Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Condemnation of the Religious Man (Part VI)

What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;” (Romans 3:9)

Paul is probably referring back to the heathen man described in chapter one. After having done such a thorough job of putting on display the guilt of all mankind, no more room exists for boasting. Neither the moral man nor the most devout Jew can boast of his goodness, because he shares the same wicked heart and the same shortcomings of the most depraved man. All mankind is basically wicked.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)

The Holy Spirit has brought the discussion full circle. He will now describe the general bent of all humanity. As this list of sins and shortcomings is read, the temptation may exist to say, “But I'm not as wicked as this list describes!” However, one must remember that man's standards are infinitely lower than God's. The thought, desire, or motive can condemn just as easily as the action. If given its own way, the flesh would plummet as far into sin as it possibly could. Only God's grace and merciful intervention have prevented the complete demise of all mankind.

As it is written....” When this phrase appears in the New Testament, the tense of the verb is in the perfect, the strongest tense possible in the Greek text. The action is viewed as having taken place with the results being, in this case, irreversible. IT HAS BEEN WRITTEN! Oh, the power and enduring nature of God's everlasting Word! Man can choose to ignore what he is about to read. He can choose to persist in self-justification and pride if he so desires, but someday he will be forced to face his Maker in judgment if he neglects the Savior, because, “It has been written”!

There is none righteous, no, not one.” This simple statement puts to bed any argument that man might attain to righteousness on his own. In and of himself, he is void of justification. If he is to be righteous before God, his righteousness will have to be imparted, a subject soon to be discussed. This verse echoes the saying of Solomon, the Old Testament preacher, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not (Ecclesiastes 7:20).”

There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” Apart from divine intervention and enlightenment, no mortal truly understands and grasps the things of righteousness. The natural (lost) man does not receive or desire the things of God (I Corinthians 2:14). He must be drawn (John 6:44), convicted (John 16:8), and enlightened to truth (Acts 16:14). The verb used for seeketh is intensive. It means to seek out or search for. Man does not naturally seek God with great intensity. After their sin, Adam and Eve did not seek after God; God sought after them. This pattern has not changed.

They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” The verb doeth is in the present continuous tense. This means that the action is viewed as repetitive. Most people would argue, “I do good most of the time. I only mess up on occasion.” Even if this were true, it is not good enough. To meet God's holy standard, the good works must be the unbroken fruits of an intrinsically good character. The line of good deeds springing from a flawless nature must be continual, complete, and flawless! This can be said of none but the Lord Jesus Christ.

Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:” In general, mankind does not recognize the evils of the mouth. The mouth and the tongue are a conduit for the wickedness of the heart. As a body part, the tongue is not evil. It is spoken of as evil because it aids the evil heart of man in carrying out wickedness. God likens the throat to an open grave with all of the rot and stink that such a picture entails. The text says that the tongue has used three things: deceit, cursing, and bitterness. Every man has been guilty of these things to one degree or another. Words can be the most hurtful and the most harmful things of all. No wonder that God likens the tongue and its ways to the venom of a snake! If it were possible for a man to be perfectly just in every other area of his life, surely his tongue would remain the unconquered territory.

Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known:” A literal translation of the first part of this passage would read, “Swift (are) the feet of them.” The speedy nature of the desire to do evil is emphasized. How quick is man to hate, judge, and condemn. Judgment is not evil, but man's judgment is motivated by a desire to destroy, not restore. Not much time passed before man's blood was poured upon a young earth. Not even one generation had passed before God said to Cain, “...What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground (Genesis 4:10).” Wherever man is found, destruction and misery are right beside him. The lost world says, “More education and better living conditions will curb or put an end to crime,” but God says that such are man's ways. Such is his very nature because of his rebellion against God. The word for known has the idea of coming to realize or to know by experience. Apart from the saving grace of God, man has never truly experienced the ways of peace that righteousness has to offer. Man does not come by peace naturally. He must be taught it through Scripture. He must choose to humble himself to it. Everything in man fights against the peace of God.

There is no fear of God before their eyes.” This final statement stands as a summary of mankind's root issue. He simply does not fear God. This word for fear is the word from which phobia is derived. Many have attempted to explain away the fear of God as nothing more than a healthy respect; however, this dilutes the force of the statement. God isn't to be feared because He possesses some oppressive or vindictive character trait; He is to be feared because His primary attribute is holiness (Isaiah 57:15). Man, being utterly depraved and completely worthy of damnation ought to fear his High and Holy Creator; however, he does not. The fear of God leads a man to life (Proverbs 14:27), yet, as a whole, mankind is without it. Men fear one another, the unknown, pain, death, sorrow, hunger, hardship, but they fail to fear the one who is able to deliver from the very grip of damnation itself.

Should any man still choose to argue that he is worthy of entering heaven's gates, let him refer to this final list. Through the movement of the Holy Spirit, Paul has nicely summarized the nature of man. A nature in which all share a part.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Condemnation of the Religious Man (Part V)

But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” (Romans 3:5-6)

The if contained in the first part of the sentence has the idea of an assumed truth. It may be understood in the sense of since. Man, being plagued with faults, will continually fail and misuse God's grace. The word commend in this context means to demonstrate. Man's faults and failures open a door for God's righteousness and holiness to be seen. The grammatical structure of the question “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?” is such that it is expecting a no answer. A literal translation would read thus, “Is God unrighteous, the one who is inflicting wrath? No!” Although man's failures provide a stage for God's holiness to be manifested this does not mean that God approves of such behavior. The text goes on to say, “God forbid!” If God took pleasure in the fact that man's sin demonstrates His righteousness, world-wide judgment would not be needed.

For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.” (Romans 3:7-8)

Again, the structure of the Greek text renders the if more in the sense of since. The context also helps make this clear, since all men are found liars and only God can ultimately receive the glory. The question is asked in somewhat of a sarcastic sense “...why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” Paul is not seeking justification for himself or his Jewish brethren. He is attempting, through questions, to demonstrate that man cannot be justified by works, nor can he disregard his moral failures and simply take pleasure in his sin and adopt a warped sense of satisfaction that his sin “adorns” the grace of God. The phrase my lie is emphatic. Paul is taking full ownership of his failures. All men are liars before God, and until an individual is willing to fully own his own failures, he will not find redemption. Until the eternal state comes, the world will always know those who attempt to find excuses for their failures; yet, in the end, each and every man must own his own sin.

Verse 8 would seem to indicate that Paul was being accused of a misuse of God's grace and holiness (a subject which will be dealt with at length in chapter 6). Apparently, the religious opposition was attempting to twist Paul's message of grace into a message of license. One can just hear them now, “Well, if no one can keep the law, and if God's righteousness is demonstrated by my failures, then let's sin more, because apparently the more I sin the greater God is shown to be!” Such an interpretation perverts the arguments of the previous verses. This type of argument and twisting of truth is nothing more than a straw-man, erected for the purpose of masking the truth and justifying selfish desires. Such truth-abusers will always be around, at least until Christ comes back! Paul goes on to say that such a person who holds this view is worthy of damnation. Anyone who truly believes and practices such a philosophy deserves to reap the results.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Condemnation of the Religious Man (Part IV)

For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Romans 3:3-4)

The phrase without effect means to nullify, abolish, bring to nought, or render ineffective. God's truth is not changed simply because men choose not to believe. According to Galatians 3:24, God intended for the Old Testament law to drive a man toward faith in Christ as it revealed man's deficiency. As a whole, the Jewish nation did not take this path, but instead, they chose to believe in their own ability. Nevertheless, God's truth stands fast. Man does not control the validity of God's word. Eternal truth is not affected by a majority of unbelievers. God did not change His message in the Old Testament simply because people were not accepting of it. He consistently pointed men to the heart of His law even though they consistently rejected it. In fact, the text goes on and says, “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar.” The phrase, “God forbid” is a combination of two words indicating an impossibility. The name God does not actually appear in the text at all; however, in order to drive home the strength of this statement, it is routinely translated “God forbid.” Man may bask in his sin for a short time, but in the end, God is always justified. When going face to face in judgment, man will always be found to be untrue. it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” This verse is a quotation from Psalm 51. In this Psalm, David is found crying out to God in repentance concerning his sin with Bathsheba. David chose his own way, but in the end, he paid the price. God is not mocked. Often, unrighteousness seems to prevail, but God's words will always prevail. The phrase when thou art judged has the idea of being criticized. Man is consistently criticizing God, and much of this criticism is spurred on by the hypocrisy of the religious, but God is not subject to such criticism. Every knee shall bow to Him.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Condemnation of the Religious Man (Part III)

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?” (Romans 2:25-27)

From this point to the end of chapter two, the text focuses on two kinds of people: the self-righteous performer of the law and the reverent protector of the law. The verb translated keep in the first part of verse 25, is focusing on performance. It means to do or to perform some act. The self-righteous Pharisee took great pride in his circumcision, believing that it set him apart from the heathen and gave him special graces as a performer of the law. Judaism teaches that righteousness is obtained through keeping the commandments and traditions of men. If it were possible for a man to flawlessly keep God's commandments without violating a single one through action, feeling or motive, the act of circumcision would be spiritually profitable because such a man would be utterly sinless; however, outside of Jesus Christ, no man has obtained such lofty standards. At some point in time, every one has violated God's law either directly or indirectly; thus, the verse continues on and says “... but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.” The tense of the verb is made is in the perfect which is the strongest tense in biblical Greek. The tense and the context combined give the sense that the action mentioned cannot be reversed through the deeds of the flesh. Once a man has violated God's law, even in the smallest sense, he is forever condemned as a hell-bound sinner apart from God's intervention. The self-righteous performer of the law may continuously boast of his good deeds, but his wicked heart betrays him, and it has left him spiritually “uncircumcised.” These principles hold true for any man seeking to be justified by works. Paul is focusing on the Jew, but the world has always been filled with people who “believe in themselves.”

The text continues on and says, “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?” The verb here which is also translated keep is a different word than the previous verb. This verb means to guard, watch, defend, or keep (in the sense of guarding). The noun form of this verb may be seen in the word phylacteries which is found in Matthew 23:5. A phylactery is a small box which houses portions of Scripture and is worn by devout Jews. The Scripture is “guarded” by this box; thus, the sense of keeping watch over can be seen in the verb form of this word. The word for righteousness is literally righteous deeds or righteous requirements. This individual is vastly different from the self-focused performer. This man sees the beauty and value of God's righteousness in the law. Through genuine conversion of the soul, he reaches out and makes God's law his own through humble submission to God's righteousness. Jesus spoke of such an individual as this when He said “...(these) are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience (Luke 8:15).” This man is not merely a performer; his heart has been spiritually circumcised by faith in Jesus Christ. He sees the value of God's holiness, righteousness, and love in the law; therefore, he humbles himself before God and “guards” the law of God in his heart, not for justification, but out of a heart of true conversion. Such a man fulfills the righteous requirements of the law because God is the one who imparts His righteousness to that man and declares him to be justified. The main difference between the two men is this, the first is attempting to proudly perform the law for salvation and the second is reverently following the law because of salvation.

A truly converted individual brings condemnation to the self-righteous performer, because, through his changed lifestyle, he brings to light the hypocrisy of the religious, but unconverted, man.

For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” 
(Romans 2:28-29)

As is often the case, these verses are emphatic, “Not the one on the outside a Jew is!” With enough effort, anyone may carry out religious ritual. The world is filled with hardworking, moral people whose dedication to religious things leaves many others looking quite feeble; however, their motive is self, not God. A man may be known for good works and outstanding ethics, but why is he thus? Who is he seeking to please? Others may be fooled but God is not. The Bible commands all to be done to God's glory; therefore, religious dedication for selfish reasons does not profit in an eternal sense. The Holy Spirit declares that circumcision ultimately has nothing to do with the flesh but with the heart. Biblically speaking, physical circumcision was intended to be a sign of what should take place in the heart through conversion. In Genesis 15:6, God imputes righteousness to Abraham for his faith. This happened before Abraham was circumcised. Abraham allowed God to circumcise his heart and afterward God gave him the covenant of physical circumcision.

The second part is also emphatic, “But (strong contrast)! The one on the inside a Jew (is)!” In Isaiah 56:3-5, God says, “Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.” God cares about the heart! Who has ever humbled himself before God and thought such an action to be a mistake?!

...and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Verses concerning spiritual circumcision are numerous. Deuteronomy 10:16 says, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” Ezekiel 44:9 declares that no one who is unconverted will taint God's sanctuary in the Millennial Kingdom, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.” Man loves to avoid the spirit and focus on the appearance, but such are not God's ways. Man's spirit must be converted through faith in Jesus Christ. The letter of the law does not bring life; it brings death. The letter of the law has been fulfilled by none but Jesus Christ. The self-righteous performer may fool many, but he cannot fool God. The reverent protector of the law recognizes his spiritual deficiency and heeds the warnings of the law while fleeing to the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ. Such an individual shall receive praise from the only one who is worthy of being pleased, this is God Almighty.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Condemnation of the Religious Man (Part II)

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?” (Romans 2:21-23)

How hopeless is man's plight apart from the imputed righteousness of God! These three verses proclaim the condemnation of the religious man. He is condemned by what he teaches, preaches and says. He is also condemned by what he abhors and boasts. The sins mentioned here are directly aimed at the hypocrisies of Paul's Jewish brethren. They were masters at setting lofty standards for others, but they themselves were covetous and hateful, as Jesus said, “...they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers (Matthew 23:4).”
They would steal from others by charging enormous fees for sacrificial animals. They were masters at making the worship of God a burdensome and grievous thing. So much was the case that Christ drove the moneygrubbers from the temple and rebuked them for turning God's house into a “den of thieves.” Adultery was also commonplace among the Jewish leadership. The Pharisees thought nothing of breaking marriage vows for personal lust or gain. So common was the practice that the Pharisees posed this question to the Savior, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause (Matthew 19:3)?” They claimed to abhor idol worship, but they served the god of covetousness by plundering heathen temples. The word for commit sacrilege literally means to rob temples. The Jews of Paul's day would seize upon the temples of the heathen and close them down through the guise of hating idolatry; however, they kept the plunder for themselves. One can only imagine the consternation this hypocrisy caused in the eyes of the heathen. These hypocrisies and their resulting condemnation are not isolated to the Jewish audience of Paul's day. These scenarios fit any man who goes about to establish his own righteousness while forsaking the righteousness of God. Sadly, the carnal Christian can operate on the same principles as the religious man. How many believers have cast aside their spouse for self-will and pleasure? How many believers descry idol worship yet can never have enough? Yes, the religious man is condemned, but the believer must not fail to see that he is not above such self-righteous and hypocritical behavior.

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.” (Romans 2:24)

In the Greek text, this statement is very emphatic. A literal translation would read, “For the name of God through you is blasphemed!” The agency of the blasphemy is being emphasized. God's people who should have been a light were found to be a great stumblingblock. The religious man's destructive ways are not limited to his own life. Others always suffer. How many souls are not in heaven because of such behavior? Only God knows the answer to that question. A rebellious Christian can find themselves in this same awful position. Disobedience toward God can have devastating affects on others. The lost man's view of God is often shaped by what he observes in the behavior of a believer.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Condemnation of the Religious Man

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.” (Romans 2:17-20)

The condemnation of the religious man is now presented. The context is the Jewish person who believes that he can be justified through the performance of the law; yet, the principles apply to any individual who seeks to obtain acceptance by works. In these verses may be seen the unregenerate church-goer who is proud of his goodness. Sadly, the principles also apply to the carnal Christian who has forgotten that Christ is his sufficiency and judges all things based upon the standard of his own supposed goodness. The characteristics of this religious performer are first presented. He has a religious title, he rests in the deeds of the law that he believes he is fulfilling, he boasts in God, he thinks he knows all about God's will, he critically “tests” and “proves out” things that are supposed to be spiritually excellent, and he does all based upon his being “instructed out of the law.” The word instructed literally means catechized. This religious man is characterized by much knowledge, but one thing is noticeably lacking from his credentials; he is not humble. He does not rest in God's righteousness but in his own. He boasts in God but shows no repentance toward God. He thinks he knows God's will but misses the heart of God's will for man which is to “ the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind....” and to “ thy neighbour as thyself (Matthew 22:37, 39).” He spends long hours with his head in the spiritual clouds “proving the things that are more excellent,” and yet he is blind to the great biblical theme of brokenness before God.

The text says that the religious man is confident. This verb means to be persuaded. The tense of this verb carries with it the idea of some action that has been performed in the past with the results of that action carrying forward into the future. The religious man's confidence in himself is very strong. He is positive that he is a guide to the blind, a light to those in darkness, an instructor (disciplinarian) of the foolish, and a teacher of the spiritually ignorant; yet, he is nothing more than a stumblingblock to those who would come to God in repentant faith. The religious man has a form of knowledge and truth, but he does not possess the true understanding of such things, because he fails to view them through the eyes of humility. Any man can carry Scripture and study it; yet, not many men choose to allow Scripture to carry them. Truth and knowledge are intended to bring a man to the feet of God; when truth and knowledge are not permitted to perform their rightful function, they are a mere form of what could be, but not what is. The religious man is so close to the truth and yet so far away. He understands the outline of knowledge and truth. He can recognize their shape in the dark shadows, but he has no intimate relationship with them. His proud heart blinds him to the humble truth of God. Like any other man, the religious man's primary issue is pride.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Condemnation of the Moral Man (Part V)

For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;” (Romans 2:12)

No one has an excuse for their sin. The most secluded and primitive individual is no more justified before God than is the hypocrite who is aware of right and wrong.

(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13)

The next three verses are parenthetical to what was spoken in verse twelve. These verses are here to expound upon the truth given in verse twelve. Having knowledge of God's law does little for a man if that knowledge does not affect the heart and the hands. Anyone can hear truth, but the one who applies it through repentant faith will be the one whom God declares righteous. The verb translated shall be justified, means to declare righteous. God will clothe, with His righteousness, all those who will acknowledge their sin and flee to Him for forgiveness.

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:” (Romans 2:14)

The character and essence of law's nature is being emphasized in this verse. A literal translation will quickly bring out this emphasis. “For when Gentiles, the ones not having law (general principles of law emphasized), by nature the things of the law (God's specific written law) might do, these, not having law (principles of law emphasized), to themselves are law (principle of law emphasized).” Not every nation has God's ten commandments in front of them; however, every nation to one degree or another has a code of conduct that shares the same law-based principles of God's written law. The Jew does not have the monopoly on God's law. God gave His written law to Israel, but other peoples of foreign nations often operate according to the same principles upon which God's ten commandments were written.

Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” (Romans 2:15)

This unwritten law is the conscience which God has given to every man. The conscience is designed to give man some awareness of right and wrong lest he be hopelessly beyond conviction. The conscience cannot deliver. It is a goad not a redeemer. When a man becomes convicted by his conscience because of wrong behavior, he is exposed to the fact that he is a sinner who has broken God's law. Everyone has been given a conscience; therefore, all are accountable before God.

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” (Romans 2:16)

This verse goes right along with verse twelve. If the parenthetical verses were removed for a moment, the main thought would read, “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;...In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Christ's second coming seems to be in view. Over and over, the glorified Savior is pictured as having eyes as a flame of fire. In the Scriptures, fire often depicts judgment. No man's works are hidden from the all-seeing eye of God. Christ knows the deeds of everyone, and He will judge every lost sinner according to God's truth. Paul says that this truth of coming judgment is “according to my gospel.” Paul preached the love and forgiveness of God, but he also preached the wrath and judgment of God. He did not fail to make it clear that judgment day is coming. A gospel that will not make the lost sinner aware of coming judgment is just as lacking as a gospel that shuns to declare God's love.

By this point, the moral man has been left without a leg to stand on. The heathen man is condemned, but so is the moral hypocrite who would view himself as good. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Condemnation of the Moral Man (Part IV)

"But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;" (Romans 2:8-9)

On the other hand, there are those who reject the ways of righteousness and have not known the salvation of God. These people are referred to as "them that are contentious." The text says that they "do not obey the truth." The verb for do not obey is a word that means not persuaded. It has the idea of not obeying because of not believing. The text goes on to say that they do "obey unrighteousness." The verb form here is very similar except that it means to be persuaded. It carries with it the idea of obeying because of believing. These individuals are not persuaded concerning the way of repentance, but they are persuaded concerning the ways of unrighteousness. Disbelief is not an inability. It is a sin. With some, it is more blatant. With others, it is more subtle. Some are less aware of their choice to disbelieve; however, all disbelief towards God's word is sin. Every person believes in something. Disbelief in God's promises is a choice to lean upon one's own understanding. Such disbelief is promised the reward of indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish. This indignation is the seething hot anger of God. An individual does not have to be the worst sinner to be under this wrath. Everyone outside of belief in Christ is in danger of immediate judgment. The word for anguish is interesting. It consists of two words which, when combined, form the meaning of narrowness. The result of this basic meaning gives birth to the idea of anguish and trouble. When a person chooses to reject the straight and narrow path of belief, he places himself in a narrow place of destruction. The road funnels down to the final destination of judgment in hellfire. These fearful judgments are directed toward the "soul of man." Ultimately, this is the most fearful judgment. The body can be afflicted, causing great anguish, but the most frightening judgment is the condemnation of the soul. The hypocrite who rejects the way of godly fear brings damnation to his soul.
The verb for doeth means to work out or produce. A man is known by his fruit. The unbeliever is characterized by continuously producing that which is against God's interest.

"But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God." (Romans 2:10-11)

In similar fashion, the one who is in Christ is characterized by working that which is good. This text is not claiming good works as a means of salvation but as a fruit of salvation. God's righteous judgment will ensure that all unbelief is punished and that all belief is rewarded. He is does not respect the faces of people. Respect of persons consists of two words. One means face, and the other means receiving or credit. God gives credit to no man's face. He is not impressed with the self-righteous countenance; He is only impressed by the broken countenance, for thus saith the LORD, "...but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word (Isaiah 66:2)."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Condemnation of the Moral Man (Part III)

"But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds:" (Romans 2:5-6)

Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." Great biblical evidence exists to support the belief that pride may be at the root of every sin. Satan exalted himself against God and so fell. Eve vaunted herself against God and His commands. Adam chose to disobey though he knew better. Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of the basic sin of pride and this led to various abominations (Ezekiel 16:49-50). The word impenitent means without repentance. A heart that refuses to change its attitude toward sin is stowing away the wrath of God. The day of wrath spoken of here is doubtless the great day of the Lord spoken of so frequently in Scripture. This is the time when Christ will return to take His rightful kingdom. It is the time when the enemy will be defeated at Armageddon and all the nations judged near to Jerusalem. It is a day most fearful for those outside of Christ and a day to make even the most dedicated saint tremble.

God's judgment against the sin of man is always just. His judgment is free from bias and hypocrisy. The moral man sits back and thinks in his pride, "I would never do that!" Yet his heart betrays him and his thoughts share in the debauchery of the worst sinner. Such a hypocrite will not escape. Judgment day is coming!

"To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:" (Romans 2:7)

This verse may be easily misunderstood if not carefully examined in its context, studied, and compared with the rest of Scripture. It is not saying that a person is saved by well doing. At this point, an examination of the Greek text would be helpful. A literal translation would read, "To the ones (who) according to patience of good works, glory and honor and immortality (they are) seeking, eternal life." With this understanding of what is being said, one may see that eternal life is not sought "by means of" good works but "according to" good works. Agency is not being emphasized but rather relationship. A man does not do good in order to be saved. He does good because he is saved. This individual has already bowed the knee to God's righteousness and is patiently awaiting the return of his Lord. According to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 7, the true child of God is characterized by good works. Such is the case in this verse. The one who is truly converted is seeking the glorious end of that conversion which is glory, honor, and immortality, or to sum it all up, eternal life. Eternal life is adorned with all these things; therefore, it is the appositive to the glory, the honor, and the immortality. God's righteous judgment will not fail to give the repentant sinner his reward in Christ.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Condemnation of the Moral Man (Part II)

"But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things." (Romans 2:2)

The verb we are sure means to know, understand or recognize. Every individual may be certain that God's judgment is never skewed. God's judgment is according to truth. This phrase is describing a relationship. It is an impossibility for God's judgment to be anything but true. No man has the right to look down on another in a spirit of condemnation because all men have the same wicked heart; however, God possesses the right to set the standard and declare condemnation. Judgment is not evil, but it must be made through the proper channel of authority and that authority is Scripture. The phrase "against them which commit such things" is referring back to those spoken of in chapter one. Having the same wicked heart, the moral man may not judge those less scrupulous than himself. This does not free men from having standards and making judgments, but it does declare that all judgment must be based solely upon biblical principle.

"And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" (Romans 2:3)

The verb thinkest means to be convinced or to log something down. Man in his arrogance is fully convinced that he is more righteous than another; however, the text says that the moral man is also committing the same abominations as the heathen. Most people would read the list of sins mentioned in 1:29-32 and think "I don't do such things." Such reasoning is deceptive. For instance, one of the sins mentioned in 1:30 is "haters of God." A man does not have to lead an exceptionally wicked lifestyle in order to be guilty of this sin. Whenever a man chooses to follow his own heart rather than God's commands, he is guilty of this sin. Whenever a man loves something or someone more than he loves God, he is guilty of this sin. The sin of David illustrates this truth. No one would consider David to be a "hater of God," yet when he chose to commit adultery with Bathsheba, God made this statement, "...because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife (II Samuel 12:10)." David's sin started with a choice to despise God and His commandments and do what he wanted to do. When this happened, David was guilty of despising or hating God and His word. All men have been guilty of such feelings and actions. Though not everyone has committed the same sin as David, everyone has made numerous choices to do as they wished and not as God has commanded.

The verb shall escape is intensive. The idea is to clean escape. The self-deceived heart of man is fully convinced that it shall completely get away without God's divine retribution.

"Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Romans 2:4)

The word despise is comprised of two separate words which, when combined, mean to look down on or to think against. The proud heart thinks little of God's rich goodness. Forbearance is the act of carrying a heavy load for a long distance without complaint. God has been so patient with man despite all of man's rebellion, yet man in his pride is ready to cast aside without consideration those he deems less worthy than himself. The word longsuffering is also comprised of two words. One means long, far away, or distant and the other means passion, anger or wrath. When combined, they literally mean distant in anger, which would indicate a condition of being even-tempered and not quickly angered.  God does not act in unrighteous anger. When God takes up His wrath, He does so in complete holiness. Men are quick to anger. Men are quick to condemn in a spirit of hatred, but such are not God's ways. God's judgments are always directed toward restoration. Man's judgments are always directed toward hateful condemnation. The text says that God's goodness is designed to lead a man to repentance. The proud moral man sits back and makes judgments for the purpose of satisfying his own lusts while God remains ever focused on the redemption of people. The word repentance is built upon two words. One means after and the other means thought or mind. Together, they give the beautiful picture of an after-thought or a change of mind. God's longsuffering character is not to be abused. He demands that all men change their minds toward their sin and the Savior, as declared in Isaiah 55:7, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." This change of thought indisputably leads to some change in behavior. A man cannot be convinced of something without having his attitude affected in some way. God's goodness is purposed to bring about a changed heart in mankind.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Condemnation of the Moral Man

"Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things." (Romans 2:1)

The text now transitions into a discussion on the condemnation of the moral man. Most people would find themselves in this category. Here is found the individual with some sense of right and wrong. This person probably believes in God to some extent and attempts to live a fairly clean life, at least in his own eyes. However, he is, as the text says, inexcusable. The word means without apology. Though in modern vernacular an apology is thought of as an expression of repentance, it's true meaning is a defense of one's actions. To give an apology means to give an answer. This is the wording behind I Peter 3:15. The so-called moral man is without an answer before God. As he sits back and makes self-based judgments concerning the actions of others, he forgets that the same thoughts and seeds of wickedness are in his own heart, and thus, he condemns himself. Every man struggles with this problem. Every man has his own standard. Standards are good, and judgment is good, but they must be Bible-based. They must be according to truth and not preference as the Lord said in John 7:24, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." The text says, "...thou that judgest doest the same things." All men have to some degree or another committed the sins spoken of in the earlier verses. At the bar of God's judgment hall, the thought or the desire is just as condemning as the action itself. As James 2:10 states, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." One wrong thought, action, word or motive is enough to bring everlasting condemnation. In mercy, God is trying to bring human pride into the dust in order that He might cloak humble faith with Christ's sufficiency. The improperly fused bones of man's soul must be broken again and correctly reset so that they might grow straight, as God told Jeremiah, "See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant (Jeremiah 1:10)."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Condemnation of the Heathen Man (Part IV)

"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;" (Romans 1:28)

This is the third and last time that God gave these people over. At this point, these people are beyond all hope of reconciliation as later verses shall reveal. A play on words is being utilized in the Greek text. This phenomenon is not visible in the English translation. The phrase "...they did not like to retain...." has the idea of putting something to the test and counting it worthless. The people put the Almighty to the test and proceeded to count Him and His ways worthless. The word translated reprobate means not standing the test, worthless, of no value. Since these people counted God worthless, He gave them over once and for all to a worthless mind. The results are frightening.

"Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:" (Romans 1:29-31)

These individuals were then filled up to the max with the various vices mentioned. It is interesting to note that the seeds of each sin listed are alive and well in the heart of every human. As Christ pointed out in the book of Matthew, a man only need lust in his heart to be guilty of sexual impurity. Covetousness is consistently warned against in Paul's epistles. Hatred of a brother is equal to murder according to the book of First John. These people had spiraled down to the point that they were wholly given over to these things; however, let every man beware of his vile heart, for it is "...deceitful above all things and desperately wicked....(Jer. 17:9)." The next to the last vice mentioned requires some comment. It is translated implacable. It means irreconcilable, or literally unsalvageable. The word is used only one other place in the New Testament. This is in II Timothy 3:3 where it is translated trucebreakers. The context of this last example is the moral decline of man in the last days. Having reached a point of no spiritual response like the multitudes who will gather themselves together at Armageddon to attack the Lord Jesus Christ, so this group here in Romans had found themselves in a place of no return. Repentance was no longer an option, and, as the next verse declares, they no longer felt the prick of a guilty conscience.

"Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." (Romans 1:32)

This discourse on the condemnation of the heathen man ends with an air of chilling callousness towards anything good. These people were no longer sinning without full knowledge of their actions; they had reached the point of disregard for God and His judgment. They now began to call good evil and evil good and fully consented with those who love evil. This is a frightening place to be.

On both ends of the scale, an injustice has been committed to this discourse on the heathen man and his demise. On the one end, some believe that anyone who engages in the sin of homosexuality is irreconcilable. An examination of I Corinthians 6:9-11 proves this to be false, "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators...nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind...shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."

On the other end, some believe that these people were not beyond hope and that they could have been redeemed had they repented. This view ignores the powerful wording of the text, neither does it explain how these people could be declared irreconcilable.

A balanced and biblical view may be reached by allowing the passage to speak for itself and by examining other passages as well. From the beginning, this group of people made a conscious decision not to glorify God as their Creator. This put in motion their speedy decline which led to them being thrice given over by God to their own hearts' desires. If a man continues to refuse the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he will eventually find himself in a place of hopelessness. This is illustrated in Matthew 12 when the Pharisees accused Christ of casting out devils by the spirit of devils. They were resisting and blaspheming their only source of true conviction, the Holy Ghost. Christ warned them that such things would not be forgiven. How can a man be forgiven and find eternal life when He blasphemes the very one who leads him to that life? These people mentioned here are an example of how far sin and rebellion can take a man. It is not excluding all people who are engaged in perversion from finding eternal life. Some people are raised in perversion and abuse and have never heard of the love and righteousness of God. Many lost souls have responded to the gospel and have forsaken such lifestyles. Such people are not beyond hope. Only God truly knows when a man has crossed over the line into a condition of spiritual hopelessness.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Condemnation of the Heathen Man (Part III)

"Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." (Romans 1:25)

The word here for changed means to exchange. To worship anything or anyone but God is to trade-in the everlasting truth for a lie that will lead to everlasting damnation. This exchange leads to utter defeat. The creation is subservient to the Creator. Creation cannot possibly deliver neither can it redeem, yet man in his rebellion casts aside all logic in an attempt to simply have things his own way. This battle is ultimately futile because God will be glorified in the great day of judgment. This verse ends by calling God the one "who is blessed forever." Literally translated, this verse would say, "the one who is well spoken of into the ages." Eventually, all men will be forced to acknowledge that God is Creator and King, as is taught in Philippians, "...every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

"For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet." (Romans 1:26-27)

Whenever men choose to wander from God, perversion and gross immorality are always close kin to such decisions. This is the second of three times the phrase gave them up appears. Again, the tense of this verb is very powerful. It is expressing the thought of something that has everlasting results. Little by little, God is handing these people over to their own desires and passions. The words here for men and women are the words for male and female. At this point in his digression from God, man is not worthy even to be called a man. He is now referred to as male and female. Homosexuality and sexual perversions of all kinds are hallmarks of rebellion against God. In these vices, man has determined that he will go against all rules that God has set forth, to the point that he will not conduct himself even in the natural way that he was made. However, these choices have a recompence. Disease, violence, destruction and death are inseparably linked to such rebellion. Sodom and Gomorrah's pride led them to such vile behaviors (Ez. 16:49), and they received their reward. To this day, God has seen to it that terrible diseases plague such contemptible behavior.

At this juncture, it is fitting to point out that God is not setting forth some especially wicked group of people that the rest of humanity may look down upon, but rather, He is putting on display the seeds of sin that lie within the heart of every man. It would be the height of folly for a Christian to believe that he is utterly incapable of the sins spoken of here. The Spirit of God and the grace of God must receive all praise for the fact that not all men have come to this point. According to Hebrews chapter twelve, the true child of God will be chastened for his sin, but no where does the Bible give a Christian liberty to believe that he is "above" any vile behavior. Yea, it teaches quite the contrary, for all God's people have received this admonition, "...Be not high-minded but fear." The heart is desperately wicked and deceitful, and were it not for God's keeping and grace, only He knows the depths to which an ungrateful heart could plunge.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Condemnation of the Heathen Man (Part II)

"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things." (Romans 1:22-23)

On the heels of ingratitude comes self-deception. The ultimate foolishness is to cast aside the knowledge of God. Haughty mankind prides himself in his scientific achievements. He basks in his so-called philosophical abilities, yet without God, he is nothing more than a fool. What could be more foolish than to deny the witness of creation and count as nothing the existence of such divine power? As these men professed themselves to be wise, they were made fools. The result of such things is idol worship. Throughout history, numerous nations have had extensive exposure to God and His wisdom, only to turn from His truth and pursue the height of folly which is the worship of idols. God says in Isaiah 44:13-19, "The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?" Just when a man thinks he is wise, he is truly a fool.

"Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:" (Romans 1:24)

Three times these passages say that God gave them up or gave them over. This is the first time this phrase appears. It means to hand over or to deliver. The tense of the verb is very strong. It carries with it the idea of something that has been; therefore, it is and always will be. As man continues to resist God's goodness, the Lord eventually gives him what He wants. The natural outpouring of idolatry is lasciviousness and debauchery. God in His mercy has set bounds for mankind with the intent that man should not stray away from truth. When a man stubbornly trespasses upon forbidden territory, the consequences are too terrible to contemplate. The vile nature of idolatry is vividly illustrated in the Old Testament. The worship of Baal was an intensely evil religion which defiled numerous people both male and female. The sacrifice of children to gods of fire was also a common thing to behold in the days of the prophets. Idolatry has not lost its vile nature with time. Anywhere false religion appears, immorality and wickedness abound. This is true no matter the idol. Often times believers become proud against God and set up men as idols. Lies, deceit, hypocrisy and immorality are close kin to such movements. None are outside of the principles laid out in these verses.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Condemnation of the Heathen Man

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;" Romans 1:18

Paul now begins to elaborate upon the condemnation of the heathen man. God's righteousness was previously revealed and now His wrath is revealed. Wrath is the idea of seething hot anger, and it is toward all who are outside of Christ's blood. Even the kindest person is guilty of that which is unrighteous and ungodly. Man is fond of exceptions, but God's standards are black and white. The Lord hates sin in all forms. He hates it in all degrees. Anyone who is living outside of faith in Christ is in immediate danger of hellfire. The phrase "who hold the truth in unrighteousness" is describing the men just mentioned. The verb used here for hold means to suppress or to hold down. Rather than acknowledge God for who He is, man's tendency is to suppress the knowledge and authority of God. Rather than turn to God, man's bent is to push down the truth as a rebellious child would pull away from a parent.

"Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:" Romans 1:19-20

Man is consistently looking for an excuse to cast off God's authority. Often he will argue that God's existence cannot be proven; however, God has left a witness which is available to all. This witness is creation. The invisible nature of God is magnificently displayed by visible creation. Psalm 19 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard." The "voice" of creation pleads of God's existence. It pleads to all nations and leaves every single soul "without excuse." The most primitive individual cannot plead ignorance as a pass into heaven because even he has had the witness of creation.

"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Romans 1:21

This verse illustrates what happens when the dark path of ingratitude is chosen. In the days of Adam and Eve, man was exposed to the knowledge of God on every side. Often, God would speak audibly to people. Adam had seen the Garden of Eden. He had walked with God in the "cool of the day." Men should have turned to God on every side, yet they chose not to glorify God as Creator and King. As a result, mankind plunged further and further into depravity, and the Bible says concerning this, "And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5)." The same thing happened to Israel shortly after they inherited the promised land. After the death of Joshua and the elders, a generation arose that did not know the mighty works of God neither did they choose to respond to the teaching concerning Him. They did not glorify Him for who He is neither did they give Him thanks for His goodness, and as a result, they plunged into the depths of wickedness.

As a result of the failure to give glory and thanks, the text says that these men "became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." These verbs are passive. The action is being performed upon the subject. When man chooses to reject truth, a continual downward spiral is the result. His thoughts, imaginations and reasonings are made empty. His foolish heart is made dark. The word here for foolish means without understanding. Ingratitude breeds foolishness and keeps a person from increasing in the knowledge of God. The principles of these things apply to all. The redeemed of God are not outside of being severely affected by an ungrateful heart. The old man is still with the believer, and he is constantly striving against the things of God. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Cure for Man's Condemnation (Part II)

"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: 
as it is written, The just shall live by faith." 
Romans 1:17

The wrath of God is about to be revealed in the verses that follow, but here, God's righteousness is first revealed. The righteousness of God is the only answer for man's condition. Having his standing with God destroyed by sin, his position must be reinstated. This is accomplished by the imputation of God's righteousness to the lost sinner through faith in Jesus Christ. The righteousness of God is the answer in any dispensation. Old Testament believers were saved by looking forward to Christ, whereas, New Testament believers are saved by looking back to Christ. The Lord says in Isaiah 54:17, "...This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD." The wholesome standing of God is imparted to the lost sinner at the moment of belief. This same truth is brought out in the New Testament in numerous places. One of the greatest examples is II Corinthians 5:21, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." The righteousness of God is not only the answer for deliverance from hellfire, it is also the principle by which the Christian is to live his life. A man is not justified by works for salvation, and neither is he sanctified by them after salvation. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings forth the fruits of righteousness in the believer. The believer is not sanctified simply because he performs certain actions. Anyone can adorn a cloak of religiosity. The believer is sanctified as he submits to the righteousness of God and allows the Spirit to work His good work through him. A self-righteous individual is difficult to endure; however, one who is submitted to God's righteousness in his life commands a certain respect.

Indeed, the righteousness of God is the cure for man's condition, but it can only be accessed through the channel of faith. Unless willing to lean upon nothing else, the lost sinner will not avail himself of this wealth of deliverance. God's righteousness will not tolerate co-deliverers. Faith plus good deeds is not acceptable. Good deeds are an outflow of faith; they are not the means of justification. A changed heart will bring about a change of attitude which will definitely affect actions to some degree; however, the action is not the means of the justification. Genesis 15:6 says of Abraham, "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Abraham's whole-hearted belief in God's ability is what justified him before God. The Hebrew word for "believed" is the word from which "amen" is derived. It means "let it be so." Literally, Abraham said "amen in the LORD (Jehovah)." He found access to full justification before God, because he was willing to leave his own ability at the doorstep and lean wholly on God's promise. Thus it will ever be. Jesus said in John 11:25, "...I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:" Faith is the agent by which God's righteousness and justification may be accessed. The statement "from faith to faith" could be translated "out from faith into faith." This statement illustrates how man's justification is founded in faith and this faith continues to grow. God works with people to grow their faith. Once the light He gives is received, He gives more light. A relationship with God begins in the foundation of faith, and this relationship grows as faith continues to be strengthened.

The last part of this verse is a recitation of an Old Testament passage. In the book of Habakkuk, we find a perplexed prophet crying out to God concerning the injustice and perversion of his day. God gives the weary prophet some hard answers, but His main admonition to Habakkuk is, "Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith (2:4)." This phrase is repeated three times in the New Testament. A literal translation of the phrase found here in Romans would read, "The just by faith shall live." The emphasis is on the faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (He. 11:6). A man may be shown physical evidence to a certain degree concerning the things of God, but eventually he will be required to step out in faith before he can come find peace with his Creator. By simple faith in the righteousness and sufficiency of God, a man is declared just. The word here for just is the same word often translated righteous. The mood of the verb shall live is declaring something that is a reality and is sure to come. The Lord has given His unbreakable word that whosoever will, in faith, cast himself upon Christ shall indeed find eternal life. Jesus said in John 6:37, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." The phrase in no wise is declaring an absolute impossibility. As sure as God lives forever, Christ will never turn away the repentant sinner.

The foundation of hope has been laid. The cure for man's irrevocable condemnation is God's irresistible righteousness.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The King of Glory (Part VI)

"Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, 
ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." 
Psalm 24:7

At this juncture, the Psalm becomes intensely Messianic.  To some degree, these things must have applied to David.  God brought him to the throne in a miraculous manner.  Truly, the gates of Jerusalem must have lifted up their heads as David brought home the ark of God, carried on the shoulders of the Levites.  Yet, to stop at the application to David's life would do this passage a severe injustice.  Our attention must be drawn past the wars and terrors of the Great Tribulation and into the magnificent splendor of the Millennial Kingdom.  After Christ has put down His enemies at the great battle of Armageddon, He shall enter into Jerusalem to establish His rightful kingdom.  We are told in the book of Ezekiel that the glory of the God of Israel, the glory that Christ embodies, will enter through the east gate of Jerusalem at the end of the tribulation period, "Afterward He brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: and, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and His voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with His glory (Eze. 43:1-2)."  What a glorious day it will be when our sinless Savior walks through the war-ridden gates of this now troubled city.

"Who is this King of glory? 
The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle."  Psalm 24:8

With full intent of describing this magnificent King, David asks for emphasis, "Who is this King of glory?"  He answers his own question with sound resolve, "It is the LORD."  The word here for LORD is the most sacred name for God that He has given us.  It is JEHOVAH.  David goes on to describe Him.  He is strong (powerful), and He is mighty.  He is mighty in battle.  After seeing God destroy the Egyptian enemy in the Red Sea, Moses said in his song, "...the LORD is a Man of war; the LORD is His name."  Christ will settle any and all questions concerning the rightful place of the Holy Land.  Jerusalem and all the earth belong to God, and He will destroy the enemies of His people.  Many painters have attempted to capture the nature and demeanor of the Lord Jesus but most have failed.  At best, no one could capture His nature.  He is not a long-haired, effeminate individual as often portrayed.  In this passage, we see Him as the everlasting Father, a Man of war, and the Prince of peace.

"Lift up your heads, O ye gates; 
even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; 
and the King of glory shall come in."  
Psalm 24:9

The return of Christ to His rightful kingdom will be such a glorious event that even inanimate objects are commanded to lift up the head.  Lifting up the head is a symbol of turning from defeat to victory.  Christ's return will mean absolute victory and peace for His saints and destruction for His enemies.

"Who is this King of glory? 
The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah."  
Psalm 24:10

Before bringing to a close this tremendous Psalm, the Holy Ghost once again brings our attention to the magnificence and splendor of this great Conqueror of all the universe.  He now uses a title for our Lord Jesus Christ not previously used.  "Who is this King of glory?"  He is Jehovah, yes.  But He is also Jehovah of hosts.  This title means Jehovah of the armies.  This King of glory is the LORD of all the armies.  None can stand before Him.  He has conquered sin and death, and He will conquer all future enemies.  By His death on the cross, burial and resurrection, he has put down the powers of darkness and made public display of their insufficiency, "And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it (Col. 2:15)."  Truly, He is an amazing King, "Is there a God beside Me? yea, there is no God; I know not any (Is. 44:8)."

The person who is willing to repent and flee to the righteousness of Christ will there find a safe haven.  The Messiah will impart to that person His righteousness and will enable them to "stand in God's holy place."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Cure for Man's Condemnation

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: 
for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; 
to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." 
Romans 1:16

This specific section begins with and ends with the cure for man's condemnation. This cure is simple faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the bread that surrounds the meat of a sandwich, the subject of faith must be confronted at both ends when discussing the sin problem of man. Paul was not ashamed to proclaim or live the gospel. Man's criticisms of it did not deter him. He did not hide it for fear of poor reception. He boldly proclaimed its message of repentance and faith. He did not shy away from the introduction of its Author. The zeal with which the gospel is proclaimed cannot be determined by the current cultural climate. A man must have the same loyalty to the gospel with all of its doctrines regardless of current popular opinion. Often times, certain aspects and doctrines of the gospel are compromised due to the spiritual climate of the audience. This is sin. Paul recognized the gospel of Christ to be the treasure that it is.

The Holy Ghost says, "...for it is the power of God unto salvation...." The word power is the same word from which dynamite is derived. The gospel requires no special aid. Ministries and programs can often be helpful for the purpose of gaining an introduction; however, too often they are used in an attempt to soften or weaken the power of the gospel. This gospel can stand alone. It needs no funds or large auditoriums. Its power is not dampened by the stammering tongue that wholly desires to proclaim it. It may be uttered by the orator and still be at home. Its power is resilient to the child's lack of wisdom. Regardless of man's efforts, the gospel can stand alone. Only upon the simple preaching of the true gospel has God promised to place His full blessing (I Co. 1:21). Many things may be used as an icebreaker in dealing with people, but in the end, their salvation hangs upon the proclamation of this powerful gospel, and the man who chooses to believe it will not be turned away.

Being forever God's chosen people, the Jew is given first chance at the reception of this good news. In every dispensation, God's people need to have a heart for the Jewish nation. To be engaged in anti-Semitism is to serve the devil. The Greek in this passage may be thought of as all those who are not Jewish, since Greek speaking people were so numerous at that time.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Audience of the Gospel (Part III)

"For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me." Romans 1:11-12

Paul's longing for these people is now expressed. He desired to impart a spiritual gift to them. This word means to share. Men do not have the power to give anyone a spiritual gift. This work is reserved for the Holy Spirit (I Co. 12:1-11). With the existence of the apostolic office at the time of the writing of this epistle, it is possible that Paul was speaking of the Holy Ghost imparting a gift through him; however, more likely he is speaking of sharing the benefits of his gift. When one believer ministers to another, he is sharing or "imparting" his spiritual gift with that person. An encourager shares his gift of encouragement with another when he chooses to utilize that gift for God's glory. Every believer ought to have this mindset. As Paul longed to share his spiritual gifts with these saints for the purpose of edification, so each Christian should minister to others by means of the spiritual gifts that God has given to him. Every Christian has a spiritual gift, and God has chosen it to be so in order that His Church might be edified in Jesus Christ.

Paul not only longed to edify these believers, he also longed to be edified by them. He says, "...that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me." Though Paul was mighty in spirit, he was not above the need for spiritual edification. Some people may be viewed as strong towers having no need to be strengthened by others; however, all flesh is weak. Some are stronger than others, but only God needs no spiritual help. Regardless of character, rank or position every believer needs to be a partaker of the gifts that God gives to others. This principle keeps human pride at bay, and encourages a sense of unity and fellowship around the perfect Head, which is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was not a proud man. He recognized the joys of spiritual encouragement and engaged in them himself (Acts 28:15).

"Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also." Romans 1:13-15

A trip to Rome was consistently in Paul's itinerary; however, he would not find himself there until Acts chapter twenty-eight. He desired to have fruit among the people of Rome. A man who can be content with an unfruitful spiritual life should take serious heed to himself. No desire for spiritual fruit is unnatural in God's redeemed. The Holy Spirit is active, not passive. When He takes up His residence in the soul, He places within that newborn person a desire to please God.

Paul considered himself a debtor to all. The immense love of God should move a man to feel obligated. None deserves salvation; therefore, such grace bestowed deserves a life dedicated to reaching other helpless souls. The child of God is commanded to be a debtor to no man; however, a debt of charity is always authorized.  Paul was entirely ready to share the gospel with these Roman believers. This may seem odd to some since these people were already saved; however, as the rest of the book lays out, the gospel is multi-faceted. It is simple enough for a child to understand yet deep enough to ponder for an eternity. Within its jewel covered walls are found such treasures as the fear of God, faith, humility, death, life, resurrection, victory, sanctification, surrender, separation, holiness, virtue, deliverance, grace, hope, peace and much, much more!

Thus is the greeting. The purpose of the epistle has been declared. This purpose is to give the greatest thesis ever known to man on the glorious subject of salvation. If Paul could not preach the gospel to the Romans in person, he would do so by letter.

The King of Glory (Part V)

"He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, 
and righteousness from the God of his salvation."  
Psalm 24:5

After seeing the credentials of God's Man, we now see the covering of God's Man.  He is covered with God's blessing and righteousness.  God has said concerning His Son, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."  For what better commendation could one ask?!  Christ, and only Christ has received God's full and uninhibited commendation.

The one who will forsake his own wisdom and cast himself in faith upon the mercies of Christ will find that he too can stand in God's holy place, clothed in the perfection and righteousness of the Messiah.  David could see himself standing in the hill of the LORD because David was a redeemed man who had put his humble faith in the righteousness of God.  David's faith affected his actions.  Because of his conversion, he had a changed heart toward the things of God.  Though still a sinner, he did not habitually lift up his soul to vanity.  He was not continually enamored by the things of this life.  In Christ, David had found a new life and he could look forward to ascending into God's hill, protected by the righteousness of one far greater than himself, for Christ Himself said, "...that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."  Anyone who is willing to turn from sin and put their faith in Christ can find true conversion and be made fit to ascend into the hill of the LORD and to stand in His holy place.  We can be made fit to stand before God by the one who is completely righteous, that one is Jesus the Messiah.

"This is the generation of them that seek Him, 
that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah."  
Psalm 24:6

The generation that is truly seeking God will acknowledge these things to be so.  Those that truly seek God will be known by whether or not they are standing in His holy place, made fit only by His righteousness.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Audience of the Gospel (Part II)

"First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, 
that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, 
that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;  
Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey 
by the will of God to come unto you." Romans 1:8-10

Paul's love for these people is evident.  The church at Rome was obviously one of tremendous testimony. Their faith distinguished them in the eyes of all who heard of them.  God's people should strive to be known for their dependency upon their Master.  The size of the building or the number of members carries no eternal weight of glory.

Paul's love is expressed in his unceasing prayers for these saints.  This does not mean that Paul was constantly on his knees; however, it is possible and proper for saints to be in a constant attitude of prayer (I Th. 5:17).  How was Paul able to be in such a constant state of concern for others?  How was he able to be in such a state of constant prayer, persistent in his dependence upon God?  The answer lies within the text.  It says that Paul served God with his spirit.  Many Christians serve God with the actions but not with the spirit.  This is incomplete and untrue worship, because "God is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (J. 4:24)."  God's wants the heart, not simply the outward actions.  Until a man, woman, or child gives God their spirit, they will find themselves in a constant state of struggle.  Proverbs says, "The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly."  A man cannot get away from his spirit, and until he gives it fully to God, he will be in turmoil.  Paul was a saint who had fully surrendered his to the Master.

Paul's love for these saints moved him to desire fellowship.  People want to be with the ones they love.  No desire for fellowship indicates no true love.  A man may constantly affirm his love for God's people, but his words are weighed out by his actions.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Audience of the Gospel

"Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 
To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:
 Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." 
Romans 1:6-7

Having introduced the Apostle and the Author of the Gospel, the Spirit now presents the Audience of the Gospel.  Directly, they are the Christians of the church located in Rome, Italy.  Indirectly, the greeting applies to saints of all ages, and neither is it closed to those who would search this tremendous book in hopes of finding answers to life's greatest questions.

Verse six describes the saved as "the called of Jesus Christ."  Calvinistic influence may cause some to cringe at the description "called," however, man's perverted influence should not move humble believer's to cast off biblical terms.  The foreknowledge of God enables Him to know in advance who will, and who will not accept Him as their Savior.  Salvation is open to all but God deals in a special way with those He knows will respond.  His dealings with Jacob and Esau are a fine example of this.  The Lord says in Malachi, "...I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness." Knowing in advance that Esau would reject His righteousness, God ensured that Jacob would have the upper hand though Jacob himself was guilty of great wrong.  In the end, Jacob bowed the knee to God's righteousness, but Esau continued to be a "fornicator and profane person" as described in Hebrews chapter twelve verse sixteen.  The called ones are simply those who are willing to open their hearts to the fear of God and, in faith, turn to His Son for salvation.  The term excludes none who are willing to humble themselves to God's truth.

The saved of God are described first as beloved of God.  Were it not for God's love that fuels His grace, none would know the joys of redemption.  The saved are next described as saints.  This word could easily be translated holy ones, individuals set apart from the world to God.  Every believer is, in standing, a saint, a holy one.  At the moment of belief, God's righteousness is deposited into the spiritual account of the believer, and he is fully justified before God.  This completely righteous standing demands a life that is set apart from the world along with its beliefs and behaviors.

The saints are then greeted with grace and peace from the Father and the Son.  Grace means unmerited favor.  Such unmerited favor toward unworthy sinners brings a wealth of peace to the guilty mind.  None deserves salvation, but, in love, God has reached out to lost man through the sacrifice of His dear Son. Once the heart yields itself to this grace, the peace of heaven then takes the place of the plaguing of hell.