A Salvation and Savior Worth Living and Dying For

September 25, 2020 Leave a comment

1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. (Romans 9:1-5)

Paul the apostle … former Pharisee, former persecutor of Jesus’ followers, former blasphemer of Jesus. A Jew by birth, of the tribe of Benjamin, Paul was called as the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:6-10). Yet his lifelong desire was that his own people allow themselves to be reached with the incomparable gospel message of Jesus Christ and His great salvation.Paul was very aware of how difficult it was for a Jew to believe that one man could be God’s final and complete answer for their sins, he’d been there and done that. Yet, he knew that Jesus Christ is God and the Savior that the Father had sent into the world. His grief for their condition was intense. Time and time again, Paul had witnessed their hardness of heart toward the gospel. But he never lost his love for them and his passion for their souls.

Like Moses in the book of Exodus, Paul wished that he could offer himself as the payment for their sins. He wished that he could become anathema from Christ, which means that he wished that he could suffer eternal judgment and separation from God if they would just be saved. But as was the case with Moses, such a suggestion could not ever be … only a perfect man, a sinless man could ever be the atoning sacrifice for all our sins. Jesus was (is) the God-man, the only perfect human being who ever lived (while always retaining His Divine nature).

The Jews had many advantages that should have been loud voices to their hearts. Paul lists them in vs. 4-5. Their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah shows how hard some men’s hearts can be.

Paul’s description of Jesus is one of the most powerful testimonies to His Deity in all of the Bible. Christ, Paul wrote, came from the fathers (Jewish ancestry), and is over all. He is the Sovereign King of everything, except for the Father and the Spirit. He is clearly and unmistakably identified as the eternally blessed God. Let no one be confused; the coming Messiah (Jesus) was prophesied to be God in the flesh (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6). He Himself claimed to be God, and proved it by rising from the dead. His identity is plain to see from Scripture. The only question left is, who will believe in Him? Who will trust Him, that He paid the total price for our sins, and then was raised out of death into resurrection life? Who will say ‘yes’ to Him and call Him Lord?

Romans 9-11- Israel’s Past, Present, and Future

September 24, 2020 Leave a comment

Paul, having completed the main thrust of the epistle … his focus upon the gospel of God (the theme of Romans in chapters 1-8) … now turns to a very personal and painful subject for him.

He must address this subject, because he’s had to deal with it throughout his ministry as an apostle. That subject is the problem of Jewish unbelief.

Obviously and historically, the Jews did not wholeheartedly embrace Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah … the One of whom their own scriptures spoke in such clear terms. Why was that? Why did so many reject Him?

While Paul would answer the why of their rejection in other places (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25), here in Romans Paul answers an even deeper and more important question: What about Israel?

What about the covenant they made with Yahweh? What about the present day? Can they still be saved, providing they believe? And what about their future? Are the many promises to Israel of a future golden age now null and void? Has God rejected His people completely? Or will Israel one day receive the glory spoken of in the prophets? And if there is still a future for Israel, what are the stipulations? Does every Jewish person—based solely upon being physical descendants of Abraham—get into the kingdom?

Paul answers the what about Israel questions in chapters 9-11 of Romans.

In Romans 9, Paul answers the question of Israel in the past. From the book of Acts and subsequent church history, it’s easy to see that God has seen fit to bypass the Jews in His plan for His world, because they rejected His offer of salvation by grace through faith and even opposed the spreading of His offer to the Gentiles. So God has, in a way, put the pause button on His dealings with Israel and turned to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people groups). Of course, such a move by God brought much opposition from Jewish religious leaders. They questioned His sovereign right to directly save the nations through the gospel of Jesus, and not to do His saving through the Jews. Again, He bypassed them, went around them, to reach people they were not willing to reach themselves. Yes, God is sovereign, and it’s His sovereign right to go after Gentiles apart from Israel.

Chapter 10 of Romans moves forward in time to the present … what about Israel now? Can they be saved? Yes, of course a Jew can be saved … but they will have to come through the doorway of faith, and not of works. In this present age, the believing Jew is part of the church, the body of Christ. If they will but call upon the name of the Lord, confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and also believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead, salvation is theirs as well.

Chapter 11, the final chapter of Paul’s threefold response, explains the future of Israel. Those Jews who throughout the church’s history have believed in Him, will be the recipients of the glory God had promised them in the old covenant scriptures. All Jewish believers in Messiah Jesus will be saved eternally, and will be in glory with Him. Their blindness has been a temporary one, and the Gentiles must not ever forget that fact.

Take some time and read Romans 9-11, with these three topics in mind: (Israel in the past- chapter 9; Israel in the present- chapter 10; and Israel in the future- chapter 11), and see if it doesn’t come together more clearly for you as you read.

In future blogs, we’ll unpack thee and the remaining chapters of this amazing epistle, by looking at the implications of the gospel of God and what it means about how we live our lives as Christ followers.

God Is For Us

September 23, 2020 Leave a comment

God-is-for-usWhat then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

How many ways can it be said?

  •  God is for (He is on our side, in our corner.) 
  • God is for us. (The all-powerful Creator of the universe is the one who is on our side.)
  • God is for us. (He is on the side of sinners saved by grace; of the believer in Jesus Christ, whom he has reconciled to Himself.)

 Since God is for us, we are assured of everything we need. After all, He did not spare Jesus in giving Him for us, so why would we ever conclude that He would withhold any legitimate need from our lives?

Since God has justified us, how could we ever think that an accusation or charge against us would hold any water with Him? Jesus died for us, rose from the dead for us, ascended and was exalted for us, and who is constantly praying for us. God has proven Himself; He will not bring charges against the believer.

Who or what could ever separate us from this kind of love … the love of our Lord Jesus Christ? The resounding answer is NO ONE can separate us from His love. NOTHING can separate us from His love.

Human beings cannot separate us. Extreme trials, persecution, or perils cannot separate us. Death cannot take us out of God’s deep love. Angels could not do it even if they wanted to. Demons or the devil cannot do it. Nothing created can ever separate the believer in Jesus Christ from God’s great and eternal love. Which means that nothing that exists… apart from God Himself … can ever separate us from God and His love for us. And we know that will not happen, because God sent His Son (John 3:16).

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me
Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of Your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Your glorious rest above

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Spread His praise from shore to shore
How He came to pay our ransom
Through the saving cross He bore
How He watches o’er His loved ones
Those He died to make His own
How for them He’s interceding
Pleading now before the throne

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It’s an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Mighty Savior, precious Friend
You will bring us home to glory
Where Your love will never end

For Further Review

1.  What kind of confidence is produced in the life of a person who is absolutely convinced that God is for him?

2.  In your own life, what have been some obstacles that have kept you from gaining solid confidence that God is for you? How can you move past those obstacles into confidence and assurance?

3.  God’s love demands worship. Why not express your heart of worship to God in any way that seems fitting (in writing, by song, or in prayer), as a response to His great love for you in Christ Jesus.

 1 Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (© 2008 Integrity’s Praise! Music/Sovereign Grace Praise)

Redemption’s Highest Heights

September 22, 2020 Leave a comment

The_Unbreakable_ChainAnd we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

How do we know that Romans 8:28 is true? The answer is grounded in the timeless truths of the gospel of God, described in Romans 8:29-30. 

Like the pinnacle of the highest mountain, this passage brings us to the highest of heights of God’s revelation. God has done awesome things … things so gracious and merciful they are hard to even fathom. The implications are for both time and eternity. 

He foreknew us. He knew what would happen before it even occurred. This speaks of His omniscience (of the fact that He knows everything). In fact, there is nothing that can be known that God does not know. He is infinite in His understanding (Acts 15:18; Psalm 147:5). 

He predestined us to be conformed into the image of Jesus. Those whom God saved have a certain destiny; He has one goal for each and every one of us. That goal is to become more and more like His eternal Son. This is His goal because He wants more sons and daughters, and thus more brothers and sisters for Jesus. In other words, God desires to always increase the size of His family. Eternally, He has the best possible Son, the perfect Son. He wants more that are like Him. This is that He might love them in His kingdom just as He loves Jesus. 

He called (invited) human beings to come to Christ, who is the firstborn—the preeminent One—of those who have come out of death and into life. The invitation was to believe the gospel … and for as many as do that, they become children of God (John 1:12-13). 

Those whom He called and who responded to the gospel, He also justified. He made a declaration that they are now righteous in His eyes, fully exonerated and wholly acceptable to Him. Just as Jesus is righteous, so the believer in Christ has been declared righteous (1 John 4:17). We have the same righteous standing as the Son of God. 

Those whom He justified, He also glorified. He made them full of glory. They look nothing like they did in their bodies of sin on earth. Rather, they are glorious as Jesus is glorious (1 John 3:2; compare Revelation 1:10-18). 

Note that each of these amazing declarations of redemption is revealed in the past tense. That means that in the mind of God, it is as though they have already happened. Seeing things from His eternal vantage point rather than from the limitations of time, God sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10), and therefore views all believers in Christ—past, present, or future—as already being in their gloried state … with Him in eternity. 

This is how we know Romans 8:28 is true … God does work all things together for good, for those who are the called according to His purpose. If God can bring the believer out of sin and into glory, then surely He is able to use everything that comes into our lives for His ultimate plan. God cannot be stifled or waylaid in His eternal purposes.

For Further Review

1.  What is the foundation of the truth of Romans 8:28? In your own words, describe what God has done for the believer.

2.  How has Romans 8:28 been misquoted? What is wrong with the various misquotations? How have they changed the intended meaning of the verse?

3.  What is God’s ultimate plan and purpose for every Christian? How does that purpose affect the way we live our lives in the here and now?


The Groaning of the Spirit

September 21, 2020 Leave a comment

gift_of_the_holy_spiritLikewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

It is not always easy to admit our weaknesses, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. It is only through the realization of our weakness that we are likely to rely on the Holy Spirt, who is the Divine Helper. It is true that weaknesses are the doorway to strength (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). 

Here we see a specific weakness that we all share, which is weakness in prayer. We are stumped concerning the how of prayer, and often about the content of our prayers. We even struggle with the motivation to pray. 

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is able and willing to give us what we need so our prayers will be heard, and thus be effective (1 John 5:14-15). 

His groanings (sighing) cannot be uttered; that is, they cannot be spoken in words that we understand. Our part is to believe God … to believe Him that the Spirit is praying this way as He intercedes for us. 

The Father is searching our hearts for the prayers of the Spirit, and He knows the Spirit’s purpose in His groanings. The Spirit’s prayers are always spot on. Our part is to just flow with it, to believe the Spirit is helping us, and to trust the outcome of the Spirit’s intercession. 

Through it all, we become better pray-ers as we trust God in our weaknesses.

For Further Review

1.  Think about some of the difficulties or struggles you have had in your own prayer life. How have you dealt with them? What have you learned?

2.  In your own words, describe the meaning and experience of the Holy Spirit making intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered.

3.  Take some time right now to ask God to help you in your weakness in prayer, and then make it a point to specifically trust the Holy Spirit to be the answer to that prayer.


Biblical Hope

September 20, 2020 Leave a comment

No God No Hope Know God Know HopeFor I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (Romans 8:18-25) 

When counting the cost of following Christ, one must consider what it means to suffer with Him. Will we do it … are we willing to suffer according to the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2)? Can we do it … shall we stand in suffering’s face, or will we stumble and fall? 

Answering our own self-doubts is easier when we look at things from the perspective of future, eternal glory. When present sufferings are compared with what God has in mind for His sons and daughters, any and all present sufferings seem like nothing. They vanish in the light of what God has promised to us. Yes, it is true … a future glory beyond all description awaits faithful believers, therefore we do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). 

This hope is the key in dealing with life as it is in this fallen world. Hope is confident expectation. The believer confidently expects God to fulfill His promises. Why even the material creation hopes for a far better day, even though it suffers the futility and groaning of the present bondage which resulted from the curse of sin (Genesis 3:17-19). 

The groaning of the believer is due to the weakness of the flesh. He longs to be delivered, to receive his new body. When this happens, the redemption of the believer is complete (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4). Right now, the only unredeemed part of his existence has to do with the body. 

Our confident expectation of our future redemption came to us when we were saved. We were born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), a hope which is invisible to us now, and for which we patiently wait with complete expectation. Like a child waiting for the family trip to Disneyland, there is no doubt that it will happen. It is just a matter of time. 

For Further Review

1.  In your own life, have you considered the cost of suffering with Christ? How does God motivate us to go through with it?

2.  Think about and briefly describe some of the ways the creation groans, and then the reason believers groan within themselves. What does creation and believers have in common re: the way this groaning occurs?

3.  What is hope, Biblically speaking? How does Biblical hope differ from mere wishful thinking? What is your hope based upon?

4.  What are some benefits of hope? How does Biblical hope help us in our present lives here on earth?