Wednesday, September 30, 2009

For All The Christians Looking For Better Bible Teachers

I, like many of you, have my favorites when it comes to Bible Teachers. Probably the two I enjoy the most are John Piper and C.J. Mahaney. A close third would be John MacArthur. If he were still alive today, Martyn Lloyd-Jones would top the list as my all-time favorite. So, yes, I have my favorite Bible Teachers who I thoroughly enjoy listening to whenever I have the time to do so, which isn't as often as you might think.

Now, having admitted this however, I think you should also know that whereas these guys are my favorite Bible Teachers--they would not make my favorite "Pastor List". You see, these guys are such good teachers and preachers that this is pretty much all they do--whether they do it via the spoken or the written word. And whether they are great teachers because this is pretty much all they do or its pretty much all they do because they are great teachers--I don't know, but think it may be a combination of both. What I do know is that when you need some quick godly counsel you're probably not going to be able to get a direct line to any of these great Bible Teachers (especially Lloyd-Jones). If your teenager has been injured and is in the emergency room, you're probably going to be disappointed if you think Piper, Mahaney, or MacArthur will be showing up to pray with you and cheer up your kid. If your marriage has just taken a nose-dive and is heading South faster than Bermuda bound geese in October, you can pray all you want to get into see one of these guys but, it'll never happen, which is why they write books-right!?

So, what's my point? God's plan for His church is that His church be shepherded by biblically qualified "on-site" pastors who because they are on site are able to effectively shepherd you and your family in far more effective ways that the "Big-Name" Bible Teacher who is a couple thousand miles away. Oh sure, your pastor may not hold a candle to the preaching of a John Piper or John MacArthur but that's OK. God's plan has been for His work to be accomplished in such a way that He gets the credit for it--not the preacher. Now, this is not to discredit or dishonor the teaching ministries that many great men of God have had throughout church history. It is to say, put the credit and the honor back where it belongs and that is upon the Holy Spirit of God WHo is every believer's "resident Bible teacher" according to 1 John 2:27.

I am afraid that sometimes it is detrimental to churches to have great Bible teachers whose gifts of communication oftentimes overshadow the most important thing, which is simply that the Word of God, in its purest form, is communicated in the power of the Holy Spirit of God rather than the eloquence and power of the preacher (1 Cor. 2:1-5). You see, when the preacher's gift to communicate is what is noticed then the Bible while having perhaps been taught correctly, still may not have been taught effectively. There is a sense in which, if the credit for the teaching can be attributed solely to the teacher the Spirit of God may choose not to apply the teaching to the hearts of the listener for the simple reason that the effect can be explained in human rather than divine terms. God will never allow His glory to be stolen or diminished in His church. Therefore, if what is glorified each Sunday morning is the greatness of the teacher and the teaching rather than the greatness of God--it would be better for that church to have a basic "nuts and bolts" kind of Bible Teacher who, having done the best he can in his study of his Bible, spends the rest of his time on his knees begging God to empower His Word and implant it in his people's hearts. Then the Spirit of God can fully apply the teaching of the Word of God to the people of God for the glory of God.

I find it very interesting that in reading the pastoral epistles of first and second Timothy and Titus that there is not a requirement for pastors to be great Bible Teachers. Rather what I see is that they are to be faithful men who are able to teach others what God has taught and is teaching them (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:2, 24; Titus 1:9). Nothing is said about being great flamboyant preachers who can hold their audience's attention for an hour. Rather, what is emphasized over and over again is their ability to speak, teach, and preach "sound doctrine". In fact, the Apostle Paul warned Timothy that the day would come in the church of God when God's own people would no longer "endure" sound doctrine but rather would desire to be entertained by the preacher according to their preferred teaching styles (2 Tim. 4:3).

You may be in a church where your pastor, while not being the greatest communicator in the world, is preaching and teaching "sound doctrine" Sunday after Sunday. Don't despise him or his lack of great giftedness. Rather, be thankful that he preaches the Word of God consistently to you relying upon God's power rather than his giftedness to apply it to your hearts. Be thankful, you are in a church where the work that is happening cannot be attributed to the greatness of the preacher but rather to the greatness of God. And be thankful that your pastor keeps on preaching sound doctrine in spite of the fact that many preachers in their desire to make a name for themselves--don't. Don't succumb to the desire to no longer hear the basic nuts and bolts of sound doctrine from a preacher who doesn't inspire you Sunday after Sunday with powerfully moving and challenging sermons. Rather, "endure" the teaching of sound doctrine and ask God to apply it to your life so that the change in you can only be attributed to Him instead of the eloquence and inspiration of a man.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Romans Message #59 September 27, 2009

A Grace Greater Than Our Sin
Romans 5:15-21

Mel Trotter was one of seven children born in 1870 to a bartender who drank “as much as he served.” Following in his father’s footsteps, Mel Trotter became a hopeless alcoholic by the age of twenty. Despite his mother’s godly example, the influence of his father’s saloon and drinking proved to be a temptation too powerful for the young man to overcome in his own strength. Trotter said, “I loathed the life I was living. I tried my level best, but it wasn’t in me.”

Trotter’s drinking problem got even worse after he married and had a son. And in spite of his best efforts to stop drinking, he would always fail again miserably and go on another drinking binge. Trotter began leaving home for weeks at a time, and when he returned after a ten-day drinking spree, he discovered his two-year-old dead in his wife’s arms. Despondent and penniless, he vowed to his wife never to touch another drop of liquor. But, only two hours after the viewing of his son, he took the shoes off his dead little boy’s feet, hopped a train for Chicago and sold the shoes to buy another drink. Unable to deal with his guilt and contemplating suicide, Trotter started walking toward the freezing waters of Lake Michigan, where he intended to plunge in and drown himself. Along the way, he passed the Pacific Garden Rescue Mission where he stumbled inside and heard the preacher saying that God could forgive the greatest sinner who had committed the greatest sins if he would only come to Christ. At the invitation Trotter came and was converted.

After gaining complete victory through Christ over his addiction, he chose II Corinthians 5:17 as his favorite verse: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” He was indeed a new creature, and eight years later became a Presbyterian minister who God used to start 67 rescue missions from coast-to-coast. And for the rest of his life, after he was saved, Mel Trotter testified to the fact that God’s grace is greater than a man’s greatest sins.
J
ust this past week I read the testimony of another man who had experienced the wonderful grace of God in his life. Here is what he said after coming to Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins: "I soon realized I had been made the righteousness of God in Christ, having wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I had been set apart from sin, because of Jesus Christ. God had delivered me from the power of darkness and had translated me into the kingdom of His dear Son. Where I was once living in defeat, I was now living in victory. I was a conqueror in Christ, capable of overcoming all the circumstances of this world. By the word of Jesus Christ, whose testimony was witnessed in my life, I was now content, and lived by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me."

What is really powerful about this testimony is that it is the testimony of Charles “Tex” Watson, who is serving a life sentence in prison for brutally murdering eight people at the bidding of Charles Manson on August 9, 1969. When asked why he killed these seven adults and one unborn baby, he replied: "I am the devil, and I'm here to do the devil's business." His testimony is also a testimony to the fact that God’s grace is greater than the very worst a person can become or do.

God’s grace in salvation is indeed greater than all of our sin and shame and in our passage for this morning Paul makes this argument loud and clear for all who are listening. And he does so by contrasting the effects of God’s saving grace in Christ against the consequences of being condemned in Adam. And the conclusion of the matter, which he presents to us at the end of his argument is that God’s grace is not only greater than all of our sin—it is greater than all of the greatest sinners’ greatest sins combined. And that there is absolutely no way for the true believer in Christ Jesus to out sin the super-abundant and abounding grace of God—irregardless of the nature, frequency, or the magnitude of his or her sins.

So turn with me to Romans 5:15-21.

Last week in Romans 5:12-14 we saw that Paul compared the believer’s being “in Christ” with what it was to have previously been “in Adam”.
And essentially what the Bible teaches is that just as we were in Adam when he sinned so that his sin could be and actually was attributed to us—being “in Christ” means that not only was His righteousness imputed to us but also all of His righteous deeds which He performed in fulfilling the Law of God on our behalf were attributed to us.

In other words, since God saw us as actually being in Adam and with Adam in the Garden when he sinned so that Adam’s sin was our sin and Adam’s condemnation became our condemnation—Upon our salvation, God sees us as actually being in Christ and with Christ when He lived His life on earth, went to the cross, died, and resurrected from the grave, so that His righteous deeds are our righteous deeds and Christ’s righteousness is our righteousness.

But here in Romans 5:15-21 Paul moves from looking at the similarities between being in Adam and being in Christ to the differences between the two and in doing so focuses on the differences between condemnation in Adam and salvation in Christ Jesus, ultimately concluding—that God’s grace is super-abundantly powerful and effective to save and rescue people from their position of utter ruin in Adam’s sin and their propensity to utterly ruin their lives through their own personal sin if they will only place saving faith in Christ Jesus.

So, let’s begin in verse 15, where the first thing Paul does it make the point that the “free” gift of salvation is not like Adam’s sin in terms of its effect. He says that Adam’s sin resulted in the spiritual deaths of the many whereas the grace of God—at work in the gift of salvation as offered through the work of Christ—abounds to the many. Now, we know that when we compare Scripture with Scripture and in fact simply look back at verse 12 that all people died spiritually as a result of Adam’s sin. So why does Paul say “the many” died rather than “all” died.

The Greek phrase is hoi polloi. It is talking about a specific defined people as is indicated by the use of the definite article. But who are these people Paul is talking about? The answer is found in the second part of the verse, where in referring to “the many” again—he identifies them as those to whom the grace of God and the gift of salvation through Christ abounded.

In other words, “the many” that Paul is referring to in the context of verse 15 are believers who as verse 17 puts it “have received the abundance of grace” that God offers sinners who will believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. His point is simply that the believer is no different than anyone else. If all people died in Adam than all believers died in Adam too—they are not the exception to this. And thus, believers or the many were just as lost and condemned in Adam as those who never come to Christ were and are.

So…Paul is simply making the point that we as believers—being just as lost, wicked, and condemned as those who never believe—needed the “superabundant” grace of God to save us. In other words, it is not that we who have believed in Christ were or are more savable than those who never do believe. We who are saved needed God’s super-abundant and super-abounding grace to save us and in fact still need the “super-abounding” grace of God in our lives to keep us saved. And according to verse 15, this is exactly what God has given to us—His “super-abundant and abounding grace”.

Now the word “abounded” comes from a Greek word which basically means to be far more than adequate, far more than is necessary, and far more than sufficient so as to super-abound. If there had been “all-you-can-eat buffets” in Paul’s day—they could have been called “super-abounding buffets” because when applied to food, the word means that there is more food to eat than a person has the capacity to eat.

But, the meaning of the Greek word even goes beyond that—so that if applied to our all-you-can-eat restaurant again—it would mean that there is more food to eat in the restaurant than everyone who is in the restaurant has the capacity to eat.

But, even that comes a little short, because the word, when applied to our scenario of food in an all you can eat restaurant, could also mean that there is more food in this restaurant than everyone who has ever been in that restaurant or who will ever be in that restaurant combined has the capacity to eat.

But even that scenario doesn’t do this word complete justice because in its most comprehensive meaning, as applied to the scenario of how much food is available in our all-you-can-eat restaurant—it would mean that if it was possible for everyone who has ever lived, is alive right now, and who will be alive until the end of time to all show up at this restaurant together at the same time—and all being hungry enough to eat for the rest of their lives without a break—this restaurant would have more food left on the shelves at the end of this feeding frenzy than was consumed.

Now if you take that meaning and apply it to the grace of God and the gift of God’s grace in salvation that is available not only to one believer but every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ that has ever lived and will ever live—you see that what Paul is saying is that God’s grace is so powerful, so immense, and so infinite that not only is it able to save us all from all of the sins we will ever commit—it would, if necessary, be able to save us from all of the sins that we could possibly ever commit over the course of our lives even if our lives were infinitely long.

In other words, God’s gift of salvation by grace is far greater in its effect upon people than Adam’s sin.

Then in verse 16 Paul, in answering the question of God’s fairness in condemning the whole race because of Adam’s sin makes the point that whereas, the judgment of spiritual death and separation from God came about as the result of one sin--Adam’s sin—God’s free gift of salvation came about in spite of the fact that many sinful transgressions had already occurred and would still yet occur.

In other words, you may not have as much trouble coming to grips with the fact that as a result of just one sin God condemned the whole race—when you consider that after we had proved we truly were sinners by sinning many more times than we can remember and in many more ways than we can count—God’s grace provided the way of our salvation. As one commentator put it: “That one single misdeed should be answered by judgement, this is perfectly understandable:[but] that the accumulated sins and guilt of all the ages should be answered by God’s free gift, this is the miracle of miracles, utterly beyond human comprehension.” [Cranfield]

Then in verse 17 Paul continues to drive home his point that God’s grace in salvation is greater than the power of sin. Whereas, Adam’s sin resulted in death for all of us and in fact, death reigning over all of us—God’s grace in salvation broke the power of sin in our lives and rescued us from spiritual death so that the person who receives the super-abundance of God’s grace and the gift of His righteousness will reign over death and sin as he overcomes sin in his life through Jesus Christ. And note Paul’s use of the words, “much more”. It is as though he were saying, “Since it is absolutely true that because of Adam’s sin death reins upon all men—much more true than this is the fact all who will receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign over death in life through Christ Jesus.

Then in verses 18-19, Paul sums everything up by saying that whereas, through Adam’s sin there resulted condemnation to all men—even so—or in the same way—through Christ’s work on the cross, there resulted justification of life to all men. Now, is this saying that God is going to save everyone? No, again when we consider what the rest of the Scriptures teach we know this is not true. What Paul is saying is that whereas through Adam’s sin condemnation came upon all—without exception who were in Adam—through Christ’s work salvation and justification came upon all—without exception who are in Christ Jesus.

And then Paul wraps up his argument that God’s grace is more powerful in the believer’s life than Adam’s sin by making verse 19 correspond to verse 15 where he started this section. Whereas, in verse 15, Paul made the point that God’s gift is not like Adam’s sin in that it had a much more powerful effect and result in that though through Adam’s sin the many—the whole contingent of people who are true believers in Christ Jesus—died spiritually—through Christ, they were rescued by a grace that super-abounded to every single one of them.

Then in summing up his argument that God’s gift is indeed superior to the Adam’s sin in terms of its results and effect—Paul writes in verse 19—that even though in Adam and through Adam’s sin “the many”—that is the whole contingent of all who would become believers—were made sinners—In Christ and through Christ—the many—this whole contingent of people who have received the abundance of God’s grace—every single one of them—without exception—shall be made righteous. The phrase “shall be made” in the phrase “shall be made righteous” comes from one Greek word, katastathesontai, which means to be placed in a certain position or standing.

So, Paul’s point is that whereas every single one of us who has placed faith in Christ was at one time before our salvation set in the position and standing of a lost and condemned sinner before God—now because of God’s grace—we have been placed by God and in God’s sight in the position of one who is standing in the position of a righteous person.

Thus, Paul comes full circle in the promise he made back in Romans 5:1-2, that having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also we have obtained our access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we exult in the hope of the glory of God. And this grace in which we have been made to stand in by virtue of being in Christ instead of in Adam any longer is a “superabundant and super-abounding” kind of grace that neither we nor anyone else can extinguish, destroy, deplete, ruin, undo, or out sin. Which is why Paul tells us in verse 20 that whereas the Law of God caused our sin to increase in the sense that it revealed to us the seriousness of our sin and the seriousness of our sin’s eternal consequences—God’s Grace is super-abundantly more than sufficient to overcome this increased seriousness of our sin as exposed by God’s Law—So that, as great as our sin is and could ever possibly be—God’s grace is greater still.

And this leads us to Paul’s final point in verse 21 that because of Christ and in Christ we are no longer under the reign of sin or law but of grace. Because we are under the reign and power of grace—as verse 17 puts it we shall reign in life—in the sense that because God’s grace is vastly and infinitely greater than all of our sin—we cannot ever fail—no matter what we ever do or don’t do—to be acceptable to God or accepted by God in Christ Jesus—and thus shall never ever be in danger of losing our salvation in Christ.

CONCLUSION

What this means to us who have truly believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation from our sins is that irregardless of how often some of us may have thought we had come or have come to out-sinning God’s grace—none of us have ever even come close or will ever come close.

For as great as our sin has ever been God’s grace has been greater.

And as great as our sin can ever become—God’s grace will be greater.

No man’s sin, whether the man be Adam or us or the two of us combined is any match for the matchless infinite grace of God that truly is greater than all of our sin and shame.

It also means that we really do have a message of hope for people who do not know what to do about their sin.

I mean, if God’s grace toward sinners and His love for sinners demanded that He make a way for sinners to be forgiven and restored to Him—then most certainly—it demands that we go and tell them about it.

And what this means to those of you have never trusted in Jesus Christ for your salvation from the wrath of God for your sins is that if you will receive the abundance of grace that God offers you in Christ Jesus—you will be saved irregardless of the greatness, frequency, or utter wickedness of your sin.

But……you must receive His grace as freely as it is offered to you in Christ Jesus.

And when you do trust Christ as your Savior from sin you will be able to say with the hymn writer:

My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Let’s pray.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Romans Message #58 September 20 , 2009

In Christ As We Were In Adam
Romans 5:12-14

The goldmine that has produced more gold than anywhere else on earth is located in South Africa. It has produced, over its lifetime 2,292 tons of gold, so that at the current price of gold, which is $1007.20 an ounce—this mine, which is over two miles deep mine has produced roughly seven and a half trillion dollars of gold. Now, if you were to compare the amount of gold discovered in just this one mine, which is only one among hundreds of mines that have been dug to discover gold—to the amount of mine discovered by gold panners—there is simply no comparison. The discovery and production of gold from gold panning from its very inception to today can’t even begin to register on the chart when it comes to what this one mine in South Africa produces in just one year. As one gold speculator put it—if you want a $10 flake of gold get yourself a pan and some sunscreen. If you want a $100 thousand dollar nugget get yourself a shovel and a sweatband. In other words, if you want to find the richest nuggets—you’re going to have to dig for them.

This principle holds true for spiritual nuggets as well. If you are content with a “devotional” type of Christianity in which you are barely skimming the surface of the Bible and in fact aren’t following the teaching of God’s Word with enough effort to keep yourself awake then you may have collected a few gold flakes over the years that you keep returning to as your spiritual treasures. On the other hand, if you actually study your Bible and apply yourself to getting as much out it as possible and to intently listening and staying engaged when the Bible is taught you probably have a spiritual treasure chest full of spiritual nuggets of truth that are bearing great dividends in your personal walk with the Lord. But the fact is—you won’t grow deep in your Christian life and walk with the Lord without digging deep. There is simply no substitute for the hard work of reading, studying, thinking about, and praying about a Bible passage if you are to understand it enough to dig out its treasures. As John Piper puts it—“if you want leaves get a rake—if you want nuggets get a shovel.”

Today you are going to need a shovel—because Paul is going to take us a little bit deeper in this whole subject, which we introduced last Sunday of being in union with Christ. As Paul moves into the next section of Romans 5, he begins by using the word, “therefore” to tie what he has said in verses 1-11 with what he is going to say in verses 12-21. In essence, he has in verses 1-11 told us why the believer can be fully assured of his salvation. And in providing us with several reasons for this assurance, he reached the climax in verse 10 when he wrote that ultimately “we shall be saved in the life of Christ Himself”. But realizing that it might be difficult for his readers to envision what this concept of “being in Christ” actually looks like and how it works in regard to our lives—Paul—gives us a contrasting example to compare this concept against.

We often do this when we are trying to explain or describe someone or something that is difficult to understand. Bethany just took her driving test to get her driver’s permit last week. In helping her prepare for her test I reviewed the driver’s manual with her and I would often contrast the correct driving procedure with an incorrect one just to, if you’ll pardon the pun, drive my point home. Well here in Romans 5:12-14, Paul is contrasting what it is for the true believer to “be in Christ” by comparing it with what it was for the true believer to have “been in Adam”.

You see, before you were “in Christ”, you were “in Adam”. And it is important to understand that you cannot be in both Adam and Christ at the same time. To be “in Adam” is to be lost, unsaved, unregenerate, without Christ, condemned, and on your way to hell. To be “in Christ” is to be saved, to be regenerated, born again, justified, reconciled to God, and on your way to heaven. All of us here in this room are either “in Adam” or “in Christ”. We all live either in union with Adam and his sin or we are living in union with Christ and His righteousness. And whereas, these two unions are different in their essence and certainly in their consequences—they also share some conceptual similarities that help us to understand what it is to “be in Christ”.

Here in Romans 5:12-21, Paul gives us both—the differences and the similarities between the two—and today we will deal with the similarities as found in verses 12-14. And it is because there are similarities between both unions that Paul, after telling us that our ultimate ongoing and eternal salvation from the wrath of God for our sin is guaranteed by the fact that we as true believers are “in Christ”—likens this new union in Christ to our old union in Adam. Now specifically what Paul is trying to further explain to us is this whole idea of having the righteousness, works, merits, and identity of Christ imputed or reckoned to us as though in Christ we really did fulfill the law of God and really did die with Christ at Calvary and really did rise from the dead a new creation.

In all honesty, some of you had and are still having some difficulty with this concept. I’ll admit—it is a tough one to get your mind around. I mean, to think that Christ’s life has been attributed to us so that when Christ obeyed God—we were the ones “in Christ” obeying God is pretty difficult to imagine. It is hard to believe that Christ’s identity is so completely our identity that when we stand before God He will deal with us just as though He were dealing with Christ Himself. It is almost unthinkable to imagine that “in Christ”, all of Jesus Christ’s, righteousness and everyone of His actual righteous deeds in which He fulfilled the Law of God have been attributed to the believer just as though the believer fulfilled them. Well, it is because this concept is so huge to get our minds around that Paul likens it to what it was for us to be “in Adam” back before we were saved. So, let’s read Romans 5:12-14.

In verse 12, Paul immediately begins to set the stage for comparing not only Adam with Christ but also “being in Adam” with “being in Christ” with the words: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” Then, realizing that he needs to explain the fact that through Adam death really did spread to all men because all men really did sin in Adam he pens verses 13-17 as sort of a parenthesis.
Then, he picks up his comparison of Adam and being in Adam to Christ and being in Christ in verses18 and 19. So if you were to read Paul’s initial comparison and really his main point without the parenthetical explanation found in verses 13-18 it would read:

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”

The first thing Paul begins to contrast is the impact of Adam’s disobedience upon us versus Christ’s obedience upon us as well as our involvement in both Adam’s disobedience and Christ’s obedience from God’s perspective. So let’s go back and really dig into verses 12-14 because what Paul is going to show us is that whereas the impact of Adam’s sin meant universal spiritual death and condemnation upon all people—it was because, as far as God is concerned, all people actually did sin “in Adam” when he sinned. Let’s flesh this out and I’ll show you what I’m talking about.
Look at verse 12 again. Note that it is making three important points.

1. Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world.
2. Through sin death entered into the world.
3. Death, once in the world, spread to all men because all men sinned.

When Paul uses the words “sin” and “death” in verse 12, he uses definite articles with them so that he is actually writing, “the sin” and “the death”, making the verse actually read:

“Therefore, just as through one man the sin entered into the world, and the death through the sin and so the death spread to all men because all sinned.”

So, because he used the definite article with sin—he is not talking about sin in general but rather a specific sin—that being “the original sin of Adam”. And because he uses the definite article with death—he is not talking about death in general but a specific death—that being “the spiritual death of Adam”, which spread or passed to all men. So, here in this verse we see that through Adam’s sin as recorded in Genesis 3, in which he disobeyed God and took and ate from the fruit of the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil—that “the sin” or “the original sin” entered into the world.

In other words, “the original sin”, which is the source of all sin and which is the cause of spiritual death did not enter into the world through Satan’s disobedience but though Adam’s disobedience. And this is important because it signifies that Satan was never man’s representative so that someone could argue that all men sinned in Satan. That simply is not true because even though Satan sinned first—he did not sin as mankind’s representative or head. Likewise, even though Eve sinned before Adam in listening to Satan and eating of the fruit and then giving it to Adam to eat—she did not sin as the head or representative of the whole human race—thus we did not sin in Eve because Eve was not our representative. Mankind did not fall until Adam sinned because all of mankind was in Adam when he fell.

Now, just as through Adam’s sin, “the sin” entered into the world—through this original sin of Adam, “the death” in terms of spiritual death and subsequently physical death also entered the world of men as well.

Now that’s the first two points of verse 12 and we probably don’t have any problem with either one of them. Most believers have no problem agreeing with these two points but do struggle when they come to Paul’s third point which is that—the death, once in the world, spread to all men because all men sinned.

Now, Paul is not saying that spiritual death and condemnation passed to all men because all men have sinned just like Adam did. If this were what he was saying—most Christians wouldn’t have a problem with verse 12. Because if this is what Paul was saying then people become sinners by sinning rather than sin because they are sinners. Furthermore, if this is what Paul is saying than people are not born sinners but rather are born innocent, neutral toward God, and only become sinners upon actually sinning and if they can keep from sinning then they will not be condemned. Therefore, if this is what Paul was saying then it is possible to never sin and to go to heaven upon your own merits if you never sin and thus are never condemned. But you see—this is not what Paul is arguing here in verse 12 and he explains this in verses 13-14.

Let’s look.

In verses 13-14, he makes the point that sin—NO DEFINITE ARTICLE—was in the world being committed before the Law of God was given but because the Law of God had not been given man’s individual sins—acts of disobedience—were not imputed against him or charged against him—because there was no Law that had been given stating such sinful practices were wrong. There can be no law breaker unless there is a law to break.

However, even though man’s individual acts of sin were not counted against him—all men from Adam to Moses—who was the man who recorded God’s Law for us—still died.
In other words, even though their own individual acts of sin were not counted against them, they still suffered the effects of the original sin, which is the original condemnation and thus they all died. Now verse 14 also makes the point that even though all the people who lived from Adam to Moses died—they did not die or suffer condemnation for their own individual sins because none of their sins were like Adam’s sin. Listen, because Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden after they sinned, they nor their descendants ever had the opportunity to sin against God’s one prohibition against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil again. Thus no one since Adam has ever sinned in the same way as Adam did and furthermore no one has ever sinned in the same position as Adam was in as the representative of the entire human race.

Therefore, if people’s sins prior to the Law being giver were not counted against them because their was no law and because they could not possibly sin in the same way or in the same position as Adam did—why were they suffering the consequences of sin, which is spiritual and physical death—Unless they had all sinned “in Adam”. In other words, as far as God is concerned Adam represented the whole human race and when he sinned everyone sinned with him and in him so that Adam’s disobedience, sin, and condemnation were all imputed to everyone’s life and account before God. Thus, the reason why men from Adam to Moses who did not have God’s Law died even though their individual sins were not counted against them. You see, they died, not because they sinned personally but, because in Adam—they actually were seen by God as having actually sinned.

If you’ll go back to verse 12 again and notice the grammar of the verse. The word “sinned” in the phrase: “because all men sinned” is an aorist indicative verb meaning that it is referring to an act that occurred once rather than continually. Now, I don’t know about you but I have never just sinned once and that was it. Oh how I wish that were the case but it isn’t. I have sinned many times and so have you and so has every one that has ever lived. In other words, spiritual death passed upon all men because all men sinned once in Adam when he sinned because we were “in Adam”. The fact that all of us continue to sin is simply the proof that we all sinned in Adam and through that sin experienced spiritual death and having our natures completely effected in a negative way by that sin attributed to us by virtue of being “in Adam”.

For more confirmation that we all sinned in Adam and reaped the consequences of this act look at v. 15 where Paul writes: “For if by the transgression of the one, the many died . . .”. See also: v. 16 where Paul writes: “for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation . . .” Check out v. 17: “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one . . .” Look at v. 18: “So then, as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men . . .” And finally check out v. 19 where Paul writes: “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners . . .”

You cannot miss the point—one sin committed by Adam condemned us all because as our representative—our head, if you will, we all were seen by God as participating in that very sin so as to be as guilty as Adam was in committing it. So that, “in Adam”, we all sinned—we all were disobedient to God because his sin was attributed to us thus condemning us before we ever did one sinful act.

Now you may not like that but if you don’t understand it you won’t understand how God could attribute to you the believer all of Christ’s righteousness before you ever did anything righteous. I mean how can it be that God can declare a sinner who believes in Jesus as righteous before that sinner has an opportunity to do anything that is even remotely righteous? Because—just as in Adam, Adam’s sin became our sin because in God’s sight— we while in union with Adam were the ones who actually took that fruit and ate it—in Christ, Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and in God’s sight we obeyed God with and in Christ when He lived His life upon the earth. And that is why Paul makes the point at the end of v. 14 that Adam was a type of Him to come.

The word “type” comes from tupos, meaning a model or a pattern. It does not necessarily mean a perfect model or pattern but a general pattern or model of something or in this case someone who is coming. And the One Whom Adam as the representative of the human race was a model of is Jesus Christ, the representative of a new human race made up of God’s elect chosen people. So that just as “in Adam” all people sinned and were condemned for that sin attributed to them by virtue of what Adam did on their behalf—In Christ Jesus, all believers have had attributed to them all of Christ’s righteousness and righteous acts just as though they had been there with Jesus doing the same. So that the believer is indeed guaranteed eternal salvation by God because the believer is in Christ Jesus and all that was true and is true and will be true of Jesus Christ in His perfect humanity is true of the believer as well.

If you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and thus are still “in Adam”—you will one day stand before God one day and be treated as the sinner you are, which means you will be condemned to hell for all of eternity—On the other hand, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and thus are “in Christ” you will one day stand before God and be treated as one who not only possesses the very righteousness of Christ but also has “in Christ” accomplished the very righteous acts and works of Christ—All because whereas, in Adam you possessed Adam’s identity and were guilty of his sin—in Christ you possess Christ’s identity and are given all of His righteousness for all of eternity so that God will always love you, accept you, and desire you just as He would Christ Himself.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Romans #57 September 13, 2009

The Believer’s Assurance (pt. 4)
Romans 5:10

Did you know that according to the FBI, the fastest growing crime in the United States with over 27.3 victims in the last five years and causing over 5 billion dollars in personal losses just last year alone is “Identity Theft”?

But I know of a crime that occurs to Christians that is far worse than that.

It effects far more people and is responsible for the losses of spiritual blessings, spiritual power, peace, joy, holiness, and victory over sin, which if it was possible to put a monetary value on would far exceed any cost we could comprehend.

I call it “Spiritual Identity Ignorance” and essentially it is a self-perpetrated crime in which its victims have simply not studied their Bibles long enough, hard enough, and carefully enough to understand who they are “in Christ”.

Sometimes it is a church or even pastor-perpetrated crime in which these victims have never heard teachings on their identity in Christ because the church is so caught up in “being all they can be in and to the world”.

Well—we don’t want to be a victim or perpetrator of this crime so let’s find out what our real identity is as those who are trusting Christ for our salvation.

Turn with me to Romans 5:10.

We now begin a section in Romans 5 that introduces us to another great reason why our salvation is an eternal salvation, which we cannot lose or forfeit under any circumstances. And this reason is that we as believers are in union with Christ.

Paul first introduces this concept in Romans 5:10 where he writes, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” You see, as verse 10 teaches us—we who believe in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior have been reconciled to and with God by virtue of the fact that Jesus Christ went to the cross in our place so as to take our sins upon Himself and pay for them by His death. And what Paul is arguing is that whereas our salvation was procured eternally through the death of Christ on our behalf—it is guaranteed eternally through the life of Christ on our behalf. In other words, what guarantees the eternal security of our salvation, which is by nature eternal and permanent, is Christ’s life, which is also eternal and thus permanent.

So—in death Christ saved the believer and in life Christ guarantees His salvation to the believer. Therefore, if our final ultimate salvation is guaranteed by the life of Christ—it is as eternal as Christ’s life and since Christ is eternal so is our salvation. But more than that, Paul is arguing in verse 10 that not only is our salvation guaranteed by the life of Christ—that is Christ living His life on our behalf as our continued substitute—Our salvation is guaranteed by the fact that we are in union with Christ as He lives His life in us and on our behalf.

Whereas, most of our English translations have translated the last phrase just as I read it—“we shall be saved by His life”, the literal rendering is that, “we shall be saved in His life”. In other words, the reason why our salvation ultimately can be secured and thus guaranteed is because we have been placed in a permanent connection with Christ in which an unbreakable, indisolvable, permanent, inseparable, unseverable, and intimate union exists between us and Christ in that we have actually been placed in the position of being “in Christ Jesus”.

Therefore, our salvation is not merely a matter of being forgiven, justified, reconciled, and thus saved from our sins—it is also a radical change in our whole position, standing, status, and identity before God in which we are “in Christ”. So that, everything that is true of Jesus Christ in His humanity is also true of us so that Christ’s righteousness is our righteousness, Christ’s merits before God are our merits before God, Christ’s position, standing, and status before God is our position, standing, and status before God, Christ’s future before God is our future before God, Christ’s past before God is our past before God—all because Christ’s identity before God is now our identity before God. Listen—as believers—we have no identity outside of Christ—He is our identity.

The spiritual ramifications of this truth that we are in union with Christ so that His identity is our identity and that everything that was and is and will be true of Christ in His humanity is true of us are really incomprehensible. If, in Christ, the merits of Christ’s life that He lived on earth are also true of me—and they have to be—or else you can’t be saved—because not only does your salvation require that your sins be paid for but according to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount—you have to live a life as perfect as God’s.

Look at Matthew 5:20 and 5:48.

Negatively, you sins had to be paid for but positively—you need to be as perfect as God is if you are to ultimately be saved. And that is only possible if as Paul writes in Romans 5:10, that we are saved “in His Life”.

Now, back to my point—if “in Christ” the merits of Christ’s perfection have been attributed to me so that I not only possess the righteousness of Christ but am seen by God as having performed the righteousness of Christ by virtue of the fact that everything that was true of Christ in His Humanity while He was on earth is also true of me—then. . . .

As Bryan Chapel states so well in his book—“Holiness By Grace”—which I highly recommend to you—

This spiritual reality of my new identity permits me . . . to look through the eyes of Jesus at the events of Scripture [so that what Jesus does and is in His humanity is considered to be what I have done and who I am in my humanity as one who is in union with Christ.]

So that when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, the wisdom of His sermon has been attributed to me.

So that when Jesus overcome the devil in the wilderness and thwarted his every attempt to tempt Him to sin—Jesus’ victory is our victory in that it is attributed to us because we are in Him.

So that when Christ had compassion upon the blind, the poor, and the guilty and worked on their behalf to relieve their burdens—Jesus’ compassion and mercy and works of mercy have been attributed to me.

Listen—as hard as it is to understand, comprehend, believe, and accept as true—all that Christ did in His humanity that pleased God and everything that He did pleased God has been attributed, imputed, and reckoned to you—if you are “in Christ”.

And while this may be new for some of you and you’re wondering what new fangled theology is Mark pushing on us today—let me take you back to 1563 and the Heidelberg Catechism, which was produced to teach Protestant Christian children and families their theology. In Question #60, the question is asked: How are thou righteous before God? And here is the answer:

“Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.”

Most believers have never plumbed the depths of what Paul meant when he said, speaking for all true believers, in Galatians 2:20 that: “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me. . .” This statement is not merely Paul saying that “Jesus lives in his heart” and often that is about as deep as our theology goes. He is not saying that Jesus is the energizing power in our lives either.

If you look at the verse’s context from verse 16-19, verse 20 is in the context of Paul’s argument that a person cannot be justified by his works and religious performance before God. Thus, what he is saying is that my prior identity before God, which was based upon my inability to satisfy God and be accepted by God even with my best works has been extinguished—it was crucified with Christ—and thus no longer exists. This means that my status, standing, and position before God based upon my performance in regard to His Law—whether good or bad—no longer exists—it has no bearing upon me because I have been crucified with Christ and am now dead to the Law according to Galatians 2:19 and other passages such as: Romans 7:4.
Thus, my old identity that was based upon my religious performance and obedience or lack of obedience to God’s law no longer exists and I have been given a new identity before God, which is based upon Christ’s performance of obedience in every aspect to the Law of God.

Thus, in my new identity “in Christ”, which is based solely upon His performance and obedience to the Father—I am credited with all of Christ’s obedience, all of Christ’s righteousness, and all of Christ’s human perfections so that by virtue of being “in union with Christ” I am as accepted by God the Father as Jesus is—because He is my identity.

So, what Paul is essentially saying is that since my old identity based upon my disobedience to God’s Law no longer exists and since my new identity as a believer is bound up in Christ—I now enjoy the privilege of Christ’s own status and standing before the Father because I possess Christ’s identity as my very own by virtue of my union with Christ. And even now and on through eternity—Christ continually supplies the believer with His identity because God has made Christ our life.

Consider 1 Corinthians 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 5:21.

What we are talking about is often referred to as “positional sanctification”. In essence, it is the truth that God has imputed or placed upon the believer’s account the obedience and righteousness that Jesus fulfilled. So that, without earning it or possessing it ourselves, God declares us holy by virtue of our union with Christ. And even though the believer’s life is far from perfect, God has taken away all of the pollution of his sin and replaced it with all of the righteousness of Christ so that God relates to the believer in the same way that He relates to His Son—Jesus Christ. As believers in Christ, we are treasured as God’s holy children because we have Christ’s identity and Christ’s status before God. Now that is our positional or definitive sanctification.

In our progressive or experiential sanctification—we are growing in Christ so as to become in our experience who God already sees us to be. And just as our positional sanctification is bound up in our union with Christ so is our progressive and experiential sanctification because it is only through our union with Christ and His life that we receive all of God’s blessings including the power and ability to live the Christian Life and grow in holiness.

Consider Galatians 2:20 again.

Paul says: “. . . and the life that I now live in the flesh—I live by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” In other words, whereas before Paul’s salvation, he lived his life believing in himself and in his own abilities to please God and in his own supposed merits before God—in his own identity’s ability, if you will, to please God—Now, as a believer and as one who has been placed in union with Christ—he isn’t trying to please God by believing in himself and his own abilities to do so but rather he lives his new lie in Christ by continually believing in and entrusting himself to Christ and Christ’s ability to remain acceptable to God for all of eternity.

Our continued acceptance before God therefore, is never based upon our performance whether good or bad—it is continually based upon Christ and His life. And it is only as we are living our lives by faith in Christ and experiencing and enjoying our union with Him that we will have the power to say “No” to sin.

Richard Loveless, writes in his book entitled, “Dynamics of Spiritual Life”,

“Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. . . .drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience. Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon [Martin] Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude.” [p. 101]

According to Chapell, the reason why our spiritual growth is inseparably connected to our union with Christ and must be grounded in our justification rather than our performance as Christians is because it provides us with the two confidences necessary for any spiritual growth and advancement whatsoever.

1) When we appropriate the fact that we are in union with Christ as justified believers whose identity is Christ Himself—we have the confidence that our status and standing and thus our acceptance will never change regardless of what our performance before God.

2) When we appropriate the fact that we are in union with Christ as justified believers whose identity is Christ Himself—we have the confidence that our ability does change because Christ’s life substitutes for ours in supplying the ability to please God as well as supplying the righteousness God requires.

So, with this understanding of our union with Christ, I think we can see why Paul makes the point in Romans 5:10, that we shall be saved “in Christ’s Life”.

You see, we really and genuinely new creations in Christ Jesus as 2 Corinthians 5:17 teaches us. It is important to note that the verb used for “passed away” in terms of the old things that characterized our life is an aorist indicative thus it is indicating that these old things about us and that characterized us have passed away—once and for all—so that we are no longer that person that we were before and now have a new identity—an identity “in Christ Jesus”. The verb used in the next phrase “behold new things have come” is a perfect indicative and is referring to an action that occurred in the past once and for all but still bears present and future consequences and ramifications.

In other words, not only did we die at the cross when we were in Christ so as to have our old existence and our old identity pass completely away but we also were resurrected “in Christ” so as to have a new life and a new identity, which right now and on into the future is bearing fruit in our lives and on our behalf.

So that if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ—you are not the same person you were before you were saved. Oh you look like the same person. You enjoy the same foods. You have the same job, and you still sin—but inside—the real you who you are now is not the you who existed before your salvation as a person whose identity was that of a deviant rebellious lost and condemned sinner who as the enemy of God had no interest in God and in fact hated God. That is not who you are anymore even though you do still sin.

Listen, we are genuinely new creations in Christ Jesus but we are not “totally” new yet. What I mean by that is that our battle with the world, the devil, and our fleshly lusts often defeat us and cause us to resist the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives. And these battles are life-long and will continue until glory. So, there is still a fight to be fought and battles to be won but the guarantee is that as they are fought and won and sometimes lost—our status with God and thus our acceptance with God remains the same—it is not affected by our victories or our defeats. So that we can keep on fighting and growing until the day when we truly are in our experience who God says we are right now “in Christ”.

A young soldier was once brought before Alexander the Great to be sentenced to death for desertion during an especially hard-fought battle. After hearing the charges and just before he was to condemn the young man—Alexander asked him his name and he was quite surprised to hear that his name was Alexander as well. The emperor thought for a minute and then looking at the boy told him that he would give him another chance to prove himself and that he needed to either change his behavior or change his name.

Now, we too bear the Name of a Greater King and we too often fail as traitors but our King will never tell us to change our name—but rather to never give up trying to live up to the name we have by faith in Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Decisions Made Easier

Don't ever base your decisions solely on the fear, danger, or risk involved. Always base them on the glory God will receive.

Don't sweat your decisions or over complicate them. Love God and do what you want!

When you can't see very far....go as far as you can see.

If God is your greatest treasure and pleasure in life....you have learned the secret of life and made the greatest decision of your life.

If you can't thank God for it....why even consider doing it?!

If you can't enjoy God in what you are doing something needs to be changed but be careful.....maybe its you.

And after you've made up your mind which way to go--don't be afraid to change it. God's even in control of that!

Romans Message #56 September 6, 2009

Romans Message #56 September 6, 2009


The Believer’s Assurance (pt. 3)
Romans 5:6-11

As we begin this study I would like to read to you our church’s statement of faith regarding what we believe about the eternal security of the true believer in Christ.

We believe and teach that all who possess true saving faith are eternally secure in Christ and unable to lose their salvation. By God's indwelling Spirit, they can never finally nor totally fall away from the state of grace, but will persevere in the faith to the end.

We believe and teach that true believers are in a spiritual warfare and due to our remaining corruptions may fall into grievous sins. However, those who profess faith but continue to live in sin and disobedience to Christ without repentance, and who fail to progress in any form of sanctification have no assurance of being born again.


Essentially, what we believe is that not only are we saved by grace apart from any works or merit of our own—we are kept saved—solely by grace and not through our good works, personal merit, or degree to which we have been successful in fighting and defeating sin. In other words, we reject the idea of "performance based" acceptability with God.

There are many within the ranks of the church today who believe that we really are to be in the business of maintaining our own salvation so as to enable God to preserve us in our salvation. These people believe that whereas a person is saved by grace through faith in Christ that their continued state of salvation is kept only by maintaining their acceptability to and with God by their progression in sanctification. In other words, the safest point for the believer in their theological system is at salvation because if you fail to maintain your acceptability with God you will lose your salvation and it cannot be regained. Now if this is true and our salvation is kept and preserved by our own works and efforts in fighting the sinful lusts of our flesh—it would seem to me that the best thing that could happen to the person who has become a believer is that they die or get killed immediately after trusting in Christ so as to not lose their salvation.

And this raises a couple questions in my mind—

Is God more generous in terms of His mercy and grace toward people before they are saved than after they are saved?

Am I saved only by the grace of God apart from any works of righteousness on my part only to be kept saved by works of righteousness on my part?

Is there a sense in which God is more understanding and thus more merciful and gracious to the sinner who first comes to Him for salvation than He is toward that same person after they are saved and have sinned because now that they are saved they know better?

And finally, is it somehow harder for God to keep believers saved than it was to save them in the first place?

Well, these are the questions Paul is going to answer for us in Romans 5:6-10 as he makes the point that:

If God has already done the most difficult thing—which is to justify and reconcile unworthy rebellious sinners to Himself—how much more can He be depended upon to accomplish the easier thing—which is to keep us who have been justified and reconciled to Himself and are in a relationship with Him through Christ—saved?!

Now, before digging into our text, lets review for just a moment. Paul’s whole point in Romans 5 is to teach us about the assurance of our salvation. And he does this before he ever begins to talk to us about our sanctification and our role in that process of becoming more and more like Christ. And the reason why he does this and puts assurance before sanctification is because those who do not have the assurance of their salvation will always struggle with growing in holiness and thus becoming more and more sanctified.

You see, when you put sanctification—the process of pursuing holiness before the experience of having the assurance of your salvation—you make the mistake of creating a situation in which your assurance of salvation is based upon your performance rather than your justification in which God has already declared you righteous and in fact as righteous as He is because He gave you Christ’s righteousness. And when you fall into the trap of trusting in your performance as a believer to keep you saved or at least acceptable to God--every time you sin or struggle with some besetting temptation or just don’t feel very holy and godly—you think you are not saved and therefore to fix this problem you think you need to get saved again, which results in you never ever growing to maturity in the Christian life because you just keep reverting back to the starting point of your faith and never growing beyond that point.

In essence, you will never learn to trust God for and in your sanctification if you are continually failing to trust Him for and in your salvation, which is evident every time you—because you are struggling with a lack of assurance of your salvation—walk the aisle, pray the prayer, and trust in Christ again. The problem with this kind of thinking and behavior is that until we are assured of our salvation we will never truly be equipped to battle our sinful lusts biblically and thus effectively so as to defeat our sin habits and see them lying at or feet dead.

Putting your spiritual performance before your assurance so that you don’t feel like you are saved unless you are performing well spiritually is to be trusting in yourself and your own merits and your own strength and your own ability rather than in Christ’s. It is a form of “works righteousness” only instead of applying it to your salvation you are applying it to your sanctification. And let me just give you this warning—this kind of “works righteousness” thinking and living is actually much more indicative of an unsaved state than struggling with sin issues that are getting the best of you on every turn.

Our sanctification like our salvation is all of grace and yes whereas we do cooperate with God in our sanctification so as to put away sin and grow in godliness this cooperation process is still all of grace so that He gets all of the glory. It is not a process in which we are the driving force behind our own spiritual growth and perfection. In fact, look at what Paul had to say about this very thing in Galatians 3:3 to a group of believers that were thinking it was their responsibility to keep themselves saved and also their job to sanctify themselves.

So you see that this whole argument about losing our salvation or about us perfecting ourselves in sanctification just does not square with Scripture at all. And it all starts—this false teaching and unbiblical doctrine that the true believer can somehow lose his or her salvation—all begins with making our progress in sanctification the basis for our continued acceptance with God and thus our continued state of salvation and thus the basis for the assurance of our salvation. Which again, is why when Paul details our whole salvation process—he places the topic of the assurance of our salvation before the topic of our sanctification. Thus, the reason why he wrote Romans 5 before Romans 6 and 7.

So with all this in our minds lets look at Romans 5:6-10 in which, again, Paul is arguing:

If God has already done the most difficult thing—which is to justify and reconcile unworthy rebellious sinners to Himself—how much more can He be depended upon to accomplish the easier thing—which is to keep us who have been justified and reconciled to Himself and are in a relationship with Him through Christ—saved?!

1. The Harder Thing God Accomplished On Our Behalf. (6-8)

Paul’s big point here in verses 6-8 is that if God loved us enough to send His Son Jesus Christ to the cross on our behalf in order to purchase our redemption, justify us, and reconcile us to Himself when we were not even interested in being justified or reconciled to Him and were in fact living in outward rebellion and living out our hostility to God as ungodly sinners—Then surely once we are no longer any of those things because of the grace and mercy of God in salvation—He can be counted on to finish the job and bring us safely home to Heaven at the end of our lives. In other words, if God loved us so much as unsaved sinners why would He love us less as saved sinners?

And perhaps it would be helpful for us to see just how God did see us when He first saved us. Verse 6 describes us as being “helpless” and “ungodly” whereas, verse 8 states we were “yet sinners” and verse 10 describes us as having been the “enemies” of God. So before our salvation God saw us as “helpless, ungodly, sinners, who were His enemies”. And yet He saved us anyway.

Now it would be good for us to examine these descriptors a little more in depth I think to get the full and complete picture of what God saw when He looked at us in our unsaved state. The word, “helpless” really needs some further clarification to really understand what Paul means in using it. It is from the Greek word, asthenon, which basically means “without strength, power, energy, or ability”. The object of this lack of ability is to be found within the context that the word is used. Thus, what Paul is saying in using this word is that before we were saved we did not have the ability nor even the energy or the desire if you will to do anything about our lost and condemned state before God. We were simply powerless to remedy our state as condemned ungodly sinners before God.

And in God’s sight—ungodly sinners we were. The word in Greek for “ungodly” is asebon, which means “to be without fear for God” so as to purposely live your life doing what God has forbidden with no fear of God and God’s response whatsoever. It basically denotes an attitude of total irreverence and disrespect for God. The word “sinners” as used in verse 8 comes from the Greek word, hamartolon, which means “a deviant”—one who has continually and consistently missed God’s mark of perfection and glory in life.

then the word “enemies” in verse 10 is from ecthroi and means “hateful, hostile, enmity, or enemy”. In other words, we were the hateful, hostile, enemies of God. And this is the condition in which God found us when He saved us.

We were not righteous people. We were not good people. We were not people with good intentions toward God. We were not people with a desire for God or even a true interest in God. We were in rebellion to God and could care less what He thought about it or just might do about it. We did not fear God. We had no respect for God.
And thus, we were condemned before God as completely deviant souls living in total rebellion to Him. Yet, in this condition—this hopeless condition that we were in—God sent His Son to die for us so as to justify us so as to reconcile us to Himself.

And this work of God through Christ on our behalf as we lived in this condition of hopeless condemnation not only was the demonstration of God’s love for us but still is the demonstration of how much God loved us and loves us still. The word “demonstrates” as is translated in the NASV is correct. God sending Christ to die for us is the demonstration that God loves us right now.

Listen, the hard thing in our salvation—if there can be a hard thing for God—was to have saved us when we were in this state of deplorable hopeless condemnation. And that is why when Paul transitions to verse 9, he begins it by saying “Much More Then” and then he proceeds to tell us what the easier thing for God is.

Let’s look.


2. The Easier Thing God Will Accomplish On Our Behalf. (9-10)

Paul makes the point here in verse 9 that if God sent Jesus to die for us in our deplorable condemnation as described in verses 6-8 then now that we are no longer in that deplorable condition but rather are now justified before God—There is absolutely no reason to think that we shall not be ultimately saved from His wrath. In fact, Paul rather emphatically states that “we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Christ.” There is no doubt about it. Paul is as dogmatic here as he is anywhere in the New Testament.

If God justified you when you were a godless deviant who could care less about Him and were living your life in rebellion toward Him why would He love you any less now when you are not in that condition but are in fact declared righteous in His sight?!
And you see, this is where it is so very important to understand the new condition you are in as a believer. You are no longer without a desire for God, you are no longer considered a sinful deviant by God, you are no longer a rebellious traitor in God’s eyes, and you are no longer His enemy. You are now God’s friend—look at verse 10.

Paul writes: that if when we were God’s enemies who lived in a state of hatred and hostility toward Him—He reconciled us to Himself through the death of Christ—now that we are reconciled—Which is to be made “the friends” of God rather than the enemies of God—There is absolutely no reason to believe that we shall not be ultimately saved from the wrath of God which is reserved only for His enemies. “Much More then”, Paul writes—“we shall be saved”. And notice that the text says, “we shall be saved by His life.” In other words, when we were the very enemies of God—Jesus’ death on our behalf reconciled us to God so that we are not His enemies any more.

And now that we have been reconciled to God—our ultimate future salvation from the wrath of God is even further guaranteed by the fact that Christ’s life has been and is being and will forever be lived on our behalf and as our substitute as believers, so that everything that is true of Christ is His perfect humanity is true of us—so that our salvation is not guaranteed by our performance but by His performance on our behalf. According to Galatians 2:20 the believer’s old man—that is his old sin-loving, sin-treasuring, and sin-adoring self was crucified with Christ so that who the believer was in his flesh before being justified by Christ is dead. In fact, Paul makes the point that as a believer—the only life living in him that God sees is Christ. So that, in salvation, the believer is given a totally new identity which is Christ. And since Christ is the only life in the believer that God recognizes what the believer does in the flesh, for good or bad, does not change his status with God.

Listen, regardless of how well you perform in the flesh or how badly you perform in your flesh—in your flesh—you are dead—no longer alive to God thus what you do in your flesh has no bearing upon who you are in the sight of God. If you are a true believer—Christ is your true and only identity and God accepts you and will always accept you because He accepts and will always accept Christ.

CONCLUSION

I don’t know about you….but I would find it very difficult to celebrate and rejoice in a salvation that was only possible or even probable. Given the possibility, irregardless of how slight, of losing my salvation because I didn’t tow the line or measure up and being sentenced to hell for all of eternity away from the presence of God would weigh too heavy on my soul to celebrate anything. I would be on “pins and needles” until I died and found out where I am going to be for all of eternity. In other words, a salvation I am not sure of and am not secure in, which can be lost at any moment and then never regained—is not a salvation I can celebrate. And this is why Paul ends this section the way He does in verse 11. Referring back to verse 2 where we rejoice in the certain expectant hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God rather than the wrath of God—And referring back to verse 3 where we rejoice in our trials because they are God’s tools to confirm the authenticity of our faith—Paul now adds the third object we are to celebrate and rejoice in as Christians—and the object is God Himself because—through our Lord Jesus Christ we have now received “the reconciliation” with Him. In other words, the state of being completely and totally reconciled to and with God is not a future event we are hoping for—it is already ours right now.

We are not waiting to be reconciled to God through our good works as believers—we are already reconciled to God and in a state of complete reconciliation with God right now because Jesus Christ went to the cross and paid for all of our sins—every single one of them—thus there is nothing we can do in the future to jeopardize our salvation that God has not already taken care of at the cross.

So, if you are a believer in Christ Jesus—relax and celebrate not only your salvation but the God of your salvation as well!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Romans Message #55 August 30, 2009

The Believer’s Assurance (pt. 2)
Romans 5:5

Anti-traditional family sociologists have discovered that in spite of their decades long project to dismiss the importance of the father and especially, a father’s love from the successful upbringing of children—they simply can’t. In spite of all their theories, which argue that dads are unimportant, unessential, and insignificant in the lives of their children so that there is no need to advocate the traditional family of a father, mother, and kids—they keep coming up against the cold-hard reality that history simply does not back up their theories.

One case in point is that the one thing most mass serial murderers such as Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Jeffery Dahmer, and Ted Bundy all have in common is that they either had fathers who were distant and wanted nothing to do with them, deserted the family when they were young, abused them, or disappeared before they were ever born. Now this is not to say that if your father was distant, abusive, or deserted you that you will become a mass murderer but it is to say that fathers are significantly important in the lives of their children and essential to their becoming healthy secure human beings.

Children that grow up either without good fathers or without the sense that their fathers love them do not grow up without experiencing some major challenges in life. And this principle holds true in the spiritual realm as well. Christians who do not know and understand the love of their Heavenly Father for them do not grow up and mature as believers without facing significant spiritual challenges and struggles that come as a result of their misunderstanding of God’s love for them and thus their security in Him. And this is why it is imperative that believers be taught and understand the nature of God the Father’s love for them. You see, insecure Christians do not make the best Christians and the only way to really help them is to help them understand and personally experience the strength of God’s love for them.

So, let’s turn to Romans 5:5.

Last Sunday, we spent our time talking about the love of God, which having been poured out within the believer’s heart guarantees the believer’s salvation. Today we will deal with the fact that Paul also tells us that this great love, which God has poured into the believer’s heart is experienced and enjoyed somehow through the Holy Spirit of God Who has also been given to the believer. And the question that comes to mind—at least my mind—is what is the role of the Holy Spirit in enabling the believer to experience the love of God so as to experience the assurance of his or her salvation. Is the Holy Spirit simply the conduit through whom the love of God is poured out within my heart or could it be that He is the actual source and substantive experience of that love, which is resident in my heart?

When I say God wants us to experience His love I do not mean that God is only wanting us to know that He loves us because we have read it in the Bible or because the preacher says so--rather God desires us to know that He loves us because we have and are experiencing His love as well. Look at Ephesians 3:14-19. Paul’s prayer for us is that we would not only comprehend in our minds the love of Christ but also experience that love which surpasses the knowledge and comprehension of it. In other words, he wants us to experience, feel and sense the great love of Christ because this surpasses simply knowing about it as “head knowledge”. And his purpose in wanting us to experience the love of Christ in our lives is because then we will be “filled with all the fullness of God”.

Now what does Paul mean by this phrase: “filled with all the fullness of God”? I believe it means that when we mentally and spiritually grow to know, understand, comprehend, and believe how much God in Christ really loves us and then begin to emotionally experience, sense, feel, enjoy, revel in, and delight in this love—our capacity for enjoying God and for enjoying our relationship with God will be overflowing so that we will be filled with the fullness of God—to the point where we have reached our capacity for experiencing God and if we are to experience any more He is going to have to give us a bigger cup. And that is exactly what God does when we finally come to figure out that this life is not about all that is swirling around us but rather about God and enjoying God and His love for us to the fullest capacity possible.

Our family has been reading a biography of Hudson Taylor the missionary whom God used to open up China to the Gospel. Hudson Taylor was a busy man—Not only was he a missionary but he recruited hundreds of other missionaries to go to China and was responsible for overseeing their work and making sure their needs were being met. He was involved in training, fund raising, recruiting, missions work, traveling back and forth between China and England, raising a family, and keeping up with his medical work—did I fail to mention that he was also a doctor?! But in the midst of this very busy and productive life listen to what consumed him through most of his adult life. Shortly before his death he told a bunch of new missionaries: "Forty years I have made it the chief business of my life to cultivate a personal acquaintance with the Lord Jesus Christ . . . so as to enjoy Him to the fullest everyday."

So if we are to be filled with the fullness of God, so as, to be as much as we have the capacity to be, fully experiencing God and His love and His joy and His power—we must understand, comprehend, grasp, and experience the love of God, which has been poured out within our hearts—and to do this we also need to understand the Holy Spirit’s role with us in this experience. And as I have consumed myself with this verse this week I have been forced to consider and try to answer a very intriguing question:

Is it possible that what Paul is saying here in Romans 5:5 is that the love of God for us and the Holy Spirit are synonymous?

In other words, could it be that God’s saving, assuring, glorifying love for believers is not so much a feeling to be experienced but a person to know and to experience? Thus, could it be that, the love of God for us as believers is best understood and experienced in the person of God the Holy Spirit so that when Paul says that the love of God has been poured out within our hearts—we can understand this to mean that the love of God has been poured out within our hearts because the God of love has been poured out within our hearts?

An analogy may help. It is a good thing to know a person loves you but a better thing to experience the person who loves you actually loving you. In fact, to only know that the person loves you without ever experiencing the person and the person loving you would be rather frustrating. It is only in experiencing the person loving you that the person’s love is truly experienced.

Thus, in flooding our hearts with His love through the Holy Spirit Who is also given to us—God has in effect allowed us to experience His love as well as He, Himself loving us in the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us. You see, the love of God which proceeds from God and the Holy Spirit of God are connected inseparably here in Romans 5:5 by use of the Greek word dia, which is translated in most English translations by the word through. The word dia is a preposition, which if you remember your high school English is a word which links and relates nouns or pronouns to other words in a sentence. And typically, a preposition usually indicates the relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence.

Well, in verse 5, the object of the preposition through is the Holy Spirit.
And what the Holy Spirit is being linked back to and related to is the love of God.
In other words, there is a direct inseparable relationship in this sentence between the love of God and the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Greek grammar indicates that the Holy Spirit is the One through Whom the love of God is being experienced and in fact the One Who is the substantive experience of God’s love in the believer’s life.
In other words, upon our salvation, God flooded our hearts with His love by giving us His Holy Spirit Who is the perfect embodiment, full expression, and most comprehensive representation of His love.

Therefore, in being given the Holy Spirit of God we have been given not only the love of God but the God Who loves us and is in fact love at the very same time.
Now, Scripture speaks often of the Holy Spirit as being poured out within our hearts and as “proceeding” from both the Father and the Son. In John 15:26, we see that the Holy Spirit Who is sent to us by Jesus comes from the Father and actually proceeds from the Father. The word “proceeds” comes from the Greek word, ekporeuomai and means “to come out of or to come forth from”. And then in Luke 24:49 and John 16:7 we see that the Holy Spirit is sent out by Jesus—God the Son.

Thus, the Scriptural evidence indicates that the Holy Spirit of God proceeds and is sent into the believer’s heart by both the Father and the Son, which is why the Westminster Confession of 1647 and the London Baptist Confession of 1689 state:

“The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.”

But the interesting thing is that they did not mean that the Father and the Son separately sent forth the Spirit but that in their eternal union together as Father and Son—the Spirit eternally proceeded and is still proceeding from that union as the very divine expression, representation, manifestation, and image of that union’s spirit of love.

Look at Galatians 4:4-7. In this passage, we are told that because we who are believers are the adopted sons of God that God has sent forth the Spirit of Christ, Who by the way is the Holy Spirit, into our hearts. And note that this Spirit of Christ or the Holy Spirit is crying out “Abba! Father!” Now to understand this passage you must see who is crying out “Abba! Father!”. It is not us. It is the Holy Spirit of God—Who as the Spirit of Christ is manifesting and even embodying Christ’s expression of love and desire for His Father as seen in the cry, “Abba! Father!” And this Holy Spirit of God who is the very embodiment of Christ’s love and desire for God the Father is Who has been sent forth into our hearts for the purpose of confirming the fact that we who believe in Christ really are the Sons of God because we have living within us the very Spirit of Christ’s love for His Father in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

Now this is really important because what Paul is saying in this Galatian’s passage is that the primary confirmation of our having been saved and thus adopted into God’s family as Sons is not that we cry out “Abba Father”—but that the Holy Spirit Who has now indwelt us—is crying out “Abba Father” so as to confirm that the love of Christ for His Father has been imparted to us through the Person of the Holy Spirit of God. And what I don’t want you to miss is that the Spirit of Christ or the Holy Spirit Who proceeds from God and is sent into the believers’ hearts by God is expressing the very love of God the Son for God the Father, which is what the Spirit of God does because this glorifies the Son and the Father.

This is important because it shows us that when the Holy Spirit indwells the believer—He indwells the believer as the third member of the Trinity Who is God the Holy Spirit and Who is the manifestation and expression of God the Father’s love for the Son and God the Son’s love for the Father. Therefore, by virtue of His presence in our lives as the indwelling Spirit of God—the very love that God has for God is also indwelling our lives. And this is evident because that love translates into us calling out “Abba Father” as well, which confirms our salvation according to Romans 8:15-17

Now go back to Romans 5:5.

Note that the verse does not specifically say that “the love of God for us has been poured out within our hearts.” Rather it says, “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts”. You see, what has really been poured out within your hearts so as to give you the greatest certainty and assurance of your salvation is not the fact that the love God has for you has been poured out within your heart but rather the very love which God the Father has for God the Son has been poured out within your heart—And since as we will see in the rest of Romans 5 in the weeks to come—that we are in union with Christ—we also are the recipients of and experience this great love God has for the Son because we are in the Son—so that God’s love for you is equal to, as great as, and as eternal as His love for His Son.

There are few theologians who have plumbed the depths of Who the Holy Spirit really is. Oh, all of your good solid conservative theologians believe that the Holy Spirit is a real person within the Triune Godhead and that He is co-eternal and co-equal to and with God—thus He is God. But few have actually dived into the theological depths of what does it mean when the Scriptures teach as the Westminster Confession puts it that the Holy Spirit proceeded and still proceeds from the union between God the Father and God the Son? One of the few who has is none other than Jonathan Edwards who basically made the point that the Holy Spirit is, in the form of a divine Person and third member of the Trinity, the essence and manifestation of the love which is shared and proceeds from the union between the Father and the Son. In other words, the third member of the Trinity Who is the Holy Spirit of God is the very and exact divine image, representation, and substance of the very love God the Father and God the Son have for each other. Therefore, the love union between the Father and the Son is such a living concrete thing that this union itself is a Person—the third person of the Trinity Whom we know as the Holy Spirit of God.

Thus, when you come to Romans 5:5, Paul’s point becomes very clear. When the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within us after we have placed faith in Christ Jesus for salvation, the very love that the Father and the Son have for each other is poured out within our hearts so that we are loved with the very same love that God the Father has for God the Son. And, the Holy Spirit, Who is the perfect expression, manifestation, and substance of this love is the guarantee that God does indeed love us with the very same love with which He loves Jesus.

Isn’t this exactly what Jesus said in John 17:24-26? In verse 26, Jesus says to the Father, “I have made your Name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them and I in them.” In other words, we were saved and then indwelt by the Spirit of Christ Who is the Holy Spirit so as to be able to experience the very love of God the Father for God the Son Who is in us by virtue of the fact that the Holy Spirit is in us.

Therefore, since God loves you, the believer, with the very exact same love He has for God the Son anything that He does in regard to you He can also do in regard to Jesus. So that, if it is possible for God to no longer love you then it would only seem possible for Him to no longer love Jesus as well—and if this is possible then the love between God the Father and God the Son is not perfect thus the Holy Spirit of God Who is the substantive manifestation of this love is not perfect either and therefore cannot be God thus the Trinity is not perfect and therefore the integrity of Who God is—is compromised and therefore God no longer exists. Thus for God to ever quit loving the believer—would be to compromise the Godhead—which is impossible.

Therefore, because God loves the believer with the very same perfect love which He loves the Son as manifested by the Holy Spirit of God our salvation is guaranteed forever—or God simply cannot be God! Thus, our final salvation as those who have been justified by faith is guaranteed by the fact that God loves us as much as He loves Himself and if He were to condemn us in the end—He would be making the choice to condemn Himself—which is as utterly impossible as us losing our salvation. And since this is impossible-so is the losing of our salvation.

Therefore, if you are taking refuge in God as the object of your salvation—your salvation is completely secure because there is nothing including yourself that has the ability to successfully challenge Him and His love for you. Psalm 34:22 says: “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants and none who take refuge in Him will be condemned.” You see, to be condemned after taking refuge in God would mean that at some point God ceased to be God and that is impossible, therefore the security of your salvation rests in the very nature, character, integrity, and existence of God Himself.

Such is your heavenly Father’s love for you—that His love for you the believer is bound up in His very integrity and existence as God.

Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!

" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13