You Cannot Do What God Has Done

Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”  But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to imagebring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach)… (Romans 10.5-8)

The end and goal of the law is a righteous standing before God by faith. Christ is that end and goal. Moses wrote about the righteousness which is of the Law in Leviticus 18.5. You just have to do the Law and live by the Law in order to have the righteousness of God. The problem is that no one does. But the Law had another component:

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.” (Deuteronomy 30.11-14)

Moses emphasizes the heart in this passage. Loving obedience comes from a trusting heart. Pleasing God is not beyond Israel’s reach according to Moses. God required faith. Israel cannot think that they can ascend into heaven and bring Christ down to earth to save His people. Israel cannot think that they are good enough to raise up Christ the Messiah from the dead. God had already done these things. They just needed to accept them in their heart. The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.

Faith in Romans – Part 12

“Knowing this …we believe …reckon …present …obeyed” (Romans 6.6, 8, 11, 13, 17).

These five verbs within Romans 6 demonstrate the process by which we have power over sin as children of God.  This is the process by which we bear fruit to holiness for the glory of God.  Unfortunately, we often circumvent this biblical process.  So, faith is an inseparable part of this process of overcoming sin.

  1. There is something we must know.  That is, we must be well-acquainted with a very important fact.  Our old man was crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin (Romans 6.6).  Those who die are freed from sin!
  2. There is something we must believe.  Romans 6.8 says that “if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.”  We shall live with Him in Heaven, but that is not what this passage is emphasizing.  We shall live with Him now on earth.  We must believe that the resurrected Christ lives in and through us in the present (see Galatians 2.20).  This is eternal life:  to know Christ and believe that He will grant us resurrection power to live a life well-pleasing to God because of our dependence upon His Son.
  3. There is something we must reckon.  We have the righteousness of Christ and power over sin.  Therefore, we must count that as true and start living an eternal quality of life.  This is an imputed reality.  But for all of it’s potential, I must count it as such.  If we have a million dollars in the bank and never use our debit card, who is responsible for such foolishness?  We are!  Bank on it.  You are indeed dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus!  Live out the life that you have …or don’t and keep spinning your wheels.
  4. There is something we must present.  Present is used in the sense of dedicating for service.  We must present ourselves to God as being alive from the dead.  That is, we must dedicate ourselves to His service.  What does this look like (see Romans 6.12-14)?  It’s a life of righteousness to God.  We behave in a Christlike way because we are no longer law-driveromans_6_11_by_blugi-d38zf5on but grace-driven.
  5. There is something we must obey.  Now, we have reached the step of obedience.  Know, believe, reckon, and present all lay the foundation for obedience.  Christians go from one extreme to the other.  They usually begin with obedience, but it is an obedience that is self-reliant and flesh-driven.  They have returned to self-righteousness.  This is sin leading to death.  However, if we know that we are crucified with Christ, depend upon His life at work in and through us, appropriate that life for our own by counting this to be true, and dedicate ourselves to the service of God, only then is our obedience Spirit-filled.  This allows us to demonstrate the righteousness of Christ in the things we think, do, and say.  Thus, we glorify God and not self.  This is “obedience leading to righteousness” (Romans 6.16).

Faith in Romans – Part 5

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4

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“What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?  Much in every way!  Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.  For what if some did not believe?  Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?  Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged” (Romans 3.1-4).

The next mention of faith in Romans is in the opening of chapter three.  Paul has just demonstrated that all men, Jew and Gentile, need the righteousness of God.  There are three groups of people described as faithless in the intervening passage between Romans 1.17 and Romans 2.29:

  1. The licentious need righteousness of God, but remain faithless (Romans 1.18-32).
  2. The legalists need righteousness of God, but remain faithless (Romans 2.1-16).
  3. The law-keepers need righteousness of God, but remain faithless (Romans 2.17-29).

So if all, Jew and Gentile, are faithless and need the righteousness of God, what advantage has the Jew?

“Much in every way!  Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God” (3.2).  The oracles of God is a phrase that describes the entire Old Testament.  The Jews had the special revelation of God.  It was committed to them for safekeeping and proclamation.  This is a great privilege, but also a great responsibility.  Will the unbelief of the Jews make the faithfulness of God without effect?  The Jews did not believe in or obey God’s oracles.  Does that unbelief cancel out God’s faithfulness?

The reasoning of the person posing this question goes like this:  The Jews failed to believe and obey God’s revelation, so what advantage do they have since God is not making good on His promises.  Of course, the answer is that God’s faithfulness is by no means made void (3.4).

“Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.”   What follows in the rest of verse four is a quotation of Psalm 51.4.  The Gentiles may blaspheme God due to the faithlessness of the Jews, but God’s character is unassailable.  He will be justified by His words.  No one will be able to stand in judgment over Him.  He is impeccable when He judges all men.

Paul writes at the end of his life,

“This is a faithful saying:  For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.  If we endure with Him, we shall also reign with Him.  If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2.11-14). 

God always remains faithful, even in the midst of great faithlessness.

All Christians will reign with Christ.  We will be with Christ when He reigns over the earth.  But only faithful Christians will reign with greater responsibility and opportunity.  They will have the privilege of reflecting greater glory.

If we as believers are unfaithful to God, Christ still remains faithful to us.  Our salvation is not based upon our continued faithfulness but upon Christ’s unwavering faithfulness.  This in no way encourages faithlessness.  On the contrary, it motivates faithfulness as we see our position as children with greater clarity.

The faithlessness of the lost (Romans 3) and the faithlessness of the found (2 Timothy 2) cannot make the faithfulness of God without effect.  The faithlessness of the Jew and the faithless of the Gentile (Romans 1-2) cannot make the faithfulness of God without effect.  Every man may be a liar, but God is true.  He alone is righteous.  He alone overcomes.  True biblical security is found in His faithfulness not our own.

Faith in Romans – Part 4

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1.16-17).

These verses are important because they state the theme of Romans and the whole of the Christian life.  The Gospel of God (Romans 1.1) is the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1.16).  Paul gives a five-fold statement concerning this Gospel:

  1. He is not ashamed of the Gospel.
  2. The Gospel is the power of God.
  3. The Gospel is to salvation.
  4. The Gospel is for everyone who believes.
  5. The Gospel reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith.

from-faith-to-faith

Belief and faith are the same.  First, the Gospel is for everyone (the Jew first and also for the Greek).  Second, the Gospel has the potential to save everyone because it is powerful.  Third, not everyone is saved or will be saved.  The Gospel is for everyone who believes in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Therefore those who will not believe the Gospel will not be saved.

The Gospel reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith.  The just ones or the righteous ones live by faith.  God’s righteousness includes not just the idea of being put right with God, but we are declared right with God.  The moment a person trusts in the Gospel message (any person), is the moment that that person will be saved.

God’s righteousness is revealed to us and through us from faith to faith.  We grow in our understanding of God’s righteousness.  We increasingly display God’s righteousness in our lives (faith to faith to faith to faith… etc.).  We do this for the glory of God.

We grow from faith to faith (Habakkuk 2.4; Galatians 3.11; Hebrews 10.38).  Faith is the starting point (justification) and the finishing line (glorification).  Between the starting point and finishing line is our growing awareness and manifestation of the righteousness of God by faith (sanctification).  The just shall live continually by faith and by faith alone.

It should be understood that it is possible for a Christian to fail to grow in faith.  It is not realistic to think otherwise.  However, that believer will not receive rewards in the life to come and will fail to have confidence and assurance in this present life.  We must not question to position of a blood-bought child of God.  We question the condition of their lives.  We must exhort one another to reflect that we are indeed God’s children.

The Christian is made right with God for the purpose of demonstrating God’s righteousness for God’s glory.  The means by which we do this is through the study of God’s Word illumined by God’s Spirit.

As Christianity declines in its popularity, Christians must be willing to be very open and vocal about the righteousness of God for the glory of God.  We carry the reproach of Christ.  We take up the cross and follow Jesus.  Our faith must be renowned throughout the world (cp. Romans 1.8).

 

 

Faith in Romans – Part 3

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me (Romans 1.11-12).

mutualityPart 1 * Part 2

Paul longed to see the Roman believers because he wanted to serve them.  Imparting a spiritual gift means to serve in the area of your giftedness.  It is one thing to have a spiritual gift; it is quite another to use it.  Paul would use his gift to establish the Roman believers or to make them stronger and more firm in their faith.

Further, Paul seeks to be encouraged along with the Roman believers.  He desired mutual encouragement through mutual faith.  To encourage means to literally pour courage within a person.  Paul looked for courage from others and looked to impart courage to others.  It was a mutual affair.  Such courage is energized by each believer’s faith or dependence upon the promises and presence of God.

One of the marks of a healthy church is found in whether or not people leave encouraged and filled with hope.  The pastor must seek to establish people by strengthening hope and faith through the Spirit-empowered ministry of the Word of God.  In turn he is strengthened and encouraged by faithful believers who respond favorably to the truth.  When they do respond favorably, the pastor does not feel discouraged as Elijah did when he thought he was all alone.

We must guard against jaded, critical spirits within the body of Christ.  It is important to understand that people often come to church and leave sapped of courage and despair.  This happens because the object of the pastor’s faith may be his performance.  But also the members listening may be depending on solution-oriented directives or warm, home-spun stories which make them feel good.  Some churches may have been duped into thinking that they need to be more seeker-sensitive and so dumb down the Gospel message.  Still other churches are useless ivory towers of erudite academia.

Faith must rest in God’s promises and presence in order to establish believers and encourage them.  We find the presence of God and His promises when we gather each Lord’s Day.  This is why it is so sad when people take for granted the privilege of church attendance.  It is also one major reason for why believers fail to stand strong and remain encouraged.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10.23-25).

Faith in Romans – Part 2

Aren’t you grateful that you are not depending upon someone’s imagination as a believer?  Stories did not capture the attention of the first generation of Christians.  Captivating, inventive perceptions about the origins of human life didn’t spread through the ancient Roman Empire when Christianity flourished.  The faith of God’s people captivated the world.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (see Hebrews 11.1).  Imagination or Faith

“Obedience to the faith” in Romans 1.4-5 is a faith that obeys.  Part 1 explored the first-mention of faith in Romans.  It emphasized that all people without exception have faith, but the object of any person’s faith is crucial.  Once anyone’s faith is placed in the name of Jesus Christ (His person and work), God assuredly saves that person (John 5.23; 6.47).  However a Christian must continue to believe in order to be assured of what he most certainly possesses (John 20.31; 1 John 5.13).  Next, Paul writes:

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world (Romans 1.8).

Paul had never visited Rome.  Yet he thanks God for these believers through the one and only Mediator, Jesus Christ.  There were Romans present at Pentecost when Peter preached and the Holy Spirit indwelt the body of Christ.  These Roman Gentiles placed their faith in Jesus Christ.  Note the text states that it was clearly their faith.  They possessed it.  It belonged to them.

Such vibrant faith is so radiant that it gains a reputation in the world.  But it cannot be vibrant and radiant if it is not placed in Jesus Christ.  All other faith is dead according James 2.14-17.  Even the demons have faith, and they are supernatural beings.  Paul will later contrast the law of works with the law of faith (Romans 3.27-31).  This passage clearly teaches that faith cannot be a work.  Again, it is reliance upon the work of God.  God’s grace is at work in a through the Roman believers as they continue to believe.  They believed at a point-in-time to gain their position (Romans 1-4); they continue to believe throughout the remainder of their lives so that they may gain a reputation (Romans 6-8).

Many are ambivalent when it comes to what others think of them.  They are not too concerned about their reputation.  Although, admittedly, some are way too concerned about it.  Often Christians make sanctimonious and pretentious statements to cover up spiritual immaturity and bolster a pseudo-spirituality which will not stand.  The fact of the matter is that a Christian’s testimony or reputation is very important.  But it must be genuine.  We produce holy lives for the glory of God by faith.  This should be spoken of throughout the whole world.

Faith in Romans – Part 1

Faith - Part 1Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name (Romans 1.5).

Jesus is declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.  Through Him believers have received grace for obedience to the faith (Romans 1.4-5).  Obedience in all forms should be an expression of the grace of God; however, obedience must also be an expression of an individual’s faith.  God’s expression is grace; man’s expression is faith.  The former initiates and the latter responds.  Therefore, Romans presents the concept of faith as a relational term in its very first mention.

The first mention of faith in Romans teaches that Paul’s apostleship was grace-enabled for obedience to the faith among all nations.  The Greek literally reads obedience of faith instead of obedience to the faith as in the New King James Version.  There is no definite article preceding faith in the Greek text.  Paul does not have in mind “the faith” as in the body of Christian doctrine.

The Scripture often ties obedience to faith.  I think that the reason for this connection is found in the fact that faith submits to its object.  Every person, redeemed or not, has faith in something or someone.  But a Christian’s obedience is produced by his faith in Christ (genitive of apposition or definition similar to what we see in Romans 4.11 in the phrase “sign of circumcision”; Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to Romans, Volume 1, 66) .

The atheist lives a life of submission to the concept no God.  The object of the atheist’s faith is the illusory concept that no God exists and no God will hold him accountable.  This concept produces counterfeit life and a perceived freedom in him.  So the atheist has abundant faith.  He would have to have a great measure of faith to believe no God because he ignores all the evidence around him, but sees evidence that is actually not present.  This is why God’s Word declares that anyone who declares, “No God!” is fool.

Faith in Jesus Christ gives up on the notions that there is another way or that there is no Way.  Faith is the realization that God alone gives us (graces us with) righteous and godly lives.

Thus, faith’s first mention in Romans is submission to the righteousness of God available through His resurrected Son.  Indeed, faith obeys and faith works (James 2.14-17).  Faith is dead or alive based upon its object.  Labeling faith as a work or a gift confuses the issue.  Instead, faith is a response to the work of the Son and the reception of the gift extended by the Father.  Therefore, contemplating faith as a gift or a a work confuses us.  To do so is to ask the wrong questions.  The right question is what does the Scripture say about faith’s definition (see Hebrews 11.1)?

This first instance of faith in Romans is among all nations.  The Gospel includes Israel and every other nation on earth (Jew and Gentile; see Romans 1.16-17).  Faith is available to anyone and everyone without exception.  I believe that when we deny this, we obfuscate the clear meaning of Scripture.  As aforementioned, everyone already exercises faith.  I know of no Scripture that contradicts this fact.  But some faith is indeed misplaced.  This is certainly eternally lethal faith.

It is for Jesus’ name that we submit in faith as Christians.  The name of Jesus defines His perfect character and work.  The name of Jesus Christ is the object of the Christian’s faith.  Our faith may be feeble, remain feeble, and flicker as if it may go out at times.  It may have gone out from our perspective.  But no matter the strength of one’s faith or the endurance of one’s faith, it is the object of one’s faith that matters.  

If we at a point-in-time believed in the Son of God, we are saved.  If we continue to believe in the Son of God, we shall grow in the assurance that we are saved (see John 20.31 and 1 John 5.13).  Indeed, faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11.1).  Faith follows objective, factual information from the Scriptures in spite of feelings to the contrary.  My perseverance does not save me.  Making such a claim is tantamount to works-salvation, and God will not share His glory with another.  The promise and perseverance of God are anchored in the matchless name of Jesus Christ.

My heart goes out to many believers who needlessly lack assurance of their position before God as His dear children.  I greatly fear for those who place their faith in any other name than the name of Jesus Christ.  I fear for those who place their faith is their supposed ability to persevere.  I fear because “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12).  It is all of grace, but do you really believe that?