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A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #3 — The Rational Sinner: God’s Anger at Willful Sin – Romans 1:18-32


Blog Post - Evangelical Syncretism: Seeker vs. Sinner

Man’s greatest need is not food, clothing, or shelter. The apostle Paul would say that man’s greatest need is Christ and the gospel. That is the reason he gave his life to a proclamation of the gospel of Christ.

In Romans 1:16, 17, he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’”

Every single hour someone somewhere enters an operating room and undergoes surgery at a hospital. But one is not likely to undergo surgery unless first he is convinced he needs the surgery. So it is in the spiritual realm. One may have a tremendous need, but if he does not understand the need he probably will not apply the remedy.

We will now focus upon 1:18-21, where Paul gives attention to the ‘rational’ sinner. The rational sinner reasons or rationalizes God out of his thoughts. He does not want to think about God. To think about God would be to reprove his evil deeds.

At 1:18, immediately after discussing the good news and the gospel being the power of God unto salvation, Paul turns to the wrath of God. He says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, . . .” One response that man often makes is to reject the light that God has given.

In John 3 Jesus spoke of the light that God had shed upon man and how man rejects that light: For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil (John 3:17-19).

God has turned on the light in this world. Man has light at his disposal so that he may seek after and find God. The problem is, as Jesus points out in John 3, men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Man rejects the light God has given.

If a man makes up his mind that he wants to know God, Jesus says he will know the teaching. Somehow, some way, when the sincere seeker of truth makes his search, God will bring him into contact with truth.

The problem is that the truth convicts and convinces men that they are in need of God. It convinces men that they are in rebellion against God.

The answer to rebellion is to say no to ourselves so that we can say yes to God.

That cuts across the grain of man’s pride, for in his pride he may not want to feel any need for God. Therefore, he may not want the truth. He may reject the light God has given; he may love the darkness because his deeds are evil. Verse 18 says he “suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.” He holds down the truth.

HE REJECTS THE LIGHT FROM WITHIN.

What kind of light has God revealed to man? Romans 1 gives the answer. The apostle points out that man often rejects the light from within. God has given light within every man.

Romans 1:19 (NASB) “…because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

God has placed within every human being a moral conscience. Man, therefore, is hopelessly religious. You and I do not decide whether to be religious or not.

A man may say, “I am not very religious.” He means that he may not participate in religious activities, per se. He is religious though. God made us incurably religious.

There is a longing within the hearts of all men for God. One may respond by saying, “I did not know that I had this longing within,” but it is there, nonetheless. A hunger which cannot be satisfied except by God exists in each man. Man tries to satisfy it in various ways.

Man knows that he is not happy, but he wants to be happy. There is a gnawing pain inside. He may feed upon pleasure; he may feed upon education; he may surround himself with wealth; he may strive to have power over other people.

What is he doing? He is seeking to satisfy that longing within. Of course, none of these can ever satisfy. Augustine said, “Thou has made us for Thyself, and we cannot rest until we rest in Thee.”

In Psalms 42:1, David said, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.”

It is there. We can suppress it. We can deny it. We can ignore it. But it is there.

The rational sinner wants to put God out of his thoughts. He does not want God to control his life. He wants to do his own thing, go his own way.

The longing is there, but he is justly under the condemnation or wrath of God. He is rejecting the light that God has given, the light that says, “God is, and I am indebted to Him.”

Romans 1:18 (NASB) “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…

Why is God angry with sin? Because people have substituted the truth about him with a fantasy of their own imagination (1:25). They have suppressed the truth God naturally reveals to everyone in order to believe anything that supports their own self-centered lifestyles.

HE REJECTS THE LIGHT FROM WITHOUT.

Paul also shows that the rational sinner, in seeking to put God out of his thoughts, rejects the light of creation, or the light from without.

Verse 20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen.”

The paradox can’t be missed—God’s invisible qualities are clearly seen. How? God created the world with natural processes, with cause and effect. In the same way that observing a painting leads a person to conclude that there is an artist, so to observe the tremendous creation is to conclude that there is a supreme Creator, one with eternal power and divinity (He was here first, He had the power to create, He is not human!). This is part of the truth that unsaved people are suppressing.

God is not visible to the human eye. He is invisible. But the invisible things of Him have been made manifest. How? Paul says they are clearly seen by the things that are made.

He is referring to the created world. God made a world, and this world is a testimony, a visible testimony to the invisible God.

David said in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and the firmament is declaring the work of His hands.”

Man, in his rationalism, can look at the world and say all this happened by accident. He says a big explosion occurred millions of years ago and the universe resulted. But in reaching that conclusion he is holding down or suppressing the truth about God.

The creative world declares the existence of God; it is evidence that God is. You and I are held responsible to accept that evidence and seek God.

The rational sinner who does not want to think about God rejects the light. He rejects the light within, his moral consciousness; he rejects the light without, the created world which proclaims the existence of God.

HE REJECTS THE LIGHT FROM ABOVE.

Of course, in our day we have additional evidence for God’s existence. God has spoken to man. His Word is revealed in the Bible. When one rejects the existence of God, he also is rejecting the light of God’s Word, the light from above.

The Bible is here. How are we to look upon it? Are we to consider it only as the product of a few feeble men who in their own human efforts wrote down this book that has no equal?

The evidence concerning the Bible, both internal evidence from the Bible itself and external evidence from outside the Bible, says the Bible is the Word of God.

You and I are called upon to accept that Word as a revelation from God. When we turn away from the Word we are rejecting the light. The rational sinner wants to put God out of his mind so he rejects the light God has given.

He overlooks that moral consciousness within; he bypasses the creative world which says God is, and he gives only a passing thought to the Bible as a revelation from God.

As a result of rejecting the light God’s wrath or judgment falls upon the rational sinner.

1:21 Although they knew God.NKJV Their denial of their own awareness of God is what left people without excuse. When Paul says that men knew God he is not describing a knowledge that could save them but a knowledge that simply recognized God’s existence. He was describing an awareness of God, that, if not suppressed would be nurtured by God.

   There are six judgments announced in Romans 1.

  1. First of all, Paul says, “Their foolish heart was darkened” (1:21). If one loves the darkness, God will allow him to walk in the darkness and never come to the light.
  2. Verse 22 gives the second judgment: “Professing themselves to be wise they became fools.” When one puts God out of his thoughts, he becomes a fool. “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God” (Psalms 14:1). One may even claim that God exists, but if he lives as though God does not, he is a fool.
  3. The third judgment of God is announced in verse 23: “And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image.”

When man rejects God, he turns to idolatry. In ancient times man built his own gods. He made temples to his gods. 21st century man in the Western world is too sophisticated to bow before a god of stone or wood. But he has his gods.

His god may be himself, it may be his job, or it may be possessions. If you reject God for possessions, God will allow you to go on in your idolatry.

  1. The fourth judgment of God is seen at verse 24: “God gave them up to . . . the lusts of their own hearts.” God will allow you to be consumed by your lusts if you want to be.
  2. In the fifth place, in verse 26, He gave them up to immorality: “For this cause God gave them up to their vile affections.” He speaks in these verses about homosexuality and condemns it as worthy of the judgment of God. We can try to make sin respectable if we want, but God calls it what it is—sin. If one is determined to go on in immorality, God will permit it.
  3. Verse 28 is the sixth judgment of God. Romans 1:28 (ESV)
    28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.  If you decide that you are going to reject God, that you are going to do as you please, God will give you up to do it. He will allow you to be consumed in your wickedness.

    DOWNWARD SPIRAL. Paul portrays the inevitable downward spiral into sin.

  • First people reject God
  • Next they make up their own ideas of what a god should be and do
  • Then they fall into sin—sexual sin, greed, hatred, envy, murder, fighting, lying, bitterness, gossip.
  • Finally they grow to hate God and encourage others to do so.

God does not cause this steady progression toward evil. Rather, when people reject him, He allows them to live as they choose.

God gives them up or commits them to experience the natural consequences of their sin.

Once caught in the downward spiral, no one can pull himself or herself out by themselves! Sinners must trust Christ alone to put them on the path of escape

Before you say there is no God, think seriously about the evidence for God’s existence.

Before you live as though God does not exist and has no claim upon your life, read carefully Romans 1, for it depicts the rational sinner, a description of many who are in the world today.

 

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2021 in Romans

 

A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #2 The Power of the Good News Romans 1:16-17


A quick look at any newspaper or passing glance at a weekly news magazine reminds us that in our world most news is bad and seems to be getting worse. What is happening on a national and worldwide scale is simply the magnification of what is happening on an individual level. As personal problems, animosities, and fears increase, so do their counterparts in society at large.

Human beings are in the hold of a terrifying power that grips them at the very core of their being. Left unchecked, it pushes them to self-destruction in one form or another. That power is sin, which is always bad news.

Sin is bad news in every dimension. Among its consequences are four inevitable byproducts that guarantee misery and sorrow for a world taken captive. First, sin has selfishness at its heart. The basic element of fallen human nature is exaltation of self, the ego. When Satan fell, he was asserting his own will above God’s, five times declaring, “I will…” (Isa. 14:13-14). Man fell by the same self-will, when Adam and Eve asserted their own understanding about right and wrong above God’s clear instruction (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-7).

By nature man is self-centered and inclined to have his own way. He will push his selfishness as far as circumstances and the tolerance of society will allow. When self-will is unbridled, man consumes everything and everyone around him in an insatiable quest to please himself. When friends, fellow workers, or a spouse cease to provide what is wanted, they are discarded like an old pair of shoes. Much of modern western society has been so imbued with the propriety of self-esteem and self-will that virtually every desire has come to be considered a right.

The ultimate goal in many lives today is little more than perpetual self-satisfaction. Every object, every idea, every circumstance, and every person is viewed in light of what it can contribute to one’s own purposes and welfare. Lust for wealth, possessions, fame, dominance, popularity, and physical fulfillment drives people to pervert everything they possess and everyone they know. Employment has become nothing more than a necessary evil to finance one’s indulgences. As is often noted, there is constant danger of loving things and using people rather than loving people and using things. When that temptation is succumbed to, stable and faithful personal relationships become impossible. A person engulfed in self-will and self-fulfillment becomes less and less capable of loving, because as his desire to possess grows, his desire to give withers. And when he forfeits selflessness for selfishness, he forfeits the source of true joy.

Selfish greed progressively alienates a person from everyone else, including those who are closest and dearest. The end result is loneliness and despair. Everything that is craved soon yields to the law of diminishing returns, and the more one has of it the less it satisfies.

Second, sin produces guilt, another form of bad news. No matter how convincingly one tries to justify selfishness, its inevitable abuse of things and other people cannot escape generating guilt.

Like physical pain, guilt is a God-given warning that something is wrong and needs correcting. When guilt is ignored or suppressed, it continues to grow and intensify and with it come anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, and countless other spiritual and physical afflictions. Many people try to overcome those afflictions by masking them with possessions, money, alcohol, drugs, sex, travel, and psychoanalysis. They try to assuage their guilt by blaming society, parents, a deprived childhood, environment, restrictive moral codes, and even God Himself. But the irresponsible notion of blaming other persons and things only aggravates the guilt and escalates the accompanying afflictions.

Third, sin produces meaninglessness, still another form of bad news and one that is endemic to modern times. Trapped in his own selfishness, the self-indulgent person has no sense of purpose or meaning. Life becomes an endless cycle of trying to fill a void that cannot be filled. The result is futility and despair. To questions such as, “Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What is truth?” he finds no answers in the world but the lies of Satan, who is the author of lies and prince of the present world system (cf. John 8:44; 2 Cor. 4:4). In the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay in her poem “Lament,” he can only say “Life must go on; I forget just why.” Or, like the central character in one of Jean-Paul Sartre’s novels, he may say nihilistically, “I decided to kill myself to remove at least one superfluous life.”

A fourth element in sin’s chain of bad news is hopelessness, which is the companion of meaninglessness. The consumptively selfish person forfeits hope, both for this life and for the next. Although he may deny it, he senses that even death is not the end, and for the hopeless sinner death becomes therefore the ultimate bad news.

Millions of babies are born every day into a world filled with bad news. And because of the boundless selfishness that permeates modern society, millions of other babies are not allowed to enter the world at all. That tragedy alone has made the bad news of the modern world immeasurably worse.

The tidbits of seemingly good news are often merely a brief respite from the bad, and sometimes even what appears to be good news merely masks an evil. Someone once commented cynically that peace treaties merely provide time for everyone to reload!

In his Romans letter Paul speaks of the good news in many ways, each way emphasizing a uniquely beautiful facet of one spiritual gem. He calls it the blessed good news, the good news of salvation, the good news of Jesus Christ, the good news of God’s Son, and the good news of the grace of God. The letter begins (1:1) and ends (16:25-26) with the good news.

But the essence of Paul’s letter to the Romans is that there is good news that is truly good.

The Good News was promised by God and was not a new religion made up by Paul or anyone else. It was rooted in God’s promises in the Old Testament to his people through his prophets. The gospel that Paul preached was in perfect continuity with God’s earlier words in the Scriptures to his people, Israel. Both the Jews and Gentiles in the church of Rome needed to be reminded that the gospel is an ancient message of God’s plan for his creation. This was on Paul’s mind and is a recurring theme throughout the letter.

Even though the church in Rome consisted mostly of Gentiles and former converts to the Jewish faith, Paul reminded them all that in their acceptance of the gospel they were not casting off Moses and the law in order to embrace Christ. Rather, they were discovering and responding to the outworking of God’s eternal plan. The prophets in the Old Testament announced the coming fulfillment of God’s grace in Christ. The actual fulfillment of those prophetic statements confirmed God’s involvement all along. This direct statement by Paul anticipates an important teaching that he would develop later in this letter.

Whenever we think that God’s love for us depends on our behavior or spiritual success, we put ourselves in a hopeless situation because we can never be good enough to deserve God’s love. As Paul later explains in this letter, God’s love precedes everything. All of our attempts to earn his love will fail. That’s because perfect love would require a perfect effort, clearly beyond us. It is also true that when we think of God’s love as conditional, we unwittingly transform it into something much less than love.
Conditional love is an oxymoron. God’s love is unconditional. The first delightful surprise in the gospel is that “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, nrsv). When you’re feeling spiritually dull or anxious, ask yourself, “Have I begun to think of God’s love as dependent on my effort?” Thank God for his unconditional, perfect love, and respond by living for him.

     Romans 1:15-17 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Paul now states the thesis of the epistle. These two verses express the theme of the book of Romans, and they contain the most life-transforming truth God has put into men’s hands. To understand and positively respond to this truth is to have one’s time and eternity completely altered. These words summarize the gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul then proceeds to unfold and explain throughout the remainder of the epistle. For that reason, our comments here will be somewhat brief and a more detailed discussion of these themes will come later in the study.

1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel. Verses 16 and 17 summarize the thrust of the rest of Paul’s letter and give the reason behind Paul’s missionary zeal. Paul was ready, even eager (1:15) to preach at Rome. And he was not ashamed of the gospel, even though the gospel was held in contempt by those who did not believe; even though those who preached it could face humiliation and suffering.

Paul was not intimidated by the intellect of Greece nor the power of Rome. When describing to the Corinthians the typical attitudes toward the gospel, Paul wrote, “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” (1 Corinthians 1:23 nrsv). Paul was not ashamed, because he knew from experience that the gospel had the power to transform lives, so he was eager to take it to as many as would listen. This verse marks the beginning of Paul’s extended explanation of the gospel. Reading, understanding, and applying the gospel faithfully can also bring us to that point of being unashamed of what God has said and done.

One reason that the exuberance of those first days of knowing Christ tends to fade is because of the reception from other believers as well as from the unbelieving world. Becoming ashamed of the gospel is an attitude young Christians often learn from those who have been believers the longest. Faint praise, condescending responses, and averted eyes all combine to give the young believer the subtle but crushing hint that enthusiastic comments about what Christ has done for him or her need to be toned down. Paul was eager to speak and unashamed of his message. It was life to him, and he knew it would be life to others. In what ways do you sometimes seem to be ashamed of the gospel? What young or recent believers need you to rejoice with them in their new faith?

Many believers in Christ want to keep their faith a secret, carefully avoiding situations where they might be identified as a Christian. They are afraid of being embarrassed. These feelings are based on real though often exaggerated possibilities. They cause us to be silent when we ought to speak. They cause us to be anonymous Christians in most parts of our life. Shame grows when we think:

  • People will openly ridicule our faith.
  • Friends might desert us if they know we are Christians.
  • Christians have a reputation as poor examples or hypocrites.
  • Our faith is something private rather than public.
  • Our success or achievement is worth more to us than having others know we are Christians.

Whatever the superficial reasons for being ashamed of the gospel, they all arise from misunderstanding or forgetting the radical, eternal, and awesome nature of God’s message and what it tells us about him.

It is said that if a circle of white chalk is traced on the floor around a goose that it will not leave the circle for fear of crossing the white mark. In a similar way, the chalk marks of criticism, ridicule, tradition, and rejection prevent many believers from leaving the security of Christian fellowship to witness to the unsaved.

The so-called health and wealth gospel that has swept through much of the church today is not offensive to the world because it offers what the world wants. But that spurious gospel does not offer the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the false teaching of the Judaizers, it is “a different gospel,” that is, not the gospel at all but an ungodly distortion (Gal. 1:6-7). Jesus strongly condemned the motives of worldly success and comfort, and those who appeal to such motives play right into the hands of Satan.

A scribe once approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Knowing the man was unwilling to give up his comforts in order to be a disciple, the Lord answered, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt. 8:19-20). Shortly after that, “another of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father'” The phrase “bury my father” did not refer to a funeral service but was a colloquialism for awaiting the father’s death in order to receive the inheritance. Jesus therefore told the man, “Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (vv. 21-22).

Geoffrey Wilson wrote, “The unpopularity of a crucified Christ has prompted many to present a message which is more palatable to the unbeliever, but the removal of the offense of the cross always renders the message ineffective. An inoffensive gospel is also an inoperative gospel. Thus Christianity is wounded most in the house of its friends” (Romans: A Digest of Reformed Comment [Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1976], p. 24).

It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.NIV The Greek word for power (dynamis) is the source for our words dynamite and dynamic. Dynamite was not invented by Nobel until 1867, so it is obvious that Paul did not have that specific picture in mind. Instead, the inventor of the explosive took its name from the Greek. But the parallel is instructive. The gospel can be like spiritual dynamite. Under certain circumstances it has a devastating, even destructive effect, demolishing world views and traditions—paving the way for new construction. Placed inside a stone-hard heart that is resistant to God, it can shatter the barrier. God’s power in the gospel is not only explosive; it also overcomes evil. Dynamite must be carefully handled, but it is very effective when put to its proper use. Keeping dynamite under lock and key, hidden by those who know about it, may keep it from being misused, but it also prevents the dynamite from doing what it was designed to do. The dynamite of the gospel deserves to be respectfully treated, but effectively used! Furthermore, it must never be used as a weapon, but as a constructive power.

The gospel carries with it the omnipotence of God, whose power alone is sufficient to save men from sin and give them eternal life.

People have an innate desire to be changed. They want to look better, feel better; have more money, more power, more influence. The premise of all advertising is that people want to change in some way or another, and the job of the advertiser is to convince them that his product or service will add a desired dimension to their lives. Many people want to be changed inwardly in a way that will make them feel less guilty and more content, and a host of programs, philosophies, and religions promise to meet those desires. Many man-made schemes succeed in making people feel better about themselves, but the ideas promoted have no power to remove the sin that brings the feelings of guilt and discontent. Nor can those ideas make men right with God. In fact, the more successful such approaches are from their own standpoint, the more they drive people away from God and insulate them from His salvation.

Through Jeremiah, the Lord said, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). It is not within man’s power to change his own nature. In rebuking the Sadducees who tried to entrap Him, Jesus said, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). Only the power of God is able to overcome man’s sinful nature and impart spiritual life.

The Bible makes it clear that men cannot be spiritually changed or saved by good works, by the church, by ritual, or by any other human means. Men cannot be saved even by keeping God’s own law which was given to show men their helplessness to meet His standards in their own power. The law was not given to save men but to reveal their sin and thus to drive men to God’s saving grace.

Later in Romans, Paul declares man’s impotence and God’s power, saying, “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6), and, “What the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin” (8:3). Affirming the same basic truth in different words, Peter wrote believers in Asia Minor: “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).

Paul reminded the church at Corinth that “the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18), and “we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (vv. 23-25). What to the world seems to be utter absurdity is in fact the power by which God transforms men from the realm of darkness to the realm of light, and delivers them from the power of death and gives them the right to be called the children of God (John 1:12).

Ancient pagans mocked Christianity not only because the idea of substitutionary atonement seemed ridiculous in itself but also because their mythical gods were apathetic, detached, and remote—totally indifferent to the welfare of men. The idea of a caring, redeeming, self-sacrificing God was beyond their comprehension. While excavating ancient ruins in Rome, archaeologists discovered a derisive painting depicting a slave bowing down before a cross with a jackass hanging on it. The caption reads, “Alexamenos worships his god.”

In the late second century this attitude still existed. A man named Celsus wrote a letter bitterly attacking Christianity. “Let no cultured person draw near, none wise, none sensible,” he said, “for all that kind of thing we count evil; but if any man is ignorant, if any is wanting in sense and culture, if any is a fool, let him come boldly [to Christianity]” (William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], p.21; cf. Origen’s Against Celsus). “Of the Christians,” he further wrote, “we see them in their own houses, wool dressers, cobblers and fullers, the most uneducated and vulgar persons” (p.21). He compared Christians to a swarm of bats, to ants crawling out of their nests, to frogs holding a symposium around a swamp, and to worms cowering in the muck!

Not wanting to build on human wisdom or appeal to human understanding, Paul told the Corinthians that “when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). Later in the letter Paul said, “The kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power” (4:20), the redeeming power of God.

Every believer, no matter how gifted and mature, has human limitations and weaknesses. Our minds, bodies, and perceptions are imperfect. Yet, incredibly God uses us as channels of His redeeming and sustaining power when we serve Him obediently.

Scripture certainly testifies to God’s glorious power (Ex. 15:6), His irresistible power (Deut. 32:39), His unsearchable power (Job 5:9), His mighty power (Job 9:4), His great power (Ps. 79:11), His incomparable power (Ps. 89:8), His strong power (Ps. 89:13), His everlasting power (Isa. 26:4), His effectual power (Isa. 43:13), and His sovereign power (Rom. 9:21). Jeremiah declared of God, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom” (Jer. 10:12), and through that prophet the Lord said of Himself, “I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm” (Jer. 27:5). The psalmist admonished, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:8-9). His is the power that can save.

The word dynamic also reminds us of another aspect of the gospel. While bringing spiritual life to a person, we cannot always predict the course it will take. Paul knew that Christians have the responsibility to proclaim the gospel whenever and wherever they can. Believers are not to be ashamed about its simplicity or universality—the gospel’s effectiveness can be entrusted to God. Until we are convinced that the gospel is dynamic and effective, we will tend to be ashamed to pass it on. What has the gospel done in you? If the gospel is a message you know, but not a power that has changed you, it will matter little what you do with it.

The only way to receive salvation is to believe in Christ. This offer is open to all people. The gospel is powerful because the power of God resides in it by nature. This power is not descriptive of how the gospel is effective, but a guarantee that it is effective. The gospel is the inherent power of God that gives salvation to all who accept it. Its power is demonstrated not only by accomplishing the salvation of a person, but also in its undiminished capacity to do this for everyone who believes. What then is salvation? It is the forgiveness of sins, but it goes even deeper—to a restoration to wholeness of all that sin has defaced or destroyed. And salvation can only happen when a person believes. Having made this point, Paul continues to expand on the effectiveness of the gospel in verse 17.

First for the Jew, then for the Gentile.NIV The Jews were given first invitation because they had been God’s special people for more than 2,000 years, ever since God chose Abraham and promised great blessings to his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3). God did not choose them because they deserved to be chosen (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; 9:4-6), but because he wanted to show his love and mercy to them, teach them, and prepare them to welcome his Messiah into the world. He chose them not to play favorites, but so that they would tell the world about his plan of salvation. Being first, then, is simply a statement about the order of God’s plan, rather than an indication of relative value. Paul later makes the case in Romans 4 that when God chose Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, he was still a Gentile. God chose Abraham to bring into being a nation through which he would work to bring salvation to the world. That nation came to be the Jews. The entire plan has been an expression of God’s love.

For centuries Abraham’s descendants had been learning about God by obeying his laws, keeping his sacrifices and feasts, and living according to his moral principles. Often they forgot God’s promises and requirements and had to be disciplined; but still they had a precious heritage of belief in the one true God. Of all the people on earth, the Jews should have been the most ready to welcome the Messiah and to understand his mission and message—and some of them were. The disciples and Paul were faithful Jews who recognized in Jesus God’s most precious gift to the human race (see Luke 2:25, 36-38). The Jews were given the first opportunity to receive the Messiah during his ministry on earth (John 1:11) and during the days of the early church (Acts 1:8; 3:26). Although Paul was commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), even he followed this pattern. Whenever Paul went to a new city, he recognized his obligation to carry the gospel to the Jews first (Acts 13:45-46; 28:25, 28).

1:17 In it the righteousness of God is revealed.NRSV The gospel tells us how we, sinners as we are, can be declared righteous before God; and it tells how God, who is righteous, can vindicate sinful people. What then is righteousness? This is precisely what Paul explains in detail in this letter, especially for the benefit of the Gentiles in the church who would have been unfamiliar with the concept.

The phrase righteousness of God can mean “God’s righteousness” or “the righteousness God gives those who believe.” Paul had both definitions in mind. Righteousness is an aspect of God’s character, his standard of behavior, and a description of all that he wishes to give to us. The gospel shows how righteous God is in his plan for us to be saved, and also how we may be called righteous.

This righteousness from God is the righteousness he bestows on people; in other words, it is God’s provision for justifying sinners. The way for sinners to become righteous before God is revealed in the gospel. We could not know about this righteousness were it not for the gospel. Luther defined this as a “righteousness valid before God, which a man may possess through faith.” When God declares us righteous, we have been made right with him. (See also Isaiah 46:12-13; 61:10.)

A righteousness that is by faith.NIV Our righteousness begins because of God’s faithfulness to his promises; it moves on in our response of faith and is a continuing process through life. Thus it is by faith from first to last.NIV Faith—unconditional trust—is the appointed way of receiving God’s righteousness. Faith in what? Faith in the fact that Jesus Christ took our sins upon himself, taking the punishment we deserved, and in exchange making us righteous before God. By trusting in Christ, our relationship with God is made right both for now and for eternity.

The expression by faith from first to last translates what in Greek is literally “from faith to faith.” It is also possible to translate this as “through faith for faith” (nrsv).

From faith to faith seems to parallel “everyone who believes” in the previous verse. If so, the idea is “from faith to faith to faith to faith,” as if Paul were singling out the faith of each individual believer.

In this expression some have seen Paul’s description of the development of faith from beginning to maturity. Others think that Paul might be outlining the transmission of faith from the faithful proclaimer to the faithful responder. The thrust of the phrase, however, indicates that our relationship with God begins and exists by faith. When it comes to our relationship with God, we never initiate; we always respond. We love because he first loved us. Every obedience in the Christian life is based upon a simple trust that God has set us free in Christ to love, instead of leaving us hopelessly trapped in our feeble efforts to be righteous by our own strength.

As it is written: “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”NRSV Paul is quoting from Habakkuk 2:4 this quotation is used again in Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. Righteousness by faith was not a new idea—it is found in the writings of the prophets, with which the Jewish believers would be familiar. Even though Paul was taking pains to carry out his mission of carrying the gospel to the Gentiles, he was determined to hold up its connection with the plan and promise God had begun with the Jews. Paul quotes this verse and amplifies what he means by saying that faith is from first to last.

The one who is righteous will live by faith. There are two ways to understand this statement: (1) “the righteous by faith will live”—i.e., one’s faith in God makes him righteous before God, and as a result, he has eternal life or (2) “the righteous will live by faith”—i.e., those made right with God live their Christian lives by remaining faithful to God. In summary, this expression means Christians will live because of God’s faithfulness and because of their response of faith in God; as a result, they will have eternal life and experience fullness in life.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2021 in Romans

 

A study of Romans: The Righteousness of God #1 – An Introduction


Daily Favor: State of God's Favor

As if proving that all roads did lead to Rome, the gospel born in Judea eventually made its way to the capital of the empire. It is not clear how soon the message about Christ actually arrived at Rome, but it produced results.

By the end of the second decade following Christ’s resurrection, there was an established group of Christians there. Several house-churches were probably meeting. Paul opens his letter to these Roman believers, most of whom he had never met, by explaining who he is and what his credentials are.

Almost immediately, he directs their attention to the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul knew that the resurrected Christ was the most important common denominator for him and the believers in Rome. From that common ground he introduces his plan to visit them and then plunges into one of the most detailed explanations of the Christian faith found in the Bible.

When Paul wrote to the Church at Rome he was writing to a Church with those founding he had nothing whatever to do and with which he had no personal contact at all.  That is why Romans, at first sight, seems so much more impersonal. Romans is the nearest approach to a systematic exposition of Paul’s own theological position, independent of any immediate set of circumstances.

It is as if Paul was writing his theological last will and testament, as if into Romans he was distilling the very essence of his faith and belief. Rome was the greatest city in the world, the capital of the greatest Empire the world had ever seen. Paul had never been there, and he did not know if he ever would be there.

Some have called Romans “prophylactic.” A prophylactic is something which guards against infection. Paul had seen too often what harm and trouble could be caused by wrong ideas, twisted notions, misguided conceptions of Christian faith and belief. He therefore wished to send to the Church in the city which was the center of the world a letter which would so build up the structure of their faith that, if infections should ever come to them, they might have in the true word of Christian doctrine a powerful and effective defense. He felt that the best protection against the infection of false teaching was the antiseptic of the truth.

THE OCCASION OF PAUL’S WRITING TO ROME

All his life Paul had been haunted by the thought of Rome. It had always been one of his dreams to preach there. When he is in Ephesus, he planning to go through Achaea and Macedonia again, and then comes a sentence obviously dropped straight from the heart, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome” (Acts 19:21).

When he was up against things in Jerusalem, and the situation looked threatening and the end seemed near, he had one of those visions which always lifted up his heart. In that vision the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, Paul. For as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11). In the very first chapter of this letter Paul’s desire to see Rome breaths out. “I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you” (Romans 1:11). “So, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Romans 1:15).

When he actually wrote the Letter to the Romans, the date was sometime in the year A.D. 58, and he was in Corinth.

A special question?

Suppose you had the power to change the world for the better. What would you choose to do? Would you eliminate war, crime, poverty, or ignorance? I want to tell you about one man who had such an opportunity to change the world for the better and what he chose to do.

The apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:15, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”

Paul says, “If I could make the world a better place, I would choose to bring the gospel to the world.”

On the surface, that may seem to be a rather simple answer to the problems of the world; but it is the right answer. It is the right answer because it can radically change the world for the better.

·BECAUSE OF WHO HE HAD BEEN

Why did Paul make that statement? Why did Paul want to give the gospel to the world? Basically, there are three reasons. One of the reasons he announces in Romans 1 when he says, “I am [debtor] under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (1:14, 15).

Paul believed that he was in debt to the world. The reason for his debt was that he had previously been a blasphemer and a persecutor of Jesus’ church. When the followers of Christ were being put into prison or put to death, he gave his vote against them. But he had that historical meeting with Christ and came to see that He was not an imposter at all. Saul surrendered to the will of Christ and became a penitent believer in Christ (Acts 9)

A preacher came and told him, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).

When Saul was thus obedient to Christ, he began to preach the gospel that he had once tried to destroy. Because Christ had been so gracious to him, he believed that he was indebted to every man who had not heard about Jesus. Paul, because he had been a blasphemer and a persecutor, thought of himself as the chief of sinners. He writes, therefore, to the Romans, and says, “I am debtor.”

LIABILITIES TURNED INTO ASSETS

In God’s plans, no part of our background or upbringing is wasted. As with Paul, parts of our past that seem like a liability can be used by God. It is a humbling experience to look back over life and see how God has been able to turn even the difficult situations into good. Our own past makes us a wiser mentor or more merciful counselor to others we meet along the way.

2.  BECAUSE OF WHO HE WAS

There is a second reason he wanted to bring the gospel to the world. He wanted the gospel to be preached because of who he was.

He was a servant of Jesus Christ (v. 1a). The word Paul used for servant would be meaningful to the Romans, because it is the word slave. There were an estimated 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire; and a slave was looked on as a piece of property, not a person. In loving devotion, Paul had enslaved himself to Christ, to be His servant and obey His will.

He was an apostle (v. 1b). This word means “one who is sent by authority with a commission.” It was applied in that day to the representatives of the emperor or the emissaries of a king. One of the requirements for an apostle was the experience of seeing the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1-2). Paul saw Christ when he was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9), and it was then that Christ called him to be His apostle to the Gentiles. Paul received from Christ divine revelations that he was to share with the churches.

He was a preacher of the Gospel (vv. 1c-4). When he was a Jewish rabbi, Paul was separated as a Pharisee to the laws and traditions of the Jews. But when he yielded to Christ, he was separated to the Gospel and its ministry. Gospel means “the Good News.” It is the message that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again, and now is able to save all who trust Him (1 Cor. 15:1-4). It is “the Gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1) because it originates with God; it was not invented by man. It is “the Gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1:16) because it centers in Christ, the Savior. Paul also calls it “the Gospel of His Son” (Rom. 1:9), which indicates that Jesus Christ is God! In Romans 16:25-26, Paul called it “my Gospel.” By this he meant the special emphasis he gave in his ministry to the doctrine of the church and the place of the Gentiles in the plan of God.

The Gospel is not a new message; it was promised in the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis 3:15. The Prophet Isaiah certainly preached the Gospel in passages such as Isaiah 1:18, and chapters 53 and 55. The salvation we enjoy today was promised by the prophets, though they did not fully understand all that they were preaching and writing.

1 Peter 1:10-12 (ESV) Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11  inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12  It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Jesus Christ is the center of the Gospel message. Paul identified Him as a man, a Jew, and the Son of God. He was born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25) into the family of David, which gave Him the right to David’s throne. He died for the sins of the world, and then was raised from the dead. It is this miraculous event of substitutionary death and victorious resurrection that constitutes the Gospel; and it was this Gospel that Paul preached.

He was a missionary to the Gentiles (vv. 5-7). In this setting apart Paul was aware of having received two things. In Rom 1:5 he tells us what these two things were.

(a) He had received grace. Grace always describes some gift which is absolutely free and absolutely unearned. In his pre-Christian days Paul had sought to earn glory in the eyes of men and merit in the sight of God by meticulous observance of the works of the law, and he had found no peace that way. Now he knew that what mattered was not what he could do, but what God had done. It has been put this way, “The law lays down what a man must do; the gospel lays down what God has done.” Paul now saw that salvation depended not on what man’s effort could do, but on what God’s love had done. All was of grace, free and undeserved.

(b) He had received a task. He was set apart to be the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul knew himself to be chosen not for special honor, but for special responsibility. He knew that God had set him apart, not for glory, but for toil. It may well be that there is a play on words here. Once Paul had been a Pharisee (Php 3:5). Pharisee may very well mean The Separated One. It may be that the Pharisees were so called because they had deliberately separated themselves from all ordinary people and would not even let the skirt of their robe brush against an ordinary man. They would have shuddered at the very thought of the offer of God being made to the Gentiles, who to them were “fuel for the fires of hell.” Once Paul had been like that. He had felt himself separated in such a way as to have nothing but contempt for all ordinary men. Now he knew himself to be separated in such a way that he must spend all his life to bring the news of God’s love to every man of every race. Christianity always separates us, but it separates us not for privilege and self-glory and pride, but for service and humility and love for all men.

There were probably several assemblies of believers in Rome and not just one church, since in Romans 16 Paul greets a number of “home church” groups (Rom. 16:5, 10-11, 14). We do not know for certain how these churches began, but it is likely that believers from Rome who were at Pentecost established the assemblies on their return to Rome (Acts 2:10).

There were both Jews and Gentiles in these fellowships, because Paul addresses both in this letter. 0ews: Rom. 2:17-29; 4:1; 7:1. Gentiles: Rom. 1:13; 11:13-24; 15:15-21.) The churches in Rome were not founded by Peter or any other apostle. If they had been, Paul would not have planned to visit Rome, because his policy was to minister only where no other apostle had gone (Rom. 15:20-21).

Paul’s special commission was to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (the word nations means Gentiles), and this is why he was planning to go to Rome, the very capital of the empire. He was a preacher of the Gospel, and the Gospel was for all nations. In fact, Paul was anxious to go to Spain with the message of Christ (Rom. 15:28).

· BECAUSE OF WHAT THE GOSPEL IS.

There is a third reason. He wanted the gospel to be preached because of what the gospel is. He says, “Paul, a bondservant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (1:1). The gospel is “of God.” The gospel had its origin with God Himself.

God is. The world speaks of God’s existence. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; . . .” Psalms19:1 says. Every man has within himself a consciousness, a trait that is of God. God put it there. We can know that God is from the creation and our moral consciousness.

What if God had never spoken? We could know something about God, but we would not know how to please Him. But the good news is that God has spoken. His message is in the Bible. God has spoken in these last days unto us through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-3). God has spoken and we can know His will.

The second fact about the gospel he explains in 1:2: “Which He [God] promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.” The gospel was in the mind of God from eternity. As the Old Testament unfolds its story, God begins to reveal the good news by His prophets. For example, in Genesis 3:15 the Bible promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent or Satan. This was a promise of the gospel. When God called a man by the name of Abram (Genesis 12) and told him that He would make of him a great nation, give that nation the land of Canaan in which to live, and through him all families of the earth would be blessed, He was promising the gospel.

When the prophet said, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our wellbeing fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:5, 6), a promise through the prophets of the reality of the coming of the gospel was being made.

Here is fact number three about the gospel: He says, “Concerning His Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection. . . .” (1:3, 4). The gospel centers in a person, and that person is Christ. “Jesus” emphasizes His humanity. He was a man among men. “Christ” emphasizes His deity. He is the anointed  one  of  God.

The  Christ,  Jesus  of Nazareth, was the perfect combination of humanity and deity. Paul says He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh. That is, He descended through the line of David, the greatest king in Israel. In the Old Testament, God promised David that long after his death. He would raise up one of his descendents to sit upon his throne (2 Samuel 7). The Messiah was to come through David.

But He was more than simply a man. Paul affirms that He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection. No one can reasonably deny that Jesus Christ is the Son of God if He, in fact, was raised from the dead. The evidence is that His tomb was empty. He was even seen after His resurrection. By the resurrection, He was proven to be the Son of God. No wonder Paul wanted to tell the good news of the gospel to everyone. It is God’s message. It concerns the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God. . . .” (1:16). The reason Paul wanted to tell the world about Christ was that the gospel was the power of God.

God has various kinds of power. He has creative power. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). He has sustaining power; He upholds this world by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:1-3). He has transforming power to bring a man into a proper relationship with Himself. That power is the gospel. The gospel is God’s drawing power. In John 12:32 Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” Like a mighty magnet the cross of Jesus Christ draws men to God. It is God’s saving power. Salvation meets man’s greatest need. The gospel is God’s keeping power. As man lives his life within the framework of the gospel, he is kept by the power of God to save. The gospel is the power of God.

Paul becomes more specific in 1:16 when he says the gospel is the power of God “for salvation.” Man is lost. He needs more than anything else to be saved. The gospel is the power of God to save. It is easy for a man to look at his own life and reach the conclusion, “I am a fairly good man.” But Paul tells us in 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” No one is excluded; not the worst of men, or the best of men. Unless you have always been perfect every word, thought, and deed in your life, you need the gospel. The only answer to our sin problem is the gospel.

Paul goes further. He says the gospel is the power of God for salvation “to everyone” (1:16). No one is excluded. Everyone needs the gospel; everyone is included in the gospel. If the good news of Jesus Christ were for all men except me, it would not be good news to me. If it were for all men except Americans, it would not be good news for us. When God says “to everyone,” He settles it. It is for you; it is for me; it is for all.

He also says the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone “who believes” (1:16). Belief is man’s response to God. It is man’s link with God. Let us not make the mistake of think- ing that belief is simply the attitude which says, “Okay, it is true.” Biblical belief is not falling off a log. Biblical belief is a commitment to gospel truth. Believing the truth, I commit my very life to Jesus. It is not enough to say, “I am a sinner; Christ is the Savior.” Belief in Christ says, “Lord, I am in need.

You are the answer to that need. What will You have me do?” It is complete and absolute surrender to the will of Christ. Is it not tragic that many people have come to see that they are sinful and that Jesus is the answer to sin, but they have never surrendered? Consequently, the salvation that the gospel brings has never been theirs. Belief is a commitment to gospel truth.

When you open the New Testament and find the will of Christ for your life, what will you do with it? Perhaps it is not what you have always thought. Some will reject what Christ said. They will reject it upon the basis of “I think it should be done differently.” That is not faith at all. When the will of Christ conflicts with our will, we surrender our will to Him. That is biblical faith. Do we believe? This is the bottom line of Romans 1. It is all for naught unless we believe it.

Romans is gospel-centered

One of the “great themes” which the Book of Romans expounds and emphasizes is that of the gospel. Paul’s introduction and conclusion are dominated by the theme of the gospel. Everything in between them is an exposition of the gospel. There is no other book of the Bible which so fully expounds the gospel as Romans. If you would understand the gospel, go to Romans.

Have you believed this gospel? Do you recognize that you are among the “all” who are judged to be sinners, and who are destined for God’s wrath? Do you know that Jesus Christ died so that your punishment would be His, and so that His righteousness could be yours? Have you ceased trying to earn your own righteousness and received His righteousness by faith? That is the offer of the gospel, but it is an offer that you must receive.

(1) The gospel is never understood as fully by the Christian as it could and should be. We can never hear the gospel too often. We can never understand it too well.

(2) The gospel is constantly being distorted. In our own sin, we are inclined to distort it, both in its application to ourselves, and in our representation of it to others. The gospel as defined in Romans is a standard, against which we must constantly measure our own concept of the gospel. Romans is the perfect standard; ours is the imperfect.

(3) The gospel is not only that truth by which we are saved and that truth by which others are saved as we bear witness, it is also that truth which is the standard for our daily lives. Paul said to the Colossians, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6).

Why is the gospel so important? Paul has already told us, at the beginning of his epistle. The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation,” and it “reveals the righteousness of God” (Romans 1:16-17). No wonder the gospel is so prominent in the Book of Romans.

Romans is God-centered

How often we make man the center of our “universe,” wanting to put God into orbit around us, waiting for Him to meet our needs and to make us happy and comfortable. It is God who is to be central and preeminent, not men. It is we who are to orient our lives to Him. When you read through the Book of Romans, you will be constantly reminded that it is God who is most prominently displayed here.

The character of God, in many of its facets, is displayed in Romans, such that Paul will pause to praise and adore Him for who He is (see Romans 8:31-39 and especially 11:33-36). There are many of the attributes of God described in this great Epistle, but none greater or more prominent than that of God’s righteousness.

I would like to suggest that the righteousness of God is that attribute of God’s character which makes His other attributes all the more glorious. Think of a God who is all-powerful, but who is not righteous and just. It is a horrifying thought. Power without righteousness is terrifying. Think of a God who is “loving” but who is not also righteous. This would be mere sentimentalism. A love rooted in justice is a marvelous thing. Think too of a merciful God, who was not also righteous.

The righteousness of God. What a marvelous truth. What comfort! What discomfort! May we see more and more of God’s righteousness in Romans, in the church, and in our own lives, to the praise of the glory of His grace.

 

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2021 in Romans

 

Uncommon Things We Believe #9 The Essential Nature of Baptism – Acts 2:36-39, Matthew 26:28, Romans 6:1-4


Acts 2:36-39 (NIV) “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37  When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  38  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  39  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

 Matthew 26:28 (NIV)  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Greek Word: εἰς  Transliteration: eis
Simply put, the religious world is divided over this one Greek word. Does it mean “because” or “in order to” be forgiven?

If it means “because” then someone is saved before they are baptized. If it means “in order to” it means that baptism is an act of faith that makes possible the forgiveness of sins.

The same word is used in the Acts 2 and Matthew 26 verses. IF one says we are baptized because we are already saved….does Jesus’ words also mean that we are already saved before He poured out His blood?

In baptism, one who believes that Jesus is the Christ, Lord, Savior, and Son of God (John 3:16; Acts 2:36) and has faith in His blood to forgive him of his sins (Romans 3:25) must commit himself to a new life (Romans 6:4) in order to be clothed with Jesus (Galatians 3:27) and be forgiven of his sins (Acts 2:38).

Thus, he is forgiven, is born again, and enters into the kingdom of God (John 3:5), the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), which is His church (Ephesians 1:22, 23).

 (Romans 6:1-4)  What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? {2} By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? {3} Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? {4} We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Does the water of baptism have the power to forgive sins? Is baptism only a symbol, an outward sign of an inward grace, that shows that one has been saved? Is it only a sign of dedication or an act that inducts people into a denomination?

Is baptism valid if the person being baptized neither knows the purpose and design of baptism nor understands the commitment expected of him? Is an empty ritual all that God requires of one who is seeking to be a child of God?

Has God ever required an act on the part of man involving His relationship with man devoid of a response from the heart and of an understanding of its purpose and meaning? Is one to commit himself to a new birth when he is being baptized? Must one accept baptism in the light of the meaning God has associated with it?

These questions should be answered if we are to understand what God requires of a person engaging in a physical act that has no meaning apart from the meaning God has associated with it. The only way to find the answers is to examine the Bible and let God speak for Himself.

We do not believe that baptism saves as a work that earns salvation. Romans 4:1-9 shows very clearly that we do not and cannot earn our salvation. Boasting is excluded in Christ (Rom. 3:27).

We do, however, believe that baptism saves as a work of faith that accesses salvation (Jas. 2:14-26). Naaman’s leprosy was cured by the power of God, but that power was accessed through dipping seven times in the Jordan River (II Kings 5:1-14). We believe baptism works in the same way. Belief does not earn, but it is a part of our accessing grace (Jn. 3:16).

Belief is a work (Jn. 6:28-29). Belief is part of a faithful response to God, as is repentance. The fact that God requires a response does not take away from grace.  If there were no human response required, all would be saved.

If baptism isn’t for the remission of sins…

Why did Simon Peter answer those looking to be forgiven by telling them to “… repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” (Acts 2:36-38)?

Why did the Eunuch request baptism after having Jesus preached to him, even though he was on a lonely road? Why did he rejoice after baptism rather than belief? (Acts 8:35-39)?

Why was the jailer “immediately” baptized at midnight with only his family present (Acts 16:32-33)?

Why do we never find baptism deliberately delayed in the New Testament as it often is by denominations today?

Why was the repentant, believer Paul told to “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sin calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).

Why were the Roman Christians asked to recall their baptism as the time when they had been raised to “… walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4)?

Why were those in the churches of Galatia told that they were sons of God through faith, “For as many of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27)?

Why is baptism never put after salvation in a verse, but always before?

Why is a “washing” or “water” often associated with salvation (Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26; Titus 3:5; Jn. 3:5; I Pet. 3:20-21; I Cor. 6:11)?

Why does Peter say “…baptism now saves you…” (I Pet. 3:21)?

Why do we not hear from denominational pulpits Peter’s response to those wanting to be Christians?

Why do almost all conversions in Acts mention baptism while many of those accounts do not mention belief?

Why does the Bible say that we are saved “… not by faith alone” (Jas. 2:24).

Why are we never told to “believe in Christ”, but we are told to be “baptized into Christ” (Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 6:3-4).

Why did Jesus say that “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved… ’’ (Mk. 16:16).

The Evidence Is Overwhelming.

Baptism is linked to salvation, forgiveness, newness of life, new birth, washing away sins, becoming a Christian, being clothed with Christ, being sons of God, being saved, being sanctified, regenerated, etc..

Baptism is never deliberately postponed. People are baptized in isolated circumstances and at unusual times. Belief alone is said not to save, while baptism is said to save in association with Jesus resurrection. Baptism is said to be the way “into” Christ.

Conclusion

Our “uncommon” belief is commonly found in the Scriptures. Baptism is for the remission of sins. Not in isolation, but in association with: the preaching of the Gospel, belief, repentance, confession, and most importantly the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

 

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2021 in Church, Doctrine

 

Uncommon Things We Believe #8 Instrumental Music Isn’t Authorized In the Worship of the Church Ephesians 5:18-20


(Ephesians 5:18-20)  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, {19} speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; {20} always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father…”

“WHY DON’T YOU USE MUSIC IN YOUR WORSHIP?”

Heard that before? Here’s at least a beginning answer to that important question, which certainly sets us apart from much of the religious world.

We do use music, but we don’t use musical instruments to accompany our singing.

Early Christianity included two groups of people: Jews with a background of instrumental music and pagan Gentiles who also worshipped with musical instruments. Yet when the church was established in about 33 A.D., those early Christians worshipped without such instruments.
In fact, according to Dr. F.W Mattox, a scholar of early church history, musical instruments weren’t used until the 5th century, and organ music didn’t become part of Christian worship until the 8th century.

So it seems logical, considering our goal of restoring a New Testament type Christian worship, that acappella singing would fit that model. Besides, the only musical instrument God ever created is the human voice; man created all the rest. Perhaps the purest form of musical worship on earth is found in human voices.

First, Some Clarification.

We are not opposed to instrumental music in and of itself. The issue with us has to do with the worship of the church. Many among us are quite gifted in musical abilities and play a number of instruments.

We understand that instrumental music in worship was appropriate in Old Covenant worship. Our convictions deal with the nature of New Testament worship. The Old Testament specifically commands instrumental music in the worship of Israel:

(2 Chronicles 29:25)  He stationed the Levites in the temple of the LORD with cymbals, harps and lyres in the way prescribed by David and Gad the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet; this was commanded by the LORD through his prophets.

We look for New Covenant authority for the worship of the church.

The Surprising Testimony Of History.

  1. The synagogue did not use instruments in the days of Jesus, or for 1,800 years thereafter; instruments were found only in temple worship—as commanded.
  2. There is no reference in the first 1000 years of church history to the acceptability of instrumental music and no example of its actual use.
  3. Greek speaking churches have continued to reject instrumental music in worship—Greek is the language of the New Testament.
  4. Vocal music was promoted in the early church.
  5. Ignatius (early 100’s) praised the harmony provided by joined voices.
  6. Justin Martyr (middle 100”s) spoke of God’s character being such as to deserve our words of praise.
  7. The Christianized Sibylline Oracles (100’s) extolled vocal music.
  8. Eusebius, the great church historian of the 300’s, mentions that it was the sound of Christian voices heard outside of Christian meeting places.
  9. Ambrose (late 300’s) wrote that the only time extraneous noise was absent from assemblies was when all were occupied with singing. He also spoke of how Christians sang songs and pagans played harps—if a Christian went back to such pagan ways he was said to have chosen death.

Instrumental music was rejected in the early church.

  1. Theodoret (400) said that “lifeless instruments” were “excluded from the singing in the churches, and simple singing is left.”
  2. Niceta (400) spoke to the point that the New Testament was the source of Christian worship and that it rejected instruments being used in worship.
  3. Chrysostom (late 300’s) Attributed instruments to dullness and Christian singing to enlightenment.
  4. Isidore (400’s) equated instrumental music to a state of childhood that characterized Old Testament worship.
  5. Pseudo-Clementine Writings (300’s) condemned instrumental music and classified it with drunkenness.
  6. Tertullian (about 200) condemned instrumental music in the worship of the church.
  7. Gregory of Nazianzus (mid 300’s) said, “Let us take up hymns instead of timbrels, psalmody instead of lewd dances, and songs of thankful acclamation instead  of theatrical clapping…”
  8. Arnobius (early 300’s) named virtually all the instruments known to his culture and forcefully stated that they had no place in Christian worship.
  9. The Canons of Basil (mid 300’s) equated instrumental music with the need for one to be excluded from the church.

Later church history.

  1. In 1250 Thomas Aquinas wrote that the church did not use instruments in worship.
  2. Zwingli rejected instruments in worship.
  3. Calvin spoke strongly against instrumental worship.
  4. Luther called the organ “an ensign of Baal.”
  5. Wesley said they were fine as long as they were “neither heard nor seen.”
  6. Spurgeon allowed no instruments where he preached.
  7. The term A cappella means “as done in the church.”

The Greek New Testament.

  1. In the first-century world, the Greek word psallo, the key word associated with music, had long sense come to mean “vocal music only.” This is a well documented reversal from Classical Greek. The first 400 years of church writings demonstrate this meaning without any doubt.
  2. In the Greek New Testament, when the worship of the church is associated with music, only singing is mentioned.
  3. The seven verses are (Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9; I Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Jas. 5:13; Heb. 13:15).

(Acts 16:25)  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

(Romans 15:9)  so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.”

(1 Corinthians 14:15)  So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

(Ephesians 5:19)  Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

(Colossians 3:16)  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

(Hebrews 13:15)  Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name.

(James 5:13)  Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.

  1. There are three New Testament verses that use Old Testament imagery when speaking of heaven and mention instruments (Rev. 5:8-9; 14:1-3; 15:2-3).

(Revelation 5:8-9)  And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. {9} And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

(Revelation 14:1-3)  Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. {2} And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. {3} And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

(Revelation 15:2-3)  And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God {3} and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.

  1. A metaphoric use is obvious in Revelation 14:1-3.

(Revelation 14:1-3)  Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. {2} And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. {3} And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

  1. A symbolic character is evident in Revelation 5:8-9; 15:2-3.

(Revelation 5:8-9)  And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. {9} And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

(Revelation 15:2-3)  And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God {3} and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.

Theological Considerations.

  1. The nature of Christian worship (Rom. 12:1-2; I Pet. 2:5; Jn. 4:24).

(John 4:24)  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

(Romans 12:1-2)  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. {2} Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

(1 Peter 2:5)  you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

  1. Rational service over mere emotions or feelings.
  2. Spiritual sacrifices as opposed to the carnal methods of the Old Covenant.
  3. God determines the nature of acceptable worship, not man.
  4. We must come to God on His terms (Matt. 5:4; Jn. 4:19-24).

(Matthew 5:4)  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

(John 4:19-24)  “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. {20} Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” {21} Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. {22} You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. {23} Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. {24} God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

  1. Consider Cain and Able (Gen. 4:4-8; Heb. 11:4; Rom. 10:17).

(Genesis 4:4-8)  But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, {5} but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. {6} Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? {7} If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” {8} Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

(Romans 10:17)  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

(Hebrews 11:4)  By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

  1. This is not on oversimplification—this is the heart of the issue.

ARGUMENTS FAVORING NON-USE OF INSTRUMENTS OF MUSIC IN WORSHIP

  1. AN ARUGMENT FROM HISTORY

Most feel that instrumental music has always been a part of worship because it has been around as long as they can remember. Rather like television, young people can not imagine a time without TV.

“Historical evidence shows that instrumental music was introduced into Christian worship centuries after the beginning of the church and must be rejected because it is a human innovation into N.T. Christianity” (Worship In Song, p.93, Jimmy Jividen).

Historical evidence affirms that instrumental music was not used in the early church.

  1. Was gradually introduced by the Roman Catholic Church.
  2. First used when Pope Vitalian introduced the instrument in churches in Western Europe about 660-670 A.D.
  3. Instruments were resisted at that time and was not widely used as late as 1250 A.D. during the time of Thomas Aquinas: “Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize.”

M.C. Kurfees in his book “Instrumental Music In The Worship” quotes dozens of historians which witness to the fact that the early church sang only in their worship services.

The basic opposition to instrumental music in worship is not grounded in historical evidence of human conduct.

  1. Historical evidence might not always give the complete picture.
  2. If we could establish that not one instrument was used from the 1st to the 21st centuries, that alone would not make it right or wrong.
  3. However, historical evidence argues strongly against the use of instruments of music in worship.
  4. This evidence serves to substantiate the biblical evidence that instruments were not used in worship.
  1. BECAUSE THAT IS THE WAY WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE IT, TRADITION!
  1. Because Churches of Christ have not used it makes it neither right or wrong.
  2. Tradition must not be the religious standards we look to in pleasing God.
  3. Neither do we reject something just because it is traditionally done, if it is the will of God.
  4. Both those who use and don’t use instruments do so because of tradition.
  5. Each has been reared in a fellowship that follows a certain practice.
  6. Each makes a personal decision about the right or wrong of it based on the practice of the fellowship of which they are a part.
  7. Therefore, human tradition is not a valid reason for accepting or rejecting instrumental music in worship.
  8. This is seeking truth from the wrong source.
  9. Many in the Lord’s Church can give no other reason for not using instruments than ” we just have always done it that way.”
  10. If what our fore fathers did is according to scriptures, we should do the same thing.
  11. Not because they did it, but because it is biblical.
  12. Traditions of men are neutral.
  13. Justification for religious practice can only come from Christ as revealed in Scripture.
  14. A major motivating principle of men in the Restoration Movement in the United States was rejection of human traditions.
  15. Their cry was “Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible in silent.”
  16. Our faith must rest upon the word of God, not the traditions of our fathers.
  1. A CAPELLA IS THE BEST MUSIC!

Some say, “the best argument against instrumental music is good singing.” If one means by this that pleasing God is the best practice, this would be true.

However, this is not usually the point being made. Many try to justify instruments because of poor quality of singing.

Instruments cannot make up for improper singing as they constitute different actions. God is not interested in the quality of singing, but the quality of the heart producing the singing.

This line of reasoning could be carried on to the Lord’s Supper. Adding fried chicken would make the Lord’s Supper more enjoyable. Chicken is more attractive to outsiders than grape juice and unleavened bread.

An appeal to experience or taste is never a valid authority for religious practice. The criterion for good singing is not whether it pleases men or not, but does it please God?

  1. APOSTOLIC EXAMPLE!
  1. No question but apostolic example was singing without instruments in Christian worship.
  2. But, first must decide what is apostolic example and how apostolic example teaches.
  3. An example is an “action” taken by individuals or churches which has been recorded in the N.T.
  1. Not all examples recorded in the N.T. have Divine approval.
  2. There are bad examples such as Herod putting Peter in prison, Ananias & Sapphira lying to God and Peter refusing to eat with the Gentiles.
  3. There are neutral examples like Christians meeting on third floor of a building, preaching until midnight, going to the temple to pray, etc.
  4. There are examples which do not have the force of a command, but show reasonable and sensible ways churches and individuals functioned.
  5. Church at Antioch fasted, prayed and laid hands on Barnabas and Saul as they sent them out to preach the gospel (Acts 13:1ff).
  6. A special prayer meeting was held for Peter while he was in jail (Acts 12:12).
  1. The mere presence of an example does not mean that it is required nor the absence of an example mean that it is forbidden.
  1. If an action is recorded in the N.T. with obvious approval, it shows that such is right in such a circumstance.
  1. An approved apostolic example means that an action has apostolic sanction.
  1. It must be something that was witnessed with approval by an inspired apostolic person.
  1. As is true with the other three arguments against the use of instrumental music in worship, apostolic example alone does not prove the point one way or the other.
  1. The Christian concerned with doing the will of God and edifying his brethren should be concerned with two things:
  1. There is full and sufficient authority for worship in song, such is plain in the N.T. and this should be what we teach and practice.
  2. There is no N.T. authority for instrumental music in Christian worship.
  3. Such cannot be found by commands, examples or necessary inference.
  4. The question is not “Where does the Bible condemn it?”, but rather “Where does the Bible authorize it?”

CONCLUSION

  1. These four arguments are commonly used to reject instrumental music in Christian worship.
  2. Rejecting instruments in worship does not solely rest on these arguments.
  3. True, the cumulative evidence of these arguments would make its use highly questionable.
  4. We must go to the word of God for the real answer

What About Instruments in the Old Testament?

by Wes McAdams

As most people already know, I take the presently unpopular position that mechanical instruments have no place in Christian worship. However, every time I write on this subject someone inevitably asks, “What about the instruments in the Old Testament?” That is a great question. As the argument goes: If God authorized instruments under the Old Law, then without some kind of New Testament prohibition against them, why would anyone teach they are not allowed today? I believe if the average person understood the context in which instruments were authorized in the Old Testament, they would understand why they have no place in the church.

There are a few isolated instances of instrument playing about which we are not told if God approved (ex. 2 Samuel 6:5-8). But there are some who claim God only tolerated – and never authorized – instruments in the temple worship. They claim David alone was responsible for their introduction. Yes, the instruments of the temple were often called “the instruments of David,” but it is specifically stated that David had God’s authorization to implement the instruments in the temple worship:

“And [Hezekiah] stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet, for the commandment was from the Lord through his prophets” (2 Chronicles 29:25).

As you can see, it is made pretty clear that “the commandment was from the Lord.”

We often make blanket statements like, “God approved of instruments in the Old Testament.” It would actually be more accurate to say God approved of certaininstruments in the Old Testament. The commandment “from the Lord through his prophets” was that specific instruments be played in the temple worship. Whenever reformers, like King Hezekiah, restored temple worship to its intended state, they would go back to the “commandment” God gave David through the prophets.

Undoubtedly, there were other instruments in existence that could have been added to the worship, but they did not presume to add to the Lord’s command. To bring in an instrument that had not been commanded would have been sinful. It would have been like the “unauthorized fire” offered by Nadab and Abihu, for which they “died before the Lord” (Numbers 3:4).

Again, when people speak of Old Testament worship with instruments they seem to imply that anyone could have played an instrument to the Lord in worship. However, the truth is that only the Levites were authorized to be stationed in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, lyre, and trumpets.

People from other tribes – regardless of their musical ability or desire – were not authorized to play with the Levitical musicians. For someone else to have been so presumptuous would have been similar to King Uzziah’s burning of incense in the temple, for which he was struck with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-23).

Amos, the shepherd turned prophet, was sent to the Northern Kingdom of Israel to rebuke and admonish them. Israel, in order to keep people from traveling to Jerusalem in Judah, built their own temples in Israel. These temples were not authorized places of worship and their priests were not Levites. Their lives and their worship were extremely paganistic. And although they still attempted to worship Jehovah God, they did so in an unauthorized fashion.

Amos was sent to tell them God was not pleased:

“Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen” (Amos 5:22-23).

“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music” (Amos 6:4-5).

As we’ve already seen, David had been authorized to appoint Levites to play harps. However, Israel was not authorized to do what they were doing. As the New Living Translation puts it, these musicians of Israel “fancied themselves” to be like David. They were presumptuous enough to believe they could do whatever they wanted in worship and God would be pleased.

As you can see, God authorized only the Levites to worship with certain instruments and only in the temple worship. And surely we know that the temple and its worship were “a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1). In Christ, we are the temple (1 Corinthians 3:16), we are all priests (1 Peter 2:5), and we offer up – not the sound of clanging symbols or lifeless strings but – “a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15). Our hearts are the instruments we play (Ephesians 5:19).

God does not have to specifically prohibit the use of instruments in the church today anymore than He has to prohibit the burning of incense, the priestly robes, or any of the other parts of the temple worship. We understand that these things have passed away. A great number of notable theologians over the centuries have understood this and have opposed the use of mechanical instruments.

I believe John Calvin said it well,

Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists therefore, have foolishly borrowed, this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing to him” (John Calvin, Commentary on Psalm 33). 

  1. God Replaced the Physical with the Spiritual
  2. God Rebuked Unauthorized Music
  3. God Authorized Specific Musicians
  4. God Authorized Specific Instruments
  5. God Authorized Instruments
 
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Posted by on May 20, 2021 in Church, Doctrine

 

Ecclesiastes: The Good Life #15 Life’s Final Exam – Ecclesiastes 12:9-14


Your Purpose Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

As we prepare to conclude our study in Ecclesiastes, we are going to be given a final exam. I want you to picture King Solomon at the front of the classroom, passing everyone a copy of the test. “Let’s test your wisdom,” he declares.

“Use a number two pencil, and keep your eyes on your own scroll. The test is going to cover all twelve chapters of Ecclesiastes. You’ll be asked about life, death, pleasure, suffering, food, work, money, poverty, wisdom, foolishness—pretty much everything ‘under the sun.’”

“That’s a lot of material,” you whisper in panic to the fellow in the next seat. “What if I don’t have a clue?” “Whenever you don’t know one, the probable answer is ‘vanity,’” your friend whispers back. “This works every time. When I’m stumped I just write, ‘Life is filled with such questions that can’t be answered. This too is vanity.’

Teacher likes that one.” You mutter, “I hope he was serious when he said that true wisdom is realizing how much we don’t know. If he sticks to that one, I’ll get an A.”

Interestingly, in Solomon’s final exam, he reverses the expected formula. For Solomon it is exam first, lessons later. In school, we study and then take an exam. Solomon claims that in the real world we face the exam, and then we study.495 In Eccl 12:9-14, the final six verses of the book, Solomon gives us two homework assignments to pass life’s exam.

1. Take God’s Word seriously (12:9-12).

In this first section, we will be reminded of the awesome power of God’s Word. Specifically, in 12:9-10 we discover the time, energy, and skill that went into the writing of Ecclesiastes. Solomon writes, “In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly.” Some scholars believe that 12:9-14 are the words of an editor that came along after Solomon penned this great book. Yet, it is more likely that in these verses Solomon speaks in the third person.

Practically speaking, this is a simple way of boasting in God’s Word without coming across in an arrogant fashion. In 12:9-10, Solomon describes four activities of a wise sage. These activities are not just true of Solomon, but should be true of all Christian teachers and leaders. As you read through these activities, ask yourself how you can improve in each of these areas.

A wise person faithfully teaches people knowledge. Solomon “taught people knowledge.” He could do so because he was a “wise man.” He became “wise” by growing old and learning from his experiences. Nothing teaches like life. This is why we say to wise and mature twenty and thirty year olds, “You are wise beyond your years.” It’s because you can read all the books that you want, but life is the ultimate teacher. Solomon says that those who have lived long and experienced life now have a duty to impart the wisdom learned to the next generation.

The goal ought to be to keep future generations from making mistakes. So why is it that these groups never seem to cohabitate? Both parties can be guilty of pride and arrogance. The youth love to pretend that they don’t need help, despite the fact that their world is falling apart at the seams. The wise assume that the youth are just supposed to know how to do life. Furthermore, there are natural apprehensions and fears that keep the wise and young separate.

Many young folks are scared to approach an older, wiser person. Many older, wiser folks do not feel like they have anything to offer anyone. Today, these trends must change. If you are an older, wiser person, will you commit to be a mentor? If you are a young person, will you seek out those who can help you?

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of a young pastor who rose to preach on Psalm 23. He gave it his best effort but never connected with the audience. Afterward, an old man got up to speak. He bowed his head, his hands quivering, and his body worn from years of hard work. Gripping the podium, he began to recite, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

As he finished the audience sat in deep silence, profoundly moved. When the young pastor asked the old man why his words had made such a difference, the old man said simply, “You know the psalm, I know the Shepherd.” The truth is some things are learned only through experience.496

1 Kgs 4:32 informs us that Solomon wrote thousands of proverbs. A proverb is an earthly saying containing heavenly truth. The word’s basic meaning is “to be straight” (cf. 1:15; 7:13). It’s distilled wisdom, a practical word for a complicated world. Proverbs are God’s “sound bites.”498 The term “proverbs” refers to the entire book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon did not merely share with people the first thing that came into his head. He thought before he spoke.

He spent time searching out what he was going to teach. This activity is part of the editing/compiling process, which took place over many years. This implies a labor of study. Solomon’s work is similar to a description of a scribe’s work in Ezra 7:10: study, practice, teach. If you are a leader or teacher, does this describe you? Do you take God’s Word seriously? Even if you don’t consider yourself a teacher or leader, as a Christian we are all to understand God’s Word for ourselves (Acts 17:11). How are you presently fulfilling your responsibility?

A wise person effectively communicates. Solomon “sought to find delightful words.” He had a sense of God’s presence and power, using them to communicate His will to others. Furthermore, he was on a quest to articulate God’s Word to others. It was not enough to have knowledge. It was not even enough to have it arranged intelligently. The Preacher also labored to speak in a pleasing manner. The NIV says that he picked “just the right words.”

He gave thought and effort to communicating in a way that would capture the attention of his readers. In your class or small group, do you seek to craft your words in a way that people can hear? Do you work hard at perfecting your speech and content? Or are you currently satisfied with your abilities? It has been said, “A teacher is someone who talks in other people’s sleep.” My prayer is that this is not true of any teacher or leader in our church. Even if you are not a formal teacher or leader, in your conversations do you seek to be an effective communicator? Is your speech gracious and seasoned with salt (Col 4:6)? Is it filled with grace and truth (John 1:14)?

A wise person correctly presents truth. Solomon “sought to write words of truth correctly.” He had a sense of God’s presence and power, using them to communicate His will to others. Furthermore, he was on a quest to communicate truth. We live in a relativistic age. People have bought into the idea that truth is relative. We hear that something might be “true” to one person but not true to another. The Bible knows nothing of such a concept. Truth IS.

A style of teaching means nothing without truth. A lie all dressed up in eloquence is still a lie. This tells me something important about the book of Ecclesiastes. In spite of its often dark and gloomy view, it is a book that teaches truth. It is written to give us a realistic view of life that, as a result, we might live for the Lord.

Think about it. Most cults do not outwardly reject God’s Word, but they offer new revelations that add to God’s Word. Most cults are begun by founders disenchanted with the existing church and its beliefs, so they formulate distinctive doctrines to give them a new identity. Individuals do the same. More than ever, people are viewing God’s Word like a buffet line in a restaurant, taking what they like—maybe a little bit of what is good for them—and leaving the rest for someone else. In effect, the diet a person receives is more a matter of what is palatable to them than what will truly nourish them.499

Yet, Vance Havner said, The Word of God is either absolute or obsolete.” Will you proclaim the truth regardless of the consequences? Will you refuse to compromise?

In 12:11-12, Solomon continues to describe how Ecclesiastes can be used in people’s lives. In 12:11 he writes, “The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given500 by one Shepherd.” Solomon states that the words of Ecclesiastes are powerful.501 He uses two memorable metaphors that refer to how Ecclesiastes stimulates us to action.502 “Goads” are long wooden rods with an iron point used for driving oxen and other animals.503 A goad is poked at the animal to make him move in the desired direction. It represents moral guidance and stimulus in human affairs.504

Nails were used by shepherds to fasten their tents. They are hammered to keep something in place. Goads are designed to motivate the sluggish and nails are intended to secure the drifting.505 The book of Ecclesiastes (and the whole of Scripture) accomplishes both of these purposes. It “afflicts the comfortable and it comforts the afflicted.” If you are comfortable with your life, God’s Word acts as a goad to move you out of your comfort zone. It pushes you to do those things you ought to do.506 If you are burdened and tossed to and fro by the winds of life, it provides a haven of stability.507

Ecclesiastes has this type of power because the book is “given by one Shepherd.” In the Old Testament, the title “shepherd” is often used of God.508 Solomon is saying that his words are given straight from God. This is a very strong argument for the inspiration of Ecclesiastes. It seems clear that Solomon went out of his way to emphasize this doctrine because he figured many would have problems with his book. Boy, was he ever right! Some have felt that this book should not have been canonized because of some of the seemingly contradictory verses that appear. But Solomon is clear that this book is from God and it can be trusted in its entirety.

This book has impacted me more than any other book I’ve studied. It has taught me more about contentment, the brevity of life, and priorities than any other book of the Bible.

Solomon concludes this section in 12:12 with these words: “But beyond this, my son,509 be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.”510 This is a favorite verse for high school and college students who are weary of study. But Solomon isn’t telling us not to love and appreciate books. If he was, I would be in deep trouble. The contrast is not between the study of canonical versus noncanonical wisdom but between failure to appreciate wisdom on the one hand and excessive zeal for study on the other.511

Solomon is warning us that we shouldn’t study other books to the exclusion of Scripture. Other books were given for our information, but the Bible was given for our transformation.512 I don’t read many secular works. It’s not that they’re bad; it’s that they’re just eye candy to me. Every time I start reading something outside the Bible, I think about what I am missing: words of eternal life. It’s like that commercial tagline: “I could’ve had a V8.” I could’ve been reading Ecclesiastes.513 I challenge you to make sure that you are consistently reading God’s Word and prioritizing God’s Word over other reading. Do you read the newspaper before you read the Bible? Do you check your email or your favorite web page instead of reading the Bible? We need to be careful not to put human writings above the divine Word of God.

[Why should we take God’s Word seriously? Because God’s Word is powerful and can make an eternal difference in the lives of people. The second homework assignment that Solomon gives is…]

2. Consider God’s judgment appropriately (12:13-14).514

In the final two verses, Solomon urges us to prepare for judgment day by fearing God and keeping His commands. These two verses summarize the book of Ecclesiastes and ultimately the whole of Scripture. In 12:13, the teacher writes these pointed words: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments,because this applies to every person.” To “fear God and keep His commands” are not suggestions or options—they are commands! Solomon commands you and me to fear Him and obey His commands. In other words, take God seriously and do what He says.515 But we need to look at this a little more carefully.

First, the phrase “fear God” is terribly misunderstood and rarely proclaimed; however, it is paramount throughout the Scriptures.516 The Bible speaks of our love to God, His name, His law, and His Word, a total of 88 times. This breaks down to 45 references in the Old and 43 references in the New Testament. The Bible speaks of our trusting in God, His name, and His Word, 91 times. This breaks down to 82 times in the Old and 9 times in the New Testament.517

When we come to the subject of the fear of God, the Bible speaks of it 278 times! I am referring to all of the places in Scripture where it speaks of men fearing God, His name, His Law, or His Word. In the Old Testament there are 235 references to the fear of God. In the New Testament there are 43 references to the fear of God, which, by the way, is the same number of references as man’s love to God.518 So whatever the phrase “fear God” means, it is everywhere throughout the Bible, therefore, it is critical for us to understand.

Typically, the “fear of God” is defined as “reverential awe.” There is truth to this definition as it pertains to God as Creator. God wants us to stand in awe of who He is and all that He is. But our definition of the fear of God must also encompass His judgment (see 12:14). This leads us to also include in our definition downright fear or terror. If you and I understand that our God is a consuming fire that is able to destroy both body and soul in hell and that as believers we will give an account of our lives to Jesus Christ,519 we will have some holy fear. But many of us do not fear God.

What do we fear? Among the top ten fears of parents are saving for retirement, dying before the children are grown, gas prices, the threat of terrorism, and traffic.520 It seems that we fear everything and everyone but God. This is sheer insanity!

Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) once said, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”521 This is the way the believer should live.

In Prov 1:7 Solomon writes, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” In Isa 66:2b the Lord declares, “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” The man or woman that God uses most powerfully is the one who expresses both awe and obedience. God longs for you and me to humble our hearts and prostrate our souls before Him. If you and I are to fear God properly, we must have a high view of God.

Many years ago, A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

Second, to “keep His commandments” is to obey the Law.522 Fortunately for us, Jesus summed up the commandments into one central, basic command: “To love the Lord your God” and “your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:34-40). This is the chief end of humankind. This phrase literally reads, “because this is all of man” or “because this is the all of man.” The implication is that “this is the whole duty of man.”523

If you know me very well, you know that I am not a handyman. Honestly, I’m a complete moron when it comes to doing much of anything. Whenever I have to do anything, I can’t experiment or hope that I find my way. I have to follow the instructions. I am always so impressed with men who can just toss the directions and dive right into a project. Yet, I have seen such men confound themselves and have to return to the discarded directions. Similarly, God created life and He alone knows how it should be managed. He wrote the “instruction manual” and wise is the person who reads and obeys. “When all else fails, read the instructions!”

So why are we called to fear God and obey His commands? In 12:14 Solomon states, “For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden,524whether it is good or evil.”525Winston Churchill’s (1874-1965) epitaph reads, “I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”

Apparently, Churchill did not understand the fear of God and the judgment that is awaiting him. The Bible teaches that there is an appointed day of judgment where we will have to give an account of our lives. Through the Lord Jesus Christ, God will hold us accountable for our thoughts, motives, words, and deeds.526 Everyone is answerable to God for everything, whether obvious or concealed, good or evil.

I find it mildly horrifying that even the hidden things will be judged. The implication is that the glory and reward we enjoy on earth and in eternity will depend on the lives we live here on earth. The natural and inevitable conclusion is that you and I had better live our lives appropriately in light of God’s judgment.

I know many people who struggle with questions of right and wrong—especially in those areas for which we have no explicit guidance in the Bible. They truly want to please the Lord, but worry about their daily decisions. Here’s a simple question that will replace many of the dos and don’ts: Can I do this to God’s glory? That is, if I do this, will it enhance God’s reputation in the world? Will those who watch me know that I know God, from my behavior? Or will I simply have to explain this away or apologize for it later.527

For years, the opening of ABC’s The Wide World of Sports illustrated “the agony of defeat” through the painful ending of an attempted ski jump. The skier appeared in good form as he headed down the slope, but then, for no apparent reason, he tumbled head-over-heels off the side of the jump and bounced off the supporting structure. What viewers didn’t know was that he chose to fall. Why?

As he explained later, the jump surface had become too fast, and midway down the ramp he realized that if he completed the jump, he would land on the level ground, beyond the safe landing zone, which could have been fatal. As it was, the skier suffered no more than a headache from the tumble. The fear of the slope, the fear of flying too high, and the fear of the fall led him to change course.529

In the same manner, a proper fear of God ought to lead to a course correction. For this passage and the entire book of Ecclesiastes teaches that the fear of God leads to life. A biblical fear of God will lead to life in this world and the world to come. If you think you have been enjoying life, but haven’t been fearing God, think again. The fear of God leads to life…and only the fear of God will lead to life. Today, is there an area of your life that the Lord wants to correct? Will you respond to His goads and nails? Will you rest in your Shepherd and trust that He alone can satisfy you?


495 David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 301-302.

496 Ray Pritchard, Something New Under the Sun: Ancient Wisdom for Contemporary Living (Chicago: Moody, 1998),

292-293.

497 The verb “pondered” (azan) is only used here in the OT, but it comes from the same root that comes from “to give ear to.”

498 Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 303.

499 Wayne Schmidt, Soul Management (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 216.

500 The verb “given” (nathan) is often used in Ecclesiastes to refer to God’s activity (cf. 1:13; 2:26; 3:10; 5:18, 19; 6:2; 8:15; 9:9; 12:7, 11).

501 Heb 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” In 2 Tim 3:16-17, Paul writes, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

502 Goads are temporary; while nails are permanent.

503 The form darebonah (“goads”) is found only here.

504 Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs: New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman, 1993).

505 Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Ecclesiastes: Total Life (Chicago: Moody, 1979), 124.

506 Wisdom Literature was to be a guide and discipline from God to challenge and encourage humans in this life and point them to the next.

507 Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).

508 See Gen 48:15; 49:24; Ps 23:1; 80:1; 95:7; Isa 40:11; Jer 31:10; Ezek 34:11. Jewish tradition identifies “the one shepherd” with Moses (i.e., Targums, Rashi). However, Moses is never called shepherd, but he does carry the “rod of God” (shepherd’s staff). Moses also warned of not adding or taking away from God’s revealed truths (cf. Deut 4:2; 12:32).

509 In Israel’s Wisdom Tradition the teacher was called “father” and his male students “sons” (cf. Prov 1:8; 4:1).

510 The verbal “excessive” (lahag) is used twice in this verse: (1) making of many books; (2) excessivedevotion.

The noun is found only here in the OT. In Arabic it means “to be devoted,” “to be attached,” or “to apply oneself assiduously to something.” It is uncertain if (1) the writing; (2) compiling; or (3) study of books is the focus of the warning. The problem is that human wisdom is helpful, but not ultimate!

511 Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs

512 Ruth Bell Graham was once asked the best way to become wise. Her reply, “Read, read, read—but use the Bible as home base.” Quoted in Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 305.

513 Tommy Nelson, The Problem of Life with God (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002), 199.

514 Some scholars argue that Eccl 12:13-14 was added by some late redactor wanting to make sure Ecclesiastes remained in the scriptural canon. Yet, there is no manuscript evidence to suggest that this alleged pious ending was dropped into place. All available manuscripts reflect the present ending, so the supposition of its being an addition must remain just that: a supposition. See Walter C. Kaiser, Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997, c1996), 296.

515 To “fear God” is one of the major themes of wisdom literature in the OT:

  • Job 28:28: “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’”
  • Psalm 111:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”
  • Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

516 The admonition to “fear God” is a repeated theme (cf. Eccl 3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 8:12-13).

517 We shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming that because it is mentioned so many times in the OT, that it is not really important today, we must understand that the NT assumes what the OT has already established. So, the NT assumes such virtues as trusting in God because it was clearly taught in the OT.

518 See David Fairchild, “Well-Driven Nails” (Eccl 12:9-14): http://www.kaleochurch.com/sermon/Well-driven-Nails.

519 Heb 12:29; Matt 10:28; 2 Cor 5:10.

520 “The Parenting Fear Factor”: http://www.sermonnews.com/MembersOnlyStory.asp?ID=1143. Data collected from Little Grad, the Saving for College Company.

521 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Satisfied, Electronic Ed.

522 The terms “fear” and “commandments” appear together in Ps 112:1. Some question whether the phrase “keep His commands” is in keeping with Solomon’s theology. However, a review of Ecclesiastes reveals exhortations to obey the king’s commands (8:5a; cf. 8:2), which is akin to submitting to God. Furthermore, the motivation to obey the king (8:5b-6a) is the same motivation to fear God—impending judgment (12:14; cf. 3:15b, 17; 11:9c).

523 The Westminster Confession captures the same essence of this statement when it says, “This is the chief end of man.”

524 The verb “hidden” (alam) refers to intentional and unintentional sins (cf. Ps 19:12; 90:8; 139:23-24).

525 Glenn argues that this judgment only refers to earth and not eternity. Donald R. Glenn, “Ecclesiastes” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton: Scripture Press/Victor, 1985), 1006-7.

526 This anticipates Paul’s words in 2 Cor 5:10 where he writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

527 Pritchard, Something New Under the Sun, 306.

528http://www.coramdeofellowship.com.

529 Preaching Today citation: Jeff Arthurs, “Clearing the Debris,” PreachingToday.com.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2021 in Ecclesiastes

 

Uncommon Things We Believe #7 We Don’t Believe That Jesus Will Reign On Earth For 1,000 Years Revelation 20:1-6


(Revelation 20:1-6)  And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. {2} He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. {3} He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. {4} I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. {5} (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. {6} Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

We do believe that Jesus will return, but we do not believe He is coming to reign on earth for 1000 years.

2 Peter 3:8-13 teaches that the return of Christ will bring the destruction of the earth.

(2 Peter 3:8-13)  But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. {9} The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. {10} But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. {11} Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives {12} as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. {13} But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

I Thessalonians 4:13-18 shows that when Jesus returns the righteous will join Him in the air.

Revelation 20 is the scripture used by Pre-Mil to establish their doctrine of the 1,000 year reign of Christ. Pre-millennialism is the view of the “last things” which holds that the second coming of Christ will be followed by a period of world-wide peace and righteousness, before the end of the world, called “the millennium” or “the kingdom of God” during which Christ will reign as King in person on this earth.” (J.G. Vos)

We need to see that Revelation 20 does not teach an earthly reign of Christ. Christ is now King, reigning on David’s throne in Heaven. What this passage DOES NOT mention:

  • A second coming of Christ.
  • A bodily resurrection
  • A reign on earth.
  • The literal throne of David.
  • Jerusalem or Palestine
  • Us – you and me
  • Christ on earth

Literal or figurative – which?

Revelation is a book of symbols, figures, and signs. Signs, symbols, and types do not signify, symbolize and typify themselves. It is a violation to make literal application of the figurative imagery of Revelation.

Books like Revelation are clearly figurative in nature (Rev. 1:20).  To say that the “1,000 years” of Revelation 20:1-6 is literal while the “chain,” “dragon,” and “serpent” are said to be figurative is a style of interpretation that does not convict.

PREMILLENNALISM- WILL JESUS REIGN ON EARTH FOR 1,000 YEARS?

IS CHRIST NOW REIGNING ON DAVID’S THRONE?  (Acts 2:22-36)

  1. Old Testament prophecies concerning reign of Christ (Psa. 110:1; Dan. 7:13-14; 2 Sam 7:12-16; Isa. 55:3; Amos 9:11-12; Zech. 6:12-13).
  2. New Testament fulfillment of these prophecies.
    1. Psalms 110:1 – Acts 2:34-36
    2. Daniel 7:13-14 – Acts 2:32-33. Jesus received the Kingdom when he ascended into heaven – not when He comes back.
    3. 2 Samuel 7:12-16 – Acts 2:29-30. Peter argued that Christ was on David’s throne now in heaven.  This was to be done while David was in the tomb, not after his resurrection.
    4. 55:3 – Acts 13:32-38
    5. Amos 9:11-12 – Acts 15:13-18
      1. Setting up of tabernacle is the establishment of the Church and the admission of Gentiles.
      2. A descendant of David (Jesus) would be seated on David’s throne when the tabernacle was restored (built).
      3. Thus Christ was sitting on David’s throne at that time and the Gentiles were being admitted to it.
      4. If this is future – then no Gentiles can have salvation now.
    6. 6:12-13 – 1 Cor. 3:16; Eh. 2:19-20; Heb. 1:3, 8; Acts 2:36; Heb. 4:14-16; 8:4.
      1. The branch is Christ – Isa. 11:1; Romans 15:12
      2. Will build the temple – Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Cor. 3:16 – Church is the Temple
      3. Sit on His throne – Acts 2:34
      4. Rule on His throne – Heb. 1:8
      5. Priest on His throne – Heb. 8:4; 7:14)

Christ cannot be a priest on earth.

Christ is a priest on His throne.

Therefore His throne cannot be on earth.

Christ is priest on His throne now.

Christ is priest in Heaven now.

Therefore His throne is in Heaven now.

  • New Testament teaching about reign of Christ.
    1. 1 Cor. 15:25 – must reign till…death is destroyed. Then deliver Kingdom back to Father (1 Cor. 15:24).
    2. 1:20-21 – Sit at right hand in Heavenly places.
    3. 1 Timothy 6:15 – King of Kings.
    4. John 18:37 – Jesus was born to be King.
  1. CHRIST’S THRONE NOT ON EARTH!
    1. 22:28-30 –Coniah or Jeconiah
      1. Coniah last King of Judah.
      2. No more descendents of Choiah ever sat on the throne of David, ruling in Judah.
      3. Yet, Jesus is a descendant of Coniah (Matt. 1:12-16).
      4. Conclusion:

Since Christ is the seed of Coniah, and since no man of Coniah’s seed can set on David’s throne and rule any more in Judah, it follows that Jesus Christ cannot occupy the throne of David on earth.

But, since Jesus Christ is said to occupy David’s throne, and since the throne is not on earth, it follows that Jesus is reigning on David’s throne in Heaven.

WHAT ABOUT ISRAEL AND THE JEWS? (Acts 28:16-20)

M.R. DeHaan said, “Following the Rapture of the church, God will gather Israel into Canaan, rebuild the temple, re-establish the Old Testament form of worship and sacrifices. Christ then appears to set up the earthly kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital.

Hal Lindsey – “Late Great Planet Earth” pp. 42-47. Uss Matthew 24 to teach a rebuilt temple. Israel restored to her land. Sacrificial system and Sabbath re-instituted.

According to Pre-Mill., the land promises God made to Israel have not been fulfilled, and were eternal in nature.

Questions to be answered:

  1. WHAT WERE THE PROMISES GOD MADE TO ISRAEL? (Gen. 12:1-7; 13:14-17).

God promised Abram:

  • A new land.
  • Would be a great nation
  • God would bless him and make his name great
  • Through Abram, all families of the earth would be blessed.
  • Physical and spiritual blessings.

What land was promised?

  • The land he traveled to upon the command of God (Gen. 12:6-7).
  • The larger land of Canaan (Gen. 15:18; Ex. 23:30-31) to the river Euphrates.
  • Promises made to Abraham and His seed (Gen. 17:8; Ex. 6:4-8).

 

 II. HAVE THESE PROMISES BEEN FULFILLED?

  1. Land of Promise has been fulfilled (Deut. 1:7-8; Joshua 21:43-45; 2 Samuel 8:3; 2 Chron 9:26; Neh. 9:7-8). When was this promise fulfilled?
  • Following the bondage in Egypt as Moses let Israel to and Joshua lead them into the Canaan Land.
  • Abraham himself received not one foot of Canaan – but his seed did.
  • Pre-Mill. say that Abraham must be raised from the dead to enter millennial kingdom in order to possess the land.
  • Stephen said “the time drew near” while Israel was in Egyptian bondage (Acts 7:17).

III. WERE LAND PROMISES CONDITIONAL OR UNCONDITIONAL?

  1. Pre-Mill. Say unconditional (Gen. 17:7-8). “Everlasting covenant”
    1. Word translated “everlasting” means “age-lasting.” Same for Sabbath and other O.T. rituals which are not kept today.
    2. As long as Law of Moses lasted, these things lasted. When Law of Moses ended, these things ended.
  2. Notice the conditions of keeping the land (Deut. 8:19-20; 28:29-30, 63, 64; Josh. 23:14-16; 1 Kings 9:3-7).
  3. Israel lost their land.
    1. Northern Kingdom carried away by Assyria.
    2. Southern Kingdom carried away by Babylon (2 Chron. 36:17-19).
  4. Restoration promises (Deut. 30:1-3; Ezek. 37:11-22; Isa. 10:20-23 (remnant return) Jer. 30:3).
  5. Has Israel been restored? (2 Chron. 36:20-23; Jer. 25:11-13; Ezra 9:9).
    1. All prophecies concerning the return to the land, rebuilding of the temple, etc., were made prior to 516 B.C. Since the rebuilding of the temple of that time – following a return to Palestine – there have been no prophecies concerning a return to the land or a rebuilding of the temple.
  1. WHO ARE THE ISRAEL – JEWS OF GOD TODAY?
  1. Jesus spoke of a “new kingdom” to the Jews of his day (Matt. 21:41-45; 23:38; 24:1-35).
  2. Circumcision nor uncircumcision avail anything – but new creature (Gal. 5:6).
  3. Christians are now God’s Jews – God’s Israel (Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 3:26-29; Rom. 4:13-16; 9:7-8).
  4. Conversion destroys nationality (Col. 3:10-11).
  5. Paul’s allegory of two women (Gal. 4:21-31).
    1. Two women are two covenants – OLD AND NEW.
    2. Two sons – two nations – fleshly and spiritual.
    3. Hagar and Ishmael had nothing in common with Sarah and Isaac. National Israel has nothing in common with spiritual Israel.
    4. Final verdict – “Cast out the bondwoman and her son.” National Israel cannot have an inheritance with Spiritual Israel.  CHRISTIANS ARE THE ONLY ISRAEL GOD HAS TODAY!
  6. Can Jews be saved today?
    • Yes, all men come to God the same way, through Christ (Eph. 2:14-18).
    • The same gospel is for all (Matt. 28:18-20).
    • Great commission was for the Jews also (Acts 10:34-43).
    • Paul’s prayer for Israel was “that they might be saved” (Rom. 10:1-4).
    • No New Testament passages affirm or predict a return of Jews to Palestine and a second chance to accept Christ as Messiah. It is now or never.

— Appreciation to Bill Craddock for the material at the end of this article.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2021 in Church, Doctrine

 

‘Step out of the boat:’ entered full-time ministry May 13, 1979


On May 13, 1979, Terry and I ‘stepped out of the boat’ and entered full-time ministry. I had been a sports writer since graduating from MTSU for over seven years, but took the opportunity to return to our alma-mater to be the campus minister at the Middle Tennessee Christian Center.

Even though there have been many ‘ups and downs,’ it is a decision I have never regretted, and I now enter my 43rd year.

Certainly the blessings of ministry far outweigh the realities listed below, yet ministry is definitely not easy. That is why ministry must be a calling and not simply a “job”. If you can’t reconcile with these difficult realities and challenges concerning ministry, then perhaps you should avoid it all together (some apply, others not so much).

My dad told me plenty of things as we discussed this crucial decision, but both he and Mom were full of encouragement, though Mom acknowledged after a few years that she felt I should have followed my dad’s example and kept my “full-time job” and been a part-time minister/teacher.

He did say one thing that I have always laughed about: “Gary, Sundays come around really fast when you are preparing two lessons and two Bible class studies per week.”

I have learned much from some special people in my life, Lately, one of those dear friends asked me “why would you accept criticism from someone you would never go to for advise?” Amen!

And often people find it ‘convenient’ to agree with you only when you follow their advise, when, in actuality, they are accepting you only for what they see in you that duplicates/mirrors them. Impossible!

A most recent lesson? I try daily not to micro-manage someone else’s personality…wishing that others would follow that idea in regard to me.

I was both a preacher’s kid (PK) and an elder’s kid (EK), so I’ve felt ‘eyes on me’ throughout most of my life.

I also was (am) concerned that my five children (and seven grand children) must have ‘felt those eyes on them’ as well. It is a shame that has to be the case, and I understand some of the reasoning…but others should have no right to expect a higher standard for me or Terry and my children/grandchildren than the one they have for themselves. Jesus Christ puts a high standard on ALL of us.

On my desk are two statements: (1) To err is human; to blame it on the other guy is even more human. And, (2) thank you for not minding my business.

I am still negotiating this thing we call ‘ministry.’

—————————-

I find these timely reminders to be useful when one decides to enter ministry…wishing I had learned some of these sooner in my life (some haven’t applied to me, thankfully, but presented here as ‘food for thought’):

  1. You will probably begin by ministering to a church that is barely growing (if at all), is opposed to change, doesn’t pay well, has seen ministers come and go, doesn’t respect the position as Biblically as they should, doesn’t understand what the Bible says a minister’s or a church’s jobs are, and will only follow you when they agree with you (thus, they’ll really only follow themselves).
  2. You will feel very lonely on a consistent basis, feeling like no one truly knows you or cares how you feel, because you do not want to burden your family, and trust-worthy peers are few and far in-between. Because of the ”super-Christian” myth accredited to ministers literally, you will find it extremely difficult to disclose your deep thoughts and feelings to others. Thus, you will struggle with loneliness.
  3. You will be persecuted for preaching the truth, mostly from your brothers and sisters in the pews. You shouldn’t be surprised by the sight of your own blood. You’re a Christian, after all (Matt. 16:24).
  4. You will think about quitting yearly or monthly, if not weekly or even daily…do not make important decisions on Mondays, since they are a day with ‘let downs’ after the ‘high’ of Sunday worship.
  5. You will be criticized, rarely to your face, and frequently behind your back. This criticism will come from those that love you, those that obviously do not like you, and often from shepherds and Christians that barely know you.
  6. Not everyone will respond positively to your preaching, teaching, or leadership. You will bring people to tears with the same sermon: one in joy, another in anger (I have done this).
  7. You will fight legalism and liberalism, along with laziness, ignorance, tradition, and opposition. Yet, your greatest enemy will be your own heart (Jere. 17:9).
  8. You will feel like a failure often, and when you do appear to succeed, the fruit that is produced cannot be accredited to you. God alone gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7). Thus, there is little “sense of accomplishment in ministry” that you may be accustomed to in other vocations. I have always mowing my yard, since it gives me ‘a beginning and an end.’
  9. You will make people angry regardless how godly you handle yourself; it comes with the position.
  10. Not everyone will like you.

I have discovered many of the 10 items to absolutely generally correct.

———————-

I worked as a copy boy on weekends at the News-Free Press as a junior in high school and a sports writer during my senior year of high school and then was the sports editor of the MTSU Sidelines school newspaper seven semesters.

During my freshman year, I also wrote a weekly article on MTSU football for the Nashville Banner. After my freshman year, I worked during the summer in sports department at the Chattanooga Times.

I was the Christian Center student president my junior year…we got married on July 2, 1971 and worked our senior years before graduating (1972) and moving to Chattanooga to work with the Chattanooga News-Free Press for seven years.

 

 

 

 

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Eric and Tonia would often go over to the Main House on Friday/Saturday evenings and just see who was around before it was bedtime

 

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Board members with Dr. Wiser (front right) when we introduced a plaque honoring past leaders at an annual fund-raising banquet. To this day, I am the only person who was a student, student president, and director at the Christian Center.

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A picture of the Main House when they renovated it several years later (it is no longer there, being replaced with a new Christian Center)

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Gary King was the student president during my first year as director. The students were always so friendly/nice to our children…I think they enjoyed having a family around since they were away from home in college

 

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I did the publications while the director and we had some successful fund-raising efforts

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During my photography class, I super-imposed this shot of Terry over one of the campus buildings

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After a busy week, I would often sit under a shade tree in our front yard to read/enjoy the time (the backyard was usually muddy and not inviting at all)

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This was the ‘doll house,’ where Terry lived with other girls while we were students and we lived in it while there as director

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Terry was again a great model for me during my photography class

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This was taken in April 1980 when Gregory joined our happy family

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Ray Bevans enjoying time with Tonia (I think Ray was the first ‘crush’ she had on a boy)

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The students loved coming by our house on their way to/from classes to see Eric and Tonia ‘hanging out’

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Posted by on May 13, 2021 in Family

 

Mother’s Day 2021 “A Woman Worthy of Praise” – Prov 31:10-31


This is how Zimbabweans celebrated Mothers Day | Mbare Times

Mother’s Day has a very special place in the hearts of the majority of people in America. Hallmark estimates that 150 million Mother’s Day cards will be sent this year (but only 95 million Father’s Day cards), making Mother’s Day the third largest greeting card holiday of the year.

U.S. Americans spend an average of $105 on Mother’s Day gifts, $90 on Father’s Day gifts. The phone rings more often on Mother’s day than Father’s day. The busiest day of the year at car washes? The Saturday before Mother’s Day. What mom thinks still matters.

We’re calling upon a man whose name is mentioned only once in scripture, yet this choice portion of literature seems to last forever in our minds as we look for a godly woman.

His name was King Lemuel, and he had a good mother.

In verse 10, King Lemuel begins with both a question and a declaration:

Question: a wife of noble character, who can find? Answer: she is worth far more than rubies!

Verse 30 sums it all up: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Many times these verses are presented in such a way that a great deal of guilt is brought forth on the part of the women and mothers listening. If you do not get up early and buy-and-sell land or provide your family with hand-sewn clothing…these verses are still for your encouragement.

Instead of listing items of activity which should be part of the Christian woman, it is listing characteristics which are then applied to the culture in which we walk and work. The idea: be this kind of woman in your character and your activities will be determined by the particular circumstances which do apply to your life.

  1. She is diligent (vs. 13, 17-18, 27)
    1. Proverbs 31:13: “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.”
    2. Proverbs 31:17-18: “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. {18} She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.”
    3. Proverbs 31:27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
    4. This trait seems to be mixed with a pleasant spirit and a good attitude. She seems to possess pride in what she does…she’s not happy just to “get by” but in doing a good job. She looks for the best buys, she realizes a profit, and works even into the night.
  2. She’s industrious and efficient (vs. 14, 16, 24)
    1. Proverbs 31:14: “She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.”
    2. Proverbs 31:16: “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”
    3. Proverbs 31:24: “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.”
    4. She’s a thinking individual. In the investment of her time, she looks for dividends and returns. Instead of focusing on the grind, she looks to the benefits her work will bring.
  3. She’s compassionate (vs. 20, 26).
    1. Proverbs 31:20: “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”
    2. Proverbs 31:26: “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”
    3. She has a soft heart that can be touched. And this makes her unique and distinct when contrasted to the man: an illustration….a child is hurt and the two responses:
    4. Mother: How are YOU doing? What can I do? (the caring one)
    5. Dad: Why were you running? You scratched the wall! Who’s fault was it? (the investigator).
  4. She has inner beauty (vs. 22, 25).

Proverbs 31:22: “She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.”

Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

IF MARRIED: She’s a devoted wife:

  1. She maintains her husband’s confidence (vs. 11a)

Proverbs 31:11a: “Her husband has full confidence in her….”

He’s comfortable in being transparent with her. He can share his feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and disappointment and know she will keep them to herself.

  1. She meets his needs (vs. 11b).

Proverbs 31:11b: “…and lacks nothing of value.”

She’s supportive and affectionate. She encourages his pursuits, and is committed to him and his efforts.

Remember when God looked at Adam and said: “It is not good that man should be alone.” He made a help-meet that would make him complete. Woman was a special creation of God but also a “corresponding part.”

  1. She seeks his good (vs. 12)

Proverbs 31:12: “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

  1. She aids his influence (vs. 23)

Proverbs 31:23: “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”

 IF A PARENT: she’s a dependable mother.

  1. She is disciplined (vs. 15, 18-19).

Proverbs 31:15: “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”

Proverbs 31:18-19: “She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. {19} In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.”

This is not a verse teaching you into hell if you don’t make homemade biscuits early in the morning, etc. But it is teaching a principle of taking charge of your time so you can meet the family needs. If the role of the husband or father in your house is for him to fix breakfast, then, obviously, the specifics would change.

  1. She’s organized (vs. 21).

Proverbs 31:21: “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.”

This verse presents a sense of planning. She takes the challenge of a family as just that, a challenge, and seeks to meet it. It’s not just “a cross to bear.”

  1. She’s dedicated (vs. 27).

            Proverbs 31:27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

What will be the results of this kind of woman (28-31).

Proverbs 31:28-31“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: {29} “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” {30} Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. {31} Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

* Her children will bless her! * Her husband will praise her!

* Her peers will be challenged by her! * Her works will bring their own praise!

* Her Lord will be honored by her life!

A husband’s relationship to his excellent wife: (vs. 11-12, 28-29)

Proverbs 31:11-12: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. {12} She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

Proverbs 31:28-29: “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: {29} “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.””

  1. He trusts her (vs. 11). He has no cause for suspicion for her. Deep within, he holds confidence in her.
  2. He benefits from her (vs.11).
  3. He’s affirmed by her (vs. 12).
  4. He’s impressed with her and sings her praises (vs. 28-29).

Young men – look for this kind of woman! Young ladies – strive with God’s help to be this kind of woman! Fathers and married men – Thank God if you have this kind of woman!

An “Eight Cow” Woman/Wife/Mother

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Johnny Lingo, a man who lived in the South Pacific. The islanders all spoke highly of him. He was strong, good-looking, and very intelligent. But when it came time for him to find a wife, people shook their heads in disbelief. The woman Johnny chose was plain, skinny, and walked with her shoulders hunched and her head down. She was very hesitant and shy. She was also a bit older than the other married women in the village, which did nothing for her value.

But this man loved her. What surprised everyone most was Johnny’s offer. In order to obtain a wife, you paid for her by giving her father cows. Four to six cows was considered a high price. The other villagers thought he might pay two or even three cows at the most. But he gave eight cows for her!!

Everyone chuckled about it, since they believed his father-in-law put one over on him. Some thought it was a mistake.

Several months after the wedding, a visitor from the United States came to the Islands to trade, and heard the story of Johnny Lingo and his eight-cow wife. Upon meeting Johnny and his wife the visitor was totally taken aback, since this wasn’t a shy, plain, and hesitant woman, but one who was beautiful, poised, and confident.

The visitor asked about this transformation, and Johnny Lingo’s response was very simple. “I wanted an eight-cow woman, and when I paid that for her and treated her in that fashion, she began to believe that she was an eight-cow woman. She discovered she was worth more than any other woman in the islands. And what matters most is what a woman thinks of herself.

THE LAW OF LOYALTY AND SUPPORT

First, we see in this story the law of loyalty and support.

  • Jesus saw Peter for the first time and said, “Wishy-washy Peter, you are r”
  • He went by Matthew the publican and said, “You can pr”
  • He looked up in a sycamore tree and saw the wee little man, Zacchaeus, and said, “You can be an honest ”
  • Charles Hodge told the story of an congregation in Amarillo that was growing. He felt he knew at least one of the reasons. Those who spoke often of the congregation talked about how they had the best elders, the best deacons, the best singing, the best teens and the best teachers of any congregation around.’”

The law of loyalty and support says that leaders will become what their followers make them become. If you pray for, encourage, and push your leaders, minister, teachers, etc., they will become an eight cow person.

If you criticize them and run them down, you can reduce them to nothing. We will become what we expect them to become.

WE ACT AS WE ARE TREATED.

This principle is true of our spouses, our church members, and our children.

Don’t rear your children to believe they are worthless. The Bible says children are a heritage of the Lord.

If you rear your children to believe that they are a bunch of no-good bums, they will turn out to be a bunch of no-good bums. We don’t rear children that way. We tell them what they could be. We give them a dream of excellence. We tell them some things are beneath our dignity….some things we just aren’t going to do.

My mom often tells the story of members who moved into the Chattanooga area during a time when transitions were common in the congregation where she worshipped…and my dad served as an elder for some 31 years.

“How is this congregation?” The old man said, “Well,  how  was  the  congregation  where  you  came from?” “Oh,” he said, “it was the best congregation on earth.” “You will find this congregation to be like that.”

Another conversation was different when the response was, “That is the sorriest congregation there ever was.” He said, “You will find this congregation to be just about like that.” He is right, isn’t he?

If we want this church to be great, it will be great. If we want it to be bad, it will be bad. It will be what we make it. It can be an eight cow church!

MAKE THE MOST OF WHAT YOU HAVE.

All of life is a compromise. We can make it level enough, straight enough, and square enough, but it will never be perfect.

We have to take each other ’s weaknesses and liabilities along with each other ’s strengths and assets. We have to make do with what we have.

How many of you would like for your husband/children to treat you as if you were an eight cow woman? Wouldn’t that just tickle you to death? Wouldn’t you be nicer to him?

Would it be hard to love and respect a man who treats you like an eight cow woman?

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2021 in Marriage, Sermon

 

Ecclesiastes: The Good Life #14 What Life Is All About Ecclesiastes 11-12


“Is life worth living?”

That was the question the Preacher raised when he began the discourse that we call Ecclesiastes. After experimenting and investigating “life under the sun,” he concluded, “No, life is not worth living!” He gave four arguments to support his conclusion: the monotony of life, the vanity of wisdom, the futility of wealth, and the certainty of death.

Being a wise man, Solomon reviewed his arguments and this time brought God into the picture. What a difference it made. He realized that life was not monotonous but filled with challenging situations from God, each in its own time and each for its own purpose. He also learned that wealth could be enjoyed and employed to the glory of God. Though man’s wisdom couldn’t explain everything, Solomon concluded that it was better to follow God’s wisdom than to practice man’s folly. As for the certainty of death, there is no way to escape it; and it ought to motivate us to enjoy life now and make the most of the opportunities God gives us.

Now Solomon was ready for his conclusion and personal application. What he did was present four pictures of life and attach to each picture a practical admonition for his listeners (and readers) to heed. The development looks like this:

Life is an ADVENTURE—live by faith (11:1-6)

Life is a GIFT—enjoy it (11:7-12:8)

Life is a SCHOOL—learn your lessons (12:9-12)

Life is a STEWARDSHIP—fear God (12:13-14)

These four pictures parallel the four arguments that Solomon had wrestled with throughout the book. Life is not monotonous; rather, it is an adventure of faith that is anything but predictable or tedious. Yes, death is certain, but life is a gift from God and He wants us to enjoy it. Are there questions we can’t answer and problems we can’t solve? Don’t despair. God teaches us His truth as we advance in “the school of life,” and He will give us wisdom enough to make sensible decisions. Finally, as far as wealth is concerned, all of life is a stewardship from God; and one day He will call us to give an account. Therefore, “fear God, and keep His commandments” (12:13).

  1. Life is an adventure: live by faith (ECCL. 11:1-6)

When I was a boy, I practically lived in the public library during the summer months. I loved books, the building was cool, and the librarians gave me the run of the place since I was one of their best customers. One summer I read nothing but true adventure stories written by real heroes like Frank Buck and Martin Johnson. These men knew the African jungles better than I knew my hometown! I was fascinated by I Married Adventure, the autobiography of Martin Johnson’s wife Osa. When Clyde Beatty brought his circus to town, I was in the front row watching him “tame” the lions.

Since those boyhood days, life has become a lot calmer for me, but I trust I haven’t lost that sense of adventure. In fact, as I get older, I’m asking God to keep me from getting set in my ways in a life that is routine, boring, and predictable. “I don’t want my life to end in a swamp,” said British expositor F.B. Meyer. I agree with him. When I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior through baptism for remission of sins, “I married adventure”; and that meant living by faith and expecting the unexpected.

Solomon used two activities to illustrate his point: the merchant sending out his ships (vv. 1-2) and the farmer sowing his seed (vv. 3-6). In both activities, a great deal of faith is required, because neither the merchant nor the farmer can control the circumstances. The ships might hit a reef, meet a storm, or be attacked by pirates and the cargo lost. Bad weather, blight, or insects might destroy the crop, and the farmer’s labor would be in vain. However, if the merchant and the farmer waited until the circumstances were ideal, they would never get anything done! Life has a certain amount of risk to it, and that’s where faith comes in.

The merchant (vv. 1-2).

“Cast thy bread upon the waters” may be paraphrased, “Send out your grain in ships.” Solomon himself was involved in various kinds of trade, so it was natural for him to use this illustration (1 Kings 10:15, 22). It would be months before the ships would return with their precious cargo; but when they did, the merchant’s faith and patience would be rewarded. Verse 2 suggests that he spread out his wealth and not put everything into one venture. After all, true faith is not presumption.

“For you do not know” is a key phrase in this section (vv. 2, 5, 6). Man is ignorant of the future, but he must not allow his ignorance to make him so fearful that he becomes either careless or paralyzed. On the contrary, not knowing the future should make us more careful in what we plan and what we do. Verse 2 can be interpreted, “Send cargo on seven or eight ships, because some of them are bound to bring back a good return on the investment.” In other words, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

The farmer (vv. 3-6).

Daniel Webster called farmers “the founders of civilization,” and Thomas Jefferson said they were “the chosen people of God.” Farming has never been easy work, and this was especially true in the Holy Land in Bible days. The Jews tilled a rocky soil, and they depended on the early and latter rains to nourish their seed. Nobody can predict the weather, let alone control it, and the farmer is at the mercy of nature.

Verse 3 contrasts the clouds with the tree. Clouds are always changing. They come and go, and the farmer hopes they will spill their precious water on his fields. Trees are somewhat permanent. They stand in the same place, unless a storm topples them; and then they lie there and rot. The past [the tree] cannot be changed, but the present [the clouds] is available to us, and we must seize each opportunity.

But don’t sit around waiting for ideal circumstances (v. 4). The wind is never right for the sower and the clouds are never right for the reaper. If you are looking for an excuse for doing nothing, you can find one. Billy Sunday said that an excuse was “the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” Life is an adventure and often we must launch out by faith, even when the circumstances seem adverse.

Just as nobody knows “the way of the wind” (v. 5, nkjv, and see John 3:8) or how the fetus is formed in the womb (Ps. 139:14-15), so nobody knows the works of God in His creation. God has a time and a purpose for everything (3:1-11), and we must live by faith in His Word. Therefore, use each day wisely (v. 6). Get up early and sow your seed, and work hard until evening. Do the job at hand and “redeem the time” (Eph. 5:15-17), trusting God to bless at least some of the tasks you have accomplished. Just as the merchant sends out more than one ship, so the farmer works more than one crop.

Life is an adventure of faith, and each of us is like a merchant, investing today in that which will pay dividends tomorrow. We are like the farmer, sowing various kinds of seeds in different soils, trusting God for the harvest (Gal. 6:8-9; Ps. 126:5-6; Hos. 10:12). If we worried about the wind toppling a tree over on us, or the clouds drenching us with rain, we would never accomplish anything. “Of course, there is no formula for success,” said famous concert pianist Arthur Rubinstein, “except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.”

  1. Life is a gift: enjoy it (ECCL. 11:7-12:8)

This is Solomon’s sixth and final admonition that we accept life as a gift and learn to enjoy all that God shares with us (see 2:24; 3:12-15, 22; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7-10). In order to do this, we must obey three instructions: rejoice (11:7-9), remove (11:10), and remember (12:1-8).

Rejoice (11:7-9).

What a joy it is to anticipate each new day and accept it as a fresh gift from God! I confess that I never realized what it meant to live a day at a time until I was nearly killed in an auto accident back in 1966. It was caused by a drunk driver careening around a curve at between 80 and 90 miles per hour. By the grace of God, I had no serious injuries; but my stay in the Intensive Care Ward, and my time of recuperation at home, made me a firm believer in Deut. 33:25, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” Now when I awaken early each morning, I thank God for the new day; and I ask Him to help me use it wisely for His glory and to enjoy it as His gift.

Solomon especially instructed the young people to take advantage of the days of youth before the “days of darkness” would arrive. He was not suggesting that young people have no problems or that older people have no joys. He was simply making a generalization that youth is the time for enjoyment, before the problems of old age start to reveal themselves.

My middle name is Wendell; I’m named after Wendell P. Loveless, who was associated for many years with the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, especially radio station WMBI. He lived into his nineties and was alert to the very end. During one of our visits with him, he told me and my wife, “I don’t go out much now because my parents won’t let me—Mother Nature and Father Time!”

Young people have to watch their hearts and their eyes, because either or both can lead them into sin (Num. 15:39; Prov. 4:23; Matt. 5:27-30). “Walk in the ways of your heart” (nkjv) is not an encouragement to go on a youthful fling and satisfy the sinful desires within (Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:20-23). It is rather a reminder for young people to enjoy the special pleasures that belong to youth and can never be experienced again in quite the same way. Those of us who are older need to remember that God expects young people to act like young people. The tragedy is that too many older people are trying to act like young people!

Solomon’s warning is evidence that he doesn’t have sinful pleasures in mind: “God will bring you into judgment.”

God does give us “all things richly to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17), but it is always wrong to enjoy the pleasures of sin. The young person who enjoys life in the will of God will have nothing to worry about when the Lord returns.

Remove (v. 10).

Privileges must be balanced by personal responsibilities. Young people must put anxiety out of their hearts (Matt. 6:24-34) and evil away from their flesh (2 Cor. 7:1). The word translated “sorrow” means “vexation, inner pain, anxiety.” If we are living in the will of God, we will have the peace of God in our hearts (Phil. 4:6-9). The sins of the flesh only destroy the body and can bring eternal judgment to the soul.

The phrase “childhood and youth are vanity” does not mean that these stages in life are unimportant and a waste of time. Quite the opposite is true! The best way to have a happy adult life and a contented old age is to get a good start early in life and avoid the things that will bring trouble later on. Young people who take care of their minds and bodies, avoid the destructive sins of the flesh, and build good habits of health and holiness, have a better chance for happy adult years than those who “sow their wild oats” and pray for a crop failure.

The phrase means “childhood and youth are transient.” These precious years go by so quickly, and we must not waste our opportunities for preparing for the future. The Hebrew word translated “youth” can mean “the dawning” or “blackness of hair” (as opposed to gray hair). Youth is indeed the time of “dawning”; and before we know it, the sun will start to set. Therefore, make the most of those “dawning years,” because you will never see them again. “Youthful sins lay a foundation for aged sorrows,” said Charles Spurgeon; and he was right.

Remember (12:1-8).

This third instruction means more than “think about God.” It means “pay attention to, consider with the intention of obeying.” It is Solomon’s version of Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (nkjv). How easy it is to neglect the Lord when you are caught up in the enjoyments and opportunities of youth. We know that dark days (11:8) and difficult [evil] days (12:1) are coming, so we had better lay a good spiritual foundation as early in life as possible. During our youthful years, the sky is bright (11:7); but the time will come when there will be darkness and one storm after another.

Verses 3-7 give us one of the most imaginative descriptions of old age and death found anywhere in literature. Students don’t agree on all the details of interpretation, but most of them do see here a picture of a house that is falling apart and finally turns to dust. A dwelling place is one biblical metaphor for the human body (Job 4:19; 2 Cor. 5:1-2 [a tent]; 2 Peter 1:13 [a tent]), and taking down a house or tent is a picture of death. The meaning may be:

keepers of the house—Your arms and hands tremble.

strong men—Your legs, knees, and shoulders weaken and you walk bent over.

grinders—You start to lose your teeth.

windows—Your vision begins to deteriorate.

doors—Either your hearing starts to fail, or you close your mouth because you’ve lost your teeth.

grinding—You can’t chew your food, or your ears can’t pick up the sounds outdoors.

rise up—You wake up with the birds early each morning, and wish you could sleep longer.

music—Your voice starts to quaver and weaken.

afraid—You are terrified of heights and afraid of falling while you walk down the street.

almond tree—If you have any hair left, it turns white, like almond blossoms.

grasshopper—You just drag yourself along, like a grasshopper at the close of the summer season.

desire—You lose your appetite, or perhaps your sexual desire.

long home—You go to your eternal [long] home and people mourn your death.

Verse 6 describes a golden bowl—a lamp—hanging from the ceiling on a silver chain. The chain breaks and the bowl breaks. The fragile “cord of life” is snapped and the light of life goes out. Only wealthy people could have such costly lamps, so Solomon may be hinting that death is no respecter of persons.

The verse also pictures a well with a windlass for bringing up a pitcher filled with water. One day the wheel breaks, the pitcher is shattered, and the end comes. The fountain of water was an ancient image for life (Ps. 36:8-9; Rev. 21:6). When the machinery of life stops working, the water of life stops flowing. The heart stops pumping, the blood stops circulating, and death has come. The spirit leaves the body (James 2:26; Luke 23:46; Acts 7:59), the body begins to decay, and eventually it turns to dust.

For the last time in his discourse, the Preacher said, “Vanity of vanities … all is vanity.” The book closes where it began (1:2), emphasizing the emptiness of life without God. When you look at life “under the sun,” everything does seem vain; but when you know Jesus Christ as your Saviour, “your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

  1. Life is a school: learn your lessons (ECCL. 12:9-12)

Someone has said that life is like a school, except that sometimes you don’t know what the lessons are until you have failed the examination. God teaches us primarily from His Word; but He also teaches us through creation, history, and the various experiences of life. Solomon explained the characteristics of his own work as a teacher of God’s truth.

To begin with, his teaching was wise (v. 9); for Solomon was the wisest of men (1 Kings 3:3-28). The king studied and explored many subjects, and some of his conclusions he wrote down in proverbs.

His teaching was also orderly (v. 9). After studying a matter, he weighed his conclusions carefully, and then arranged them in an orderly fashion. His whole approach was certainly scientific. We may not always see the pattern behind his arrangement, but it is there just the same.

Solomon sought to be careful in his teaching, so he used “acceptable words.” This means “pleasing” or “gracious” words (10:12) that would win the attention of his listeners and readers. However, at no time did he dilute his message or flatter his congregation. He always used upright words of truth. (See Prov. 8:6-11.) Like our Lord Jesus Christ, the king was able to combine “grace and truth” (John 1:17; Luke 4:16-32).

The Preacher claimed that his words were inspired, given by God, the One Shepherd (v. 11). Inspiration was the special miracle ministry of the Holy Spirit that enabled men of God to write the Word of God as God wanted it written, complete and without error (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

He compared his words to “goads” and “nails” (v. 11), both of which are necessary if people are to learn God’s truth. The “goads” prod the people to pay attention and to pursue truth, while the “nails” give them something on which to hang what they have learned. Good teaching requires both: the students must be motivated to study and the instructors must be able to “nail things down” so that the lessons make sense.

On the surface, verse 12 seems to be a negative view of learning; but such is not the case. The statement is a warning to the student not to go beyond what God has written in His Word. Indeed, there are many books; and studying them can be a wearisome chore. But don’t permit man’s books to rob you of God’s wisdom. “Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them [the words of the wise]” (v. 12, niv). These “nails” are sure and you can depend on them. Don’t test God’s truth by the “many books” written by men; test men’s books by the truth of God’s Word.

Yes, life is a school; and we must humble ourselves and learn all we can. Our textbook is the Bible, and the Holy Spirit is our Teacher (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-15). The Spirit can use gifted human teachers to instruct us, but He longs to teach us personally from His Word (Ps. 119:97-104). There are always new lessons to learn and new examinations to face as we seek to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Saviour (2 Peter 3:18).

  1. Life is a stewardship: fear God (ECCL. 12:13-14)

We don’t own our lives, because life is the gift of God (Acts 17:24-28). We are stewards of our lives, and one day we must give an account to God of what we have done with His gift. Some people are only spending their lives; others are wasting their lives; a few are investing their lives. Corrie ten Boom said, “The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation.” If our lives are to count, we must fulfill three obligations.

Fear God (v. 13).

Ecclesiastes ends where the Book of Proverbs begins (Prov. 1:7), with an admonition for us to fear the Lord. (See 3:14; 5:7; 7:18; and 8:12-13.) The “fear of the Lord” is that attitude of reverence and awe that His people show to Him because they love Him and respect His power and His greatness. The person who fears the Lord will pay attention to His Word and obey it. He or she will not tempt the Lord by deliberately disobeying or by “playing with sin.” An unholy fear makes people run away from God, but a holy fear brings them to their knees in loving submission to God.

“The remarkable thing about fearing God,” wrote Oswald Chambers, “is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.” The prophet Isaiah says it perfectly in Isaiah 8:13, and the psalmist describes such a man in Psalm 112.

Keep His commandments (v. 13).

God created life and He alone knows how it should be managed. He wrote the “manual of instructions” and wise is the person who reads and obeys. “When all else fails, read the instructions!”

The fear of the Lord must result in obedient living, otherwise that “fear” is only a sham. The dedicated believer will want to spend time daily in Scripture, getting to know the Father better and discovering His will. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7).

The last phrase in verse 13 can be translated “this is the end of man” (i.e., his purpose in life), or “this is for all men.” Campbell Morgan suggests “this is the whole of man.” He writes in The Unfolding Message of the Bible, “Man, in his entirety, must begin with God; the whole of man, the fear of God” (p. 228). When Solomon looked at life “under the sun,” everything was fragmented and he could see no pattern. But when he looked at life from God’s point of view, everything came together into one whole. If man wants to have wholeness, he must begin with God.

Prepare for final judgment (v. 14).

“God shall judge the righteous and the wicked” (3:17). “But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment” (11:9, nkjv). Man may seem to get away with sin (8:11), but their sins will eventually be exposed and judged righteously. Those who have not trusted the Lord Jesus Christ will be doomed forever.

“The eternity of punishment is a thought which crushes the heart,” said Charles Spurgeon. “The Lord God is slow to anger, but when he is once aroused to it, as he will be against those who finally reject his Son, he will put forth all his omnipotence to crush his enemies.”

Six times in his discourse, Solomon told us to enjoy life while we can; but at no time did he advise us to enjoy sin. The joys of the present depend on the security of the future. If you know Jesus Christ as your Saviour, then your sins have already been judged on the cross; and “there is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1 and see John 5:24). But if you die having never trusted Christ, you will face judgment at His throne and be lost forever (Rev. 20:11-15).

Is life worth living? Yes, if you are truly alive through faith in Jesus Christ. Then you can be satisfied, no matter what God may permit to come to your life.

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12, nkjv).

You can receive life in Christ and—be satisfied.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2021 in Ecclesiastes

 
 
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