Tag Archive | Romans

Jewels from Romans #8

Romans 2:17-24

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God
18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law;
19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,
20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—
21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?
22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.
24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
(ESV)

I found a picture of myself as I was reading through the book of Romans this morning. I found a picture of myself and it was not a pretty picture at all. I found a picture of myself which Paul painted with the words of his pen in Romans 2:17-24, as quoted above. Paul used two colors to paint a picture of me in these verses: pride and hypocrisy. Let me describe to you what I found in my own words.

First, consider the description of pride which resides in me that I found in verses 17-20:

But if you call yourself a Jew…” I may not be a Jew, but my pride tells me that I am chosen by God and that makes me better than other people.

“…and rely on the law…” In my pride, I consider myself better than other people because I don’t do certain things. Or, at least I say I don’t do certain things. Or I don’t do certain things when other people are watching.

“…and boast in God…” In my pride, I brag and boast about my relationship to God and look with disdain on those who do not have the same relationship as me.

“…and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law…” In my pride, I think that I have everything figured out, that God has given to me alone the full counsel of His knowledge and will.

“…and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children…” In my pride, I think that I have insight that other people would be privileged to know. That it why I write these blogs. I write because I desire some type of recognition that I have these profound things to say.

“…having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth…” Here is the ugliest picture of my pride of all. My eyes fixated on the word “embodiment.” Surely that describes me. If you want to see what it means to have knowledge and possess truth, you need look no farther than me. What a joke!

But are any of these things true? No, they are all lies which my pride whispers in my ear. And when I listen to what pride whispers, it inevitably leads to hypocrisy. Consider the description of the hypocrisy which my pride leads me to in verses 21-23:

You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” How many times have I stood up in front of people and told them to study their Bibles, to pray, to serve others, to set aside their own desires, and then do none of these things myself?

While you preach against stealing, do you steal?” How many times have I told people that it is wrong to take things that are not yours, and then turn around and steal other people’s ideas or their character by my words?

You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?” How many times have I preached about the need for complete faithfulness in marriage while at the exact same time lusted after a woman who was not my wife?

You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” How many times have I said that God is the only one and true God and then worshipped at the altar of myself through hedonism and materialism?

You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.” How many times have I proclaimed that the commandments of God are good and then turned right around and broken those commandments?

So what is the impact of my pride and hypocrisy? Does it affect only me? Verse 24 answers this question in the most terrible way. “For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (ESV) People see me for who I really am, a man full of hypocrisy and pride. And when they see me thus, they have every right to spit in the face of God because the testimony of my true actions contradicts everything I claim about God.

By Berean Husband

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Jewels from Romans #7

Romans 3:10-18

10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes
.” (ESV)

How is it that Paul can say that no one seeks for God? I think first we must realize the context. No one seeks after God of their own free will. When we look around, we think we see many people seeking after God. We see them gazing into crystals, chanting, bowing down in front of gold idols. This is not seeking after God. This is seeking after spirituality. There is a difference.

French mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) is quoted as saying “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Many people assume that this quote means that people are continually seeking to fill this “vacuum” by searching for God. The truth is, people are seeking to fill this vacuum with anything and everything except God. But the problem is that Blaise Pascal never said this quote. It is someone’s paraphrase of much more insightful quote which Pascal did say:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”

What Pascal was saying is that man lost the only source of true happiness in the fall of Adam, and there is nothing but an emptiness left where there once was eternal bliss. Now man attempts to fill this emptiness from what is around him, but finds nothing that is of any help in the here and now, because the only solution is an infinite and unchangeable God.

So, if no man seeks after God, why do we have seeker-friendly church services? Good question. What we find in the Bible is that it is not man who seeks after God, it is God who seeks after man. What I consider to be the key verse of the book of Luke says “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10 ESV) God knows that nobody will seek after Him, that is why He sent His Son to find those of His sheep that are lost and return them to their proper place in the fold (see Luke 15:1-7).

There are other passages in the Bible which make this point in different ways. In the book of John, God is pictured as one who must take an active role in drawing men unto Himself. No one seeks after God unless God Himself draws that individual unto Himself. Jesus tells us in John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (ESV) The book of Romans, the book of Luke, and the book of John are in complete agreement on this matter. No one has either the desire or the ability to seek after God unless and until God Himself purposes to draw that individual unto Himself.

And how is an individual drawn to God? Jesus says in John 12:32 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (ESV) This is a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus. The method God uses to call out a people unto Himself is through the death of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus tells Nicodemus the same thing in John 3:14-15 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (ESV) I like to think that this also has a fulfillment in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we lift up Jesus for all men to see in our proclamation of the gospel message, we are giving an opportunity for all men to see Jesus lifted up on the cross once again. We are told in 1 Corinthians 1:21 “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.” (ESV)

The death of Jesus Christ was not one option among many choices available to God to draw men unto Himself. For in order to draw men unto Himself, men first must be made acceptable to be received by God. We are told in

Romans 3:23-26

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
(ESV)

So what do we make of verses in the Bible like Revelation 22:17 “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (ESV) Is this truly an open invitation to all to accept the gift of eternal life? Yes it is. But this verse says “let the one who desires…” I thought no one had a desire for God within them. It seems ridiculous for God to invite the one who desires when no one desires. There is a story that is told of a gold bar that Fort Knox sent on tour one time. This gold bar was specially made, shaped with a flat bottom and rounded top edges, and weighing about 70 pounds. The challenge was to pick up the bar with one hand without sliding the bar off of the table. If you could pick it up, you could have it. Of course, no one could pick it up. Is the offer of God given in Revelation 22:17 like this Fort Knox contest? No, because it is God Himself who gives men the desire to seek him. And those whom God gives this desire will be drawn unto eternal life though the beauty of the death and resurrection of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. If today, you hear the Spirit say “Come”, and you hear the true Church saying “Come”, then do not harden your heart and remain in your rebellion against God (see Hebrews 3:15). Respond to the invitation and find that it is God who is irresistibly drawing you unto Himself.

By Berean Husband

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Jewels from Romans #6

Romans 3:10-18

10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
(ESV)

We come today to one of the classic texts which proves the total depravity of mankind. I believe that there is a misunderstanding of total depravity in the minds of many people today. Many people, when they hear the term “total depravity”, assume that it means that people are as bad and as evil as they ever could possibly be. That is not the case. You and I both know many fine, upstanding, morally good people who do not have Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Are these people totally depraved? Yes. We must understand that total depravity has nothing to do with our actions. It has everything to do with: 1) our state of righteousness, and 2) our ability to attain a state of righteousness. There is a difference between personality and righteousness. A nice person who lives apart from God and the saving grace of His Son Jesus Christ is unrighteous just as the unregenerate murderer sitting on death row. His crimes may not be as heinous in the sight of God, but his sins are serious enough to eternally separate him from God and to justify the wrath of God by being tormented by God in the Lake of Fire forever.

Many preachers and teachers, when they come to the subject of total depravity, point to the blatant and increasing sinfulness of the world at large to prove the concept of total depravity. They point to things like the increase in murder rates, robberies, greed in the corporate world, and moral failure in the church. They point to things like the prevalence of abortions and euthanasia. While all these things are a result of total depravity, they do not prove total depravity. The best proof of total depravity that I can think of is myself. People without the saving grace of Jesus Christ can be expected to sin as they are lead by their own lusts, by the world, and by Satan. What proof of that is total depravity? The depraved can be expected to be depraved. But what about a person like me, who well knows what it means to be saved from the power of sin? I still sin, knowing better, and knowing the better way. I still sin even though God in His loving kindness provides a way of escape from every temptation which comes my way (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). I still sin even though I recognize that my every sin is another hammer blow on the nails that affixed Jesus Christ to the cross at Calvary. I still sin even though my sinful flesh has been crucified with Jesus Christ (see Galatians 2:20). This, my friends, is the proof of total depravity. The person who should be most free from sin on this earth still practices sin every day.

By Berean Husband

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Jewels from Romans #5

Romans 2:14-16

14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus
. (ESV)

In Romans 2:15, Paul tells us that there are conflicting thoughts within a person. What are these conflicting thoughts? On one hand, we have a knowledge of right and wrong. Even those people who have never heard of the Law, who may have never seen the Ten Commandments, still inherently know right from wrong. That is because the work of the law is written on every person’s heart. And every person has a conscience which is constantly interpreting the law which is written on their heart. Sometimes our conscience bears witness that our actions are in conformity with the law God has placed in our heart. And sometimes our conscience convicts us when we are in violation of the law written on our hearts.

But on the other hand, we have conflicting thoughts about the pleasures of fulfilling our fleshly lusts. Just think how easy it is for a person to justify their sinful behavior in their own mind. A person might commit adultery and then be able to give you a dozen reasons why it was the right thing to do. That adultery might lead to a divorce and a remarriage, and that person who committed the adultery justifies their actions because they think they have the right to pursue happiness at all costs. Yet we know that there is a conscience at work within every person accusing them when they violate God’s moral law.

The sad thing is, even the Christian is not immune from these conflicting thoughts. No matter how much we quit being conformed to this world, no matter how much we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, there are still these conflicting thoughts at work in us. The Apostle Paul admitted as much in Romans 7:18-25

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
(ESV)

The Apostle Paul readily admits that he continually finds himself unable to do the good which he wants to do, but finds himself doing the evil that he does not want to be doing. And then Paul puts his finger on the problem: as long as we have our current flesh, we will have sin dwelling in us. And that sin is in constant conflict with the law of God which resides in our inner being. In verse 25, Paul presents the conclusion in overcoming this law of sin which reigns in our flesh and wars against our spirit. We can never deliver ourselves. It is God who alone can overcome the sin of our flesh through the shed blood of His son Jesus Christ. This can happen in small steps each day, but will not be entirely fulfilled until we exchange our corrupted flesh for the incorruptible on the day of our resurrection from dead. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body
. (ESV)

By Berean Husband

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Jewels from Romans #4

Romans 2:3-5

3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed
. (ESV)

The unconverted person who otherwise attempts to lead a moral life is guilty of making two bad assumptions concerning the wrath and judgment of God. The first bad assumption is that the judgment of God will not come because their sins are not as bad as the wicked people whom Paul described in Romans chapter 1. The unconverted person who attempts to lead a moral life looks with disdain upon the homosexual, the idol worshipper, the murderer, and they know that God will judge these people for their sins. However, the unconverted but moral person does not know the truth of Romans 2:1 “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” (ESV) The list of sins which Paul gives us in Romans 1:29-31 is extensive enough to cover all of mankind. There is no one who has not committed at least one of these sins. The unconverted person who is attempting to lead a moral life is deluded in the belief that God will not judge their own sins in like manner to God’s judgment of the sins of the openly wicked person.

The second bad assumption the unconverted person who otherwise attempts to lead a moral life makes is that God’s patience is evidence that God will not judge them for their sins. Romans 2:4 says “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (ESV) The forbearance and patience of God in judging sin is for the purpose of allowing time for mankind to repent of their sins. However, many people interpret this forbearance as an evidence that God really doesn’t care about their sins.

Romans 3:5 says “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (ESV) There is an excellent word picture that we can use to illustrate this verse. God’s patience is like a dam which is holding back His judgment. I used to work in the Engineering Department of a fairly large City. We would sometimes construct a dam. Water would slowly build up against that dam. For the first few months, there would be almost no standing water behind the dam. Then, as time passes, water would build up behind the dam until the lake reached full pool. One year we had a significant rain event which caused one of our lakes to overtop the dam, and as the water began to run down the dry side of the dam, the dam was eroded away and eventually failed, releasing all the water stored up to rush downstream. This is a picture of the patience of God storing up wrath against sinners for the day of judgment. More and more sins store up more and more wrath behind the dam of patience, until the day when God’s patience gives way to the flood of His judgment.

By Berean Husband

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Jewels from Romans #3

Romans 1:18-23

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles
. (ESV)

All people know that God exists. God has revealed Himself to all people. But for what purpose? Why would God make Himself known to people who will do nothing but hate Him or deny Him? These verses in Romans tell us that God has manifested Himself to every person in a limited manner so that all people will be without excuse when they stand before God in judgment. The wrath of God will be revealed against all those who are ungodly and unrighteous, and God will be completely justified in doing so.

Why, then, are there people who claim to be atheists? Atheists are not people who do not believe that there is a God, atheists are those people who have suppressed the truth about God in their minds. Do atheists make a deliberate choice to not believe in God? No, I believe that Paul is teaching us that we all suppress the knowledge of God in our minds by our unrighteousness. We would rather revel in our unrighteousness than face the fact that there is a God.

How has God manifested Himself to every person? Paul says that God is manifested to all people by the works of His creation. So, then, is it just an accident that all people know that there is a God? No, verse 19 clearly says that God has shown (an active verb, not passive) to all people what can be known about Himself. Verse 20 contains a paradox which is counter to our way of thinking. Notice that the invisible attributes of God are clearly seen. What are those invisible attributes that are clearly seen? God’s eternal power and his divine nature. These two things are manifest in the creation of God. Belief in evolution is just another way to suppress the truth of God.

But is it enough to know that there is a God? Or course not. Knowledge of God leads people onto two divergent paths. Some people in their knowledge of God are lead to give Him glory and thanks. I think of the story of Cornelius the Centurion from Acts chapter 10. We are told in Acts 10:1-2 “At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” (ESV) This man had never heard the gospel message, but he still gave glory and thanks to God. However, other people in their knowledge of God do not give him glory or thanks. Romans 2:8 describes these people as self-seeking. They seek their own glory and give themselves thanks for what they have.

What happens to the person who suppresses the truth of the knowledge of God? They become futile in their thinking. We can also use words such as “empty or vain” in their thinking. And their hearts are darkened. They lose what little light they may have had. What are some examples we see of vain thinking and darkened hearts in the world today? Ideas such as reincarnation, karma, enlightenment, jihad, and atheism all stem from vain thinking and a darkened heart, as man seeks some way to get glory for himself.

Furthermore, those who have gone to vain thinking and darkened hearts imagine themselves to be wise. This gives rise to so-called worldly wisdom, which manifests itself in things like philosophy, psychology, and psychiatry. This so-called wisdom is nothing but foolishness.

And furthermore, vain thinking and a darkened heart lead people to deny the glory of God in favor of worshipping idols. Romans 1:23 tells us that these people worship idols in the form of men, birds, animals, and reptiles. Romans 1:25 tells us that these people worship the creature rather than the creator. At this point, someone will say that this is no longer true. We are far too sophisticated to worship an idol made of wood or stone. Only the heathen in the dark of Africa do that anymore. Yet I contend that we have much more insidious ways of worshipping the creature rather than the creator here in America today. Our idols are called hedonism, materialism, perversions, narcissism, and relativism.

Why would a person desire to exchange the worship of the immortal God for the worship of mortal and corruptible idols? It is because we want a god who is made in our image. When we have a god who is just like we are, then it is no longer a sin to practice the ungodliness and unrighteousness we hold so dear. When we have a god made in our own image, then we can share in the glory instead of rightly giving all glory and thanks to the One who created us.

By Berean Husband

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