Author Archives: journeyof17

Righteousness based on faith (Romans 10:1-10)

At the end of chapter nine Paul has explained why the Jews have not attained righteousness through the law. Chapter ten begins with Paul again expressing his earnest desire and prayer to God for their salvation. He recognizes that before meeting Christ he also was zealously pursuing the law without a true understanding of the law giver. Chuck Swindoll describes Paul’s feelings about his fellow Jews:

“Paul wept for them. He was heartbroken. He remembered the fellow students with whom he traveled and studied when he left Tarsus to learn under the tutelage of Gamaliel and other rabbis. He remembered former friends and fellow Pharisees, all pursuing the wrong objective with zeal, determination, and sincerity. Instead of embracing their Messiah, they passionately and sincerely pursued a righteousness of their own making, supposing it would be enough to please God. Paul knew from his own experience the futility of sincere zeal without correct knowledge (Acts 22:3; Gal. 1:14). In the case of Paul’s kindred Jews, they failed to understand both the character of their God and how to please Him.”

Paul understands the thinking of the Jews described in verses 2-3 because it describes his own attitude before encountering Christ. However, now (verse 4) he declares that Christ is the “end” (fulfillment) of the law which they have pursued. The Greek word (telos) has a double sense which can mean goal and also termination. It can refer to an aim, a purpose, or the intended result of an action. Christ is the goal at which the law aimed as He is the embodiment of God’s perfect righteousness. This righteousness is only available to us through believing in Christ.

Paul illustrates theĀ  righteousness which comes by faith with quotes from Deuteronomy 30 along with his commentary (verses 6-8). The words about ascending to heaven or descending to the abyss describe people attempting to do the impossible. We can’t reach up far enough to obtain God’s righteousness. Nor can we go low enough to pay the price of our sin. Instead Christ hasĀ  come down to us from heaven, and He also rose up from the dead. In this way what was beyond our reach is now “near” (verse 8) by faith.

Paul then spells out (verses 8-10) the gospel message of how the “word of faith” brings salvation. The righteousness which is unobtainable by any human effort is to be received by faith. He describes our response as having two parts (of one whole), one inward and the other outward. To be saved we must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe (have faith) in our heart that God raised Christ from the dead. This salvation through faith in Christ gives us the righteousness of God.

next: continue chapter 10

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The Remnant Saved Through Faith (Romans 9:24-33)

About this passage Douglas Moo writes:

“Verse 24 returns to the main theme of verses 6-13: God’s sovereign calling (see verse 12 especially). But if verses 6-13 focused on the story of the patriarchs, verses 24-29 concentrate on the predictions of the prophets. Paul wants to show that the prophets agree with the patriarchal history in confining the true people of God to those whom He has specially called. The new element is the extension of that call to the gentiles.”

“Although Paul mentions the gentiles, his main concern in 9:30 – 10:21 is to explain why Israel in general has been excluded from the messianic people of God. Paul reverts to basic gospel language in helping us to understand this surprising state of affairs.”

Indeed Paul quotes Hosea (verses 25-26) to support his statement (verse 24) that God calls not just from among Jews, but also from among Gentiles. Those who were not His people can be called sons of the living God! Then he reminds them of prophesy from Isaiah concerning Israel (verses 27-29). Here he contrasts the promise to Abraham of a great number of descendants (as the sands of the sea) with the “remnant” (the few who remain) to be saved (verse 27). He makes it clear that God will do what He has said (verse 28), and that only by the mercy of God will any survive (verse 29).

Paul again addresses the question of fairness in verses 30-31. How can it be that Gentiles, who aren’t pursuing righteousness, obtain righteousness? And at the same time, Jews pursuing the law of righteousness don’t get there? The answer is faith. The righteousness of God can not be reached, no matter how hard we try to follow His law. Paul points out the important difference in verse 32. The Jews “stumbled” because they relied on their own efforts (works) rather than placing their faith in Christ.

Paul clearly is thinking of Jesus when he quotes from Isaiah again (verse 33) concerning the “stone of stumbling.” This rock of “offense” (the Greek word is “scandal”) becomes the obstacle which prevents Jews from accepting the grace of God. The illustration calls for a decisive choice. Will we be doomed to destruction like a ship smashed against the rocks? Or will we be saved by building our faith on this same dependable rock?

next: start chapter 10

Is this fair? (Romans 9:14-24)

As Paul looks back at scripture describing the choices made by God, some questions naturally are raised by the reader. The people to whom He chooses to show favor often do not seem to be the right choice. Rhetorically Paul asks (verse 14): “God is not unrighteous (unjust), is He?” Do we dare to question the fairness or righteousness of God? By what standard can we measure God’s justness? Douglas Moo writes:

“In asking whether someone or something is “unjust,” we presume a standard of justness, or right, that we can use to judge that person or action. What standard do we apply when we ask whether God is unjust? The minute we ask that question, the answer becomes obvious: we finite and sinful human beings can measure God only by the standards that He Himself has revealed to us. Imposing our own standards of “right” on the God who created us and stands so far above us would be the height of folly and presumption.”

In verses 15-17 Paul quotes from Exodus (19:33 and 9:16) concerning Moses and Pharaoh. God says, “I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy.” Paul observes (verse 16) that this mercy is not obtained because anyone wants it, or runs a course (completes a task) to obtain it, but simply by the will of the One who gives mercy. We deserve judgement, but God gives us mercy. This sovereign act of God displays His power and declares His name or character (verse 17).

And yet we still question the judgement of God. It just doesn’t seem right or fair to our human understanding. Paul acknowledges (verse 19) that people still want to find fault with God and resist His will (purpose, determination). The absurdity of talking back against God is illustrated in verses 20-21. How laughably ridiculous it is for a lump of clay to question why the potter has chosen to make his creation in any way.

Just like the Jewish people, we expect justice from God and demand that He pronounce judgement on those deserving His wrath. We don’t want evil people to get away with sin. However, the truth underlying verses 22-24 reveals the patient mercy and grace of God. If God were to answer our appeal for “fairness” (righteous judgement), then we would soon discover that we are not worthy. God shows His grace by calling us, both Jew and Gentile, to receive His undeserved glory. Chuck Swindoll concludes:

“Because God is the sovereign Creator, He has the right to do with His creation whatever He chooses (Rom. 9:19-21). Again, God does not answer to humanity any more than He must answer to flowers. The very fact that we were given life is grace. That we were given a limited amount of autonomy to choose our own fate is grace upon grace. And having rebelled, both as a race and as individuals, to be given hope of redemption is overwhelming, superabundant grace!”

next: continue chapter 9

Children of God’s promise (Romans 9:6-13)

Although Paul is grieved by the many Jews who have rejected Jesus as the Messiah, he emphatically declares that this is not a failing of the word of God (verse 6). He makes his case with multiple references from Hebrew scripture about the promise of God to Abraham and his descendants. It is worth noting that the word translated “failed” comes from the agricultural picture of falling to the ground and being fruitless. God’s word is clearly not without fruit. The picture continues (verses 7-8) with the seed of Abraham. The Greek word (sperma) is often translated as descendants. There is a distinction made (verse 8) between “children of the flesh” and “children of the promise.” Paul is making the point in verses 6-8 that not all who are physically descended from Abraham are children of God’s promise. God does fulfill His promise at the time of His choosing (verse 9).

The Hebrew people were proud of their heritage, being chosen by God, but Paul elaborates on the nature of God’s choosing in verses 10-13 with the story of Jacob and Esau. The Jews knew that Abraham had other children, but the promise passed only through Isaac by Sarah. Paul reminds his readers (verse 10) that Jacob and Esau were twins with the same mother and father (Rebekah and Isaac). Simply stated, there was no genetic reason to choose Jacob over Esau. Verses 11-12 make it clear that God’s choice was made before they could do anything good or bad to earn their selection. D.G. Barnhouse comments:

“There are no human values here. It cannot be said that one of the boys was superior to the other. The pronouncement by God was made before the children were born. Neither of them had done any good or evil. The authority for the election lay in the heart of God. There is no human way to account for it. The text flatly states that the choice of God was not dependent on their birth or their character. The choice was in the heart of God and based entirely on His sovereign authority.”

What then is Paul telling us? God demonstrates His sovereignty through His promise. He has chosen us, and only by His grace can anyone receive the promise to become the children of God. The true child of God is the one who takes God at His word, and by grace through faith lives in obedience to Him.

next: Romans 9:14-18

 

What about the Israelites? (Romans 9:1-5)

As we read through Romans it is very tempting to skip over chapters 9-11. Paul’s assurance about God’s love in chapter 8 leads logically to our encouraged response in chapter 12. Paul writes to a mixed audience of Jews and Gentiles, and chapters 9-11 could be viewed as a long parenthetical aside concerning the Jews which is of little interest to the Gentile believer. What may not seem important to us is, however, very important to Paul. He almost stands up on his chair in verse one to get our attention, and expresses his very deep sorrow for his kinsmen in verses 2-3. The rejection of the gospel of Christ by the Jews raises questions that should not be ignored. Douglas Moo writes:

“Paul is presenting his gospel. He especially wants to show how it embraces gentiles without breaking continuity with the Old Testament. The relatively small number of Jews that have become Christians is a severe challenge to this continuity. God seems to have abandoned the people He chose and made promises to in the Old Testament in favor of a new people. If this were so, then the connection between Old Testament and New Testament would be broken, and God would be revealed as capricious and undependable.”

As a Jew, Paul himself has not abandoned his own people, nor does he believe has God. Paul accepts his role in bringing the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles, but he also cares deeply for his kinsmen. In verses 4-5 he lists several unmerited advantages enjoyed by the Hebrew children of Abraham, demonstrating their important place in God’s redemptive plan. Paul reminds us (verse 5) that the human ancestry of Christ is traced to Jesus through the people of Israel. God is righteous and faithful, and He keeps His promises. Our understanding of God is enhanced by reading the whole letter of Paul to the Romans. Chuck Swindoll comments:

“Make no mistake: Paul’s letter to the Romans is not about our salvation. His primary subject is the righteousness of God, of which our salvation is a part. The Lord is pursuing His own agenda, remember. It is to remove death from the throne of creation and give it to His Son so that the righteousness of God will rule all things. And He will do this whether anyone decides to join Him or not.”

next: continue chapter 9

Convinced by the power of love (Romans 8:35-39)

Paul’s long exposition for the Romans of the gospel of Jesus Christ reaches a conclusion with the final verses of chapter eight. The preceding chapters have shown the need of all to be restored to right relationship with God, and presented the gospel as the only solution. Paul’s letter provides tremendous insight into the faithfulness and grace of God. He makes it clear that we are weak and can do nothing to earn God’s love. For those wanting assurance he here states his unwavering certainty of our position in Christ.

Verse 35 starts as a question which is really a challenge. Can there be anything able to separate us from the love of Christ? Paul has declared that we are one with Christ; that we are united with Him. Separation is the opposite of union, therefore it is simply not possible. Paul does list several circumstances that might seem to threaten our bond. He speaks from experience having endured many of these very things.

Verse 36 (quoting Psalm 44:22) may appear at first a little strange. How can this be encouraging? Chuck Swindoll writes that this could be “to remind his readers that hardship has always been the experience of God’s faithful followers.” Perhaps, but Paul’s next statement (verse 37) seems incongruent with the quote from scripture. The term “more than conquerors” (literally super – victory) doesn’t fit with sheep for slaughter. How many sports teams do you know have sheep as their mascot? The fighting sheep win again – not likely! D.G. Barnhouse suggests another twist:

“And now, it is declared that the sheep are the conquerors. Here is the expression of one of the greatest principles of God’s dealings with the universe of His creatures. When we understand how sheep can become conquerors, we will understand the purpose of God and the ways of God. Here is one more verse in the great chain of passages which show that the way “up” is “down.”

“The Lord Jesus Christ set forth by His own example the great truth that the way to conquer is to be humbled to the death. If we are to be truly conquerors, we must be as sheep for the slaughter.”

Thus it is the sacrificial love of Christ Jesus which brings Paul to the concluding statement in verses 38-39. Paul is persuaded or convinced! The Greek word is perfect tense, indicating that something occurred in the past with ongoing results in the present. There exist absolutely nothing with the power to separate us from the love of God. There is nothing more powerful than the love of Christ Jesus our Lord, and our position in Christ is eternally secure!

next: start chapter nine

God is for us (Romans 8:31-34)

The answer to last week’s question (why am I here?) can be answered simply: because God. God wants us! This is His design. He foreknew us. He chose us. He called us. He justified us. He will glorify us! He wants us to be like Christ. This is the will of God, and it will be done.

If chapter eight of Romans were a musical composition, then the last five verses would become a tremendous crescendo. But first Paul pauses the music (verse 31) to ask for a response. Stop and reflect on what Paul’s words mean to us. If God is for us, then who could possibly be against us?! Still doubt that God is for you, then consider again verses 31-32. He held nothing back: He handed over that which was most precious; He gave His very own son for us to demonstrate His grace. Paul uses the language of the courtroom (verses 33-34), and the music begins to build again.

“Paul for a moment envisages the situation in terms of a court of law, where the believer stands to be judged. But who will dare to come forward as prosecutor? God Himself, the Judge of all has pronounced his acquittal and justification; who can call His sentence in question? The prosecutor may not venture to appear, but the counsel for the defense is present and active; it is Christ Jesus” (F.F. Bruce)

“Any charge brought against us would not stand up in court. Because our debt of sin has been paid in full, we are unimpeachable. We are and forever will be considered just before the Judge of Heaven.” (Chuck Swindoll)

With all that God has done for us, He certainly will never give up on us or leave us alone by ourselves. Indeed nothing can separate us from His love.

next: Romans 8:35-39 (the crescendo)