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.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The King of Glory (Part IV)

"He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; 
who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully."  
Psalm 24:4

Thus we find the credentials of the Man who is found worthy to stand before God.  We find the credentials of this Conqueror.  No one can accuse Him of sinning with His hands.  No one can accuse Him of impurity in His heart.  He is a Man who has never been guilty of regarding that which is vain.  He is a man who has never sworn to deceit or treachery.  But who can find such a man?  At some point, all have been guilty of such things to some degree or another.  The Bible declares in the book of Ecclesiastes, "For there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not."  Of whom then is David speaking?  He is speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Psalms are intensely Messianic in nature.  Behind nearly every verse, one may find some direct or indirect allusion to the Savior.  The Messiah is the only one who has fully met the requirements for standing in the holy place of the most High, for in Christ " light, and in Him is no darkness at all."  None could accuse Him of sin as a youth or as an adult.  In vain the devil sought to tempt Him with evil only to discover that "...God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man."  Christ's hands are clean from all blood and bribes.  His heart is completely pure from sin.  His soul does not regard vanity or anything that is not focused on the glory of the Father.  Surely, none can find any occasion where Christ made an oath in treachery.  He is absolutely pure from sin, and was able to stand in absolute confidence and say to the adversary, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?"  Yes, He is the only Man who is able to stand before God.  This is why He is the only one who is able to be the sacrifice for man's sin.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Author of the Gospel

"Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:" Romans 1:3-5

The Author of the Gospel is now introduced.  He is the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the soul Author of salvation "...for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12b)."  The Bible declares no other to be the author of eternal salvation.  This title has been exclusively reserved for the King of glory (He. 5:9).  The text says that He has been declared to be the Son of God.  This word means  to determine, or to mark off by boundaries.  The English word horizon has been derived from this Greek word.  The horizon is marked by a definite boundary.  Darkness and light are specifically defined by it.  In similar fashion, the Son of God has been defined.  As the horizon leaves no grey areas for confusion, so God's declaration of His Son has left no man with legitimate grounds for uncertainty concerning the identity of the Savior.  God has clearly identified His Son by means of great power.  This power was displayed in an ultimate fashion when God openly demonstrated His power over death by rising from the grave.  The resurrection of Christ from the grave differentiates the Christian religion from all other beliefs.  Death to self and life to God are intimately wrapped up in the events of such power.  When Christ ascended into death, and rose again the third day, he forever overcame the powers of darkness that hold the lost sinner in despair.  In like fashion, when a man turns to Christ in faith, the old man is forever put to death and the new man takes up his home by means of the regenerating work of the Holy Ghost.  The seed of David indicates His humanity while the Son of God declares His deity.  The text says that Christ was declared to be the Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness.  Everything about this Author is holy.  He is set apart from sin in every way, and He demands the same of His redeemed (I P. 1:14-16).

This holy Author has given grace to accomplish His work for a specific purpose.  This purpose is "for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name."  God's grace is the great enabler; however, it enables the believer for God's work.  God's grace is not intended to enable for the purpose of self-accomplishment.  It enables for the purpose of bringing glory to the one who gives it.  As God's gospel is declared through the agent of grace, it is intended to bring nations into obedience.  A biblical gospel is extremely confrontational.  When properly given, it challenges a man to turn from his own way and return unto God as declared in Isaiah 55:6-7, "Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 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."  A gospel that allows room for the desires of the flesh is a gospel which finds its foundations in the doctrines of hell.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Apostle of the Gospel

"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)" 
Romans 1:1-2

This magnificent epistle opens with The Apostle of the Gospel.  Paul is first identified by the Holy Spirit as being a servant.  The word used here for servant means a slave or one that is in bondage.  Whatever else Paul considered himself to be, he most certainly considered himself to be a servant.  Service to God is primarily identified by humility and submission.  True service is characterized by a heart that regards not its own  desires but the desires of its Master.  Truly, the will of the Lord Jesus Christ was Paul's first and greatest concern.  Every Christian would do well to follow Paul's example and say to God as Mephibosheth said to king David, "Behold, Thy servant!"

Paul is next identified as being a sent one, for this is the literal meaning of the word apostle.  The office of the apostle existed only in the infant stages of the New Testament church.  After the completion of the canon, the office faded into the dispensational horizon, replaced by the eternally preserved Word of God as found in the Greek New testament.  Evidence of the decline of this special office can be seen in Paul's inability in later years to perform the miracles of healing upon Epaphroditus (Ph. 2:25-27).  In principle, every believer has been sent out into the world for the purpose of burning as a shining light for Jesus Christ.

Lastly, Paul is identified as being separated.  Three stages of separation may be observed in Paul's life.  He was separated to God's work from his mother's womb by God the Father (Ga. 1:15).  He was separated from the world unto salvation by God the Son on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), and he was separated unto missionary work by God the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-2).  All three Persons are intimately involved in the work of separating a soul from the world.  The Father draws men to the Son (J. 6:44).  The Son saves the man that responds in faith to this drawing (J. 6:37), and the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, seals and fills (J. 16:8, Eph. 1:13, 5:18).  Separation inherently marks the people of God.  The Lord does not redeem a man so that he may continue to live for himself.  Paul saw himself as specially set apart for God's work, not his own.  Every redeemed individual should have the same heart.  The Christian is separated from the pleasure and pride of this world unto the humility and holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul says concerning this gospel, "Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures."  The principles and practices of the gospel may be seen throughout the Old Testament.  Salvation by faith in the imparted holiness and righteousness of God is a foundational truth that may be seen in the first blood sacrifice offered by Abel, the very first prophet.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The King of Glory (Part III)

"Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? 
or who shall stand in his holy place?"  
Psalm 24:3

After opening the passage with the Creator of the universe, the Holy Spirit now turns our attention to the Conqueror of the universe because they are one in the same.  The question is asked, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD?"  Undoubtedly, as David pens this Psalm, he is picturing Jerusalem as the hill of the LORD, for in the last days, the millennial temple will find its resting place in Mount Zion, God's chosen hill.  The question continues, "Who shall stand in His holy place?"  Who is worthy to ascend into God's holy mountain?  Who could possibly be worthy to stand in the very presence of the Creator.  The holy place refers to God's sanctuary.  The place of the priest's ministry.  Indeed, it is a place of terror to the sinner, because God is perfectly holy and cannot look upon iniquity.

In the next verse, God describes the Man whom He finds worthy of such honor and glory.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The King of Glory (Part II)

"For He hath founded it upon the seas, 
and established it upon the floods."  
Psalm 24:2

The LORD has fixed the earth, and it will not be done away with until He is ready for such to be the case.  Two-thirds of the earth is covered with water, yet the seas have a boundary over which they are not permitted to pass, "Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?  When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, and brake up for it My decreed place, and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? (Job 38:8-11)."

The Hebrew word for "floods" literally means "rivers."  The middle east has numerous seasonal wadis that run with water only during the rainy season.  When the rain finally comes, the water rushing down these normally dry river beds would resemble a flood.  All of these rivers and wadis eventually make it to the sea, and yet the sea is not full, "All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again (Ecc. 1:7)."

The Lord Jesus Christ is the one by whom all these things have been made as it says in Colossians, "For by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth...."  He is the one by whom the earth has been established.  He is the one that has set the boundaries for the waves.  He is the one who has chosen the paths for the rivers and set the watercourses into motion.  The Psalmist is about to transition into a glorious description of Jesus Christ the King of Glory.