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I Peter 4

I Peter 4: Faithful is He Who Calls You

Peter reminds us as he continues in his instructions on how we are to live, that we will find ourselves suffering for doing good if it is God’s will.   The next verse, I Peter 3: 18 reminds us this is exactly what the Lord Jesus did- He died once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God.

Now comes some verses that have created a lot of speculation over the years as to what actually occurred.  “ For Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous (just) for the unrighteous (unjust), to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit, through which also He went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”

Notice what these verses tell us:   the Lord Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit.  And it is this Spirit through whom He went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed God long ago when He went and preached to those who disobeyed God in the days of Noah.  The word- when- gives us the time frame- it occurred long ago in the days of Noah.  It was the Spirit of Christ, God the Son, who preached through Noah before the flood.  This verse tells us God waited patiently ( with longsuffering). In fact we know that in 120 years of preaching righteousness, only Noah and his family believed and thus only Noah and his family ( 8 souls) entered the ark and were saved from God’s judgment and wrath in a flood that destroyed all of mankind.

Talk about dead congregations!  The Spirit of God preached through Noah for 120 years and only saw 8 who entered into salvation provided by God.   Jesus told us in Matthew 24:  “ As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them  all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”   Invitation after invitation in churches across the land go unheeded.  Churches see their numbers dwindle, their annual number of baptisms declining is prophetic and occurring right before our eyes.

Peter refers to those people as ‘ spirits in prison.’ We can take this scripture to mean to where these unbelievers  are at this present time, held in an unseen world ( Luke 16) awaiting their eternal sentence to be pronounced at the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 19.   It can also fit a description of where they were spiritually in the days of Noah when the Spirit of God preached to them through Noah- they were imprisoned by their sins and unbelief.

The Lord Jesus told us- narrow is the gate and straight the way that leads to eternal life, but few enter in to the only way.  Many however, enter the wide gate and the broad way that seems right to man but leads to eternal destruction.

The ark represents God’s salvation.  Notice they were saved through the water.  Water baptism is a symbol outwardly of what takes place inwardly when we are saved, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ.  We hear these words spoken at the water baptism,’ buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life.’

But there is something else I want us to see here before we leave these verses.  Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:24: “ Faithful is He who calls  you, who will also do it.”   God is Holy and His Holiness calls for God to judge sin.  Here once again in Genesis, God reveals He is Judge. To be true to Himself He must exact the penalty for sin. Just as He had told Adam and Eve when they disobeyed Him and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would surely die. He had to condemn them.  His Holiness compelled Him to become their judge, but His everlasting love compelled God to be their Redeemer.  It was God who came looking for them. It was God who took the life of  an innocent animal to cover them in their nakedness. It was God who gave them the promise of a Redeemer who was coming who would crush the head of the serpent.

And so we see the twofold nature of God- He is both Judge and Redeemer. For 120 years, God called  the people to salvation from His judgment by preaching through Noah.  God had to judge the sin then just as He will in every generation that passes from this world to their next- for He is Holy and must be true to Himself.  But He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9b) God took no pleasure in the death of the wicked at the flood, and He is the same today as He will be forever.

Faithful is He who calls you – Who will also do it.  God called them to enter the ark- the method by which He could save them through the waters of judgment. Like Jesus said upon entering Jerusalem that last time- O  Jerusalem, Jerusalem- how I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. ( Matthew 23:37) God wanted to gather those people into the ark, but they were not willing.

Faithful is He who calls you- who will also do it.  John the Baptist made two proclamations regarding the Lord Jesus: (1.) Behold the Lamb of God , which takes away the sin of the world. (2.) He that sent me to baptize with water—the same is that which baptizes with the Holy Spirit.(John 1)  Christ will do a twofold work for those who accept Him as Savior- He takes away our sin and baptizes us in the Spirit. He came that we might have life- ( eternal life, His life in our life) and life more abundantly ( a spirit filled, spirit-empowered life). This two fold act occurred at salvation.  “ Now this is life eternal, that they may know you, the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” ( John 17:3)

So here is the picture so far:  we are a building of living stones, the superstructure laid upon the foundation of the Lord Jesus our Cornerstone. The furnishings of this superstructure are supplied by the Holy Spirit and include:  indwelling, cleansing, controlling, guiding, empowering, filling and anointing. We are now the dwelling place of  God Almighty. Our heart is His home. Do you see how He is faithful?  The One who calls you- will also do it.  The question then we ask is: What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answers: “ The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” ( John 6: 28-29)

So we see in the first sin in Eden, a God who seeks sinners, who because of their guilt and shame were hiding from Him.  I want you to contemplate this revelation of God:  My God is a  God who when He  was wronged, wounded and  grieved at the sin of His creation which He loves seeks out the sinner to restore them to Himself. This same God through the Spirit preached to the lost in the days of Noah for 120 years, waiting patiently while the ark was being built.   Thus begins the story of redemption and once again Peter reminds us of what it costs God to redeem us. Here on Father’s Day – we stand in awe as we realize : “ How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” I John 3) And in order for you and I to be redeemed it took the sacrifice of God’s only Son who died in our place that we might become the children of God.  What a costly adoption procedure!


“Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude ( mind-KJV), because he who has suffered in the body is done with sin, and as a result does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. “ Notice the instruction to ‘ arm yourselves also with the same attitude.’ We are being told to prepare for the battle. Paul would instruct us to put on the whole armor.

What did Paul also tell us in Romans 6? “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?  Do you believe this truth?  It is foundational to your living out your new identity.

We have been born again by the incorruptible seed, the Word of God. The Spirit of God using the Word of God will produce a son of God. And that son of God ( which you and I are) has a new nature , a new nature that is not going to live in sin.  If we could be compared to a pig before we were saved, then we understand why we are compared to a sheep after we are saved. We have a new nature. No longer the nature of a pig who loves to wallow in the filth of a pig pen, we now have a new nature, the nature of a sheep who hates the filth of a pigpen.  A sheep who falls into a pigpen would be very uncomfortable and want out as soon as possible and want to cleansed immediately.  May I say- if you are living in a pigpen of sin and are not uncomfortable- something is wrong with you.

A child of God  with a new nature longs to please the Lord in all he/she does. They do not want to please their old nature.  And thus the battle takes place- in which the old nature battles against the new nature, the flesh against the Spirit for control of the body.   The battle is for the mind, that is why the KJV  says ‘ arm yourselves likewise with the same mind ( attitude, NIV).’

We are to arm ourselves so that we no longer live the rest of our time on earth after we are saved in the pursuit of evil human desires, but to the will of God in the pursuit of holiness.

I Peter 4: 3 describes in no- nonsense language some of the sins we lived in before our conversion.  Peter says you spent enough time in the past behaving this way- choosing to live in this pagan lifestyle.   I have on occasion at business dinners and banquets been asked by fellow employees, as well as business acquaintances- ‘ do you not drink anything, Tim? ‘  The answer I sometimes give is:  “ I drank enough from 1963 to 1977 to last a lifetime.” In other words, I spent enough time in the past living that way.   Sometimes this invites further conversation or immediately ends the conversation.

I know some of these people think it is strange  I do not do these things. I heard once from a third party that someone  I had shared scripture with- called me a ‘ Bible Thumper.”

If we are to pursue holiness for the Word of God tells us we are to be holy as God is Holy, what is involved?

First of all the word ‘pursue’ suggests two thoughts:  diligence and effort are required and secondly, this is a lifelong task.  Peter will tell us  in 2 Peter 1: “ His Divine Power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

The question is do you know Him?  And do you know the great and precious promises He has given us that we might participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires? We must study to show ourselves approved, a workman who needs not to be ashamed  and who correctly handles the Word of God.( 2 Timothy 2:15)

Peter tells us the reason the gospel is preached to those who are dead- is because it is the gospel by which we are saved. And we were all spiritually  dead in sin and trespasses when we heard the gospel.  Jesus in parables told how many had an excuse when the received the invitation  that basically said they had other priorities.  Jesus said this is the verdict- light has come into the world and men preferred darkness.   Paul tells us all are without excuse because God Himself has revealed Himself through His creation and through man’s conscience.  So that when they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. ( Romans 1)

Peter tells us the end of all things is near.  Isn’t it interesting what Peter writes in 2 Peter about the last days:  “ First of all , you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, : “ where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s Word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world at that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” ( 2 Peter 3)

So the end of all things is near. And it is a lot nearer now than it was in Peter’s day two thousand years ago.  We see the signs everywhere in our society.

Gird the loins of your mind, Peter said earlier. Put on the whole armor of God said Paul in Ephesians 6.  Watch and pray said the Lord  said lest you fall into temptation.  Be vigilant for your enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may destroy. Therefore Peter says be clear minded and self-controlled ( sober) so that you can pray. Let nothing cloud your thinking- drugs, alcohol, sin.  Why?  So that you can pray intelligently, and specifically.   Prayer is why we put on the whole armor. For it is in prayer- we do battle.

Next, an instruction so important, Peter prefaces by saying ‘ Above all..” love each other deeply (fervently,KJV) because love covers a multitude of sins.”    Remember what the greatest commandment is – to love the Lord thy God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength, and with all your soul. And the second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. On these all the  commandments are based.

Love forgives again and again- keeps no record of wrongs. Why do I love the Lord so much?  Because He has forgiven me so much.  He is like that song I recently heard- I Just want one more second chance and He is faithful to give us chance after chance after chance.

Remember the story Jesus told in Luke7 in response to the woman who had led a sinful life and evidently everyone knew it? She came to the Pharisee’s house where Jesus was eating and poured a alabaster jar of perfume on his feet. The host, Simon, was appalled this woman who was a sinner had done this and the Lord Jesus had not reacted to her touching him.   The Lord then told a parable of two men who owed to a certain money lender a debt. One owed 500 denarii  the other owed  50 denarii- but neither had the money to pay him back. The money lender forgave both men their debts. Which of them loved the moneylender more?  Simon, the Pharisee answered- I suppose the one who owed him more. You answered correctly the Lord said and went on to point out how Simon had neglected to show the Lord any acts of love or kindness.   Yet this woman had  poured out her perfume and her love on the Lord .

This woman who showed such great love for the Lord, had been forgiven many sins.  She was saved by grace through faith- her love did not save her- it was only evidence of her forgiveness.  ( One truth we do not want to overlook- although one man owed much and the other very little in comparison, neither one were able to pay their debts. We are all in debt and none of us can pay it.)   ‘ Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow’.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, which is actually a three part parable where we have a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son, we often miss something.  There are two fundamental truths that come out of this 3 part parable: (1.) The rejoicing over the recovery of the lost sheep, coin or son is compared to the rejoicing in heaven over the repentance of each sinner. (2.) In each of these three parables, the shepherd who lost his sheep; the woman who lost her coin; and the father who lost his son, none gave up the right of ownership. In the same way, since the Garden of Eden, God is presented as still claiming His ownership over His creation, even of those who claim they are not lost.

Each of us who are saved and walking with the Lord must realize, the God of All Creation came seeking us when we were lost. No wonder He is called the Hound of Heaven.

This love will also manifest itself in hospitality offered to one another without grumbling.  We read often of the early church opening the doors of their homes to feed and welcome others.

This love for the Lord will also reveal itself in sharing and using whatever gift God has given you to serve others.

And Peter reminds us each believer has received a gift  he/she has received for the purpose of sharing it with others.

Further instructions on how we are to act and for what reason are made clear in these next verses where Peter tells us: if we speak, we are to do it as one speaking the very words of God; if we serve, we are to serve with the strength the Lord provides and all is this is done in all things so that God may be praised through Jesus Christ- to Him be glory and the power for ever and ever, AMEN!

FAITHFUL IS HE WHO CALLS YOU- WHO WILL ALSO DO IT. What a great and precious promise from your Heavenly Father on this Father’s Day!

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14

Romans 9b

Romans: The Potter’s Wheel

“ I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” This quote is from Exodus 33 following the Golden Calf incident. As we recall that tragic incident, in which God through Moses orders the Levites to execute the offenders.We read “the Levites did as God commanded and that day about 3,000 of the people died.” Shocked as we might be at this, God has made it clear from the outset in His dealing with mankind – the wages of sin is death.  And so God is stating a fact:  I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and compassion of whom I will have compassion. Remember there is an estimated 2,000,000 Israelites in the wilderness who have come out of Egypt. They had just forfeited their rights to blessing , yet God showed mercy on the 1,997,000.

But there is also another side of this coin of mercy and compassion and that is judgment and consequences that arise out of God’s Sovereignty. The result is God hardening whom He wants to harden.  As an example Paul revisits the story of Moses and the Pharaoh. And we will see- a person can cross a line with God and never be able to recover from a fatally hardened heart and seared conscience.

The Proverbs tell us- ‘ the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ When we read these accounts of God’s summary judgment on individuals and nations, we should fear as Jesus said “ I will show whom you should fear: Fear Him who after the killing of your body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you fear Him.” ( Luke 12)

There are two extremes we must avoid: one extreme is to overemphasize the mercy of God and conclude that God is too kind to condemn a person to an eternity of woe.   The death of the wicked, their eternal separation from God, gives Him no pleasure, but God must be true to  His Word. The other extreme is to overemphasize the severity of God and make Him to be  an angry, merciless God who pours out wrath upon sinners.  So let us look at the scriptural history of Moses and Pharaoh and see that God is patient and kind.  Listen to what Paul tells us: “ Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?  Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”( Romans 2) Thank God for His patience and kindness.

Here are two men, Moses and the Pharaoh. Both are sinners, Moses is a murderer and the Pharaoh, is probably guilty of many sins (perhaps even murder also, although we are not told.) They represent two nations, the nation of Israel and the nation of Egypt.  One nation, Israel, is enslaved and powerless, while the other is the slave master, captor and powerful.   We see God forgiving and empowering Moses and Israel, while at the same time punishing Pharaoh and Egypt.

Let’s deal with the Pharaoh, in which case we might already be thinking, did Pharaoh have any choice in the matter?  After all, God foretold Moses at the ‘burning bush’ He would harden the heart of the Pharaoh.  Additionally in Exodus 9:16, God states emphatically: ‘ But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show my power and that My Name might be proclaimed  in all the earth.’

A study of the plagues reveals after each of the first five plagues, the Pharaoh hardens his heart himself. It is only after the sixth plague we read God made firm the heart of the Pharaoh.  After the third plague, the Pharaoh’s own magicians told the Pharaoh they were witnessing the very finger of God.  After the seventh plague, the Pharaoh hardened his heart once again. This would be last time, the hardening process would be attributed to the Pharaoh hardening his heart himself, from then on- God Himself hardened his heart.  Yet as we read the history of this event, we realize this was only after the Pharaoh was warned repeatedly by God through Moses.

Now comes the question, Paul anticipated from some of the readers:  “ Then why does God still blame us? For who resists His will?”  And Paul answers: ‘who are you , O man, to talk back to God?’

The question of God’s justice in light of human suffering is as old as the book of Job. How can God be Almighty and allow human suffering  and especially in the suffering of the innocent? Job was beyond puzzled as to why all this had happened to him and questioned God and in his summation found in Job 31, Job denies a whole list of sins in this outpouring to God.  He denies: sins of the heart, such as lust; of cheating in business and marital infidelity, greed, idolatry and hypocrisy. And remember, it was God Himself who bragged about His servant Job.  And now finally Job demands an answer from Almighty God.  “ The Lord answered Job out of the storm and He said:  “ Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself and I will question you, and you shall answer me:  Where were you when I laid the earths’ foundation?” And for the next three chapters God asks questions, no man has the understanding to answer. Job finally replies: “ I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” And Job repents of his doubt and unbelief and demands that God explain Himself to him, a mere man.  In the end, Job humbles himself, repents and confesses:  God is Who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. Of course the story ends with Job being blessed more in the latter part of his life than the first.

Paul knows the ones who ask these questions are those who are unrepentant and question God’s motives because they do not like His rules. They defame God’s character and attempt to smear His reputation by questioning His judgment as being unfair, even indifferent. These who would question God’s goodness even question His power. If He is Almighty- why can He not stop evil?

I believe common sense tells us the difference, between one who questions God out of a sincere desire to know the truth and one who questions God in an irreverent way, as  described here as those who ‘talk back’ to God. As a child growing up you knew the difference and if you did not your parents or teachers made the difference clear between asking questions in search of an answer and talking back in disrespect, in an argumentative way that questioned authority you were under.

Paul says to those who question God’s Sovereignty:  “ Who are you , o man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it- why did you make me like this? Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble uses and some for common?  What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make His power known, BORE WITH GREAT PATIENCE( emphasis mine) the objects of His wrath prepared for destruction? Lets’ look at the trip Jeremiah took down to the potter’s house in Jeremiah 18. Listen to what God says: “ If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict upon it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey Me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.”

* The Lord retains the right to do as He pleases and limit His actions based on man’s response to His offers of pardons as He exhibits great patience with us.

When Cain’s offering was not accepted and Cain was angry. God told Cain, if he did what was right, he would be accepted.   In 2 Chronicles 7- God tells us, His People- when He shuts the heavens where there is no rain,or commands  locust to devour the land or sends a plague among His people, if His people will humble themselves, and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways, the will He hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land.  In Romans 10- God says of the nation of Israel: “ All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

We will see the reason by the end of this chapter, that God’s basis for rejecting Israel was their unbelief.

*(One cannot but wonder, if American was a nation God announced as one to be built up and planted.  And now if our nation does evil in His sight and does not obey Him, will He not also reconsider the good He had intended for us???  Have we not been warned? Warned several times? Then based on scripture and the previous actions of God- what can we expect?)

Now Romans 9:22-23 upon first glance appears to say God created some people ( vessels) in order to destroy them and some to make the riches of His glory known through His mercy.  The reason I emphasized  ‘great patience’, referred to in KJV as ‘ endured with much long suffering’ is to show that God gave the Pharaoh opportunities to be saved as Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:9, ‘God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ So I believe God prepares men for glory, but sinners prepare themselves for judgment.  The Pharaoh ‘ fitted’(KJV) – prepared himself for God’s wrath as we saw through his own sin and self-hardening.  God endured the Pharaoh, as He does all of us, with much long-suffering.  We destroy ourselves with sin, but we cannot save ourselves from hell, it is God in His Mercy and Grace  that prepares us for the glory of heaven that awaits us.

Paul has written all of this and now shows how the rejection of the Jews and the inclusion of the Gentiles was foretold in the Old Testament.  Recalling what Hosea says:  “ I will call my people who are not my people, and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my  loved one.’ ( Romans 9:25)

The Jews were never intended to use this special relationship for exclusiveness – Jews Only. From the very beginning, God has expressed His love for the whole world, for all the nations.  He said to Abraham through his seed all the nations would be blessed.   In fact Paul emphasizes this in Galatians 3:  “ The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not  say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people but to your seed, meaning one person, who is Christ.” And later on in that same chapter Paul writes:  “ you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.”

And finally Paul quotes from Isaiah, who declared ‘ only a remnant will be saved.” In fact, Isaiah says if not for the grace and mercy of God, they would have become like Sodom and Gomorrah.

What did Jesus say in Matthew 22:  “ The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. He sent more servants and said, “ Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered and everything is ready. Come to the banquet.”

The parable continues as Jesus tells his audience that the people paid no attention and went about their business as usual. The rest seized his servants and mistreated and even killed them. The king sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants go to the street corners and invite anyone you find, and they gathered the good and the bad and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

And the Lord Jesus ends this parable with this solemn statement:  “ For many are invited (called, KJV), but few are chosen.”

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. ( John 1)  Thus the prophecy of the Old Testament comes true, much to the heartache of the Lord and Paul , one of His many servants the Lord sent to invite them to the wedding banquet.

Now Paul is not going to miss this opportunity for a most important teachable moment. Paul asks-‘what shall we say?’  Paul will then tell his audience, including those of us who read it today  why the Gentiles were accepted and the Jews rejected. The difference was in their way of seeking righteousness.

Here was the problem in a nutshell which seems to be a paradox:  The Jews who were seeking after righteousness did not find it and yet the Gentiles who were not seeking righteousness- found it.  ‘What shall we say then?’ Paul gives us the answer and the solution:  the Jews /Israel tried to be saved by works and not by faith. They rejected grace righteousness, the righteousness of God that comes by faith and not by works. The Jews tried to please God by keeping the law- they wanted to earn a righteousness that came by keeping the law. The Gentiles accepted the gift of salvation that comes by grace through faith and not of works.

In fact, the Jews thought if any Gentile desired to be saved, they must come up to their level. When in fact the opposite was true, they must come down to the level of the Gentile to be saved.   Do you now see how many times and ways the Lord Jesus tried to get the Jews, the Pharisees to see the truth?  Listen to one of his many parables that tell this truth:  The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18, where we see a proud Pharisee praying in the temple bragging about his works, thanking God he was not like other men, including the tax collector.  And the tax collector simply beat his breast in anguish and said, “ God have mercy on  me, a sinner.” Jesus said this man, the tax collector went home justified before God.

Paul tells us the truth when he says- ‘ ALL HAVE SINNED, and come short of the glory of God.’ God had given the Jews the religious privileges to lead them to Christ, the Jews had used these privileges as a substitute for Christ.

Paul ends this first of three chapters regarding the nation of Israel referring to the Lord Jesus Christ as the stumbling stone.  Here are some verses relating to this comparison of the Lord Jesus as the cornerstone of the foundation.

“ See I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” ( Isaiah 28:16)

“The stone the builders rejected has become a capstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalms 118)

“ And He will be a sanctuary but for both houses of Israel He will be a stone that cause men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” ( Isaiah 8)  { the both houses refers to the divided kingdom at that time of Judah and the Northern Kingdom.}

There it is- either the Lord is the cornerstone of your life- or a stumbling block over which we fall. There is a parable where Jesus uses these prophecies regarding the cornerstone and the stumbling block found in Luke 20, called ‘ The Parable of the Tenants’.  The parable is about the vineyard owner who rented his vineyard to some tenant farmers. At harvest time the vineyard owner sent a servant to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard, owed to him. They beat the servant and treated him shamefully. ( Just as they did the prophets)  The vineyard owner then sent his own son, who they killed, saying let the inheritance be ours.   Jesus then said what then will the owner do?  He will come and kill the tenants and give the vineyard to others.

And then Jesus looks directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:  ‘The stone the builders rejected has become a capstone? Everyone who falls on the stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it(the stone) falls will be crushed.”

On Christ, the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Brokeness is an intricate part of repentance and godly sorrow. “ The sacrifices of God are  a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart you will not despise.” ( Psalm 51) God gives grace to the broken, the humble, He resists the proud.

Paul is stating emphatically and scripturally, that Israel’s rejection of Christ does not deny the faithfulness of God.  Romans 9 in no way negates Romans 8. God is faithful, righteous, just and gracious and He can be depended upon to accomplish His purpose and keep His promises.

“Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way. Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.”   What wonderful song and   prayer that also holds some very important instructions.  This prayer is in the will of God, so we know He hears it and grants our request.  But after praying this prayer, look at the instructions of what we are to do : waiting in anticipation, yielded, and still.  We are to wait on the Lord, I say, wait on the Lord. Wait and do good. We are to yield ourselves unto God not sin. And we are to be still and know that He is Lord.

Is this your prayer- do you desire to be on the Potter’s Wheel?

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14

Romans 9

Romans 9: Trusting the Heart of God!

Beginning with Romans 9 through Romans 11, Paul deals with the nation of Israel. Chapter 9 deals with Israel’s past; chapter 10 will address the present and finally chapter 11 will reveal her future. This is not only a personal issue with Paul, as we will see it is also a doctrinal issue.  The questions are:  has God been unjust? Why does God blame us ( find fault,KJV)?  What shall we say then?

As Paul addresses these issues, he will magnify the attributes of God in these particular areas: 1. His Sovereignty 2. His Faithfulness 3. His Righteousness 4. His Justice 5. His Grace, Love and Mercy.

I want to remind you what God said of Himself: “ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” ( Isaiah 55)  And also in Deuteronomy 29:29, we read: “ The secret things belong to the Lord Our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of the law.”

We are now venturing into those higher thoughts and ways that remind us- we are not on the same level of understanding that an All Knowing, All Powerful, Omni-Present, Unchanging, Eternal, Holy, Loving and Just God is.  The One who is Creator of all things and by whom all things are held together is beyond our understanding sometimes.

Paul begins with a strong vow expressing his great sorrow for the people of Israel, his own people who for the most part view Paul as a traitor.  Paul says he desires their salvation so much he would be cut off from Christ, that is take their place in torment in order that they might be saved.  ( Interestingly, this is exactly what the Lord Jesus has done already.) This love that Paul expresses is a supernatural love which is a fruit of the Spirit.

Paul then lists a remarkable list of privileges and blessings upon the nation of Israel on the basis of God’s election:

  1. Adopted as God’s own people- blessed with this special relationship out of all the nations.
  2. The divine glory of God’s presence in  His Shekinah Glory in the tabernacle and later the temple.
  3. The covenants with Abraham, Moses and David.
  4. The Law  ( the 10 Commandments) which are the basis for all true legal codes
  5. The temple worship. God not only gave them the law they were to obey, but a method of restoration when they disobeyed His code.
  6. The Promise to the Fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
  7. The highest blessing of all, the human ancestry of Christ.

However, since we know the past history of the nation of Israelites we know the majority of the Jews did not accept Jesus as Messiah. And it troubles us when people have experienced such a revelation from God and yet- only a remnant are saved. The words, election and predestined, sovereignty and man’s free will begin to blur and we cannot seem to come down on the side of one truth without contradicting the other truth.  Confused? Not so much confused, as unable to climb up high enough to comprehend God’s thoughts.  So when I can’t understand, when I can’t trace His hand, I will trust His heart.

What do I know about My Heavenly Father’s character and attributes and most of all what do I know about His heart?  I know God is : sovereign; all powerful, all knowing, all wise , ever present, just, holy and righteous. Those attributes are balanced by what I know is in His heart:  goodness, mercy, love, patience, faithfulness, grace, the God of all hope. When you add them together- He is absolutely perfect. He has never made a mistake and never will. He has the right to do anything He wants to do, and He always does the right thing. God is much too wise to be mistaken.

Paul tells us ‘ it is not as though God’s word had failed. His Word never returns void. In the parable of the  sower in Luke 8, Jesus explains the meaning to his disciples. The seed is the Word of God, the four types of soil are the four types of hearts, and the one who snatched away the Word is the devil. So we see the hard heart, the shallow heart, the crowded heart and finally the good heart.  So even this parable indicates the word is not believed and received always- in fact it is always just a remnant that is saved.

God told Abraham he would be blessed through the son of promise, Isaac. Isaac represents  the spirit, Ishmael the flesh. The flesh, the old  sinful nature is always at enmity with God. The old nature is always the first born, the new nature is second born.  Adam and what we refer to as the Adamic nature was first, the last Adam the Lord Jesus was second.  Ishmael and Esau represent- the old sinful nature, the works of the flesh- they cared nothing about spiritual truths and were at enmity with God.

And so we read in Romans 9 about how God told Abraham it would be through Isaac you will be reckoned. It is the children of promise who are regarded Abraham’s offspring. And again we read-  “ yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad- in order that God’s purpose in election might stand; not by works but by Him who calls- she(Rebekah) was told- ‘the older will serve the younger’.  In fact, quoting from Malachi, Paul reminds us God said Jacob I have loved and Esau- I have hated. The use of the word – hate, makes us cringe when it is accredited to God.  Here is the truth we must accept:  these were done in order that God’s purpose in election might stand not by works but by Him who calls.

Can I explain this in a way that will satisfy us and enable us to understand this mystery?  No, I cannot, nor do I think anyone else can satisfactorily. We have two truths which seem to undermine each other when it comes to God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.

The Bible affirms human responsibility right alongside divine sovereignty. The gospel of mercy is extended to all alike-( Isaiah 55:1 and Revelation 22:17).  Acts 17:30 commands all men to turn to God and repent and be saved. 2 Peter 3: 9 tells us God is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all should be saved. And the Lord Jesus said:  ‘ the one who comes unto Me, I will in no way cast him/her out. ‘ ( John 6)

It was Spurgeon himself, when asked how did he reconcile God’s Sovereignty and man’s free will. Spurgeon replied:  “ I wouldn’t try. I never reconcile friends.” What a sensible approach. Neither position ceases to be true simply because we cannot accept or understand the paradox.

So Paul is prepared for what he realizes will be the question he knows will come to the mind of some: ‘What then shall we say?  Is God unjust?  Not at all!’    Was God unjust when He chose Jacob over Esau, or Isaac or Ishmael?   Paul answers – no,not at all!

Let me stop here and tell you what I know.  And what I know is what the Word of God has told me.  Do you understand what our purpose is- what we were made, created for?  To know God. What aim or goal should we then set for ourselves in life?  To know God. This was the goal and aim of Paul’s life.  What is eternal life?  Jesus who gives eternal life, says knowledge of God is eternal life. “ This is eternal life : that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ , whom You have sent.” ( John 17:3)  Phillip asked the Lord Jesus to show us the Father. And Jesus said: “ Don’t you know me, Phillip , even after I have been among  you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” ( John 14)

This is the main business we are here on this earth for- to know God. And the main thing is to keep the main thing- the main thing.  Now knowing another person is a complex matter, for it requires spending time with them, observing how they react and respond in certain situations. But what makes it even more complex is people keep secrets. They do not always show us what is in their hearts.  In fact, the quality and extent of our knowledge of someone else is dependent upon them more than us, isn’t it?

Now there is also one other complication in this matter of knowing another person. If the other person is in a higher position, for example, the President of the USA, we realize our knowing them, will be for them to decide, for we cannot approach them, without their consent.

Certainly God has some secret things that belong to God, that perhaps in glory we will understand, but not at this time.

However, God in His Word is actually speaking to you and me. I remember the moment after my salvation, I was reading His Word and upon reading a certain promise, I knew God was actually speaking to me.   God has not only adopted me as His son, I am also counted as His friend. He takes me and you into His confidence. He tells what is on His mind and what matters concern Him. And even more amazing, He invites us to join Him in His particular undertakings.

What is involved in knowing God?  First listening to God’s Word and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it. Second, in studying God’s Word, we observe His nature and character, how He acts and remember He is unchanging. Third, we accept His invitation to work with Him. Fourth, we rejoice as we recognize the love He has lavished upon us and drawing us into His fellowship.

Now to underscore the importance of this, listen to what God has to say to you and me regarding knowing Him: “ Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this:  THAT HE UNDERSTANDS AND KNOWS ME.” ( Jeremiah 9:23.24)

Now here is something else I know about my Heavenly Father:  He has infinite power ruled by infinite wisdom. Job got it- he said : “His wisdom is profound, His power is vast.” ( Job 9).

So here is the question as asked by Isaiah:  “ Do you not know? Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.” Isaiah also said: “ Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great strength and power, not one of them is missing.” ( Isaiah 40)

We gain knowledge of how God acts in His infinite power and wisdom by reading the stories of how God deals with people. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses. There we see how God works in their lives and know how he acts, we begin to see His ways. In each case we see it took God years to work into their lives the lessons they needed to learn.

And in the life of Joseph, we see clearly what God was doing and Joseph did also after the years of refining, testing and maturing, God was able to take Joseph from the prison to become the 2nd most powerful person in the kingdom. The lesson Joseph learned, was even though his brothers through their free human will meant it for evil, God in His Sovereign will meant it for good, for the saving of many lives.   And this is what God is doing in our lives, and these things were written for our learning. Learning how God works. How God delivered us from the prison of sin where the enemy of our soul held us captive. He delivered us from that prison right into the presence of the King of kings and invites us to work with Him.  And through His Divine Power and Infinite Wisdom, He will give us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness through our knowledge of Him, just as the king of Egypt made sure that Joseph had everything he needed to do what needed to be done.

In fact, we can understand that Paul had studied the lives these saints God had worked with and he is sharing with us what he has learned through this of the wisdom of God, the power of God, the sovereignty of God.

Paul knows the story of Moses well. It is a story near and dear to the Jewish people. He quotes from Exodus when God reveals to Moses- “ I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” ( Exodus 33)

Thus begins Paul’s scriptural answer to the question, Is God unjust? We will look at Paul’s answer to this question next week.

For me this week, this lesson underscored the all important truth of knowing God.  For knowing God, not just about Him, but knowing Him is the answer to any and all question we have that arise out of God’s Sovereignty, man’s free will, election,  and predestination.

This week’s lesson and study has, at least for me, said the main thing is to know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  Realizing there are those things I may never know this side of heaven.  Nevertheless, I want to know all I can .

Here is what J. I Packer says in his classic study, “Knowing God’, from which I have learned much.

First, knowing God is a matter of personal dealing as is all direct acquaintances with other persons. Knowing God is more than knowing about Him; it is a matter of dealing with Him as he opens up to you. Knowing about him is a precondition of trusting Him. But the width of our knowledge about him is no gauge for the depth of our knowledge of Him.  I admire  those who have formal education and training and who are learned scholars who understand Hebrew and Greek and are theologians of great renown .  I wonder however, if some of them will be the ones, Jesus speaks to who clamor to tell Him what all they have done in His name and He says to  them- ‘ depart from me, I NEVER KNEW YOU.

Second, knowing God is a matter of personal involvement.  This is what Henry Blackaby is speaking of when he talks and writes about experiencing God. It is not just about knowing about God, but knowing God. I know a lot about George Bush, the elder. Shook hands with him, have been outside his home in Kennebunk Port, Maine.  Know his wife’s name, his children’s names, where he went to school, the fact that he is left handed, played first base on Yale baseball team, served as pilot in WWII, doesn’t like broccoli…and so on.  But if I walked up to the gate and tried to gain admission into his home, he would tell me to depart, he never knew me.

You see, my knowing about God can be knowing information about Him, just as I know information about George Bush. Knowing God is a matter of grace.  I did not make friends with God; God made friends with me. God knows my name. And you know what?  I love Him, because He first loved me!  Jesus said I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me.

Here is what is amazing:  God knows me. My name is engraved on  the palm of His Hands. I am never out of His mind. He knows everything about me, and still loves me with an everlasting love. He knows me as friend, has adopted me as His Son; His eye is always on me. Whatever concerns me, concerns Him.  He is working everything together for good.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. ( Psalm 139)

“ Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; You stretch out your hands against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever- do not abandon the works of your hands.


When I can’t understand, When I can’t see His Plan, When I can’ t trace His Hand.  I Trust His Heart!

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14

Romans 8d

Romans- R.S.V.P

As we look back at this verse 28, that began this encouraging  section that describes us as ‘ more than conquerors’, we look at the phrase –‘those who are the called according to His purpose.” (KJV)  Who are the “called”? There is much discussion and confusion about who the ‘called’ are which Paul writes about.  Let us think about what Scripture tells us.

First Scripture makes it clear about God’s  Sovereignty:  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55)   We also know God can make a way where there is no way.

Scripture tells us of God’s purpose- “For God so loved the world, He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)  “And He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the world.” (I John 2). And Peter reminds us- ‘The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3.)   It is clear God is not willing- that is God does not will anyone to perish. And Jesus could not be any clearer when He spoke these words:  “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but  YOU WERE NOT WILLING.” These verses tell us Jesus would not violate their will to choose.  (Luke 13)

Then consider the two similar parables told by the Lord in Matthew 22 where He compares the kingdom of God to a king who prepares a wedding banquet for his son and sent his servants out to those who had been invited. “Many are called, but few are chosen” KJV “Many are invited, but few are chosen” NIV Matthew 22:14. In the other similar parable in Luke 14, we are told many of the reasons why they declined the invitation. One had just bought a field and was going to see it. Another had just purchased a team of oxen. And still a third declined for they had just married.

Paul describes three groups in I Corinthians and I believe these three groups are still present today. Paul wrote, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power and the wisdom of God.”   The Jews trusted in religion, rite, ritual and works. There are many today who are active in their religion but have no relationship with the true and living God.  The Greeks trust in their own intelligence, philosophy and human wisdom. Many today view the Bible as antiquated, and in their finite wisdom deem it to nothing more than superstitious myths which happen to contain some good principles, but is nothing more than a book.  The ‘called’ were those who believed.   They accepted the invitation. Jesus was very clear- in John 3:  “This is the verdict, Light has come into the world but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

Make no mistake- God is sovereign. However, God does not force us to act against our own will; rather God accomplishes His purpose and brings about His plan through the willing choices of men. Therefore, although salvation is all of God, man is responsible and accountable for his choice. So when we approach this difficult issue of election, God’s Divine Will and man’s free will, we find two truths which we seem to be unable to reconcile. Guess why?  God’s ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts higher than our thoughts, that is why.  “The secret things belong to the Lord Our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” ( Deut.29:29)

Now let us venture into the sequence of this process and tackle the words – ‘foreknew and predestined.’   First of all this word, predestined is never used in connection with the lost. It is always in connection with those who have accepted the invitation, who have RSVP’d to the invitation to come to the wedding banquet. This sequence which Paul describes is the ongoing process of sanctification that begins when we accept the invitation, the call. We are then supplied with a righteousness that is from God that is by faith. God supplies us with the Robe of Christ’s Righteousness, for only those wearing this will be admitted to the Wedding Banquet.

“For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” ( Romans8:29)  What does foreknew mean?  Simply to know beforehand. Know something is going to happen before it happens. A fact must be established in order for it be known.  Most human knowledge comes after the fact is established.  But even man can predict with great accuracy what will occur in the future.  For example:  a scientist can tell you with great accuracy when an eclipse will occur, the time, the date, and the exact geographical location in terms of longitude and latitude where it can be seen.  The scientist did not cause the eclipse, he only knew the fact beforehand. Listen to these verses in Psalms 139: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” In this great Psalm- the Psalmists, David, testifies to God as all knowing and ever present. (Omnipresent and omniscient.) He has all knowledge, including foreknowledge.   He knows the end from the beginning. “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and His will to the praise of His glorious grace which He has freely given us in the One He loves. (Ephesians 1)

Now let us try to understand as best we can how this worked as Peter explains in his sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:  “ Men of Israel, listen to this : Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him…..Therefore let all Israel be assured of this:  God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. When the people HEARD  this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, Brothers, what shall we do?  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. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are for off- for all whom the Lord Our God will call.”

That Jesus would be crucified was prophesized hundreds of years before, in fact in the Garden of Eden it was foretold. This prophesy was specific in how He would be executed, how He would be betrayed – so it was foreknown by God and man had done this to Him by their own free will.  Now notice the reaction- some were cut to the heart. These are those who heard the call and wanted to know what shall we do? So on that first day of the Holy Spirit’s arrival, we see exactly what Paul tells us in I Corinthians- to some Jews; it was a stumbling block, because they depended on their religion, their rituals and their works of the flesh, in other words, their self righteousness.  To others, this was foolishness, it could not be reckoned with their human intelligence. To some who saw the light it was a decision of their own free will to stay in darkness, because they preferred darkness because their deeds were evil.  To others it was indifference for they had other things more important to them, their treasures were the things of the world- a field they had purchased, a team of oxen they had bought or another relationship which was more important for they had just married.   But those who accepted the message were baptized and about three thousand souls were added to their number that day.

John writes:  “He came to His own, but his own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believe in Him, He gave the right to become children of God- the children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or the husband’s will , but born of God.” (John 1)

For God sent His son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved.  “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden.” “Behold I stand at the door and knock> If anyone hear my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”

R.S.V.P.   Respondez, s’il vous plait.  Respond if you please.  Many are invited – few are chosen.

Can the sovereign will of God and the free will of man be reconciled?  In God’s mind they are- I am not sure any of us will ever be able to reconcile what seem to be two irreconcilable truths. For now I am satisfied with what God is satisfied. I am satisfied that I have responded to His invitation, opened the door and let Him into my life, I have believed, received and have become and am in the process of becoming the son of God.  How can I be sure?  I have the witness of His Spirit who testifies with my spirit that I am a child of God.

Whom God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.  Predestined, what does this word mean? Destiny is defined as an event or course of events that will inevitably occur in the future.  Pre- means before so this means God has set and determined beforehand our future destination and destiny- to be conformed to the image of His Son.  There are several ways to look at this:  a potter who looks at a lump of clay and sees in his mind’s eye the exact shape he is going to make out of this clump of clay. In fact God used this illustration with Jeremiah when He told him to go down to the potter’s house and observe. It can be likened to the architect who first conceives in his mind what a structure will look like then puts it on paper in a blueprint.  Tozer used this illustration of God’s sovereignty in his comparison to an ocean liner leaving NYC destined for Liverpool.  The pre-determined route across the ocean will be charted and will end up at the predetermined destination; however, the scores of passengers on the liner are free to do what they decide to do while on this voyage.

I admit I do not fully comprehend all of this. But the most important thing is you know you have responded to the invitation. This is the beginning of the sequence of the predetermined voyage the Captain of our Salvation has set us upon.  We will pass through many dangers, toils and snares, but we can rest assured we will reach our final destination – heaven. And when we do, we can be sure we will be like Jesus. Our bodies now glorified as our old man has finally been done away with.

So here is the sequence- those He predestined- He also called, those He called, He also justified, and those He justified, He also glorified.  We are on the journey now; it began when we RSVP’d .  Justification is the action on the part of God who washed away all our sins with the blood of Jesus Christ and at the same time crucified our old nature and buried it with Christ.  In God’s view, He sees me already glorified, just as the potter sees the final work of His hands even as He is shaping it on the wheel; as the architect can already see in his mind, exactly how the finished building will look.

I had the opportunity in the 1990’s to meet a man named, Charlie Pendrell.  Charlie was the president of a wholesale laboratory that manufactured prescription eyeglasses, called Sierra Optical in San Diego.  When I first called on Charlie, their lab was located in an old building which had been in its past an apartment house. It was a nightmare of a structure without order- that had outgrown its usefulness. He took me out on Interstate 5 to a building which he had purchased. He and his father had invested everything they had to get this building which was several times larger than their current structure. When we walked in – without the benefit of a blueprint or architect’s rendering, Charlie walked me through a vacant building and showed me where everything was going to be.  We came to one space and he said this is where we will hold seminars, training and educational events. Next May, you will speak to a room full of doctors in a seminar we will hold here.  Next May I came and I spoke in this beautiful facility where everything was just as Charlie had pictured it, including me standing there before a room full of doctors for a seminar.

Many of us have known such visionaries as Charlie in our lives, which are able to conceive things in their minds and bring them into being.  Why do we have a problem with Almighty God creator of all things doing the same?

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was without form and void and in darkness.” Genesis 1.  The Potter begins His work. He already has in His mind exactly what He will do and how it will look.  The architect, the author of our faith is the one who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

Here is what Paul is doing through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – he is getting the believer to consider the course of salvation, and as we consider it, we cannot miss the proactive role of God in bringing us along the path. Here is what seems irreconcilable – the sovereign will of God and the free will of man.  To come down favoring one side more than the other, to let the pendulum of our minds swing too  far to one side or the other- will put this mystery of these two truths out of balance. God‘s sovereign will – will not be thwarted and man’s free will – will not be violated.

Here is again the conclusion I have come to:  God does not force us to act against our will; rather God brings about His plan through the willing choices of man, thus making man accountable and responsible for his actions.

Our decisions and actions we take on the voyage are based on our own free will, but once we have believed and received, we have begun a voyage of salvation with its predetermined destination- sure. And we can rest assured, we will arrive at this destination and when we do- we will be conformed to the likeness of His Son, and the final work is called glorification. Right now we are on the potter’s wheel; His hand is upon us, shaping us even as we make decisions of our own free will, which He is able to work together for good.

Paul then, as Paul is accustomed to doing, asks his readers some questions. These questions are asked much in the same way the first question the Lord asked. After the fall, the Lord came and asked Adam who was attempting to hide from God, ‘where are you?’ The Lord was not asking for information- He was asking Adam this question so Adam would examine his life, his situation , his circumstances and in the process link his misery with his decision to act contrary to God’s will.

Paul is going to ask us questions so we can examine our lives and in doing so examine our relationship with God and the reason for our hope.

“What then shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His Son , but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus who died- more than that, which was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? “        (Romans 8:31-35)

Paul then lists seven ways the enemy of our soul attacks us and attempts to separate us from the love of Christ: trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, or danger of the sword. These threats were real in Paul’s life and the lives of Christians down through the ages. We also must realize the Lord allows these trials for our spiritual growth.  Whatever form your trial takes, Paul’s answer is the same to all these things- NO. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God that is Christ our Lord. Nothing in death or life, in the present or future. Nothing in all creation.

Paul’s answer to all of these questions is –  No in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.   Interesting Paul describes us, Christians as more than conquerors.  ‘The Lord has promised good to me, His word, my hope secures.’ Do you remember what happened to God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel, when they were poised to enter the Promised Land?  In Numbers 13, we read of the spies who were sent into the Promised Land of Canaan.  Listen to what they found:  “…they cut off a branch bearing single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them along with some pomegranates and figs. ..They gave Moses this account: ‘we went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey. BUT the people who live there are powerful and the cities are fortified and very large.” There are giants and forts.   These spies sent by Moses had tasted the first fruits of the Promised Land – but did not believe the God who had taken them out of Egypt could take them into the land He had promised them.  They did not believe if God was for them who can be against them?

We, as Christians, have taste the first fruits –  the blessings of heaven given to us by the Lord Jesus through the Spirit.  We can live in the promises of God in the present as we await His sure appearance.

Look back even in this chapter:  it began by telling us there is therefore now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus.  This chapter also told us God is working all things together for good in our lives for the purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son.  And in concluding it gives us these great promises that nothing can ever separate us from His Love.

*God is for us. The Father has proven His love for us by giving us His Son. He is working all things together for good in the lives of us who love Him. So Paul concludes – if God is for us- who can be against us? No one.

*Christ died for us. The argument here is if when we were sinners God gave His Son, His Best –His all for us- will He not give us all we need? Jesus said, if you earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give you, the One who is the giver of all good gifts in whom there is no shadow or turning.

*God has justified us. If God has declared us righteous –who can bring any charges against us? No one.

*Christ intercedes for us.  Imagine that- the Lord Jesus Christ is praying for you and me. And there is nothing- neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen!

Have you responded?  Have you submitted your response. For God in His Sovereignty- will not force you- He is asking you to ‘ respond, if you please.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14

Romans 8b

Life Through the Spirit

Romans 8: 9- Paul is writing as he often does in a conversational tone, as if he were in the same room with the reader. It is as if, he is looking at their very faces and after just telling them in verse 8- ‘those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.’. But you, however are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.’

In Acts 1, the resurrected Lord Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the gift promised by the Father. He told them,’  After this you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…”

We are to be : Controlled by the Holy Spirit; living in accordance with the Spirit; having our minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Paul tells us the key right here in this verse:  “ You , however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” ( Romans 8:9)

Let us consider what we know and are told about the Holy Spirit for the new life is lived through the power of the Spirit. The Christian life begins with spiritual birth, as Jesus describes in John 3. We are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian life is a personal, daily relationship between the believer and Christ. This new birth results in an entirely new kind of life. Basically it changes your perspective on life. One begins to see things from God’s point of view. The Word of God tells us:  “ Therefore if any man/woman is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” ( I Cor. 5:17)

There are many wonderful scriptures that tell us what has happened.  Paul says we are to know these facts and reckon them to be true by faith and then to yield ourselves not to temptation but to God. We have as believers become:  new creatures; have a new relationship with God and mankind, and a new motivation for life and how we live.

There is a freedom from fear. One of the most often repeated commandments from the Lord Jesus was ‘ fear not’. Fear not, Jesus said, for I am with you and He told us He would be with us until the end of the age. The Holy Spirit is in you , if you are a believer. And as Paul writes we have not been given a spirit of fear, but of love and power and a sound mind. I love the great hymn by John Newton, ‘Amazing Grace’. Listen to this truth from that hymn- “it was Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace, my fear relieved. “

The Holy Spirit brings freedom from fear, condemnation, defeat, discouragement and even death. The Spirit brings new life while putting the old nature to death. We have been given the Spirit to lead us and it is the Spirit Himself that testifies with our spirit we are the children of God. ( Romans 8: 16)

So before we go any further let’s talk about who the Holy Spirit is and why He came. Since this is the source of power Jesus was referring to, then we want to know how we live our lives through the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person, the third person of the Trinity- the Father, the Son and the Spirit. He is not some impersonal force, like from Star Wars; He is a person equal in every way with God the Father and God the Son.

The Holy Spirit has intelligence for He knows the thoughts of man.

The Holy Spirit has emotion for we read the love of the Holy Spirit in Romans 15:30.

The Holy Spirit exercises His will in I Corinthians 12- where we read ‘the Holy Spirit gives them(spiritual gifts) to each one, as He wills.’

Listen to this prayer of Paul’s in Ephesians 3: “ For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.”

To experience the phenomena of Christ living in you, one must be born again. Just as you were born physically the first time at a particular time and place and given a name, there is a definite time when you personally received Jesus Christ as your Savior and were born again spiritually and were given a name- Christian.  I am a partaker of my parents nature via their DNA, and Peter tells us we are now partakers of His divine nature.

The comparison between the first birth and second birth continue as Peter tells us we are babes in Christ. “ Like newborn babies , crave  pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation having tasted that the Lord is good.” ( 1 Peter 2:2)

Do you know what is the whole story and the divine purpose of creation and redemption? It is simply this-that God should have many children.  God wants us for His own family. God wants us to want Him. Do you realize who Jesus is?  He is God the Son, the Only Begotten.  The Lord is an ‘only child.’ He had no brothers. God the Father sent God the Son the Only Begotten so He would be the First Begotten  and have many brothers and sisters. God is all about family. John writes in John 1:12-13:” Yet to all who received Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

In Romans 8:23, Paul mentions “ we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”    Again it is Paul who writes in Ephesians 1- “ He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.” The Only Begotten Son cannot become the First Begotten Son- unless there are more children born in the family.  The Holy Spirit is the agent of adoption in that He testifies we are God’s children.  But when we were born again, the Holy Spirit who is the third person of the Trinity came to live in our hearts.  Listen to what Jesus tells us: “ On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” ( John 14)

So as you realize God’s purpose from the beginning through creation and redemption was to bring many sons ( and daughters) into glory.  God wants to populate heaven with sons and daughters to live with Him forever in heaven. And even now as we speak, the Lord Jesus Christ is preparing places for us to live with Him and the Father throughout eternity.

Paul tells us this fact: “ .. but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, Abba Father. The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” ( Romans 8:13-17)

Now we begin to see the ‘big picture.’ God is building a family. Whereas Jesus sometimes refers to believers as ‘many brethren’- to God the Father we are His children. It begins with justification as Paul as explained in the earlier chapters. We are justified by faith, and receive the righteousness of Christ the Only Begotten and the First Begotten. Realize Jesus will always be the Only Begotten.  He and the Father are one. He has always existed.

So after being born again into the family of God, God’s desire is the desire of all parents- to see His children grow up. “Then we are no longer infants tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things  GROW UP INOT HIM WHO IS THE HEAD, THAT IS CHRIST.” ( Ephesians 4)  God wants us to grow up to be like Jesus, the Only Begotten and the First Begotten.

Understand what has happened. God desiring to have a family of many children, had to deal with the problem He cannot abide in the presence of sin. Since all  have sinned, God must do away with not only the sins, but the sin nature that produces them.  Look again at the Cross and we will see, perhaps fresh and anew, the process of adoption that God the Father went through in order to adopt us.

First part of constructing this bridge that would span the chasm between unholy man and Holy God is the journey of God the Son, the Only Begotten Son to earth to be born of a virgin and live a perfect life , without sin. We call this the Incarnation. God the Son took on a body prepared for him which no sin had tainted. He did this to offer his body as a voluntary sacrifice unto God that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, the evil serpent from the garden, the devil. His body was prepared not only for death, His body was prepared to bruise the head of the serpent

When the Lord Jesus was crucified, He, who knew no sin took my sin and paid for it. My old nature was crucified with Him. Our dual problem was our sins and sin which resided in our old nature. The blood deals with our sins, what we have done. The Cross deals with what we are- sinners. The blood disposes and cleanses us of all our sins. The Cross deals with our old nature by crucifying us with Christ.

My old nature was crucified with Him- notice past tense. The body of sin has been done away with…stay with me now, for this is still all part of the adoption process. But next comes the resurrection, this is the First Begotten, the grain of wheat. Jesus said- “ The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12) Jesus died that He might be resurrected and that we might live in Him. I in Him at the Cross, He in me at resurrection, walking in newness of life.  So the resurrection is part of the adoption process. But also the ascension and exaltation to the right hand of God in heaven, for then is when the Holy Spirit came. The power given to us , Christ in us to live the new life and one day be glorified and live eternally with our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ forever and ever. Amen.

This is why Jesus said to the disciples, it is to your advantage that I go away. To bridge the span between Holy God and unholy man in order that God might have a family who He desired so much- He sent His Only Begotten Son that whosoever should believe in Him should have eternal life.  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ in us.

Listen to what the Spirit does:

He regenerates- imparts new life. He indwells- promised to never leaves us- be with us always until the end of the age. He teaches us revealing truth . He seals us, He is the earnest of our inheritance. Our guarantee.

Our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. Which means we are indwelt by the Trinity. God the Father built this body, this temple we live in. (For it is God who created us and not we ourselves.) God the Son paid for this temple- He redeemed us with His precious blood at Calvary. And God the Holy Spirit has moved into this temple to make it His home and live within us. Now does this not make you want to sing- Holy! Holy! Holy! God in Three Persons- Blessed Trinity!

Back to Acts 1:8- “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses.”

“ Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.” ( Zech. 4:6)

“Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it.” ( I Thess. 5:24)

“The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly” ( Proverbs 20:27, KJV.

The spirit of man, while he is lost is dead in sin, is compared to a candle in this Proverb. Listen to how John describes the Lord Jesus: “ In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:4-5

Until the Holy Spirit lights the candle of man’s spiritual life, he cannot see and know God. Man is spiritually dead, an unlit candle., but when a lost person gets saved, when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the spirit – he becomes spiritually alive- the candle is lit.  That is why we sing- this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine , shine shine.

Jesus said : “ You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” ( Matt. 5)

And sadly Jesus tells us:  “ This is the verdict: Light has come into the world but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” ( John 3)

Have you seen the Light?  I Have. And His Holy Name is Jesus.

APPLICATION:  The master key to spiritual growth is the Word of God. Listen to this promise:  “ And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with EVER-INCREASING GLORY, which comes from the Lord, who is Spirit.” ( 2 Cor. 3:18)

As you get into the Word of God, the Word of God gets into you and it is then the Holy Spirit who transforms you from the inside –out in ever-increasing degrees. It is the process of spiritual maturity. It does not happen at once but over time- a life time of personal devotion to the Word of God.

If this is the KEY to Spiritual Growth- we turn the lock by the following steps:

  1. Believe this is the Word of God.
  2. Study the Word to show yourselves approved.
  3. Honor the Word of God.  Defend it.
  4. Love the Word of God. How can you not love the Word, when you so love the Author.
  5. Obey the Word of God.

The Word of God has changed my life. Listen to what these men of God have to say about this all-important facet of the Christian life:

Charles Stanley:  “ The most important activity in the life of any Christian is their private devotions, reading and meditating upon the Word of God and prayer. Your devotional life determines the effectiveness of everything else you are and do.”

Henry Blackaby: “ My quiet time is not for a devotional thought, but for a deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father. My quiet time alerts me to what God wants to do in my life the rest of the day.”

Dr. Stephen Alford: “  The barometer of the Christian life is the daily, disciplined and directed communion with the Lord in the light of His Word and the leading of His Spirit.”

Dr. Bobby Moore: “ The success or failure of your Christian life, ministry and witness can hinge on your personal devotional life.”

“ As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “ Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me. “ Martha, Martha, – you are worried about many things, BUT ONLY ONE THING IS NEEDED. MARY HAS CHOSEN WHAT IS BETTER AND IT WILL NOT BE TAKEN AWAY FROM HER.” ( Luke 10)

The day I got saved in Nashville, on September 16, 1977, there was another man who that morning had his ‘quiet time in the Word and in prayer’.  In doing so, this man, a recovered alcoholic was prompted by the Spirit to attend an AA meeting that morning he did not usually attend.  So it was our paths intersected as I came to that Friday morning meeting at 10:00 a.m.  After the meeting, this man ( whose name I cannot remember) took me to his office and it was there he told me of how in his quiet devotional time that morning he was impressed to come to this meeting. He is the one who reached for the phone and dialed my home number and called Gina and I told her what had happened.  And that was the beginning…..

But only one thing is needed- and this man had done that as he sat at the Lord’s feet that morning listening to what He said.


Paul said I want to know Him.

Moses said I want to see Him.

Phillip said- show us the Father.

Look into the Word and the Holy Spirit will open the eyes of your heart that you might see….

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14

Romans 8

Romans 8: I Thought So…

Like Paul, we have all found ourselves in Romans 7, experiencing the same frustration and wretchedness Paul describes in trying to live a life pleasing to God.  The desire to do good is there, but how to perform it we cannot find. It seems as if the only thing we have to look forward to is dying and going to heaven. In the meanwhile, life on this earth seems to be an endless battle some days where we lose more often than we win. Bad news arrives on our doorsteps every morning and what appears to be hopeless situations blaring at us from our televisions every night. Like the generation of Israelites in Exodus, we seemed to be doomed to eke out our lives in the wilderness, having been delivered miraculously from Egypt but unable to enter into the Promised Land.  No wonder we are crying out like Paul for someone to rescue us from this body of death.

And then we come to a significant turning point in our journey in Romans 8. It does not mean we will not experience trouble and/or hardship, for that is to be expected, but we are going to the mountain top where we can get a vantage point, and the good news only gets better.

What a wonderful chapter we have come to in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. The chapter begins by telling us there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. One of Paul’s most often used phrase is –‘in Christ.’ We will want to understand what this means for this is a new sphere we live in and  is key to understanding the new way we serve Him, since sin is not our master and we are not under the law but under grace.  This magnificent chapter also ends by telling us nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. And in the middle of this chapter Paul explains how God is working all things together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

Let us proceed prayerfully and slowly through this chapter of great truths that tell us of the life we now have and can live as believers.

Romans 8:1- “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..” (NIV)  ( If you are reading the KJV, you will also find the phrase –who walk not after the flesh but the Spirit. We will address that phrase in verse 4, where it appears in both the NIV and KJV.)  This is actually the first half of a compound sentence with verse 2 completing the sentence. But let us first understand two truths that are in this first half.  This verse tells us there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I would first remind you, do not read this statement of fact that says there is no condemnation to mean there are no consequences to sin, for indeed there are.  What is it that condemns a person of a crime?  The Law.  The same is true in the area of sin- what condemns one of sin?  The Law of God. But what Paul has told us is now true of our condition is that – sin is no longer our master and we are not under the law, but under grace.( Romans 6:14)  And also Paul tells us in Romans 7- we died to the law. And the law has no authority over one after they have died. The law has no claim on you and me as believers because we died with Christ.  We have been declared free from the law. There is no condition attached to this freedom from condemnation, for grace is unconditional!

Now let us understand, as best we can, what it means to be –‘in Christ.’  This is a new sphere in which the believer now lives.  A change has come into the believer’s life at conversion and they have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.  To understand this place of security, one need look no further than the first book of the Bible and the story of Noah and his family and the ark.  You know the story well, God has decided to condemn mankind with the exception of Noah and his family. He will destroy the world with a flood. Listen to this description in Genesis 7:  “ Come thou and all thy house into the ark.” Now the ark had been constructed according to God’s blueprint. The ark was pitched within and without with pitch. ( In fact this presence of pitch in that part of the world tells us there was oil there.) What is interesting is the Hebrew word for ‘ pitch’ is identical to the word used elsewhere for ‘atonement.’ Once Noah and his family were safely in the ark, we read the “ Lord shut them in.” (Genesis 7:16, KJV)  What it meant for Noah and his family to be shut in was God had put them in a sphere where they were safe from His condemnation, safe, secure and saved from God’s wrath as expressed in the flood. The Lord Jesus is our ‘ark’ in which we are placed. In Christ we are in a place of security from God’s wrath and condemnation. His blood is the ‘pitch’ that secures us and seals us safely in Christ as Noah was safely in the ark.   So just as there was a blueprint for the Ark, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit drew up a plan, a blueprint for salvation before the foundation of the earth. His blood was the pitch that sealed us in Christ, our ‘Ark’.

Romans 8:2- “ …because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” There are laws in nature which we recognize. For example- the law of gravity  keeps us bound to this earth, and we can jump up, but we always come back down. We can toss a coin in the air, but it will reach a height and the start downward again. What Paul is stating here is in the new sphere in which we live- in Christ, there is a new law in this sphere that overrules the old law of sin and death. This law is called the Spirit of Life. It cancels the law of sin and death.  Remember Paul said since sin is no longer our master, we are not under the law, but under grace. As believers we died to the law of sin and now we live and serve in a new way. According to this new law there is complete freedom for the believer both from the penalty and the power of sin.  How to live this life daily is what this chapter is about and what this law is about. Paul said in Romans 7- he had a desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. How do I live this new way on a daily basis? How do I make this truth a reality in my life?  Jesus said- “ I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except by Me.” ( John 14) Here is an illustration of how one law overcomes another law which many of us have experienced.  I mentioned the law of gravity and we all understand that law.  But there is another law that allows one to overcome the law of gravity- the law of aerodynamics.  An airplane can free one from the law of gravity by the law of aerodynamics.  Enough power is exerted to create lift and the plane takes off and is airborne, having power over the law of gravity.  The only way I can overcome the law of gravity is if I am ‘in the plane.’ If I step outside of the plane, the law of gravity will overcome me and down I will come. When we are in Christ the Law of the Spirit of Life can overrule the Law of the Sin and Death in the believer’s life. But it is possible for us not to enjoy the release from the control of sin through either unbelief or disobedience.  And when you do- there will be consequences.

Romans 8:3-4 tells us the law was powerless to overcome sin and death because it was weakened by our sinful nature. It is interesting that Paul writes in I Cor. 15:56- ‘ The sting of death is sin, and the POWER OF SIN IS THE LAW.’ For this very reason, God sent His Own Son, the Lord Jesus in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. The law could not overcome sin, it was only to make us conscious of sin, even arouse sin in our lives.  Sin finds its power in the breaking of the law. The more you commit a certain sin, the more you break a certain law, the more powerful that compulsion to sin becomes, until it is a stronghold.  Interesting word,stronghold,- this sin has a strong hold on your life and you cannot overcome it. But Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities and cancelled the written code.  He disarmed the strong man who had a strangle hold on your life.

In these first four verses, we see three crucial truths:

  1. We are eternally secure. God has officially declared our justification. He will not rescind His Word
  2. We are internally free from the control of sin. The Law of the Spirit of Life has set us free from the law of Sin and Death. This is past tense- a truth we must know, reckon to be so by faith, not feelings, and yield ourselves to the Spirit and not the old dead nature.
  3. We are positionally righteous. For what the law could not accomplish, God has accomplished on our behalf through His Son.

Imagination is a wonderful thing, sometimes. Sometimes it is not. Are you one of those people when trouble arises- your imagination thinks of the worst possible scenario?  Imagine, if you will the scenario that took place 2000 years ago in the Upper Room at what we now call the Last Supper.  Can you imagine what these disciples were thinking as Jesus began to tell them what was about to occur. They could not imagine a worst case scenario. And as Jesus looked around at these 11 men, for Judas had already departed, the Lord knew what they were thinking and He knew their hearts were troubled. ‘Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in me.”   Bad news, the worst of news had just been delivered to these disciples in John 14. Jesus told them He would be arrested and crucified; He told them one of them had betrayed Him; and He told Peter, he would deny Him three times before morning.  How could this be happening?  How could anything good possibly come out of something so horrible? In their minds, in their thinking, this just did not make any sense at all to them. And we have all had that same feeling of helplessness accompanied sometimes by hopelessness.  This is why this message in Romans 8 is so important.

In the next three verses I count ( in the NIV version) the word- ‘mind or minds’ five times. Paul writes:  “ Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to Gods’ law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” ( Romans 8:5-8)

The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.  What a statement.  Wouldn’t you like to have a mind controlled by the Spirit?   I THOUGHT SO.

Our minds are powerful aren’t they? If our brain is a sophisticated computer, then the mind is a computer programmer. Our thought process is what drives us to act the way we do. For scripture tells us –  as a man thinketh- so is he.  Solomon warns us to guard our hearts- which is our mind, will and emotions with all diligence for out it comes the issues of life.

I cannot possibly in this lesson quote or cite all the scriptures that deal with our mind, but Paul will tell us in Romans 12: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world;  but be transformed by the renewing your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Again Paul writes .” Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy- meditate ( think) on these things.” ( Phil. 4:8)  This quote from Philippians is interesting, because when Paul wrote these words, expressed these thoughts- he was in prison.

Do you realize your thoughts can imprison you?  That is the power of the mind. Charles Stanley calls it the control tower of character, conduct and conversation.

One’s thought patterns are extremely important to our mental, physical and spiritual health. Doctors attest to the fact that a large percentage  of physical illness has a psychological basis. When we got saved we became new creatures. However our thought patterns had to be re-programmed.  The enemy of our soul does not want us to think about the things the Apostle Paul told us to- he wants us to think on the things our old nature, the flesh wants to think on.  I would pray we would all heed the Holy Spirit – when He tells us- ‘ Don’t even think about it!”

Here is what I know- whenever a wrong, sinful thought comes into our minds, we can choose to think about it or we can use that very thought to turn to the Lord.  The battle is for the mind. If as Charles Stanley described – it is the control tower and therefore the battle is for control of the mind. For Satan knows the mind set on the sinful nature is death and the mind set on the Spirit is life.

First things first- you must began a program of re-programming your mind with the truth of the Word of God for this simple reason: You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. (John 8, Jesus speaking.) I must caution you- freedom is not instantaneous.

How to reprogram your mind, to transform your thinking:

  1. Recognize  you have the mind of Christ in you. ( I Corinthians 2:16) We believe when we are saved, Christ abides in us. He has given us the capacity to think like He thinks. Again there is the potential and we must began the process to engraft the Word so we can begin to think aright.
  2. You need to choose to think right. “ If you then have been raised up with Christ, KEEP SEEKING  THE THINGS ABOVE, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth.” Keep seeking is the key here. This is not a once-for-all-deal. You must fight this battle every day until you get to heaven. Spiritual warfare is all about the battle for the control of the mind. And we have weapons which are mighty, not carnal for the tearing down of strongholds. “We demolish arguments and every imagination that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every  THOUGHT to make it obedient to Christ.” ( 2 Cor. 10)
  3. You must learn to sift your thoughts through the Word of God. You need to ask yourself when a thought comes into your mind that is suspicious. How do we do this? “ The Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than a two edged sword; dividing asunder the THOUGHTS AND INTENTIONS OF THE HEART.” (Hebrews 4:12)  The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit. Our part is to sharpen the sword through meditation, thus engrafting it, so the Spirit can wield the sword to not only divide asunder our thoughts- detecting motive and intent; but also to take captive the thoughts.
  4. You need to refuse to think about some things. You need to turn off the television when what is on there is in no way- true, or noble, or just or pure, or lovely or of good report or praiseworthy- it is in fact filth. And you are putting in your mind by choice. Do you know what got King David in trouble- late night television. Oh, it wasn’t on a television set it was across the way on a balcony, a peep show that he did not turn off and look what happened.

Gina’s mother used to have a mold, she used to make birthday cakes for the grandchildren in the shape of a lamb.  You probably have a mold for cooking a bundt cake. The world system has a mold and the enemy of our soul wants to mold us  and conform us to its shape by conforming our thought process. We spent years being conformed by the worlds’ mold.  Now the Word of God tells us – to stop being conformed by the world’s pattern but be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

We must meditate on the Word of God or we don’t have a chance of thinking correctly. Meditation on His Word isn’t an option if we want to renew our thinking patterns. It is a matter of survival.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit. ( Aristotle.)

A habit is an intersection of knowledge, skill and desire.

Knowledge is the what to do and why to do it.

Skill is the how to do it.

Desire is the motivation , the passion that ignites the fire in your heart.

Remember when Jesus opened the Word of God for the disciples on the road to Emmaus, where they could understand it?  What was their response?

“ Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? “

Why do our hearts not burn within us? I will tell you why.

We do not spend enough time with Christ.

We live as if defeated by sin- our minds on the sinful nature.

We live self centered lives.

We are apathetic, lukewarm and you know what the Lord thinks of luke warm.

Do you want  your heart to burn within you with desire to know Him and walk with Him?


Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14

Romans 8c

Romans: Experiencing God

In every age God’s supernatural powers will be tested against man’s ability to work out his own solutions. So this is where we find ourselves in the 21st century in the age of the computer, technology, smart phones, I Pads, and the internet.  The age of information, where mankind is ever  gaining knowledge but never coming to the truth. And the church is being  conformed by the world’s thinking. The truth is as Paul shares with us here in Romans 8- if the church suffering – something is wrong with the church.

Paul cautions us that if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. Jesus told us if the world hated Him, it would hate us also.  Few people in history have enjoyed a more intimate relationship with the Lord and few have experienced the joy he did in his walk with the Lord. Yet in 2 Corinthians 11 Paul  recounts his suffering:  five times he received 39 lashes, three times beaten with rods, stoned and left for dead, three times shipwrecked and imprisoned often. This is why Peter told us we should not consider it strange to encounter fiery trials. Experience is sometimes the most convincing authority a person can possess.

But I am afraid we have for most of our lives lived in relative peace here in America. But we can see how those times are changing. And we are to take our stand for the Word of God and call – sin- sin and not an alternative life style. If we are told something is good that God says is ‘vile’, we must not keep silent. It is interesting when Eve encountered the enemy in the Garden of Eden, she did not call the tree by the name God had given it- the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, she called it by a less threatening name- the ‘ tree in the midst of the garden.’

When we compromise truth- we begin down a slippery slope that leads us to a miry pit. And I am afraid, we have arrived in that miry pit here in the 21st century.

Paul then tells us how he deals with present suffering by comparing it to the glory that will be revealed in us.  So for now- we are waiting for the glory that will be revealed in us when the Lord Jesus returns. In the meanwhile, we are told to wait on the Lord and do good. For us to wait on the Lord and worry, fret and wring our hands is not doing good. For us to keep our mouths shut when the truth must be shouted from the roof tops is not doing good.

We are to be salt and light.  Salt preserves, keeps things from rotting.  Light is most useful in the darkness and we should always let our lights shine in the darkness. Peter admonishes us in I Peter 3:  ‘ Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have.” I have experienced hopelessness before, and may I tell you- it is the darkest place a soul can be. Here is a short list of how to deal with the issues that are becoming the hot buttons in our society;

  1. Know what we believe.
  2. Know why we believe it, for this is the reason for what we believe and the reason for our hope
  3. Know how to share the what and why you believe and be ready to defend it.
  4. Do this with gentleness and respect.

We have something to say, we have a duty to say it and we need to know how to say it. The Bible  is telling us we must be prepared to suffer for doing good.

Paul goes on to explain how creation has been subjected to frustration that man’s fall in the Garden created.  Sin always pollutes the very surroundings.  Look at our city today compared to what is used to be 50 years ago.  Remember how rare violence and crime was? It all began with  the fall in the garden, when Adam and Eve lost their home, when thorns and thistles, and pain, fear and worry came in as the so-called benefits promised by the Father of all Lies who said you will be like God.  The ground was cursed producing thorns and thistles and death came as God said- dust you are and to dust you will return. In other words, the fall of man involved all of creation as far as the earth is concerned. And the misery has just increased with each passing generation.

Not only is nature groaning, but mankind is groaning.  I heard that Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, a physician and great preacher of God’s Word who died in the 1980’s requested on his death bed- ‘ do not pray for healing.” He was ready to go and leave this world behind. His soul was groaning within him to be released from this suffering and waiting for the adoption and the redemption of his decaying body.

Now this presents a passage we must make sure we take in the right context.  “ Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits  of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:23-25)

We are saved by grace through faith.  The first fruits of the Spirit, Paul refers to is justification, the beginning process of salvation, whereby we are declared righteous. We are then sealed and indwelt by the Spirit of God. This is our guarantee.  Hope does not replace faith, but is by faith we are sure of what we hope for.  This hope is confident assurance that He who has begun a good work, will complete it.  The adoption as sons, joint heirs and the redemption of our body speaks of the future occurrence at the resurrection. We will be like Christ. We do not yet possess that except by faith we believe we will.  Remember what was said of Abraham?  “ Against all hope- (  and this is hope of human possibilities) against that frail, anemic hope Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations…”  Abraham’s hope was in God, in His  Word, His promise and Abraham acquired this sure hope by faith.  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.” ( Hebrews 11:1)  Notice – faith is always –NOW, in the present tense.  This faith is what makes our hope sure and the unseen certain. Our happiness in the midst of the trials and tribulations of this life, is in the sure hope in which there is a day coming when we shall receive new bodies and the adoption process will be real and seen as we will become the sons of God.

Sometimes we are overwhelmed with our circumstances.  We do not know what to do and we do not even know how to pray.  But we have the Spirit Himself, who intercede for us. We have an advocate in heaven, the Lord Jesus who intercedes for us on our behalf, and we have One within our hearts as well who can lay our requests and deepest needs of our soul before God Himself.  God heard the groaning of His people in Egypt and He will hear our groaning also. Thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Helper, the One who comes alongside to undertake our case.  Paul is telling us a great truth here:  God searches our hearts. And Who is it that indwells our hearts?  The Holy Spirit. And God knows the mind of the Spirit, for they are of one mind. Therefore the Spirit within us always prays according to the will of God.

But here is the good news, one day the groaning will give way to glory, as we fully realize our adoption and the redemption of our bodies and enter into Gods’ new creation.

Now Paul moves on to one the most often quoted verses in the book of Romans- Romans 8:28.

“ And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Notice this verse does not begin with – we hope, we wish, we suppose…no it begins with ‘we know’.  Do you know this about your Heavenly Father?  Do you know this is a fact, a promise based on the character of the One who created everything.

God gave us a very detailed story in how he does this in the book of Genesis in the story of Joseph.  You know the story well- Joseph the beloved and favorite son of Jacob was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. As the story unfolds, we see life from Jacob’s perspective. His favorite son Joseph , he believes is dead, killed by wild animals; his beloved Rachel had died, Dinah had been defiled, Reuben was disgraced, Judah was dishonored, Simeon and Levi had broken his heart and now a famine threatened his family’s very existence. In addition, the baby of the family, Benjamin, must appear before this powerful governor in Egypt. Here is what Jacob said: “ …all these things are against me.” We can certainly empathize with his situation, can’t we?  Yet God had been and was working all things together for good.  Watch the end of this story- Joseph and his family reunited and Joseph tells them: “ Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” What a great story that underlines this truth.

If we had never known about this story and went to see a movie based on this story- we would have been on the edge of our seats as we watched the story unfold- and wondered how will this ever work out?  We would watch Joseph sold into slavery, Jacob told he was dead. Joseph falsely accused of sexual assault and placed in an Egyptian prison for up to 10  years. But because we know how the story ends- we can watch this story unfold without any anxiety for we know that God is working all things together for good. In fact, we would probably see how God was training Joseph for leadership and how he was also bringing the sons of Jacob to repentance. Is this not true of our own lives as God has told us- He is working everything out for our good and He will complete that which He has begun?

Do you realize that God knows our life from the end to the beginning, and  as we live out our lives going toward that end- He has promised us He is working all things in our life together for good.  Jacob said all things are against me, but actually God was secretly working all things together for Jacob’s own good as the end of the story proved.

Remember a statement  I made earlier:  Experience is sometimes the most convincing authority a person can possess.  Paul spoke of what the Lord had brought him through in 2 Corinthians 11; and John Newton wrote about it and lived it when he wrote:  “Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home. The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.”

This is what this promise means.  We will go through many dangers, toils and snares before we get home to heaven.  And many of us have already come through many of these things. But the Lord has promised good to me and you hasn’t He?  You realize this verse is a promise for Gods’ children – it for those who are in the fraternity of Christianity, for those who love the Lord. His word our hope secures.  He is working all things together for good, even at this very moment. Although we may not see it now- His promise to us, His word secures our hope. ‘ Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.” Sure- certain- did you hear those words ?

Let us look at some other words in this verse:  work, all things,  together, good and purpose. Jesus told us His Father is always working.  And we now know what He is doing- He is working all things together for good for those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose.  In my opinion, God has not really had a day off since He rested on the 7th day of creation. Between a rebellion in heaven and man’s fall in the garden, God is always working. The Psalms tells us He neither sleeps nor slumbers.   What is He working with or through? All things. This would be the good and the evil, the sweet and the sour, the dark and the light, the laughter and the tears- all thing, seen and unseen. He is weaving all these things together. Back to the story in Genesis- imagine the years and years that went by, when to Jacob it seemed everything was against him. And think about Joseph, trying to do what was right, only to find himself imprisoned on false charges. Surely he must have thought at times, he would never get out of that Egyptian dungeon.

Imagine if you can, what the disciples must have thought the day they crucified our Lord. Could anything good possibly come out of this horrendous, seemingly meaningless act of mankind’s viscous act of execution of the most wonderful person who ever walked on the face of the earth?  Their questions at the time seemed to have no answer, but by now you must realize things are not always what they seem. You see, the disciples did not know the rest of the story, or this promise of God that He was working all things together for good.

Now what is the meaning of good according to God’s idea of ‘good’?  Our list of good might include:  good health, all our children and grandchildren saved and doing good, good jobs, plenty of money in our retirement accounts, a nice home, etc.  Now I am not saying that God does not want you to have some of those things, He knows we have need of them. But ‘ good’ as used by Paul here refers to that which pleases God.  Again, we refer back to God’s use of the word good in the creation account.  In the beginning God created the earth and all the things were referred to after each thing He created- “ God saw that it was good.” Then after God had created Adam and Eve and given them everything they needed we are told:  “ God saw all that He had made and it was VERY GOOD.” (Genesis 1)  Why was it very good?  Because it was without sin. It was morally perfect- no corruption at all.  When sin entered, God could no longer call it good, for it was corrupt, it was no longer in its original created order, its pristine, sinless condition.

In the beginning, God created the world good. In the end, He will re-create it to its original pristine ‘good’ condition.  In between, He is always working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to the purpose.

And what is the purpose?  The next verses tells us His purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son.  And what has God said about His Son–  ‘ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

We were born imperfect with sinful natures and unable to please God in that condition. But God in His Sovereignty sent His Only Begotten Son into the world that He might re-create that original condition in us, by having us be born again by the Spirit, that we might see and enter the kingdom of God. ‘For the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Our purpose is through a personal relationship with God for the following purpose:  to worship Him, to evangelize- witness to others, to make disciples, to enjoy fellowship with Him and other believers, and to be involved in the ministry He has for each of us.

Can you now look back at times in your life when you were experiencing what were some tough times? Can you imagine Paul sometimes wondering what was going to happen- when he had been stoned, beaten, imprisoned or shipwrecked for the third time?  We know how afraid and puzzled the disciples were on that fateful Friday.  And yet, time after time, after time- God has brought us through hasn’t He?  Maybe today you are in the midst of a trial, a time of trouble.

Listen, the Lord’s most often repeated commandment was ‘ to fear not’ because often when these times arise, fear climbs in the boat and the waves seem to get worse.  Then we get to the other side- now don’t miss the looking back and realize – through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come, tis Grace that brought me safe so far and Grace will  lead me home.

Through car wrecks, through sickness, through sleepless nights and grave sides of loved ones- we have experienced God’s grace, His faithfulness.

God has not intended we live a life of fear, worry and anxiety. The past is covered by His Blood, the future is in His keeping. .

God is with me, God is for me, God is in me for this reason:  to do something only He can do through me!   “ For it is God who WORKS  in you both to will and to act according to His good purpose.” ( Phil. 2)

Here is what Henry Blackaby writes in Experiencing God:

  1. God is always at work around you.
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
  3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes and His ways.
  5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
  7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes work through you.

Experience is sometimes the most convincing authority person can possess.


Are you experiencing God in your life?  How?

Can you tell people what you believe and why you believe it?

Can you tell your story, your experience with God? Do you have a story to tell?

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14

Romans 7

Romans 7: The One Thing I Do

In Romans 6:14, Paul makes a statement, a fact we are to know that I have not ever given much thought. As we read and study these great truths, Paul says we must-‘know,reckon and yield our lives to, he mentions this truth:  “ For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”

Learning to live under grace is a lesson not easily learned, nor quickly learned. Paul describes his struggle with learning to live under grace in Romans 7, and it is a description we are all familiar with because he is describing our experience also.   It is a new way not the old way.

In  these first verses of Romans 7, Paul uses an illustration from marriage.  I would forewarn you Paul is not using this illustration to condemn divorce, for he never mentions the word, divorce. If a woman leaves her husband and marries another while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress, she would also under civil law be guilty of bigamy.  Paul’s illustration is to show if the first husband died, she is free under the law to marry another man.  We can certainly understand this statement.

Now in verse 4, Paul says you died to the law through the body of Christ that we might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead in order that we might bear fruit to God.   So does that mean we were married to the law? And that we died to the law?  Or did the law, the first husband die? Well we know the Law, the Word of God does not die. The flowers fade and grass withers, but the Word of God  stands forever.( Isaiah 40)  So it must mean we died to the law. Paul told us this truth in Romans 6- that ‘ we died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?’

I am now confused by Paul’s illustration.  If the first husband is the law, and the law does not die, how does this illustration work? Well, Paul’s point is- death ends the authority of the law over a person. For after one has died, the law has nothing further it can do. You cannot condemn or punish a dead person. So we died with Christ. And as Paul stated if our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with that we should not longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.  It also means we are free from the law for the law has no authority over a person who has died.  So do not be confused by Paul’s illustration- his point is death frees anyone who dies from the law.

So because we have identified with Christ in His death, we are dead to sin and this condition means, ‘ sin shall no longer be your master, because you are no under the law, but under grace.’( Romans 6:14)  We are no longer under the control of sinful old nature. When we trusted Christ, we were united with Him. Just as in a marriage between a man and woman, the pastor pronounces this man and woman are united in marriage and ‘are one in flesh, until death do us depart.’

Now since we are united with Christ in His resurrection, we share in His life, for the two have become one. He has taken us as His bride for we are freed from our first husband through death. Not the first husband’s death, but ours. This is the principle- death ends the control of the law. But it does not stop there, for a dead person cannot get married – so we had to be united with Him in His resurrection to walk in newness of life. And we are raised to bear fruit to God.

When we were controlled by our sinful nature, the sinful passions were aroused by the law. That is why Paul said when the law was added, sin increased. The law arouses sin. The Garden of Eden proved this to be true. The law of God’s commandment to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil aroused the sin in Eve and Adam. The law not only revealed sin, it aroused it. The Law was not given that by keeping it, one might earn salvation. No one could keep it, for the law was given to make us conscious of sin.

I was reminded of an occasion in my early life that is an illustration of how the law arouses sin in us.  I was visiting an uncle who lived on a farm with my parents and grandparents. I was about 6 years old and had visited this great uncle on his farm before. As we were about to go outside to explore the farm and the wonders of the old barn, my mother told me something not to do. She told me not to go near the pond. Well, you guessed it- that is exactly where I headed as fast my 6 year-old legs would carry.  A farm hand who lived on the farm, named,”Clack” was chasing after me telling me not to go near the pond. I ran so fast, I could not stop and slid right into the pond.  I would probably never have thought to go to the pond, and been content to amuse myself in the old barn, had not the commandment not to go near the pond aroused the interest in me. So it is with the law and our old nature. Our old nature hates the law, and like the mob of Jews who yelled out to Pilate regarding Jesus, our old nature says we do not want Jesus as our king.

What is this new way Paul writes of in Romans 7:6 –“ But now,by dying to what once bound us(the law) we have been released from the law, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” How do we live and serve  in this new way? Listen carefully:  “ I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; yet not I , but Christ liveth in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” ( Galatians 2:20)   ‘ Faithful is He who calls you , who will also do it. ‘ ( I Thess. 5:24)

We must first check our attitude toward sin. God not only want us to see Him as He really is, He wants us to see sin for what it really is.  If we will be honest with ourselves, our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered. What do I mean by that ?  We are more concerned over our victory over sin or what God might do to us if we do sin, rather than how sin actually grieves the heart of God. Let me ask you this question:  when you sin are you more concerned with how you feel than how God feels? Judas was filled with remorse and confessed I have sinned, then in self-pity, he committed suicide.

Compare that to the prodigal son’s revelation and godly sorrow that led to repentance as we hear his confession:  “ I have sinned against heaven and you.” David confessed “Against thee . Thee only have I sinned.”

One other indication of our attitude toward sin and sins is how we categorize sins.We have each mentally categorized sins into the unacceptable and those we can tolerate. But if we view all sin as against God it makes a difference. Think of it this way:  if two boys get in a fight at school, they may be put in detention hall or even suspended for a day from class. If however, a student strikes a teacher, this is entirely different matter. They will not only be expelled from school, they may have assault charges brought against them and be put in jail or a juvenile detention center.  A private in the army who strikes another private, may be reprimanded and put on KP duty. Strike a sergeant and you would go to the brig for 30 days; an officer and this might get you 90 days and even a dishonorable discharge.  However, if a private attempted to strike the commander-in-chief, the president of the United States, he could very well be shot and killed on the spot by Secret Service agents. This tells us as the dignity,rank and importance of the one assaulted increases, so the seriousness of the offense increase in proportion. Now consider that all sin is against God.

When we view sin- we must view it as first and foremost against God. God says the wages of sin is death.

So the fact that we are no longer under the law does not mean we are lawless. Notice Paul tells us we serve in a new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. This new way of serving is the struggle we will find ourselves in, just as Paul did.

Paul makes sure we understand the law is not sin. He states emphatically- the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. The law is good for its intended purpose, which is to call us into account for sin and to expose the sinfulness of our ‘flesh’ or old nature. The law is like an MRI that reveals the deadly presence of cancer in our bodies. It would be ridiculous to blame the machine for our cancer, in fact we should be thankful it exposed our illness so that we might receive treatment.  Paul says the law exposed this deadly disease in him called sin. The Law is God’s MRI, His diagnostic tool to expose sin and confront us with its deadly consequences. Does the law cause death? No, not anymore than the MRI causes cancer.

Once we have been made aware of this deadly disease, then we turn to the Great Physician who has the only cure for this cancerous condition. When we received God’s grace through faith, the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence in our lives. So begins the struggle of the flesh against the Spirit, the old nature versus the new nature. Justification is immediate and eternal. The sanctification process is now in place and it is a process that is measured in degrees. We are told in 2 Corinithians 3- we are being transformed into His likeness in ‘ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  Notice it is in –ever increasing glory- so sanctification is a process where in the believer’s practice, lifestyle is gradually changing to match our position in Christ which is holy and perfect and complete.  We will never completely close that gap for we will never be sinless  until we see Him and are changed to be like Him. We will never achieve this in these bodies whose flesh has been contaminated by sin. That is why we will receive new bodies at the resurrection.

What Paul is about to describe is the struggle we endure in this life in these bodies as we run the race to the finish line and as we continue to fight against the old nature, realizing our heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked. You will notice the verbs in the verses 14-25 are all present tense. Which means this refers to Paul’s experience  after his conversion.

Paul describes men as being either, natural, carnal or spiritual. The natural man is the unsaved man who can rise no higher than his intellectual, moral or self will can lift him. He is ruled by his senses, that is what he can see, hear, taste, feel and understand. He cannot understand supernatural for he can only understand the natural.

The carnal man is  a saved person still dominated at least partially by the power of sin and is under the control of his old nature.

The spiritual man is the believer whose life is controlled by the Holy Spirit.

What Paul will describe in detail in Romans 7:14-25 is the frustration of the carnal man trying to live the Christian life and not having much luck. This is not a natural man, Paul is describing, this is the dual-natured saved man who cannot find the way to live the Christian life. Paul said we serve in a new way of the Spirit, but Paul had to discover this way, just as we do.

First we read of his despair and we can certainly identify with it. Listen to this frustration;

“ I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil  do not want to do- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but  sin living in me that does it.”

Let’s take these verses first.  First, we all agree we have done the very things we did not want to do after we were saved. This is the struggle between the old nature and the new nature. The carnal man gives into the old nature’s desire and feels miserable about it. There we are miserable, because we cannot enjoy sin nor the spiritual life either.

The spirit filled Christian is delivered from the law. The natural man is condemned by the law and here the carnal man is defeated by the law. This is picture of Peter trying to walk on water, and a soon as he takes his eyes off the one who empowers him to walk on water, he is trying to walk on water in the flesh and sinks immediately. A carnal man is a doubter and this makes one double-minded and unstable in all his ways. We are to live and walk by faith. The carnal man lives in an area of constant conflict because the two natures which cannot be reconciled.

These two natures are in conflict because they have conflicting purposes. The old nature wants to continue to live life the way it used to live life. Its old appetites are constantly being whetted by the world, the flesh and the devil through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Read these verse this way:  My new nature does not understand what my old nature does. For what my new nature wants to do, my old nature will not do, and what my new nature, hates, my old nature does. And if my old nature gets to do what my new nature does not want to do, I agree the law is good. As it is , it is no longer my new nature who does it, but sin living out its desires in my old nature and in my flesh.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is my sinful nature. I have the desire to what is good, but  I cannot carry it out- cannot perform it.  And here is the proof- if I do what I do not want to do- I am allowing sin living in me to do it.  In other words, my old nature is in control.

Paul is not saying I am without excuse. He is not saying the devil made me do it. He is saying I don’t want to do this- my desire is not to sin, but to do right, and I cannot carry it out. Paul says something is not working here, because I am not living life right. What Paul is saying when I sin, I know it is my old nature that is in control rather than my new nature. Do you understand what is taking place? Paul is trying to overcome the old nature with the Law and the Law cannot deliver us from the old nature. We were told- the law arouses sin.  ( Romans 7:5) And listen to this : ‘the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.’ ( I  Cor. 15:56)

The law is like a magnet that draws us to sin. The inward man, the new nature delights in the law, but the old nature delights in breaking the law.  What drew you to try smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol? It was that your parents forbid you to do it. The delight of your old nature is to break the law. Your old nature loves to sin, loves to do what God says not to do.  The world tells you- this is not harmful, it is pleasurable. Your eyes are drawn to it- your mind thinks about it and you do not want to be left out of the fun, for everyone else is doing it.

Paul sees two laws at work here:  there is the law of God, His Commandments- do’s and don’ts. And there is the law of sin, elsewhere known as the law of sin and death. The law of sin and death is at the root of all behavioral problems. The law of sin and death is what is wrong in the world. And the enemy of our soul, the devil, is so effective in camouflaging this law, we do not have anyone in the leadership of our country ( it seems to me) that says our problem is not the deficit, or taxes, or crime- our problem is the law of sin and death is not being recognized for its dangerous and deadly consequences and the law of God is banned from most places. Universities and schools teach about all types of laws in the universe, but none teach about the law of God and the law of sin and death. When we do not call sin- sin, we will soon be calling light- dark; and dark –light. And what the Bible calls evil- the world calls good and admirable and praiseworthy. It is noteworthy that Eve did not call the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil by its name, the name God had given it. She called by a less offensive name, almost innocent, she called it ‘ the tree in midst of the Garden.’

These two laws oppose one another, with the law of God pointing us to things above, while the law of sin and death pulls us toward hell.  It is like the law of gravity which pulls us back to earth and we find ourselves unable to overcome the law of gravity in our own power.

This leads Paul to discuss two principles:  1. He calls one the law of the mind. This law of the mind in  a believer sides with Gods’ law. Wants to obey Gods’ law.  Paul says ‘ with my mind I want to serve the law of God.’ 2. The opposing principle Paul finds is in alliance with the law of sin and death. It is the law that keeps asserting itself and its desires in the members of the body so that our eyes are seeking out temptations to enjoy, for our hearts are deceitful above all else and desperately wicked. We look the world through the eyes of our old nature and for some sins which are our stronghold, all it takes is just one look….that’s all it took.

So where Paul finds himself in Romans 7, we have all found ourselves:  torn between these opposing laws and principles. The new nature wanting to please God and keep His law, while the old nature delights in breaking the law. It is a battle within- the white dog versus the black dog.

Paul says it is making me wretched. Who shall deliver me from this body of death?  And we find the answer as Paul discovered:  Thanks be to God- through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In the meanwhile, what can I do to live right? What can I do to have a consistent life that is right with God?  Can I find the one thing I should focus on as a Christian who wants to live a successful Christian life?  Has Paul given us instructions?  What did you do, Paul?


“ If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more; circumcised on the 8th day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness- faultless.” In other words Paul said, I have the pedigree, the educational degrees, the intelligence the background- I am one smart, privileged Jew!

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ, What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of KNOWING CHRIST JESUS MY LORD FOR WHOSE SAKE I LOST ALL THINGS.”

“I  want to KNOW Christ  and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like Him in death, and so to attain the resurrection from the dead.. Not that I have already obtained all this,or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But ONE THING I DO; FORGETTING WHAT IS BEHIND AND STRAINING TOWARD WHAT IS AHEAD, I PRESS ON TOWARD THE GOAL TO WIN TH EPRIZE FOR WHICH GOD CALLED ME HEAVENWARD IN CHRIST JESUS. “ (Phil. 3)

Paul said the key for him and us – is to know Christ, to have an intimate relationship with Him.  As we focus on our relationship with Him, spend time with Him in His word and in prayer, the Holy Spirit does a work in our life of changing us to be like Him. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us more like the Son of God.

Let me give you some scriptural prayers that Paul was always praying for believers, so that they might live a victorious life. The new way, comes for the new commandment Jesus gave on the night of His arrest.  Jesus said, ‘ a new commandment I give unto you- love one another as I have loved you.” You see, Jesus said if you loved Him, you would keep His commandments. You and I cannot keep the law, and if you are trying to keep the law, you must realize you have put yourself under the law and not under grace. The more you know the Lord Jesus, the more you will love Him, and the more you love Him, the more you will obey Him. That is the new way.

Now pray these prayers and get into the Word and as the Word gets into you – the Spirit will change you into the image of the Lord, through our knowledge and understanding of Him.

Paul’s Prayers:  Ephesians 3:14-21; Philippians 1: 9-11; Colossians 1:9-14

Romans 6c

Running the Race

In Romans 3:21 to Romans 5:21, Paul describes what has occurred at Calvary. There the Lord Jesus Christ, God in Flesh, died for me; died for my sins; paid sin’s penalty. Again it is Paul writing in Colossians 2: “He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.” He was my substitute. Paul describes justification as the process that occurred when we believed and because we believed we were credited  righteousness.  Thus we are saved by the death of the Lord Jesus.

Now as we enter the teaching of this next portion of Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapters 6- 8, we are discovering the principle of identification. You and I identified with Christ in His death as Scripture tells us we died with Him. The Lord Jesus died unto sin, thereby breaking sin’s power, ‘ having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.’(Colossians 2:15) This action led to the sanctification process where  the righteousness of Christ is made a part of the lives of those who believe.We are partakers of His divine nature. So in this fashion we are saved by His life.

For this reason and because of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, we are told as an accomplished fact we are dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. ( Romans 6:11)  Paul tells us to reckon this fact, which means to count it as true. I do not find in these verses anywhere that God commands me to dead to sin and alive unto God. I must admit, as Paul does in Romans 7 and Galatians 2:20, that although I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. I do not feel dead to sin. I do not understand fully what this means.  What I do know is God tells me and you, we are in fact dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Paul is not describing an experience; he was stating a fact.

So we are as believers to ‘ know’ this is a fact. It is already done. What did Peter say in 2 Peter 1?  Peter said : ‘ His divine power has given us EVERYTHING WE NEED FOR LIFE AND GODLINESS THROUGH OUR KNOWLEDGE OF HIM..’ Knowledge, knowing this fact and believing it to be true, is focused on our mind.

Reckoning these facts to be true,the next instructions we will study focus on our will and the act of yielding. The word yield ( KJV) is used five times in the next section of verses beginning with verse 13 through 19. Let me refresh your mind as to what the word yield means:

Yield means ‘ to place at one’s disposal, to present, to offer as a sacrifice.’ In Romans 12, Paul beseeches the believers to offer their bodies as living sacrifices for Gods’ glory.  In the Old Testament sacrifices were dead sacrifices. Sometimes the Lord may ask some of us to die for Him, but WE ARE ALL ASKED TO LIVE FOR HIM.


If you make New Year’s Resolutions, you have probably also broken New Year’s Resolutions. If you set goals and take actions to achieve those goals, you have probably had some success and some failures.

As we read these verses, it is obvious that God has done His part and now we are to do ours. It starts with knowledge of what God has done, what He has given us, what He has done and is doing- but it also involves our actions.  We are told what NOT to do, not yield our bodies to sin. We were told what God has already done- crucified our old nature so that we should no longer are slaves to sin.  We are told we are to reckon this to be true- and based upon that to yield to God. In the terms of slavery- we have been bought and paid for and have a new master.

In doing this- we  begin the life long process of sanctification, which is the pursuit of holiness, godliness. And remember Peter told us God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him.

You may not like what I am about to tell you- but the Christian life, the walk, the pursuit requires personal discipline. And guess what- it does not come easily and it does not come quickly. We like easy and quick, don’t we?  We want instant success, but holiness does not come that way, we formed a pattern of sin over years and years of habit that will not be broken overnight.

Paul tells us: “ Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales, rather, train yourself to be godly.” ( 1 Timothy 4:7)  And Paul says just as ‘ physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.’(vs. 8)

And the Paul writes again to Timothy and us in 2 Timothy 3:16-“ All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS,  that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Paul seems to have had an interest in athletics and illustrates this concept of discipline and training  to athletes preparing for a race. “ Everyone who competes in the games(races) goes into strict training.” (ICor.9:25)

Discipline is structured training. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines disciplines as –“ training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” Discipline is good, but it has become to be associated more with punishment than training that prepares us.

Discipline toward holiness begins with the Word of God. It is through regular daily intake of the Word of God, that we engraft the Word and meditate upon it with one purpose in mind- obedience to the Word of God.  James said if you read and study the Bible without obedience, we deceive ourselves.

God has done the following:

*Crucified our old nature – dead to sin. Places me in Christ at Calvary

* Made alive to God in Christ. Christ in me at resurrection. We have the Holy Spirit within us. Our bodies are now His temple. We are to reckon to these two facts as true and done. Past tense. So that what has been done in the past affects how we live our lives in the present.

*God has given us  His Word, the Word of God- a lamp unto our feet, a light upon our path, to direct us. His great and precious promises so that through them we may participate in his divine nature and escape the corruptions of this world.

We believe the Bible is the Word of God. The Spirit wrote the Scripture. We learn the Scripture. The Spirit brings to our mind what we learn. WE apply what He brings to mind. “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

The enemy, will  battle us at this point. Our deceitful hearts will attempt to persuade us we do not have to take everything so literally, nor expect to live perfect lives. The devil hates and fears the Word of God and has waged an all out war against it since the Garden of Eden where he called God’s Word a lie. He continues to do everything he can to remove the Word of God from the home, the workplace, the schools, the government and in some cases, the church.

God told Joshua: ‘ Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” ( Joshua 1:8) Meditation comes as a result of the following four steps: Hearing, reading, studying, and memorizing. Meditation is then thinking on what you have stored in your mind and then applying it to life’s daily situation.  This is developed by discipline.

Now perseverance is closely connected with discipline. Discipline is required to both break old habits and form new habits. It is difficult because it requires changing a pattern in our life that may have been established over years. Also any training – physical, mental or spiritual is characterized at first by failure. We fail more often than we succeed in the beginning. A child learning to walk, falls down more in the beginning as they are learning. That is why we must persevere, for we will gradually see progress till we are succeeding more than we are failing. Be warned, the enemy will whisper in your ear- what’s the use? You are never going to be able to overcome this.  But the Holy Spirit whispers in your ear- you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.  Listen to this encouraging verse:  “ For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” ( Proverbs 24:16)

Now Paul in I Corinthians 9 uses the runner as an illustration also tells us this truth: “ Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize. Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man, running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it a slave (to righteousness) so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Notice in Romans 6:17 how Paul described the response to the teaching of the Word of God- “ But thanks be to God, that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you WHOLEHEARTEDLY obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.” Whole hearted.  God has plans for us – plans to prosper us- and when we seek Him, we will find Him, when we seek with all our heart. Half-hearted is a divided heart which makes one double-minded and this person cannot expect to receive anything from the Lord. What is the greatest commandment?  To love the Lord thy God with ALL YOUR HEART, ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.    I will guarantee you, no athlete ever competed in the Olympics that had not prepared with strict training and with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind and all their strength. For what? To receive a crown that will not last, a fleeting moment of glory and recognition. Paul contrasts that with a crown we will receive that will last forever.

What a simple glimpse this illustration affords us and allows us to see how life is lived. It is like a race in which run. What are you running for- or to – or from?  Do you even know why you are running? Are you running aimlessly?  Are you climbing up that ladder of success only to reach the top and realize you leaned your ladder against the wrong wall?  Are we missing the whole purpose of the race, the dash between that year we were born and that year we will die. If we treat this like a game- we want to win and winning seems to be measured by what we have accomplished and own. Did you notice what Paul said about his physical body- he beat it- disciplined it to make a slave to righteousness, not to sin.

Our position in Christ is perfect.  Our practice is not.  There is a gap between our practice and our position.  If we are to pursue holiness; if we are to strive and make every effort- I believe it is to come as close as we possibly can to closing the gap between our position and our actual practice.  Can you see this is what Paul is referring to in Philippians 4?  Paul says – “…I have not already been made perfect ( that is his status, his position) but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul says he is pressing toward the mark, the finish line, and striving to close the gap between his practice and his position.   Now we know we will not be like Him, until we see Him; but in the meanwhile, we must run with perseverance.

Materialism is what the American economy thrives on, as over 70%  of our economy is consumer driven spending. It is this ‘ rat race’ we are in, trying to keep up with the Jones’s. We are encouraged tempted to spend more than we have through the use of credit and borrowing. Materialism  never leads to contentment- it leads to envy and discontent. Most advertising is designed to make you discontent with what you have and desire to have the latest, the newest, the best of everything. We go through life like we are playing a game of monopoly  acquiring things we believe will make us happy.  We let the appetites of our flesh control us. I like what Susanne Wesley wrote: “Whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind – that thing is sin in you.”

If we cannot say no to an indulgent appetite, we will find it harder and harder to say no to a lustful thought.

Paul reminds of what our old sinful life was like:  “ When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? “  We all have done things we are ashamed of , would be absolutely mortified if anyone knew about them. As I often do, I think about the Prodigal Son. I think about how he wanted to be free of his father’s control of righteousness and I see him- first enjoying the sinful life. The NIV says ‘ squandered his wealth in wild living.’ He ended up in the pig pen, didn’t he?  Sin, as I always say: took him further than he wanted to go, kept him longer than he wanted to stay and costs him more than he wanted to pay.

Remember we talked about the benefit package of salvation. Here is the benefit package of sin- it brings shame- and look at your wages- the wages of sin is death. Eternal separation from God.

The first sin in the Garden reveals some very important  spiritual truths. First of all, most of us if we are honest, think or have thought the eating of the forbidden fruit was not such a horrible sin and maybe God was overly harsh in his punishment of Adam and Eve for making one mistake. Now if you have thought that before, you need to realize it is your deceitful heart that has brought that thought to your mind. For the enemy of our soul is able to able to make sin and evil appear innocent.

Notice the devil questioned the Word of God:  did God really say you must not eat from any  tree any in the garden?  Satan in this one question began an attack and strategy that has been going on ever since. He questioned the authorship of the Word of God; the accuracy of the Word of God and the acceptability of the Word of God. You see, God’s word demands obedience and the conflict arises when the demand of God’s Word is contrary to the desires of your flesh.

When Eve in her answer to him handled the Word of God carelessly, adding to it, Satan immediately moved to call God a liar. The enemy made his false promise, because he is a liar. He told them you will not die. Remember what we said about advertising being used to make you discontent with what you have and desire what is being advertised. Marketing’s role is to minimize the risk in order to maximize your interest.  If you can sin without consequences- then why wouldn’t you sin. Satan took away the risk and guaranteed satisfaction or your money back didn’t he?  He lied.

Because we were born with sinful natures, our reasoning or understanding was darkened. Our desires were to gratify the cravings of our sinful natures and our wills were perverted.  Then we got saved and we were transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. We were enlightened in our understanding and begin to understand spiritual truths. We begin to submit our wills to God and our emotions delighted in this turn of events as we had become new creatures.  But the Word of God tells us  we must transform our minds, set our affections on things above and submit to God, resist and devil and he will flee.

A  battle within us has begun. We have the ability to be victorious. We have to learn how-we have to pursue holiness and practice holiness until the gap between our position in Christ and our practice in practical living are not as far apart as when we first started.

In battle – whoever holds the high ground has the advantage. The high ground is the mind, and the battle is for the mind.  We transform our minds with the Word of God.

New Year’s Resolution.  Daily intake of Gods’ Word.

No One can pursue holiness who is not prepared to obey Gods’ Word.

As we think about Paul’s illustration of running the race. Make sure you are not running aimlessly but for the right purpose.  Watch out for that sin that so easily tangles, so you can run with perseverance. But remember if you fall, get up and get back in the race.  Realize you are not running against others, so do not compare to others. You are running the race marked out for you.  Fix your eyes on the finish line and the One who awaits you and what He has done for you so you will not lose heart or grow weary. (Hebrews 12)

And remember the closer you get to finishing the race- do not let up. In fact, now is the time   every athlete knows is critical- it is the time to put on the last kick to drive across the finish line.

We are to pour it all out like a drink offering, Paul said.  As the time comes for our departure, we want to say:  “ I have fought a good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award me on that day- and not only me, but also all those who have longed for His appearing.” ( 2 Timothy 4)


Romans 6b

I Am Crucified with Christ- Nevertheless I live!

The quote is from Galatians 2:20, where Paul gives us a summarizing statement of what Romans 6 describes.  “ I am crucified with Christ”- this is a fact and is the basis for our justification. My old nature was crucified with Christ. The ax was laid to the root of the tree that produced the sins, our old sinful nature. God has made a way for you and I to resist sin, but the responsibility for resisting is ours. Paul then states the next truth, which is: ‘ nevertheless I live, -Paul confirms his old nature is still alive, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ This is Christ in us which is sanctification. This progressive work is made possible by the resurrection. Paul in this verse tells us how we live the Christian life- ‘ the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”This is how the justified live- by faith.  Justification is righteousness imputed into my account which is the basis for salvation- my sins forgiven and forgotten and I am adopted into the family of God. Saved by His death.  But much more, Christ is in me and the life I now live- this is the sanctification process- I am saved by His life. Every day we must remember these truths Jesus shared with us in John 14: ‘Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of these miracles themselves. On that day you will realize I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.’

It is on these truths we must think on- ‘ Sow a thought-reap an act; Sow an act- reap a habit; Sow a habit- reap a character.’  This is the process of sowing and reaping- of cultivation. We must cultivate holiness, for God’s Word tells us – be holy as God is holy. Some of our Lord’s most powerful teaching was on the night of his arrest when he taught about the vineyard, the vine, the branch, the fruit, the gardener.  The Lord describes the process of cultivation and the role of each involved. And in other places, the Lord taught us the parable of the sower and the seed, the vineyard owner and the workers. All these and the illustrations that Paul used are to allow us to visualize the process and realize we have responsibilities and must do our part- not in salvation or justification but in those works God has ordained we should walk in. Paul states it this way in his letter to the Philippians: “ ….continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” Also the writer of Hebrews writes:  “ Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”( Hebrews 12:14) Work, make every effort to be holy- sounds like we have some work to do doesn’t it?

In  Romans 6, Paul uses the word – know, three times. Know ye not; knowing this, knowing that..  This leads one to believe ignorance is a key factor in hindering us from living the life of victory.

We are responsible to know these things – to study to show ourselves approved. To be doers and not hearers only.

Paul also uses the word- reckon- (kjv) ‘count’ ( NIV) This means something is true and we are to believe it is so- even though our ‘feelings’ do not agree with the truth.  We believe these truths, we believe them by faith. These are spiritual truths that are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

And one more important word- yield. What does yield mean to you? If it means anything besides complete surrender, you have not understood this word.

These three words are extremely important- for these three words are what our responsibilities are.   In addition we must remember all of these things are – in Christ.

Let’s see if what I am about to say resonates with you as to what you have experienced in your Christian walk:

If I were to ask you how are you doing in fulfilling the commandment of the Lord – ‘ to be holy, as God is holy.  How would you respond or grade yourself?  Well I am not living in gross sin- but I am not perfect. I am doing the best I can. But you see- that is what we have settled for, even come to believe is the best we can hope for.  A life of moral mediocrity. A life not unlike the one the Israelites lived for 40 years in the wilderness. A life between Egypt and the Promised Land.

We tried living the Christian life in our own power, having been set free from sin- but the victorious life seemed to elude us, didn’t it?  Until finally we felt it was no use.   Then one day- we read in a book , or heard in a sermon or another Christian told us- quit trying and start trusting….let go and let God.  That was the answer and for a while- it seemed to work, but alas, we fell again and we were devastated that we would exist until we died in this life- in between Egypt and the Promised Land.

Herein lies the problem:  what am I supposed to do? And What is God doing or already done?  How do I make the two fit together?    As we will discover- we have found the enemy and it is us!  The seat of indwelling sin is in the heart. Mark 7: 21-23 tells us this fact. Jesus tells us in these verses: “ For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride and foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” No wonder Paul says- I know that within me dwells no good thing.  Jeremiah 17 tells us about our hearts- “ The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart…” This is why we must daily, sometimes often ask ‘Search me, O God  and know my heart, test me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” ( Psalm 139)

God’s primary way to search our heart is through His Word, which is alive and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword, dividing asunder the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ( Hebrews 4) Combined with the prayer of Psalm 139 we arm ourselves for the battle.

Let me warn you right now of the cunning strategies of the enemy:  satan will try to confuse you on the issue of what God has done for us and what we must do ourselves. God has indeed made provision for us to live the holy life- but He has also given us definite responsibilities. The enemy has been using the strategy of deceit since the Garden of Eden. God tests our faith to create confidence and give us experience. Satan tempts us through our flesh to cause us to sin. Within each tests is the temptation- and thus the battle of the old nature vs. the new nature, the flesh against the Spirit.

What does Scripture mean by the word –‘heart’?  The word heart is used in Scripture in various ways.  Generally it denotes the whole soul of man and all its faculties. These we will see all work together in doing good or evil. The mind reasons, discerns and judges.  The emotions express their likes or dislikes. The conscience determines right from wrong and warns us. The will chooses or refuses.

Look at the first occurrence of sin. Adam and Eve’s desire overcame their reason. Their desire to eat the fruit overcame the reason they were not to and they listened to the enemy who knew of their desire and use that desire to deceive them. From the story of the first sin-  you realize  the tipping point is when you allow desire to overrule reason. You see desire works in the emotions. James describes the cycle of sin:  we are tempted when we are dragged away and enticed by our own evil desires.(James 1) In fact in one’s deceitful, unsearchable heart, evil desire is constantly seeking out  temptations to satisfy  our insatiable lusts and evil desires. After all where was Eve standing when the serpent approached her?  She was standing by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She was drawn there by her desire to know good and evil.

Not all desires are evil. And God wants to give us the right desires in our heart. We must make sure our desires are toward glorifying God and not satisfying the lust of our bodies.

But when we commit sin it is because desire has come in through our emotions, our affections to overrule our reason and conscience to influence our will and in the final step commit sin.

“Watch and pray, lest you fall in temptation.” (Jesus speaking,Matthew 26)

“ Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” ( Proverbs 4- Solomon speaking.)

So let’s look at what God has provided, already done, and what is our responsibility, what we are to do.  Paul is going to show that Christ’s victory at Calvary liberates us not only from sin’s penalty  but also from sin’s power. The doctrine of sanctification is the theme of the next three chapters. In Romans 6 we read of the freedom from the power of sin; in Romans 7 we discover the freedom from the law’s condemnation and in Romans 8,we read of the life in the power of the Holy Spirit. This life, a life of spiritual maturity is the life Paul referred to in Galatians 6, ‘the life he now lived in the flesh, ‘the not I, but Christ liveth in me’ life. ( Augustine’s quote)

At the end of Romans 5, Paul tells us when the law was added, sin increased. But where sin increased, grace increased more.  Paul then addresses what he knows some will use as license to abuse grace with the false reasoning- that if grace increases as sin increases – shall we sin more- that grace may increase more?  Paul ‘s two word answer is emphatic:  God Forbid!

Let’s take a look at Lazarus’ death for a moment for it reveals a process that gives us a glimpse of this truth.  Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days when the Lord Jesus came to his grave. ( John 11).  He called Lazarus to come forth and Lazarus came forth after the stone was rolled away still entangled in his grave clothes. Lazarus came to life at the command of the Lord’s Word. I would remind you the Word of God is alive and powerful. It is life giving, life changing and life sustaining.  Still wrapped in the grave clothes, Jesus commanded others to “ Loose him and let him go.” (therein begins the sanctification process- the loosening of the grave clothes..)

Lazarus was dead. He came to life at the command of the Lord’s word. He was raised from the dead to walk in newness of life. And in John 12, we see Lazarus seated with Christ.  All of these are true of each of us who are born again. We were dead in sin and trespasses, then we heard the Word of God the incorruptible seed  and we were born again to walk in newness of life, raised up and seated in Christ.   As for the grave clothes- these were the attire of the old man, and we are to put off the old and put on the new.  Thus begins the cultivation process in our lives known as sanctification, where one is loosed from his/her old nature and let go. For it is for freedom that Christ set us free

Let us grasp these truths and believe them as factual and actual and not give into our feelings and the desires of the old nature.  We cultivated un-holiness for years with our sins which became habits. Which if we do not watch and pray we will fall back into and these sins which so easily beset us are like the old grave clothes that entangled Lazarus and impeded his new walk.

We must believe the reality of this truth that our old nature is crucified with Christ. How can anyone overcome a stronghold of sin cultivated and developed over years of habit? It is a fact of history that one Jesus Christ of Nazareth was crucified. It is also a fact, according to God’s Word, that we were also crucified with Him.  Paul says we died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? Paul then develops the idea of this truth  because we were baptized into Christ death our old nature was crucified with Christ so that sin would no longer reign in our bodies.

Paul says this is a fact, we must know and reckon to be true. Dying to sin is not something we do, but something Christ has already done. The impact and value of what Christ has done is that it is also done to all who are in Him. Our individual dying to sin is something we make true in our experience by reckoning this fact to be true.   *If you are not experiencing victory over an area of sin in your life, it is because you are not reckoning this fact to be true. For anyone who has died has been freed from sin. (Romans 6:7).  Having been justified, we are now to live by faith. For the just shall live by faith.

Our daily experience with regard to sin is determined – not by our reckoning but by our will. However our will must be influenced by the fact that we died to sin.  Now do you understand what Paul is saying in Galatians 2:20?  “ I am crucified with Christ..” Fact. The Word of God says so. “ Nevertheless, I live.” Yes we are alive, but now we have dual natures, and old nature and a new nature. We are to put off the old and put on the new- by an act of our will by reckoning this statement to be true that our old nature was crucified with Christ. Now in Galatians 2:20, Paul describes how the justification took place in that we were crucified with Christ-but the sanctification process, which is ongoing, is made possible by the other fact we must reckon as true is that as we were placed in Christ at the cross, we were raised to walk in newness of life with the life of the resurrected Christ being in us.  I in Christ at the cross = justification. I died with Him. Christ in me at resurrection the sanctifying process begins.  The cultivation of the holy life in which I have certain responsibilities can be compared to  the farmer  who cultivates a crop. The farmer must depend on God to provide seeds that  germinate, soil that provides nutrients, sunshine and rain in the right balance- but the farmer must till the ground, plant the seed and so forth.  Thus it is a joint venture, as is the Christian life.

Before you and I were saved, we were in the kingdom of Satan and sin.  “We followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air.” ( Ephesians 2:2) We were slaves of sin. We were born into this kingdom of sin. But praise God, we have been set free from this kingdom of sin, rescued from this kingdom of darkness and turned from the power of satan to the power of God.

But my question is if we have been delivered from this kingdom of darkness and the realm of sin, why do we still sin?  *Though God has delivered us from the reign of sin, our sinful natures still reside within us.  Paul would state that he knew within him dwelled no good thing. We read in several passages, regarding the old man vs. the new man, the old nature and the new nature, the spirit vs. the flesh. Battles continue in spite of the fact the war has been won. The losing side is waging a guerilla war and will not stop fighting until our Supreme Commander returns to this battle field we call earth. God uses this adversity in each generation of Christians to mature our faith.

If we do not reckon our old nature dead. If we do not make it a daily habit to take up the cross and crucify the old nature, we will find ourselves not making the Lord Jesus – King and seated on the throne of our hearts. We live by faith in the fact that we are crucified with Christ. For we must learn to live by faith for it is by grace through faith that we are saved and the just shall live by faith.

You see, you and I cultivated the habits of sin and practiced them for years. We followed the ways of the world for so long, that if we are not watchful we can fall into those old patterns and remember our enemy resides within. Our very hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. That is why we are told to guard our hearts. Search our hearts is our prayer to the Lord as  we beseech the Lord to search our hearts and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way of everlasting.  * This is a prayer that is in the will of God, so we know He hears us. How do we  allow the Holy Spirit to search our hearts?  We get into the Word of God, with the determination to be a doer of the Word and not hearers only. This allows the Holy Spirit to  wield the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God

For almost a decade, I traveled the same route to my job from my house.  Then I left that job and started a business that was in a different location.  On more than one occasion I found myself thinking about other things and before I knew it , almost like I was on automatic pilot I was following my old route to my old job.  I am to watch and pray. I am to be on guard.

AA told me to watch out for the wrong kind of thinking, which they referred to as ‘ stinking thinking’.  I am to set my mind of things above. For you see I am now cultivating a new way of  thinking, for as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.  “ Sow a thought- reap an act. Sow an act- reap a habit. Sow a habit- reap a character.”  **A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will real eternal life. Let us not become weary in well doing, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.** ( Galatians 6)

I am to be separated from sin, and I do this by being consecrated to God. And by being consecrated to God, I will be conformed to the image of Christ.

How can we sow the right kind of thoughts? How do we transform our minds? How can we be changed?

Listen to these instructions: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,  ARE CHANGED INTO THE SAME IMAGE FROM GLORY TO GLORY, EVEN AS BY THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD.” ( 2 Cor.4)

How can we be transformed to be like Christ?  Very simply- we stand face-to-face looking into the glory of Jesus Christ, we shall be changed into His image. As take our eyes off ourselves( a key) and fix them on the Lord Jesus, the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to change us in ever increasing glory into the image of the Lord Jesus as we choose to obey His Word.  This is the spiritual process of growth.

Here is a  check list to ask yourself:

*Does this glorify God?

*Is this consistent with the Lordship of Christ?

*Is this beneficial to me and helpful in my spiritual maturity?

*Does this help others positively and not hurt others?

*Does this bring me under any enslaving power or habit?

Are you cultivating holiness? Be ye holy as the Lord is holy.

Romans 5

The Benefit Package of Salvation

An employee looks carefully and considers the benefits an employer offers when considering a job offer.  Benefits have come to be a significant factor with  the following being chief concerns: health care, retirement, disability, life insurance and paid vacation time.

I would remind you- benefits are for the full-time employee, not part- time employees. And in the case of those who are self-employed, own their own business- they must provide all the benefits themselves.

This is not that different from the benefits one has as part of their salvation.  We could compare the carnal Christian to a part time employee; and the spiritually mature Christian who is fully persuaded that God can do what He promised to do as a full time employee enjoying all the benefits. And the unbeliever is like the self employed, they are depending on self to create the benefits they will enjoy.  Many times we even describe these type of individuals as a ‘ self-made man.’

Why would a believer ever not want to utilize the benefits provided by our Heavenly Father? Sometimes it is ignorance of what they have in Christ. But also we are like the Galatians Paul described in his epistle to them- having begun in the Spirit they are now trying to finish in the flesh. This is one of the great deceptions of the enemy, the father of all lies. The carnal Christian’s life is marked by worry, anxiety and fear. Like a person who has no insurance worries about what he will do if they become sick, this person is weary and burdened with so many cares. Yet the Lord could not have been any clearer than in Matthew 6 where He told us not to worry about our lives and the bottom line was – ‘seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will  worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

We sing- ‘ saved- to new life sublime’, don’t we?  But it seems not many are enjoying what they would call a sublime life in the here and now and seemed resolved to only looking forward to heaven while getting through as best as they can.  Another song comes to mind- ‘ trying to make a living and doing the best I can.” That seems to sum up life some days, doesn’t it?

So here Paul turns his attention and ours to what we have as a benefit package as a result of salvation, which he has clearly detailed as being saved by grace through faith.  So like the HR person who sits down with the new hire and explains the benefit package, Paul lists our major benefits:

  1. Peace with God
  2. Access to God
  3. Glorious Hope
  4. An ongoing Character building program
  5. God’s love within our hearts
  6. Salvation from future wrath of God
  7. Reconciliation with God.

In today’s lesson, our goal is to understand these benefits.


All of these benefits come to us as all included package of benefits made possible by Grace through faith. First understand, as verse 10 of Romans 5 tells us- we were enemies of God  before we were saved. God had declared war on us, we were condemned. Justification means God declared us righteous  and therefore He has made a declaration of peace with those who believe, made possible through the death of Christ on the cross. It was sin that caused the quarrel between us and God. But more than a formal peace between two parties who were once enemies, God loves us, adopts us as His own children and we have the privilege of becoming His friends. How sweet the song the little children sing- ‘ my best friend is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!’ Jesus said we are his friends. He is the friend who took our place-took my sins, took my punishment, paid my debt. The Lord Jesus is the Prince of Peace and the one who mediated a peace between me and God. Peace with God.  No longer the subject of God’s wrath, but instead the recipient of His infinite love and goodness. Have you ever been the recipient of good news regarding something that you were anxious about, something that had been a major concern?

I remember when Gina and I heard the results of the cat scan that would tell us if the cancer was gone, when the doctor told us there was no sign of any cancer. Our reaction was relief, relief from worry about my health, our future, our family.  The relief was a benefit of peace that knows the problem that existed, no longer exists. Freed from worry, anxiety and concern, we felt  the weight lifted off our shoulders. We speak of world peace and pursue it, but there will never be world peace until the Prince of Peace comes.   Jesus also said to His disciples on the night of his arrest:  “Peace I leave with you, my peace  I give unto you . I do not give to you as the world gives.” (John 14:27) This is a peace, (in my opinion) that seems to come and go. There is another peace that Paul mentions in Philippians 4:7 – a peace that passes understanding. It seems obvious from its description this is a peace that comes upon us, we cannot understand.

But we cannot experience any of these types of peace until we have this peace with God, which is permanent. It is a peace that comes because we are fully persuaded our sins are forgiven and everything  has been made right with God  through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Before the cross, the Jew was kept from access to the presence of God by the temple veil to the Holy of Holies.  The Gentile was kept out of God’s presence by the wall in the temple that separated the Gentile from the Jewish congregation. In fact, to go past this wall was to subject that Gentile to death. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil was torn from the top –down. And Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14:” For He Himself is our peace who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh,the law with its commandments and regulations.”

The word ‘access’ carries with it the meaning that we have access to the king’s court because we have been brought into His presence and announced as one having the right to enter into His presence. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who has provided us with the way into His Presence. For He told us- ‘he is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by him. ( John 14)   Notice again, there is nothing we have done or accomplished to enter into His presence it is all by grace through faith.

We are told this benefit is something in which we now stand. Stand has the implication of something that has been established. Again Paul in Ephesians explains further this benefit. Our stand comes as a process of what God has done. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. All of these benefits are in Christ. He is our resource. We were raised up with Him and made to sit in Him. It was from this position of rest we begin our walk.  What was Adams’ first day on the job?  Not the first day he was a new creation. That was a day of rest, the seventh day. So Adam’s first day on the job came after the rest. We walk after we are seated. We walk worthy of our calling. ( Ephesians 4). Then from there we take our stand, as described in Ephesians 6.

These benefits are rights given, not to be taken away. We are like immigrants who have taken up permanent residence in a new country, where we have received citizenship. These immigrants who come to America come to find a better life. Often they came from a country of oppression where personal freedoms and opportunities are limited. As we were once in a kingdom of darkness held captive in sin and now have come into a kingdom of light. We are as believers, much more than citizens of heaven for we have been adopted into the family of God and made joint heirs with the Lord Jesus. We are a royal priesthood. We are royalty.  We must learn how to live in this new place that is now our permanent residence. We must pledge our allegiance to our new country, our new Ruler as we are now citizens of heaven, royal ambassadors. “ There is one body, one Spirit, – just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”(Ephesians 4)  Until I see Him face to face, I have access to Him through prayer. Justification has to do with our standing that gives me access. We are in essence, members in good standing in the household and kingdom of God. This is a benefit of salvation. Our access is twofold.  We can enter into the throne room of heaven with confidence because of this standing and our relationship, we enter now in prayer and are told we may find mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  This is the power of prayer.

And then this access means that God speaks to us through His Word.

When we get saved, the Word of God comes alive for us. Before it was just a book that had no appeal to us.   Now this book was about me, for me, a light that directed my path-it explained my new position, it told me of what I now possessed.   It was the Lord’s living will and testament to me as to what I had inherited.  I am always welcome in His presence- He delights to see me and you and hear from us.  And do you know how glad He is to see you when you leave Him to go to the far country like the prodigal son? Listen to the description of this reunion: “ But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him”. (Luke 15) There would be a big party that night- for his son who was lost- was found.  ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you.’( James 4)


Let me say our glorious hope is that this life is not all there is. In fact, it is only the beginning with the best yet to come. For He has promised He is coming again for me and you. For this reason we have hope.  We also have hope because we know God’s commandments are always for our good. God made us and therefore He knows us better than anyone, including ourselves. He knows my name, He knows my limitations, my drives, my weakness. He also knows what will give me the greatest sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, meaning, purpose and hope. He also knows what will put you and me in the best possible position to receive all that He has for us. His commandments are my operating instructions so that we might experience all the wonderful things He has for us.

I have hope- glorious hope because:

  • I know I have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.
  • I know I have access to His presence
  • I know I have access to His Power.
  • I know I have access to His Name.
  • I know I have access to His Estate.

I have Hope,Glorious Hope because I know God loves me unconditionally, is true to His Word, is able to deliver, is wise and loving, and is in complete control

I have all of this by grace through faith. I believe God is Who He says He is and can do what He says He can do.

I have Glorious Hope because I believe in an all powerful, all knowing  Almighty God for whom nothing is impossible!


Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14

Romans 5-6

Benefits and the Bonus of Much More

“But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how MUCH MORE did God’s grace and the GIFT that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ overflow to the many.” ( Romans 5 :15)

Christmas is a time of gift giving in memory of the greatest gift mankind ever received when God the Father gave us His Only Begotten Son, the Lord Jesus. So let us continue to unwrap the gift that keeps on giving and realize it is even much more than we expected.

As we continue to look at the benefits that come from salvation, we will also unwrap what Paul describes as the bonus of ‘ much more!’

Let’s pick up with the description of our benefits which David told us in Psalms 103 not to forget.  Romans 5:3&4  describes the process of the character building program of God’s plan for us. This is another benefit of our salvation, although at times the program of character building does not seem like a benefit for it can be painful. Let us remember that our standing with God is perfect- but our state  is progressive, an ongoing process of sanctification or maturing. In other words, our position in Christ is perfect, however our practice is imperfect. One of the signs of maturity is to display rejoicing in tribulations or suffering. Glory in tribulations is a sign of maturity that comes through experience. And as all of us who are believers know, this is not the natural response for our flesh detests tribulation and suffering. This is very much a refining process.

Let us follow the process as Paul lists it step by step: the tribulation, the trouble produces patience. Now James told us patience must finish its work that we might be mature and complete lacking nothing. This adversity in the life of a believers works to purify our faith, enlarge our faith and thus prove our faith. The KJV says these actions produce ‘experience’, the NIV interprets this as ‘character’.  In other words this experience which is a refining process is what builds our character.  And one of the byproducts of this character is hope that does not disappoint. This hope is what Abraham and Sarah had based on Gods’ promise- a hope that was a confident expectation, that He who had begun a good work – would complete it. It was already done.

Our standing with God is perfect, immutable and guaranteed by the Word of God, the Work of Christ and the witness of the Spirit. Our state is imperfect, changeable and in large measure, dependent on us. We are a work in progress.

Now we have as another benefit- the love of God shed abroad into our hearts, states the KJV.   I like the wording the NIV uses- “ poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” God’s love for us is not only unconditional, it immeasurable. In Psalms 103, where David reminds us not to forget His benefits- we read:  “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear Him.” The more scientists discover about the universe, the more convinced they are it may very well be infinite, never ending.  And surely His love is everlasting. But one only need look to the cross, and realize the depths of His love by the magnitude of His gift to us:  “For God so loved the world, He GAVE His Only Begotten Son…”’  That famous verse tells us the proof of God’s love is the sacrifice of His Son. Not only that- listen to what the Lord Jesus did:  “Christ loved the church and GAVE himself for it.” ( Ephesians 5.25) “ He loved me and Gave Himself for me.” ( Galatians 2:20)  The proof of love is ever in its gift. The greatest proof of love a parent can give to child, a husband to his wife or wife to her husband is to give themselves, their time, their attention.  When we look at our daytimers and our checkbook and they tell us much about ourselves, do they not?  For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.  It was this love of God for us that created the plan of salvation. And does it not make sense to you- if God did not spare His own Son, but GAVE Him up for us- how will He and also His Son not graciously give us all things? ( Romans 8)   Do you see when it comes to love- the gift given is a proof of the love. He gave us His all… can we not expect to give Him anything less?

We have the future benefit of being saved from His future wrath. I Thessalonians 1: 9-10 tells us: ‘They tell how you turned to God from idols  to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” That is clear, isn’t it?  We are delivered from the final judgment of God. By placing His Spirit in us we can be sure of this:  “ Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” ( Phil. 1:6)

Paul once again reminds us the benefit of salvation which is reconciliation with God. And in doing so, Paul tells us how much more, having been reconciled we shall be saved through His life.  Reconciliation opens the door to the life, Jesus spoke of when He said, ‘ I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” ( John 10)

In the workplace, many employers have not only the salary and benefits, they also offer  a bonus, where one can enjoy more, much more than the salary and benefits. So let us carefully look at this next section, as we learn about the ‘much more’ provided for us.

The ‘much more’ is a contrast and comparison between Adam and Christ and what each brought to us. Interesting, that in Romans 5:14 we are told Adam is a pattern of the Lord Jesus who was to come.  This is a general truth that is the foundation for the verses that follow.

If you have ever thought that God’s condemning of the whole world through the sin of one man, Adam, was unfair, you are not alone.  However, when we consider what God did in His wisdom by allowing this universal condemnation, we will come to understand that is was not only fair, but also the wisest and most gracious thing God could ever do.

First of all if God had tested each of us individually, the result would have been the same- disobedience. But God in His Infinite wisdom, knew that by condemning the human race through one man, Adam, God was able to save the human race through one man, Jesus Christ. In fact in I Corinthians 15:45, listen how Paul describes the Lord Jesus.  “ So it is written,” the first man Adam became a living spirit, the LAST ADAM a life-giving spirit. The spirit did not come first, but the natural, after that the spiritual.” Did you get that- Paul called the Lord Jesus, the Son of God in flesh- the ‘last Adam.’ God had in His wisdom planned a ‘do-over’ for mankind. He knew before the foundation of the earth this would be necessary, that is why we read the Lamb of God was slain before the foundation. Do you understand this wisdom ?  God in allowing sin and death to enter through one man, the first Adam, and reign in man, God could thereby allow the gift of righteousness to reign in the life of one man, the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. We were born the first time physically in the first Adam, we were born again, spiritually in the Last Adam.  The natural always come first, the spiritual second.

“Therefore , just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned- for before the law was given sin was in the world.” ( Romans 5:12-13)  Adam and Eve are not mythical figures, they are actual humans created by God and residing in the Garden of Eden.  We are told we are in Adam. We are his physical descendants. We came from the loins of Adam.  Just as you were in your great, great grandfather,- you were in Adam your great-great great great- every how many generations back that was.  You know this is a biological fact, just as you were present in your father’s body. Theologians refers to mankind as being in Adam, ‘ federally and seminally.’ He is the father of the human race, our federal head who produced the human race, and we were in his loins, therefore his physical descendants. Notice when Adam was created by God , he was created in God’s image and in God’s likeness.  Notice however after the fall, when Adam and Eve in their fallen nature conceived a child, the child born was described as  ‘ a son born in his(Adam’s) own likeness and his own image.’ Genesis 5.

This means all who would come after Adam and Eve after the fall would inherit Adam’s image and likeness for God said each species would reproduce after their own kind.

God had told Adam beforehand, the penalty for disobedience- which is what all sin is. The penalty would be death. So by one man sin entered the world and death by sin. God told Adam he would surely die and the serpent’s blatant lie was – you shall not surely die.’  Adam died spiritually the day he sinned, and died physically years later.   Paul explains- ‘in this way death came to all men, for all have sinned.’

Here then is the problem of sin. Adam, by the fall, introduced to his race, as yet unborn, the deadly virus of sin. We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. And because we sinned in Adam, death is imputed to us. Therefore we will all die, some younger, some older, but sooner or later we all die. We are born under the penalty of death because of the sin of Adam. That is why a baby will die- not because they have committed sins, but because they have the virus of sin, inherited from Adam.

What is God’s solution for this problem of sin?   The answer is the second Man, the one Paul called the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the Last Adam’s obedience, he can restore all that which the first Adam threw away when he disobeyed God.  Here  lies the solution:  “ But the gift ( made possible through the Last Adam) is not like the trespass ( of the first Adam.)

We often hear this description of Jesus as being fully God and fully man. Never less than God, never more than man.  How can this be?  Well first of all remember with God- nothing is impossible. Next if we believe the word of God is true, the Word of God tells us in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. God with us ( John 1). Colossians 2-  tells us ‘ for in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.’ Hebrews 1:3 tells us “ The Son is the radiance of Gods’ glory and the exact representation of His Being.” So the Word of God tells us in clear statements- God became flesh in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why did God do this?

God the Son became flesh, Jesus Christ, the Messiah for our salvation. This is the way God saves us. The only way Jesus could die for our sins, is if he was a human being. God showed His love for us by coming to us as a human being, to die for our sins in our place, that we might escape death and be given eternal life. This is the plan of salvation as stated by Jesus in John 3:16.

Okay- we get that- this is the gift of eternal life, the forgiveness of sin, the by grace through faith operation that is the gift of God, not of works.  We are saved and going to heaven when we die.  What about the here and now- what does it do for me now?  How is it relevant to me while I am in a world of hurt?

Life is full of pain, isn’t it?  There are physical pains and emotional pains.  Some pain is caused by accident, some on purpose by evil. Some pain we bring on ourselves, and some is inflicted on us by others. But the bottom line is life has pain and then we suffer and die physically some day.  Trials, pain, sorrow and death are a part of this sin-stained, fallen world we live in. Christians are not given a get-out-of pain free card, we suffer also and Jesus told us we would. Do you realize Jesus suffered pain also?  He knows what heartache is all about. He understands about betrayal, for he was betrayed. He understands hunger, fatigue, and intense physical pain. And here is where His dual nature is so important:  because he was not merely just a human being but because He is also divine, He is now at the right hand of God to help us with our pain and sorrows.  I would also remind you, He has promised to never put more on us than we can bear.

Listen to what the Bible tells us Jesus did and is doing:  Phil. 2: “ Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness . And being found in appearance as a man , he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross.” “ For this very reason, he had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become the merciful and faithful high priest in service to God to  make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2).’ Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ ( Hebrews 4).

Now do you begin to fathom the depth of this love God has for us?  The fact that Jesus was made human gives us confidence that He understands what we are faced with. We can be confident that He not only hears us, but understands what we are going through. And because He is also God, He is able to help us. He has the power to do so and the wisdom to do it the best possible way. This is really good news!!

You may have come here today and you are in a season in your life of suffering and you feel like Habakkuk.  Listen to his prayer :  “ How long, O Lord, must I call for help and you do not listen? “

No one struggles to understand joy and good things when they occur, do they? But when pain and suffering take place, everyone wants to know why and make some sense out of this suffering.  Just look at the tragic event in Newtown and the national debate taking place- why did this happen?  I recall the day Carrie called us from the doctor’s office when she was pregnant the first time and told us- they could not find a heartbeat for the little boy in her womb. She miscarried. Our hearts were broken. Why did this happen? We wondered would Carrie ever have children.  Should they adopt? We had so many questions and had prayed so hard-why was God not listening?  Or was He listening and His message to us was the same as it was to Habakkuk?

We can certainly empathize with the prophet can’t we?  But you know how God answered him? God told Habakkuk : “ Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told, I am raising up the Babylonians that ruthless and impetuous people who sweep across the whole earth to seize the dwelling places not their own.” God was at work and working things out, let’s continue to read this account. The message is made clear in the 2nd chapter of Habakkuk where God says ‘the revelation awaits an APPOINTED TIME; it speaks to the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. See he( the enemy) is puffed up, his desires are not upright; but the righteous shall live by faith.”

God says I am working and you are to wait patiently on me during this time and live by faith, trusting a Sovereign, All Wise, all Powerful God to be working all things together for good.  For He always does what will accomplish the most good for the most people for the longest period of time by the best possible method.

Do you know what an all wise, all loving Heavenly Father did for us?  He gave us two years later- two grandchildren, a boy and a girl! Oh praise the Father from whom all good gifts come- the giver of the MUCH MORE.  He gave our daughter and son-in-law not one, but two children. Not just a little boy- but a little boy and a little girl.  “If you earthly fathers being evil know how to give good gifts to your children,  HOW MUCH MORE will your Heavenly Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” ( Matthew 7- Jesus speaking.)

So look again under the Christmas Tree for there is much more to be opened to us. “ For just as through the disobedience of the one man( the first Adam), the many ( all men)  were made sinners, so also  through the obedience  of the one man( the Last Adam, Jesus) the many will be made righteous. “

Then Paul tells us when the law was added so that the trespass might increase. The law was not made to keep in order to earn righteousness, the law made us more conscious of sin. The result of the law was sin abounded, increased. But where sin abounded, grace abounded more.  His Grace is always sufficient and always more than enough, for God gives liberally- just as His love is poured out which speaks of a gushing spring, which really is more like the Niagra Falls- it keeps on flowing, new and fresh every day for every occasion.

“ For if by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how MUCH MORE WILL THOSE WHO RECEIVE GOD’S ABUNDANT PROVISION OF GRACE AND OF THE GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS REIGN IN LIFE THROUGH THE ONE MAN, JESUS CHRIST.” (Romans 5:17) Verse 19 gives us the symmetry of this comparison and contrast: “ For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” The disobedience of the first Adam ruined us, the obedience of the last Adam saves us.

How were the first Adam and the last Adam alike?  Both the first Adam and the last Adam were tempted by the enemy. The first Adam sinned, the last Adam did not.  Both the first Adam and the Last Adam had brides fashioned from their sides by God. The first Adam in the garden when God put him in a deep sleep, the last Adam at the cross where we are told blood and water gushed from his side when pierced with the soldier’s sword.

My prayer for you this Christmas is you would begin to open this gift- that offers the abundant, much more that God has provided for us.

Romans 4

Romans 4: The Word of the Lord

The verse that got my attention early on in this study of Paul’s letter to the Romans is Romans 4:3a: “ What does the Scripture say…” We will return to finish this statement, but first let us realize what truth Paul has presented here. Paul is saying his basis for truth is what the Bible says.This is our final authority. In regard to interpretation, we are to let the Bible be our commentary on the Bible.  Later in Romans 15, Paul would explain these things were written for our example. As a student of the Bible we must realize the Word of God has a lot to say about the Word of God. Paul is telling us that new knowledge is built on old knowledge. You cannot learn to read and write until you learn the alphabet. You cannot learn arithmetic until you learn your numbers. You cannot learn to multiply until you learn to add. Jesus said He did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it every jot and tittle.  Hebrews 10 tells us- ‘He sets aside the first to establish the second.’ How did Jesus set aside the first, the Old Testament? By fulfilling it. This had to be done in order to build upon it the New Testament.

Let us consider what the Word of God says about Itself: “ All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for: doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.”( 2 Tim. 3)

“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” ( Deut 8 and Matthew 4)  “ The Lord gives wisdom, from His Mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” ( Proverbs 2)  However James tells us- we must not be hearers only but doers.  In other words, here is a *key principle- understanding comes from obedience. Obedience to God’s word is the cornerstone to Christian living and fellowship with God. We are to obey Him and leave all the consequences to Him. ( Proverbs 3: 4-6) You cannot learn how to swim, unless you get in the water – you cannot learn how to use a computer by reading instructions only, you must do what the instructions tell you to do.  Follow the prompts the computer gives you and you will learn how by doing. *Follow the prompts of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will always tell you to do what the instructions of the Word of God tells you to do.  Simply ask:  What does the Scripture Say?

Jesus said : “ if you continue in My Word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” ( John 8:31,32, 36) Are you continuing in His Word?  Do you daily meditate upon it? Obey it?

When we are confronted by the truth of Gods’ Word, we can do one of two things-obey it or refuse to obey it.  If we obey it we will be rewarded plus more importantly we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Failure to do so,will result in being conformed to this world.

Now let us go back to Romans 3 for a moment to reconnect with some truths Paul has revealed and we will see why Paul has chosen to use Abraham and David as examples of being saved by grace through faith, rather than works.

Paul quotes from several O.T. sources to underscore that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. In Romans 3: 11,12- Paul says ‘no one understands, no one seek God; All have turned away , they have together become worthless ( unprofitable, KJV).  Remember what Paul wrote about the Word of God is 2 Tim. 3 –‘The Word of God is profitable…’

So from Old Testament knowledge, Paul will build New Testament knowledge. Paul will use the Old Testament to show how Abraham and David were not justified by works of the law but by faith, apart from works.  The Bible is always the best commentary on the Bible.

Paul then asks the question :  What shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (Romans 4: 1,2)

Now Paul is  a masterful teacher. He knows illustrations are important.  He also knows that new knowledge builds on old knowledge.  Two of the most revered leaders and heroes of the faith were Abraham, considered their founding father and King David, their most famous king.

The problem Paul was facing and he understood it full well, having overcome the same problem was that God’s Grace, which had always been there had become obscured. It was lost in a work-based religion of the works of the flesh. Keeping the law to obtain the righteousness of God was the full time pursuit of the religious establishment and the burden placed on the people that Jesus came to relieve.  In their attempt to keep the law and thereby obtain this moral perfection, the Jewish leaders had added man-made laws to God’s law so that they might measure their accomplishments.  The idea was they would build a system of credits that God owed them which when weighed on God’s scale would outweigh any of their debits. In other words, their net worth which is in accounting terms is: assets minus liabilities ( good works minus sins) would entitle them to salvation and eternal life, God owed them. This they falsely believed and taught would tip the scale in their favor and one could obtain righteousness and salvation would be theirs.

Their philosophy which is still present today in the life of many is : God helps those- who help themselves. This is a lie.  I once read an interview with Jesse Ventura, former Navy Seal, professional wrestler, Governor of Minnesota, in which the interviewer asked Jesse what he thought of Christianity and religion in general.  His reply: “ Religion is for the weak.” Many people who read this were incensed. But as I thought about it- Paul’s revelation came to me when Jesus said – my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Paul got it and said from then on – he would rejoice in weakness because when he was weak he was strong. Jesse was right- it is for the weak. And I rejoice in my weakness that led me to the Lord, who is my strength.

This teaching of salvation and obtaining God’s righteousness without working for it was alien to these religious leaders, the Pharisees were like the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  The elder brother was upset that he had worked so hard all these years, worked like a servant always keeping his commandments and now this prodigal son comes home and gets a ‘free ride’with party, feast, robe, a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

When Christianity came, these religious leaders taught Christianity was a continuation of Judaism and in order to obtain salvation and the righteousness of God you needed Jesus plus keeping the law, doing good works.  Man’s accounting does not take into account- God’s  accounting method.  God’s accounting does not say one is saved by grace through faith plus works. Gods’ accounting says:  a person is justified by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any person should boast.( Ephesians 2) {Now to make sure you are not looking for loopholes- Paul and James both agree a true saving faith will result in good works that God has ordained for one to walk in.}

Paul to illustrate this truth will turn to two of the most revered men of Israel’s history- Abraham and King David.  Paul directs them to the Scriptures: ‘ What saith the Scriptures? ( Romans 4:3,KJV)  Ever listen to Billy Graham’s preaching?  If you have, you will hear him say over and The Word of God says….

The Word of God is our final authority.

Let’s go back to Genesis , where Paul would take his readers 2000 years ago and where he still points us to today in 2012 to the life of Abraham. He will show them and remind all of us just what the Word of God says.

To understand how God works in one’s life we study the life of Abraham, a man who just happens to be revered by the three world religions- Muslim, Jewish, and Christianity. He is in fact the father of many nations. God had called Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia. Let’s break down the call of the Lord upon Abraham’s life in Genesis 12: God called Abraham to separate himself from his country, his people, his father and go to a land He, God would show Abraham. The first call of God on ones’ life is a call of separation. This separation is a time of preparation. Obedience is rewarded. God told Abraham his obedience will be rewarded by making Abraham into a great nation; a great name; and through Abraham, God would bless all the peoples on earth.  When the Lord Jesus called the disciples following his 40 days in the wilderness, his call was a call of separation- follow me; and He offered a reward to these fishermen- ‘ I will make you fisher of men.’ A call of separation coupled with a reward for obedience.   His initial call on your life to salvation is a call to separate yourself and leave your old life.

Second, notice God called Abraham on a mission without a map.  God simply said- I will show you. Hebrews 11 tells us- Abraham went out , not knowing where he was going. Specifics are not given. That is the beginning of the walk of faith. The walk of faith begins when we believe Gods’ word and act upon it. Trust is a learned response that comes from experiencing the trustworthiness of the one who made the promise.

Then God provides Abraham with a covenant without compromise. God has a plan for each of us when we begin the walk of faith and as we study the lives of people who followed God, we realize the destination was not often reached without hardship, toils, and dangers. There seems to always be a desert or wilderness experience for each of us.

In Genesis 15, where Paul will take the reader of this letter, Paul offers proof of how one is justified by faith, not works.

“ After this the WORD OF THE LORD CAME TO ABRAHAM….” The Word of the Lord came to him.  Have you experienced this wonder of God’s words coming to you?  Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God? Can you put your name in this verse:  The Word of the Lord came to _____________ ( your name).  The Word of God is alive and powerful. It life giving, life changing and life sustaining.  Man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.


God is about to give Abraham a pledge. His Word. His promise to Abraham. A contractual covenant. May I remind you of who you are?  “ If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” ( Galatians 3)

Listen to this pledge from God to Abraham and then based on the fact of Gods’ Word that you are Abraham’s seed according to the promise and thus this pledge is you as a believer:

“ Do not be afraid, Abraham. I am your shield, your very great reward.” ( Genesis 15:1) This is the Word of the Lord that came to Abraham- has this Word of the Lord come to you?  Or are you living in fear of circumstances, the future, and uncertainty? Notice what the Word of God is able to do?  This is the amazing ability of the Word of God has- it can take away your fears and worries. What a balm , what a source of peace better than any tranquilizer.


This is what I like about Abraham, he is just like you and me.  Abraham had his doubts, even his moments of unbelief. Like the man who brought his son to Jesus to be healed, said he believed, help his unbelief.  What I call an honest doubter. We all have those moments when like this man we say Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Remember the Word of God is powerful and alive and sharper than a two-edged sword able to divide asunder belief from unbelief, truth from lies.  Mary was an honest doubter when Gabriel the angel told her she would be with child- how can this be Lord? Nicodemus was puzzled- how can I be born again?  Abraham recognizes who God is:  “ O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? You have given me no children, so a servant in my household will be my heir.” ( Genesis 15;2-3) Abraham could not see God’s plan.



“Then the WORD OF THE LORD CAME TO HIM:  “ This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir. He took him outside and said,’ Look up at the heavens and count the stars- if indeed you can count them. The He said to him: “ So shall your offspring be.” Abraham believed the Lord and He credited Abraham with righteousness.”

Paul turns them to the Old Testament, to the very words we read in Genesis 15: 6:” Ánd he(Abraham) believed in the Lord; and He counted ( reckoned) it to him(Abraham) for righteousness.” In just a few verses later, Paul will show Abraham had not been circumcised yet.

It was right there in clear sight, in black and white: Abraham believed in the Lord and the Lord reckoned , counted it to him for righteousness. The Lord entered a credit of righteousness in Abraham’s account that paid all charges due ever. He stamped it: Paid in Full.  Jesus paid it all. It was the righteousness of Christ that was credited to Abraham’s account and it is the same for each of us who believed in the Lord and He counted it to you and me for righteousness.  That is why we sing:  Jesus Paid it all, all to  Him I owe.

Now Paul continues with this lesson in Accounting 101 which is really easy to understand as Paul illustrates: Now to him who works, the reward is not of grace but of debt. ( Romans 4:4) In other words a man works all week and at the end of the week the hours he worked are added up and the employer puts into his account the money owed, for it is a debt the employer owes to the worker for he has earned it. But Paul is saying- Abraham did nothing to earn his salvation. He simply trusted in God, in God’s Word . It was Jesus Christ who did the work on the cross, and it was His Righteousness that was put not only in Abraham’s account but in all who believed. This offer is still good. We still live in an age of Grace, where the gift of God is available to all who believe. Jesus summarized this truth in this simple statement to the woman at the well in John 4:  “ If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The water of life is the Holy Spirit, for one is born of water and the Spirit.( John 3) The one who controls this water of life is the Lord Jesus and you receive it by asking Him and He gives it freely to all who believe.

Grace-God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

The thief on the cross never did a single thing in his whole life, except at the last moment believe in Him whom God had sent.  “What must we do to work the works of God? Jesus answered: This is the work of God, that you believe on Him Whom He hath sent.: ( John 6)

The Word of the Lord came to Abraham and he believed in the Word of the Lord. He believed His promise, His pledge to Him  because He believed in the One who made the Promise.

Next Paul quotes King David from Psalms 32:

“ Blessed are they ( put your name here)

Whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the man whose sin does not count against him – to whom God does not impute( put on his account) sin, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” ( no deceit- honest with God.)

Notice the repetition David used – transgressions forgiven, sins are covered; sin does not count against him; and finally he tells us God will not put any more sin on our accounts- they were all paid in full. Past, present, and future.   Doesn’t mean you can sin without consequences, but that your sins are covered, forgiven and not held against  you.

Now Paul will use the Word of God as the final authority to prove man is justified by faith just as Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Not circumcision- for he had not yet been circumcised. Not keeping the law, for the law was not given to Moses until centuries later.


Is the Word of God the final authority in your life?

Has the Word of the Lord come to you?

‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He came unto His own, and His own receive Him not. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. ‘ ( John1)

Has the One who is called the Word of God come to you?  Have you received and believed Him?

“ The Lord has promised good to me. His Word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.’( Amazing Grace)

Has your hope been secured? It will be when the Word of the Lord comes to you and you believe and receive it by faith. For by grace through faith are you saved. That is how we received Him and that is how we shall finish. “ So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, overflowing with thankfulness.” ( Colossians 2)

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24,25, the Lord Jesus speaking.)

‘How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He hath said, To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?’( How Firm a Foundation, John F. Wade, 1751)

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14

Romans 4- 5

What Ever Happened to “ In God We Trust”?

The motto on our money seems to an empty one doesn’t it?  The Pledge of Allegiance to our Flag where we cite: I pledge allegiance to our flag and the republic for which is stands, one nation under God..’ is no longer applicable to us as nation. Our president recognized this and stated truthfully and factually – ‘we are no longer just a Christian nation’. Demographically this is true and scripturally it is what was prophesized as occurring in the last days.

Now before you think what’s the use and I don’t like the way this lesson is starting- consider that when the New Testament was being written, the fledgling church was under the Roman government, where immorality was as wide spread as their borders, sexual sin, including homosexuality was rampant and Christians were being fed to the lions. And yet against this dark background, God, who has all wisdom, decided this was the perfect time to send His Son to earth.  And yes there are lions who are feeding upon Christians today. For we were forewarned, the enemy would go about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.( And remember lions like to attack the young, the weak and those separated from the herd, the stragglers. We see many of our young people separated from the herd today.)

Now then shake your head in wonder when you realize it was in these conditions of great adversity the church prospered and grew to the point, their enemies said of these men: ‘they have turned the world upside down.’

This lesson is about a man who ‘against all hope , in hope believed.’ Never has there been a time when we needed to believe in hope. As we will later read, we are to glory in tribulation also; knowing that tribulation produces perseverance or patience, and patience – experience and experience – hope.’ Romans 5 *KEY: Hard times/adversity has a purpose to develop endurance and patience that we might learn from experience God is able and have hope and fear not.

No, this is not a lesson to depress us about our circumstances, but a lesson about hope built on experience that comes from steps of faith that teach the lesson we must learn most of all: to trust in God with all our heart, and lean not to our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct our paths. ( Proverbs 3)

Let’s return to this letter of Paul’s to the Romans in chapter 4: 13 where the story of Abraham continues as an example for us. “For the promise that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his Seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”  (KJV) Now in Galatians 3, we read :” If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.:  And Paul makes it clear in Galatians 3:16, Paul makes it clear- the seed referred to Christ Jesus.    We are one in Christ.

What that promise was- that he should be the heir of the world. Abraham would be the heir of the world, because he was in Christ, just as we are in Christ and joint heirs with Him.

How was this promise made to Abraham and thus to us?  Not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. It was made upon trusting God. When Abram first left Mesopotamia and Haran  when God commanded him to, he was taking the first steps of faith. He was 75 years old. He had decided to follow the Lord. Believing He could do what he promised to do. And remember, Abram did not have the Bible, He had only the spoken word of God, a promise from Him.

Why was the promise made to him  by faith? There are three reasons:

  1. That it might be grace through faith and not by the law, or debt, or merit.
  2. That the promise might be sure. For if it was by keeping the law, the promise would have never been realized.
  3. That is might be to all the seed.  Not just for Jews, but for the Gentiles, for bond as well as free and male as well as female. God is not respecter of persons. And Abraham was to be the father of many nations. Today, the Muslims, Jews, and Christians revered Abraham and he is important to all three religions. The father figure of many.

Abram began his walk of faith headed out to Canaan, the land the Lord would show him. He went out we are told not knowing where he was going.  A first step of faith. We follow in those same footsteps of faith. He was 75 years of when he began this journey and next we read at 85, 10 years later, with still no child, Abraham decides with Sarah they will help God with their own ‘do-it-yourself plan’.  Seeing a possible loophole in the promise of God, when God told him, he would have an heir from his own body, Abraham and Sarah decided this meant they could use Hagar as a birth mother to give them the promised heir. Their logic and reasoning told them Abraham was not getting any younger and Sarah had always been barren. Her womb was if it was dead.

A close reading of this part of their story in Genesis 16 will reveal to you, they discussed this situation  with each other, but never discussed it with God.  In fact, Sarah’s only mention of God was to blame Him for her problem.  She was angry with God. They had grown impatient. They made a major decision without consulting God.   Davy Crocket had a pretty good philosophy didn’t he- ‘be sure you’re right- then go ahead.’

We know the story of Ishmael and the trouble he caused and problems that still arise from that situation between the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac.

So to learn the lesson, Abraham and Sarah live another 13 years of very dysfunctional family life.

And here is where the story turns into a story of hope- right in the middle of this miserable situation.  Their tears are about to be turned to laughter. In Genesis 17, when Abram was 99 years old and Sarai was 90, the Lord appeared to Abram. He reaffirms His covenant with Abram to greatly increase his descendants and establish an everlasting covenant with Abram which also includes the whole of Canaan.  As a seal of the covenant , the rite of circumcision is given to every male. Then God tells Abram He will give him a son, by his wife Sarai, now to be called Sarah and Abram to be called Abraham. You will name your son- Isaac.

Abraham falls on the ground laughing and said to himself, ‘ will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? And will Sarah bear a child at the age of 90?”

In Chapter 18, Abraham entertains the Lord and two angels. The Lord tells Abraham they will have a son by this time next year. Sarah overheard and laughed to herself also at the ridiculous thought of having a baby of her own at age 90.  Do you know what the name Isaac mean? It is a pun on the word- laughter.

Guess what? Sarah and Abraham had a baby. Do you know what Abraham believed about God? He believed He was the God who gives life to the dead and calls thing that are not as though they were.

Do you believe this?  Did God breathe life into a statute He fashioned with His own hands out of dust? Yes I believe this is the way Adam became a living being. Did God breathe life into dry bones? Yes I believe He did, for He is the creator of all life. Did God bring life into the body that Abraham had that was described as ‘ being as good as dead’? Did God also bring life into the dead womb of Sarah? Yes HE did.

And do you believe He brought Jesus to life after He died on a cross and was in a tomb for 3 days? Yes He did. *KEY: It is absolutely essential that we believe God gives life to the dead!

And listen to this, for now it gets personal: “ As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of the world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air. But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.”(Ephesians 2) You and I were as Lazarus, dead and entombed in our sins, and like Lazarus when we came forth, we were still in the grave clothes. That is why we needed help of others to rid ourselves of those graveclothes and begin to walk in newness of life.

Now do you see the steps of obedience that Abraham had been taking by faith. He didn’t always get it right, did he?  Neither have we, nor will we not make some missteps. And though we stumble, we will not be utterly cast down for He upholds us with His right hand.

After 25 years of walking with the Lord, Abraham had learned through tribulations- patience- and through patience- experience and through experience- hope. There it is: HOPE. That intangible something that makes life bearable. That gets us through the storms and to the other side. And as we look back over the years of our walk, we must realize as Abraham, did that God is faithful.

What hope was against Abraham and Sarah?  Natural hope, human hope that comes from logic, reasoning, science, medicine and technology. If Abraham and Sarah went by natural hope their common sense would tell them to have a child at their age, with their reproductive systems as good as dead to have a child was impossible. But…with God all things are possible.

Do you know what enabled them to conceive? It was Gods’ grace that enabled them to believe against all odds and natural reasoning and science.  And this Grace comes through faith that is strengthened in experience through trials and adversity.  (Hebrews 11:11)

After 25 years of experiencing God, Abraham, whose faith had wobbled on occasions did not waver or stagger in unbelief.   “ he staggered not in unbelief.” Unbelief is always the culprit that causes wavering, staggering faith. Abraham’s faith was grounded in 25 years of experiencing God. It was the willful exercise of faith in God’s promise that grounded it.

Notice what faith that does not stagger in unbelief looks like- it is fully persuaded that an all knowing, all powerful God who loves you is able to do what He says He will do.

I remember reading in the Big Book of AA, that seldom had they seen it fail, when someone worked the 12 steps with their whole heart, whole being. I became fully persuaded, through my Higher Power who I had found was the Lord Jesus was able to keep me through the storm and deliver me to the other side. Half-hearted efforts never work.

It is all of Grace. Grace. Infinite Grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanses within; Grace, Marvelous Grace, God’s Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Abraham believed God had the power to do what He promised. This is why it was credited to him as righteousness. And Paul tells us the good news:  “The words ‘ it was credited to him’ were written not of him alone, but for us who believe in Him, who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4: 22-26)  That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Do you believe this?

Many believe religion in America is on its way out, Christianity is dying and many are not embracing the faith of the previous generations. And certainly the numbers and statistics we read are proving that to be the trend. Yet Jesus told us ‘ few enter the narrow way, the strait gate that leads to eternal life, but many enter by the wide gate and the broad way that leads to destruction.

What ever happened to ‘In God We Trust?”

I believe what we are witnessing is what Paul wrote about when he said in the last days, many would depart from the faith.

What ever happened to ‘in God we Trust?’ We could blame television, entertainment, pornography, drugs, alcohol, the internet, divorce rates, and  failing public schools. They are easy targets- but really they are the camouflage from what I believe is the scriptural reason.

We have staggered in unbelief in an all powerful God who is able to do what He says He can do. We don’t have a “Big God.”

We have staggered in unbelief in the power of prayer.

We have staggered   in unbelief in the necessity of daily devoitionals and that man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

WE have staggered in our obedience to God’s Word because somehow we have come to believe God is not that concerned with sin, especially what we deem lesser sins.

We have to do what Abraham did:  “ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the facts:..” ( Romans 4:19)

Did you get that- he faced the facts, did not sugar coat them, did not act as if they did not exist- He faced the facts. And that is what we must do- face the facts, hard though they may be, even discouraging.  But remember what Jesus often said to those who came to him with discouraging circumstances, hard cold facts: Go! It will be done just as you believed.

Let’s look at the story of the centurion whose faith was commended as great in Matthew 8:8-13: The Soldiers Faith.

The Centurion was the backbone of the Roman Army.  These professional military men had 100 men under their control. The first thing we notice is the humility of this officer and how approachable the Lord Jesus is. How willing and eager the Lord is to help. The more humility the greater the faith…less of me- more of Him

Notice these characteristics:  it was-an unselfish faith; an understanding faith, he understood authority; (speak the word only) risking faith; we have a Big God for whom nothing is impossible, but we believe Him for so little; and last but not least it proved to  be an effective faith.


After 25 years walking with the Lord by faith, Abraham’s faith had been strengthened by the experiences.  So it is with us.

Face the facts, hard as they may be.

Confess your sins and turn from them

Search the Word for His promises.

Obey what He tells you to do.

Get on your knees and pray and ask others to pray with you.  And for heavens’ sake quit acting like nothing is wrong.

Is ‘ in God we trust- your motto?

Romans 3b

Amazing Grace: The Gift that Keeps on Giving !

Today we want to look at some summarizing verses as Paul ends this first section of his letter to the Romans in chapter 3: 19-26.  Combining phrases and words from both the KJV and NIV my goal is for you to understand the terminology of salvation for it is the language of grace.

Verse 19 draws the logical conclusion we are all guilty, no one is righteous, no one does good and Paul says: ‘ every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty,’ Let me reference to what John the Baptist said to describe the Lord Jesus in John 1: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the SIN  of the world.”   Did you get that?  He did not say sins but SIN. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest took two goats, one was slain and the blood taken and sprinkled on the mercy seat, the other, the High Priest placed his hands on the head of the other goat, which symbolized the confessed sins of the people, and set this goat free.This goat was taken into the desert and let go to never be seen again, the scape goat. “ As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Sins are what we commit and have done and do, SIN is what we have become. Jesus’ blood , the blood of the Lamb was sprinkled on the mercy seat for our sins, but the Lamb of God took away our SIN. He took our old sin nature, the factory that manufactured sins, and nailed it to the cross. We were crucified with Him, and buried with Him that our old nature might be put to death so that we could be freed from sin. “ I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” ( Galatians 2:20) “ My chains are gone, I’ve been set free! My God and Savior has ransomed me!”    Notice the scripture, He, the Son of God gave Himself for me.  The exchanged life.  We exchange gifts at Christmas, but it seems to have lost its significance that we give and exchange in memory of the greatest gift we ever received.

What had we become?  SIN.  So here is the exchange:  “ For He has made Him, who knew no SIN to be made, (become) SIN for us, that we might become – be made the righteousness of God in Him.” ( 2 Cor. 5:21)

What is that gift?  Let us unwrap the gift as Paul continues to  explain the doctrine and language of salvation. For this is a gift that if you open it quickly and discover this robe of righteousness, you might not fully comprehend just what all this gift entails. Many gifts we are given at Christmas do not last long, some toys will not last the day only to be broken. Other gifts we never used – sometimes even giving them away to someone else, but this is a gift that keeps on giving.

Paul explains in verse 20 of Romans 3- no flesh is justified by the works of the law. For by the law, we are made aware of sin.

Instead Paul tells us a righteousness of God and from God is being revealed to us that is apart from the law. This righteousness was described by the Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount as a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees.  In fact, Jesus taught we must be perfect as God is perfect.  Perfect- zero defects. Moral perfection. Never commit a sin. But that is impossible, one would say, and you would be correct.  But what God demands, God provides

Abraham had it right when he answered Isaac’s query- where is the Lamb?  God Himself will provide a lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham told Isaac.  Jehovah Jireh, Our Provider. He not only gives us the desire to do His good will, He provides the power to do it.  Paul realized the Laws and Prophets had testified to this righteousness that comes from  God, a righteousness that does not come by keeping the law, for no man can keep the law. Jesus on the first day of his resurrection appeared to Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus and taught them how Moses and the prophets spoke of Him. He also that same day appeared to the disciples and opened the Scriptures, the Law and Prophets spoke of Him and how he must suffer and rise from the dead. (Luke 24) This righteousness from God and of God had always been there in plain sight in His Word. Men were blinded by the god of this world, their minds veiled by the deceiver to the truth. Paul said even to this day, when Moses is read a veil covers their heart. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. ( 2 Cor. 3)

Paul then explains this righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all of them who believe. (Vs. 22) He has shown us- we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.(Vs 23)   Now watch what God does:

“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Justified- declared just, innocent, righteous. This is the sovereign act of Almighty God whereby He declares righteous the believing sinner while the sinner is still in the state of sinning. God does not say- now if you stop sinning, I will declare you just. No- He is like the father of the Prodgial, He runs to meet you, there is rejoicing in heaven for you were lost and now found, dead but now alive.  We are declared righteous when we first believed.  We are the recipients of His mercy and grace. Mercy is not giving me what I deserve and grace is giving me what I do not deserve. It is given freely- it costs nothing, it is a gift of God; made available through his grace- unmerited favor, through redemption- being redeemed, that is paid for, bought with a price paid for by Christ Jesus and His Father.

Do you see what the Lord Jesus and Our Heavenly Father have bought for our Christmas Gift?  A gift that keeps on giving. Do you see how costly this gift was?  More precious than silver and gold, it costs God His Only Son and the Lord Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the world, every filthy depraved act committed on this planet- he drank the bitter cup and endured the wrath of God, being forsaken by God so we could be forgiven.

We are now forgiven of our sins, accepted in the beloved, adopted into His family, joint heirs with Jesus, indwelt by His Spirit , signed,sealed and delivered. Blessed with every spiritual blessing in heaven. A new creature with old things passed away and passing away and  all things have become new.

Verse 25 tells us :  “Whom (the Lord Jesus) God presented (set forth) to be a propitiation ( atoning sacrifice) though faith in His blood.” Now you begin to understand how from the first sin of Adam and Eve an innocent sacrifice had to be made to cover their sins. For without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.

Paul continues to tell us:  God did this ‘ to demonstrate his justice, because of his forbearance he had left sins committed beforehand unpunished- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus Christ.’

To understand this statement, let’s look at Paul’s statement in Acts 17: 30- “ In the past God overlooked (winked at, KJV) such ignorance, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent.” What did God say He would do on the night of the Passover in Egypt, he said when he saw the blood he would pass over.  God set aside those sins, they were in accounting language put on  a persons’ account, charged to their account,but yet not paid for, until Jesus came and paid that person’s bill in full who God presented to be a propitiation through faith in His blood.

God set aside my sins, and your sins until we came to our senses, and realized in us dwelt no good thing. He gave His son for us, demonstrating his love for us, that while we were still yet sinners Christ died for us.

Now God had been doing this since the first sin in the Garden. Adam and Eve understood this principle for they taught Cain and Able the necessity of a blood offering.  Although Cain decided he would achieve remission of sins with the work of his hands. Something man has been doing every since.

John told us in the first chapter of John these facts about the Lord Jesus :  He was the Word in the beginning, He was with God and he was God. God became flesh and dwelt among us.  And John said we beheld his glory, the one and only  who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  I am the way, the truth and the life, Jesus said of himself. No man comes to the Father except by me. (John 14)  If you continue in my word, you are my disciples indeed and you shall know the truth and the truth will set free. And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. (John 8)

Did you notice what the Lord Jesus- God in the flesh, was full of – grace and truth.

Here is what we need to understand and I believe we will not fully understand until we see Him face to face in all His Glory, we need to understand why we exist and what life is about. Or else we will spend our whole lives running from one thing to the next trying to figure out what life is?

In the book of Exodus, we all know the story of manna.  But do you know what the word –‘manna’ means in Hebrew?  The word manna in Hebrew was a phrase that basically meant” “what is this?”

What is this stuff that has come down from heaven? The Israelites soon realized it was bread. And bread and water are necessary to sustain physical life.  The Israelites had just been freed from the slavery of Egypt.  As we studied Exodus we saw the typology of this historical event in spiritual terms for the Bible tells us- Moses was a type of redeemer sent to free Gods’ people from captivity.  The Pharaoh was a type of devil who did not want to let the people go.  The Egyptian slavemasters  were a picture of our old nature, the flesh which held us captivity in sin.

So after they are set free, God leads them into the wilderness-desert in order to do one thing: teach them and train them to trust Him. Trust Him to guide them, trust Him to provide for them. And learn the lesson of life – that man does not exist by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. ( Deut. 8;3; Matthew 4).    You see, trust is a learned response, and God was teaching them they could trust Him each and every day to provide them with all their needs. Have you learned to trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding?  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct  your path.( Prov.3)

Have you discovered what life is about?  Or are you still asking- what is this? Have you discovered what the purpose of life is?  Have you come to realize that you exist, and you are alive because God willed for you to live in the time and place that you now live?  And the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.   Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength  for this is the first and greatest commandment. And love your neighbor as yourself is the second greatest commandment and on these two laws all the other laws exist

Have your received the manna from heaven?  Have you received the One who said ‘I am the true bread of heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’  This the bread that must be gathered and the bread that must be eaten. This is His body broken for us, take and eat.  (John 6)  It is interesting that Jesus when he fed the crowd of thousands with the five small barley loaves- told the disciples to ‘ gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ Have you gathered all the pieces?

Are you wasting this gift of grace? This amazing gift that makes everything possible That provides for life, not just a getting by, eking out life, but an abundant life.

“But because of this great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions, it is by grace  you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4,5)

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a GIFT OF GOD, not of works lest any many should boast.” ( Ephesians 2:8,9)

I love the song Amazing Grace written by John Newton. You know his story, he was the captain of a slave ship. Taking captives from Africa and selling them into slavery.  An alcoholic, a vile and depraved man who got saved and wrote the hymn –‘Amazing Grace- how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  Wretch is a word Paul will use to describe himself. Wretch is an old English word which means an unfortunate person, a miserable person without hope. Newton goes on in the language of the Prodigal son’s story of one who was lost and found, was blind but now sees.  It is the story of my life until age 31.  I was a person who had not discovered the reason for life and left home in search of the meaning of life to discover- what it is.

You know what happened, I became a wretch, which is about as good a description of an alcoholic as one can come up with.

But listen to this next truth John Newton shares with us in this hymn about this Gift that keeps on Giving, this Amazing Grace:  “ Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace,my fears relieved.” During the summer of 1977 prior to my getting saved on September 16th of that year, I awoke each morning with a sense of self-loathing, dread and fear. I was afraid. It was grace that taught my heart to fear and it was grace, that relieved my fears.  Amazing Grace!! How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed.  I was stunned like a child beholding a Christmas gift of unbelievable greatness- a gift more precious than anything in this world.

Notice also the Christian life , although an abundant life is not a life without trouble, trials and adversity.  “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home.’ The Gift that keeps on coming, it keeps on giving – this always sufficient , manifold Grace!

“The Lord has promised good to me. His word  my hope secures. He will my shield and portion  be, as long as life endures.  Yea when this flesh and heart shall fail, and mortal life shall cease, I shall possess within the veil, A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun.!”

Amazing Grace- The Gift that Keeps on Giving!! Have you unwrapped your gift? Make sure you get all the pieces- let nothing be wasted!

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14

Romans 3

Romans 3: Say Ah

Ever been sick? Went to the doctor and he/she looked in your ears, had you open your mouth and press your tongue down with that little wooden stick and say ‘ ah’?  Did they order blood work  or even an xray- or ultra-sound so they could perform a thorough examination to determine the cause of your sickness? Most of us have had those tests done by now.  But there are some who seem to be blessed with excellent health and never go to the doctor. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

Paul is conducting a thorough examination. At times, he is like a lawyer seeking to prove our guilt. At other times  he can be likened to a doctor examining a patient to find the causes of their illness. Open your mouth, stick out your tongue says Paul. Then he will tell us what the condition our tongues tell him about our overall health.

So far in his letter to the church in Rome, to the believers both Jews and Gentiles, Paul has dealt with the: willfully ignorant who do not want to thank God or glorify Him; the self-righteous and the super religious. He deals with those who sin apart from the law-the Gentile and those who sin under the law- the outwardly religious Jew.

Paul has even brought up the subject of those who ‘ call themselves Jews,’ who possess the law and who are the circumcised and clearly states: “ a man is not a Jew if he only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly and circumcision is of the heart, by the spirit and not the written code.”

Paul knew what arguments and questions this would create and thus addresses those questions in chapter 3 which begins with this question:  “What advantage is there in being a Jew, what profit is there of circumcision?”  The Jews had the benefit of the special covenant of God with the Jews of which the circumcision was a badge or symbol of that special covenant. The question was a natural one- what was the advantage if circumcision did not give us righteousness? This would seem to the Jews that Paul is saying this physical act makes no difference in our standing with God.

Let’s look at it from a 21st century perspective:  does the Gospel tell us our church membership in a certain denomination and baptism help us gain salvation? The answer is no. For we are told clearly- “ For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God,not of works lest any man should boast.” ( Ephesians 2:8,9)  But after you are saved- after you have believed- church membership and baptism are a badge or symbol of what you have become. If you are not truly saved, have not believed in Jesus then church membership and baptism are a sham, and instead of becoming sacred they are made profane. And like the circumcised, temple-going, law observing Jews of Paul’s day, the Gentile who did business  with them everyday knew they were as quick to lie, cheat, steal, and commit adultery as they were.  Their actions blasphemed God among the unbelievers, rather than glorifying it. Their hypocrisy was obvious to all. They were Jews in name only and remember the name Jew came from Judah, which means to praise God.

But there are benefits to church membership and baptism and Paul says there are many advantages to being Jewish. The one he mentions here is they have been entrusted with the Word of God, the Old Testament. ( In Romans 9, Paul will list more advantages to being Jewish).This advantage of having been given God’s Word also created a responsibility. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob received more truth from God than any other group of people living on the earth at that time. To them the Scriptures were given. Through them the Scriptures were to be shared. From them the whole world would receive God’s invitation to receive God’s Grace.  But also God gave the Jews certain promises specific to them that have not yet been fulfilled.

But the advantages the Jews had and have is of no advantage for a blessing or a promise must be acted upon in order to realize the advantage. A promise not believed and acted upon is like a check not cashed.

What happened?  The Jews turned their privilege into a source of power over the people. They turned their relationship into a religion. They took the law and added to it their interpretations of the law which excluded grace. Even though clearly they had been told: “And he( Abraham) believed in the Lord; and He counted(credited) it to him for righteousness.” Was Abraham circumcised? No. And the law had not yet been given. This was a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.

By the time Jesus came- the Jews had turned this relationship into a religion of outward symbols, religious holidays, diet and a ridiculous list of man-made laws. Jesus would speak out against the Pharisees’ legalism. Such legalism was not keeping the law, which was impossible, but an outward sham of hypocrisy that said man could earn or merit favor with God by keeping these laws. Jesus would reveal a gospel from God . “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last”(Romans 1). Just as it is written in the Old Testament: “ The just shall live by faith.: ( Hab.2:4)

Why were the Jews of Paul’s day against this doctrine of justification by grace through faith? There are at least three main reasons:

  1. God’s unmerited favor, which is what grace is, releases the individual from the religious control.  This religious control was the source of power, prestige and livelihood for the Jewish religious leaders. The temple was big business and gave them power within the Roman empire. Their control over the Jewish population through religion made these men important to the Roman government.
  2. Grace removed the religion of works as the means by which a person maintains a relationship with God. What happens to revenues when the believer no longer has to purchase lambs for sacrifices? Now do you understand why Jesus drove out the moneychangers in the temple?
  3. Grace renders religion obsolete and ineffective. This was bad news for those whose power and monies came from running the temple which was the center of their religion.

In addition to these reasons, common sense tells us after a while people do what they do simply because-‘ this is the way, we have always done it.’ But that was not true,was it?  Those who had received God’s Word knew how God had behaved since the beginning, and because He is unchanging we can observe God’s interaction with His creation and see how God operates.  Adam and Eve did not earn or deserve the privilege of their relationship with God nor did their behavior merit them the luxury of living in the Garden of Eden – they were all a gift of God. They did nothing to deserve what they had received. It was all of God’s Grace. As far as keeping the law- they had only one commandment and could not keep that one. God was revealing a truth about man in the best of circumstances with only one law to keep, could not keep it. No man is justified by the law, for no man can keep the law.

“ Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” ( Galatians 3) We must realize the law was never given as a means of earning salvation by keeping the law. In fact the law was given as God’s first step in His plan of redemption, which we must remember the plan of salvation was created before the foundation of the earth.

The next question Paul knew would be on the minds of the Jews was : What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?  This is an interesting question which simply says- when we are unfaithful, when we lack faith how does this affect our standing with God and His promises to us. Will it nullify God’s promises and faithfulness to us?   Paul says “ Not at all!” God is true and faithful.  Faithful is He who calls you- who will also do it. ( 1Thess 5)   God will keep His promises to Israel in His perfect timing on His schedule.

How does this apply to us?  Well let me ask you, have you had a lack of faith in God  since you became a Christian that resulted in your committing a sin?  Of course you have. When you sinned, were you then no longer a child of God? NOT AT ALL!  No Christian, a true born again believer will remain sinless after salvation. What we must remember is when we first believed, all our sins were forgiven; we were justified; and sin was no longer imputed  to us.

However, from the moment one first believes and is born again we have two natures. An old nature that we will read about later in Paul’s letter, that is as incorrigible as ever. Called the old nature or old man, the flesh, this nature will always battle against our new nature, which cannot sin. Paul will tell us our old nature is crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be destroyed and we should no longer serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. We are to count this as true and we are now dead to sin and alive unto God.

Paul says knowing this we ought not to sin, and ought to do what is right. But we do not always succeed in this and our question is the same as the Jews- will our unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?  And the answer, thank God, is not at all.

We will remain His child, but we will interrupt our communion, our fellowship with God and our joy will be missing until we are restored through godly sorrow that leads to repentance. We will also be disciplined by God as a loving father disciplines a disobedient child.

When an unbeliever sins against God, this is the action of an enemy of God. When a believer sins against God, he sins against the One who loves him/her, gave His son up for them, adopted them and blessed them with every spiritual blessing. God is grieved. But He will not deal with us as He will with an unbeliever, but as a loving Father who wants to discipline us for our good that we might share in His Holiness.( Hebrews 12)

Next Paul deals with those who are looking for loopholes.  The carnal Christian always looks for a loophole to rationalize their sins.  This argument is clearly presented later when Paul explains the law was added so that the trespasses might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.  So the carnal Christians says- well then, let us sin all the more , so grace might abound all the more.  If my lies enhance Gods’ truthfulness- then why not lie more and thus give God even more glory.  Let us do evil- that good may result.  And of course the carnal Christian uses the loophole- if all my sins are forgiven, those past, present and future, then what’s the big deal?  Paul’s answer:  God Forbid.  Certainly Not!

Sin always has consequences for not only the sinner, but for others who are affected by their sin.  The husband who indulges in the secret sin of pornography rationalizes no one in being harmed. Yet he is committing adultery in his heart. And as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.  Later he is drawn into adultery, a divorce follows, his children, his extended family are hurt and their lives are impacted.

Or take this logic to a ridiculous extreme with this example:  breaking the law, human laws is criminal and requires we have police, courts, jails, lawmakers, judges,lawyers, bailiffs, jail keepers, prisons, buildings,  insurance, police cars, agencies  and really creates a lot of jobs for people. So the more crime- the more people employed in dealing with crime. That is good , right?  God forbid. Each crime has a victim or victims.  It is always hurtful and no good can come from it.

There are no loopholes.  Be sure your sin will find you out.  When you sin as a Christian and confess that sin, repent from that sin with true self-judgment, God is faithful to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness and communion and fellowship is restored.( I John 1)  However, you may still suffer from the consequences of your wrong-doing- bodily , in circumstances or otherwise. A word to the wise- don’t sin. And if you do- confess it immediately and turn from it. Be on guard against it. That is why it is so important to know and understand God.

“ What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all!  We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understand, no one who seeks God; All have turned away, they have together become worthless, no one does good not even one!” (Romans 3: 9-12)   Paul says- WE ARE ALL GUILTY- EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.

Psalms 14 says : ‘The fools says in his heart there is no God,’ In the original Hebrew, ‘there is’ is omitted.  It reads this way:  The fool has said in heart- No, God.   In our unregenerate state- we were all rebels who said- no,God.

The Psalmist continues and states:  “ the Lord looks down on the sons(children) of men to see if there is any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have become together corrupt; there is no one who does good, no not one.”

You do understand before we were born again, before we were regenerated- the whole of our inner being was controlled by sin.  Our minds were controlled by sin- none that understand. Our hearts were controlled by sin- none seek after God. And thus our will was controlled by sin- so that none did good.

No sinner seeks after God. Therefore God must seek after the sinner.  Go back to the first sin and the first sinners, who came looking for whom?  The Lord did- man where are you?(Genesis 3) Are we not told that Jesus came to seek and save the lost?  Did not the Lord Jesus tells us the Father draws us to the Son.  The Shepherd went after the lost sheep, and we like sheep have all gone astray.

Yet these Jewish people had the Word of God to direct them. A light upon their path and  a lamp unto their feet.  But as Paul says, the law was simply a step in showing man how sinful he was and in need of a Redeemer.

Look again at the charges:  none are righteous. What does it mean to be righteous? It means to right, right with whom? Be right with God. Being right with God is different than being right with my fellow man.  When we have a difference with another person, we can usually settle our differences with some sort of compromise.   God says it is His Way or no way.   This is the Way of a Sovereign God.  You can accept His terms or not accept His terms, but you cannot alter His terms. To be right with God is to accept what He accepts- which is His terms for salvation, which is available to all.

The next  charge is there is none who understand, there is none who seek after God. We do not seek after God, He seeks after us. In fact, we not only do not seek after him – we turn away, to become filthy, like a sow who is washed and returns to wallow in the mire.

And there is none that do good, no not one. We are headed in the wrong direction, we are on the broad way that seems right to man but leads to destruction.

We are coming to close to Paul’s opening remarks that have clearly brought us this stage, where we want to throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.

“…we  have One who speaks to the Father in our defense- Jesus Christ the Righteous One!”(I John 2)

We have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, in fact, Paul is going to have us open our mouths and say ‘ ah’ as the Great Physician  pushes that little stick to depress our tongues and looks inside. For all uncleaness comes from the inside. We are in critical condition, our hearts are diseased with sin.  Our blood is infected with a deadly disease, a terminal disease. Listen as Paul describes the symptoms that reflect our condition: “ Their throats are open graves.” Human speech tells us a lot doesn’t it? “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. For by thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” ( Matt12). The hardened heart of the unbeliever is like a stone- the Word of God bounces off of it. Our tongues practice deceit and are full of poison. It affects our whole being. Our minds are blinded and we do not know the way of peace and there is no fear of God. Our feet carry us swiftly to ruin.

Only the Great Physician has the cure. Only a new heart and a blood transfusion will save us.   He will give us a new heart and a blood transfusion that cleanses us from all of the infectious sin.

And they we are told: “ If we confess with our mouth, the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.” ( Romans 10)

Jesus said,” It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: “ I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9.

Paul knew his condition. He knew within him, dwelled no good thing.

Aren’t you glad you realized you were sick, unhealthy, dying, blind, and unrighteous?

Have you not realized your condition yet?     Say Ah.

Romans 2

Romans 2: God’s Righteous Judgment

We must realize what Paul is accomplishing in the first three chapters of Romans. He is systematically presenting the evidence in the courtroom over which God, the Judge rules and reigns. Paul, acting as prosecutor brings the charges against not only the Gentiles, but the Jews also, until the conclusion is clear- all have sinned, none are righteous.

As believers we can speak of God as our Heavenly Father, we can sing of ‘ what a friend we have in Jesus’, our Helper, our Strong Tower, a Mighty Bulwark.  But we must not forget the reality of His role as Judge. He is the Judge of all the earth. He judged Adam and Eve expelling them from the Garden and sentencing them to death. God judged the whole earth once before sending a flood in the day of Noah and destroying all of mankind except for 8 souls. It was if, God judged the world so filthy, He washed it of the stench of sin. He likewise judged Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as the Egypt and the taskmasters and Pharaoh’s army in Exodus. He judged the Israelites in the wilderness who worshipped the golden calf. And if you think God judged only in Old Testament days, you must consider the consequences of Ananias and Sapphira whom He struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit in the early church in the book of Acts. Read carefully in Corinthians and you will discover believers were afflicted with illness, some were fatal  because of the nature of their sin and sinfulness. And we cannot ignore what will occur at the end of time in the universal judgment at the Great White Throne.

Therefore through the study of God’s Word and the experiences of life, we come as believers to know God. We know Him in the manner a son/daughter knows their father; a wife knows her husband; a subject knows their king; as a sheep knows their shepherd. Now we see in Romans we will know Him not only as Savior, Provider, Redeemer we will know Him as judge.

Now what will be made clear in the New Testament is Jesus will be God’s agent of judgment. He will sit on His throne and all the nations will be brought before Him.

Probably we all read of these categories of sinners that God ‘ gave over to sinful desires, shameful lusts and a depraved mind filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.’ We were nodding our heads in agreement and giving our thumbs up for God’s judgment as we read Paul’s opening comments in Romans 1.

We  need to understand two things: first why God gave them over and second why we are not to be so quick to agree and judge others. First what is God’s purpose in giving them over to their sinful desires?  Is God writing them off, forsaking them and forgetting about them? Well let me ask you this:  was the Prodigal Son’s father wrong in allowing his son to go off to a far country and squander his inheritance? Sometimes the only way for someone to come to their senses is to allow them to experience the consequences of their sinful desires. Don’t want to live by your father’s rules- then discover what life is like when you can sin, disobey them all you want. The father lets go of the leash, releases his grip and then waits for the prodigal to consummate his lusts only to find these things do not satisfy. Sin is pleasurable for a season. I discovered that truth with drinking alcohol, as many of you have discovered in different areas of your life. God’s motive is clearly seen in the nation of Israel, in Numbers 11 where the people are once again grumbling about meat to eat. Do you remember what God did?  He said I will give you meat, not for a day, or 5 days or 20 days , but for a whole month until meat runs out of your nostrils.  In other words, until you are sick and tired of it.  Does this apply to Christians as well as unbelievers? In Matthew 18, the Lord instructs the church how we are to discipline a believer who is in sin, who will not listen, and will not repent. We are to treat him/her as an unbeliever and in effect turn them over to their sin.

When God gives someone over to sin it is not passive neglect, but an active decision on God’s part to bring the person to repentance. In other words, God’s love, like the love of the father of the Prodigal Son knows sometimes, the path to redemption requires a person to sink to the bottom of the miry pit before they want to be lifted out. It is the ‘ coming to his senses’ moment for the prodigal that created the desire to return to his father’s house. This was accomplished only by finding himself in the pig pen.

Now I have said all of this, so we might better understand the next portion of Scripture. The Jews or any reader who was reading Paul’s letter was reading the judgment of God and thinking the ‘ them and they’ Paul was the pagan unbelievers, not them. But now Paul turns our pointed fingers toward us. (For most of us were viewing these sins as those being done by others and not us.) Paul warns us who pass judgment on others are condemning ourselves because we have done the same things.  Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Judge not or you too will be judged. For in the same manner you judge others, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ ( Matthew 7)

Me? Commit those sins?  And maybe you are not guilty of some of these more vile sins, but let me ask you: have you ever been envious? Greedy? Deceitful? A gossip? How about arrogant? Boastful? Faithless?  And remember what Jesus said about our righteousness- it must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees . In fact we must be perfect as God is perfect.

When we show such condemnation for these sinners and these sins, we show contempt for God’s patience, His tolerance, the richness of His kindness. He waited for me for 32 years. He tolerated my behavior as a pagan, a drunkard for 14 years  and for my prayerlessness, my lack of fear of His judgment.  His kindness led me to repentance. In His Wisdom,He let me go to the far country. His love gave me over to my sinful desires until I came to my senses which led me to my Father’s house. All that time He waited on me, was patient with me, not wanting me to perish but come to repentance. He knew what it would take.

Here is a key verse in understanding God as He has revealed Himself as Judge. “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth…” You cannot read that list of sins and not find one or more you have committed.  And remember there are sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. There are prodigal sons and elder brothers.  God judges according to truth; according to deeds, works. Have you become an ‘elder brother’?

Now Paul deals with those who are stubborn and unrepentant and says they are storing up wrath against themselves. In other words, the charges are piling up against them. Paul is speaking now at the end of days, in what will be the most terrifying courtroom scene ever in the history of mankind.  Here is the picture of the scales of justice.  And it is for judgment of works.  As it was said of Belshazzar in the book of Daniel: “ you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” ( Daniel 5:27)

If you are a believer who has been justified by the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus – you will not face the wrath of God nor face Him at the Great White Throne of Judgment at the end of time. You will however face the judgment of your works for rewards. And many of the principles of judgment we read of here – will apply to us at the Bema.

Let’s consider human laws and those who break them. If you break the law, you hope you will not be discovered. ( Like when you speed down the interstate because you are in a hurry.) Or you hope if you break the law, your lawyer can find some technicality that will allow you to escape judgment. And of course if you are imprisoned, you might find away to escape and stay hidden.  But when it comes to divine judgment, be sure your sins will find you out. “ How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? “ ( Hebrews 2) {Again- if you have not neglected this greatest of all gifts- salvation, you will not face this divine judgment, but you will face discipline for your sin, which can be severe.}

When the works, deeds of the stubborn, self seeking, unrepentant who rejected the truth and followed evil are laid on the scales- they are weighed against the righteousness of God, against the perfection of God not against other peoples’ righteousness, but against Christ’s righteousness. The only way the scales can be tipped and one avoid this terrifying scene before the Great White Throne is if we have received the righteousness that is from God, Christ’s own righteousness which is for everyone who believes, a righteousness that is by faith, not works.

Those who believe their good works will tip the scales in their favor are deceived or stubborn or both. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, there is a way that seems right to man, but it leads to destruction. And everyone has received enough light, enough knowledge from God, so they are without excuse , in other words cannot claim ignorance of the law as reason not to be sentenced.  Tell the judge you did not know it was against the law and he will tell you ignorance of the law is no defense. Now his sentence may be more lenient, as the Lord tells in the parable of the servant in Luke 12- that the servant who knows his master’s will and does not do it will be beaten with many blows, but the one who does not know will be beaten with fewer blows- but both are punished. And the Lord adds, to those whom much is given, much is demanded.

Now there is a startling statement made by Paul, which would have shocked the Jews: ‘For there is no respect of persons with God.’ God does not show favoritism. All men are alike before Him. Justice is blindfolded. This statement represents a principle of God, the Judge. It reveals how God is going to judge not only for punishment for sins, but also how He will judge our works. For God will look at heart, the inward attitude rather than the outward works.

Many unbelievers want to wear their good works like a Scout’s Merit Badges to show what a good person they are-but God says your merit badges of self righteousness are like filthy rags compared to the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Now as believers we will not suffer God’s wrath or appear before the Great White Throne judgment for eternal punishment. However, the principles of God’s judgment will apply to our rewards for our deeds. Paul writes in Romans 14:10- “ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” In Revelation 22:12, the Lord Jesus tells us: “ Behold I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what  he has done.” And in I Corinthians 3 we read of this judging of our works or deeds for reward: “ …because the Day will bring it to light.(The Day the Lord returns) “ It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved , but only as one escaping through the flames.” The Lord will judge the motives of our heart. Did we do this for self glory or to glorify the Lord?

Paul states : “ All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.” ( Romans 2:12)  Here is what we must realize: the heathen is not lost because he has not heard of Christ; the heathen is lost for the same reason a person living in the Bible belt is lost- they are lost because they are sinners. And the only payment for sin is death. Sin qualifies the soul for the wrath of God. Only those who have accepted Christ as their Savior will be saved for we are in Him, as surely and safely as Noah was in the Ark.

But Paul is also in this section addressing not only the lost heathen without the law, he is addressing the lost religious person.  Both are lost, their sins not paid for, and therefore they fall under the judgment of God at the Great White Throne and their punishment will be meted out according to the light they have received. But be sure of this- both are lost, both will be punished and God is just.

So far, Paul has set up two groups of lost people, both facing God’s wrath for sins that come from an unrepentant heart. For the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. There are the pagans, which we read about in Romans 1 who have the external witness of creation and in Romans 2, we see they have the internal witness of their conscience.  But we also see those in Romans 2- those who call themselves Jews.  We could substitute ‘Christians’ for the word Jews or  Baptists,or Methodists, or Catholics.  These outward titles we call ourselves are simply that- outward titles if there is no corresponding inward change that accompanies being born again.  Nicodemus was a lost religious person. The profession of a religion, even a divinely revealed religion such as Christianity is not enough if it does not result in the inward transformation. And behaving correctly on the outside will do nothing to cleanse the inside.  A lost religious person has much outward activity, as did the Pharisees. “ Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord,did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers.: ( the Lord Jesus speaking in Matthew 7: 22,23)

Paul makes the case for the lost religious person in the following verses: “ A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit; not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”   Substitute Christian for Jew and baptism for circumcision and you see the application for those who call themselves Christians who rely on their outward activities of  membership and baptism and not the inward work of the Holy Spirit. “ You must be born again.”

The Jews were proud of their heritage, their being God’s Chosen People, the people group through whom God would send the Messiah, the ones who had received God’s Word and covenant and yet all of these assets had become liabilities, hadn’t they? The ceremonies that pointed to the truths, the law that was given to show man’s sinfulness had become rituals in which they took pride, works of the flesh which became their merit badges of self righteousness. They became boastful of their position as a religious people and bragged about the law while breaking the law. And as a result God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles.

We look at the Jews of the Bible and we wonder how they could have become so prideful in their religion.

So we call ourselves- Christians. A label which says we are a people who have the same responsibility as the Jews of the Bible did- to protect Gods’Word and like Abraham we are told to bless all the nations.  We have been given the Great Commission. If we believe we have these privileges then we have the same responsibilities the Jews of the Bible did. Even more so- we have the Spirit of the Almighty Creator living within us. Something the Old Testament saints could not have imagined.

Believing the Bible to be God’s Word and His Revealed Will, then we must understand it is God’s will to reclaim His creation from evil and fill it with His Righteousness. And Scripture tells us we are now living in the time between His first coming and His second coming.

In the meanwhile we are to go and make disciples of all the nations, or as Paul said to the religious Jew of his day- to be a ‘ guide for the blind, a light for those in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth- you then, who teach others, do you not teach yourselves?’(Romans 2:19-20)

Now Paul goes on to say preaching about not stealing, not committing adultery, and yet breaking those laws we dishonor the law and God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.  Does Christianity  hit people over the head with Gods’ written law, and yet the Word of God is not seen in our actions?  Our lives are a testimony – they are the Gospel written in our actions.

Do not confuse Christianity with religion. Christianity is a relationship with the Lord Jesus. The Jews had a title. The Jews had the law. The Jews had a unique relationship with God. They had knowledge of God’s will. They knew their responsibility was to instruct the nations. As Christians in the 21st century, we have all these same privileges. The Jews turned their relationship into a religion. A religion is a system of beliefs that adheres to a specific set of doctrine and practices which it claims to be unique to other religions. Religion is a system. Christianity is a relationship.  Have we done the same thing as the Jews did?

So the question is how to be a Christian without being religious.

Well the Jews turned a relationship into a religion by placing works on the altar as how one becomes right with God. They placed ‘keeping the law’ as a way of earning salvation by adding to God’s law an endless list of activities that if adhered to would enable one to earn salvation and right standing. No wonder Jesus came to set the record straight and tell them one’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and must be perfect as God is perfect. In other words- this practice of religion would not work and none are righteous- no not one. Only a righteousness that comes from God by faith not works is the message of the Gospel, the message of Grace.  It is when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and righteousness, and we realize God wants to give us the righteousness that we do not deserve and can never obtain on our own that we accept the Lord’s gracious invitation to ‘ come unto Him, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Only then we discover that most important relationship in the universe that comes by grace through faith and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God,not of works, lest any man should boast. ( Ephesians 2:8,9)

It is this relationship which will lead to good works, that God has ordained we should walk in. We are not saved by works, we are saved by grace through faith unto good works.  That is a result of our relationship, of saving faith.

Religion emphasizes the physical over the spiritual. Religion emphasizes secondary  matters while ignoring those of primary importance. This is why symbols, traditions and rituals become more important than the Gospel. Outward appearances and programs become the focus of attention, when what every church and believer should be concerned with is the lost, those dying and headed for the Great White Throne of Gods’ judgment of their sins.

When Christianity behaves as a religion, the unbelieving world declares us to be the problem rather than the solution. Our hatred of certain sins and our loud voices tinged with anger seem to fall on deaf ears. The only Bible these people will ever read is those of us who call ourselves Christians.  “ You, yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. Yu show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not wit ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.”( 2 Corinthians 3)

Two themes emerged in this lesson for me:  God’s Judgment and how it works and what happened to the Jews who were given so much and the similarity to Christians in today’s society.
Let’s review up to this point what Paul is revealing about God’s judgment:

*God’s judgment is according to truth. *God’s judgment for the lost for level of punishment is based on their works. As the books of each person’s deeds, works will be opened at the Great White  Throne.* God is no respecter of persons.  In our flawed judicial system, the rich man gets off more than the poor man. Race may  also be a consideration. *God’s judgment is according to men’s secret thoughts.

Secondly- we must examine ourselves and see if we are becoming like those who called themselves Jews who were Jews outwardly and physically but not inwardly.

Romans 15 & 16

Romans 15&16:  My Gospel

Some of us who may have developed an image of the Apostle Paul as this lonely, driven evangelist may be surprised as we close his letter to the church in Rome just what a people person, Paul was. Paul  realized in spite of his abilities, intelligence and gifts- he was not to think of himself more highly than others. Paul realized the church was the body of Christ and no one possessed all the gifts and thus we needed each other.

Paul understood a partnership among believers was necessary.  In business, it is often stated that the ‘ hardest ship to keep afloat is a partner-ship.’  Although there is truth in this statement, it does not mean partnerships are not necessary. Paul realized this and everywhere he went – he sought out partnerships for he knew people need people.

In his letter here in Romans 15, we find the key to successful partnerships:  corresponding competence; mutual trust; and a shared vision.  You will find these three factors in well run businesses, and successful companies.  Notice what Paul writes here:  “ I myself am convinced, my, brother, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” ( Romans 15: 14)

His reference to being –‘full of goodness’ is a reference to their morality.  We cannot trust others who are immoral. But this goodness also refers to the fact that Paul knew they were willing to help others, to bear one another’s burdens.  This is practical goodness that manifests itself in the willingness to help others. It is practical goodness that mows the widow’s yard. It is practical goodness that helps feed the hungry, provide clothing and most of all hope for the hopeless.

Paul says you are complete in knowledge. These are those who have studied the Word of God and learned through study, application and experience the truths that transform. Paul trained trainers, he taught others to teach.  All of us are to have  made ourselves familiar with the doctrines of faith.

Paul says you are then equipped to teach and instruct one another, or as the KJV states to ‘ admonish one another. The Christian life is a race to be run, a battle to be fought. We are in a battle and we each have a role to play for which the Lord has equipped us.

Paul never stopped dreaming about the future; planning mission trips to places he had not been before.  When it comes to the work of the Lord, we are never to retire. We may slow down, we may have to curtail certain activities as we age, but we must never stop proclaiming the good news.  We never want our memories of the past to be greater than our dreams for the future.

Take note of Paul’s prayer at the end of Romans 15. Here we see how specific Paul is in his prayer requests and how important the prayers of others were to him as he urged them to join with him in his struggle by praying to God for him.  Paul prayed specifically for safety, to be rescued from the unbelievers in Jerusalem. He also prayed for the success of his ministry that his service in Jerusalem would be accepted. He also prayed for God’s will to be done that he might come to them, the church in Rome.

Now let me tell you how each of us as believers and members of the body of Christ are like the Apostle Paul:

Each believer is a living part of the body of Christ. Each one of us has a spiritual function to perform. To perform this function, each one of us has received a spiritual gift. “For it is God who has worked in you, to will and to act according to His good purpose.”  (Phil 2:13)  God works in us both a desire to do his will and the power to do his will.  These functions to be performed are for the building up of the body, the church, so that we grow up and become mature in our faith.

What is necessary?

  • Know your gift
  • Honest evaluation of self
  • Faithful cooperation
  • Loving participation

You know what else is necessary?  Dreams.   Not just little dreams, goals we see we can accomplish in our own abilities and strength….no, we need Big Dreams. Why?  Because we serve a Big God.

We must believe God is who He says He is .

We must believe God can do what He says He can do.  And what He has told us  is- nothing is impossible for God. We are also told we can do nothing apart from God.

We must believe we are who He says we are.

We must believe we can do what He says we can do. For we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

And last, but not least, the Word of God must be alive and active in our lives.

Now, you might be thinking, we must be realistic and practical.  And we must be realistic and practical from this standpoint- when we decided to dream big, to have a vision that God can do what He says He can do and wants to do great and mighty things- we must be practical in our expectations of hardships, trials, tribulations and hindrances.  In fact, these actually reveal we are on the right path. Peter said you should consider fiery trials as ordinary

A few years ago, I became convinced I wanted to write my story and  have it published to leave behind me. I submitted outlines, sometimes a complete work to several publishers including: Focus on the Family, Billy Graham association, and Lifeway.  At Lifeway, I actually talked with an editor, who told me as far as my story being published by someone like Lifeway or Thomas Nelson, it would not happen because they had authors with name recognition and ministries that would assure them of sales and profitability.

But do you know how one deals with hindrances, hardships and setbacks?- with sustained hope. I still plan to leave a published work behind me in some form or fashion. My dream has not died.

Want to hear from Paul about keeping on? Do you want to hear a how a setback is a setup for a comeback?  Listen to his story:  “ Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I  spent a night and a  day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from countrymen, in danger from Gentiles ,in danger in the country, at sea, and from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food. I have been cold and naked. …”  (2 Cor. 11)   And yet Paul kept on didn’t he?

You know who else did not give up?  Our Lord Jesus. “  And we He saw in full- just how much it would cost, He still went the final mile between me and heaven so I would not be lost!” ‘Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning the shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ ( Hebrews 12)

One of the essential ingredients to sustained hope is realizing the source of your hope is God, the God of all Hope. But one of the other essential ingredients of hope is enthusiasm- a passion that ignites.  Knowledge and skills without passion comes across as cold and mechanical.  Add passion to knowledge and skills and it ignites something that causes our hearts to burn within us.

Nothing great is ever accomplished without: a vision, a dream accompanied by enthusiasm and passion.

And nothing is accomplished in the church without the help of others. So it should not come as a surprise, that the Apostle Paul was not just a soul-winner, he was a friend maker. Life- long friends that he stayed in touch with in a time and place when staying in touch with distant friends took an effort.  ( How many times have you thought of someone and thought I need to go see them or call them or drop them a note, but failed to do so? I was prompted to go see the mother of one of my childhood friends, and also a close friend of my mother. I did and we had a wonderful visit and she passed away a few months later. I was also prompted to go see my mother’s next door neighbor, Rebecca Buford. But I procrastinated, and one day my sister called me and told me Rebecca had passed away.  )

Paul sends greetings to 35 people by name as well as some home churches. Paul has a word of encouragement and praise for each one. I would not be surprised, if Paul did not have a book with a list of names for which he prayed for continually.

Notice Paul does not lump them all together as my brothers and sisters in Christ, he calls them by name.   Listen to Jesus’  description of Himself as the Good Shepherd:  “ He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” ( John 10)   Love delights to single out the object of its love by name.  Does it not thrill you to know that the Lord Jesus knows your name?

Paul loved people. Some of the names he wrote , we recognize. Others were never mentioned anywhere else in the Scriptures. These people may have been custodians, cooks, servants serving in the less noticeable, but still important functions that allow ministries to flourish and run smoothly.  In our churches today these could be those who work behind the scenes  from workers in the nursery, to secretaries who perform necessary clerical duties to those who open the doors.

Any parent always cautions a child what to look out for in the way of danger.  Wear your seat belt, don’t speed, don’t text. We also from early on try to make sure of who they associate with as we know others can lead them astray and get them in trouble.

In this last section of his closing remarks, Paul tells them to watch out for false teachers. The KJV, says ‘to mark them which cause division and put obstacles and offenses contrary to the doctrine you have learned and avoid them.  Identify them and avoid them and have nothing to do with them.

Paul then closes this magnificent letter with following benediction:

“ Now to Him who is able to establish you by my gospel and to the proclamation of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey Him- to the only wise God be glory forever though Jesus Christ! Amen.

Paul uses the word establish here in closing as he did in the beginning.  The KJV states in Romans 1:11: “ For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established.”  It was Paul also who would write “ Being confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ( Phil 1:6) What God establishes- He completes. What He starts – He will finish.   Paul refers to this as ‘ my gospel’.  What does this mean?  I believe it carries two meanings: one,it was the gospel given to him by revelation by Christ Jesus, not taught to him by men; but also it is his gospel in as it becomes our gospel when we believe it in our hearts and confess it with our mouths. It is my gospel, in that I have believed it, received it and by grace through faith I am saved. It is in this sense, the personal gospel, the personal good news for each individual believer, that you are now in the family of God- saved to new life sublime. It is my gospel in the sense that it is the most precious possession I have. And it can never be taken away from me.

The mystery to which Paul refers is the mystery of the church, the body of Christ where Jew and Gentile are joined in the body and there is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male nor female, but on in Christ. (See Ephesians 3)

The Church, the body of Christ may appear to be weak, feeble and frail, but the One who holds us together is Omnipotent.   Whatever else may fail, His Church will not.

So Paul ends this marvelous work by calling attention to what is worthy of our attention- the wisdom of God.

The Bible is God’s story.  It tells us: “ In the beginning God..”  and with those four words the story starts. A story of creation in all its splendor. The creation of the stars, the sun, the moon, the oceans the mountains, the universe with all its wonders.  The human body with all its complexity and all its parts all came into being by an All Wise, All Powerful God.  Creation is the work of the mind and hand of God.

And as we consider this wisdom we also realize the Bible is God’s message to us.

Do you know what is the greatest discovery of the Bible?

God is real and wants to have a personal relationship with you.

He created you for a purpose and until you know Him , you will not discover your purpose. He offers not only  life after death, He offers life in the here and now that can have meaning and purpose.

The same power that created the sun which is so large it could contain more than one million of our earths, this same power has done something for you and me as believers:

“ His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him, who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.: ( 2 Peter 1)

You and I were planned for God’s pleasure and we bring Him pleasure and experience it ourselves, when we worship Him.

You and I were formed for family.  This is what fellowship is to be about.

You and I were created to be conformed to the image of Christ.  This is the essence of discipleship.

You and I were shaped for service. Gifted, indwelt and empowered for a ministry.

You and I were made for a mission. Our mission it the Great Commission- evangelism.

This is the purpose of life: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism. We begin to experience these when the Gospel becomes my Gospel.

Is the Gospel – your gospel?

Romans 13-14

Romans 13:  Things to Do-Part 2

Let’s review what Paul has written in what many refer to as the most systematic  presentation of the gospel. From the beginning of the letter in Romans 1-3, Paul introduces the theme of Romans which is the righteousness that comes from God. He concludes all of mankind is unrighteous. He then proceeds to present the principle of justification through Christ received by faith. This righteousness begins the process of sanctification which Paul explains and by the end of Romans 8 , we know as believers we have freedom from sin, the condemnation of the law and now begin life in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 9-11, Paul deals with the problems of Israel’s rejection.

Then beginning in Romans 12, Paul tells us the things we are do as a result of our new life.

Let’s look at our list of things to do so far:

  1. Present our bodies a living sacrifice and transform our minds with the Word of God and not to let the world continue to conform our thinking.
  2. Maintain a balanced view of ourselves- not thinking too highly or thinking too lowly of ourselves.
  3. Honor others above ourselves. (The 11th commandment of the Lord Jesus to love one another as I have loved you.)
  4. Do not return evil for evil, but return good for evil. For good is the only way to overcome evil.  Evil only stirs up more evil. So remember this adage when someone wrongs you or your loved ones:  do not nurse it; do not rehearse it; and do not attempt to reverse it. Vengeance is mine says the Lord.  Our desire for vengeance is corrupt, because we are corrupt. God’s is perfect. In addition, if you are bent on revenge it leaves no room for grace.

So Paul is helping us build a foundation, a podium from which to extend the Gospel and thus expand the kingdom of God.  Now in chapter 13 – Paul turns to another area of ‘things to do’ regarding government. And keep in mind, Paul in the time in which he wrote this was under the authority of a pagan government that would grow more hostile to Christianity.

God has established three institutions:  the family; the government and the church.  So Paul’s reason for obeying the government is it is God’s establishment.  Now there are clear exceptions when we are to  be Godly rebels.  In Acts 5- when the apostles are told they are not to speak in the name of Jesus, the apostles replied : “We must obey God rather than man!” When laws are passed that require Christians to violate clear commands of Scripture we must peacefully disobey.

Paul tells us we are to pay our taxes that we owe to the government and we are to pay respect and honor to those to whom it is due. The only debt we are not to ever consider paid and not owed it to love one another. Love is the fulfillment of the law. If we love the Lord our God with all our heart, we will not have any other idols and also if we love our fellow man there will be no – murder, stealing, bearing of false witness, coveting, adultery, etc.

Then Paul tells us we need to have a sense of urgency based on our understanding of the times. We having been cruising along through life set on snooze control. We have been busy: raising families, establishing careers and businesses, saving for retirement, paying off mortgages, and all of the things that life entails.  Like a person who falls asleep at the wheel, we all of sudden hear the gravel of the off road clattering under our cars that startles us into awakening.  Wake up, Paul says.  Look around you and understand the present time in which you live.  The U.S. government has grown indifferent to Christianity and the Word of God.  Let me warn you based on history- indifference to Christianity and our belief in God’s Word is only one step away from outright hostility to Christianity.  Wake up and understand the present times in which we live. Paul says the hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber because our salvation in nearer now than we first believed.  The salvation, Paul speaks of is not our individual salvation, remember he is writing to Christians.  He is speaking of our ultimate salvation, the return of the Lord Jesus to earth to establish His earthly kingdom.

You might say- well that was 2000 years ago and the Lord has not returned yet. Let’s listen to what Peter wrote about the last days:  “ First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘ Where is the coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forgot that long ago by God’s Word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.  By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget one  thing dear friends:  with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief”.(2 Peter 3)

Jesus said in Matthew 24 concerning the last days:  “No one knows about that day or hour, even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the time of the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them away. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

In other words, be prepared, be ready.  The coming of Jesus will be a happy, joyous event for believers, but will be the worst nightmare ever for unbelievers. Last minute preparations are impossible, so we must be prepared.

Paul is telling Christians in every generation- ‘wake up from your slumber!’ The night is nearly over and the day is almost here.   Almost here— do you believe that the day is almost here?  Do you live in anticipation that today could be the day?

Now when Paul speaks of ‘our salvation is now nearer than when we first believed’- he is obviously not speaking of the individual’s salvation as when one first believes and is saved from the penalty of sin for this letter is to believers.   Salvation is used in the New Testament is three tenses. Past tense- is salvation from the penalty of sin; present tense is salvation in the present from the power of temptation of sin; and future tense is the salvation from the very presence of sin, as in the final and ultimate salvation when the Lord Jesus returns. So just as we sing- I am Saved, Saved, Saved this is good theology. I have been saved from my sins- past, present and future. I have been saved, I am being saved and in the Day of the Lord’s return I will be saved to the uttermost and completeness.

Each generation should live in this anticipation. We should observe what is happening and learn ‘the lesson of the fig tree: as soon as the twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know summer is near. Even so when you see the signs( Matthew 24) know that it(the day of the Lord’s return) is near, right at the door.’

So Paul tells believers what to do:  put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  “ Let us behave decently (walk honestly, KJV) not in orgies and drunkenness; not in sexual immorality and debauchery (wantonness); not in dissension and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus, ( clothe yourselves with the Lord) and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. ( Do not make provisions for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.)

Make sure the sins of the flesh do not creep back into your life is what Paul is telling us here. Be on guard. Paul knew realistically, evil desires lurk in the heart of our old nature and want to draw us back and look for every opportunity to do so.

I do not believe you can offer your body a living sacrifice without consciously clothing your body with the Lord Jesus.  It is like a policeman putting on his uniform, he puts on the bullet proof vest and this reminds him of the danger that can come upon him/her suddenly. He puts on his badge for this is his authority. And he arms himself with his pistol for he must be ready to strike back.  Everything he consciously puts on reminds him of who he is and what he faces any given day. Remember:  “His Divine Power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him, who called us by His own glory and goodness.  Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises so that through Him you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1)

However, having been given all of this and not utilizing it is like the policemen deciding not to put on his bullet proof vest for it is sometimes hot and uncomfortable.  Or not to carry his service revolver for it chafes when walking. How foolish that would be, yet no less foolish than to begin a day without clothing ourselves in what the Lord Jesus has given us- which is Himself and His great and precious promises!

In Romans 14, Paul deals with the weak and the strong in faith. “ Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters.( gray areas).”   The man whose faith allows him to eat meat (sacrificed to idols) should not look down on the man who eats only vegetables. Nor should the man who eats only vegetables condemn the man who eats meat. If we are fellow believers, we are God’s servants. And as Paul asks- ‘ who are we to judge someone else’s servant?

Now Paul tells us how to deal with this and it is interesting to note the person who is more legalistic is seen as the weaker in faith  Here is Paul’s instruction:  “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep them between yourself and God.”

Paul is not discussing conduct that is clearly defined in Scripture as sin. He is discussing conduct in areas  which Christians may legitimately differ in these two incidents the drinking of wine and the eating of meat, which had been sacrificed to idols.  Decisions should be guided not only by a spiritually enlightened conscience, but also guided by your concern for others’ beliefs.  Remember in our commandment to love one another, this also involves honoring others before ourselves.

Now Paul continues with his theme of the weak and the strong as he lays down two precepts in Romans 15

  1. The strong are to bear the infirmities, the failings of the weak.
  2. We are not to please ourselves.

Here we are once again shown how we are to honor others above ourselves. We are not to please ourselves but please our neighbor for his good. This is about edification, building him/her up.   Want to hear the instructions from the Lord Jesus: “ If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life must lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” ( Matthew 16:24-25)  Self- denial is not our favorite subject is it?    This does not mean we can never please ourselves as long as it is not clearly sin, but when pleasing ourselves would cause our weaker brother to stumble we are to please him and deny ourselves.  We are take up our cross- not put the burden on our weaker brother/sister.

I am afraid, we have encountered a problem we do not like anyone to know we have— we are selfish. These commandments are to not be selfish- but to be the opposite of selfish- placing others before our own self.

Again how did Christ lead? By example.  For even Christ did not please himself. He came to do the will of the Father. He bore the cross of self-denial and took up the cross of sin and shame for our sakes.

Now let us consider what is one of the many purposes of the Word of God as Paul explains:  “ For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”


  1. Our learning. We must study to show ourselves approved, workmen who need not to be ashamed , rightfully dividing the truth. We need to learn to study that we might understand the meaning of scripture and learn out of it how that which will do us good.
  2. Scripture was written that we might have hope. We attain this it says through endurance and encouragement of Scripture.  The KJV says: ‘ that we through patience and comfort of the Scripture might have hope.’

This tells us impatience is destructive to hope. Isn’t that the truth? The more anxious you are to have a problem resolved, the more disappointed you become when it does not happen quickly.

Listen again to what Paul described as this process of hope: “ And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know we know that suffering produces perseverance(endurance), and perseverance, character and character , hope. And hope does not disappoint us , because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.’ ( Romans 5)

The word –because is used twice in these verses and because means- ‘due to the fact; for this reason’.

We rejoice in our sufferings has absolutely no meaning and in fact seems contradictory to what one’s feelings are telling them  unless we understand the reason and purpose of suffering. We need to know as a promise of the Word of God, suffering produces perseverance ( endurance) which shapes our character like fire proves gold, and that character produces a hope that does not disappoint. For that hope is in God, His Character and His Promise and our Hope is in Him, due to the fact God has poured out His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever been hopeless?  Ever been in an ongoing trial you thought was never going to end or end badly?

Do you not understand our Heavenly Father is the God of Hope who will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of His Holy Spirit. ( Romans 15: 13)

Hope is a gift from God.  And I would remind you, if you as earthly parents know how to give good  gifts to your children,  how much more does your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.

And how do we overflow with hope?  By the power of His Holy Spirit!

Why do I have Hope?  It is simple- I have His Word, as an example that through endurance and encouragement of the Scripture and I have the Holy Spirit – because, due to the fact, for this reason- I might have hope!

These verses tell us it is God who does the filling with joy and all peace as you trust in Him. Trust in the Lord with all your heart- this is our part, we must believe He is who He says He is and can what He says He can do.

God has told me He has plans for my future. He has promised He would never leave me or desert me. He has promised me rest. He has given me everything I need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us HIS VERY GREAT AND PRECIOUS PROMISES, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.(2 Peter 1)

Do you know His promises to you? Do you know the things you are to do?

“Standing on the promises I cannot fall; listening every moment to the Spirit’s call. Resting in my Savior as my all in all- STANDING ON THE PROMISES OF GOD.

Romans 12

Romans 12:  Things to Do

Paul always ends his letters with the practical, to-do list .  What we believe should determine how we behave as Paul moves from doctrine to duty- to practical, everyday application.   In this chapter Paul will deal with :  our relationship with God; our relationship to other believers and our relationship to our enemies.  Paul addresses our relationship with God first, for if we do not have this relationship right, we will never be get the other relationships right.

We now encounter the fourth-‘therefore’ in Paul’s epistle.  The others were : “ therefore no one will be declared righteous”- the therefore of condemnation ( Romans 3:20); the ‘therefore of justification ‘ in Romans 5; the therefore of assurance that we are no longer condemned in Romans 8 and now the fourth therefore- the therefore of dedication in Romans 12.


“ 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. 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.: ( Romans 12: 1,2) NIV.  Adrian Rogers said this is a formula represented by : P+T= R.  Presentation plus transformation equals the revealed will of God.

These two verses are about our dedication to God and involves three steps. Let’s notice first the reason Paul lists as why we should dedicate ourselves to God. Paul said when you consider the mercies of God, this should be reason enough. What has God done for you and me?  He saved me from sin and ruin and death. He saved me from self. God did this for me at great costs to Himself, for to save my soul and make me whole, it took the life of His Only Begotten Son. He, who knew no sin, became sin for me.  He paid my sin debt with His own blood. When the Resurrected Lord Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene on that Easter Sunday morning, He told her to not take hold of Him for He had not yet returned to His Father.( John 20)  In Hebrews 9, we read, the Resurrected Lord Jesus as our High Priest –‘…He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man made, that is to say not a part of this creation.’ In other words He entered into heaven.  He was saying in effect to Mary, do not hold on to me yet, for I have not returned to heaven yet to pay for the sins of the world. Hebrews 9:24 tells us: “ ..he entered heaven itself.” There the Lord Jesus paid our debt in full, and ‘cleanses our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.’ ( Hebrews 9: 14b)  In other words, we were saved to serve.   And because of God’s mercies toward us, we should serve Him as this is our reasonable service.  God does not force us to serve Him. It is a privilege we have. Paul urges or beseeches us to present our bodies, ourselves as the response to this amazing love, amazing grace, mercy and compassion that a king would die for us.

Michael Smith’s song, ABOVE ALL, captures what the Lord did for us:

“ Above all powers above all kings, above all nature and all created things. Above all wisdom and all the ways of man- You were here before the world began. Above all kingdoms, above all thrones; above all wonders the world has ever known. Above all wealth and treasures of the earth- There’s no way to measure what You’re worth!  Crucified and laid behind a stone, You lived to die, rejected and alone. Like a rose trampled to the ground, You took the fall and thought of me, Tim Fortner.  ABOVE ALL!”

Now tell me- He does He not deserve our dedication?  Paul says this is the only reasonable thing to do.  Let’s take a look at the three steps of dedication:

Step 1.  Present your bodies a living sacrifice. Give God your body. Before we were saved and trusted Christ, we used our bodies for sinful ,selfish pleasures and purposes, but now we belong to Him, we are to use our bodies to bring glory to God. We are told our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. ( I Cor. 6:19-20)  God the Son had a body prepared for Him to take upon Himself. He clothed Himself in flesh in order to accomplish God the Fathers’ will. Now He wants to use our yielded bodies to accomplish the Father’s will on earth. Paul told us in Romans 6 to ‘ yield our bodies as instruments of righteousness’ for the Holy Spirit to use to do God’s work.  He does not want dead bodies, He wants living bodies, living sacrifices. Every day when we awake, we must as an act of worship yield our bodies to the Lord.

Step 2. Give God our minds. The world wants to conform us to its pattern of thinking. It works from the outside in. It puts pressure on us to alter our convictions to adapt to social whims. It wants us to compromise and  in the end, we have a culture which now calls evil – good and good – evil. The Holy Spirit transforms our minds by releasing the power from within.  If the world controls your thinking, you are being conformed.  If God controls your thinking you are being transformed.  How do we transform our minds? God transforms our minds and makes us spiritually minded by using His Word. Remember, the Word of God is alive and  powerful, sharper than a two edged sword. The Word of God is life giving, life changing and life transforming. We must meditate on it day and night, memorize it, obey it and God will change us from the inside out as we become spiritually minded. Our view of the world is then a biblically based view of the world based on God’s Word which we believe is true. Jesus said, ‘ if you continue, abide in My Word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. ( John 8) Alex de Tocqueville, who wrote the classic ‘ Democracy in America,’ as a result of his visit in the early 1800’s made the following observations:  “The greatness of America is not in her enlightenment; but in her ability to repair her faults.” “ They combine the notions of Christianity  and liberty so intimately in their minds- they cannot conceive of one without the other.” He went on to explore what made it so great from its harbors to fertile fields but after visiting  her churches and seeing them ‘ aflame with righteousness”, he concluded:  “ America is great because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good- she shall cease to be great.”

Then he concludes: “ in the end the state of the union comes from the character of her people.”

That used to be us.

Step 3. Give God our will. Our minds control our bodies, and our will controls our mind. If you think you can control your will with your own will power- you thought wrong. Whereas, there are some areas where we will succeed, there is always that area as described in Hebrews 12- where sin so easily entangles us and hinders us.  For me, I discovered I was powerless over alcohol and needed a Higher Power. How do we surrender our will to God, so that we may live victorious lives?  We surrender our wills to God through disciplined prayer.  We follow the example of our Lord, who prayed- Not my will – but your will be done, Father. PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING. LET GOD HAVE HIS WAY IN EVERYTHING.   Let Him have His own way- He is the Potter- we are the clay. Mold me and make me.

So here is the plan:  I will begin each day by surrendering my body to the Lord. Reminding myself, I am not my own. I have been bought and paid for and my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Then I spend time in His Word to let Him transform my mind, so that I can have the mind of Christ. I pray to yield my plans to Him and let Him work through me this day as He sees best.  For those things and tasks that upset or worry me- I pray especially for my Heavenly Father to help me depend wholly on Him. He always sees me through. I yield my will to His will- so I am using His power not my will power. This gives me the ability to say no to temptation.  By yielding my will to His will power, I have the power to say ; I won’t take a drink today….I won’t do this… addressing whatever sin hinders you and so easily entangles you.  ‘Thy Word have I hid in my heart-( through prayer and meditation) that I might not sin against you. ( Psalm 119)

Now as believers seeking to serve the Lord, we must be aware of which plain of life we are living on. . We live on one of three plains in life- sensual, soulish and spiritual. The sensual is ruled by the five senses. We make decisions each day based on these five senses: taste, sight, smell, feel, and hearing.  Making decisions based on these five senses alone, is living on the sensual plain of life. These can be subtle in the life of a believer.  We do not like a certain person, because of the way they talk, or smell or their appearance. We may not admit this, but underneath this is our motivation.

Those who live on the soulish plain are ruled by their intellect, emotions or will. For the soul of man is comprised of these parts. You may have in the body of believers – the intellect who studies the Bible and languages of the Bible and is able to quote scriptures from memory and is considered a great theologian, but Paul wrote if you have all knowledge and have not charity (love) you are nothing. Others are controlled by their emotions and moved to tears by passages of scripture or the plight of others or become so worked up in a meeting, he/she shouts hallelujah or amen with great gusto!  Others possess an iron will. They seem to have self-discipline in abundance. Not realizing apart from Him we can do nothing..

To be spiritual is to allow the Holy Spirit to have control of your body, mind and will. In this way, the sensual and soulish are controlled and the person is in balance in their relationships. Now if you are wondering how do we determine if we acting in the soul or the spirit?  God has given us an instrument for just such a purpose- the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit.  “ For the Word of God is alive, and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit , and of the joints and  marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” ( Hebrews 4:12)


Our relationship with other believers- our horizontal relationships begins with an honest evaluation of ourselves.  So often when I study the Word of God, I am reminded of the 12 steps of AA.  Listen to these biblical principles contained within these steps to sobriety:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a fearless moral inventory of ourselves.


Substitute ‘sin’ in the first step for alcohol and you see how this fits. Step 4 in the 12 Step AA program is to make a fearless moral inventory of ourselves. This is what we are to do according to the Word of God as Paul instructs us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. I would also say to you that implied here is to also not think less of yourself than you ought to think.  If you are saved, you are Gods’ child, blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, and joint heirs with Jesus. Nothing causes more damage in the body of believers than pride that results in one believe thinking he/she is better than another believer because of their spiritual gift, or status in life. In other words, we are to make an honest evaluation of ourselves, a fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Some of us put on a front of false modesty because we want to solicit praise from others. Like a guided missile we seek out compliments from others.

Paul says in our relationship with other believers, we are to view ourselves as members of the same body- interdependent upon each other. We each have been given spiritual gifts and these gifts are tools that God has given us to build up the body.  Since these are gifts from God we  cannot take credit for them, all we can do is use them to serve Him and honor Him. With each gift that God bestows on the individual believer, it is accompanied with a measure of faith that will enable the believer to fulfill his/her ministry in the church body.

In this section, Paul lists the following spiritual gifts:  prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging or exhortation, giving, and leadership.  The gifts are given for the building up of the body for spiritual growth with maturity of the believer the ultimate goal.  When we look at these gifts, often one will think the one who preaches( prophesying) or teaching is more important. Not so- each gift is important and necessary for the body to grow in a balanced way. Paul speaks of gifts in more detail in I Corinthians 12.  In fact, it was because the Corinthians had the wrong view of spiritual gifts that Paul had to address the right view of the gifts. Listen to what Paul wrote to them concerning gifts:  “ Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?( I Cor. 12:29-30)  The answer to all those questions was NO.  Paul said: “ Now to each man the manifestation of the Spirit  is given for the common good.” ( I Cor. 12:7)  In fact in I Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter, Paul says if we have not love, though we speak with the tongues of men and angels and have not love, we are nothing.   ‘ Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily provoked- it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Thus Paul admonishes us in our relationship with other believers to love one another. Jesus said this how men would know we are His disciples because we love one another as Jesus loved us. This is love that is sincere,no hypocrisy. Hate what is evil, cling to that which is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Do you realize what would happen to our country if our leadership placed the good of our country above their own good and their party’s own good?  What would happen in businesses and corporations if the president or owner of the company placed the good of the employees above his/her bonus and compensation. I tell you what would happen- we would have a country that showed the world what this type of submissive love and servant’s heart could accomplish.  Do you know why marriages succeed?  Because the husband places his wife’s welfare above his own and she places his well- being above her own in mutual submission.

Paul says we to never be lacking in zeal.  This means we keep our spiritual fervor  in serving the Lord. The next verse tells us why this is so- because when we are serving the Lord, we will incur  affliction as the enemy will attack us and our family. We need each other. As a body, it is love that is the circulatory system that connects us one to another. And just as any part of the human body that is cut off from the flow of blood dies, so will a church without this type of love become dead.  Love is a verb for Christians, not just a noun.



If you seek to obey God you will have enemies.  The Lord Jesus had enemies as did His apostles. In fact the Lord Jesus warned us in this world we would have trouble and people who hated us, but to rejoice for He had overcome the  world. Do you know how Jesus overcame the world?  With love.  For God so LOVED the world, He gave His only begotten son…..  That is how. It was the love of God that drew up the plan of salvation, it was grace that brought it down to man. John the apostle marveled and proclaimed: “ How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” (  I John 3)  And there are so many verses that tell of this everlasting love, the depths of which we cannot comprehend.

Therefore it should come as no surprise we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Live in harmony with one another- do not be proud but willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Here is our instruction : “ If it is possible as far as it depends upon you, live at peace with everyone.” In other words, our responsibility is to NOT be the ones disturbing the peace. Jesus said in his sermon on the mount- blessed are the peacemakers.

Do not repay evil with evil. Repay evil with good. On the contrary- Paul  says if your enemy is hungry- feed him; thirsty- give him something to drink. In doing so you will heap burning coals upon his head.  What do you think the purpose of burning coals is?  Perhaps it is to melt his/her resistance.

We are to overcome evil with good.   Have we as a country overcome the evil of those who hate us by returning evil?

It is clear Paul is telling us we were saved to serve. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has ordained that we should walk in them.” ( Ephesians 2)

God has a ‘to-do list’ for each of us.

Romans 11

Romans 11: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is ?

In Romans 9 & 10, Paul has dealt with Israel’s past and present. We see the reason for their rejection by God as Paul tells us in Romans 9:31-“..but Israel who pursued a law of righteousness has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as it were by works.” Romans 10 deals with Israel’s present rejection from the time of Paul’s letter to this very day and we see it is still for the same reasons, they did not submit to God’s righteous. Paul wrote: “ Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” ( Romans 10:4)  We read in these chapters of the sovereignty of God’s Divine Will and of Man’s Free will, which seem in our finite minds to be in conflict. Yet when asked how he reconciled man’s free will and God’s sovereign will, Spurgeon replied: ‘ I do not attempt to.  I never try to reconcile friends.’

Now in Romans 11, Paul answers the rhetorical question:  ‘Does God reject His people?’ Paul will call five witnesses to the stand to testify why this is not so.  The current hardening of Israel’s heart, the blinding of their eyes is neither total or eternal, but as Paul will use these witnesses to rebut- it is partial and temporary.

The five witnesses Paul will call are :  Paul, himself; Elijah, the Gentiles, the Patriarchs, and God Himself. With the logic of a brilliant courtroom lawyer, Paul will use his personal testimony as a witness, as well as Old Testament Scriptures to testify, even now as the Jews will this week celebrate Passover.

Listen now to Paul as he takes the stand:  “ I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite  myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God DID NOT REJECT HIS PEOPLE.” ( Romans 11:1-2)

Let’s look at Paul, alias, Saul of Tarsus’  conversion experience and I want to bring to your attention two other references to that experience that speak to Israel’s future.  In Acts 9, Dr. Luke records verbatim, ( I am sure) Paul’s testimony of his conversion on the road to Damascus. On two other occasions in Acts 22 and 26, Dr. Luke records that Paul shared his testimony as this is one of the most effective ways of witnessing. When we read Paul’s story of what happened on the road to Damascus, we realize this was the most unique of conversion experiences.  Now turn to I Corinthians 15, one of the 10 most important chapters in the New Testament, according to some theologians because of the overpowering evidence of the Lord Jesus’ bodily resurrection, for as Paul writes, ‘ if Christ be not risen our faith is in vain; but He is risen indeed.’ I want to call your attention to verse 8, as Paul comes to the end of an impressive list and number of witnesses who had seen the risen Lord Jesus, then says: “… and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (NIV)  The KJV states ‘ as to one born out of due time.” What did he mean?  Paul says the way in which he was saved, born-again, was a pattern of the way the Israelites would be saved, converted in the end times of the Tribulation.  Look at I Timothy 1:16 from the KJV, we read this: “ Howbeit- for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me, FIRST, Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering for a PATTERN TO THEM WHICH SHOULD HEREAFTER BELIEVE ON HIM TO ETERNAL LIFE.”   Paul is saying his conversion experience is the pattern of the way and method the Israelites/Jews will be saved during the Great Tribulation.  Zechariah 12:10 and Zech. 14 tell of that time in the future when the nation of Israel will have their eyes opened and see  the One who they have pierced. Paul is saying he was born again as one out of due time, for this was to be the method in the end times.    This week there will be those who partake of the Seder, the traditional Jewish meal at Passover which celebrates God’s miraculous delivery of the nation of Israel out of Egypt. Some are still looking for the Messiah to come, not realizing they missed Him the first time. Now do you see why Paul said even back 2000 years ago –‘the word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart…”  So close- yet so far away.
So Paul is the first witness, and stands as proof that God has not forgotten Israel and the Israelites, for he is one and he has been converted.  Next he Paul calls Elijah, a well known prophet to all Israelites, who took on the prophets of Baal and defeated the prophets on Mount Carmel. Afterwards on the run from Jezebel, a depressed and frightened Elijah complained that he was the only one left, yet God revealed He had 7,000 who had never bowed a knee to Baal.  God has always had a remnant.  Even though at one time, in the day of Noah, there were only 8 souls left.

Paul uses this example to claim –‘so, too at this present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were grace would no longer be grace.”

Man has always been saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God not works, lest any man should boast.  A reading of Hebrews 11, will show OT saint after OT saint with this same phrase:  By faith Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and the list goes on to – Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jepthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets through faith conquered…. Always faith comes- then works. ( Ephesians 2:10)  In Romans 4, Paul had asked the question of his audience:  “ What does scripture say? Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness? ( Romans 4:3)  In fact a time line of Abraham’s life will show this was years before Abraham was circumcised.

What happened to the majority of Jews that they were not saved? They hardened their hearts just life the Pharaoh did, until finally having crossed a line from which there is no turning back, the Lord hardened their hearts and blinded them so they could not see.  Saul of Tarsus lost his physical sight temporarily so that he might gain spiritual sight.  Each time one resists the truth of God’s word- the heart grows harder, until finally the word of God bounces off  like the seed that fell on the wayside.

What was Israel’s problem?  Ever heard the statement:  “ Familiarity breeds contempt.”? David says the table became a snare and a stumbling block.  What was he referring to? David was referring to the very religious practices and observances that were point them to Christ, instead they became substitutes for the real experience of salvation.  The priests baked the bread and sat at the table in the Holy Place to eat a meal of fellowship symbolically with Jehovah.  Jesus after he was baptized and came out of the wilderness  and began his ministry and news about him spread through the whole countryside.  He came back home to Nazareth where he grew up and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and read from the scrolls from Isaiah and then stated:  “ Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” The hometown crowd’s reaction:  “Isn’t  this Joseph’s son?” Even his family doubted he was who he said he was.  Familiarity can breed contempt and Jesus said- even a prophet is not believed in his hometown.

There have been Jews saved in every generation down through the ages. But Paul says not all of Abraham’s descendants are true descendants. Paul says if you are in Christ then you are a descendant of Abraham and heir to the promises.  For us- we are spiritual descendants and heirs to the spiritual promises, in fact we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.

There will be a group of Israelites who will be saved during the Tribulation, who will survive the tribulation and inhabit the land God gave to Israel in the Millineum kingdom.

Paul next turns to the Gentiles to continue to make his case.  “ Again I ask:  Did they( Israel) stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?  Not at all! Rather because of their transgression, salvation came to the Gentiles.” ( Romans 11:11)  Note God always has a reason, here it is clear they stumbled but are not utterly cast down, but they stumbled because of their transgression- their sin of unbelief. “ But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles- how much greater will their fullness bring.”

We must understand from the beginning when God called Abram out of  Ur with the promise to give him a land for his inheritance and make a great nation out of his descendants and through his SEED to bless all the nations, God was going to use the nation of Israel, the Jews, these chosen people to bless the nations of the earth- all the people. The Seed , of course was Jesus. However, the Jews did not do as God had commanded them to do and as a result the Gospel went to the Gentiles.   Their rejection of salvation and righteousness by faith instead of by works became the reconciliation of the world.  Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said to the woman at the well in John 4- ‘…salvation is from the Jews.’ Their rejection meant reconciliation for the Gentiles.  And in their reconciliation and blessing Paul’s hope was somehow it would arouse the Jews to envy and save some of them.  ( For after all- the contempt is described as a feeling that something or someone is beneath your consideration; a disregard for something that should be taken into account.  This contempt can be turned into envy when that someone is blessed with every spiritual blessing.)

So when the Jews rejected the Gospel, God sent it to the Gentiles. Their loss was the Gentile’s gain.

Now Paul uses two illustrations to describe the nation of Israel –the dough offered as first fruits and the olive tree.  In other words these two illustrations are not of individual believers but Paul is referring to the place of Israel in the plan of God.  Remember, God’s plan was to bless the world through the seed of Abraham, and He accomplished that in spite of  the majority of Israel not believing or accepting the Gospel.

The dough offered as the first fruit of the harvest. This would be the dough made from the first of the harvested grain. The firstfruits refers to the patriarchs to whom the promises were made- Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God accepted the founders of the nation, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. No secret as to why God accepted them, their stories recorded in Genesis and underlined in Hebrews 11, where each one came into their relationship by faith.  So they are the first fruit, the dough and God will honor His promise to the whole batch- and Romans 11:26- says ‘all Israel will be saved.’ All of Israel?  How will this be?  Look at Matthew 24: 21,22:  “ For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now- and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened.” During the Tribulation, many Jews who will experience salvation will also be martyred. And there will be a remnant, spoken of here who will survive the Tribulation, to enter into the 1000 year reign of the Lord on earth and re-populate the earth, as the Lord Jesus inhabits the throne of David in Jerusalem and the nation of Israel will reside in all the land promised to Abraham by God.

Now Israel is also referred to here as the olive tree and again Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the roots of the olive tree.  The branches of the olive tree ( remember the Olive Tree is the nation of Israel- not the church) that are broken off are broken off we are told because of unbelief and also that the Gentile believer could be engrafted into the olive tree, for ‘ ‘if you belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promises.’ ( Galatians 3)



So Paul concludes Israel has experienced hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in and then all Israel will be saved. The Church is the bride of Christ. In this present age, God is primarily visiting among the Gentiles and building His church, the Bride of Christ. This present age ends when the full number of Gentiles have come into the kingdom. There will also be individual Jews saved during this time also. When the last Gentile is saved that is to be saved in this age, God will tell His Son, the Lord Jesus to go get His Bride. This I believe is when the Rapture will take place followed by the Wedding supper of the Lamb in heaven.

But Isaiah 54 foretells of the future glory of Israel, listen to the terminology used to describe this relationship between God the Father, the Lord Almighty and the nation of Israel: “  For your Maker is your husband, the Lord Almighty is His name, the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit- a wife who married young only to be rejected says your God. For a brief moment I abandoned you but with deep compassion I will bring you back.”(The story of Hosea and Gomer is a picture and illustration of this relationship.)

On more than one occasion we read verses or phrases referring to – the fullness of time. Listen to these references:  “ But when the time had fully come,. God sent His Son, born of a woman under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4)   What did Jesus say at the wedding where His mother  wanted him to do something about the lack of wine.  Jesus said,” Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.”   Then in Matthew 26 on the night of Passover and his arrest:  Jesus said: “ My appointed time is near.(is at hand,KJV) I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples….”

Then at the point of death on the cross, Jesus’  last words: “ It is finished.” Then following his 40 day resurrection ministry and just prior to ascending to heaven, his disciples once again wanted to know if it was time.  “ Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” To which Jesus replied:  “ It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.” ( Acts 1)

And Paul writes in Ephesians 1: “ And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times have reached their fulfillment- to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”

Paul concludes this section by breaking into a doxology of praise to God for the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. Only a God as wise as our God could take the fall of Israel and turn it into salvation for the world.  And in the end, God will keep His promise and covenants with Israel. The more we study His ways, the more we will come to praise Him for Who He is.

Here is what I have come to understand:  time is short, life is fleeting. I already know, I got old too soon and smart too late.  But it is never too late to do the right thing.

You see- there is really only One Person in the whole universe who really knows what time it is. And I am sad to say- there are many who do not really care what time it is.

My time and times are in His Hands.

‘Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90)

Romans 1-5

Romans 1: The Wrath of God

Last week in our beginning study of Romans, we identified a key verse in Romans 1:17: “ For in
the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to
last, just as it is written: The righteous (just) shall live by faith.”

The word – righteous, or just and justified is used over 60 times in Paul’s letter to the Romans.
This righteousness Paul says is ‘ a righteousness from God which is revealed in the Gospel. He
also tells us this righteousness is by faith.

Let’s look at what some of these words mean:

Reconciliation: To change a person from enmity with God to friendship with God. The
theological meaning applies to man who is born with a sinful nature. We did not have to be
taught to lie, we had to be taught to tell the truth. We had to be taught to share, for we were
naturally selfish. We were rebels against authority who had to be taught to obey authority.
Christ made reconciliation available on the cross when He paid for our sins and removed the
barrier and thus the hostility. This reconciliation was sufficient for all men but effective only for
those who receive it personally by faith. ( It’s still the same)

Righteousness is defined as being morally impeccable; keeper of the law; a virtuous citizen.
This would be the natural man’s definition of righteousness in which if there is judgment by a
Holy God, he/she believes their good outweighs their bad. Yet the Lord Jesus in his Sermon on
the Mount and Paul in these first three chapters of Romans will reveal the righteousness God
requires and that no one is righteous, no not one. Jesus said except your righteousness exceed
the righteousness of the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said you
must be Holy as God is Holy. He told Nicodemus- you must be born again.

Death in the Bible refers to separation. There are two types of death- physical death wherein
the soul or spirit of man is separated from his/her body. The body then returns to dust. The
second death is spiritual death, in which the spirit is separated from God for eternity. If one has
been born again they will only die once, but if you have not been born again, you will die twice.
Paul tells us for Christians to die is ‘ to be absent from the body but present with the Lord.’

Justification is being judged just, declared righteous. We are justified by the blood of Christ,
when we apply by faith the blood of the Lamb of God to the door post of our hearts. When we
do this- we are judged righteous, for the righteousness of Jesus Christ has been imputed to us.
We have exchanged our unrighteousness for His righteousness. He took upon Himself the filthy
rags of our unrighteousness and clothed us in His righteousness at the Cross. In Romans 5, Paul
declares: “ Since we have now been justified(declared righteous) by His blood, how much more
shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him. For if, when we were God’s enemies we
were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more having been reconciled ,
shall we be saved through His life.” We have been freed of the guilt and penalty attached to sin.
The result is restoration to fellowship with God and eternal life. I have been saved; I am being
saved, I will be saved. That is why we sing: Saved! Saved! Saved! Saved to new life, sublime!

Propitiation is defined as satisfaction. This all important activity deals with the character of God.
God will not compromise. His attributes of righteousness and justice and holiness which are
outraged by man’s sinfulness and deliberate violation of God’s will does not change and must
be satisfied. God’s love found a way whereby He could bring sinful man back into fellowship
with Himself without compromise. How? God, Himself came into this world in the person of
Jesus Christ. Born of a virgin, without sin, and never committed an act of sin, though tempted
in every way as we are. Possessing all the righteousness of God that is demanded by God’s
Holiness, He was the only one qualified to bear all our sins and the wrath of God. Thus the shed
blood and death of His Only Son satisfied God’s Holy Character and set God’s love free to pour
out upon the human race. This is what we call Grace. This is propitiation.

Redemption comes from a Greek word that means: to buy, or buy out and remove from sale;
to pay the ransom to set one free. Christ is our Redeemer, who paid our debts we could never
pay. We could no more free ourselves from the slavery of sin, than the Israelites could free
themselves from the Egyptian taskmasters. Jesus paid the ransom price of His Shed blood. Jesus
Paid It All!


Wrath is an old fashioned English word meaning- deep anger. Wrath is an attribute of God

This is a subject that makes us uncomfortable. When we read in the Old Testament of God’s
wrath- we want to somehow overlook that or question God’s Sovereignty to act the way He
does. Here is what God says in His own words: “ I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form
the light and create darkness. I bring prosperity and create disaster. I the Lord, DO ALL THESE
THINGS.” ( Isaiah 45) And Jesus said in Luke 12, don’t fear the one who can kill your body,
fear the One who can send you to Hell for eternity. In fact look in your Bible concordance and
you will find there are more references to God’s anger, wrath and fury than to His love and

Read 2 Thess. 1: 7-10. From Genesis 3 to the end of Revelation we see God’s displeasure with
sin. He kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden- banishing them, punishing them and
bringing death into the world- both physical and spiritual. There is something in our old nature
and idea of justice that says – this seems a little too harsh for disobedience. We read about
the flood and only 8 souls out of the whole world saved- Noah and his family. We see the
destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and realize that by today’s standards the media would
condemn this act of God as a ‘hate crime.’ Which would be right, but not the way they would
view it- it reveals God’s wrath against ungodliness and wickedness.

Why do we shy away from God’s wrath? Why do we soft-pedal it or even refer to the God of
the O.T. and the God of the N.T.- It is the same God and He does not change. Talking honestly
about God’s wrath and judgment has never been popular- it was not popular for prophets of
old or prophets of today.

I believe our concerns over Gods’ wrath is we somehow view wrath as unworthy of God, as if it
is out of control. A burst of uncontrollable temper- where one sees ‘red’ and goes off.

God’s wrath is never out of control It is measure, deliberate and absolutely just. Look at these
verses: Romans 2:5,6; Luke 12: 47-48

And remember whose God’s wrath is poured out on: John 3:18.19. No one stands under the
wrath of God except those who chose to stand under the wrath of God. These chose not to
surrender their life to Jesus- they did not want to lose their freedom to the control of the Lord
Jesus. “ for whoever wants to save his life, will lose it; and whoever loses his life will find it.’
(Matt16) Luke 12 – parable of the rich fool- who was building larger barns- he was called a fool
for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul.

Listen to frequent terms used to describe hell; fire- a constant reminder and awareness of
God’s displeasure to those who chose not to retain the knowledge of God ; outer darkness-
for knowledge of the loss of Gods’ presence, the light of the world came and they preferred
darkness and now they shall have it forever; gnashing of teeth- the gnashing that comes from
self-condemnation and loathing;

Paul says God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven- this is present tense. How is God’s
wrath being revealed today? The same way it was in Paul’s day- God is giving them over to
a depraved mind, to their sinful desires to their shameful lusts which Paul clearly describes
in graphic terms of sexual immorality, homosexuality, as well as every kind of wickedness
described in Romans 1: 28-32. Note they not only continue to do these things even though they
deserve death- they also approve of those who practice them.

Like it or not- the truth is God is angry. “His wrath is revealed from heaven against ALL
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness , since
what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For
since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature-
have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that man is without

So how do we approach the subject of Gods’ wrath? With fear. For the fear of God is the
beginning of wisdom. We need to meditate on God’s wrath for it is a solemn reality. It moved
the Lord Jesus to weep over Jerusalem. And God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
He has made a way for us to escape His wrath. Jesus is the way.

When you consider the wrath of God does it make you take sin a little more seriously?

When you consider the wrath of God does it make your witnessing a little more urgent?

And when you consider the wrath of God does it draw out of your deepest soul a fervent praise
for the Lord Jesus who delivered you from the wrath of God?

People today in the 21st century think they are so much more enlightened than their ancestors,
especially those of long ago, who did not have the benefit of science and technology. They
consider those who are religious to be less informed, less intelligent, and superstitious. Nothing
could be further from the truth. Man has not evolved from some type of lower existence- man
has devolved, turned from the truth and rejected God as creator, even though He has revealed
Himself through His creation. ‘The heavens declare His glory and the skies proclaim the work of
His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech and night after night they display knowledge.’
Psalms 19 tells us. Furthermore it states: “ There is no speech or language where their voice is
not heard.”

Why does man reject the truth God has revealed? They suppress the truth in order to live their
lives as they want to live them. They do not want to be convicted of their sin, being made to
feel guilty so they have turned the truth into a lie. People do not want a God they fear. Yet the
fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. So they either choose not to believe that God is who
He says He is and can do what He says He can do and or create a more lenient God, a God who
understands we are doing the best we can and not hold us accountable for our sins and willful
disobedience. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he
also reap. ( Galatians) Oh me or amen?

Here is the bottom line: The gospel has not changed God’s attitude toward sin. The gospel has
made it possible for the sinner to be accepted by God.

The sinner must have either the righteousness from God imputed to us who have been justified
by the blood or the sinner must suffer the wrath of God.

God’s wrath is against ungodliness. Ungodliness is against God, it denies the character of God.
Gods’ wrath is against unrighteousness. When one denies the character of God and holds His
truth in contempt- God will find him/her guilty and they will bear the wrath of God.

Creation, Paul is stating here, clearly reveals God so that man is without excuse. Why is he
without excuse? Because man’s historical basis for sin did not come about through ignorance.
It was willful rebellion in clear light of creation. Creation is God’s external witness. We will also
see in Romans 2, there is an internal witness- the conscience.

Based on scripture, there are two truths we can observe about one who claims to be an atheist:
they are liars, for they know there is a Creator God; and they are fools. For the fool has said in
his heart there is no God.


Next Paul tells us what happens to man : ‘when they knew god, they neither glorified Him as
God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were
darkened . Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the
immortal God for images made to look like moral man and birds and animals and reptiles.’

Sorry, Mr. Darwin, man has not evolved- he has devolved since the Garden of Eden. Man
started out perfect in every way and look what we have today. We are further away from God
than we have ever been in the history of mankind. Recent studies and surveys reveal a new
identification of many people when asked to answer what religious belief or faith they have-
the answer is : NONE. The 21st century has seen the Christian faith become a minority and the
NONE OF THE ABOVE become the fastest growing segment. These are those Peter said would
come in the latter days- who deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens and
the earth existed and were created. ( 2Peter3)

First look what they did with the knowledge of God- they had suppressed the truth in
wickedness – so they did not retain the knowledge of God. This led them to a slippery slope.
Next thing that happened as a result- they did not glorify God. This means they did not give
God His rightful place as creator of all things. There was no fear of God until finally in the 20 th
century they declared: God is dead.

So here we are in the 21st century with ‘none-of-the-above’ being the growing preference and
religion of choice. Which is to say, man has declared himself self-sufficient and no longer needs

Notice what happens next- a spirit of ingratitude. If they do not want to retain the knowledge
of God and suppress the truth in wickedness, and do not give God His rightful place, the result
is inevitable- ingratitude. Without God we would not exist, God willed for us to exist. God
created everything for us and the mankind has slid to the place where they no longer recognize
the One from whom all blessings flow. The One who so loved them so much He gave His only
Begotten Son – so that whosoever should believe in Him, should not perish but have ever-
lasting life. And their attitude is the attitude of the 9 out of 10 lepers who were cleansed by
Jesus but only one came back to thank Him. In fact today, they not only don’t thank Him, they
blame for all that is wrong.

Watch what happened – they became vain in their imaginations, foolish in their thinking
and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to wise they became fools and
exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds
and animals and reptiles.

Any imagination or pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God must be taken
captive and made obedient to Christ.(2 Corinthians 10) So ask yourself what you believe and
accept about the Theory of Evolution- you must ask yourself these questions: does this theory
of evolution acknowledge “ that long ago by God’s Word the heavens existed and the earth
was formed out of waters and also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed;” or is
this an ‘argument and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we
take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”(2 Cor. 10)

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are
being saved, it is the power of God for it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the
intelligence of the intelligent. Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the
philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

Professing themselves to be wise- they became fools and exchanged the immortal God for
images made to look like man, and birds and animals and reptiles.

Next we will see as we continue in Paul’s letter to the Romans how God deals with those who
exchange the truth of God for a lie and how it inevitably leads man and society down the
slippery slope until when the Lord comes again- He says society and the world will be like it was
in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Look around- do you see the similarities? Today our culture and society would recognize
Sodom and Gomorrah as enlightened cultures who recognize and value the diversity of human
nature. To the point of accepting sexual freedom as freedom from condemnation for living any
way you want to live. Sin is no longer sin.

“We can alter our convictions to adapt to social whims. But we cannot change the Gospel or the
truth contained within- though some may say its man’s religion or ancient history. It’s still the
Name of Jesus that has the power to save the lost- It’s still the Cross.

Revelation 8-10

Revelation 8

Rev. 8:1:  the opening of the seventh seal is followed by a ½ hour of silence in heaven.  This dramatic pause of silence and suspended activities following reflect the reluctance of God to judge as He gives again opportunity to repent. He is long-suffering, His mercy and grace He wants to extend to those who would repent. He is not willing that any should perish.  When we last saw mankind after the opening of the sixth seal- we saw mankind both great and small hiding in fear from God’s judgment. This lull, this parenthesis is to give them opportunity to repent and turn to the Lord.

As we read about the coming judgments we will find a similarity between the plagues of Egypt in Moses’ day and the trumpet judgments. These judgments, sometimes referred to as the judgments of 1/3rd’s  are a systematic destruction of the ecology. Just as we read of God’s systematic and orderly creation of the earth and the heavens we will now witness the orderly destruction of that same system. It will not be utterly destroyed as God continues to offer mankind every opportunity upon seeing His power and wrath to repent.  But just like the Pharaoh of Egypt, many will continue to harden their hearts.

Let’s recap the order of events:

1.    First seal releases the world dictator, the Anti-Christ who the world follows.

2.    Second seal opens and the fiery red horse of war comes forth in a devastating war.

3.    Then follows the black horse of famine and world wide economic collapse.

4.    The fourth seal brings the pale horse of Death and Hades as famine, war, disease and even wild beasts destroy ¼ of the population.

5.    The fifth seal marks the beginning of the greatest persecution of Christians of all times.

6.    The sixth seal unleashes a worldwide nuclear holocaust.

7.    Now the seventh seal is opened – after ½ hour of silence a pause before the devastation begins- there appears seven angels who are given seven trumpets.


When God released the plagues on Egypt, He would pause  and give Pharaoh an opportunity to repent. Each time the plagues ceased, Pharaoh would return to his original intent. Remember God is slow to anger, He is quick to forgive- but His Judgment is sure, His wrath is awesome.

These seven angels are a special group of angels. Angels are by nature- messengers of God.  We do not know the names of many angels, but one angel we know is Gabriel.  Gabriel appeared to Mary and Zachariah – and each time he made an appearance he brought important messages. He stood in the presence of the Lord.

Seven, of course if the number of completeness. These seven trumpet have a special meaning. As I said earlier, there are many similarities between these plagues the Lord is sending and the plagues upon Egypt recorded in the book of Exodus. If there is any book that is well known by all Jews it is the book of Exodus. It is the story of their deliverance from bondage. Moses is one of their great heroes. God worked mighty works and miracles on behalf of his people to free them.

Once they were in the wilderness- God began to establish order in this mass of almost 2,000,000 people.  The tribes of Israel were divided into four groups of three tribes each which camped around the four sides of the tabernacle.  In addition there were three separate families of Levites. The Levites were the priests who took care of the tabernacle. It was not only an important job – it involved moving the tabernacle and all its furniture and elements of worship in a specific manner. So there were 4 groups of 3 tribes each and three groups for the Levites- making a total of seven. Seven trumpets would be blown with each group knowing when they were to move out, so there was no confusion and everything was done in an orderly manner.

Who can forget the taking of Jericho? When the wall came tumbling down.  They marched around the city for six days. On the seventh day , they marched around the city seven times; seven priests carried seven trumpets made of ram’s horns in front of the ark. When the priests blew the horns and the people shouted on cue, the walls came tumbling down.

In verse 3, another angel, who had a golden censer came and stood at the altar. In the tabernacle and later the temple, the high priest always carried a censer with him when he entered the Holy of Holies with the blood to be sprinkled on the ark.

The incense represented the prayers of the people going up to God. These prayers were for the forgiveness of sins accompanied with the offering of blood.

Verse 4 tells us the prayers of the people went up before God from the angel’s hand. What were the prayers of the people?  What were the prayers of the people on earth who were suffering great tribulation?  Look back in Chapter six in verse ten:  “ How long Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

Their prayers are about to be answered in the next verse:  “Then the angel  took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar and hurled it on earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.”  The prayers of the people had come up to God requesting Him to judge the inhabitants of earth and avenge their blood…God’s answer is hurled down on earth and the great tribulation gets under way.

In verses 6-7, we see the first angel sound the first trumpet. Hail and fire mixed with blood are hurled down to earth. 1/3 of earth is burned- a 1/3 of all botanical life- trees, plants, grass are destroyed. In chapter one of Genesis, vegetation and plant life is created first after God has created the planets, separated the waters and given light.

In Egypt during the time of Exodus, hail came down and destroyed all the crops in the land. Joseph, who was a type of Christ, had made  Egypt flourish and it was a bread basket to the world in a time of great famine.  400 years later, Exodus tells us the Egyptian leaders no longer remembered Joseph. Now in the future, we will see a world that has turned its back on the God of the Bible and leaders who no longer recognize Him. God will get their attention as he got the Pharaohs as He unleashes a series of  plagues unlike anything ever seen before.

In Genesis 8, after the flood, God vows: “ As long as earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”  Times and seasons created by God will endure until the end of history.  What we are seeing here in Revelation 8 is the beginning of the end of history- as God systematically destroys the earth which He created.

Let me say at this point- that God has revealed Himself to be Supernatural in 3 ways.

1.    Creation. Romans 1 tells us God has revealed Himself to man through His creation.

2.    God has given us the sign of His Supernatural self thru the life, death and resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus.

3.    God has given us His Word- which is powerful, alive and absolutely true. Filling prophecy 100%.


In verses 8-9, the second angel sounds the second trumpet and John describes what he sees as “ something like a huge mountain all ablaze thrown into the sea.” The result is 1/3 of the seas are turned into blood, killing 1/3 of the creatures in the sea and destroying 1/3 of the ships.  Imagine the economic disaster following these first two trumpets, world wide famine and economic collapse due to the destruction of crops as well as the foods provided from the seas.

If you follow the news – you know that Iran continues with its nuclear program. Last week they launched a rocket with a telecommunications satellite. Not only does this reveal their ability to launch strategic long range missiles, there is also something else going on.  (the following information is not from a kook website- it is from the Wall Street Journal.)

You have heard Iran’s president invoke the name of the “12th Imam.” This is a reference to Muhammad Mahdi, a prophet born in 800 AD, who is also called the Hidden One. The religion of Islam has two major divisions- Sunni and Shiite. The Shiite are the dominant group in Iran and Iraq.  They believe the 12th Imam will return in the end times during a time of great chaos. He will be recognized by Jews and Christians alike as a messianic figure.

A group within the Shiite believe, that they can hasten the 12th Imam’s return by creating chaos. The current president of Iran is a member of this group.

Other beliefs are during the time nearing his return- a sign and part of the chaos will be the seas turning to blood.  It was reported by all the Iranian newspapers in the last few days, the Persian Gulf is turning red due to an unusual large amount of red seaweed.

The Shiite also believe their responsibility is to spread the news of the return of the 12th Imam to the four corners of the world prior to his return. Sound familiar? Remember the Koran was written after Jesus’s time on earth- in fact it was written in the late 7th century after the Bible as we know it today was canonized in 300+ AD.

The rocket that carried the telecommunications satellite that was launched last week was named – Message; the satellite was named Hope. This will allow them to broadcasts into different parts of the world.

Iran is in a desperate time politically and economically.  90% of their revenues come from oil, which have gone from almost $150 per barrel to less than $40 per barrel. In addition they have spent great sums of money supporting Al queda and the ongoing attacks in Israel

In verses 10-11, the third trumpet sounds and a great star falls into the rivers and on the springs of water- the planet’s fresh water sources.  The star is called Wormwood and turns the water bitter and poisonous killing many people. Possible explanation is a nuclear bomb with radioactive fallout that poisons many.

If you want to learn about the effects of a nuclear bomb go to the website of Homeland Security and you will find some very sobering information.

The blast force alone of a megaton nuclear bomb that creates 20psi will create winds of over 500 mph.  Radioactive fall out stretches the kill zone and is dependent on whether the enemy wanted the bomb to explode on earth or in the atmosphere.

Now realize you have a country in the mid east, Iran, with this type of capability. Furthermore this country has vowed to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. Factor in these religious zealots are looking to create chaos in the world to hasten the return of their messiah, the 12th Imam.  In creating chaos they must also take the message of hope to the four corners of the world.

Next up is the fourth angel with the fourth trumpet. 1/3 of the sun, moon and stars are turned dark.  Freezing weather, lack of oil, food, commodities and basics of life create a nightmare that is scarier than any horror movie ever imagined.   Jesus said in Matthew 24:28, “ Immediately after tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

The laws of nature which God set in motion at creation will be radically altered. Never has the earth known such a time.   Flowers fade and the grasses wilt, but the Word of Our God stands forever.

After this, God sends an angel flying midair calling out in a loud voice- Woe! Woe! Woe! To the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels.

Woes in the Bible mark the deepest, darkest and most painful intensity of the great tribulation period.  As horrible as this has been up until now- it will grow more terrible. These will be the darkest, blackest day of human history.

Once again- God is sending a message to mankind..that judgment is coming.  But you do not have to go before the Great White Throne Judgment which will be too late, you can settle out of court. Your advocate, the Lord Jesus will pay the penalty for your sins and you will be declared not guilty.

When we read these horrible things to take place- we cannot help but be frightened – for just reading about the wrath and judgment of God is scary enough… but can you imagine having to face it.

Chapter 9- the Fifth Trumpet.

The fifth trumpet sounds and John describes what appears to be a star fallen from heaven.  What or who is this star?  For it is not a star, a meteor or a missile- it is a person for we read to ‘him is given the key to the shaft of the Abyss.

Is this ‘star-person’ the Lord Jesus? No, we know the Lord Jesus is in a glorified body. He is now on the throne executing judgment in His capacity as Judge and Ruler.  We know the Lord Jesus controls the keys to death and hades, so whoever has this key was given the key by Jesus.

The ‘star-person’ could be either a messenger angel or satan himself. It is mentioned in Revelation 12 that the devil will be cast out of heaven.  And Jesus told us in Luke 10- ‘I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” But in either case- this is all done under the control of the Lord as we will see.

What is the Abyss?  There are three places referred to as places of judgment:

1.    Hades. Mentioned in Luke 16, we read that Hades is a place for the unsaved dead. It is a place of torment, fire, conscious memories and thirst. This is where the dead unsaved go to be held until released for their appearance and judgment before the Lord at the Great White Throne.

2.    Hell or the Lake of Fire.  The final destination of the devil and all the angels who followed him. Also the final destination for all the unsaved who did not accept Christ. They will all be cast there with punishment and judgment fitting their sins.

3.    The Abyss.  The bottomless pit used as a holding cell for evil, powerful demons (fallen angels), also where Satan will be locked during the millennium.  Peter refers to it 2 Peter where he says if God did not spare angels when they sinned but put them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment.  And you will recall in the Luke 8, when the Lord Jesus cast the demons out of the man in Gadarene, the demons begged not to be sent into the Abyss.


Now this shaft is opened that has held back these fallen angels, these evil powerful monsters who have been held there for eons are about to roam the earth and inflict torture so painful- death will be welcomed.

We will see that the Lord is in complete control of what is about to take place.


Revelation 9

We looked at this abyss from a scriptural context and believe it to be a place where evil fallen angels were secured after the fall until this time. Now what is released from this abyss is something hideous that John attempts to describe.  We can speculate if these are mutant locusts or John’s description of some type of modern implement of warfare.  Helicopters have been suggested…but we do see the following:

·     These are not normal locusts.

·     They eat no vegetation.

·     They are led by an evil demon, Apollyon.

·     They have a powerful sting in their tails similar to a scorpion.

·     The sting is not fatal, but creates great pain and agony. Those stung will seek to die but cannot.

·     These monsters are forbidden from stinging those with the seal of God on their forehead; they also cannot harm the grass or trees.

·     The period of torture is 5 months.


Again we see the similarity of plagues upon Egypt and these judgments of God- in that God protected the Hebrews from the plagues just as here he protects those He has sealed.

This is the first woe of the three woes that comes from the sounding of the 5th trumpet.

Let’s pause for a minute to get an idea of where we are in the tribulation period. The characters and what is happening.  Make no mistake the Lord is in control even though chaos seems to be the norm of the day and times.

We must remember what the Lord has said:  I am the Lord and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I create prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord do all these things.  I am God, and there is no other . I am God and there is none like me. I make known the end  from the beginning, from ancient times what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand and I will do as I please. ( Isaiah 45: 7; 46:10)  God has the right to do anything He wants, and He always does what is right.

The start of the Tribulation period begins with the rise to political power of one who is called The Anti-Christ. He will falsely set up a covenant, a peace treaty with Israel. He will lead the world and come at a time of chaos and confusion. His power will extend to every area of life in every area of the world. His will be a dictatorship which will be religious, political and economical in nature.

He will appear to have amazing abilities- even to the working of miracles as we will see in later chapters.

This time of peace and prosperity will last only three and ½ years. The beginning of the last three and ½ years began with the onset of war. This was the opening of the second seal.  Because of the powerful weaponry- these wars will be brief but devastating as we see in the opening of the 3rd and 4th seal.  These occur in rapid sequence. The persecution of the saints- those sealed 144,000 and the ones saved from their preaching and teaching begins as we opened the 5th seal.

The sixth seal’s opening revealed a great earthquake, the sun turning black, the moon red and the sky rolling up like a scroll. Many believe this describes the effect of a nuclear holocaust.

When does the Rapture occur?  There are three schools of thought:  pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation and post tribulation.  The post tribulation believe the 2nd coming of the Lord Jesus corresponds with the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the rapture of believers on earth.  This contradicts what the scripture says in I Thess. 1: 10 that clearly states:  “ and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead-Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” Also so in Revelation 3: 10- “ Since you have kept my commands to endure patiently, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come to the whole world to test those who live on earth”.  It also contradicts a careful illustration and comparison the Word of God has drawn in describing the relationship of the church as the bride of Christ. The betrothal is the official contract drawn between the bridegroom and the bride prior to the consummation of the wedding. It is followed by the bridegroom’s return to his father’s house to prepare a place for his bride. The father of the bridegroom gives the final word as to when everything is ready and tells his son he may go get his bride. What follows then is a return to the home of the father for a wedding feast and celebration.  This post tribulation defies not only the scripture saying we will be saved from the wrath- it does not allow the proper time for the wedding feast and celebration.

So this school of thought does not seem to line up with Scripture.  The other two can both be lined up and it is a matter of timing and when the Day of Wrath officially begins.  If we are saved from the wrath of God could that be defined as the point of time in the 7 year period that comes with the opening of the second seal?  Note in verse 17 of chapter 6- “ the great day of His wrath has come.” As it was in the days of Noah- Noah was not there when the rain and storm began- he was put in the ark 7 days prior to the time the storm started.  So we can make arguments for the mid-trib or pre-trib depending on when the wrath of God is officially begun. If we are raptured mid-trib when the war breaks out- it will be easy to explain our disappearance.
We will not receive the wrath of God, of this scripture is sure.  However, as we move toward a time that will be ripe for the coming of the Anti-Christ – it does not mean we will not suffer from the hands of what is becoming an ever increasing anti-Christian, anti-Bible, anti-God world and society. To take your stand for Christ and the Word of God will expose you to adversity- more than ever before.

The key to freedom from worry is to know you are ready. Remember- heaven is a prepared place for prepared people.

The coming of Jesus, however, it might be timed will be a happy event for believers. God is warning of His coming judgment, He always has.  We must warn others and prepare ourselves.

In the parable of the ten virgins- the wise virgins were the ones who were prepared, their lamps were filled with oil. Oil is a symbol for the Holy Spirit. If you have the Spirit, you have Christ and you are prepared.  The parable is clear- you cannot borrow this “oil”- you can only get this by a personal transaction with the Lord Jesus.

When we study prophecy, we wonder why the USA is not mentioned specifically. The Bible makes no mention of most nations in the modern world. Most nations mentioned in prophecy have to do with those nations in the Mid-East surrounding Israel.  The reason we are not mentioned in prophecy might be the USA may be one several nations in a coalition with a global entity, such as the European Union, as global problems bring about global alliances to encourage free trade.  America has prospered as no other nation on the face of the earth. God has blessed America for the following reasons:  we have honored Him as God and Lord for most of our history and the Bible tells us-“ blessed is the nation whose God is Lord; God’s priority of reaching the lost has been the priority of America who has the distinction in the last century of providing 75% of all missionaries to the world; God blesses those who make His priorities their priorities; America has been a friend of the Jews and the nation of Israel.  And America has been a welcome home for all the immigrants of the world because of our freedom and love for freedom.  Do you know why we have enjoyed so much freedom? There is a simple reason and explanation. Because Jesus said ‘ you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” We began our remarkable history as a nation under God who recognized the truth that we were endowed by certain inalienable rights by our Creator. It was a nation whose presidents knelt and prayed to God with an open Bible as did George Washington. It was a nation who in forming their government and writing a constitution opened their sessions in prayer at the insistence of Benjamin Franklin.  It was Franklin who said, “the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of the truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And without His aid, we shall succeed no better in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.”   So we read in the Bible and in history books of the rise and fall of civilizations. The course is always the same- from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage.

Back to Revelation 9- the first woe that came with the 5th trumpet is passed.  Two other woes are yet to come.  These horrors that John describes lasted for five months. In this first woe, those who bear the seal of God are not touched- for He is able to protect His children, just as they were protected from the plagues in Egypt.

The Sixth Trumpet.

The sixth angels sound his trumpet and orders are given from heaven to release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates. These fallen angels or demons were evidently powerful and evil and they had been bound there since the fall. Interesting thing about the Euphrates River- it is first mentioned in the Book of Genesis and we know the Garden of Eden was in this area.  We also know this is where the first sin occurred when Adam and Eve sinned. It is also the site of the first murder when Cain murdered his brother Abel; it is where the flood began, the Tower of Babel was constructed and where Babylon, the fountainhead of idolatry was located.   The Euphrates River is also considered the dividing line between East and West. It is some 1700 miles in distance, the longest river in Asia. It marks the boundary between Israel and her historic enemies- Assyria and Babylon.

These angels were kept bound until this very day, and hour and month and year. God is very exacting in accomplishing his will. He is on a time table and schedule that is sure.  These were released to kill 1/3rd of mankind.  The number of their mounted troops is 200 million.  Chinese army?  20% of believing Muslims?  Either one can muster 200 million.  The amazing thing is over 2000 years ago when John recorded this number, there were not that many people in the whole world.

As John describes their appearance, we once again can speculate about the similarity to weapons of modern warfare; however, the results are the same.200 Millon troops energized by this demonic force of four powerful demons kill 1/3rd of mankind with fire, smoke and sulfur.

Now over ½ of the population has died in this tribulation. But verse 20 reflects the sad condition of the earth.  Just as it was in the days of Noah, when God looked upon earth and saw how great man’s wickedness had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. And God was grieved and wiped out mankind except for Noah and his family.  And yet mankind in this period of great tribulation still refuses to repent.

Verse 21 tells us : “ Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.” These are the four prominent sins of this time.

1.   Murder- no absolute truths, making up your own right or wrong it will lead to no regard for human life. First  in the womb, then in the last years- the old. Abortion and euthanasia. The slippery slope of “situational ethics” in which  mankind can rationalize and justify the taking of lives with less value for the welfare of others. Since Roe Vs. Wade in 1973 when abortion on demand became legal in USA, over 49 million abortions have taken place. It is one of the most common surgical procedures in this country. It continues at a rate of 1.3 million abortions per year. Statistically the greatest burden and greatest costs of health care come in the latter years, especially the last few months of life. Assisted suicide or euthanasia could well become the solution to controlling health care costs.

2.   Sorceries- KJV- magic arts( NIV)  the word sorcery comes from the Greek word pharmakia which we get our word pharmacy. The practice of using drugs. WE are a nation addicted to drugs- both prescribed, legal ( alcohol) and illegal.  Drugs can open the doors to all types of troubles. Three of which are: sexual immorality, murder and thefts.

3.   Sexual Immorality- the word fornication comes from the Greek word –porneia ( pornography.)  This word refers to all types of sexual activity outside of Biblical marriage. The non-belief in the absolute truths of the Bible and situational ethics where any behavior can be justified lead to an attitude toward sex of anything goes and anything is acceptable. Homosexuality is not a new sexual sin- it is as old as Sodom and Gomorrah, where it was accepted and celebrated. Jesus said as it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah so will it be when the son of man returns.

4.   The fourth sin of the Tribulation is thievery of every kind. Not just burglaries, armed robberies, but also an increase of white collar crimes of embezzlement, exorbitant bonuses and pay-outs that rob shareholders and businesses of assets and worth.. and fraudulent schemes like Madoff’s gigantic Ponzi scheme…where it appears one  man stole 50 billion dollars from people.



Chapter 10

Between the sixth and seventh trumpet there is an interlude in chapters 10 & 11 where we will meet three personalities- a mighty angel and the two witnesses.

In verse 1 of Chapter 10- John describes this heavenly being. His uniform was a cloud- denoting his heavenly origin, with a rainbow above his head. The rainbow was a reminder of God’s covenant with man that He would not destroy the earth by water again. ( it is interesting to note when we speak of war and the weapons of war such as nuclear bombs, missile, aircraft, etc.,.  we forget that God does not have to come up with such weapons for He can use nature which is under His control to destroy His enemies. And we have witnessed the destructive force of nature before.)  The angel’s face was described as being like the sun as the angel’s face shone as did Moses’ face after being in the presence of God. The angel’s face is shining because he has come from the presence of the Lord. His legs are described as pillars of fire. Fire speaks of judgment and this angel brings a message of soon coming judgment.

In verse 2, John continues his description as he tells us the angel  has a little scroll in his hand and plants his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and gives a mighty shout like the roar of a lion.  This is a picture of a conqueror- a victor claiming what belongs to his King.  Like an explorer who stands on the shores of a newly discovered land and lays claim to this for the kingdom he represents. “ The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it, for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” ( Psalms 24:1-2)

God created it all- and gave man dominion over it. Gave it to him to be a steward of His creation. In the fall, mankind forfeited the deed to earth to satan who took the title deed and became known as the prince of power of the air.

It was the custom in the days of John, if a Jewish family lost their property due to hardship or death or any other reason, it would not be lost permanently. Their possessions were carefully documented and sealed. On the outside of the document were written the requirements to redeem the possessions within.  Most often a family member, a kinsman, would rescue the family by paying the necessary amount to redeem the lost possessions. No one was found worthy or qualified to redeem the title to earth until the Lord Jesus our Kinsman Redeemer came and paid the price. I believe this little scroll is the title deed to earth, the Lord took back when He arose and took with him the keys to death and hades. Because when you receive the title deed, you also get the keys to the property.

Following this mighty angel’s shout, the voices of seven thunders spoke and John was about to write what they spoke but was told not to seal up what they said and not write it down.

In verses 5-7, we see the angel standing on the earth and the sea raise his right hand to heaven, as in the taking of an oath. And swears by the Lord God Almighty who created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them- there will be no more delay.  Judgment is coming with the blowing of the last trumpet and the mystery of God will be accomplished.  Remember what Paul wrote in Ephesians 1: 9-10?  “ And He has made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” The sure prophecies of God’s judgment and return to earth are now imminent. There will be no more delay.

Then John is instructed to take the little scroll and to take it and eat it and is told it will taste sweet as honey in his mouth, but turn sour or bitter in his stomach.

Quite often through scripture ‘tasting and eating’ are used to portray hearing and believing the word.  The part of the word that John was digesting, ruminating on was the judgment of God.  It was bitter –sweet- sweet because the future of God is sweet to believers, but bitter in the judgments that will fall on earth and unbelieving mankind should upset us and motivate us to tell unbelievers of the coming judgment and the horror that awaits those who do not believe.  Yet so often we do not warn others for fear they will laugh at us or be offended that we should question their goodness or their lifestyle.

Even now we are beginning to see how quickly situations and circumstances can change and become fearful.  But God has not given us as believers a spirit of fear. In fact He has through His spirit and His Word given us three things to overcome the spirit of fear. They are listed in 2 Timothy 1:7:  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of sound mind.”

1.   Spirit of power- God has enabled us with His Power thru the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me. When I am weak, I am strong.

2.   God has enabled us through His love. “How great is the love of the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God.” (IJohn 3:1) Do you remember what it was like as a child to believe your parents could take care of any and all problems? “There is no fear in love –but perfect love drives out fear.” (I john 4:18) This perfect love drives out fear- enables us to master fear.

3.   God has enabled us by giving us a sound mind.  Enlightened our minds. If we continue in His word, we are His disciples indeed, and we shall know the truth and the truth will set us free.  We will have our minds transformed not conformed by the world.

Revelation 6

The Great Tribulation Begins.

What is about to take place is the first of 3 – 7 part judgments. There will be 7 seals, 7 trumpets and 7 bowls of wrath poured out.

Each seal as it is broken open by the Lord Jesus, who is described as the Lamb, will set in motion events that will eventually bring the end of human history as we know it.

In chapter 6, we will see six seals opened and then a pause in chapter 7. The lull in the storm of judgment is for a reason- the sealing of the 144,000 Jews by the Lord.

The seventh and final seal in the first series of judgments will be opened in chapter 8.


Here is what we will observe as we go forward in our study of these future events. We will see :  man’s depravity and God’s sovereignty.


We will see man’s depravity as we have only glimpsed before in such times as WWII and the Holocaust and the Nazi’s extermination of the Jews.


But more importantly we will see the Sovereignty of God. For as we look upon this period of great tribulation and chaos, we will see that it is God who is in control. The events that occur during this period of great tribulation are triggered by the Lord.  As the Lord Jesus told us , ‘ just as it was in the days of Noah and in the day of Sodom and Gomorrah’ it is the Lord who is pouring out His Wrath of Judgment on sinful earth.  Be not deceived, God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  Direct judgment. The day of wrath is about to come.


The Holy Spirit is no longer a restrainer of evil. He will be present during the Tribulation, as people will be getting saved from every tribe, nation and tongue. But the Holy Spirit will no longer restrain evil and depraved, evil mankind will be free to carry out their evil schemes.  The true church which has served as salt and light will no longer be present so the decay of sin and the darkness of evil will not be thwarted. I believe Satan knows his time is short and he will be busier than ever before during this time of great evil.


The opening of the seals will be gradual, logical and in order.


These are future events that will take place after the rapture in a seven year period.


The first four seals are referred to as the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. Let us look at the opening of the first seal.


The first seal is opened by the Lamb and John heard the four creatures we met in chapter 4 say in a voice like thunder, ‘ COME!’   This command is not to John, but is in fact to the rider of the first horse, as all of this is done under the authority of the Lord who is in control.


The colors correspond to the character of the rider and  symbolize something about this judgment and this rider.


The first rider appears on a white horse, holding a bow and given a crown.  Who is this?  Could it be the Lord?  No. For as we will see the peace this rider brings is not lasting. White speaks of victory and conquest, the bow speaks of a warrior and the crown speaks of victory and recognition as a ruler.  Just as the winner of a race receives a crown.


This person is actually the Anti Christ.  Energized and indwelt by Satan himself, the Anti Christ will appear on the scene suddenly and rise quickly to fame and popularity.


He will ride in to prominence on a platform of peace and world unity. He will be intelligent, thoughtful  and charismatic. He will unite the political parties into a one world government, the countries of the world and religion will become one united world and one world religion that will combine all faiths and all beliefs. Remember the true church will be gone- raptured.


This Anti-Christ will usher in an era of peace and prosperity which the world will be desperately looking for.  He will seemingly solve all the problems of the world and lead them into a peace that will last for 3.5 years. Even now, Israel is being offered membership into the European Common Market if they will sign a peace treaty with their enemies. This rider on the white horse, the Anti Christ will be acclaimed as the greatest leader of all times, the world will sing his praises and he will be the man of the year for the whole world. I believe it is very possible this person is alive on this earth today.


This 3.5 year period will be a lull before the 2nd seal is opened.  The second seal is opened and another horse comes forth,  a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and he was given a large sword.  The fiery red horse stands for the bloodshed that accompanies war. The false peace of the first 3.5 years will end as suddenly as it started.


Ezekiel 38 describes the war that will take place in Israel as an alliance of Israel’s enemies will attack them. The large sword speaks of a powerful weapon, capable of delivering great damage.


The third seal is opened with the same commandments to come and we see a black horse with a rider holding a pair of scales in his hand. The black horse and this rider with scales represent famine. Famine and economic catastrophe are  almost always the result of a war of such devastation and destruction. One can imagine the destruction done in the Middle East in a war of this magnitude- fuel supplies will be cut off from damage to oil supplies, food shortages, and life supporting commodities will be scarce.  So scarce they will be rationed, thus the scales to weigh the food one will receive.   A day’s ration of food will cost a day of work.  Only the rich will have access to oil and wine, or anything of luxury that the world used to take for granted. We will soon read of the conditions one must endure and the requirement of receiving the mark in order to do business. Black is the traditional color of mourning –   No wonder when the market collapsed on that Friday in 1929, it became known as “ Black Friday, ” as people mourned their great wealth had disappeared.


The fourth seal reveals the next in the sequel of horror- the pale horse whose rider was named Death and Hades. Notice this rider and horse follow closely after war and famine.  A fitting name for what will be taking place- Death which takes the body and Hades that takes the souls of the unsaved. (Reference Luke 16)  One fourth – 25% of the population will die- based on today’s population of 6 billion people this will be 1.5 billion deaths. Notice the causes- the sword or war, famine, plagues/disease and by wild beasts. This is the worst nightmare you can imagine.    A world gone mad- civilizations crumbled, no law but the law of survival.  Wild beasts roam the cities and countryside looking for food, for their sources have been destroyed.  Disease and pestilence will run rampant with hygiene, medicine and hospitals no longer readily available.


These scenes are the events the Lord Jesus described to his disciples in Matthew 24. He told them , “ nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various  places.  There will be great distress ( tribulation) unequaled from the beginning of the world until now- and never to be equaled again.”


Jesus told his disciples, who were curious as to when he would come and when would be the end of the age.  Jesus told them to watch out for false christs- this would be the one who would deceive many and rides in on a white horse.  He also told them there would be wars and rumors of wars- rider on the red horse. He spoke of famines, the black horse. He said there would be pestilence in divers places- the pale horse of Death and Hades.


The 24th chapter of Matthew is a chapter to those Jews and others who will be saved during the Tribulation.  In verse 14 of Matthew 24, Jesus says , “ and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached into all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  The 144,000 Jewish evangelists we will see sealed in Chapter 7 of Revelation will take the message to all nations, tribes and tongues. In verse 15, we see the words of Jesus will be instructions telling them what to do. “ So when you see standing in the Holy Place the abomination of desolation spoken of in Daniel, let the READER understand- then let those in Judea flee to the mountains.”


This warning appears to be to people in Israel, thus the reference to Judea and fleeing to the mountains. Jesus speaks specifically to those who are reading his words during that time of the great tribulation.


The fifth seal is now opened and John reports what he sees- under the altar of sacrifice the souls of those sacrificed because of the word of God and their testimony they had maintained. These are the souls of believers martyred during the Tribulation.  John heard them crying out to the Lord how long before you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?  These saints who have given their life for the testimony of Jesus want to know when the Lord is going to put an end to this nightmare.  Remember, the Lord said, “ Vengeance is mine.”  God gives them white robes of righteousness, and tells them it will only be little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed is completed.


Grace will be over. God’s vengeance will be a fearful thing to behold.


In Revelation 20, we will read of the resurrection of the Tribulation Saints who were slain during the Great Tribulation. The OT Saints will be resurrected at this time also.  This is referred to as the First Resurrection in chapter 20.  The first resurrection is done in three parts.  It began with Jesus’s resurrection. He is described as the first fruits. From the time of His resurrection until the rapture, all those believers , referred to as the church, when they died, their soul went to be with the Lord- but not their bodies. ( Absent from the body, present with the Lord.) Their bodies would be resurrected in glorified bodies, bodies that are imperishable. Those who were alive would be raptured and changed from corruptible to incorruptible in a twinkling of the eye.  This is the second phase of the first resurrection that takes place prior to the Great Tribulation, because the Lord Jesus will not allow His bride to go thru the tribulation.(IThess 1: 10- and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.He is our ark).  And in Revelation 20, we will read of the last phase of the first resurrection when we read of the resurrection of those who had not worshipped the beast or taken his mark.  At this time also, will be the resurrection of the OT saints. So here is the order: Jesus first, then the NT believers, the church, who had died, the saints alive at their resurrection, who are raptured prior to the Tribulation and finally the saints martyred during the Tribulation and the OT Saints who were not included in the church. The church is the bride of Christ.


Now comes the opening of the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turns black, the moon is blood red and stars fall from the sky. The whole earth is shaken and the sky recedes like a scroll being rolled up.  Certainly a fearful sight and we can only speculate what is taking place but since there is a great war- this could describe a nuclear holocaust.  Missiles streaking thru the sky could appear as stars falling to earth. The sky receding like a scroll could describe the atmosphere rolling back on itself creating a vacuum. In fact, the tremendous rush of air back causes much of the destruction in a nuclear explosion.


This will be felt, experienced and seen by the whole world- every mountain and island will be shaken and literally removed from its place.  The reaction of those on earth from the rich and powerful to the poor, average man : absolute terror!  Foolishly they call on the mountains and rocks in which they are hiding to fall on them to hide them from almighty God.


Verse 17 of Chapter 6 is as sobering a statement of the Bible as one will ever read: “ For the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand?”  They will now be held accountable – God did not create hell for mankind – it was created for the devil and those who followed him.  He is not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance.  He takes no joy in the death of the wicked. The Lord Jesus in one of his saddest moments as he entered Jerusalem stated:  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who have killed the prophets, how I would have gathered you to myself as a mother hen gathers her chicks…but you would not.



Chapter 7 represents a lull in the middle of the storm. There is a dead, eerie calm. The four angels who are standing at the four corners- North, South, East and West, are holding back the winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the earth. They are told by another angel to wait until God had sealed the 144,000 with a mark on their  foreheads.  There will from this time on in the Great Tribulation be two distinct groups or categories of people on earth:

Those with the seal of God.

Those with the mark of the beast.


Why are the 144,000 chosen evangelists only of the Jewish race?  God is fulfilling his covenant promises with the nation of Israel.

God’s purposes for Israel – what he chose them to do is as follows:

*Chosen to receive and write down God’s revelation to man.

*Chosen to protect and preserve the textual purity of scripture. (Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1940’s- contained the scroll of Isaiah and was dated 200 BC, while the earliest manuscript we had at that time of Isaiah was 900 AD. Though 1100 years separated the two manuscripts, they were identical.)

*Jews were chosen to be the human family thru whom the Messiah would be born. There were over 300 specific prophecies in the OT concerning the coming of the Messiah hundreds of years before He came.

*Last but not least, the Jewish people were chosen to witness to a pagan world that there is only one true and living God and the way of salvation is thru His Son the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus.


For years they have not always done this- but they will get it right in the end times. They will accomplish in the tribulation years what the church had not been able to do in over 2000 years as they will preach the gospel in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, as Jesus described in Matthew 24.


Remember, Paul tells  us in Romans 11:25 : “  For I do not want you, brothers, to be ignorant concerning this mystery, lest you become wise in your own eyes, that a partial blindness has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has been brought in.” The fullness of the Gentiles is that point in time when the Church is removed from the earth by the Rapture.


Then God’s focus and blessing will shift back again to His Beloved People, the Jews. God will then fulfill His covenant with the Jewish people.


Notice the winds are held back. This could result  in global weather changes.


Then comes the sealing of the 144,000 Jews.  God has never allowed Himself to be without a witness on earth to proclaim His way to receive forgiveness and eternal life.( at one time there were only 8 souls –Noah and his family) The spiritual vacuum that has been left by the rapture of the true church will be quickly filled with these 144,000 Jewish Evangelist.  12,000 are selected from each tribe.  Dan and Ephraim are left out because of their idolatry.  In their place are Joseph and Levi.

They are sealed by God. This is the work of the Holy Spirit who is even referred to as the  ‘seal’. The Seal of God empowers them to perform their awesome mission in spite of the danger of having this mark and not the mark of the beast. I believe it will be a visible mark easily identifying them as Christians. They will be easily identified as Christians.  The question is : Are you that easily identified as a Christian?

Look at their effectiveness- the results of their preaching, teaching and witnessing in these last perilous days:  “ a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language…”  get saved…record numbers of true conversions.

Look at verse 17..For the Lord will be their shepherd.

Now turn with me to Matthew 25 and we will see what occurs when the Lord returns to earth.  Some of the population will have survived the tribulation- both unsaved and saved.

Revelation 20-21

Revelation 20 

Before we begin the chapter- let us lay out the three schools of thought regarding the ‘millennial kingdom’. ( Latin- 1000 years.)

Pre-Millennialism: this view holds that Christ will rule literally and bodily after His return to earth to begin a 1000 year reign. He will set up His kingdom and reign from the rebuilt city of Jerusalem. At the end of the 1000 years, He will turn the kingdom over to his Father at which point it will merge with God’s eternal kingdom. ( new heaven and new earth).

God will literally fulfill all His unconditional promises and covenants with Israel during this time. Church age believers who were raptured and Tribulation believers who survived will live, mortal and immortal, in the earthly kingdom ruled by Jesus the Messiah. Even nature will be at peace, and the wolf will lie down with the lamb and the lion will eat straw with the oxen.
Post-Millennialism:  this view teaches there will be a literal thousand year Kingdom on earth, but Christ will claim His kingdom after the thousand years have expired. This view holds the earth will get better through the  spread of the gospel. After the 1000 years, Christ will return to take believers to heaven and condemn those who reject Him. ( there will never be a 1000 years of peace on earth without the rule and reign of the Prince of Peace.)
A-Millennialism:  teaches there is no literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth and no earthly Kingdom of God. They view scripture such as Revelation 20 to be symbolic. They believe Christ will return and take Christians to heaven and condemn unbelievers. They interpret the chaining of Satan as an allegory and teach he was bound by Christ the first time He came and this is what gives believers victory over temptation.
My view is pre-millennial, meaning we can take this chapter literally. Why?  Because Jesus said in Acts 1: 6- when his disciples ask him if he would at this time set up his kingdom in Israel- he did not say there would be no kingdom- he said it was not for them to know the time. He also taught his disciples and us to pray.. ‘ thy kingdom come.’ But contrary to the other two views, the Bible tells us clearly things will get worse- not better as the end time approaches.
All three views teach the second coming of Christ, the defeat of Satan and the eternal reign of God.
20:1-3  And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 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. ( Although the setting free of Satan is hard to understand- a mystery, the wording of this verse reminds me of what was said in John 4 regarding a trip to Samaria, the disciples did not understand.) The verse (KJV) stated:  he must needs go thru Samaria. The disciples did not understand why any Jew would go thru Samaria if they did not need to—but later they discovered why.  The same applies here- in fact if you think about it- why did God let Satan loose the first time when he rebelled in heaven?  Although this chain may only be spiritual that bound Satan- it is a picture of Satan on a leash only able to do what God allows him to do.
John tells us here about an angel and six specific things that are done:  he(the angel) seizes Satan; he binds him with a great chain; he casts him into the Abyss ( bottomless pit); the angel uses a key to lock him up; he sets a seal over the Abyss to keep Satan from deceiving the nations; and the angel lets him loose for a short time after the 1000 years has expired.
So let’s recap what has happened:  the anti-christ and the false prophet were thrown alive into the lake of fire in Revelation 19; the armies with them are destroyed; and  an angel has secured Satan in the abyss where he is locked up for 1000 years- thus the deceiver of the nations is on hold.
Why does God allow Satan to be released after 1000 years?  I don’t know for sure- but it could be part of God’s plan to expose the sinful nature of man. Going into the Millennium Kingdom will be both mortal humans ( those believers who survived the Great Tribulation) and immortals- those resurrected believers who had either died prior to Christ coming or were raptured. This group which will also inhabit the earth during the Millennium are immortal beings, having receive glorified, resurrected bodies.
The mortal, flesh and blood survivors will repopulate the earth. Longevity of life will be common. A purged earth, I believe will take on Garden of Eden environment. For even nature we are told has groaned for its Creator to return and set things right. Listen to these descriptions of life in the Millenium:  ‘ the wolf will lie down with the lamb; the leopard will lie down with the goat; the calf and the lion and yearling together and a child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, and their young will lie together, and the lion will eat straw like an ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra and the young child will put his hand into the nest of the viper. ( Isaiah 11)
We further read in Isaiah 65 :  Never again will there be  an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. ( Wages of sin = death; Lord will rule with a rod of iron.) Tells us mankind can still choose to sin, even when Satan is locked away and the Lord is on the throne.  Such is the nature of man. Isaiah goes on to tell us- ‘ for as the days of a tree so will be the days of my people.” ( Redwood Trees are hundreds of years old… so there will be long lives in the Millennium- just like in Genesis.
Verses 4-6:  “ 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 worshipped the beast or his image and had not received the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ one thousand years. ( The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 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.”
Here in these verses we see three groups mentioned.  First we see those John describes as sitting on thrones who have been given authority to judge.  Who are they?  These are the apostles according to Matt. 19:28 where the Lord told his disciples:  “ I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, (be in the Millennium kingdom) when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne ( literal throne in rebuilt Jerusalem), you who have followed me will also sit on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.”   But also we know from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth –“ Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know you will judge angels?” ( I Cor. 6:2,3)
Second group we see are the tribulation martyrs- those beheaded during the Great Tribulation for their faith and refusal to take the mark of the beast. These first two groups came to life and ruled and reigned with the Lord Jesus during the 1000 years.
Third group which are mentioned here we will read more about later- the rest of the dead who did not come to life- who were not a part of the first resurrection. These were unbelievers.
We also read here of the first resurrection- the one for believers who are blessed and holy. The second death and the second resurrection to the Great White Throne judgment has no power over them. These believers are referred to as priest of God. This will be part of our function during the 1000 year reign of the Lord. For we are a chosen people- a royal priesthood, joint heirs of Jesus.
The First Resurrection.

I believe the Bible teaches the First Resurrection takes place over a period of time with specific phases. The first resurrection began with Jesus Christ’s resurrection 2000 years ago, it also included the resurrection of what is often referred to the as the first fruits or wave sheaf.  We read about this most unusual, miraculous event in Matthew 27:52,53 : “ the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the Holy City and appeared to many people.

This event is only recorded in Matthew. But in Ephesians 4: 6-8: we read “ when He ascended on high, he led captives in his train.” When Jesus ascended back into heaven- he took with him the OT believers out of Paradise. Regarding these people mentioned here in Matthew 27 – I do not know what happened to them.

The second phase of the First Resurrection occurs at the rapture, when the dead in Christ shall rise first and we who are alive will be caught up with them and our bodies changed from corruptible to incorruptible.

The third phase of the First Resurrection occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation when the martyred saints killed during this period will come to life to reign with Jesus for a 1000 years.

The fourth and final and necessary resurrection will be the changing of the bodies of those who are alive at the end of the 1000 years- they must receive immortal bodies.

Just to be clear- any Christian who has died before the rapture- their soul goes immediately to be with the Lord- absent from the body – present with the Lord. The new immortal, incorruptible body will be united with the soul at the Rapture.
Satan’s Release and Satan’s Doom.

Verse 7-10 record what is an event we have trouble understanding as I mentioned earlier.  Why would the God allow the deceiver, the serpent, that old snake, the Devil to be released?

Remember entering the Millennium will be thousands of believers who survived the Great Tribulation. They will be blessed with longevity- living hundreds of years and bearing children as part of the greatest population explosion taking place during this 1000 years under perfect conditions.

Why is Satan released?  Again- why was he not bound the first time? Why was he able to enter another perfect environment like he did the first time in the Garden of Eden?  So once again- mankind proves what is said of him- that his heart is deceitful and wicked. You can place man in a perfect environment with all his needs met and many will still rebel against God. Given a choice to serve Satan- many will choose to do so even when living in a perfect environment provided by God.  Many born during this Millennium will not like the rules of our Lord’s kingdom. Like prodigals they want to live life on their own…not by His strict rules. So they are given a choice and they choose to rebel- once again deceived by the serpent from the garden.

Satan deceived Adam and Eve; he deceived us about the true values of life- why would we think it would be any different?
In verses 9&10- we see the end of Satan as he is thrown into the Lake of Fire where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. Those who rebelled were devoured by fire from heaven.  This is the end of Satan and sinful mankind. This is the end of earth as we know it and we will see a new heaven and a new earth appear in Revelation 21.   But before that we deal with the second resurrection and what is called the second death as the dead are judged.
Verse 11-15 describes one of the most sober moments in all of history- the Great White Throne Judgment.

“ Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and  books were opened. Another book was opened which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name is not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Non-Christians, unbelievers are referred to as the ‘dead’. When we were saved, we were born again and became new creatures who possess eternal life.
Three facts that every non-Christian needs to know:

  1. God will judge non-Christians, unbelievers.
  2. All non-Christians will be judged and their punishment measured based on their deeds recorded in the books.
  3. Final judgment for all non-Christians whose names are not written in the book of life is an eternity in hell separated from God and all his kindness, mercy and blessings.


This is not a trial- where the unbeliever will put on a vigorous defense. Remember what Jesus said in John 3: 18- “ He who believes in me is not condemned, but he who does believe in me is condemned already, because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God.”
The purpose of this final confrontation with God is to clearly demonstrate to the unbeliever why he is already condemned. We know the book is the book of life- the Lamb’s Book of Life.  What are the books?  Certainly one of the books is the book recording the deeds of the unbeliever- but perhaps the other is the Bible, specifically the Book of the Law.  Paul mentions this in Galatians 3:10 “ Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things written in the Book of the Law.”  Could be one of the books is the none other than the Bible- The Book of the Law.
What about the persons standing before God who say we never heard the word of God or the law in their lifetime ?  To them God will affirm what He inspired Paul to write in letter to the early church (in Romans), that those who never heard the law have had it instinctively written in their consciences and their hearts knowing good from bad. They also knew from creation there was a creator. So their consciences convicted them when they did wrong. They will judged according to the light they received- but they received enough to respond – but when they knew the truth they suppressed it in wickedness. Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.   His eternal power and divine nature has been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  God is just.
These books of works are just what they say they are- the deeds of each person is recorded. I believe every time they had an opportunity to accept Christ or respond to the light God provided and turned it down is recorded. Every bad deed and every good deed is recorded. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes- “ For God will judge us for everything we do, including every hidden thing, good or bad.”
Now if you are saved and have received God’s forgiveness that is offered in His Son’s death for you- then God has already judged the wrong you have done or will do in Jesus who became sin for us. The Lord Jesus has paid for your sins. The only judgment we will face as believers will be the judgment of our works at the bema for rewards. Our works will be tested by fire- some will burn up because they were of the flesh- but what survives will become our reward.
The last book to witness against those awaiting their sentences at God’s throne is the Book of Life. The Book of Life is referred to at least eight times in the New Testament. In the OT, there is a reference to a book in which names are written. This book, I believe, contains the name of every person born into the world. If by the time that person dies, he/she has not accepted Christ as Savior to remove their sins- their name is blotted out of the Book of Life, also known as the Lamb’s Book of Life.
So here is a visual of this dramatic moment where every unbeliever- great and small will stand.

Here is a likely scenario: As you step in front of the Judgment Seat of God, the Great White Throne, God may first open from the books the Book of the Law. He will show man what is necessary and is required to enter the kingdom of God. He will show him/her how they could not meet the standards on their own but how He had made a way for them to be accepted in His Son’s Death on Calvary.
Then He will open the book of  his/her works- to show them how again and again they broke the law. How many times they failed to heed the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the still, small voice in his conscience which told him/her to get right with God.
Then last, God will open the Lamb’s Book of Life and he will go down the list but there is no mistake- their name is not written in the Book.
God, who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, will slowly close the book and tell them- Depart from Me, accursed one, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels..
But Lord, they protest, didn’t I prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and perform miracles.
I never knew you……  the last words they will ever hear God speak to them. Their mouths will be shut.  God’s judgment is finished.  And yet this is not what God wanted.  Jesus said this is life eternal to know the true and living God.  He said – ‘ the thief comes to kill and steal and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.
The second death means eternal and absolute separation from God. Jesus came that we might have life- when man does not accept that life from God- he must accept the only other alternative- life separated from God, eternal association with Satan and the fallen angels- for this awful place was created for the devil and the fallen angels. Those who enter here are without hope, without another chance and without appeal.
Next week we will get a glimpse of our eternal home- our final destination. John will hear a loud voice from the throne of heaven saying: “ Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
And I remind you once again what the Lord Jesus said… ‘ if it were not so-I would have told you.’


Revelation 21
This week- we will be reading about our new home.
Verse one John describes what he saw … “ I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”  Jesus, Himself told his disciples in Matthew 24: 35- ‘ heaven and earth shall pass away- but my words will never pass away.’   In Isaiah 65:17 we read, “ For behold I create a new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.”  Peter in his second letter describes how the earth will also be destroyed by fire, a fervent heat. What we are about to read about is the place the Lord Jesus went to prepare for us. I believe this building project has been going on ever since the Lord Jesus returned to heaven. The Taj Mahal was built in 1632 by a Shah for his wife of fourteen years. It took over 20 years and required the skills of 20,000 workers. It is in fact a tomb for both the Shah and his bride. If a man can build something that exquisite for his bride that serves as a tomb- can you imagine what the Lord, Creator of Heaven and Earth can build for His bride to live in forever!!
We are not told great detail about the new earth. The greatest change is there is no longer any sea. We do not know nor is there any inference as to the size. Most of the attention in this chapter is focused on the New Jerusalem.
In the next verse, John describes this Holy City. It is Holy because God dwells in it. It is the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  It is created to be the center of the population in the new earth. Although the new earth and new heavens are created at this time, evidently the New Jerusalem was created earlier.
This is the city that Abraham was looking for in Hebrews 11, where we read, Abraham was looking forward to a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God.
In verse 3, John heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘ Behold the tabernacle, the tent, the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people and God Himself will be their God.’ God will make His home with mankind in New Jerusalem. It will also be His temple. TheTabernacle ( which also refers to a tent) is now with men.  Remember in the gospel of John how we were told: the Word became flesh and dwelt( tabernacled-pitched his tent) among us. God has always desired to live among His people, His creation. When God the Son put on flesh and dwelt among us being born as a babe in Bethlehem, He was referred to as Immanuel, that is to say God With Us. In fact the tabernacle in the wilderness- (to which over 40 chapters are devoted to detail of its construction) was a picture of what God wanted to do- dwell among His people. But it also showed us in its rituals and ceremonies what was necessary for God to dwell among us. God had to have a Holy Place. It required innocent blood shed for sins in order to consecrate a place where He could dwell.  The shedding of lamb’s blood was a picture of the sacrifice the Lamb of God would become to take away our sin.
In verse 4- we read : “ He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  There will be nothing but rejoicing- there will be no graveyards in New Jerusalem- there will be no doctors or lawyers , no evil- no sin- no temptation. It will be a new order. In fact in the next verse, John is told to record this statement:  I am making everything new.
Ever been at a place in your life where you wished you had a ‘fresh start’?  Or wished that you could live your life over- knowing what you know now?  You usually are thinking I wouldn’t have made the same mistakes- I wouldn’t have done this or that..  Hindsight being 20/20- we think we could do better given another chance. Can you imagine the remorse Adam and Eve had given the opportunity they had?
But if you have been ‘ born again’, you have received a fresh start- the slate wiped clean.  You may not can change the past, but God has forgiven you and He has a plan and purpose for the rest of your life. In fact God’s specialty is to work all things together for good for those who love Him and were called according to His purpose.  It is never too late to do the right thing.

God wants to dwell in your life- His temple is your heart and from there He can begin a life long work of sanctifying you and it will be completed- for I am persuaded that He who has begun a good work will complete it. Faithful is He who calls you who will also do it. It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.
The next verses( 6-8) are a completion of that work He has begun. “ It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all of this, and I will be his God and he/she will be my son/daughter.”
The Lord Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. He provided the water of life. In John 4- Jesus told the woman at the well: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” The gift of God is salvation represented here by living water welling up to eternal life; the one who controls is the Lord Jesus, God with Us; and you get this water by asking Him.”
Again in John 7- On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “ If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture  has said, stream of living water will flow from within him.” By this He meant the Spirit…

And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated : ‘ blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness- for they shall be filled.
Now in New Jerusalem, we will drink from this spring of living water, the river of life without cost. Don’t need any money in heaven- everything is provided. It is done-finished – complete.
“ He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”   Who overcomes and how do we overcome?  I John 5:4 tells us who and how we overcome?  “ For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”  {Hebrew 11;6}  Eph. 2:8,9;Colossians 2: 6.7: “ So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.’ We are to continue living the Christian life by the same means we received Christ- which was by grace thru faith.
The Lord tells us He will be our  God unto us and we will be His sons (children) to Him. How do we become His children? Again it is John who told us in John 1:12- “ But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power (authority) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name.”
Now as children we are heirs, joint heirs with Jesus and we are about to read what all we have inherited.  Again the Scripture tells us in Romans 8; 16&17: “ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children the heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
Shall be my son.. again listen to John in I John 3:2-“ Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”
Verse 8 tells us the lake of fire and brimstone will continue on through out eternity- it also reminds us this side of heaven what we were saved from- for we were all destined for this place. The people who ended up here disregarded God and His moral commandments. The Ten Commandments were an affront to them. The simplicity of the gospel was foolishness to them.  But also we know we will never experience sin or temptation in eternity for they are shut out forever. The Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world.
Now one of the seven angels mentioned earlier with the seven bowls of wrath, will act as tour guide for John as he shows John  the Holy City, New Jerusalem.
For the second time in this chapter we are reminded, the completed city of New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven. It is like no other city that ever existed- it was built in heaven. The Lord Jesus, the Carpenter of Nazareth was the architect. This is the city Abraham was looking forward to. This is the place, the Lord Jesus told us in John 14 He was going to prepare a place for us.  Its beauty is so breath-taking, John uses what adjectives and comparisons he can to relate this most beautiful of sights.

We will also notice when we read this description, it is described as coming down out of heaven- but it is never stated that it comes to earth. Is it hanging in space?  Don’t know but it could – just as earth hangs in space. In fact – it could hang there as a visible planet from the new earth. Rather than a satellite planet that revolves around  the earth- perhaps the new earth will revolve around the New Jerusalem as it is the center of all things.
Verse 11 tells us the reason for this city’s brilliance- it shown with the Glory of God. It was sin that caused God to remove His glory from man’s presence, but now sin is banished and the Glory of God is revealed. This city and God are the source of light for the new heaven and the new earth. In fact we will read there will be no more darkness, no night. John describes it as like that of a very precious jewel like a jasper, clear as crystal.  Since the street is of gold, this would have appearance of the most spectacular diamond engagement stone set in gold ever seen or imagined…in fact eye has not seen what God has in store for us- nor can we even imagine it with John’s description.
But let us continue on the tour and let your imagination visualize what John is describing. Verses 12 & 13: “It had a great high wall with twelve gates, and with 12 angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.”  Here is the picture, a high great wall with 3 gates on each side- 12 in all. On each gate is the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel.  In verse 22 of this chapter we read:  “I did not see a temple in this city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”  I believe based on scripture that the OT Saints will dwell on the new earth and will come into New Jerusalem, entering in the gate that bears the name of their tribe. They will come in and out of the Holy City, just like they did in the past. The New  Jerusalem is the home and dwelling place of the Church, the bride of Christ. Hebrews 12: 22-24 describe the relationship of the OT Saints, the Jews to the New Jerusalem. “ But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the Living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of a New Covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of a better word than the blood of Able.”
Verse 14 describes the foundations upon which the city rests:  “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Notice the number 12 is very prominent in the description of the city. The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets and Jesus Christ Himself is the chief cornerstone.: ( Eph 2:20) When Christ returned to heaven, He committed the keys into the keeping of the apostles. We are grateful for their work, their inspired writing, their sermons and teachings and sacrifice- but never forget it was the Lord Himself who is the chief cornerstone. He alone is the Rock of All Ages. When Jesus told Peter ( Matt. 16) – upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  Jesus was referring to Peter’s confession that was revealed to Peter by God Himself, when Peter said- ‘ thou are the Christ the son of the Living God.’ Upon this truth is the Church built.
Now we get a preview of the size and shape of New Jerusalem.

An angel measures with a measuring rod of gold…the gold standard. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city to 12,000 stadia ( furloughs) in length, and as wide and high as it is long. ( cube)  The 12,000 stadia is approximately 1500 miles. This 1500 miles in each direction- wide, high& long. The largest city ever with huge capacity. It is about 1500 miles from here to Seattle.
Verse 18 describes a wall made of jasper ( probably similar to a diamond) described as crystal clear so they reflect light and the city is of pure gold.

Verse 19-21 describes the rest of the structure: jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrisolite, beryl, topaz, chrysopase, jacinth, and amethyst. These represent every color of the rainbow and its various shades.  Color is described as the refraction of light. Light is made up of three primary colors: red, blue and yellow.  All colors and shades are made up of these primary colors. Light is always required for color – in the absence of light everything is black…with little light it is shades of gray.  The Lord Jesus is the light of the world…the New Jerusalem will be a city of light and color and unbelievable beauty.
The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate a single pearl. ( So there are pearly gates in heaven.) There size tells us they are like no pearl we have ever known.  God has done all of this so that we might live in the most beautiful place imagined. He loves to give good gifts.
Besides the 12 gates of pearl, we see the street (singular) of New Jerusalem was of pure gold- like transparent glass. The transparency of New Jerusalem allows the Light of the World, the Lord Jesus to light the universe.
In verse 22, John takes note of what he did not see…he did not see a temple in the city, and he tells us why- because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple. Also missing are the sun and moon to shine on it, for the glory of the Lord gives it light, and the Lord is the lamp.  Just as the Word of God has been a light upon our path and a lamp unto our feet.
Think back on the history of the temple and the tabernacle in Israel. First there was the tabernacle, the tent in the wilderness, later replaced by temple built by Solomon and later Herod. The tabernacle and temple was the earthly enclosure of God’s glory.
They were both a testimony to the presence of God and the presence of sin. Where sin existed – God could only be approached by the ritual of the temple. However in New Jerusalem, sin no longer exists. Don’t need a temple and the ritual of blood sacrifice to approach God. He can dwell among His people and walk with us and talk with us. So in essence, New Jerusalem has become the temple- in fact, its dimensions given are the same shape of the Holy of Holies, a perfect cube where God dwelt. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of the Lord gives it light and the Lamb will be its lamp.
As we close this wonderful chapter we read:
“ The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no more night. The glory and honor of the nations will brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Some day we will all stand in amazement in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.
We will sing John Newton’s hymn – Amazing Grace with meaning and understanding like never before when we sing:  “ Thru many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far- and grace will lead me home.
Home Sweet Home!
Footnote:  Lesson within the lesson- application for life today and every day.  In verses 5-7:  The Lord Jesus proclaims from the throne- I am making everything new. It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will  inherit all of this and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
How can we apply this eternal truth to our daily lives?  For the All Sufficient God who states it is done- who makes everything new and is the Alpha and Omega is available in all His power to do those very things- make everything new- supply all our needs.. now in our present life- in our daily walk.
What we must do is understand who He is- for now we see thru a glass darkly but in heaven we will see Him face to face and know Him as He has known us. Complete revelation will not take place until we see Him face to face.  However, that does not mean we can not come to know Him better on earth. And the more we know Him, the more we will love Him and the more we love Him, the more we will obey Him.
This verse reminded me of one of the ways God wants us to see and know Him. He wants us to know that He makes everything new and that He is the Alpha and Omega – He wants us to know He can provide all our needs according to His Riches in Christ Jesus- He is our Provider ( Jehovah Jireh)- but more than that He is God Almighty- El Shaddai- which is translated “ God who is Sufficient.” He is all competent, all adequate- the God who knows what to do and how to do it.  Do you realize your faith and trust are in His competency? His Adequacy?  His Power His knowledge…
Interesting when this name was first revealed by God- it  was revealed to Abram in Genesis 17.  To understand the significance, let me give you a little background Abram is 99 years old and Sara is 89 years old. Barren for all her life- thirteen years earlier, she had persuaded Abram to have a child by her Egyptian handmaiden, Hagar. The son Ishmael is now 13years old and for 13 years- nothing is recorded in Abram’s life as far as God dealing with Abram or God doing anything in Abram’s life. We simply moved in the story from Ishmael’s birth at the end of chapter 16 in Genesis to 13 years later in chapter 17 where God appears to Abram and said, I am God Almighty.”
Let me remind you that Abram is already a believer. In chapter 15 of Genesis, God came to Abram and told Abram not to be afraid, that He, God, was Abram’s shield and very great reward. God then makes a covenant with Abram and will have a son coming from his own body as an heir and his offspring would be as plentiful as the stars. We are told for a fact that Abram believed the Lord and He credited it to him as righteousness.
But Abram was not yet a ‘circumcised’ believer. He would continue  as we see in his decisions to depend on the flesh- or self for decisions. The revealing of the Lord to Abram as God Almighty- was the beginning of an understanding on Abram’s part that El Shaddai was the All Sufficient God who can and will supply all our needs.
Here in heaven, we will realize as we see Him face to face- He has done it all. Everything has been provided. Faithful is He who calls you – who will also do it.
Can you imagine how we could live our lives in the present- if we could realize the God Almighty that revealed Himself to Abram is the God Almighty who wants us to realize He is our God, with no less power.  And furthermore- this God Almighty, El Shaddai- the all adequate One wants to supply our needs. In fact, this same God who told Paul- my grace is sufficient- is our God too- whose power is made perfect in our weakness.
Abram had to spend 13 years as a believer- in what had to be some pretty miserable years- years filled with problems of his own making when he tried to serve both flesh and God Almighty. You cannot serve two masters.  When we recognize our God , the God of Abraham and Paul- God Almighty as our all sufficient provider- we can live a life of obedience( walk blameless) that comes from faith that springs from the realization that the God who lives within us is El Shaddai.!!