of a side note: Even if we do that, note the first bit of the verse: "Thanks be to God". We can only wholeheartedly obey God if he by his grace has saved us through Christ 
Otherwise we are slaves to sin, and deserving God's wrath. So, "repent and believe for the kingdom of God is at hand!" Jesus alone saves, and it is only by his grace that we can get out of sin and obey God. (See the rest of Romans 6). That's what its "thanks be to God. We have nothing to be proud about, even if we are doing the right things - all glory belongs to God!