The Gospel According to the Book of Romans

It’s interesting that the Apostle Paul wrote to an established church that he was ready to preach the Gospel to you who are in Rome also, Romans 1:15 (NKJV).  He wanted to impart… some spiritual gift to them, that [they] may be established, 1:11.  How could that be?

Perhaps the answer lies in the possibility that “the gospel” is about so much more than just “getting people saved”.

Even a cursory look at Romans reveals a wide range of topics, all of which, in my opinion, make up “the gospel.”  Even after 50 years of “being saved,” I still need this “gospel” as much as someone who’s never even heard of it.  Regardless of where you are in your journey through life, so do you.

What do I mean?

Well, let’s take a stroll through the book.

1.  Salutation, 1:1-17.

We’ll not do an exhaustive survey of the book – that would take a large book in itself!  This will probably wind up being a long post, anyway!  In these verses, Paul introduces himself to a church he hasn’t yet visited.  He describes himself a little bit, then writes of his desire to visit them for the reason we quoted above.  Providentially hindered until now, he wants them to know that they’re on his heart and he wants to meet them face to face.  He declares that he’s ready to preach the gospel to them – a gospel he isn’t ashamed of, because of its origin and power, as well as it’s outcome: ‘the just shall live by faith,” 1:17.  He begins his exposition of the gospel by describing why we need it to begin with:  the dark area of man’s

2.  Condemnation, 1:18-3:20.

If Romans had been written by a modern Christian, perhaps v. 18 would start, “For the love of God is revealed from heaven….”  However, Paul knew that man’s relationship to God isn’t that of a wayward son, trampling on the love of a Father, as some today seem to think, but that of a willful rebel, a traitor against the rule of his King, a criminal defying the laws of God.  Paul describes that rebellion in these verses.

Mention of the creation of the world, v.20, leads me to believe that this is a description of early man after the Fall.  There are those who believe that between the Fall and the giving of the Law at Sinai, man was pretty much left to the guidance of his own conscience.  However, Job said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food,” Job 23:12.  Of Abraham, God said that he had “…obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws,” Genesis 26:5.  These men both lived long before the giving of the Law, so what “word” or “voice” did they “obey?”  There are other indications sprinkled throughout Genesis that there was a substantial revelation given to men, of which we have only incidental records.  Further, there was the interaction of Abraham and Melchizedek, who was called a priest of God Most High, Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1, 2.

My point is that when Paul wrote of these early inhabitants of our planet, he wasn’t just saying that they knew “about” God, but that they knew Him – and turned away from Him.

The terrible things recorded in 1:18-32 are a result of the judgment of God on their rebellion; note please that He gave them up, vs. 24, 26, 28, to the depravity of their fallen natures. Paul did not say that He gave up.  He let them go.  He gave them what they wanted – their way, not His.  He turned His back in judgment on those who had turned their back on Him.  One has to wonder what application these verses might have to the US in view of recent and ongoing events.

But it wasn’t just “early man” who sinned against God.  The Gentile world in general since then has turned away from God, even though their understanding that there is a “right” and “wrong” puts them under the same judgment as their ancestors.  Even the Jewish people, who had been given a revelation of God through the Mosaic Covenant, and who had, generally speaking, turned away from it, to the point of crucifying their Messiah when He came, were guilty just like the Gentiles, whom they despised.  Paul’s conclusion: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23.

3.  Justification, 3:21-5:21.

I believe it was Socrates who said that there might be a way for the gods to forgive man, but he didn’t know what it could be.

Paul knew.

There used to be a bumper sticker which said, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”  While the first part is certainly true, the second part is, well, lacking….  We are so much more than “just forgiven.”  In this section, Paul declares that we have been justified.  That’s a big word that means that we have been declared righteous by God, even though in and of ourselves we are anything but righteous.  But, we’re not declared righteous because we have somehow been able to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps or because we have been able to cobble together a kind of obedience to the law.  We’re declared righteous through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is His righteousness we need, not some cheap knock-off we might be able to put together.

Paul shows that even Abraham, whom the Jews revered, was justified, declared righteous, by faith.  Circumcision was given as the sign of that truth, not as a means of salvation in itself.  Every Jewish male was reminded that his relationship with God through the Abrahamic Covenant was to be one of faith, not works, though I doubt if many of them thought of it that way.  Many of them thought that the simple possession of “the sign of the covenant” was all they needed.  Many follow in their footsteps, having been taught that what is said to have succeeded circumcision, namely infant baptism, is all they need, bolstered by “confirmation” a few years later.  But all that is a post for another day.

Throughout history, men and women, boys and girls have always been saved by faith, their own faith, not someone else’s, either in the coming Savior, or in Him after He came.

4.  Sanctification, 6:1-8:15.

God has declared His people to be “righteous,” though we are anything but.  However, He doesn’t leave us as He found us.  Through the Spirit and the Word, He sets about to make us righteous.  “Sanctification” isn’t some mysterious “experience,” some bolt out of the blue which makes us perfectly sinless – would that it were!  Ephesians 2:10 says that we are His workmanship, created for good works.  Sanctification is simply the Holy Spirit seeing to it that we look like it.  The word itself simply means “to set apart,” as a cook might wash a dish and set it on the table, ready for use.

Paul’s main argument in this is our spiritual union with Christ.  When He died, we died.  We’re to consider ourselves dead to sin and not yield our bodies to sinful things.  This doesn’t mean, as Romans 7 tells us, that sin is dead to us.  I know there’s a lot of discussion about exactly what Paul meant as he wrote.  Some think he wrote of his pre-conversion life.  I’m content to believe that he’s talking about himself as a Christian, and the struggle between what we are in ourselves and what we are becoming in Christ.  Sin may have been slain on the Cross, but its death struggles go on.

But, will this struggle ever end?  It seems to be a never-ending battle.  There’s good news.

5.  Glorification, 8:16-39. 

This is a short section, but filled with glory and promise.  It basically starts off with the idea  that we are joint-heirs with Christ, v. 16, and that nothing at any time or place can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, v. 39.  Paul takes us from eternity past when God “foreknew” us, that is, chose us, not just foresaw that we would choose Him, all the way into eternity future, where we will be “glorified,” that is, all the barnacles of sin, disease, frailty, fallenness, the Curse, will be taken away from us, and we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.  A happy day that will be indeed.  Paul says that in the purpose of God, it’s already as good as done.

6.  Explanation, chs. 9-11.

Paul’s exclamation in 8:39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God might have brought up the question, “Well, yes, but what about Israel?”  After all, she crucified her Messiah and, for the most part, had rejected Him.  The church center, as it were, had moved from Jerusalem to Antioch and the church was rapidly becoming more Gentile than Jewish.

There is a large portion of Christendom which says, “Yes, God is done with Israel.  Her sin has indeed separated her from the love of God, and she is undergoing His judgment.  Individual Jews may certainly be saved, and are being saved, but the nation itself is done.”

This is the farthest thing from Paul’s mind.  Reminding his readers of the privileges Israel had enjoyed, 9:1-5, privileges given to no other nation on earth, Paul pointed that there had always just been a remnant according to the election of grace, 11:5.  There had never been a time when the entire nation had followed God.  Further, Israel had indeed been given up as a nation, but that setting aside was only temporary, 11:25.

One of the strangest expositions of these chapters I’ve ever heard centered around 11:12.  A brother interpreted it like this: “Now if their [Israel’s] fall is riches for the world, and their [Israel’s] failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!”  He simply would not or could not accept that “their fullness” referred to Israel as much as the two phrases he marked as theirs.

11:26, And so All Israel will be saved,… he interpreted to mean “spiritual Israel,” that is, saved Jews and Gentiles who make up “the church.”  According to this interpretation, it has nothing at all to do with the nation of Israel.  Such views, in my opinion, entirely miss what Paul was saying.  Now, Paul didn’t mean that every single Jew will be saved, as this brother seemed to think my view required, but only that every single Jew alive as the time when this verse comes true, will be saved.

The prophetic books of the Old Testament are filled to the brim with descriptions of what “their fullness” will be like.

7.  Application, chs. 12-16. 

Having answered possible questions about Israel’s future, as well as our own, with all the blessings that will happen there, he then brings us back to the present.

Because, “there” isn’t here, yet.

He lists various responsibilities believers have.  The motivation for serving God.  Our attitude toward government, especially in the areas of taxation.  How to deal with those who haven’t arrived at our understanding of Christian liberty.  There’s material here for much study.

He closes with his plans and desire to visit them, sends greetings to various members of the church and finishes up with a benediction ending with the phrase, to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever.  Amen. Romans 13:27

So, you see, “the Gospel” has a much grander scope than often imagined.  And our few words are by no means exhaustive of its treasures.  In fact, I’m not sure we’ll ever get beyond its grace and glory, even “over there.”

Advertisements

The 1812 Overture…and the return of Christ

As I work on the blog, catching up on emails and posts, I’m listening to the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky.  *sigh*   Now that’s music.  Funny, this stuff used to be called “longhair.”   The “longhair” stuff today is a little different – all noise and percussion.  But then, I’m old.  What do I know?

I especially love the finale.  It always bring tears to my eyes.  All that joy and victory.

Triumph!

This time, I got to thinking about the return of Christ – the finale of present history.

I wonder what it will be like when the Lord comes back in glory, honor and VICTORY to this world which has done, and is doing, everything it can to get rid of Him.  When He ascends the throne of David in Jerusalem as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!  what rejoicing there will surely be among His people.  What a festive time that will be!

I know there are some who pooh-pooh the idea of “an earthly, carnal Kingdom” of our Lord.  They’re quite content with the “spiritual kingdom” they envision in the church, most of which doesn’t pay a lot of attention to Him, either.  I simply cannot understand how they can insult the Lord by calling ANY kingdom which He is over as “carnal,” regardless of where it is.

I’m sorry.  In my reading and study of the Bible, I do not see anything other than such a kingdom as has Jesus as its King, sitting on David’s throne in Jerusalem.  While it is true that the Lord certainly “rules” His people – He is, after all, LORD – that is just a dim foreshadowing of the time foretold by both Testaments when He will rule over all nations, not just in some unseen “providential” sense, but really and personally.

As the finale wound its way to its glorious end, my heart almost burst with longing for that time.

‘EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS.’

Where’s God on The List?

This post is a result of something I experienced in earlier days.  I was a fundamentalist and the emphasis at this particular place and time was: “Put God First.”  So people were encouraged to “make a list.”  [not to be confused with a “bucket list.”  My such list only has one item: don’t kick it! 🙂 ]

So, people would make their list.  Something like this:

1.  God
2.  Family
3.  Work
4.  Recreation
5.  Finances
6.  Etc., etc.

However, it seemed to me at the time that “putting God first” simply meant that you went to church on Sunday, not missing Sunday School, because that’s where the numbers were counted, and you put your tithe into the offering plate.  After that, you were more or less free and clear to do as you wished with the rest of the list because you “had put God first.”

Even then, and I claim no perfection in this, it seemed to me that there was a different way, a better way, to write that list.  Seemed to me it should be like this:

1.  God in the Church
2.  God in the Family
3.  God at Work
4.  God in our Recreation
5.  God in the Finances
6.  God in the etc., etc.

Other religions instruct their adherents that their beliefs are to permeate and affect every part of their lives.  A local hospital recently opened a special prayer room so one of its doctors could daily practice his religion.  Only in Christianity, it seems, are “the sacred” and “the secular” compartmentalized, so that what happens in church stays in church.

This is not as it should be.

So, I ask you – and myself –

Where’s God on the List?

The Worst Part of Christ

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of  [for] Christ greater riches than the treasure in Egypt; for he looked to the reward,  Hebrews 11:24-26 (NKJV).

One of the Puritans is the source of this post’s title.  He made the point that Moses thought serving God, (and, please note, the writer of Hebrews says that he was serving the Lord Jesus Christ,) serving God as a member of a captive, slave populace, was worth more than the treasures of Egypt, even though it led to exile and reproach.  Remember, Moses spent 40 years in the splendor and riches of that great, ancient empire.  We marvel at the relics scattered throughout museums around the world.  Some are able to travel to Egypt and see the marvels of the pyramids and Great Sphinx for themselves.  Moses lived there.

Besides, he was the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and perhaps was in line for the throne, or, at the very least, he could be in a position of great power and authority, power and authority which he could use to improve the conditions of his people.  Think what he could have done along that line –

if social reform is what “serving God” is all about.

He turned his back on all that, as well.

What does this say to, and about, “Christians,” at least in 2013 America?

Not much, and yet, too much.

We want the air conditioning and the padded pews.  Nice buildings, conveniently laid out.  Stained glass windows.  Coffee machines.  A well-delivered, but not too long, sermon. An early service time, so we still have the day to do whatever, eat out, watch football, whatever.   Theatrics, bright lights, what someone has called, “the trappings of religion.”  The right kind of music.  Loud, percussive.  Health, wealth.  Happiness.

Granted, there are those, even in this country, who suffer for their faith, perhaps not to death, but suffer, nevertheless.  Certainly, in other countries, martyrdom for the cause of Christ is not uncommon.  It just isn’t the stuff of news at 6:00 PM.

Then there are those who believe that all our problems would be solved if we could just get rid of social injustice.  Granted, social wrongs should be made right, but that’s not the thrust of the Gospel.  Social reform wants to take the man out the slum; the Gospel wants to take the slum out of the man.  Move the man, he takes the slum with him.  Convert the man, he takes care of the slum himself.  The Gospel is not about solving social problems; it’s about solving sin problems – which are the cause of social problems.  The Gospel cures the disease, reform just puts a bandaid on it.

Then there are those who believe that if we could just get the right man into political power….  There is nothing wrong with Christians taking part in the political process; the old saying is true that evil triumphs only when good men do nothing.  It’s just that when “the Church” has political, or civil, power, all sorts of evil happens.  That’s the genius of our Constitution, the separation of church and state.  [This, by the way, isn’t the same as the separation of church from state, as it is contended today.  The church has a great deal to say to the government; the government has nothing to say to the church.]  Just look at the Inquisition by Rome and the persecution and slaughter of Anabaptists by the Reformers.  Christ never meant for His church to have political power.  Our power is from another world, not this one.  You cannot legislate righteousness.  Immorality, yes; righteousness, no.

So.

Moses.

Had all we look for today, and more.

Turned his back on it all

for a far greater treasure:

the reproach of Christ.

The Stranger

[This was e-mailed to me by a long-time friend, who received it from someone else via email.  My friend mentions seeing something like this about 30 years ago.  Some of the things as it must have been originally written have changed.  I’ve edited it a little because of that.  Nevertheless, it’s still true.]

A few years after I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small town.  From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family.  The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family.  In my young mind, he had a special niche.

My parents were complementary instructors:  Mom taught me good from evil and Dad taught me to obey.  But the stranger…he was our story teller.  He would keep us spellbound for hours with adventure, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present, and seemed to be able to predict the future!  He took my family to the first major league baseball game.  He made me laugh and he made me cry.

The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind.  Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other so we could hear what he was saying, and she would go into the kitchen for peace and quiet.  (I wonder if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

Dad had certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them.  Profanity, for example, wasn’t allowed in our home, not from us, not from our friends, not from visitors.  The stranger, however, got away with four-letter words that made my ears burn, made my dad squirm and my mother blush.

He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex.  His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.  I know now that my early concepts about relationships were strongly influenced by the stranger.

Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked, …and NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family.  Though he has gotten much worse, he continues to blend right in, though he’s not nearly as fascinating as he was at first.  Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would find him in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name?  Well, I don’t remember a name.  It seems we just call him…uh, er, well, “TV”.

(NOTE [part of my friend’s email]:  This should be required reading for every household!)

He has a wife now…we call her “Computer” [with her friend, “Internet” – my addition].
Their first child is “Cell Phone”
Second child: “I Pod”.
And just born: a grandchild: “I Pad”.

MY NOTE:  I, too, remember the first TVs.  About 1950: “Death Valley Days,” hosted by Ronald Reagan and sponsored by 20 Mule Team Boraxo.  A little black and white TV with a screen not much bigger than some of today’s electronics, to say nothing of the gigantic HDTVs now available, and a terrible picture.  My, how things have changed!  Things which were generally scorned even by general society in my youth are now accepted and promoted by many “churches”.

If you don’t think TV has changed (for the worse), just check out the “old programs” and see how different they are in content.

My house is not messy

I just thought this was a wonderful post. Good for those of us who are “Monk”-oriented.

bronwyn's corner

My house is not messy. It is well loved.

20130805-100917.jpg

This table with paint smears and squished grapes, pock marked by forks – this table tells of fables fashioned by four year old fingers. It speaks of meals eaten together, children at home. My table is not messy. It tells tales of joy.

This floor with mud tracks and dump trucks arrayed underfoot – this floor speaks of a treasure found in the yard and brought in to share with wonder, of cities built and leveled, of civilizations conquered. My floor is not messy. It is the evidence of exploration.

This kitchen with breadcrusts and half drunk cups of water, with pots stacked high in the drying rack, sink stacked high with dishes awaiting their turn in the dishwasher – it speaks of meals together, friends invited, bodies nourished. My kitchen is not messy. It is a hearth of hospitality.

This…

View original post 218 more words

Trophies

[Note: The first draft of this post was started while blasting through the air at 550 mph in a pressurized metal tube, 39,000 off the ground. 🙂 ]

In earlier days, I accumulated a few trophies: high bowling score, high handicap game.  My wife and I won a 2nd place trophy in the league we used to belong to.  In fact, I joke that the only reason I married her was because she beat me bowling.  Before the Lord saved me, I had thoughts of becoming a professional bowler and spent hours at the local bowling alley.  (This was back when you could bowl 3 lines [games] for a dollar, so you know it’s been a while 🙂 ).

After the Lord saved me, I went to Bible College, then to a church where I met my then-future wife.  I didn’t bowl very often, but could still put together a decent game.  The young people’s group of which I was a member would go bowling once in a while, and Sharon joined the group and went with us.  On the occasion when she beat me, it wasn’t so much that she beat me; it was the score she beat me with – a 99.  If you’re not interested in bowling, then this score means nothing to you, but let me tell you, it isn’t particularly good!  I guess I figured that if I couldn’t beat her, then I should join her 🙂 .

If you’re familiar with miniature golf, then perhaps you know Putt-Putt miniature golf courses.  One opened up where I lived and for a while I held the record for low score – a score long since beaten, I’m sure.

The place I worked when I retired held an annual 18-hole “best-ball” golf tournament. The first year I played, the foursome I was in won the tournament with a 62.

I’ve rolled a “300” bowling on the Wii – a perfect game – but admittedly considerably easier than in real life.  The best I ever did then was, I think, was about 240 – it’s been a long time.  My wife and I enjoy “golfing” on the Wii, again, much easier than in real life.  We’re pretty evenly matched, but I think she beats me more often than not – and, no, I don’t “let” her win!  I’m much too competitive for that.

My point to all this rambling…?

The Apostle Paul was also a sports fan.  Even though he didn’t have golf or bowling or their easier versions on the Wii, he still made several references to running, boxing and wrestling and what it required to participate at a high level in those sports.  In I Corinthians 9:24, he applied this effort to the Christian life.  He wrote that these athletes work to the point of agony for a “trophy”: Now they do it for a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown, I Corinthians 9:25 (NKJV).  This “crown” was a laurel wreath placed on the head of the winner of one of these events.

I learned this verse as “incorruptible crown,” and as a young Christian and Bible student, more than once heard and read that this “crown” was one of a group of five different crowns Christians could earn.  However, as I began to read the Bible for myself (something which I’ve since learned, only partly tongue-in-cheek, can get you into trouble), it seemed to me that Paul wasn’t referring to a class of crowns distinct from other crowns, but was teaching the characteristic of the crown: it was “imperishable,” as opposed to the temporary nature of earthy crowns and trophies.

The laurel wreath soon wilted.  The bowling trophies I won – what’s left of them – gather dust in a closet.  The cup I won for rolling a 220 at Bowlero Bowling Lanes makes a dandy holder for pens.  The other “accomplishments” are meaningless as my wife and I sit here in the airport waiting for a connecting flight home.

Indeed, perhaps, by the grace and mercy of God, these few words may be of more significance than all the trophies I could ever win, even to a Super Bowl ring or Stanley Cup trophy, if I could even rise to such a high level of competence.

Oh, let me encourage you if you are discouraged in your efforts to serve God.  You may not be cheered on by the world and what you can do might seem insignificant compared to others, but, remember, our Lord taught that even something as simple as a cup of cold water given in His name to someone who is thirsty will have its reward – and that reward is “imperishable.”