Last Thursday night we looked at how God takes the blessings He gives to believers out of the Riches of His Grace in Christ and brings them into our experience by the indwelling Holy Spirit. This led to many good questions, and operating on the principle that if one person asked a question there are probably many more who have the same question but don’t ask, here is one of the great questions we discussed on Thursday night:
What is “positional” truth? “Positional” truth is what is true of all believers the moment he or she believes in Christ and His Work on the Cross for them. Paul tells us in Eph. 1:3 that the moment we believe, God gives us ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN HEAVENLY PLACES. Notice it doesn’t say He gave us some or most. He gave us ALL the blessings that He is giving today the moment He saved us by grace through faith. But where do we go to learn what these blessings are? We learn what ALL these blessings are for us today in the Body of Christ from the writings of our Apostle Paul. Our blessings in Christ include having peace with God, having a grace standing that gives us 24/7 access to God’s riches, having confidence that God has included us in His Glory, and that we are the recipients of His infinite Love. And those are just some of the “positional” truths listed in the first verses of Romans 5! We could add to these blessings like redemption, reconciliation to God, eternal life, forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, removal from condemnation, righteousness/justification, accepted in Christ, freed from sin, death and the Law and many more. These “positional” truths can only be found in Paul’s writings. They cannot be found anywhere else--not in the world’s or human’s or even man-made religious and theological systems. They can only be found in the things God revealed to the Apostle Paul for the church, the Body of Christ, as recorded in Romans through Philemon.
But how do we fully enjoy these “positional” truths in our experience? Do we have to wait until we die and go to heaven? Until we are raptured? Or can they be enjoyed right now in the present? The answer is that God wants us to enjoy them RIGHT NOW! And He has given us the Holy Spirit to do just that. When we read about the “positional” truths for the Body of Christ in Paul’s letters and think on the things we have learned and received and heard and seen from him (Paul--Phil. 4:9), the Holy Spirit takes those and brings them into our experience by correcting our thinking, filling our hearts and empowering our external actions. And whenever this occurs, it will always result in a walk that is well-pleasing to God. Let’s look at 2 examples:
Romans 12:1-2 tells us that the Christian life is really just taking the gift of salvation by grace through faith as revealed in Paul’s Epistles, and then spend the rest of our lives down here on earth unpacking its “positional” truths; praying about them, asking God about them and letting the Holy Spirit teach them to us and bring them into our experience by faith in complete reliance upon God and His Word.
It seems we generated a lot of interest in last night’s ZOOM Bible Study/Fellowship. I know it is not because of my sub-par teaching and presentation skills. So it must be because of God and His Word. For those who have been unable to attend, here is a synopsis of what we have been learning about.
EXAMPLE: The Greek word for “likeness” was often used for fine music that represented an aspect of nature, vividly bringing it up before the ears of the listeners. A more modern example of this might be Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Concertos. Each concerto represents a season of the year, vividly bringing it up before us as we listen. I remember hearing these Concertos at a concert years ago. A young couple sat in front of me. They were arguing with each other. They were so angry they each sat on the far side of their seats so that they didn’t have to touch one another. But then something amazing happened. The music started, and not long after I looked down at them, and they were holding hands, tapping their feet together in rhythm and had big smiles on their faces. Being united to the music’s “likeness” or representation of the seasons of the year through Vivaldi’s concertos completely changed their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions.
Several of you have contacted me since Thursday interested in getting more information about believers being co-crucified with Christ, and how it relates to being dead to sin and serving God in righteousness. We will be spending more time on this on Thursday night Bible Studies in the upcoming weeks, but I have put together a brief summary below to the questions you have asked.
Several people commented that they can see the importance of God identifying the believer with the death, burial and resurrection but have difficulty understanding the importance of being identified with His crucifixion as well. In Rom. 6, Paul explains that God took us and placed us into Christ where He identified us with His death, buried us together with Him (which brings us into His family) and makes us participants in the power and glory of His resurrection. He takes us to the highest of heights, the most honorable and glorious place anyone can be! And we embrace this by faith in Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel, which is the likeness of Christ’s death and resurrection, God’s “concerto” of His Son’s death and resurrection, if you will. (Rom. 6:5).
All of that is great! Our past is dealt with and our future guaranteed, and this will reach complete fulfillment in the future resurrection of our of our bodies (Rom. 8:23).
But what about now, today, in the present. What about the time we spend between getting saved in the past and being bodily resurrected in the future? What does participating in the power and glory of the Risen Christ’s life look like now? Today? That is where being co-crucified with Christ is so important. Yes, we serve a Risen Christ, but that Risen Christ is also the Christ who was Crucified. The Lord Jesus Christ left the highest heights and came down to the sin-cursed, death-decaying world, serving in the likeness of humanity under adversity, humbling Himself to go to death to save fallen humanity, going to the lowest point of all: The death by way of the cross. What motivated or drove Him to do that? Agape Love (Phil. 2:1-8; Gal. 2:20; Rom. 5:1-11, etc.).
And that is the pattern of service believers are to follow today, using Paul’s apostolic ministry as the example. Yes, God has taken us to the highest heights with Christ—raising us with Christ and seating us together with Christ in the Heavenlies (Eph. 2:4-10). Yes, He has made us participants in the Glory and Power of Christ’s resurrection, making us adult sons in His family under the headship of Christ wherein everything that belongs to Christ belongs to us. But God beseeches us to carry out our ministry of proclaiming this Christ who was Crucified, to a sin-cursed, death-decaying world, serving under adversity as His ambassadors, willing to endure all the humbleness and shame and ridicule and suffering that proclaiming a crucified Christ as our Savior brings. Any thought, feeling, emotion, action or deed done according to Agape Love is always produced by God’s power and is acceptable to Him.
Anything done by Agape Love is always the fruit of righteousness because it is accomplished by the power of God, thereby demonstrating that we have indeed been freed from the power of sin. The corollary to this is that: Anything done apart from Agape Love, anything done apart from the empowering constraining Love of God at the Cross of Christ, is sin because it is produced by the power of sin. It may look good to you or your friends or the world, but it is sin. One pastor put it this way: Anything you do that an unbeliever can do is not the Christian life. Both the believer and unbeliever can do the same external act, but only believers can do things motivated by the Love of Christ at the Cross and, therefore, empowered by God. The unbeliever has rejected the Love of Christ at the Cross and, therefore, what he or she does is not empowered by God. Therefore, it must be empowered by the flesh under the power of sin, and, therefore, it is sin.
Paul puts it this way in Rom. 8:7-8 that the flesh cannot do anything that pleases God. And in Rom. 14:23-15:3 he says that anything that is not done out of faith and love (which centers on the death and resurrection of Christ) is sin. Sin is not just keeping ourselves from breaking a law or command of God’s or achieving some moral standard. Sin occurs whenever we operate apart from Agape Love. But we serve God by serving others, bearing the fruits of righteousness, when we do things motivated and empowered by the love of God displayed at the Cross of Christ.
This is the goal set before us. We will never reach the goal perfectly. Paul didn’t (3:10-14) and neither will we. It is a process. As we grow in the full-knowledge of Christ and His Cross (Phil. 1:9), and we believe it and embrace it more and more, we will more and more think and feel and act from the love of God. Anything, ANYTHING, done based on that exists because it was produced by God’s Power and not Sin’s Power. This is what it means to be separated, freed, DEAD to Sin and ALIVE to God (Rom. 6:6-11). Paul puts it this way in Rom. 12:1-2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind … As we participate in Paul’s proclamation of Christ according to the Revelation of the Mystery, it renews and thereby transforms our minds, ultimately conforming us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).
Romans 6:1-10: We are in an amazing passage that we don’t want to rush through. We want to become so familiar with it that it changes our thinking and changes our lives. Here are some of the highlights:
God and Paul begin the passage by explaining to us using the metaphor of baptism that when we received His gift of righteousness and super-abounding grace by faith, God instantly and eternally transferred us out of the realm of sin and death and placed us in the realm of righteousness and life. God identified believers with Christ’s death and buried them together with Christ, bringing them into the family tomb—a place of great honor—where they participate in the glory and power of God in raising Christ from the dead so that now believers can walk in the newness of His resurrection life. What an amazing privilege! What an amazing honor! The moment we believed the Gospel, God once-and-for-all took the believer and raised him or her up to the HIGHEST OF HEIGHTS into the very life of Christ Jesus Himself. Phil. 2:1 says the believer has been swept up into the life of the whole Triune God. In other words, God brought the believer into the HIGHEST OF HEIGHTS with Christ. There, we have all the riches of God in Christ. Everything that belongs to Christ belongs to us. Listen to Paul try to convey this infinite truth in finite human words: But God (the Father), who is rich in mercy for His GREAT LOVE wherewith He loved us (displayed at the Cross), even when we were dead in sin, (God the Holy Spirit) quickened us (made us alive) together with Christ (God the Son), by grace ye are saved, and has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Through God identifying the believer with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, the believer is swept up into the life of the Triune God. This is indeed the HIGHEST OF HEIGHTS!
This is what we call “positional” truths. These are the things that God does for all believers the moment they are saved. But these truths are not mysteriously instilled into our brains at the moment of salvation. And we cannot determine them through human wisdom, emotions, feelings or experiences. Rather, they are supernaturally revealed to us in God’s Word, and for us today, that means the Scriptures of Paul. Rom. 6:5 tells us that we bring these “positional” truths into our walk by becoming united, becoming one with the God’s representation or likeness of Christ’s death and resurrection as proclaimed in Paul’s Gospel, the Good News of the Death and Resurrection of Christ.
But that leads us to a very important question. Now that God has placed us in the HIGHEST OF HEIGHTS WITH CHRIST where we receive all the riches of God in Christ, what does the Christian Life actually look like when lived down here on earth? An erring Historic Christianity, going all the way back to the Corinthians, thought this meant believers are to reign as kings, gloating over others (1 Cor. 4:8), receiving health, wealth and prosperity. For them, getting saved means we can make God our co-pilot or business partner, and like Midas, He will make everything we touch turn to gold. What nonsense!
So, what does God and Paul say the true Christian life looks like? In Rom. 6:6, Paul answers this by giving us another aspect of what God did with us the moment we were saved. He united us to Christ’s crucifixion. We don’t just serve “Christ,” we serve the Christ who was crucified (for us), and we were crucified together with Him! Having placed us in the HIGHEST OF HEIGHTS together with Christ verses 3-5, Paul now takes us down to the LOWEST OF LOWS together with Christ in verse 6. Christ didn’t just go to any death. He went to the LOWEST OF LOW deaths, even the death of the Cross (Phil. 2:8), the most dishonorable, shameful, horrifying of all deaths.
Paul never speaks of Christ’s death on the Cross without in the same breath speaking about His AGAPE LOVE being displayed at that Cross. Just a few verses before our passage in Rom. 6, Paul wrote of this death on the Cross: God commends His Love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8)! And listen to Paul’s wonder and amazement in Gal. 2:20: I was crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live; yet not I but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who Loved me and gave Himself for me! The true Christian life is brought into our experience when we serve on the basis of Agape Love the Christ, who was crucified and we were crucified together with Him. Phil. 2 puts it this way: Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same Love … let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things but every man also on the things of others: LET THIS MIND BE IN YOU, WHICH WAS ALSO IN CHRST JESUS (Phil. 2:2-5). And what was this mindset that Jesus Christ operated according to? Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation and took the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in the fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross (Phil. 2:6-8).
So now we are ready to put this all together. Just as Christ, who was in the HIGHEST OF HEIGHTS as absolute God, did not grasp the things He had being God like a robber grasps his stolen goods that he is going to keep to himself. Instead, Christ opened His arms and reached down, down, down to share His riches through self-giving for the benefit of others in Love, even though it led Him to the LOWEST OF LOWS: the death on the Cross. So too, we, as His crucified people who serve a crucified Christ, are to follow this same mindset that led Him to the Cross: AGAPE LOVE. We, whom God has placed in the HIGHEST OF HEIGHTS together with Christ where we receive the Riches of God in Christ, live out this life down here in the lowness of this sin-cursed, death-decaying world, for the purpose of sharing these riches in Christ with all ungodly sinners on enemy status before God. We are His ambassadors, extending His Grace and Peace to a lost fallen world.
And anything done with this mindset; anything done in self-giving service that is motivated by the Love of God at the Cross of Christ to build-up others in God’s truth for today (ie., Agape Love), anything, ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING done in this way, is always apart from sin and death and their power, and is always, ALWAYS, tied to God and His righteousness. It is always acceptable to God and well-pleasing to Him. This is how we “walk in newness of life.” The Christian life is not trying to reach some level of morality for boasting in oneself or abstaining from doing certain sins. The Christian life is serving God by serving others in Love. The pagans could be moral, and unbelievers can abstain from certain sins. But only those who have received the Love of God at the Cross of Christ by faith (ie., believers) can operate on the basis of Agape Love. This is (indeed!) faith, which works by Love (Rom. 6:6-10; Gal. 5:6).
After the teaching, we had a great discussion that brought up a very, very important point. In our highly individualistic society (so prized in America) we tend to think that our primary service is as individuals. But this is not what Paul thought. None of us has the resources or the ability to live the Christian life of Love fully on our own. The primary way this life is lived out is not individually on our own but communally with others in a “local” assembly. (Of course, our recent experiences with ZOOM show that “local” can now mean something much more than it used to!) The primary way we serve God in love is by participating in an assembly of grace believers. This is God’s provision for service. In an assembly everyone participates in the proclamation of Paul’s Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery. In an assembly everyone one can participate in whatever way they can, whatever their age or skills or education or anything else. What we cannot do individually, we can do communally through the Bible rightly-divided and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Christian life begins in the assembly of grace believers and then spreads out from there.
I apologize for the length. I meant for it to be shorter, but I just couldn’t stop talking about God and His Love in Christ!
Last night we saw from Romans 6 and 1 Cor. 13 that the Christian life is lived out on the basis of Agape Love. Paul’s overall definition of Agape Love is action motivated and empowered by the Love of God at the cross of Christ that selflessly shares the riches of God we have in Christ with others for the sole purpose of building them up in God’s Truth for today (Paul’s distinct apostleship) (1 Cor. 8:1; 10:24, 33; 13:5) .
This is completely contrary to the worldly wisdom and human knowledge from the instruction manual of sin and death that most of Historic Christianity has embraced and teaches to its people. Historic Christianity typically teaches that salvation is our way to get God involved in our things, and that prayer is our way to get God to do what we want. They say that because we have the riches of God in Christ we should use them for our own selfish desires, promising us health, wealth and prosperity. This type of mentality is encapsulated in bumper stickers that say “God is my co-pilot” or “God is my business partner.”
Well, to those who think this way, I hate to break it to you, but God is most certainly not your co-pilot nor your business partner.
This mentality doesn’t come from God’s Word. It comes from the instruction manual of self, Satan, sin and death as explained Rom. 1:18-32). God’s instruction manual, however, teaches the exact opposite. Paul explains in Rom. 6:6 and other places that believers today are not only taken to the Highest of Heights through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, but have also been taken to the Lowest of Lows through Christ’s crucifixion (Rom. 6:3-6). Believers in the Body of Christ are identified as the crucified people of a crucified Christ. Therefore, the modus operandi, the instruction manual for life comes from the mind set that sent Christ from the Highest of Heights (as absolute Deity) to the Lowest of Lows (death, even the death of the Cross), to share His riches with others, namely, us, hopelessly lost sinners. This mind set is AGAPE LOVE. Contrary to Historic Christianity, Agape Love doesn’t allow for the use God and the riches of His Grace in Christ for our own advantage and benefit. Rather it empowers us to share God and His riches with others under adverse conditions in this sin-cursed, death-decaying world. We are extenders of His grace and peace to a lost world where the great paradox of Christianity comes into full force: In the midst of our infirmities, when we are at our weakest and most powerless, God’s power is released and put on display. Paul puts it this way in 2 Cor. 12:9: And He (God) said unto me (Paul), My (God’s) Grace is sufficient for thee (Paul): for My (God’s) strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I (Paul) rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (Paul). This is Agape Love.
The Christian Life is not us using God and His things for our own selfish interest and advantage. The Christian Life is God providing us with all we need to serve Him by serving others, freely sharing His things with others out of selfless giving motivated and empowered by the Love of Christ at the Cross, for the sole purpose of building up others in God’s truth for today; not considering our own things but the things of others (Phil. 2:3-4).
This is most successfully accomplished not as individuals from our own little islands, but together as members of the Body of Christ, fellowshipping in an assembly of likeminded believers.
Sunday, we will continue our study in James, moving on to chapter 2. This is a passage that has caused much needless uncertainty because most of Historic Christianity has thrown away Paul’s distinct apostleship, and therefore, cannot rightly-divide their Bibles, bringing in not only much confusion but much despair as well.
On Thursday we sprang off Romans 6 and went to 1 Corinthians to see Agape Love in action. Paul’s working definition for Love is this: It is not considering our own things but considering the things of others for the sole purpose of their edification in God’s truth for today (1 Cor. 10:23-24; 33). But how does that play out in the believer’s everyday life? Paul doesn’t just tell us how to walk by Love. He SHOWS us how to walk by Love. Paul didn’t consider his own things. He wouldn’t demand his own rights to his time and money, he didn’t expect anything in return, he didn’t demand fair treatment or anything else, if it meant the assembly would be built-up in Christ. And he did this easily and joyfully because he did it based on the super-abounding Love and Grace he had received freely from God in Christ: The infinite and eternal Riches of God in Christ. Because it is eternal he didn’t need anything else ever again. And because it is infinite it would never run out, so he could share it extravagantly with all. That is the Christian life sharing the riches we have in Christ with joyful and wild abandon! Dispensing God’s forgiveness and peace and patience and faith and hope and joy and gentleness and goodness and meekness and temperance, WHICH IS ALL SUMMED UP IN AGAPE LOVE, and we do it for no other reason than that God gave it to freely therefore we give it to others freely.
Last night we finished up our study of Pauline Grace’s Agape Love.
Paul strove to base every decision he made based on Agape Love. He told the Corinthians to base all their decisions on Apape Love in 1 Cor. 16:14, and he told all believers to make their everyday decisions based on Agape Love in Phil. 1:1-8. This is the most freeing principle in the Christian Life. Anything done on the basis of Agape Love is always acceptable to God. God has adopted believers into His family as adult sons and daughters. He has given them the family name and the family riches and has told them what the Father’s business is. Now, anything we do based in accord with these things and based on Agape Love, will always be acceptable to God. Of course, if we don’t rightly-divide the Scriptures, we won’t know about our family name or about the riches we have in Christ or about what God is doing today, then we can’t participate in a walk in newness of life that pleases God (Rom. 6:4). That is why GBCRM stresses sound doctrine from the Word rightly-divided. We need to follow God’s Agape Love edification plan as described in Rom. 6: We need to learn about these things, believe them, reckon or make our decisions based on them, and present the parts of our bodies for God purposes. And when that happens, it is always the new life in Christ. It is always acceptable to God.
FLASHING RED WARNING LIGHTS: The flesh will try to take this teaching and turn Pauline Grace into a more rigorous Law, more things for us to “do” to gain acceptance with God. But this is not true. Grace is not a more stringent Law system calling on us to perform and do things we can’t possibly do. This is to miss the whole point. Earlier I used the analogy of pole-vaulting to illustrate that the Law was like a bar set at the one foot mark. It was the lowest level of human righteousness that God was right to demand from His human creation. But fallen humanity (as represented by the Nation of Israel) could not even do that because of sin. Pauline Grace is like a bar set at a million trillion miles high. The believer who on his own through the flesh couldn’t clear the 1 foot bar now through Pauline Grace is catapulted by God over the million trillion mile bar, not by his own power and works but by the power and work of God. And this is done IN CHRIST, the measure of God’s infinite divine righteousness. In Grace we don’t “do” anything ourselves. Rather as Romans 6 explains, it is based on grace and faith. We believe and rely on all that God has done for us and given to us in Christ, and when we believe that and dwell on that and think more and more about Christ and reckon according to that, it is not the we “do” something. Rather it is that God the Holy Spirit “does” something through us. As Rom. 6:13 explains we are just God’s instruments. God does all the work to accomplish His purposes of Agape Love. Agape Love is the most freeing principle in all God’s Word. It is what frees us to serve God by serving others. If it is not doing that for us, then we are not understanding it.
One of the biggest mistakes we make when understanding Agape Love is that we forget its very first step: DO NOT CONSIDER YOURSELF. Our flesh always wants to consider itself, and if you look at yourself all you will see is selfish interests, failure, sin, shortcomings and defeat. That is why the very first step of AGAPE LOVE is DO NOT CONSIDER YOURSELF!! Instead of looking at ourselves, we are to look at Christ and all that He did for us on the Cross and all the riches He gave us based on that Crosswork. DO NOT CONSIDER YOURSELF! We must not look at the sin in our experience. We must look at the Righteousness of God in Christ. Don’t look at the death we see all around us. Look at the Life we have in Christ Jesus. Don’t look at the defeats that enter our experience. Look at the victory we have in Christ. Don’t look at our selfish interests. Look at the selfless love of God at the Cross of Christ. The minute we look anywhere else but Christ, we forget the first step of Agape Love: DO NOT CONSIDER YOURSELF. Don’t live by sight! Live by FAITH.
The more and more we focus on Christ and His things from Paul’s Epistles, the more and more the Holy Spirit teaches us these things, empowering us to live them out in our daily lives. So that more and more we can grow in our Christian life that leads to a walk that more and more pleases God in Agape Love.
Thursday night’s Bible Study Fellowship from Romans 6 was a night filled with many highlights. Here are some of them.
Paul explains that we died with Christ, freeing us from our previous Master, Master Sin, his power and authority. And that we were buried together with Christ, giving us the honor of being brought into the family of God, and then He raised us up together with Christ, freeing us from the dominion of Death. And, as if this wasn’t high enough, in Eph. 2 Paul says God also seated us together with Christ in the Heavenlies. In short, God takes the believing sinner to the Highest of Heights where everything that belongs to Christ belongs to us. WOW!
But how do we live out this new life in Christ? For that, we need to know that God also crucified us together with Christ, taking us to the Lowest of Lows, stamping us with the mindset Christ had when He went to the Cross for our benefit. We call this Agape Love. This is the principle our new humanity in Christ operates on. When we operate according to Agape Love, it counteracts everything that was true of us in our old humanity in Adam. Instead of selfishly fulfilling the lusts of our evil hearts by the power of sin and contaminated with death, we can now selflessly produce fruit by the power of God that always leads to righteousness and life unto the building up of others.
So, putting this all together: We need to know and believe these things, then we need to reckon upon them, putting these things into the calculations we use to make the decisions of everyday life, and then present our bodies as instruments for God to use to carry out His purposes.
Then, it is as though Paul gets us to the point where our arms are outstretched to do God’s bidding, we have one foot in the air to go where God leads, and have our mouths open to speak God’s Word, but then he suddenly says: Hold on. Stop right there! Freeze-frame!
He does this to warn us about something. We can fall into a trap at this point. We get to this point, and we want “to DO” something. What should I DO? And it is here that Paul stops us dead in our tracks to warn us about the biggest mistake we can make as believers, and that is: GOING BACK TO THE LAW INSTEAD OF GOING ON IN GRACE!
Operating on the basis of a Law System is the very opposite of operating on the basis of a Grace System for many reasons that we will be looking at over the upcoming weeks. But I will mention just one here. The instructions of the Law tell you to look at yourself and see how you are DOING. When I do this, I will respond in one of two ways.
Agape Love that comes from the Instruction manual of Pauline Grace, however, starts with the exact opposite, telling us to NOT LOOK AT YOURSELF! LOOK AT CHRIST! Paul’s going to explain that going back to the Law throws us off course right at the starting gate.
So, the real question we should be asking at this point in Romans 6 is not WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING? But WHAT IS GOD DOING TODAY? We looked at the Scriptures about the raising up of the Apostle Paul and saw that what God is doing today is not what most of Historic Christianity says He is doing. It is not going to be what your flesh or the world thinks He ought to be doing: Fixing the world’s problems, including human suffering. Rather, God’s revealed will for today is that He is deliberately NOT fixing the worlds problems. And we should be very glad for that because in order to fix all the world’s problems, He will have to return in His wrath and judgment to destroy sinners, destroy His enemies, beginning in the House of Israel, beginning with Saul/Paul and especially the Gentiles (that’s us)! But God didn’t do that. Instead, out of the Riches of His Longsuffering Kindness, Christ returned in His Grace and Peace to save His enemies, beginning with the Jews, beginning with Saul/Paul and especially the Gentiles!
Now, that you know this, and if you believe it and put it in the calculations you use to make decisions, and you present your bodies for His use … What are you going to be “DOING?” Knowing that God is not fixing the problems of the world today are you going to spend all your time waiting on Him to fix the problems of the world? Are you going to spend your prayer life pleading with Him to do something that He has revealed He is not doing that today? Are you going to try to use Him to get physical and material things when He has said He is not giving special physical and material blessings today? No, you won’t. That would be at best foolish and at worst rebellious!
Instead, in the light of the fact that God is now letting the fallen world go on its way a little while longer (so far about 2000 years) not because He doesn’t care about sin or because He likes to see people suffer, but because He is being longsuffering for the benefit of sinful humanity, so that as many as possible might be saved spiritually BEFORE He returns in His wrath and judgment to destroy them. Knowing this, we won’t be paralyzed by the world’s problems. We will jump in and dispense God’s Grace and Peace in the midst of those problems. We won’t spend all our time in prayer trying to get God to give us more physical blessings. We will spend our prayer time thanking Him for the infinite and eternal spiritual blessings we have in Christ that more than adequately, super-abundantly, go beyond anything that comes along in the sin-cursed world. We will talk to God about being the instruments, sharing forgiveness and joy and longsuffering and peace and kindness and patience and goodness and faith and love and hope with others. And when you “DO” that, you are not really “DOING” anything at all. It is God “DOING” it in and through you. And that is the real-deal, the one-and -only genuine Christian Life.
What Is The Relationship Between Rightly-Dividing and Agape Love?
What if you have a believer who knows nothing about rightly dividing the Bible (which would be the state of most believers today). First, it is important to realize that while this person doesn’t know the principles of right division, he or she is rightly dividing. If she is truly saved, then she believed Paul’s Gospel, the Good News of the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Therefore, she is rightly dividing even if she doesn’t know it. L. S. Chafer put it this way: If you went to church this week without a lamb flung over you shoulder, then you are a dispensationalist whether you realize it or not, whether you admit it or not.
Now, what if this person in thankfulness for her salvation, shares Paul’s Gospel with someone else for their benefit? That is Agape Love. Let’s say she hears a Bible teacher and learns the additional Pauline truth that all her sins are forgiven and out of gratitude for that she eagerly forgives others? That is Agape Love. We could go on and on, but I think you get the point. If she lived out her whole life based just these two points of doctrine, she would live a life completely acceptable to God, a life based on Agape Love.
But, of course, she won’t because she will be blown off course by every wind of doctrine that comes from man-made religious and man-centered theological systems, not to mention her own thoughts and desires. These systems will deceive her into questioning this doctrine, questioning God, questioning her forgiveness, etc. They will get her side-tracked into doing things from the world or from the Bible wrongly divided with regard to Israel’s Prophetic Program. She will spend most of her Christian life down here not walking in a way that pleases God and not living by Agape Love.
Agape Love is not based on how much knowledge you have but on what you do with that knowledge. So, let’s go to the other extreme. What if you have a believer who has extensive dispensational teaching, understanding it in all its details, knowing a countless list of blessings he has in Christ, but He uses this information to boast and puff himself up when dealing with others. That is NOT Agape Love, and it is not acceptable or pleasing to God. Agape Love always benefits others and builds them up.
So, what does rightly dividing accomplish, and why is it so important?
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.
Last Thursday we discussed what I consider to be the second most important truth of Pauline Grace, and that is Agape Love. Agape Love is the way we bring the “sanctification” we have positionally into our everyday lives, whereby God redeems the time, one moment at a time. So I will briefly summarize this topic. Please read to the end of the summary because there is a mistake we can make with Agape Love, in fact, it is the WORST MISTAKE A BELIEVER CAN MAKE!
In last night’s Bible Study Fellowship on Romans 6, we continued to grow in our understanding of Christian living by making Agape Love real. This has been a bit of a rocky and rough journey because this truth is only supernaturally revealed. It is not anything we would come up with on our own. It is completely contrary to the way we naturally think, and it won’t be found in any form of human or worldly wisdom. If God hadn’t reveal it to the Apostle Paul, we wouldn’t know it. So, it takes a little while to penetrate into our thinking, and it needs to bounce around a while before we can get a good handle on it.
Let me show you how far we have come in this summary in making Agape Love Really REAL!. This summary is longer than usual, but I think it is worth it.
Similarly, God isn’t fooled by appearances. He doesn’t look at the external “good” deed we do. He looks at where that “good” deed came from. And if it came from the factory of Self and Satan, which runs 24/7 on the power of Sin, it is automatically contaminated with Death and condemned to destruction. That is the plight of fallen humanity. No matter how “good” they try to appear on the outside, it all comes from the heart of Sin and Death on the inside. This is why Paul says in Rom. 8:8 that the sinful flesh can DO NOTHING THAT PLEASES GOD. And again in Rom. 3:23 he says of fallen humanity: All have sinned and are coming short of the Glory of God. Paul explains all of this in Romans chapters 1 and 2.
When we receive the things God has graced to us by faith; when we know them, believe them, and put them in the calculations we make for daily living, God will give us the desire to be His instruments, His tools. Of course, we are living instruments and tools. We have a role to play, and that role is to simply BELIEVE. Have FAITH. A pastor once said: Faith is the only thing we can “do” without “doing” anything. Faith is the setting aside of our own “doing” so that we can rely on the “doing” of someone else.
Once the believer begins to see His riches in Christ and all that God has made him to be in Christ, once he believes it and reckons according to it and desires that God use him His Own purposes … at that very moment … we can make the BIGGEST MISTAKE A BELIEVER CAN MAKE! That mistake is to return to natural thinking by assuming that the Christian Life is something that we “do.” We are all excited for Christ and ready to go into action and we think we need to “do” something. We ask: How “do” I become a super-saint? How do I pray? How “do” I serve? How “do” I worship? What does God want me to “do”? I need to “do” something! Notice, everything is about I, I, I. But the beginning point of Agape Love is not I, I, I. The beginning point of Agape Love is Christ, Christ, Christ! It instructs us to NOT TO LOOK AT OURSELVES BUT TO LOOK AT CHRIST AND HIS CROSS! All these “I” questions are the wrong questions to ask.
The right question to ask is not: What must “I” “do”? But to ask: What is God “doing” today? You see, if we are just God’s instruments, living instruments whose only role is to believe, then we don’t really “do” anything. God “does” everything in and through us (Phil. 2:12-13)! And when that happens that is the true Christian life, which is always of infinite and eternal value.
I could go on and on, but hopefully these examples can give you ways of thinking about Agape Love. In short, the world tells us to seize the moment for ourselves. Agape Love is the way we let God seize the moment for Himself! Redeeming the time from darkness to light one moment at a time in these evil days (Eph. 5:16). It changes everything in our lives!
One final note. When God brought us into His family, He brought us in as adult Sons and Daughters. This Pauline concept is call Sonship or Adoption. Paul will enlarge upon this in Rom. 8. Rom. 5 and 6 provide the groundwork for this Sonship position. God has placed us in His family as adults, where we learn the Father’s business and are given access to the Father’s riches (in Christ). This means God is not going to make your every decision. That is what you do with toddlers not adults. God tells us that now that we know His business (dispensing His grace to a sin-cursed world) and having access to His infinite riches through Christ and thinking according to the mindset of Agape Love Christ had when He went to the Cross, NOW GO AND LIVE YOUR LIFE! God can dispense Grace through you in marriage of in singleness, in health or in sickness, in wealth or in poverty, in Illinois or in Florida. You make those decisions.
One more very important final note. The believer’s job is to just dispense God’s Grace and Peace. Our job ends there. We are not responsible for whether or not others receive it. God doesn’t force others to receive the Grace He offers them, and neither should we. We are just His dispensers of Grace, not His enforcers. What the other person does with God’s Grace is between him and God. Our job is just to dispense. Period!
THE AGAPE LOVE EXISTENCE IS THE MOST EXHILARATING, LIBERATING AND JOYFUL EXISTENCE OF ALL!
One of my goals for all of you is that you would come to know Paul’s Letter to the Romans like you know the back of your hand. Together with Ephesians, they make up the core of Pauline Grace Christianity. It is the core of all that God is doing today. And it is the core of all that we should be participating in today. Here in Romans 6 we find the antidote, the cure, the solution to fallen humanity’s most fundamental problem: Separation from God and EXCLUSION FROM GOD’S GLORY (Rom. 3:23). Romans 5-6 gives us the amazing message that now we as believers are united to God and participate in His Glory through Christ. To really appreciate this, we need to remember how fallen fallen humanity really is: It is completely and fully and hopelessly fallen (Rom. 1:18-3:20). If we read Rom. 5-6 without keeping Rom. 1:18-3:20 in mind, we will not appreciate the revolutionary content of its amazing message.
In Romans 1:18-3:20, God and Paul explain that fallen humanity, because of its rebellion against God and rejection of His Word in UNBELIEF, has been HANDED OVER to the unclean SELFISH LUSTS of their foolish, darkened, hardened and unrepentant HEARTS under the power of SIN AND DEATH (1:21-32; 2:4-5) and, therefore, those who belong to it can do nothing acceptable to God. For all its work and time and busyness and effort and money and talk and rushing about and everything else all together, for all of that, it is all just vanity, a barren, FRUITLESS existence. When everything is said and done, it is just an explosion of lust that misuses others to fulfill their own selfish desires. I know, this is not a pretty picture. But that is the true position of fallen humanity before God. They are completely and hopelessly lost and can’t do anything about it. With this in view, it is evident then that fallen humanity’s primary and most fundamental problem is not that it commits sins, but that those in it are enslaved to Sin. They are slaves in the Factory of Self and Satan, which runs 24/7 on the power of Sin, contaminates everything inside with Death. Fallen humanity doesn’t just need its sins forgiven (as important as that is!). It needs to be freed from the factory of Sin!
Ok, that is the first 2 1/2 chapters of Romans. Then from Romans 3:21-4:25, Paul explains that God has forgiven our sins through the redemption Jesus Christ procured through His death on the Cross. We have the forgiveness of sins (Rom. 3:25-26, 4:7, 25). That is great! And I thank God for it every second of every day. But that is not enough. Man-made religious and theological systems stop here and get believers to live in a continual state of confession of sins…committing sins, thinking about sins, confessing sins, asking forgiveness of sins … whether in a Catholic confessional in a church or in a Baptist confessional at the foot of your bed each night. But this would be a MUCH LESS salvation. I suppose God could have saved believers by leaving them in the Factory of Sin and Death but forgiving all the sins they commit there. I suppose that is possible but that would a MUCH LESS salvation. God didn’t stop here, and we must not either. We must go on to Romans 5-6!
As we enter into Romans 5, Paul begins using terminology that he hasn’t used since Romans 1-2. Note the highlighted words in all capitals above as we work our way through chap. 5-6. Having been justified by FAITH/BELIEF (5:2) we have a new standing before God that makes us PARTICIPANTS IN GOD’S GLORY (Rom. 5:2), which results in a MUCH MORE salvation that saves us from condemnation and wrath and gives us the LIFE of Christ (5:9-10)! A MUCH MORE salvation that abounds God’s Grace to us and makes us participants in His RIGHTEOUSNESS so that we reign in LIFE by Jesus Christ (5:15, 17)!! A MUCH MORE salvation that removes us from the evil reign of Sin and Death and places us under the benevolent reign of God and His super-abounding Grace!!! Now fallen humanity’s most fundament problem has been solved. Believers have been removed from enslavement to Self and Satan’s Factory of Sin and Death and placed into the service of God and His Grace in Christ’s Factory of RIGHTEOUSNESS AND LIFE!!! WOW!
On the basis of FAITH/BELIEF, God the Holy Spirit doesn’t just deal with our external sins (as great as that is!), He goes far deeper than that. He goes all the way to our innermost person, all the way into the HEART and re-creates it by pouring, avalanching, waterfalling, overflowing it with the SELF-LESS (Agape) Love of God displayed at the Cross of Christ (Rom. 5:5-8), HANDING US OVER to the teachings of Pauline Grace (6:17). And having done all that through Christ and His Cross, God freed believers from slavery to selfish lusts of our evil hearts (6:12), freed believers from slavery to Sin and Death (6:7-18), and freed believers from the slavery of a barren and fruitless existence (6:20-23). And having done that, He HANDED BELIEVERS OVER TO PAULINE GRACE (6:17), enslaved (to use the terminology of men (Rom. 6:19)) them to the SELF-LESS LOVE CHRIST DISPLAYED WHEN HE WENT TO THE CROSS for them, and enslaved them to His RIGHTEOUSNESS AND LIFE! And now for the first time, the believer’s existence BEARS MUCH FRUIT UNTO GOD (Rom. 6:21-23)! What a glorious message!
Last night in our Bible Study Fellowship from Rom. 6 we looked at an important component of the Christian Walk: FAITH.
Rom. 6 tells us some of the most amazing things in all the universe. According to Rom. 1, as sinners in fallen humanity, we were handed over to the lusts of our darkened hearts under the power of sin that leads to death, which produces a barren existence that bears no fruit (Rom. 1:18-32). But in Rom. 6, Paul says believers have been freed from the power of Sin and Death so that we are no longer enslaved to the selfish lusts of our evil hearts. How can this be? It is because we have now been handed over to a new Master that we can obey from a heart re-created with Agape Love (Rom. 5:5; 6:17), which is under the power of Righteousness and Life, producing a fertile existence that bears much fruit (Rom. 6:1-17).
This new Master that we have been handed over to is the form of doctrine called Pauline Grace Teachings, which are identified in Rom. 16:25 as Paul’s Gospel, the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the Revelation of the Mystery (6:1-17). Pauline Grace is a Grace/Faith operational system, NOT a Law/Works operational system. In a Grace/Faith System God does everything in and through the believer. He freely “graces” believers with everything in Christ, and they receive and enjoy His things by FAITH, which allows Him to powerfully work in and through them (Phil. 2:13). In a Law/Works System, however, sinners are called on to do everything themselves through their own power. If they obey, then they will receive the blessings of the Law. But if they don’t obey, they will receive the curses of the Law.
The Pauline Grace/Faith System tells us to look beyond ourselves and everything going on around us and focus solely on Christ and His Cross, asking: What is GOD doing? The Law/Works System doesn’t look at Christ and His Cross, but focuses on the self and what is going on around it, asking: What am I doing? The former always leads to patience, hope and victory. The latter always leads to anxiety, despair and defeat.
The Christian Life can only be lived out on the basis of FAITH: When we believe (OUR FAITH) in the revelation of God’s Truth for today found in Paul’s Epistles (THE FAITH), which is based on the Person and Work of Christ on the Cross (THE FAITH OF CHRIST), it is then, and only then, that we have obedience of faith (OUR FAITHFULNESS), which translates into a walk that pleases God.
Some FAITH facts:
The Christian Life is the result of God faithfully working in and through believers based on Christ and His Cross and the Agape Love displayed there.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live;
yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Last night we brought together the things we have been looking at in Romans 5-6, which are some of the most important truths in Pauline Christianity: For instance, God brought us into His family under the Headship of Christ where all the things that belong to Christ through His Work on the Cross belong to us. God made us the recipients of His infinite and eternal Riches of Grace: His Righteousness and Life, His Agape Love displayed at the Cross of Christ, His Holy Spirit. We are united to God through Christ. God raised us to the Highest of Heights by placing us into Christ, identifying us with His death, burial and resurrection, freeing us from the power of Sin and Death. And God took our old humanity and crucified it together with Christ, bringing us into His new humanity under the operating principle is Agape Love, freeing us from the lusts of our own evil hearts. In doing this, God handed us over to a specific form of doctrine, the teachings of Grace, Pauline Grace (Rom 6:17). WOW! If that is not enough to get you to jump and shout for joy, I don’t know what is.
Now that God has done all of this for us by grace through faith, Paul immediately warns us that our service to God is by grace through faith as well. The believer doesn’t “do” anything to get saved positionally. And the believer doesn’t “do” anything to bring that salvation into his or her experience. God is the one who “does” everything in and through us. Paul explains that we are God’s instruments, albeit living instruments. The only responsibility believers have as God’s living instruments, is faith, faith in what He has done for them in the past, what He is doing with them in present and what He will do with them in the future
Someone has said that Faith is the only thing a person can “do” without “doing” anything. It is the setting aside of our own “doing” so that we can rely on the “doing” of Another, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said this in His earthly ministry: The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent (Jn. 6:29). Faith works in this way: When we believe (OUR FAITH) God’s Truth for today as found in Paul’s Grace teachings (THE FAITH), our eyes will be focused on the Good News of Christ and His Cross (THE FAITH OF CHRIST), which leads to a walk that is well pleasing to God (OUR FAITHFULNESS).
Why is it so important for believers to cling to Pauline Grace? Because Pauline Grace proclaims the Good News of Christ and His Cross and the Love of God displayed there for us, and this is what opens the flow of Agape Love in our hearts, which motivates us to serve God by serving others selflessly, and this is nothing less than God working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). This is faith working through (Agape) Love (Gal. 5:6). Therefore, the worst question we can ask as we begin to learn about all that God has done for us in our salvation is: What should “I” be “doing?” “I” NEED to “do” something! But that is the wrong question to ask! That is just your flesh where sin resides talking.
What you should be asking instead is: What is God “doing” today? And the only way you can know what God is doing today is by rightly-dividing the Bible. That is the only way to discern what God is doing today in the Body of Christ’s Mystery Program from what He had been doing in the past and will be doing again in the future in the Nation of Israel’s Prophetic Program. In Israel’s Prophetic Program, God is displaying His Glory by manifesting the Righteousness of God in Saving His Friends (believing national Israel and friendly Gentiles) and destroying His Enemies.
But that is NOT what God is doing today through Paul’s apostleship! Today, God is displaying His Glory by manifesting the Righteousness of God in Saving His Enemies because He has no Friends! Today, God is dispensing His Grace and Peace to ungodly sinners on enemy status before Him, to those who only deserve His wrath and judgement. This is the Riches of God’s Grace in Christ. That is what God is doing today. So, guess what God will be doing with you when He is working in and through you as His instruments? He will be dispensing His Grace and Peace through us. That is the true Christian Life. That is our great privilege. That is the most important thing in the universe!
Anytime we turn away our eyes away from Christ and His Cross and look at ourselves--our thoughts, our feelings--or we look at the things around us and at external appearances; or we listen to human reasoning or worldly knowledge or man-made religious and theological systems, or even if we turn to the things in Israel’s Prophetic Program in the non-Pauline Scriptures without rightly-dividing the them: When we look at ANYTHING other than Paul’s Gospel, the Good News of the Cross of Christ, the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the Body of Christ’s Mystery Program, ANYTIME we turn from that we will instantly be thrown off course and lose our bearings, resulting in fear, defeat, and despair. But when we keep our eyes focused like laser beams on Christ and His Cross, the Love of God at the Cross of Christ continues to overflow our hearts, motivating us to serve God by serving others our of selfless Agape Love and that always results in patience, victory and hope. That is nothing less than God working in and through us, making us His dispensers of Grace and Peace to a sin-cursed, lost world, under adverse conditions on enemy territory. And when we participate in that, IT IS ALWAYS WELL-PLEASING TO GOD!
Last night we began our transition from Rom. 6 to Rom. 7-8. We had sailed our boat out to the deep waters of Rom. 6, threw the anchor over the side and spent a while taking in the sights and the sounds. But last night, we pulled the ancho back up and prepared ourselves for sailing again that will lead us through Rom. 7 and into the deep waters of Rom. 8 where we will once again throw the anchor over the side, giving us the opportunity to take in the sights and sounds.
Some of the main highlights from yesterday:
You see, God didn’t create humanity to be an independent creation. He created humanity to be a dependent creation, dependent upon Him, the benevolent Master God. So, when they rebelled against God and rejected His Word, God, after much struggling and stiving with them, handed them over to the only other Master in town, the evil Master Sin and Master Death. In withdrawing their dependency on Master God, they just became dependent on Master Sin.
The answer to being handed over to Master Sin in Rom. 1 is being handed over to Pauline Grace in Rom. 6. Pauline Grace is the pure antidote to the Satanic Lie of Master Sin. Pauline Grace takes our eyes off ourselves and focusses them on Christ and His Cross and the infinite and eternal Agape Love of God displayed their for us, which the Holy Spirit takes and overflows our hearts with, creating within us a new heart for selfless service of God to others. The Satanic Lie, however, focusses my eyes on myself, and commands me to do whatever I need to do to look out myself, for #1, so that everything I do springs from the evil lusts of darkened hearts without concern for others.
Pauline Grace destroys the Satanic illusion of an independent and autonomous “I” and sweeps us into the “we” life of the whole Triune Godhead (Rom. 8:1-4) where “we” are returned to the truly human status of creaturely dependence upon the one true and benevolent God. We are restored to true human existence. Everything else is a deception and a lie. Our salvation does not come from God fixing up the old selfish “I” made up by human religious systems that follow Satan’s Lie. Our salvation comes from God creating us anew in Christ, sweeping us up into life of the whole Triune Godhead and uniting us to all other believers with joints and ligaments of Agape Love (Eph. 4:15-16). That is Pauline Grace. That is true human existence. That is victorious Christian Living.
We began by noting that Romans 5-6 especially solved the problem of fallen humanity as described in Rom. 1:18-32. And Rom. 7-8 especially solved the problem of fallen humanity in relation to law as described in Rom. 2.
In Rom. 1:18-32, humanity in its rebellion against God in unbelief, threw away God’s uncorruptible Glory, Truth and Design, and descended into the pit of dying creation under the power of Sin and Death. Sin penetrated into every detail of their lives, ruining their relationship with God, others and self. Their existence became barren and fruit-less. The problem with fallen humanity is not that they commit sins and need to try to commit fewer sins and do more good works. The problem with fallen humanity is that they are enslaved to Sin that results in Death. The real problem of fallen humanity is that it has an internal heart problem, a foolish and darkened heart full of evil lusts under the power of Sin, which leads them into a shameful bodily existence.
God and Paul give the solution to this problem In Rom. 5-6. First Paul explains that God the Holy Spirit solved the heart problem by overflowing the believers hearts with agape love, the Love of God at the Cross of Christ. Then Paul explains the mechanics of it all. God places believers into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Christ died for sinners, redeeming them from everything Sin had against them. When sinners receive His death by faith in the Gospel of Grace, God places them into that death, thereby freeing them from Master Sin and making them the servants of Righteousness. But God didn’t stop there. He also identified them with Christ’s resurrection, thereby freeing them from the dominion of death so that they can now live unto God by walking in newness of His life. And how was all this accomplished? By handing believers over to a law system or even the Mosaic Law System? No, it all was accomplished because God handed believers over to a grace system, the Pauline Grace System!
But what about the Jews and those Gentiles associated with them who had been under the Mosaic Law? They may think that Pauline Grace may be good enough for the Gentiles, but surely the Jews needed to continue on with the Law as well. And it is this false reasoning that Paul addresses in Rom. 2. One of the first things fallen humanity will try to do when it is confronted with its hopelessly sinful state is to try to deny it and cover it up (like Adam and Eve in the Garden after the Fall) with a law system that would make them look better than other sinners and, therefore, make them good enough for God. Everyone, Jew and Gentile, is susceptible to this, although it reaches its pinnacle with Israel under the perfect and divinely originated Mosaic Law System. The Gentiles had their moral laws, ethical codes and philosophical systems, lists of virtues by which they fooled themselves in thinking they could produce on their own “good” lives acceptable to the “gods.”
But none of these things law and code systems actually solve their hopeless and sinful predicament of fallen humanity. All they can do is provide decorative veneers that try to cover underlying sin but really just reveal their sinful hearts. In fact, the ultimate disaster in resorting to these man-made law systems is that they not only do not solve the sinful heart problem, they actually make it worse because they fool the sinner into thinking that they do not need the Riches of God’s longsuffering kindness that He is extending to them so that they could have the opportunity to repent of their sinfulness and fall on His Grace. These appeals to laws and codes to make one a “good” person only accomplish one thing: They transform what was the foolish and darkened hearts in Rom. 1 into the unrepentant and hardened hearts of Rom. 2 that are treasuring up wrath unto the day of wrath (Rom. 2:1-16)!
And then The Mosaic Law entered and was given to the Nation of Israel. Certainly, that would provide the basis for fallen humanity to produce righteousness before God! But no, Israel just fell into the same trap that the lesser laws and codes of sinners produced. They assumed that just having the Law put them in a privileged position before God that removed them from His wrath. But having the Law wasn’t the important thing, nor was even teaching the Law the important thing. What mattered was DOING the Law! But Israel broke the Law, dishonoring God, which brought them under the Curses of the Law, which caused God’s Name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles (Rom. 2:12-24). The nation that was supposed to be a light to the Gentiles under the Law brought only darkness to the Gentiles. The Mosaic Law just made the condition of the heart worse than before. The foolish and darkened hearts of Rom. 1:21-24, became the hardened and unrepentant hearts of Rom. 2:5, which became the uncircumcised hearts under the Mosaic Law that cannot please God of Rom. 2:28-29. Such is the descent of the sinful human heart.
Remembering that the heart problem was solved by God the Holy Spirit overflowing the believer’s hearts with Agape Love (the Love of God at the Cross of Christ) in Rom. 5, and that being placed into the death and resurrection of Christ freed the believers from the power of Sin and Death in Rom. 6, now in Romans 7 Paul explains that having been placed into the death and resurrection of Christ means that those under the Law not only died to sin (Rom. 6) but also died to the Law, delivering them from it (Rom. 7). Being identified with the death and resurrection of Christ not only freed all believers from Sin and Death so that they could walk in newness of life and bear fruit unto holiness (Rom. 6), but it also freed those believers with a Jewish background from the Law so that they could serve in newness of Spirit and bear fruit unto God (Rom. 7:4-6)!
In short, all believers today in the Dispensation of Grace have been handed over to a Grace/Faith/Spirit System, God’s form of doctrine or teaching for today that is based on the Good News of the Death and Resurrection of Christ. We call this Pauline Grace! Just think, The Roman believers had been idol worshipping pagan Gentile sinners on enemy status before God. Yet in Rom. 1:8 Paul says this about them: I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. They were already participating in and displaying God’s Glory throughout the whole world! Yet a few verses later in Rom. 2:23-24, Paul explains the ruined state of national Israel in this way: Thou that make thy boast of the Law, through breaking the Law you dishonor God. For the Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you (Rom. 2:23-24). What a contrast.
Whoa! How can this be? How was it possible that a group of idol worshipping pagan Gentiles in the center of Satan’s rule could be made to accomplish in a relatively short amount of time through Paul’s co-workers what national Israel could not be made to accomplish after 1500 years under the Mosaic Law? That is really the million-dollar question of Christianity. Are the Romans bearing fruit unto God because He handed them over to a law system, even The Mosaic Law System? That is what man-made religious and theological systems sat. But that is absolutely wrong. If the Law didn’t work for Israel with all her divine advantages, privileges and benefits, it wouldn’t have worked for the Gentiles who had far less. No, they were producing fruit unto God because He handed over to a Grace System, the Pauline Grace System, whereby God the Holy Spirit does everything for, in and through them by grace through faith. This is the only way we can be made instruments of righteousness through which God produces fruit unto holiness in and through us as well.
In Rom. 6, Paul explained that before believers (Jews and Gentiles alike, who had been under Sin that leads to death) could walk in newness of life and bear fruit unto holiness they had to die to sin and be made alive to Righteousness. This was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Christ. And in Rom. 7, Paul explained that before believers (especially those associated with Judaism who had been under the Mosaic Law) could serve in newness of Spirit and bear fruit unto God, they had to die to the Law and be delivered from it (Rom. 7:1-6).
This would have shocked the Jews. They would have naturally thought the exact opposite. To bear fruit unto God one must go under the Law. But God and Paul say, no, the only way to bear fruit unto God is to die to the Law and be freed from it. Of course, God and Paul are right, and it is proven by Israel’s history under the Law. After 1500 years of being under the Law, even though God gave them bountiful divine privileges, advantages and benefits, even with all that, Israel only broke the Law, dishonored God, and fell under the Curses of the Law, blaspheming His Name among the Gentiles (Rom. 2:23-24).
Of course, the point of this trial was to demonstrate that if even Israel couldn’t produce a righteousness of her own that was acceptable before God based on the Law, even with all her innumerable divine privileges and advantages, it is obvious that no other nation on earth who had far less would be able to do so either. God allowed Israel in her rebellion against Him to enter into the Mosaic Law System to demonstrate once-and-for-all that sinners cannot relate to Him on the basis of a Law System because of indwelling sin (Rom. 3:19-20)!
The Mosaic Law System set the righteousness bar pretty low. All it called for was basic human righteousness from Israel’s sinful flesh. Unfortunately, it provided no power to produce it. Contrary to religious teachings about the Law, the Law is not something hard to do. In fact, it is God setting the bar in the lowest rung. It is just the mimimum human righteousness that God could rightfully expect from His human creation. You know: Love others as yourself. Or treat others the way you want to be treated. But of course, no one could do even that not because the Law was difficult but because of indwelling sin of fallen humanity. And Israel was no exception, resulting in her falling under the curses of the Law rather than its blessings. God ran this trial to prove that you cannot grow human righteousness in the land of fallen humanity. Its impossible. It would be like trying to grow pineapples in Canada. Impossible!
If there is going to be any hope for fallen humanity, it would have to be through a Grace System, the Pauline Grace System. In the Pauline Grace System, God does everything based on the Person and Work of His Son on the Cross. The only thing the sinner is called on to “do” is the only thing you can “do” without “doing” anything: It is to believe, to receive this Grace freely by Faith. And in “doing” so, God gives believers all His blessings up front, thereby equipping and empowering them for Righteousness and Life. Where the Law demanded the production of basic human righteousness and failed because of Sin, Pauline Grace through the Person and Work of Christ on the Cross brought believers into the very Righteousness of God and that always succeeds! For He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Christ)(2 Cor. 5:21)!
Wow! Try to wrap your mind around that astounding fact! Let me close by illustrating with a dream I had many years ago. In the dream, I was together with the Body of Christ in the Heavenlies, worshipping and serving the Lord Jesus Christ there. Several times a day the heavens would suddenly ring out with the voices of angels asking God to show them His Righteousness. And He responded by pointing at us, the Body of Christ, headed up by the Lord Jesus Christ, saying: If you want to see the Righteousness of God, look at them! You see, God demonstrated His Righteousness in saving ungodly sinners on enemy status before Him, and then making them the displayers of His Glory forevermore, and He did it righteously because it was through the Person and Word of His Son on the Cross, where He redeemed fallen humanity in a way that fully satisfied the infinite holiness of the Triune God (Rom. 3:23-26).
If that’s not enough to put a skip in your walk, I don’t know what is!
Yesterday, we saw the difference between the Mosaic Law System and the Pauline Grace System:
The Mosaic Law System provides conditional blessings based on the sinner’s own person and work, but gives him no power to accomplish it, resulting in the sinner falling under its curses.
The Pauline Grace System, however, provides unconditional blessings by faith and gives them all of front freely based on the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, completely equipping believers all they need to walk in a way that is well-pleasing to God!
The Mosaic Law System demanded basic human righteousness from the sinful flesh, but fallen humanity couldn’t even do that; NOT because the Law is hard but because of indwelling sin (Rom. 3:19-20).
The Pauline Grace System, however, makes believers the Righteousness of God in Christ, where they display His Glory forevermore (2 Cor. 5:20)!
The Mosaic Law System demanded low level human love: Just love others as you love yourself. Treat others the way you would like to be treated (Rom. 13:9).
The Pauline Grace System, however, gives us the love of God at the Cross of Christ, divine love, Agape Love, and overflows the believer’s hearts with it, empowering them to love others more than themselves in order to build up others (Rom. 5:1-11; Phil. 2:3-4).
Because Grace accomplishes far more than anything the Mosaic Law called for, we must never, ever, even for a moment, think we need to relate to God based on a Law/Flesh/Works System. It will always fail. The Israelites went under the Mosaic Law and spent the next 1500 years under its curses. The Galatians tried completing by the flesh what was begun by the Spirit and Paul’s response was: Oh, foolish Galatians: Who has bewitched you (Gal. 3:1)? Who cast a spell on you to get you to do such a foolish thing?
No, we must remain steadfast in relating with God on the basis of a Grace/Faith/Spirit System that relies on the God and His Word rightly-divided to do everything in and through us, making us into the people He wants us to be (Gal. 2:20-3:1)!
IT IS NOT GRACE AND LAW. IT IS NOT EVEN GRACE OR LAW. Contrary to what man-made religious and theological systems sat, today God is not even offering the option of entering a Law System with Him. Today, IT IS GRACE OR NOTHING!
We began to look at What Is The Christian Walk that pleases God? Most Christians answer this question in whatever way they want. But we want to know what God and Paul say about the true Christian walk.
We saw that in Rom. 5-6 God reveals the amazing salvation He has provided to sinners by grace through faith. In Rom. 5, we see God’s super-abounding Love join hands with His super-abounding Grace that resulted in making believers a new creation in Christ, whereby everything that belongs to Christ belongs to us! Then in Rom. 6 we learn that God placed us into Christ, identifying us with His Death, Burial and Resurrection, which freed us from the power of Sin and Death and joined us to Righteousness and Life. Now, finally, we can serve God! Now we can be His instruments of Righteousness! We are wanting and willing and ready to “do” God’s will!!!
But then in Rom. 7, Paul says: STOP!! WE CAN’T DO IT! He hits the brakes, everything comes to a screeching halt, and we are placed into suspended animation while Paul explains the impossibility of “doing” God’s things ourselves. Using himself as an example, Paul demonstrates what happened when his “I” tried to do God’s things. He was wanting and willing and ready to “do” God’s things, but when he tried, he discovered that not only was he unable to “do” them, he instead “did” the very opposite of what he wanted to do, leading him to cry out: Oh, wretched man I am? Who will deliver me from the body of this death (Rom. 7:18-24)? Paul’s “I” had no power over sin, and neither does ours.
But thanks be to God, we are delivered from the body of this death through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 7:25). We learn in Rom. 8 that while “I” cannot “do” God’s things, the indwelling Holy Spirit can “do” God’s things, and when He works in and through us, that is called: THE CHRISTIAN WALK THAT PLEASES GOD.
In going from Rom. 7 to Rom. 8, we went from the futility of trying to walk and serve God based on a Law/Works/Flesh System, which resulted in the despairing cry: Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death (7:24)? And we went to the fruitfulness of walking and serving God based on a Grace/Faith/Spirit System, which results in the triumphant call: I thank God (for doing this for me) through Jesus Christ our Lord (7:25). Let’s look at the difference between these two modes of approaching God.
|WHAT A LAW/WORKS/FLESH
|WHAT A GRACE/FAITH/SPIRIT|
|I need to make myself into the person God wants me to be.||I thank God that He has already made me into the person He wants me to be in Christ. (Rom. 5-6)|
|I need to do things to make myself acceptable to God.||I thank God that He has already accepted me in the Beloved (Eph. 1:6)|
|I need to try harder to confess all my sins to have fuller fellowship with God.||I thank God that He is faithful and has already brought us to the full fellowship through His Son. (1 Cor. 1:9)|
|I need to do things like go to church more, give more money, pray more, read the Bible more, engage in rituals and rites, etc. to make myself presentable to God.||I thank God that He saved me—initial salvation and ongoing salvation--when I was an ungodly sinner on enemy status before Him. (Rom. 5:6-10)|
|I need to truly repent to the point of tears to gain God’s forgiveness.||I thank God that He has already forgiven all my sins—past, present and future. (Eph.|
|I need to make myself more spiritual by doing things—religious rituals and rites.||I thank God that He has already given me the Holy Spirit, who dwells in me. (Rom. 5:5)|
|I need to do things to make myself into one of God’s super-saints.||I thank God that He has already made all believers complete in Christ.|
|I need to do things using my own resources and power.||I thank God that He has given me complete access to His Riches through Christ and are participants in His exceedingly great power to us who believe (not work). (Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 1:18-23)|
|I need to get a book on the 5 steps to victorious Christian living and do them.||I thank God that He has made all believers more than conquerors in Christ (Rom.|
|I need to do things to gain God’s Love.||I thank God that He has overflowed my heart with the Love of God at the Cross of Christ. (Rom. 5:5-8)|
|I need to fix up my life before God can use me.||I am thankful that God has already given me new life in Christ. (Rom. 6:4-5)|
|The Result: anxiety and fear, disappointment, defeat and despair; guilt and condemnation, death.||The Result: peace and comfort, victory and hope, no condemnation, righteousness and life.|
We could go on like this all day. But I think you get the point. The Christian walk and service that pleases God is not us doing things, it is us rejoicing in what God is doing in Christ. You see, a Law/Works/Flesh System puts the cart before the horse. It commands you to do things for God but gives you no resources or power to do them. In Rom. 7, Paul dramatizes this for us so that we don’t fall into this trap. Paul (and the Jews and any foolish Gentile who have been bewitched into thinking they are under the Law (Gal. 3:1)) thought that he would use the Law to restrain sin and do things for God. But what actually happened is that Sin wrestled the Law away from Paul and then used it to take Paul captive, bringing him under guilt, condemnation and death (in his Christian walk and service). Paul thought he was the Terminator when, in fact, he was really just Barney Fife!
A Grace/Faith/Spirit System, on the other hand, brings believers into all the things that God has done in Christ, giving them free access to His Riches (Rom. 5:1-2) and all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3), freely and upfront by grace through faith. When we are looking at Christ and His Cross, seeing all the wonderful things God has done for us there, awestruck at His love displayed there, which the Holy Spirit takes and overflows our hearts with, re-creating our hearts so that God can work in and through us to do His good pleasure, giving us access all the riches of His grace and all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ, praising and worshipping and talking to Him about them in never ending stream of thankfulness and joy, then, and only then, God “beseeches” us, asks us earnestly, to now, in the light of all of this, take a step or two, start walking, start serving God by serving others the way Christ served when He, who even though He was absolute God, descended from His heavenly abode—made Himself of not reputation, became a servant, humbled Himself, and was obedient unto death even the death of the Cross—in selfless love to benefit and build up others in God’s things. And when you “do” this, which is really not “doing” anything at all by relying on what God has done, you have this guarantee: Any walk and any service motivated and powered in this way will always, ALWAYS, be well-pleasing and acceptable to God!
The Christian walk and service is not an odious list of dos and don’ts, which always leads to disappointment and defeat. The true Christian walk and service is nothing more than the looking at Christ and His Cross and the infinite Love of God displayed there, and THANKING God for it. REJOICING in it. BASKING in it. CELEBRATING it. LUXURIATING in it. WALLOWING in it. DELIGHTING in it. RELISHING it. SAVORING it … more and more and more. That is true, victorious Christian Living!
And this I pray, that your (Agape) love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; 11 being filled (by God) with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.
Last night we looked at the futility of trying to live out the Christian Life under a Law/Works/Flesh System. That was the mistake that the Galatians made, and Paul described them as: Oh, foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you? … Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law? Or by the hearing of Faith? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh (Gal. 3:1-3)? And in Rom. 7, Paul uses himself as an example of the futility of doing this as well.
We looked at four basic laws, fixed principles with regard to the believer’s walk and service. These are laws like the laws of science, such as, the Law of Gravity or the Law of Thermodynamics or the Law of Aerodynamics. Well, there are similar fixed laws when it comes to Christian living: The Law of the Renewed Mind, The Law of Indwelling Sin, the Law of Sin that leads to death and the Law of the Spirit that leads to Life in Christ Jesus. Let’s look at our spiritual laws from the standpoint of the laws of science.
Imagine a plane idling on a runway. The pilot receives notice from headquarters that he is approved for take-off. Now, what would you think about a pilot who got out of the plane, went down on the runway, got underneath the plane and start pushing up with all his might to overpower the Law of Gravity to raise the plane off the ground? You would probably think the same thing Paul thought about the Galatians: Oh, foolish pilot, who has cast a spell over you to do something so ridiculous? The only thing that will come of this is an exhausted pilot sprawled out on the tarmac, gasping for air, completely defeated and in despairing.
Well, this is like what happens when believers try to walk and serve God based on their own resources and power in their flesh. As believers, they are spiritually alive and can now receive the spiritual things of God, but they have no power in themselves to carry them out (Rom. 7:18). This is the Law of the Renewed Mind. What Paul discovered is that when he tried to accomplish the Christian walk through his flesh in accord with a Law System, he was confronted by indwelling sin, which wrestled him to the ground, tied him up and took him captive. No matter what he did on his own, he couldn’t find a way to change this outcome. What he learned is that the Law of the Renewed Mind is powerless against the Law of Indwelling Sin. He was like the pilot in our example, who received the instructions from headquarters (God) and tried to carry them out by his own resources and power, resulting in an exhausted, defeated, despairing Paul crying out: Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death (Rom. 7:24).
Believers need to learn what every pilot knows about flying a plane. The answer is not for the pilot to try to overcome the Law of Gravity through his own inadequate power. The answer is for the pilot to resort to another law, the Law of Aerodynamics, which can easily overpower the Law of Gravity that was holding the plane down. And the key to the Christian walk is not for believers to try to overcome the Law of Indwelling Sin through their own completely inadequate resources and power. That will always result in defeat. The key to the Christian walk is to, like the pilot, rely on a another more powerful law. The pilot did this by resorting to the Law of Aerodynamics, and believers do this by resorting to the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, which is infinitely more powerful than the Law of Sin and Death (Rom. 8:2).
There is only one way to resort to the Law of the Spirit in Life in Christ Jesus. Paul explained this way to the Galatians: They must return to the fundamental truth of Jesus Christ, who had been evidently (openly) set forth crucified among you (Gal. 3:1)! The only way to resort to the Law of the Spirit that leads to Life in Christ Jesus is to return our eyes to Christ and His Cross, because it is there, and only there, that we see the infinite Love of God (Agape Love) displayed, which the Holy Spirit takes and pours out in our hearts, re-creating them, generating thankfulness and rejoicing in all that we have in Christ, and empowering us to access all the riches of God in Christ … and once we return to “doing” that, the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus supersedes, overpowers, nullifies, leaves in the dust, the Law of Sin and Death that tries to hold us down. Paul’s cry” Oh, wretched man that I am becomes the thrill of: I thank God (will do it) through Christ our Lord (Rom. 7:25)!
When we resort to the Law of the Spirit in Life in Christ Jesus by grace through faith by keeping our eyes on Christ and His Cross, the “plane” of Christian living takes off, carrying us along in a walk that is separated from sin’s power (sin died) and made alive by God’s power, bearing fruit unto holiness (Rom. 7:4, 8-9). And this always results in peace, joy, thankfulness, VICTORY in Christ!
There is, therefore (based on justification and sanctification by grace through faith!), now NO CONDEMNATION TO THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS (Rom. 8:1)! Paul drives this point home again at the end of Rom. 8 with a series of logic statements (Rom. 8:31-34). Now that God has sent His Son to die for us as ungodly sinners on enemy status before Him, taking everything that was against us onto Himself at the Cross, everything that brought condemnation to us, and dealt with it all righteously and perfectly at there, successfully getting rid of it all, completely and once-and-for-all, … is He going to do less for us now that we are reconciled to Him!? Is the Christ who died for us to remove our guilt and condemnation when we were sinners … is He now going to find fault with or assign guilt against or bring condemnation upon us now that we are His saints?! If God sent Christ to remove all charges against us … is He now going to lay a charge against us!? If God justified us (declared us right) through Christ … is He now going to declare us wrong?! If God is for us, is He now going to come out against us?!?! The assumed answer to all of these questions is an absolute and resounding: NO!!!!
Of course, the corollary of this is that if you are “thinking” or “feeling” like you are being condemned, you need to know that IT IS NOT COMING FROM GOD! Its coming from you trying to relate to God through the self in a Law/Works/Flesh System, which, as we saw in Rom. 7 always leads to guilt, condemnation and death in our Christian walk and service. Rom. 8 explains that the answer to the Christian Life is not going to a Law System to try to improve ourselves for God through rules and regulations, resolutions or vows, to make ourselves more godly or more spiritual or more holy or more repentant or anything like that. That is what man-made religious systems say and man-centered theological systems teach, but that will always result in failure. The only answer that works, God and Paul’s answer, is to continue on in a Grace/Faith/Spirit System, whereby the Spirit brings us into the Life of Christ, and that always, ALWAYS, results in a walk that pleases God, which is just another way of saying the Victorious Christian walk. In a Grace System, the Holy Spirit keeps our eyes on the Christ and His Cross and all that was accomplished there and the resources He freely gives us there, bringing us into His resurrection Life and Power, filling our hearts with Agape Love, which motives and empowers us to be God’s dispensers of Grace and Peace—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, forgiveness, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, to name a few (Gal. 5:22-23)—to a lost sin-cursed world under adverse conditions, resulting in our walking in newness of life (Rom. 6:4) and serving in newness of Spirit (Rom. 7:6).
And if that isn’t enough, another highlight occurred when we read this amazing, awe-inspiring, verse from Ephesians: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of HIS INHERITANCE IN THE SAINTS … (Eph. 1:18). If we don’t rightly-divide the Scriptures, if we throw away God’s Mystery Truth, which is the only thing that can establish believers today (Rom. 16:25), if we reject Paul’s distinct apostleship … if we do that (and this is what most of historic Christianity has done) we will miss out one this most amazing of truths of all. We will lose God’s inheritance in the saints. God’s purpose for the church, the Body of Christ. Once we understand this verse in the context of the Mystery, however, we will never again be content with just thinking about our inheritance in Christ (as wonderful, amazing and astounding as that is!). We will go on to the very necessary next step of thinking about God’s inheritance in us! God didn’t give us His infinite riches through Christ just to make us rich for our own use. He gave us all these things in order to equip us for His use! God has a purpose unto Himself for creating the Body of Christ and equipping it with ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN HEAVENLY PLACE IN CHIRST (Eph. 1:3). His purpose is to make us into the displayers of the Riches of His Glory (Eph. 1:18), the Riches of His Riches of Power (exceeding greatness--1:19), the Riches of His whole Being (Fulness--1:23), the Riches of His Mercy (2:4), the Riches of His Love (GREAT Love—2:4), the Riches of the Riches of His Grace and Kindness IN THE HEAVENLIES THROUGHOUT ALL ETERNITY (2:7). WOW! If that doesn’t sail your ship, I don’t know what would.
This is why Paul drives home the point that the Christian Life is impossible through the resources and power of the self and flesh. It must come from Christ and the Spirit because it requires the infinite and eternal resources and power of God Himself to accomplish it.
First let me mention a few things that the Holy Spirit is NOT doing today contrary to many so-called Bible teachers. He is NOT trying to re-create the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospels. NOR is He trying to re-create the ministry of the 12 on the Day of Pentecost in early Acts. And He is most definitely NOT trying to get you to cluck like a chicken or bark like a dog!
So, what is the Holy Spirit doing today? We began to learn about this by looking at Rom. 1:4-5 where the Holy Spirit is mentioned generally and is associated with Holiness (Sanctification), Resurrection (Life) and Power (v. 4), and it all occurs within the context of Paul’s distinct apostleship (v. 5). God and Paul then take these three aspects of the Ministry of the Holy Spirit today and develops them throughout the Book of Romans, each time intimately associating them with Agape Love.
The first specific reference to the Holy Spirit occurs four long chapters later, in Romans 5, and the first thing we see the Holy Spirit doing in relation to believers is pouring out, overflowing, waterfalling Agape Love (the Love of God at the Cross of Christ) into their hearts (Rom. 5:5-8). This then immediately leads into Paul’s explanation of the believer’s Sanctification in Christ in Romans 6-7. After listing our new identity in Christ that sanctifies or separates us unto the Lord, Paul goes on explain that we bring this positional sanctification we have in Christ into our experience by the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, which frees believers from the Law of Sin and Death (Rom. 8:2), which culminates in the praise song of God’s infinite and eternal Agape Love for us in Rom. 8:35-39:
Who shall separate us from the (Agape) Love of Christ? Not tribulation or distress or persecution … we are more than conquerors through Him that (Agape) Loved us … For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, angels, principalities, power, … (nothing!) … shall be able to separate us from the (Agape) Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
One might say that the Ministry of the Holy Spirit in bringing believers into Sanctification and Resurrection Life begins and ends with Agape Love. It flows out of Agape Love and flows into the eternal pool of Agape Love. Agape Love is the warp and woof of all the Spirit does.
The final major passage on the Holy Spirit is found in Romans 15, and it especially brings out the Power aspect of the Holy Spirit’s Ministry.
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that he may (super) abound in hope, through the Power of the Holy Spirit. I (Paul) have written you the more boldly in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the Grace given to ME (Paul!) of God. That I (Paul) should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the Gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being Sanctified by the Holy Spirit. For I (Paul!) will not speak of any of those things which Christ has not Wrought (worked out = Power) by me (Paul!) to make the Gentiles obedient by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders by the Power of the Spirit of God
Today, the Power of the Holy Spirit operates through Paul’s distinct apostleship whereby the world, especially the Gentiles, can be blessed apart from Nation of Israel and through her Fall! The only place God revealed this way of blessing that is needed today is in the Paul’s Letters!
Again, we see here, that the Holy Spirit’s Ministry of Power and Sanctification is just as closely associated with Agape Love as were His Ministry of Sanctification and Life in Romans 5-8. This passage begins with the very definition of Love (Rom. 15:1-3 compare Phil. 2:3-4) and ends with the Agape Love on the Spirit:
Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the (Agape) Love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me (ie., Paul’s apostolic ministry, in and through which the Holy Spirit powerfully working)
A great question also came up from our study last night. Someone asked: What is SANCTIFICATION. Sanctification and Holiness go together. They refer to someone or something being separated, set apart, designated for God’s purposes. In the Old Testament, this is pictured when common items, such as basins and cups, would be brought into the Temple and through rites and rituals of cleansing and sanctification, they would be designated or set aside for God’s holy purposes.
Today, at the moment we believe, God creates us anew and complete in Christ. This is called positional Sanctification. God has made us His Own, and now we can be used for His purpose in righteousness and life. In doing this, He gives us a new identity, whereby we are called Saints: Sanctified ones. This a work of God that occurs to all believers the moment they are saved by grace through faith. It is permanent and everlasting. It cannot be increased or diminished. It cannot be gained or lost because it is not based on who we are or what we have done, but on who Christ is and what He has done.
The good news of Rom. 8:1-2 is that this positional Sanctification isn’t just to be enjoyed when we get to Heaven, in the bye-and-bye. It can be enjoyed right now in our moment-by-moment walk. God has provided a way through the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus to bring what is true of us positionally into our experience right now, down here on planet earth. Paul’s describes this as “redeeming the time” unto the Lord (Eph. 5:15-16). When God works in and through us, He empowers us in our moment-by-moment lives to take the things of this world and redeem them for Himself, sanctifying them, setting them apart, using them for the Lord, which will last not just for time but for all eternity.
The key to bringing the life we have in Christ into our experience is having the same Mindset that Christ had when He went to the Cross, and that is the Mindset of Agape Love (Phil. 2:1-8). Let’s look at the journey of Christ as He descended in Agape Love, not using His divine Riches selfishly for His Own benefit or advancement (as Satan did! Is. 14:13-14) but selflessly for the benefit and advancement of others. When we mind the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5-6), we have the Mindset of Agape Love, which means we have the Mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5; 1 Cor. 2:10-16). Let’s look at this in chart form as we go from US IN CHRIST to CHRIST IN US:
|THE MIND OF CHRIST = THE MINDSET OF AGAPEL LOVE = MINDING THE THINGS OF THE SPIRIT (Rom. 8:5-9)||US IN CHRIST (Rom. 8:1)! LIFE IN THE BODY OF CHRIST.|
|Jesus Christ is Absolute God in the Heavenlies||BELIEVERS IN CHRIST are seated together with Christ in the Heavenlies (Eph. 2:|
|Christ has all the Riches of God||BELIEVERS IN CHRIST have been given the Riches of God. (Rom. 8:1; Eph. 1:3)|
|Christ did not consider using His Riches for His Own benefit and advancement but selflessly shared them with others for their benefit and advancement.||BELIEVERS IN CHRIST are not to consider using their Riches in Christ for their own benefit or advancement (as the Corinthians did!) but for the benefit and advancement of others.|
|Christ made use of His Riches by leaving the heavenlies, taking the form of a servant, in the likeness of sinful flesh, to His death, even the death of the Cross to save and build up others.||Believers are to make use of the Riches IN CHRIST by leaving the heavenlies and serving God down here on the sin-cursed world among fallen humans to save and build up others.|
|In having this Mindset of Agape Love, God IN CHRIST was reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19).||When believers have this Mindset of Agape Love, BELIEVERS IN CHRIST receive this ministry of reconciliation, working in us to be His Ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:18-20)|
|CHRIST IN US!|
LIFE IN OUR MORTAL BODIES (Rom. 8:10-11).
|CHRIST EXALTED ABOVE ALL!||US IN CHRIST, CHRIST IN US: BEING CONFROMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON (Rom. 8:29)|
This is something far greater than anything promised in Israel’s Prophetic Program. In that program, God promised that the Holy Spirit would put the Law in their hearts (Jer. 31:33) through the New Covenant. But today in the Body of Christ’s Mystery Program, the Holy Spirit is putting Christ in our hearts through Pauline Grace (2 Cor. 5:3-5)!
Here is a flowchart for the first half of Romans 8. It takes us from the amazing truth of the believer being placed into the Life of Christ in His Body, to the equally amazing truth that through the Spirit Christ’s Life is in us, giving life to our mortal bodies.
The flow goes generally like this: As we appreciate the riches of our position in Christ (Rom. 8:1a), we can bring those riches into our experience by walking according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:1b). This is made possible because God has created a new law, the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:2) that powerfully overcomes the Law of Sin and Death (Rom. 8:2) because it is based on God sending His Son (Agape Love) to deal with sin righteously once-and-for-all at the Cross in a way that met the infinite demands of His Holiness (Rom. 8:3). At the Cross, God’s Agape Love and God’s Righteousness joined together to powerfully save all who believe. This accomplishes what the Law couldn’t accomplish because it brings us into the Love and Righteousness of God Himself, making us participants in the Righteousness of God, which more than meets any righteousness that the Law called for. Therefore, we need never go back to the Law. We must only go on in Pauline Grace (Rom. 8:4). We go on in Grace by minding the things of the Spirit. The things of the Spirit are the things that God freely gives us based on Christ and His Cross. And when are taught those things by the Spirit, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:10-16), and when we have the mind of Christ we have the mindset of Agape Love (Phil. 2:1-8). And when we have the mindset of Agape Love the whole Triune Godhead works in and through us to produce the Christian walk and service (Rom. 8:5-9). This walk and service is always pleasing to God because it is, in fact, Christ in us, giving His Life through the Spirit to our quicken our mortal bodies.
Yesterday in our Thursday Night Bible Study Fellowship from Romans 8, Paul took us to a new peak in God’s plan and purpose for the believer in His Mystery Truth for today! The Holy Spirit explained to us that when God brought us into His family, He brought us in as adult sons and daughters. He did this because He wants us to be involved in the Father’s business and have access to the Father’s riches through Christ. This is an important truth because it goes counter to what historic Christianity for the most part teaches. Most teach that salvation is our way to get God involved in our things. But that is not what the God and the Spirit teach in Romans 8. They teach that salvation is, in fact, God’s way to get us involved in His things! The great surpassing blessing of Christianity is that the Spirit leads us as adult sons and daughters into the Father’s business. Therefore, our priority should be letting the Spirit replace our things with God the Father’s things. Our desires with God the Father’s desires. Our will with God the Father’s will. Our purpose with God the Father’s purpose. Our good pleasure with God the Father’s good pleasure. That is what the Spirit does when He is leading us, and that is what it means to be Filled with the Spirit!
|Walking According to the Flesh
What I want to focus God’s attention on:
|Walking According to the Spirit|
What God wants to focus our attention on:
|Physical blessings||Spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3)|
|Removal weakness, suffering and problems||God’s power is made complete in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)|
|The Things of Earth||Things in the Heavenlies (Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:2)|
|Ourselves and our Sins||God and His Righteousness (Eph. 1:6-7)|
|The Unimportance of Doctrine||The Importance of Doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 4:1-4)|
|Claiming Any Passage of Scripture for Ourselves||The Importance of Rightly Dividing (2 Tim. 2:15)|
|Our Earthly Bank Account||The Riches of God We Have In Christ (Eph. 2:7)|
|Getting God involved in our plan||Getting us involved in His plan|
The Spirit of Sonship is the amazing truth about the great privilege we have in the Body of Christ. When God made us His children, He didn’t make us children in our minority but children in our majority. We are placed into the family of God as adult sons and daughters. This means that God did not just bring us into His family to send us off to the nursery with our nurses and tutors. Rather He brought us into His family to bring us into His own business, giving us access to His riches, making known to us His wisdom.
This is a hard doctrine for us because we don’t really want God to treat us as adults, do we. We want God to treat us as little children, coddling us, telling us where to go and what to do and when to do it. We want to think that God is arranging all our circumstances, taking care of all our problems, fixing all our troubles. Of course, when this happens in the natural realm, we call it ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, and young people who enter adulthood with it, thinking their parents or someone else is going to handle all their problems and difficulties, or are under the delusion that they can escape their problems through the use alcohol or drugs; eventually must return to reality, and when they do they realize that they have not only ruined themselves, but those around them as well. They may at first be “comforted” in shirking their adult responsibilities and escaping their problems, but this isn’t real comfort. It is just false comfort. It is no comfort at all.
And believers can have “spiritual” ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, and those that do are heading for same disaster, leading to ruin just as surely as arrested development in the natural realm does. They will begin to question their own faith and will ultimately question the faithfulness of God Himself. Believers with ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT think can shirk their responsibilities by handing them over to God and then use the spiritual drugs of historic Christianity to escape the scene, hoping that when they return all their problems will be solved. Of course, they never are, and the end is always worse than the beginning.
No, the leading of the Holy Spirit always leads us into our sonship position before God as adult sons and daughters in the family of God with all the privileges that entails and all the responsibilities that gives (Rom. 8:14-15). There is no place in the Christian walk for shirking our responsibilities or escaping the scene by resorting to the “spiritual” drugs of historic Christianity. Historic Christianity says doing this is spiritual maturity. But it isn’t. It is just childish superstition. The Spirit leads us into spiritual maturity by placing us as adult sons and daughters in the family of God, which He reveals and teaches to us through the Scriptures of Paul, in which the Father has made known His glorious plan and purpose for today. He has made known His business plan (dispensing Grace and Peace to His enemies), His operating principle (Agape Love), His infinite provisions and empowerment (Riches of God in Christ), His end goal and purpose (the re-establishment of His Glory in the Heavenlies). In Paul’s writings the Father explains that He has given us access to His riches, perfectly and completely equipping us to carry out His business down here on this sin-cursed world.
By the time we get to Romans 8 we should know (to a great degree anyway) these things. And now we have a choice to make. We can either accept the Spirit’s leading that wakes us up from our sleep so that we can engage in the Father’s business (Rom. 13:11-14). Or, we can reject it and continue in our slumber, dis-engaged from His business. The leading of the Holy Spirit leads us to put away childish things and the “spiritual” drugs we use to numb ourselves from the trials of life. If we allow Him to lead us, He will replace our childish things—our thoughts, desires, plans, purposes, programs, and will—with something far greater: the Father’s adult things—His thoughts, desires, plans, purposes, programs, will. But if we refuse His leading, we must not delude ourselves into thinking that this is what it means to be spiritually mature when, in fact, it just means we are suffering from “spiritual” ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT from which nothing good can come.
To use some homely human metaphors, the Holy Spirit, having brought us into the Father’s business plan and riches, wants to make us into distributorships of the Father’s things, into franchises of the Fathers business, into satellites of His Life and Love to a lost, sin-cursed world on enemy status before Him. The Spirit doesn’t promise that it will be easy or fun. But He does promise to supply the infinite resources of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, forgiveness, meekness, temperance, goodness that we need to meet any circumstance this evil world can throw into our way. And when we walk according to the Spirit and His leading, this is called redeeming the time because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16). In our step-by step walk, moment-by-moment life, we go through the troublous moments that Satan, sin and death have claimed for themselves, and re-claim them for God, Righteousness and Life.
The Christian life is not our becoming super-saints or our taking the whole world onto ourselves. Victorious Christian Living comes in bite size pieces. It enters the things sin and death has claimed for themselves and re-claims them unto God. This is the way we participate in the Glory of God right now today. Not just in the future, in the bye-and-bye, when everything will be going right, but right now in the present when everything is going wrong.
Let’s look at some practical examples of redeeming the time:
And when these things happen the indwelling Spirit has led us into the Father’s business, which, when received by faith, is nothing less than being FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT (Eph. 5:18)!
Now that the hard doctrine of our sonship position as adult sons and daughters in the household of God has begun to sink in, what happened to prayer? As we begin to appreciate that God’s plan for believers today is not removing our problems, manipulating our circumstances, or keeping us from every adverse and negative thing (as one would with little children in a nursery), and that He is rather perfectly equipping us to walk and serve Him victoriously in the midst of problems, bad circumstances and adverse things (as one would do with adults), WHAT HAPPENS TO PRAYER?
We have been taught by most of historic Christianity that prayer is something we do at certain times, especially when problems come up, whereby we call on God to alleviate our problems, manipulate our circumstances and remove adversity from our lives, and then we are wait on God to do what we want. Historic Christianity calls this “spiritual maturity” prayer. This is what we think of as “prayer,” but is this really what biblical prayer today looks like, is this “spiritual” prayer? Is this really “spirituality” or is it just fleshly, “spiritual” arrested development?
Let’s look at what Paul says when he describes prayer in general.
For God is my witness … that WITHOUT CEASING I make mention of you ALWAYS in my prayers (Rom. 1:9; similar Eph. 1:16).
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; CONTINUING STEADFASTLY in prayer (Rom. 12:12).
Praying ALWAYS with ALL prayer and supplication in the Spirit (Eph. 18).
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you ALWAYS in EVERY prayer of mine (Phil. 1:3).
Be anxious for nothing but in EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication (Phil. 4:6).
CONTINUE in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving (Col. 4:2).
ALWAYS laboring fervently for you in prayers (Col. 4:12).
We give thanks to God ALWAYS for you ALL, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering WITHOUT CEASING your work of faith … (1 Thess. 1:2-3).
Trust in God and CONTINUE in supplications and prayers NIGHT AND DAY (1 Tim. 5:5).
WITHOUT CEASING I have remembrance of you in my prayers, NIGHT AND DAY (2 Tim. 1:3).
I thank my God, making mention of you ALWAYS in my prayers (Philemon v. 4).
For Paul, prayer isn’t something that happens at set times. It is not the sporadic prayer of historic Christianity, whereby we try to get God to do things for our own selfish interests. No, for Paul, prayer is the continuous, ongoing, unceasing, day and night, never ending, moment-by-moment, communion with the Father, which flows out of God getting us involved in His things so that we can share them with others. The doctrine of sonship adoption does not reduce prayer. It increases prayer, but it is a different kind of prayer than what we have been taught by historic Christianity.
So, why does it seem that we are praying less when we are really praying more? The problem is that we have been so brainwashed by wrong teaching about prayer that we don’t recognize real prayer when it comes along. The prayers that flow out of our Sonship position look completely different than the prayers that flow out of the false teaching historic Christianity and human wisdom. Sonship prayer doesn’t just replace what we pray about. It doesn’t just replace the words and requests of our old prayers with different words and requests in our new prayers. Rather, it replaces the way we pray as well. The sporadic prayers we had used to manipulate God into doing what we want, especially in times of trouble, are replaced with the ongoing, unceasing, continuous prayers of sons and daughters in moment-by-moment communion with their Father. We are not praying less than before. We are just praying less in the way that we used to pray.
Prayer for the adult sons and daughters becomes an ongoing fellowship with the Father through the Spirit and in Christ, sometimes it is more in the forefront of life, sometimes it is more in the background, but it is always there, permeating our moment-by-moment existence as God involves us in His business for the benefit of others, and it is always characterized by THANKSGIVING!
Paul says something like this in the very next verses in Romans 8.
Ye have received the Spirit of adoption (adult sons and daughters), whereby we cry Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself bears witness (present tense—ongoing, continuous activity) with our spirit, that we are the children of God … heirs of God, co-heirs of Christ … we know that the whole creation groans … and we groan (present tense—ongoing, continuous) also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we groan (present tense—ongoing, continuous) within ourselves waiting for the adoption, the (future) redemptions of our body (bodily resurrection) … likewise the Spirit also helps (present tense—ongoing, continuous) our infirmities …we don’t know what to pray for as we ought but the Spirit Himself makes intercession (present tense—ongoing, continuous) for us with groanings that cannot be uttered … by the will of God (the Father).
We have talked about this many times in the past, but now that we have come to understand that God is relating with us as adult sons and daughters so that we can participate in His business of dispensing His blessings to a cold, hard, lost, sin-cursed world under adverse conditions, there is something we need to keep in the forefront of our minds: God is NOT calling on us to do this alone. We PRIMARILY participate in the dispensing of His blessings in and through an assembly of grace believers. God is NOT calling on us as individuals to be lone wolves trying to conquer and subdue all and convert everyone around us. That is God’s responsibility, and one day He will do it. If we try to take God’s responsibility onto ourselves, it will always—ALWAYS--result in failure, defeat, despair, anxiety, etc. Let me say it again: The PRIMARY way believers participate in God’s business today is by participating in a assembly of grace believers—among fellow sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, in the family of God, sharing and supporting one another. We MUST NOT think that God is calling on us as individuals to be lone wolves in the cold and dark world. He is calling on us to participate in His business, and (let me say it again): THE PRIMARY WAY WE participate in His business IS BY PARTICIPATING IN AN ASSEMBLY OF GRACE BELIEVERS. To put it another way, if you are participating in an assembly of grace believers, you are fulfilling your role as adult sons and daughters in the family of God. By participating in the grace assembly, you are participating in a franchise that operates according God’s plan of Agape Love, a distributorship that dispenses His blessings inside and outside the assembly, and a satellite that radiates His Light and Life to a lost world. THIS ALL HAPPENS PRIMARILY IN AND THROUGH THE ASSEMBLY OF BELIEVERS.
Our ministry is only SECONDARILY carried out by ourselves to the people around us in our own little worlds. But we must not forget that even there, our job is not to conquer and subdue all until everyone around us is converted. That is God’s job, and one day He will do it. If we try to do what only God can do, it will always result in disappointment, defeat, despair, anxiety, etc. Rather, we are just called to be His dispensers of blessings REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THOSE BLESSINGS ARE RECEIVED OR REJECTED. And when we have done that, we have fulfilled our role as adult sons and daughters in the Father’s business. In His eyes, we are a success, and that is how we should view things as well. And this always—ALWAYS--leads to contentment, satisfaction and joy because we are operating in accord with our Father. We do not live by sight! We live by FAITH (2 Cor. 5:7)! Our joy does not come from looking at the results we achieve (which by sight will rarely look successful—just look at Jesus’ and Paul’s ministries!). We live by faith, looking at Christ and His Cross and dispensing the blessings He procured there through the Spirit. This is what the Father calls “success” and “victory,” and it always-ALWAYS-results in joy and peace. Of course, the corollary of this is that if we are not experiencing contentment and satisfaction, joy and peace, then we need to let ourselves off the hook. God is not expecting us to do what only He can do. We have forgotten what we learned in Rom. 5, 6 and 7! We need to remove the great big horrible “I” from our walk and service that results in defeat and despair and replace it with Great Big Wonderful Christ and His Cross and the Agape Love He displayed there.
In the Thursday Night Bible Study Fellowship on Romans, we have been developing our understanding of our adoption as adult sons and daughters in God’s family. When we view our relationship with God based on an adult relationship with the Father based on liberty and peace rather than as a little child relationship under rules and regulations of a nursery, the Holy Spirit leads us into the Father’s business, and when this happens, it changes everything, EVERYTHING! It will change your prayer life, your walk, your service, your expectations, your priorities, your desires, your thoughts, your will, your everything. Believers will grow out of childish superstition of historic Christianity (I can get God to do what I want!) and grow into spiritual maturity of Pauline Grace (God can use me to do what He wants!).
Our Apostle Paul gives us a perfect little sonship prayer in the opening verses of Romans 1. Most readers don’t even recognize it as a prayer because it is so different from the “prayers” they have been taught by historic Christianity. Everything that characterizes Paul’s prayer is the exact opposite of what characterizes the “prayers” of historic Christianity that we are familiar with. Let’s look at some of the differences:
|Historic Christianity Prayers||Paul’s Prayer: Rom. 1:8-12|
|Take your prayer requests from wherever you want in the Bible—no need to rightly divide the Word.||Prayer requests flow out of what God is doing through Paul’s distinct grace apostleship—you must rightly-divide the Word. (Rom. 1:5-7)|
|Prayer is your way to get God involved in your things and do what you want.||Prayer is God’s way of getting us involved in His things and to do what He wants. (Rom. 1:10)|
|Center your prayers on SELF to build up SELF, considering your own things first.||Center your prayers on OTHERS, not considering your own things, to build them up--Agape Love. (Rom. 1:8-12).|
|Ungratefully, plead with God to give you things He has refused to give but you think you need.||In thankfulness appreciate the things that God has already given you in Christ the moment you believed, which is more than everything you need. (Rom. 1:8; Eph. 1:3)|
|Focus your prayer life on trying to get physical and material blessings.||Focus your prayer life on making use of the spiritual blessings you already have in Christ. (Rom. 1:11)|
|Don’t do anything until God does what you want.||God has already done everything He is going to do … start serving.|
|Make prayer requests that come from the strong lusts of your selfish flesh.||Make prayer requests that come from the Holy Spirit bearing witness with your spirit, producing strong desires from a renewed heart. (Rom. 1:9, 11)|
|Prayer is our way to get God to serve us.||Prayer is God’s way to get us to serve Him in the Gospel of His Son. (Rom. 1:9)|
So, I’ll ask a rhetorical question: Which column does your prayer life most look like?
We began this section of Romans 8 with the statement that this is a difficult doctrine because we don’t really want God to treat us like adults. We want God to treat us like little children, removing all the difficulties of life, manipulating our circumstances and coddling us in the nursery. But God refuses to relate to us on that basis, and if we go to the nursery and pretend that He is anyway (as most of historic Christianity has convinced us to do!), it will nullify what He wants to do with us today, in the Mystery Program for the Body of Christ.
You see, if God treats us like little children in the nursery as He did with Israel under the Law, He can’t bring us into His plan and purpose for today. No human father who runs a business would even think of going down to his toddler in the nursery to review and discuss his business plans or the state of his finances. All he can do is long for the day when his child grew up and as an adult he could share these things with him. While a homely illustration, something similar occurs with God and His children.
God determined in eternity past that He wanted His children in the Body of Christ Mystery Program to be brought into His family as adult children so that He could share His plan and purpose with them, so that they would know and understand His plan and appreciate it and acknowledge how wonderful it is, and that it surpass all other plans and purposes, so that they would chose to voluntarily participate in His things, crying out Dear and Honorable Father Your ways are best! I want to participate in them because of that.
By the time we get to Rom. 8, God has largely done this: He has explained what He is doing today (dispensing His Grace and Peace to His enemies—Rom. 3-4); He has given us His Spirit who is pouring out His operating principal into our hearts (Agape Love—Rom. 5-8); He has perfectly equipped us with all the blessings He is giving today right up front with His riches in Christ, so that we don’t have to do things for Him out of bondage and fear (trying to gain a blessing or keeping from losing a blessing or escaping a punishment) (Rom. 5-8; Eph. 1). We simply serve Him because as His adult children who appreciate that our Father has already made us complete in Christ forevermore, we recognize that His ways are always the best ways, and freely, by choice, cry out (as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His obedience unto death): Abba Father, Your ways are always the best ways. Not My will but Your will (Mk. 14:36).
Based on the progression of the comments I have received since we started discussing our adoption unto sonship position before God, I think we are all beginning to appreciate the value, privilege, as well as the responsibility we have as adults sons and daughters in the household of God. At first it sounds a little scary. It is always a little scary to leave the nursery. But then we learn that it is, in fact, the very opposite. In bringing us into the adoption of sonship, the Holy Spirit builds us up and secures us in God’s plan and purpose for today! It is really the pivot doctrine that brings us out of the childish superstition we have been subjected to by natural thinking and historic Christianity and brings us into the spiritual maturity of God’s thinking by Pauline Grace. True spirituality recognizes that the Father has already done everything He is going to do. He has already given us everything He is going to give us today in Christ. So, there is no reason to wait: Start Serving God by Serving Others! Once we grasp this, it changes everything: Our walk, our service, our prayer life, everything.
On Easter Sunday ( Audio Video ) we looked at the entangling web of divine life and love within the Triune Godhead, each One living for the other, not considering His Own things but the things of the other. The Father looks at the Son and says He should be the preeminent one. The Son looks at the Father and says His will is best. I want to obey the Father’s will. But the Son doesn’t obey the Father by His Own power but by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the Father looks at the Holy Spirit and says His Scriptures should be magnified above the My Name. But when the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, He didn’t use His Own words but the words of the Father, but the words of Father were not about the Father but about the Son! Such is the “entangling web of divine Life and Love” in the Triune Godhead.
In addition to this, on Sunday we also looked at the fact that God has made us participants in this divine life, this eternal life, as a free gift by faith right now, today, through the Resurrection Life and Power of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:23). God appeals to us to bring every aspect of our lives into this entangling web of divine Life and Agape Love (Phil. 2:1-11). In Phil. 2:14,17-30, He puts before our eyes a Grace Assembly of believers operating in just such a way. Imagine an assembly of believers who are not considering their own things for their own advancement but the things of the others unto the other’s advancement. In Phil. 2, God gives us a video of the Philippian Grace Assembly in action: We see Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, the Philippians and God, all entangled in the divine web of life and love, looking at one another through Christ and His Cross and the Agape Love displayed there, honoring one another (Rom. 12:10), serving God by serving others, and all for the sole purpose of building each other up in God’s Truth for today, comforting one another in the mutual faith, and rejoicing together in Christ.
Then, last Thursday night to the entangled web of divine Life and Love in the Triune Godhead and the Grace assembly we added the Grace Family. In Col. 3:18-4:1, God and Paul give us a short video of the Grace family. Imagine a family where God works in the wife as she looks at her husband through Christ and His Cross and the Agape Love displayed there, motivating her to honor him by submitting to him. God is simultaneously works in the husband as he looks at his wife through Christ and His Cross and the Agape Love displayed there, motivating him to love her to the point of giving himself for her, even dying for her (Eph. 5:25). And at the same time God works in the children as they look at their parents (especially the Father!) through Christ and His Cross and the Agape Love displayed there, motivating them to be obedient. And at the same time God works in the parents as they look at their children through Christ and His Cross and the Agape Love displayed there (especially the Father!), motivating them to not do anything that would discourage the children. And God works in servants as they look at their earthly masters through Christ and His Cross, motivating them to serve in sincerity, while God works simultaneously in the earthly masters to look at their servants through Christ (their Heavenly Master), motivating them to treat all equally and justly.
By the time we get through Romans 8 we have learned a lot about God--who He is, what He is like, what He has done for us, what He has done with us. We watched Him as He went to the greatest extent possible—the death of His Son—to perfectly equip us not just for time but for all eternity. We watched as Paul manifested the Righteousness of God in justifying and sanctifying ungodly sinners on enemy status before Him, because He did it in the only way He could that would allow him to satisfy all the demands of His infinite holiness while at the same time declaring right wrong sinners, and that was through the Person and Work of His Son on the Cross (Rom. 1-8).
In Romans 5-8 Paul explained that this is the MUCH MORE salvation of Pauline Grace (NOT the MUCH LESS salvation of historic Christianity!). There we learned that having reconciled us to Himself, God brought us into His family under the Headship of the Risen Lord where everything that belongs to Christ now automatically belongs to us, which Paul sums up in terms of Righteousness and Life (Rom. 5). But God didn’t stop there. He did MUCH MORE! He went on and placed us into Christ, identifying us with His death and resurrection, co-crucifying and co-burying our old man together with Him, so that we can now walk in newness of life and serve in newness of spirit on the basis of Agape Love, having been delivered from Sin, Death and the Law (Rom. 6-7). But God didn’t even stop there! He did MUCH MORE! He went on to create us anew in Christ Jesus and through the indwelling Holy Spirit brought us into the presence of the Father as adult sons and daughters so that He could share His business plan, His operational system, His will with us, causing us to cry out Abba, Father, Dear and Honorable Father, freely choosing His way rather than our way, His will rather than our own will (Rom. 8).
This MUCH MORE salvation of Pauline Grace should make us wonder: Why has God done all this for and with us? After all, God didn’t need to do all of this to “save” us. He could have done MUCH LESS. He could have just forgiven our sins, cleaned up our old man and put us back in the Garden, giving us another chance. But He didn’t. He did MUCH MORE! He created us as a new humanity in Christ Jesus. And we must ask: Why all this? And this is where we are in these closing verses of Romans 8. Here, God and Paul begin explaining God’s ultimate purpose for us today as members of the church, the Body of Christ, and why it required that He create us anew, conforming us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29). Here, He lays the groundwork for the explosive revelation of His Purpose for the Body of Christ that will shake the whole universe and all it contains to its very core.
After introducing this divine purpose in Romans, God and Paul will explain it in full in Ephesians. There we learn that God has taken Satan and his cohorts in their own craftiness. Through the Fall of Satan in the heavenlies and the Fall on Adam on Earth, Satan had usurped God’s rule in both realms. As the Bible opens, God begins by explaining how He will re-establish His rule on the Earth through a redeemed group of humanity called the Nation of Israel. This would have surprised no one (including Satan) because humans belong on the Earth. At the Cross, the Gospel Accounts tell us that Christ died for His own people, the Nation of Israel, delivering them out of the hand of Satan. Satan realized he was defeated, his claim to the earth was broken, so he returned to his spiritual place in the heavenlies, licking his wounds.
But what no one could guess, not even Satan, was that through the same Cross of Christ God used to redeem the Nation of Israel, He also provided the basis for another group of redeemed humanity, a new creation called the Body of Christ, and it would be through this new redeemed humanity that He would re-establish His Glory in the Heavenlies, completely vanquishing Satan and his rule, not just on Earth but throughout the whole Universe! God came up with this purpose in eternity past but kept it secret, hidden in Himself, until He revealed it to and through the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:1-11).
And this explains the MUCH MORE Christianity of Pauline Grace. The Body of Christ didn’t need to just be created and equipped to carry out its function in the physical realm on Earth. It needed to be created and equipped to carry out its function in the spiritual realm in the Heavenlies as well (Eph. 2:6). This Purpose of God for believers today, which Paul introduces in Romans 8 and fully develops in Ephesians, is the greatest purpose in all the Universe! As the Spirit leads us into the presence of the Father where we learn His Purpose for today, God “beseeches” us to make His Purpose our purpose; His Will, our will.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
In preparation for tomorrow night’s Bible Study on everyone’s favorite verses in Rom. 8:26-28, we reviewed the two things that Paul has taught us about what the indwelling Holy Spirit is doing in the believer’s heart.
These are critical things to remember if we are going to understand and appreciate what is going on when the One who searches the hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit, who makes intercession for us (Rom. 8:27).
Here is a flowchart of the general idea. (In case it is not immediately obvious: The first picture of the heart is God giving the believer a new heart; and the second picture of the heart inside a clamp represents the tribulations and trials that come along, pressuring that heart.)
I have said often, by the time we get to this point in Romans 8 we know who God is, who we are, what God has done through His Son on the Cross, what God has done with us, what He wants to do through us, how He has perfectly equipped us to walk and serve Him in the midst of trials and tribulations. He has delineated our blessings, given us His plan, purpose and will. If we add in the first 3 chapters of Ephesians (as we have!) we have the complete foundation of what God is doing today through Christ with the Body of Christ and, therefore, what He wants us to be doing as members of that Body. Now in Rom. 8, He calls on us to replace our priorities, plans, purposes, will, thoughts, desires, in short, our things, with His priorities, plans, purposes, will, thoughts, desires, in short, His things. God and Paul are throwing down the gauntlet here. Before our Romans study, we might have been excused for wavering between human religious viewpoint of the flesh and divine spiritual viewpoint of the Spirit. But we cannot get away with that anymore.
It is a little like Elijah, Israel and the prophets of Baal (1 Kgs. 18). Elijah didn’t sugar-coat anything. Israel had been mixing together the things of Baal with the things of God, and it ended up ruining everything. So Elijah announced their worthiness to receive the next Course of Punishment, therefore, the time for wavering was over. While I am no Elijah, I am not going to sugar-coat anything either: The time for our wavering is over as well. The time for choosing the will of the Father is at hand ( Rom. 8:14-16: Abba, Father!). We are either with God or we are against Him. It is as simple as that. We are at the point Paul has been working to during the first 8 chapters of Romans. The time for wavering is over. We are either with the Triune Godhead, with the Father and what He has revealed He is accomplishing in the Son through the Holy Spirit or we are against the Triune Godhead. We are either doing things His way, or we are rebelling against Him doing things our own way. To be with the Lord means to be against all human reasonings and priorities, all worldly wisdom, all man-made religious notions, all man-centered theological teachings. It means to rely on God and His Word, no matter how foreign it sounds or contrary it seems. We are to live by faith, not sight. We need to rely on the indwelling Holy Spirit for every aspect of our Christian walk, including PRAYER.
By the time we get through the first 8 chapters of Romans (and we even added in most of the first 3 chapters of Ephesians to top it off!) God has given us a super-abundance of His divine truth. He has made Himself known to us. He has revealed His plan and purpose in and through His Son to us. He has explained what He is doing today with the world and with believers. God has made all this known to us. And here in Rom. 8:14-16, God and Paul throw down the gauntlet. The time for wavering is over. The time for decision is at hand.
Reaching this point in Romans 8, Paul takes us back to where we started our journey in Romans 1. There, God vividly presented to us the two options that we can take. In the first half of Romans 1, God presented the first option, OPTION 1, in the Pattern of the Apostle Paul. God made Himself known to Paul, and Paul received His truth thankfully in faith, leading to Righteousness and Life (Rom. 1:1-17; 8:11-13). But then, in the last half of Romans 1, God presented the second option, OPTION 2, in the Pattern of Fallen Humanity. God had likewise made Himself known to humans but instead of receiving His truths in faith, they held them ungratefully in unbelief and unrighteousness, leading to sin and death (Rom. 1:18-32; 8:12-13).
Now, in Romans 8, God and Paul are demanding us to make a choice. We can choose OPTION 2, and follow the pattern of fallen humanity, rejecting the truth God has make known to us in Romans 1-8, and rather than thanking Him for it, we can replace it with our own vain imaginations, throwing away God and His Glory, becoming servants of the selfish lusts of our carnal hearts. When we chose this option, this is what Paul calls having the mind of the flesh, which produces the walk that is according to the flesh, which can NEVER PLEASE GOD (Rom. 8:5-13).
Or, we can chose OPTION 1, the pattern of the Apostle Paul’s ministry, and follow Paul, believing the truth God has revealed to us in Romans 1-8, embracing it, thanking God for it without ceasing, letting the Holy Spirit bear witness with his spirit about it, creating within us a new heart overflowing with Agape Love (Rom. 5:5-11), stamped in the form of Grace Truths (Rom. 6:17), serving God by serving others in in His Good News for today, thereby rejoicing in His Glory. When we chose this option, this is what Paul calls having the mind of the Spirit, which produces the walk that is according to the Spirit, which can ONLY PLEASE GOD (Rom. 8:5-10)!
This option pleases God because it is God working in and through us. In Romans 6, we learned that we cannot “walk in newness of life” by our own person and work. God must do it for us! In Romans 7, we learned that we cannot “serve (God) in newness of Spirit” through our own person and work. God must do it for us! And now in Romans 8 we learn that we cannot even “pray” through our own person and work. God (the Holy Spirit) must do that for us as well (Rom. 8:26-27). Every aspect of the true, biblical Christian Life must be produced by the Triune God working in and through us. God the Father works in and through us both to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). God the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit in and through us (Gal. 5:22-23). And God the Son lives in and through us (Gal. 2:20). To put it another way: Anything you are doing that an unbeliever can do: IS NOT THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
So, when we get to Rom. 8 the choice is set before us. We can embrace these wonderful Pauline Grace Truths in faith, following the lead of the Spirit into the Father’s business, replacing our things with His things from a heart overflowing with thankfulness and Agape Love. Or we can throw these truths away in unbelief, refuse to follow the lead of the Spirit, return to our own ungrateful vain imaginations, and try to get God to replace His things with the things of our own selfish hearts. The former is true spiritual Christianity. The latter is pagan superstition. The former is what God’s beseeches us to participate in. But the latter is what most of historic Christianity has actually embraced (and, sadly, even most of believing Christianity!).
It is a shame that many believers who come to understand Paul’s Grace Teachings in the light of what God is accomplishing today through his distinct apostleship, begin to feel like they don’t have anything to pray about. But this not a problem with reality but with perception. By the time we get through Romans 1-8 (and let’s throw in Ephesians 1-3 to top it off!), to the spiritual mind, we have an INFINITE number of things to commune about with God our Father. More than what man-centered religious and theological systems offer. Even more than what the Nation of Israel had in her Prophetic Program for establishing God’s Glory on the Earth. To us in the Body of Christ, God has revealed all the infinite truths of His Mystery Program for establishing God’s Glory in the Heavenlies, which He devised in eternity past but now has revealed to and through the Apostle Paul, who recorded them for us in his Letter, his Scriptures.
The reality of the situation is that we have more to pray and commune with God about than ever before. Why then, do we perceive; why then, do we “feel” like we don’t? The reason for this is that we haven’t fully thrown away non-Pauline religious prayer and fully embraced Pauline Grace Prayer. We are still trying to make God-centered Grace Prayer fit into the form of man-centered religious prayer. But to do this is a great mistake. It is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. It just won’t work. What we need to do is to once-and-for-all throw away the whole form of religious prayer and replace it with the whole form of Pauline Grace Prayer. But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered (Rom. 6:17).
We often think that the most basic difference between man-made religious prayer and Spirit-led Grace Prayer is in its content. In rightly dividing the Word, we recognize that promises God made to the Nation of Israel do not apply to believers today in the Body of Christ. We recognize that while God’s purpose for Israel was earthly and, therefore, especially required the provision of physical and material blessings, for us today in the Body of Christ, God’s purpose is heavenly and, therefore, especially requires the provision of spiritual blessings. And that is exactly what He has freely given us in Christ: He has given us ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN HEAVENLY PLACES (Eph. 1:3)!
Thankfully appreciating and communing with God about these spiritual blessings then become the basic content of Grace Prayer. But that is not the only way Grace Prayer differs from religious prayer. It differs not only in its content but in its mode and purpose as well. The mode of religious prayer is sporadic, whereby the person ignores God most of the time and then when there is a problem, the person drops to her knees, forces herself into God’s throne room, and pleads with or even demands He remove the difficulty and solve the problem.
A variant of this is when we are told to use religious prayer to try to increase our “spirituality.” A “Christian living” book I perused recently, claimed that be minimally spiritual you had to set aside 15 minutes a day for prayer. But if you wanted to increase your spirituality you needed to increase the time to 30 or 60 minutes. But this is just religious nonsense. If you have thrown away Paul’s Grace truths, you don’t have anything to pray to God about anyway, and it won’t matter whether you do it for 15, 30 or 60 minutes a day or even 24/7 it is not going to change the situation.
The mode of Pauline Grace Prayer, however, is not sporadic or at set times (although there is certainly nothing wrong with setting aside specific time to focus on grace prayer with God). Rather, and most importantly, Grace Prayer is the constant, unceasing, ongoing, never ending communion with our Father. It interweaves the warp and woof of our existence to produce the fabric of our moment-by-moment Christian lives that pleases the Father.
But there is more. Not only does Grace Prayer differ from religious prayer in content and mode, it also differs in purpose as well. The purpose of religious prayer, which flows out of man-made religious and man-centered theological systems, is to get God involved in our things. This turns everything upside down and inside out. It makes God the servant and us the master. It becomes a form of bribery or perhaps blackmail against God: God, I have a problem. I can’t serve you until the problem is removed, so I am going to sit and wait for you to remove the problem, and then I will serve you.
But this goes against all Pauline Grace Truth. Today, we understand that God’s purpose is not to fix and remove all our problems. Rather, he is holding back His wrath and judgment to destroy His enemies (which is what would be required to fix the world’s problems), while He instead dispenses His Grace and Peace to His enemies, offering them salvation through the distinct apostleship of Paul, before He returns to destroy them in His wrath and judgment. Today, God has perfectly equipped believers to serve Him in the midst of suffering, ministering reconciliation to a lost world under the power and control of Satan, Sin and Death. And it is in the midst of these problems that God’s purpose is most powerfully displayed.
When we commune with God in accord with the content, mode and purpose of Grace Prayer, we will not spend our prayer time trying to get God to remove our problems so that we can serve Him. We will realize that it is through our problems that God most powerfully works, making us His servants. We will spend our prayer time believing, embracing, thanking God for involving us in His things—the GREATEST THINGS OF ALL!—requesting that He might use us in the midst of trials to be dispensers of His Grace and Peace. When we do that, life’s problems become opportunities not of panic and despair but for patience and hope. In other words, Grace Truth Prayers recognize that God is the Master, we are the servants, and that prayer isn’t our way to get God involved in our things, but His way to get us involved in His things.
Let’s look at an example. I had the opportunity many years ago to minister to a young man, married with several little children all under the age of 10. He suddenly came down with a rare cancer that was terminal. He began his journey in religious prayer, and while he was receiving treatments, he prayed that God would heal him, and if He did, he promised to serve him. This appeared to be working at first. After treatments, the cancer appeared to be in remission, and he thanked God for curing his cancer. But before long, however, the cancer returned worse than it was before. At first the young man grew bitter with himself. God must be punishing him and his family for something he did in the past. Or perhaps he didn’t have enough faith. This bitterness soon progressed into bitterness against God. Why was God being so unresponsive. Why was He being so mean. Until he finally had hidden thoughts that questioned God and His faithfulness. Ultimately the doctors told him that they had nothing more to offer him. He went home and entered hospice. He shut the door, closed the curtains, turned off all the lights, upped the pain medication, and in his bitterness, refused to let anyone in, not even his wife or children. He just laid in bed all alone, despairing in the darkness.
Then he began to learn some grace truths. He learned that God’s plan for today is not the removal of sufferings and problems, and they are not indicators of God removing His blessings or love (Rom. 5:1-5). Rather, God’s plan had fully equipped him to serve Him in the midst of sufferings while undergoing problems and difficulties. He prayed, communed, talked with God about these things. He learned about all the grace blessings God has freely given him, and that they could not be diminished or lost because they were not based on him and what he did but on Christ and what He did. The Holy Spirit took these things, revealed them to him, planted them in his heart, and this changed his thinking, which changed his feelings, which changed his actions. He pushed the pain medication away, opened the curtains and door, turned on the lights and let his family in. His family swarmed him on his bed, and He forced himself to sit up so that he could minister God’s grace truths to them, truths that would remain with them for the rest of their lives.
This is what Paul calls redeeming the time (Eph. 5:15-16), taking a hopeless and despairing situation in this sin-cursed world and reclaiming it for God, who transforms it with Christ and His Cross into something full of hope and joy. Such is the power of Grace Truths and Prayer. This is true Spirit-led prayer.
Rom. 8:29-30 are critical verses in the culmination of Paul’s presentation of what God is accomplishing today through his apostleship. He has now laid the groundwork so that we can understand God’s eternal Purpose for us today in the Dispensation of Grace. He came up with this purpose in eternity past but kept it secret until He revealed it to and through the Apostle Paul (Rom. 1:5; 16:25; Eph. 3:1-11). That is why Paul calls it God’s MYSTERY PURPOSE. It was a Mystery or Secret in the past, but now it has been revealed and God’s desire is that all people fully understand it (Eph. 3:9).
This MYSTERY PURPOSE is the foundation of all of Paul’s Scriptures.
God FOREKNEW in eternity past that He would NOT set aside those He saves today through Paul’s apostleship in the Dispensation of Grace for His Prophetic Program, which He had spoken about since the world began (Acts 3:21) with His People, the Nation of Israel, to participate in His Purpose of re-establishing His Glory on the Earth. This is what He did with all those He saved in all the other dispensations. But that would NOT be what He does with those He saves in the Dispensation of Grace. God FOREKNEW that He would set aside those He saves today in the Dispensation of Grace and place them into a new and unique divinely originated Purpose, Program and People. Today He is taking all those He saves and puts them into His new and unique Mystery Program, which He had kept secret since the world began, with His new and unique People, the Body of Christ, to participate in His new and unique Purpose of re-establishing His Glory in the Heavenlies!
This is one of the most important truths in all the Scriptures. If only more so-called Bible teachers knew it!
Romans 1-8 closes with the most astonishing proclamation of the believer’s eternal security in Christ imaginable.
Having justified us by faith, God brought us--who were ungodly sinners on enemy status before Him--into a right standing before Him through Christ and His Work on the Cross (Rom. 3;21-26; 5:1-11) …
Having sanctified us by grace, God set us apart for His purpose, bringing us into His household under the Headship of Christ, whereby everything that belongs to Christ because of His Cross AUTOMATICALLY belongs to us (Rom. 5:12-21), and placing us into Christ, identifying us with His death, burial and resurrection so that we can walk in newness of Life, Christ’s Resurrection Life (Rom. 6:1-5) and serve in Newness of Spirit (Rom. 7:6), the Love and Power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:2) as His New Creation, overflowing our hearts with Agape Love (2 Cor. 5:17) …
Having brought us into His purpose as adult sons and daughters, God made it possible for the whole Triune Godhead to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit: God the Father works in and through us, God the Holy Spirit bears fruit in and through us, and God the Son lives in and through us (Rom. 8:1-13) …
Having been given a complete provision in Christ, God makes it possible for us to live victoriously as more than conquerors in Him in the midst of suffering, trials and tribulations, weaknesses and infirmities (Rom. 8:18-37) …
Having done all that and infinitely more with us in and through Christ …
We have begun an exciting new section in God’s and Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Romans 9-11. Most find Romans 9-11 confusing and not a little dry and boring and hurry through it. But we showed on Thursday that this understanding of Rom. 9-11 is completely wrong. In fact, in Rom. 9-11, God and Paul answer the #1, MOST IMPORTANT question of all, the trillion-dollar question of Christianity. What happened to God’s Prophetic Program with the Nation of Israel? Get it wrong here, and we will go wrong everywhere.
I know, we have been taught by man-made religious and theological systems that the most important Bible question is about man and his salvation: How am I saved? That is an important question, but it is not the MOST IMPORTANT question! What happened to God’s Prophetic Program with the Nation of Israel is more important question, and here is the reason why.
How we answer this question determines the very being and character of God Himself. The Apostle Paul’s critics tried to discredit his apostleship as being from God by taking his statements about what God has done with National Israel out of context, re-working and manipulating them, and then using them against him. This is their line of attack: If what Paul is saying is true; if God has permanently cast away the Prophetic Program He had been promising since the world began (Lk. 1:70; Acts 3:21) and has now replaced it with a Mystery Program He had kept secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25: Eph. 3:1-11); and if God has permanently cast away His people, the Nation of Israel, the ones He had made those promises to, and has now replaced them with a new people, the Body of Christ; then that would make GOD UNFAITHFUL, UNRIGHTEOUS AND UNTRUTHFUL. Therefore, Paul CANNOT be a man from God! He MUST be a charlatan, a false prophet and a false apostle because God, of course, is faithful and righteous and always truthful. They are right to demand that Paul be done away with (Rom. 3:1-8)!
And in saying this, of course, Paul’s critics would be correct. But they are not being completely honest in their characterization of what Paul actually said. They misrepresented it. Yes, Paul did say that God has cast away His Prophetic Program as revealed in the Old Testament, Gospel Accounts of Christ’s earthly ministry, and the ministry of the 12 in early Acts. Yes, Paul did say that God has cast away His people, the Nation of Israel. Yes, Paul did say that God is now accomplishing a previously unrevealed Mystery Program with the Body of Christ through Paul’s apostleship as revealed in Romans through Philemon (Rom. 11).
Yes, Paul said all those things! But what the critics strategically left out is that Paul qualifies all of this by explaining that this setting aside of His Prophetic Program for the Nation of Israel is not permanent. IT IS ONLY TEMPORARY! And that changes everything!! If God has permanently cast away His Prophetic Program with National Israel, then Paul’s critics would have been right. Paul was a fake and should be ignored because it would make God unfaithful, unrighteous and untruthful to Israel. But if God has only TEMPORARILY set aside His Purpose to re-establish His Glory on the earth through the Prophetic Program with His People the Nation of Israel while He accomplishes another Purpose (to re-establish His Glory in the Heavenlies) through another Program (His Mystery Program, which He had kept secret since the world began until He revealed it to and through the Apostle Paul) with another People (The Body of Christ) after which He will completely, permanently and literally fulfill all His promises to Israel, then, and only then, does God remain FAITHFUL, RIGHTEOUS AND TRUTHFUL.
Of course, we have to take this discussion a step further because it is sad to say that most of historic Christianity, beginning with the so called “church fathers” in the days of Paul himself, have rejected the divine truth of what Paul says about God only temporarily casting away of the Nation of Israel as explained in Rom. 9-11. They have instead embraced the lies of Paul’s critics that say God has permanently cast away the Nation of Israel, replacing her with the Body of Christ. To accomplish this sleight of hand, they have to spiritualize away all God’s truths regarding national Israel and try to apply it (unsuccessfully!) to the Body of Christ. They say, God is all done with the Nation of Israel. They say, God gave all their curses to Israel but all their blessings to the Body of Christ--the true Israel, the new Israel, the spiritual Israel.
Unfortunately, while Paul’s critics clearly understood the ramifications such teaching—that God is all done with the Nation of Israel--had for the being and character of God—it would make Him unfaithful, unrighteous and untruthful--those who adhere to such teachings today don’t. They don’t realize that this teaching creates an insurmountably impossible problem for them, which God and Paul confront them with in Romans 9-11. And this is the problem: If what the bulk of historic Christianity has embraced is true—that God has permanently cast away the Nation of Israel and replaced her with the church, the Body of Christ—then their “god” is no God at all! He is an unfaithful, unrighteous and untruthful to Israel. He is a small “g” god just like the unfaithful, unrighteous and untruthful “gods” of the heathen. HE CEASES TO BE GOD! Even Paul’s critics realized this. That’s why they perverted his teaching in this way to use against him.
And that is why the question: What happened to God’s Prophetic Program for the Nation of Israel? is far more important, nay infinitely more important, than the question: How am I saved? Any answer to the first question except the one that God and Paul give in Rom. 9-11--that God has only temporarily set aside His Prophetic Program for the Nation of Israel while He carries out His new, previously unrevealed, Program with the Body of Christ after which He will re-start His Program with Israel and literally fulfill ALL His promises to her—any answer except this one calls into question the very being and character of God Himself—His faithfulness, righteousness and truthfulness.
And here is the important point. Any salvation provided by a “god” who has reneged on His promises to the Nation of Israel, ISN’T WORTH THE PAPER IT IS WRITTEN ON! Throw away the first eight chapters of Romans! If God doesn’t keep His promises to the Nation of Israel, why in the world would we think He will keep His promises to us in the Body of Christ? The whole structure of such man-made systems is exposed for what they is: Nothing … mere façades, wispy mirages, that in the light of God’s word vanish away, disappearing in thin air.
But if we follow what Paul really says in Rom. 9-11—that God has only temporarily set aside His Prophetic Program with the Nation of Israel while He completes His Mystery Program with the Body of Christ, after which He will re-start His Program with Israel, fulfilling all His promises to her, then our patience is strengthened, our comfort is increased and our hope is enhanced (Rom. 15:4-5). God is faithful, righteous, and truthful to Israel! Therefore, HE WILL BE JUST A FAITHFUL, RIGHTEOUS AND TRUTHFUL WITH US IN THE BODY OF CHRIST!
In our current study of Romans 9, we are watching Paul as he witnesses to the unbelieving Jewish critics. When we think about witnessing to the Jews, we usually assume that we should begin by showing them that Jesus is the Christ, the fulfiller of all national Israel’s prophecies, going to passages like Is. 53 or Ps. 22. We think we should start with Israel’s Prophetic Program and then go on to the Body of Christ Mystery Program. Well, it might surprise us then to learn that that is not the way the Apostle Paul began to witness to his Jewish brothers and sisters according to Romans 9. He witnessed the other way around. He started with what God is doing today in His Mystery Program for the Body of Christ (Rom. 9) through his apostleship and then goes on to the Lord Jesus Christ being the fulfiller of Israel’s Prophetic Program and Israel’s response to Him (Rom. 10).
Yesterday at our mid-week Bible study on Romans 9, we watched as Paul conveyed to unbelieving Jews of his day (and our day) to look at the jar of God’s blessings not as half empty, and even not just as half full, but as filled to the brim and overflowing. To look at it half empty, they will only see the bad news: God has cast away (temporarily) the Nation of Israel and put His Prophetic Program on hold, and now He is working with only a very small remnant of believing Jews, who are in the process of diminishing and will soon die off the scene completely. Rather, Paul wants them to understand that there is a way to look at the glass not only as half full, but filled to the brim and overflowing with Good News!
He does this by taking them back to two major events in their ancient history to show that God is doing something similar today through the apostleship of Paul (Rom. 9:14-18). At the Golden Calf Incident, when God would have been right to go down the Mount in His wrath and judgment and consume ALL the Israelites, every single rebel, and start over with only Moses (Ex. 32:7-10), God INSTEAD used Israel’s sinfulness, rebellion and unrighteousness as an opportunity to display His Mercy and Grace, Goodness and Kindness (Ex. 33:19).
Paul’s point is that today God is doing something similar. When Israel joined hands with the Gentiles and crucified their Messiah, King and Creator, God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, God would have been right to go down in His wrath and judgment and consume all His enemies, every single rebel, but instead He decided to use Israel’s sinfulness, rebellion and unrighteousness to display the Riches of His Grace and Mercy, the Riches of His Goodness and Kindness, Longsuffering Forbearance. And what is He doing during this time of His Longsuffering Kindness? Instead of destroying ALL unbelieving sinners on earth (every last one), He is now offering through the apostleship of Paul salvation to ALL unbelieving sinners (every last one, Rom. 11:32; 3:21-23).
But this is not all. Paul then takes the Jews back to the Exodus account and reminds them how at that time God postponed His deliverance of national Israel while He carried out another purpose to make His Name and Power known on earth that even Moses didn’t know about (Ex. 5:22-23, 9:16). Paul’s point is that God is doing something similar today through his apostleship. Today, God has postponed His deliverance of national Israel while He carries out another Purpose that He had kept secret since the world began: His Mystery Program for the Body of Christ through which He will fulfill His Purpose to re-establish His Glory in the HEAVENLIES. The Jews needed to realize that, yes, God has set aside His Program with the Nation of Israel (temporarily). That’s the bad news.
But what they also needed to know is that He also started a new Purpose with the Body of Christ, AND ALL PEOPLE—JEWS AND GENTILES ALIKE—are invited to participate in that, simply by believing Paul’s Gospel, the Good News of the Death and Resurrection of Christ. While for the Jews God’s Grand and Great Prophetic Program with the Nation of Israel to re-establish God’s Glory on Earth has been taken off the table (temporarily), God is inviting them to be involved in an even Grander and Greater Mystery Program with the Body of Christ to re-establish His Glory in the Heavenlies. Whereas the Jews in Israel’s Prophetic Program would participate in the breaking of Satan’s rule on Earth, NOW God was giving them the opportunity to participate in the breaking of Satan’s rule in the Heavenlies!
No, the glass isn’t half empty. It’s not even half full. It’s filled full and is overflowing with His Grace and Mercy, Goodness and Kindness toward sinners. Rather than attacking the Apostle Paul, the Jews should receive his God-given message in faith and THANK GOD FOR IT!!
This generated a discussion about how you share with someone that God is now dispensing the Riches of His Grace, Peace, Kindness and Goodness when there is so much evil in the world. To the natural mind it is counter intuitive. Well, it is only so because unbelievers (and far too many believers!) don’t appreciate the sinfulness of sin. The natural mind says, I am basically good, so if God just got rid of the really bad people (like Hitler and Stalin, etc.) the world would be a good place. But this completely ignores what God and His Word say. We are all born into the world as sinners on enemy status before God. And when God comes to “fix” the world, He will have to destroy ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, ALL UNBELIEVING SINNERS, not just some or just the worse by human standards. Yes, He would destroy the Hitlers and the Stalins, but He will also have to destroy every other unbelieving sinner, as well, for they have rejected Him and His Word of Grace they would have led to salvation in unbelief. You know these people. They are people like your unsaved relatives, friends and neighbors. People like your co-workers and the really nice cashier at the supermarket and, yes, even the little old lady next door, who makes the most delicious pies.
Two thousand years ago, when Israel joined hands with the Gentiles in rejecting God and the Lord Jesus Christ, the world set off a nuclear warhead and aimed it at God. The whole world stood together and declared war against God, making its inhabitants worthy of His Wrath and Judgment (Rom. 1:18). God should have gone down and consumed them once-and-for-all. But instead, in His Longsuffering Kindness, and the Riches of His Grace and Peace, He declared a cease fire and instead of sending His angelic armies of destruction, He sent the Apostle Paul with the Good News that freely gave everyone on Earth an opportunity to be saved from the coming wrath freely by Grace through Faith. God is now holding back His Wrath and Judgment while He dispenses His Grace and Peace to His enemies so that as many as possible can be saved BEFORE He resumes the war and destroys ALL His enemies, ALL unbelieving sinners, yes, even the unbelieving little old lady next door who makes great pies.
We can use a modern war analogy. I remember watching a news story years ago, I think it was in the Iraq war, about the American army encircling a city that had been shooting off rockets. The army was ready and willing to attack the city. Their munitions were on the hills, and their planes, helicopters and soldiers were all pointed toward the city and were ready to reign down destruction on all. Nothing less than complete destruction of all enemies would be accepted. But at the last minute a command came from Washington that declared an immediate cease fire. Simply out of America’s longsuffering forbearance, goodness and kindness, mercy and grace, the army general was sent to announce to the residents of the city that anyone who wanted to escape the coming wrath could leave the city for the next 24 hours through the south check point. After that, anyone remaining would perish in the attack. For the people who responded in “faith” to the general’s message, that was indeed a day of salvation. To those who refused the general’s message, a day of destruction and perishing.
Well, God is doing something similar today. After Israel and the Gentile nations joined hands in rejecting Christ, and the whole world had declared war on God, God encircled the “city” of earth and revealed His Wrath from “hills” of Heaven (Rom. 1:18). God was ready to come and destroy ALL unbelieving sinners for their rebellion against Him in unrighteousness and rejection of His Word in unbelief (Rom. 1:18). But He then suddenly declared a cease fire and sent the Apostle Paul to announce to earth’s inhabitants that anyone--ANY AND ALL UNBELIEVING SINNERS—JEWS AND GENTILES ALIKE--could be delivered from the coming Wrath by simply believing Paul’s Message, the Good News of the Death and Resurrection of Christ for them. For those who respond in faith, this is what Paul calls: The Day of Salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). For those who don’t, it is called the day of destruction and perishing.
For the preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (unto salvation) (1 Cor. 1:18 with Rom. 1:16).
This is God’s answer to the question of why there is evil in the world. It is there because if He were to remove it, He would have to remove ALL of it, ALL unrighteousness, which would include every unbelieving sinner—that is, all our unsaved relatives, friends, co-workers, and, yes, the nice girl at the checkout COUNTER, and, yes, even the little old lady next door who makes those delicious pies. BUT NOW (and thank God for this!), BUT NOW out of the Riches of His Goodness, Kindness, Mercy and Grace, He is Long-sufferingly offering His Grace and Peace to ALL sinners so that they can be saved before He withdraws the cease fire and resumes hostilities with the inhabitants of earth in His Wrath, Fury and Judgment, from which He will not stop until ALL unrighteousness is removed once-and-for-all. To those who receive this message in faith, this is indeed THE DAY OF SALVATION. To those who reject it in unbelief, it is indeed foolishness, which leads to destruction.
Last Thursday we continued in our study of Rom. 9:19-24 where Paul uses the Old Testament example of the Potter and the Vessels to explain that in time past God had repeatedly used national Israel as a Vessel of Honor or Dishonor based on how she responded to the guidance of His hands. When God worked with Israel and she failed to respond or responded negatively (in unbelief) to His direction, He could not use her for His purposes and, therefore, He set her aside, making her a Vessel of Dishonor. This was especially the case when Israel went into the 5th Course of Punishment at the Babylonian Captivity. At that time because of her rebellion against God and rejection of His Word, He handed them over to the Gentiles (Jer. 18). At other times, when God worked with Israel and she responded positively (in faith) to His direction, He could use her for His purposes and, therefore, put her on display as His Vessel of Honor. This was seen partially during the reigns of David and Solomon but will be seen in all its fullness at Christ’s 2nd Coming when He will gather the believing remnant together, plant them in the Promised Land and make Israel the head of the nations, through which all the earth will be blessed (Deut. 28:13).
Paul’s point in Romans 9 is that if God could use Israel as a Vessel of Honor or Dishonor based on her response in faith, He can likewise use the Gentiles, who had been vessels of wrath, as vessels of mercy when they respond to His guidance in faith. And that is exactly what God is doing today through Paul’s Apostleship. He is extending an invitation to all—Jews and Gentiles alike—to become vessels of His mercy (Rom. 11:30-32).
Last Thursday we continued in our study of Rom. 9:19-24. One of the things we found there was God and Paul’s explanation for why there is evil, wickedness and sin in the world. And the answer was found in Rom. 9:22: What if God, willing to show His Wrath and make His Power known, ENDURED with MUCH LONGSUFFERING the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. If you want to know why evil continues in the world, and it appears that God does nothing about it, here is the answer: