You Have Misunderstood the Nature of the Law

In Romans 3:19-20 Paul says the following:

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Now, I had absorbed the fact that no man has been saved by the works of the law, but there was still a part of me that thought the law technically could  justify someone. You know, if some “hypothetical” man was somehow able to keep the law then he would be saved by the law. But what Paul is telling the us here is that this is not true. Instead, he is saying something along these lines:

To those of you who are trusting in the works of the law, you have completely misunderstood its nature. You are like a carpenter who has a too-short board, and who believes that if he measures it over and over again it will somehow get longer.  Jesus Christ was not made perfect by the Law, but rather, was perfect all along. All the Law did was allow you to contrast His perfection with your gross unrighteousness. The law, to those who are in sin, is nothing more than a tape measure, but you have been trying to use it as a ladder to God.

What do you think?

A Parable for Hyper-Calvinists

To those who say, “if God has ordained all things, then what does it matter if I witness since all who will be saved will be saved regardless what I do?,” you would do well to consider the parable of the talents:

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Matthew 25:14-30

It matters a great deal what you do, for by either your obedience  or your disobedience to the commands of God, you testify to whether you are a son of God or of the devil. This is not to say that salvation is by works, but that salvation does not exist without producing works. Those who hold to this position say in effect, God is so powerful and so completely in control, that I do not need to obey Him. It is nothing more than rebellion dressed up as obedience.

Comments?

A Study of Romans – An Introduction

It can be commonly observed that it is quite rare for just one thing to be happening at any given time, or even for a single action to serve no more than a single purpose. Such is certainly the case with the writing of the book of Romans. While Paul is ostensibly writing a letter to the believers in Rome, God Almighty is also writing a letter, and it is to the whole world (and this letter to the Romans is but a small part of that larger composition). Simultaneous to all of this, and not separable in any way, is the fact that God is also speaking to every age to come and to every man that will ever read or hear His words, and this is the greatest part, through all of this, He is speaking with one voice and with one mind.

It is with this mindset that we must consider Romans, but before we do so, it is worthwhile to first consider ourselves. Every culture bears its own unique sins that hinder the acquisition of specific truth, and American culture is no different. Specifically, our society has little respect for those who are deliberate with their words, and this is a shame, because it has been said by wise men that Christianity is, in many ways, a religion of words. And don’t for a minute believe that you are not unaffected by your culture. If while reading some passage of Scripture, such as the salutation at the beginning of Romans or James, you have found yourself skimming or skipping words or saying to yourself something along the lines of “yada, yada, yada”, then you bear witness to this fact

What we must strive to remember each time we pick up the sacred word is that, unlike the works of men, Holy Scripture possesses no “filler material”. There is never a place in any of it where the author has dashed off an extra thought or two because he felt a sentence was too short, or a paragraph too lean. Instead, every word is a deliberate act, right down to the tense of the verbs.

Next week as we begin by considering the first seven verses of Romans, we must be sure to note how careful Paul is with his language, how precisely he defines relationships — he is a “servant of Jesus Christ”, but he is “separated unto the Gospel of God”, he refers to those “called of Christ” and also those “beloved of God”, and how he talks about grace and obedience. There is more than just information in these verses. Paul is teaching the Romans how a Christian out to think about grace, about apostleship, about the Gospel. He is teaching them about the nature of the relationship between God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and about its implications. And because God is the final author of this text, He is teaching us as well.

The assignment for next week is easy. Read Romans 1:1-7. Be prepared to discuss.

God for a Day

Here’s a thought experiment for you. Imagine for a moment that you are given the infinite power of God to do with as you please. For all intents and purposes, you are God.

What would you do?

Think about it for a moment, and throw away your little answers, like “I’d bring about world peace”, or “I would end world hunger and eradicate disease”. That’s kid’s stuff. You’re God, remember, so what would you do? And don’t go and copy your predecessor either. You have to think of something completely original. In fact, throw out all the concepts that you have now and come up with all new ones. You’re God, and there is no idea of war unless you say so, nor is there the notion of peace, but that you make it to be so.

What would you do?

Seriously, think about it for a second.

If you’re like me, you’ll hit a wall very quickly. I have no idea, was my honest answer to this question. I lack the necessary traction to even process the question. Everything I know, every concept, every idea or ability to process an idea is framed by the One True God, Jehovah. I can only imagine within the framework that He has created. And that is exactly as it should be.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (Hebrews 11:3)

As always, feedback is appreciated.

A question about the scriptural basis for free will

Free will can be defined in a number of different ways, but lately the definition that I hear most often goes something like this:

Free will is the ability of a man (or woman) to choose what he will do or what he will believe, and while certain situations may limit the number of options he has at any given time (for instance, all men can not choose to be able to dunk a ball, or fly an airplane), there must always be at least two options (one of which may be the choice to do nothing at all).

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I do not agree with this definition. To those who do hold to this definition I would like to ask the following question:

From where in Scripture is this line of thinking about free will derived?

I will freely acknowledge that Scripture talks about choice, but it doesn’t define choice in such a way that each person must always have two options. When God called Abraham there was no requirement that the possibility of Abraham saying no existed, and it is not obvious from the text that God chose Abraham because God knew Abraham would obey. If anything it makes more sense to say that Abraham obeyed God because God chose him.

Any takers?

Spurgeon on Repentance

Spurgeon “If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow and made it ready.”Psalm 7:12.

How many of us are like men who see their faces in a mirror, and then walk away and forget what we look like! Yes! My friends, it is not your promise of repentance that can save you; it is not your vow, it is not your solemn declaration, it is not the tear that is dried more easily than the dew-drop by the sun, it is not the momentary emotion of the heart which constitutes a real turning to God. There must be a true and actual abandonment of sin, and a turning to righteousness in real act and deed in every-day life. Would you say you are sorry, and repent, and yet go on from day to day, just as you always have before? Will you now bow your heads, and say, “Lord, I repent,” and in a little while commit the same acts of sin again? If you do, your repentance is worse than nothing, and will make your punishment yet more sure; for he that makes a promise to his Maker, and does not keep his promise, has committed another sin, in that he has attempted to deceive the Almighty, and lie to the God that made him. Repentance to be true, to be evangelical, must be a repentance which really affects our outward behavior.

Repentance to be true must be total. How many will say, “Lord, I will give up this sin and this other one; but there are certain favorite lusts which I must hang on to.” O friends, in God’s name let me tell you, it is not the giving up of one sin, nor fifty sins, which is true repentance; it is the serious giving up of every sin. If you conceal one of these accursed vipers in your heart, then your repentance is nothing but a fake. If you indulge in only one lust, and give up every other, then that one lust, like one leak in a ship, will sink your soul. It is not sufficient just to give up your outward sins; it is not enough just to give up the most wicked sin of your daily life; it is all or nothing which God demands. “Repent.” And when he commands you to repent, he means repent of all your sins, otherwise he never can accept your repentance as being real and genuine. The truly repentant person hates all of their sins, not just certain ones. He says, “Cover yourself with the finest gold, O sin, I will still hate you! Yes, cover yourself with pleasure, make yourself flashy, like the snake with its turquoise scales—I still hate you, for I know your venom, and I run from you, even when you come to me in the most illusive clothing.” All sin must be given up, or else you will never have Christ: all evil must be renounced, or else the gates of heaven must be locked to keep you out forever. Let us remember, then, that for repentance to be sincere it must be total repentance.

REV. C.H. SPURGEON – Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 7, 1856, by the at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens. [Courtesy of GalatiansC4V16]

Sermon Prep on Assurance of Salvation, Faith, Works, and I John 3

Tomorrow night, I’m preaching at my church and my central text is I John, chapter 3. It’s an interesting passage and the core idea that I’ve taken away from it is that while salvation is of grace through faith, our assurance of salvation is through our works and that we abide in Christ and not in sin.

I’ll post more later, but if anyone has any thoughts I’ll be checking back in before I preach tomorrow night, so you have a prime opportunity to influence what is preached from a pulpit.

Any takers?

Analogous Grace: Why God chooses to bless certain things

In my last article on grace, I wrote about Prescriptive Grace and the way that grace is always applied specifically according to God’s desires. In this post, I want to talk about grace in a slightly different way, but first I want to clarify some things. Because this post is about why God chooses to bless certain things I don’t want to give the impression that I believe that we can control or even manipulate God, however, because God has told us that He is a God of order and because He has revealed a great deal about Himself through His Word and through the world, there are things that we can know about His behavior and that we can, through faith, respond to. Of course, God can do anything He chooses at any time and is not bound by anything other than His own nature. As C. S. Lewis writes of Aslan in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: He’s not a tame lion.
Continue reading “Analogous Grace: Why God chooses to bless certain things”

Respecting our Depravity

Perhaps you’ve experienced the following:

You are watching television, a crime-drama or a thriller, something like CriminalMindsBonesNumbers or CSI:MiamiNewYorkIdaho. You know exactly the sort of show I’m speaking of. On the screen there is a woman. She is at home and she is alone. There is a very good chance that she is attractive or even beautiful. If so, there is an even better chance that she is dressing for bed. Slowly, the music assumes a suspenseful tone and the camera pans back letting you in on the secret that she is not as alone as she might think. If you have watched these types of shows more than once, then at this point you know that something horrible is going to happen to this woman. The question is, what will it be? You lean forward in your seat. The camera moves closer and perhaps you are allowed to see the attacker or perhaps the woman hears a sound from another room and goes to investigate. Either way, the suspense builds further and further until it is at a breaking point. It is at this moment that someone calls you from the other room. Your wife, your husband, your mother, your child, it does not matter who. “Can you come here for a minute?” they ask. “Just a second you reply”, and to yourself you think, I want to see what they do to her.

Do you understand the significance of that thought? Someone has imagined an evil, and you would like to see it executed. Someone has sat and contemplated the horror that they could inflict upon someone else, and while it is not real, in fact, because it is not real, it will delight you to see what they have devised. You may shudder at what you see, but it will not compel you to turn the television off or to not return to it again.

Don’t think that I’m just making this scenario up, or that I’m just guessing at human behavior, because I’ve done this very thing. I’ve thought those very thoughts. I’ve done it so many times that it makes me sick.

Perhaps there is some part of you that resonates with the above examples. Perhaps you too know what it means to see evil and to be intrigued by it. Perhaps is too soft a word.

You have come face to face with evil. And if you are honest with yourself, you know that it’s occurred every time that you’ve beheld your own face in a mirror.

The shocking thing though, is not that we are so depraved, but that we pretend to be surprised when someone acts on that depravity. We listen to the nightly news and we hear about the murders and the beatings, we hear about the woman who abandoned her children in a locked car in a parking lot, and we can scarce believe it happened. “How could they do such a thing?” we ask, and in our black and filthy hearts a sharp-toothed little monster shakes its head in mock surprise and grins, “How indeed?”

 

I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD.
(Psalms 101:1-8)

 

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
(Jeremiah 17:9)