Monday, April 28, 2014

Small Distinction - Huge Difference Part 2; Need, Rest, and Reasonable Service

The epistle of Romans, Paul’s most extensive doctrinal work, demonstrates a pattern that is instrumental in understanding the proper place of law and grace in the Christian faith. Much of the misunderstanding and doctrinal debate would be eliminated if one properly understands the epistle to the Romans.

How does one really reconcile imputed righteousness and law obedience? After all, aren’t most theological debates about the place of law and grace really a result of people placing emphasis on one or the other? Now, certainly the Romans example alone is not conclusively convincing but in conjunction with Jesus redemptive focus, and the New Testament’s redefining of the phrase word of God from scripture to gospel, one can be fairly certain that the order of Romans goes a long way to establish a uniquely interesting perspective.

Let’s look for a minute at the framework of the epistle of Romans. Romans 1:1 through 3:20 establishes the sinfulness of humanity, and the absolute need for redemption.  Romans 3:21 through 8:39 emphasizes justification by faith and promotes resting in Jesus Christ and his accomplishments. Romans 9:1 through 11:36 is a parenthetical explanation of why God chose to save the Gentiles and allow some Jews to be hardened rejecting the Messiah, and 12:1 through 16:27 discusses the reasonable service due God as a result of his gracious gift of Jesus Christ.

I think it is therefore reasonable to conclude that God’s gospel plan, one that Ephesians chapter one explains was, in the mind of God before he created anything is best framed by three concepts. They are as follows: Need (humanities great need for redemption and forgiveness)-- Rest (humanity can rest in Romans 5:1 and thereby they can rest in Jesus, Hebrews chapter four calls it the Sabbath rest)-- and Reasonable Service (humanities response to such radical grace that made Him who knew no sin to be made sin for humanity so that in turn, humanity could become the righteousness of God in Him.)

The key to proper understanding of the gospel then is this idea of need, rest, and reasonable service. However it must be understood that reasonable service can only truly flow from an acute acknowledgement of need and a totally sound faith in the Sabbath Rest.

To properly understand need one must look at the first and greatest commandment. Here it is: Deuteronomy 6:4-5  "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!  (5)  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. This in and of itself is an impossible command to keep. Even if one could keep all the other’s, which they cannot, one cannot love God with ALL their heart, ALL their soul, with ALL their strength. James tells us that if you break one commandment you break them all (James 2:10.) The case for need is iron clad and no one can escape it.

Romans chapter five, verse one explains that since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God. This is the source of the Sabbath Rest. Peace with God provides the rest and it can only come from resting on the redemptive decrees. Romans chapter five and verse one is one of the many redemptive decrees. Another such decree is Romans 10:9-11; (9) that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  (10)  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  (11)  For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES ON HIM WILL NOT BE PUT TO SHAME." Paul is not the only source of these decrees. John 3:16-17 is another such decree.
Redemptive decrees are statements that if they are not true as they stand alone they are simply not true at all.  John 3:16 says that whosoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life. Now we will take up the definition of believe later as it is presented in the New Testament, but when the condition of believe is met, it stands as an unalterable decree. Faith is not merely a mental assent. Rather it is best understood as it is presented in the Amplified Bible. It will be presented as trust in, rely on adhere to or cling to.

What happens when I trust in, rely on and cling to Romans 5:1? If I really truly trust in, rely on and cling to the fact that my justification brings peace with God I will naturally rest. Here is an example of John 3:16-17 that shows that I can and should have peace with God and rest.

John 3:16-17 Amplified  “ For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.  (17)  For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.
The above passage is a classic example of a redemptive decree. It cannot be altered in any way and still be a true statement. The redemptive decrees have precedence over the reasonable service instructions. It can be no other way and have the decrees remain true.

So then, what about the reasonable service instructions? This is where a proper understanding of the transformation process comes into play. Notice that reasonable service is last in the framework. It is last in the epistle of Romans, and it is last in the fruit of the Spirit. Look at Galatians to see the proof 5:22-23. “  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Self-control is the last fruit mentioned and it is for a good reason.

Real self-control comes from the peace with God one gets from resting in Jesus. It comes from the Sabbath Rest. This is the first step in flowing in the blessings of God. All blessings flow from resting in the blood of Jesus.

Read Part 1

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Small Difference – Huge Distinction Part l

What was the point of Paul writing Galatians? Was Augustin, Calvin and Luther right, or are the “New Perspective on Paul” people closer to the truth? My conclusion is that the New Perspective people are definitely not right but, neither are many of those who have adopted the western view of Paul that was championed by Augustin and Luther. The title of this series speaks of nuance, and it seems that nuance is not something that evangelicals work well with. Especially those evangelicals that believe the bumper sticker which reads… “God said it – I believe it – and that settles it.”
The question that is raised is this; is this really what God said? This is the place that nuance comes into play. There is such a variety of evangelical doctrines that are often mutually exclusive. That alone should give pause to the bumper sticker crowd. With this in mind we will boldly move on into the discussion to identify the small difference that makes a huge distinction. What am I specifically speaking of here? The simple answer is the gospel.
Paul writes this in Galatians chapter one: Gal 1:6-9 “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, (7) which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  (8)  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  (9) As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” What were these different gospels?
In order to answer this question one has to read through Galatians’ chapters one and two. It becomes obvious in reading Galatians one and two that the different gospel demanded works of the law for justification. Galatians 2:21 states the most important factor in identifying the different and false gospel. It reads: Gal 2:21 “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” The attribute that identified the true gospel was this. Righteousness *does not* come through the law. That means that one is not made righteous or declared righteous by adhering to the law.
This is precisely why I am so confident that the gospel that is preached today by most evangelicals is a different gospel. While it is true that many, if not most would say that righteousness does not come through obedience to the law, their actual practice negates that statement. This is where the small difference with a huge distinction comes into play. Nuance is the key word that I would use to explain this. It is my hope that this will help us embrace the actual gospel that Paul states was revealed to him by Jesus Christ.
This is the point where many are going to say the word antinomian with an accusatory tone. Hold your horses and wait for this series to be completed. Understand this however; Righteousness does not come through the law.  We do not receive righteousness by our obedience to the law. This is different than Old Covenant righteousness, and that is why the New Perspective people are simply off base. Deu 6:25  “Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.” Old Covenant righteousness was connected with obedience to the commandments. Not so under the New Covenant and that is where nuance comes into play. This is the source of the small difference with a huge distinction.

Why the gospel is important in the transformation process

Rom 8:6  "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace," A very misunderstood passag...